Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 45 – Gilgamesh[3923 words]
Inanna spoke as if she was scared, but her face didn’t show a hint of fear. Instead, she watched Amon, interested, with a shadow of smile.
Amon wrung his neck, “Why would I do that? It’s not a bad thing to save the whole crew’s lives! Inanna, can you tell me who exactly was the herdsman outside Som? Apparently, you know that his lash is made from the string of the monster in the river. Why didn’t you remind me? Were you also aware that we were going to be attacked by a monster when crossing the river? Are you really the one that you claim to be? Is your story true? — Who are you and why did you come to me?”
Inanna smiled, “Everyone has secrets. You have secrets too, Amon, don’t you? As you have said, you are a hunter, and now, a mage on a secret mission! … I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. Everything I’ve told you is true. But it depends on how you understand it. Maybe one day it will all become clear to you… Amon, I will repay you, as I’d promised. You can ask me for one thing. I won’t refuse as long as I am able to do it. Even if it is me that you are asking for…”
Since they’d already crossed the Euphrate River, Inanna didn’t care if her identity was revealed anymore. She just wanted to see if Amon could recognize her before she told him who she was. For her, it was like playing a guessing game.
But her enjoyment was immediately interrupted by a resonant voice from afar. It was a young man singing. The melody was good, but the lyrics was not pleasing to the ear.
“…Why is everyone you loved suffering from your betrayal?
When can your no-longer-young lovers stop crying for you?
Oh~the poor shepherd,
Piling before you the delicious desserts
Offering you his best lambs slaughtered
Whips are fallen on his back,
Turning to a wolf is what he gets,
Pampered bird weeps with a broken wing
Reared lion roams, old wounds still bleeding…”
Inanna’s face became sullen the moment she heard the song. She put back her hand from Amon’s shoulder and stood up. Amon looked towards the direction of the song. What he saw was a row of coaches coming from the benchland at the end of the field. The coach at the head was decorated by golden sculptural reliefs and surrounded by bright armored guards of honor. It was like a king inspecting his lands.
The carriage was open, with a big resplendent sunshade as a hood. Sitting on the carriage was a handsome, stalwart man in his thirties, with a violet loose velvet robe on his shoulders. The driver was an august warrior with over nine feet height. He wore a cuirass but didn’t have a helmet. Hanging at his waist was a heavy bronze sword, reflecting silver light. Beside him stood a huge shield that was almost as high as he was. Standing at the front, watching forward vigilantly, he was like a deity of war.
The song was sung by the man sitting on the carriage. Singing loudly, he raised a glass of wine to his nose, as if he was the only person between the sky and the earth.
Seeing the row of carriages catching up to them from behind, Amon promptly drove his coach to the side of the road to let them pass while he heard Inanna shout angrily, “Gilgamesh! How dare you sing such a song under my nose! What are you doing with all your bodyguards from Uruk? Where are you going?”
The singer saw Inanna and he immediately stood up from his seat, bowed to her and said, “My beautiful lady, please just call me Gill… Beside seeing your deific face, do I have the honor to know the name you bear today?”
Inanna jumped off the coach. Standing in the middle of the road, barring the carriage’s way, she answered with a cold smile, “I’m Inanna. Where are you going to, Gill, esteemed Lord of Uruk?”
On the coach, Amon was astounded. The master of the carriage was Gilgamesh, the governor of the city of Uruk! He had once hearing this name from Metatro. Some said he was a ninth-level warrior, some said he was a supreme mage. But neither of the two were ever confirmed by Gilgamesh himself.
Another famous name closely related to him was Enkidu. He grew up with Gilgamesh and became the commander of Uruk’s State Guard. He was a tested ninth-level warrior, often known as the strongest warrior in the world. This was a more or less exaggerated title, but as a matter of fact, he had never been defeated in his life.
They were people that Amon absolutely didn’t want to get into trouble with. Given his identity, he would try to keep himself as far away as possible from them. But Inanna didn’t appear to be afraid at all. She just blocked the whole caravan wearing her sullen face. It seemed that Gilgamesh knew her and even saluted her when noticing her presence. In contrast with his respectful behavior, what he said bore a flippant tone, asking her what her name was today.
Different from the Great Empire of Ejpyt, the kingdom of Bablon was actually a union of multiple states under a treaty of military alliance and a federal council that made important decisions under the lead of the king. The king of Bablon was the leader of the alliance, but the governor of the city-states had great independent power too.
Gilgamesh had come to fame for many years on the continent. As a great hero, he was of high repute. He had a massive ego such that sometimes he even didn’t mind the king and only obeyed important decisions of the alliance. But because of Uruk’s strategic importance, the governors of the other states, including the king, didn’t dare to offend him too much.
