The caravan moved out of the ancient and virtually abandoned city of Babylon, crossing the Euphrates at the great bridge between the ruins of the Esagila, the temple of Marduk and the Etemenanki, the great Ziggarut, the fabled tower of Babel.
Hormoz looked back at the city as the sun began to rise, casting long shadows in the empty streets.
"The council are all that are left now," Gushnasaph said, stopping his horse beside Hormoz's.
"You were always right about the city," Hormoz told his young companion. "Alexander's coming only sped our destruction."
"And now?" Gushnasaph asked. "Are we headed towards a future, or are we travelling headlong upon a fool's errand?"
Hormoz shook his head. "Even if I had not seen the ball of flame and light strike Larvendad's tower, seen it disappear, and then reappear within his eyes, even if I did not know that something essential about the universe has been changed, as was made apparent by the power of the blood magic our ancient teacher invoked, saving his life...I would know we are on the right path. I can feel it...my fravashi whispers to me, telling me so. Every moment we remained in Babylon it was urging me to leave, to depart, to be gone. There is nothing left but death in those ruins. We are on a journey towards life, even if it is a fool's errand."
"Then your calling is higher than mine," Gushnasaph said, spurring his horse, "For I only seek a new adventure!"
Hormoz watched his young companion gallop to the front of the caravan, and smiled. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step Gushnasaph, no matter the motivation."
And so the caravan pushed westward, lead by the light that burned within Larvendad's sight like a star, always in his vision no matter if he were in his tent or behind the walls of a caravanersary. He could sense it in the periphery of his sight when his gaze was fixed upon the ground beneath them, and it haunted his dreams when he finally was able to fall into a fitful rest, aided by drugs inhaled through the smoke of the hookah. The men in the caravan who had traversed the great desert before were amazed, and spoke many times of how they had never made a crossing where so much shade was found to travel in, nor so many oases. Months passed, and they arrived at the southern tip of the Dead Sea. From there, they turned north, and moved into the land of the Hebrews, which presented a new challenge; the Roman occupation of the land of Israel...and the enmity between the nations.
"I don't suppose they've gotten over the business at the battle of Harran, do you?" Gushnasaph asked Hormoz with a grin. "After all, we did give them back their standards..."
"Thirty years after the matter," Hormoz replied. "We might need to leave the greater part of the caravan here and press on in disguise."
"And what would you suggest for a disguise?" Gushnasaph asked.
"The creator will provide," Hormoz said, pointing to another caravan approaching the water hole they were resting at. "Merchant train. Come," Hormoz waved a hand to the oncoming riders. "We have shopping to do."