While writing The Children of Darkness, I was confronted with a dilemma. The Temple of Light had labored for a thousand years to rewrite history to suit their needs and eradicate all signs of the past. How then were the Seekers to discover the lost truth?
Yes, thanks to the keepers, they were able to figure out the rhyme and follow its directions. But at some point, they would hit the limits of the world the Temple of Light had defined. From there, the way to the keep would follow a path obscured not only by the vicars’ lies, but by nature—a road overgrown after centuries of neglect.
How then would they find their way, since the keepmasters would surely leave no obvious trail for the vicars to follow?
That’s when I came up with the idea of the rock face.
In my youth, my parents used to take us on vacation to Franconia Notch in the white mountains of New Hampshire. One of the main features I always looked forward to was The Old Man of the Mountains, a rock cliff near the top of Cannon Mountain with an unusual characteristic. As we drove north, it appeared no more than a rock slide near the summit. But as we passed it, my father would slow down and urge us to glance back, until finally, as we eased into the parking lot at Profile Lake, the cliff transformed into the head of an old man, with a face so noble as to inspire stories (like the wonderful short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, titled The Great Stone Face).
We’d take the aerial tramway to the summit and hike around the old man’s brow, which I always thought a bit disrespectful, though the face was invisible from up close.
Alas, time and weather took their toll. Freezing and thawing opened fissures in the Old Man’s forehead. The New Hampshire state legislature passed an appropriation to stabilize it, using steel rods and turnbuckles. But despite their efforts, the formation collapsed between midnight and 2 a.m., May 3, 2003. Dismay over the collapse was so great that people left flowers at the base of the cliffs in tribute.
These fond memories of the great stone face occurred to me as I wrote The Children of Darkness, and the rock face of the rhyme was born—my poor tribute to this icon of my youth.