From the talk between Inanna and Gilgamesh, Amon began to suspect that Inanna might really be a princess. It was the only possible way to explain what had just happened. Amon had already had a similar guess when he had seen Inanna writing her own name in hieroglyph.
Gilgamesh ordered his carriages to stop, but he didn’t descend from the carriage. He stood on the carriage and bowed again, “I have just received a fast message when I was inspecting my state, that the little son of Humbaba, the Patron of the Euphrate River, has attacked a ferry in plain day. Since Humbaba has broken the pact between the gods, I can finally go kill that nine-headed beast!… Inanna, do you want to come see me fulfilling this feat?”
Amon was astounded again. He almost dropped his lash. Humbaba was the Patron of the Euphrate River, and Gilgamesh declared that he was going to kill him! Filled with surprise and curiosity in his heart, he really wanted to see the fight. But reason told him that he had to step away from these kinds of affairs. The wiser choice was to leave them as soon as possible. But since Inanna had blocked the whole path, he could do nothing but wait aside.
Inanna giggled, “Gill, you are going to kill Humbaba with Enkidu? Humbaba is not that easy to deal with. You have to cut off all of his heads at one time. Can you do that?”
Gilgamesh’s long eyes squinted. He stroked a ring on his hand and replied, “I’m glad to try. It’s been a long time that I’ve wanted to kill that snake. Don’t forget that Humbaba has been controlling all the lanes in that river and we have to pay tribute to him in order to trade cedars with Hittite and Ejypt. My people gave him so much every year, but he was never satisfied and forbid us to cross the river at night. Nobody can count how many people have been killed by him and his offspring!”
Inanna frowned, “But I’ve heard that there was a pact between Enlil and Marduc. The cedar forest at the east side of the river belongs to the realm of Marduc whilst the Euphrate River belongs to Humbaba, since he was the gatekeeper of Enlil’s realm… And Humbaba forbid your people from crossing the river at night because you refused to let him have any shrine in Uruk.”
Gilgamesh humphed, “He really regarded himself as a deity, that watchdog! The shrines in Uruk only pay tribute to the real patrons, not a extortioner! How dare he ask for place for himself in the shrine of Marduc? Poor beast, he thought that he could have his own realm through that? No one would ever pay tribute to him sincerely!”
Inanna giggled again, “That’s true. He has too many heads to use properly… But are you not afraid that you may offend Enlil once you have killed him?”
The warrior driver suddenly lifted his head and interrupted, “What happened in the ferry today was unforgivable. Humbaba has broken the pact between the gods. Therefore I have to kill him. Even a god like Enlil can’t break his own oracle!… The most beautiful lady in my eyes, why are you worrying about him? It is us that are facing a terrible fight ahead and the danger of death. But today I have to pick up my sword!”
Inanna looked at him with a half-smile, “Enkidu, you always wanted to compare your power to the deities. Are you going to prove your power by slaying Humbaba?”
The warrior answered warily, “Even if Humbaba had a shrine, how many people would pay tribute to him with true heart? If I slay that evil beast, how many people will be grateful and admire me even if I don’t own a shrine? My feat will appear in folk songs and be sung for years.”
Inanna smiled, “It’s a pity that you are a little late. The monster snake has been slain by a brave young man. I was there too. He also escorted me across the river… You want to seek trouble with Humbaba, because you didn’t save the crew and be the hero of the day? I don’t think you can fight him. Perhaps Gill has the ability.”
Enkidu turned around and bowed to Gilgamesh, “My lord, please grant me the chance to defy Humbaba alone.”
Glancing at Inanna, Gilgamesh frowned then spoke to Enkidu peacefully, “I won’t refuse your request, my best friend. But I won’t put you in danger either. You alone might defeat Humbaba, but it will be difficult for you to stop him from escaping. Please allow me to watch for you and intercept him when he flees, so you can cut off all his heads with your own hands and make your heroic feat!”
Enkidu bowed again, “Thank you, my lord.”
Gilgamesh waved his hand and spoke to Inanna,
“Humbaba’s offsprings have been stopping people from crossing the river at night. Once one killed, another will appear in nearly no time. Today I’m going to cut down the source of the evil!… Are you going to stop me, Inanna?”
Inanna smiled like a flower, watching Gilgamesh affectionately, “Why would I stop you? To be honest, I want to see that nine-headed beast be slain one day too. Gill, you are such a brave man! You are my hero!… Thank you for inviting me. I would like to witness this extraordinary feat with my own eyes.”
Gathering up her skirts, she jumped up the shaft, boarding the carriage. She waved her hand and said to Gilgamesh, “Let’s go, Gill. I can’t wait anymore!”
