Chapter 1

It was early evening and the desert heat was dissipating at last. A sea of spectators, the largest gathering in human history, was assembled at the foot of a mountain that was not a mountain at all. To the crowd it appeared as a massive cliff face that stretched to the horizon in both directions and disappeared into the clouds. An ordinary road led up to the wall, then turned and ran along it; it cut directly into the rock and rose steadily upward until it was out of sight. Now that the sun was setting, the crowd began [...]