It might seem an odd thing that Maryann Steinman was the last heir to the long-dead city of Iram of the Pillars, but as is so often the case what seems odd at first appears less so on further examination.

Iram of the Pillars had been the key oasis that made travel across the vast Rub’ al Khali desert possible. But as more trade came and went, the water table had fallen and the spring collapsed in 190 AD, leaving the vast and unforgiving desert with no water to sustain travel. The royal family and all those who could do so fled north to Parthian Ctesiphon, for they had long been vassals of the king there. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Severus of Rome had sacked the city. The king of Iram and all his sons died in the defense of the city, with his daughter carried off to Rome in chains.

Purchased by a wealthy family, she was eventually emancipated and married into a powerful family of freedmen and Christian converts. They ran afoul of the later emperor Diocletian, who ordered the family wiped out in 305 AD. Only a single child survived the massacre, hidden by family friends and eventually smuggled to Gaul, where he raised a small family in an isolated village. In time, the village came to be part of France, but during the Great War it was totally razed; those that survived suffered terribly from dysentery and typhus. In the end, the entire town perished–save one man, Marcel Durand, who had left for Paris and later emigrated to New York City.

Before perishing in a typhoid outbreak, Durand managed to conceive a child, to the scandal of many, with one Gloria Feldman in the Bronx. Marrying George Steinman provided some stability for the child, who grew to father one child of his own before a heart attack felled him: Maryann.

A long path, yes, and one beset by the tragedies great and small which determine the fate of all peoples. But it led, inexorably, to Maryann.