She just went away with Gilgamesh, leaving Amon alone! Amon was a bit puzzled, but he felt relieved too. The caravan advanced, passing by Amon’s coach. Amon suddenly felt a bit nervous again. Gilgamesh asked, “Inanna, you came with this coach. Don’t you want to bring him with you? ”
Inanna smiled and replied, “My lamb will find its own way and know what his mission is at last. Together with Gill the hero, I don’t need protection from the others any more.”
Gilgamesh laughed, “With Enkidu, my carriage is the safest place in this world. But how will you need my protection?”
Surrounded by the guards, Gilgamesh’s carriage disappeared into the distance, leaving Amon and his coach at the side of the road. Inanna had invited Amon to escort her to Bablon City, but now she went away with Gilgamesh. If she was indeed a princess in distress, and she knew and trusted Gilgamesh, then it was normal that with the latter’s support, she no longer needed Amon’s help. But why did she leave without even saying goodbye?
Amon was thinking about this when he heard a whisper from Inanna, “I will go with them to see how they slay the nine-headed beast… You’ve just killed Humbaba’s little son. If he finds out, you will be in danger when you cross the Euphrate River again. Wish them success… Go ahead and do what you plan to do. I’ll come to you again and fulfill my promise.”
The caravan was already below the horizon, but Inanna’s voice arose as if she were next to Amon. It was a [Whisper], an advanced message magic. But the way it was performed was extremely skillful! Amon was once again astounded. But he soon found an explanation. Given Inanna’s identity and the fact she knew well about hieroglyphs, it was normal that she knew about magic at the same time. Unfortunately, Gilgamesh hadn’t revealed her real identity in the previous conversation. So far Amon still didn’t know who she was. She went away with mystery, as well as she came.
Now that he could no longer see the caravan, Amon raised his lash to keep on his journey as he looked around vigilantly. A dot appeared from where the caravan had disappeared, and soon became a huge running figure. The giant man was Enkidu, the warrior driver.
Enkidu seemed to be just walking, but he was approaching Amon faster than a fleeing horse in a stampede. In next to no time, he had already arrived at Amon’s coach. Every pace he took was soundless, but Amon could feel a great power that shook the earth. He couldn’t even develop the idea of resisting when facing this warrior.
When he could see Enkidu’s face, Amon was already putting his hand into his bag, taking out the supreme scroll of spatial magic: [Turbulence] from Osiris’ rib along with the two other advanced scrolls. If this ninth-level warrior meant to harm him, what he could do was to escape as fast as he could. But why did the strongest warrior in the world come to him? Was it because of Inanna?
When he saw Enkidu’s speed, Amon doubted whether he would even have enough time to activate the scrolls if Enkidu was really going to attack him. Enkidu stopped right in front of Amon’s coach, standing there like a hill. Wearing a sullen face, he didn’t seem to want to attack Amon. Holding a golden tray in his hands, he spoke to Amon coldly, “Coachman, you’ve killed the monster that attacked the ferry today and saved the passengers aboard. You’ve maintained the security and defended the dignity of Uruk. The Lord of Uruk gives this to you as his reward. Please take it.”
Also the word spoken from this lofty warrior included “please”, it sounded like an infrangible order. Amon jumped off the coach, received the tray with both hands and replied respectfully, “My sincere gratitude to the Lord of Uruk. I saved them as I was saving myself. ” Under the majestic eyes of the supreme warrior, he even felt it hard to breathe.
Staring at Amon, Enkidu spoke coldly again, “What you have done should be praised. This is the reward from the Lord of Uruk… Young sorcerer, you pass through the state under Inanna’s protection today. Get away as quickly as you can. Next time I see you, it will be your last day! Remember, a woman like Inanna can’t belong to you!”
As soon as he finished the speech, Enkidu turned around and left. In several breaths, his distancing figure disappeared under the horizon.
A gust of wind blew on to his face, Amon was suddenly seized by a chill. He had been soaked with cold sweat after just a few words. Looking at the golden tray, he found two scrolls and ten parangons. The two scrolls were exactly a [Lock] and a [Wall of Chaos], the same as the ones he had used in the river earlier this day.
Gilgamesh was more well-informed than Amon could imagine! Not only did he know what had happened in the river, but he also knew what scrolls Amon had used. He asked Enkidu to bring him the two of them and repaid the last one symbolically with ten parangons.
The value of the [Song of Ice and Fire] was much higher than ten parangons. It was Nero’s unique invention after all. Perhaps even Gilgamesh couldn’t have known what kind of scroll it was. But what he had done was generous enough. Maybe he had done so because of Inanna.
Enkidu had entitled Amon as a “sorcerer”. Clearly he already knew who he was and that was why he spoke with a bad temper. He had also pointed out that Amon could pass through Uruk because of Inanna’s protection. And he even threatened to kill him if he met him in the future. Amon felt that he just become the victim of an unexpected catastrophe. What had he ever done to offend this supreme warrior? But soon he seemed to find the reason. From his last words, Enkidu clearly warned Amon not to have any inappropriate thoughts about Inanna!
