In my youth, I heard tales of a great hero who led his mighty army into a merciless desert where temperatures reached 140 degrees. It was reported by the few travellers who survived the passage, that the wind alone could desiccate a man in less than an hour and the heat take his mind within a matter of minutes. As the army attempted to cross a notoriously parched area, which was known as ‘The Devil’s Anvil,’ all 28,000 of his men disappeared. Their deaths were described in detail by a soothsayer thus:
“Their flesh was flayed away by an almighty storm of searing hot wind and grains of sand. At the end of this scouring, only a gleaming pile of bones remained.”
It’s an old tale, one that has probably been elaborated by many of the raconteurs, for dramatic effect but essentially, it is correct. Then there was another, similar tale which always intrigued me. It tells of a mighty warlord, who crossed The Devil’s Anvil with his army of 70,000, yet survived the transit, more, or less intact. Following that remarkable feat, he was victorious at The Battle of The Two Gorges, defeating the incumbent ruler and taking control of all the lands to the south of the desert. As a young man, I was fascinated by this story and sought all the knowledge that was available on the subject. How could an army of 28,000 perish almost to a man, yet one of 70,000, pass apparently unhindered across that same Devil’s Anvil?
One day, I met a Seer who had travelled the desert lands. Curious, I asked him about the story. He thought long and hard before telling me about an object of great power, which was discovered in the sand. It was this talisman that had allowed the warlord to cross The Devil’s Anvil, without losing a single man or beast from his huge army. The Seer, called the ruby amulet, “The Tears of the Devil’s Anvil.” He had no explanation for exactly how it worked, just that it enabled the wearer to cross between worlds. Over the years, I have become convinced that this is the same talisman as, ‘The Tears of Taklamakan.’ A ruby of great and capricious power which now resides somewhere on this isle.