Rock of Antiquity
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A traveler passed by a ruin in the desert. Tired and ragged, with holes in his shoes, he wandered on his way. The sand drifted off his tired legs, the dust of a thousand roads sifting off his torn and used up coat. As he walked through the ruin he leaned against a great arch. He paused, resting from the many miles before and the many left to go. Ruined and shattered bricks surrounded the towering structure, buildings torn apart by the ages. But although crumbling at the sides, the arch stood proud in the midst of the desolation. The last thing intact on that barren waste, strange and otherworldly in the vast expanse.

Perhaps it had been the marker of some great victory, the last memory of the bravery of kingdoms. Or the doorway to a beautiful temple, where the devout of a forgotten time had bowed their heads in hope. Proud as the day the last brick was laid, it shouted hubris into the heavens. Its tall pillars gracefully reached up to the arch, effortlessly supporting the vaulted arch of marble. Its carved designs were still defiantly visible on the cracked and worn stone. As he rested he took a stone from the old and worn pathway. He carved his name on the arch, his tired hands scraping the rock against a brick in the wall. He scratched his name on the wall, amidst the signs and motifs of an ancient land. Dropping the stone the man went his way again, his footsteps fading in the dry desert dust. Simply a traveler that had paused there on his way to faraway wonders.

But his name stayed there, carved on the wall. The brick it was scrawled on lay in its place, loosened from the mortar by the scratching. As the years went by and the sands shifted, this brick fell from its place. It landed on the ancient desert path, the name still bold on its worn side. The lazy sun crawled by a thousand more times, and along that tired road a tyrant king passed. Stumbling on the stone in the archway, he tripped and struck his head on the wall. As he bled there his kingdom rejoiced at his death. They took the stone that killed him and laid it in a place of honor on the roadside, the name still scratched on the side. The kingdom grew and many passed that way, gazing in wonder at the stone and its story. They read and spoke the name aloud, the hero that freed them.

The days flickered by, the harsh heat changing to the cool stillness of moonlit desert nights. The dim grey light of morning changing to the thin red rays of a setting sun. The winds blew, the dunes shifting like slow waves in an ocean of sand. The brick on the roadside was hailed by a thousand different strangers, the story told in as many languages. Kings traveled to the spot and were crowned before it. Passing travelers touched the stone for luck and a safe journey. But time crawled on, stories were told and forgotten. Kingdoms rose and fell in that desert land. The name and story once told in speeches and song slipped into memory. Truth turned into legend which faded into myth. The dusty desert path fell silent. The only sounds the lonely and weary step of traders and travelers that camped under the arch.

The shimmering sunlight danced across the water. The bright summer sun pierced through the palm fronds, flashing in specks on the bank. The river flowed lazily by, casting shadows and beams of light that danced on the trees. Off in the distance the river slowly meandered through the dunes, the only sign of life in the dusty stillness of the desert. Crisscrossing and crawling alongside this river ran an old path. Decrepit and broken, the dunes half covered the dusty road. On this worn and forgotten path sat the arch, old and lonely in a landscape that was changed and unfamiliar. A river ran past it bubbling and rippling, where before there was only sand and the silence of the desert. Age had finally taken its toll. The arch had crumbled, pillars and bricks littering the path and riverbed, the water gently lapping on the stones. The carved designs and motifs were faint, worn away by sand, water and the slow passage of innumerable years. But on the bank of the river, proud and unyielding, a few pillars still reached up into the sky, supporting the broken edges of an arch. The last splendor of kingdoms that had long since wandered into the fog of history.

Next to this ruin was a shrine, a carved pedestal of stone. Its gold leaf, worn away, spelled words in a language now forgotten. It still told a story of kingdoms and heroes long dead, but it showed these words to an empty land, like a decrepit bard singing a tale to an empty house. On this stand of stone and battered gold a brick was enthroned. It was cracked and misshapen, its corners worn smooth with time. But as the day turned to dusk and the last rays of the sun darted across the stone a faint name could be made out on the smooth weathered surface. A name once sung in verse by kings and bards. The burning desert sun cast a last few beams of sunlight, dancing faintly on the dunes. The last sliver of sun painted the cloudless sky a rainbow of purple and orange. A sky that faded to star speckled blackness on the opposite horizon. The last ray of sunlight twinkled faintly on the ruin of the arch, faint in the vast silence of the empty waste. In the twilight a faint footstep could be heard, the tired tread of a weary traveler returning.

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