Do I have any inappropriate thoughts of Inanna? Amon asked himself and the answer was definite and resounding no. He didn’t have any thoughts about this woman now. She was nothing but an attractor of trouble! Every time he traveled together with her, trouble would soon come to them. In Som, they had been followed and robbed. When crossing the river, they had been attacked by a monster. Now he had just been threatened by a supreme warrior! Fortunately, Amon didn’t need to go together with her from now on. Otherwise, as merely a fifth-level sorcerer, he was clearly not qualified to play this game with her.
Technically speaking, Amon more or less belittled himself when he thought this way. The people he had just met were the top figures of this continent. As a fifth-level sorcerer and warrior, he was powerful enough to protect himself in most towns on the continent.
The cold sweat drained off. Amon asked himself several questions sitting on the coach — Had Inanna meant to do anything bad to him? The answer was no. Had she done anything wrong? No, it seemed that she hadn’t done anything wrong. Had he himself done anything wrong? Not at all. Did he owe anything to Inanna? No. He had just helped her several times. He hadn’t offended her in any way.
Thinking about this, Amon finally found his inner peace again. Waving the lash, he set himself back on his journey. He had noticed that Gilgamesh’s caravan had left the small road, crossed the field and went upstream of the Euphrate River along the bank. This road was leading to a different direction. According to Inanna, he could bypass Uruk then come back to the main road. All Amon wanted now, was to move as fast as possible.
With a lash cracking, the horses ran like the wind. Leiskkhut had indeed given him the best coach and horses in town. Amon kept them running at full speed until dusk. When night had fallen, he had to slow down because the horses were exhausted. They would collapse at any time if he continued to let them run. Amon believed that he had covered quite a distance. Enkidu said that Amon could pass the state this time, but Amon just wanted to stay as far away as possible from any potential danger.
Fortunately, nothing had happened. At night, Amon found a remote forest far from the main road to hide his coach. Then he started to seek water for the horses. He himself needed to take a good rest as well. He had been exhausted all day since he had fought with the monster, he felt a little dizzy after the full speed run.
Midnight passed quietly. Amon suddenly woke up in the coach from sleeping. Half-asleep, he sat himself down quietly and started his meditation. He didn’t know how long he had meditated before he felt a slight disturbance in the spirit. Performing the Detection Eyes and tuning his perception to the most sensitive state, he started to hear noises from far away.
There were roars of a ferocious beast that sounded like thousands of wild ox braying together. There was man shouting, sounding like Enkidu’s voice. And there were huge cracking and clashing sounds. Was Enkidu fighting with Humbaba, the nine-headed monster, Patron of the Euphrate River? Would he kill the beast? Or be killed by the monster? The sounds came from a great distance. They were weak even after amplified by the Detection Eyes. But Amon could still feel how intense the fight was.
Amon had just killed Humbaba’s little son. He might get revenge from the Patron of the Euphrate River when he crossed the river again. So he should hope that someone would kill Humbaba. On the other hand, since Enkidu had threatened Amon with killing him. He should also hope that Enkidu would be killed by the monster. However, when listening to this breath-taking fight, Amon still wished Enkidu can finish off the nine-headed monster’s life.
As for the threat from the supreme warrior, he didn’t take it too seriously. The continent was so vast that a nobody like him could hide almost anywhere he wanted. After all, he believed that he could hardly have the chance to meet another ninth-level practitioner like Enkidu before he became a supreme practitioner himself. Even if he went to Uruk, it was highly improbable for him to run into Enkidu again. As a ninth-level warrior, Enkidu wouldn’t really care about a small figure like him. For him, Amon was far less important than Humbaba!
It was already near sunrise when the faraway fight came to an end. It must have been a very intense fight. Listening to the distant noises, Amon was already entranced by his own imagination. Some of Crazy’Ole’s words unprovokedly crossed his mind: magic or body arts, if one could get to the ninth level, he would be standing at the peak of this world, and would even have the power to fight the gods. Therefore these people were called demigods. Crazy’Ole even had doubts that some self-proclaimed gods were in fact just demigods.
From what he had heard, Amon believed that this Humbaba should just be a demigod. Thus being a demigod himself, the ninth-level warrior Enkidu dared to try to kill Humbaba alone.[List of Characters]
Gilgamesh: Governor of the city-state of Uruk.
Enkidu : Commander of Uruk’s State Guard. Ninth-level warrior. Often recognized as “the strongest warrior in the world”.
Humbaba: Patron of the Euphrate River, a nine-headed monster snake. Gatekeeper of Enlil’s realm.