Whore_of_Babylon

Here’s the first half of my prologue. I hope you enjoy reading it!

A measly crowd had gathered at the edge of Rome’s great forum, men and women clutching the hems of their tunics over their heads to shield them from the sputtering downpour. Iron grey clouds hung in the sky and the air was thin, dry after the sudden release of moisture.

Their eyes were fixed on a few shuffling figures that shambled their way over the broken rock and loose earth at the foot of the cliff. Above them, the Capitoline Hill’s twin peaks loomed dark and imposing against the turbulent sky.

Two men of the city watch, with rainwater running in sheets down their hard leather cuirasses, picked their way down the jumbled slope. They took care not to lose their footing on the slick earth, supporting the weight of an old man between them.

His back was hunched and grey hair hung lank down the back of his sodden toga. Every so often, the crowd saw him shudder with cold or fear. His frail, mud-caked feet struggled to gain a purchase on the uneven slope and failed. He seemed to surrender, letting his body hang limp and allowing the guards to drag him the rest of the way.

At the very foot of the cliff, the small party disappeared inside a narrow opening in the living rock. A muffled, ragged cheer rose from the sparse crowd and the onlookers began to move away. They would return soon for the execution. They all knew that in Rome, imprisonment was only ever a temporary measure before an executioner’s rough hands found their way to the sentenced man’s neck.

Once every spectator had gone from the rain soaked street, one of the watchmen took a package bound in tightly wrapped skin from inside his armour. He laid it in front of the old man and departed. The second guard struck a flame to the wick of a fat candle and then he too returned to the downpour outside.

They moved off a short distance, finding shelter beneath a boulder jutting out from the slope. The old man raised his face and looked around the cell. It was little more than an arched alcove cut into the wall of the cliff, but it was dry enough for his purpose.

The old man’s fingers quivered as he scratched the metal stylus across the carefully prepared and stitched skins. In its wake were left small black figures in wet ink, trailing after each other to form words which cut deep into his heart.

He was ancient, old enough that there were few things left that he truly feared. When he was younger he had been beaten, whipped and degraded. More times than bore counting he had been dragged towards the void of death and kicked back into the harsh light. But he still felt terror at the thought of what he was about to do.

The purpose of a book’s prologue or first chapter is to pose a question to the reader which makes them want to read on, or even finish the whole novel in search of answers. Did this prologue grip you and make you want to know more? Let me know in a comment. I really do appreciate all of your feedback.

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