“Unlike myself, my sire was not a great lover of words. His art was war, and now the history books hail him as one of the world’s fiercest warriors, a fine king, a destroyer of worlds and, somehow, the builder of them too. That was the way of his life. History’s relationship with my father is complicated because he broke and shaped society with equal ease and determination. If there is anything of my father in me, then, it is my ability to destroy as easily as I create. In my younger years, it was a part of myself that I loathed. Older now, and wiser, I have come to understand that it is a necessary balance, the spark that sits at the heart of me, the driving force behind the story you now find at your hands, bound in countless tomes for your reading pleasure.
An Alexandrian librarian gifted me with a love of books and study, taught me to read and write, passed down the ancient, noble art of observation and chronicle. And one other thing. True tomes, Nizam told me, require a special composition: only the most durable calfskin leather, dried and cured till soft but firm, for the cover; fine paper, malleable but not too thin, able to withstand the press of a quill’s point and hold the ink’s bleed; sturdy binding, done with hands and heart and imbued with the sacred knowledge that the final piece will contain a story and nothing is more precious. Were Nizam alive now, he might think that I have forgotten most of the lessons he so painstakingly taught me. Perhaps, though, he would be pleased to know that his secret formula of making books to hold stories is one I have carried through more centuries than I care to count.
Handle these journals with care, then, lest the aggrieved spirit of Nizam, a true Alexandrian librarian, haunt you through your reading.
Three more things I will say.
There is a famous quote by a flawed writer that says: “those who don’t believe in magic, will never find it.”
In some ways, there is truth to the statement — there are none so blinkered by their own surety than humanity. That my magic never fit into their shallow understanding of this world has hardly helped. To that end, I urge you to suspend your disbelief for a time. Unlike you, dear reader, my childhood on the dune-spotted flatlands in the south of the world was rich with uncanny, with my mother’s subtle insights, nuggets of knowledge about a world that we often could not see, but certainly knew, in our bones, existed. When my magic began to manifest, neither she nor I batted an eyelid at its potential though, if memory serves, she spent a full cycle of moons beseeching our ancestors for guidance. And guidance of a kind they must have given, for she taught me such control and understanding as I needed. Enough. More than enough. The foundation of everything that I am lies in my mother’s warm brown fingers, tracing stories and teachings through the hot, dusty air. There are things in this world that are real, for me. Briefly, let them be real for you too.
You have my word you will find no untruths here. This is not history, rife with the need to present, in the best light, all that has happened to the world. This is my story and my oath to you is that there will be no tampering of events, no pot-holed accounts, no editing, nothing that will perhaps paint me in any way but how I am. This is unvarnished truth, the tale as it happened. Perhaps you will find others who might gainsay my version of events. Know only that there are many different perspectives to a story. This one, for better or for worse, is mine. And it is told as truly and as clearly as I remember it. I do not seek your judgement, reader. Our own accountability comes for us all, eventually. What I want is your time. Your time and your heart, for as long as you will give it. Whether you find these words worthy, at the end, is up to you.
If, however, you do, then, finally, a challenge: come and find me. For you will have read my story, known me in a way few others do. Now, you are complicit.”
– Extract from a letter found in Volume I of Anahita Darvish’s journals.