Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 46 – Hevel And Qayin[3831 words]
Thinking back on the conversation between Inanna and Gilgamesh that he had overheard yesterday, Amon realized that there was more hidden information on the deities in it. From what he understood, the relations between Marduc and Enlil didn’t appear to be nice. Humbaba, as the gatekeeper of Enlil’s realm, hoped to have his own shrine built in Uruk so as to enable him to own a realm too, however he was refused by Gilgamesh. What was a realm? Was it the territory on which the kings and lords built shrines for a deity? Amon didn’t have a clue about it.
Humbaba could enjoy tribute paid by people on both sides of the river, and his offspring couldn’t attack people in daytime. It seemed to be a pact between gods. Yesterday that monster snake had broken the pact. Although it had already been killed by Amon, Gilgamesh must have taken it as an excuse and was going to slay Humbaba along with Enkidu.
Amon was right on this point. Gilgamesh had been waiting a long time for a chance like this, ever since he became the governor of Uruk.
Like the state of Syah in Hittite, Uruk was famous for its massive cedar production. In Syah, the cedars were cut down in the deep mountains then carted out of the forest at great cost. In Uruk, things were much simpler. The carpenters only needed to cut down the trees in the forests near the Euphrate River, bundle up the timber to form rafts, throw them into the river, then catch them with barges in the gentle lower reaches and drag them to the bank.
As a precious kind of timber, the cedars were used to build chariots and warships. They were an important trade and strategic material and one of the main products of Uruk. But because of Humbaba and his offsprings, the people of Uruk had to give them numerous sheep and cows as tribute every year in return for safety while crossing the river during the day. Every now and then there were people killed in the river by the monsters at night. As the governor of Uruk, Gilgamesh had long been prepared to root out Humbaba and his family.
Amon didn’t remember how much time had passed before the fighting noises eventually ended. Withdrawing his attention from afar, he came to realize that he had been using the Detection Eyes for far too long time. After a night’s “rest” he was even more tired than yesterday. Through bouts of dizziness, he even felt that it was hard to keep his balance. It was not because of the indescribable shock in his mind, but the fact that he had been overdrawing his physical and magical strength for a whole day and night.
It was the first time that this situation had happened to Amon. He doubted that he was sick. Being a young sorcerer, Amon still lacked the experience of practicing magic. He had used magic for too long time and had largely surpassed his limit. But the damage occurred to his body and mind in an imperceptible way such that he was too weak when he realized what had happened. A mage in this situation had to take a very long rest to recover. Hadn’t Amon had the robust body of a warrior, he might have already been unable to get up.
He forced himself to get on the coach and keep going on his journey. But he soon found that misery loves company. It turned out that his horses were sick as well, trembling and panting before they had even gone a few steps and one having diarrhea not long after their departure. Amon didn’t know that horses were even more delicate animals than human beings. Amon had been driving the coach like crazy yesterday. These two horses were already lucky enough to survive.
Born and raised with care, these two poor things had only had some water and a little grass since last night after such a long exhausting run. Looking at the horses that were in even worse conditions than he was, Amon knew that he couldn’t push them on his journey anymore. He had to find a place to take a real rest, otherwise he would be in a very dangerous situation before he could recover.
He was far from Uruk City now. He was planning to find a farm in this remote place, pay them to stay a few days to get himself and his horses back in form. He could also buy some provender for the rest of the journey.
Amon was lucky this time. Walking slowly up a gentle slope beside the horses, he caught sight of a farm ahead, at the foot of a small hill, before the sun rose to the middle of the sky. The houses were large and looked nice. Beside the houses were farmlands that extended far into the horizon. On the other side, flocks of sheep grazed serenely on the small hill. The small road where Amon was walking led right to the houses. He waved the lash in his hand forward. The horses walked lifelessly towards the farm. A moment later, the coach crossed the fence and stopped in front of the houses.
The people in the houses were already aware of his arriving. Several people came out to see what had happened. Amon was just about to talk when he found that two of them had come forward and kneeled down towards him, “My dear lord. How do you come to our home?”
Amon took a second look and recognized these two men. They were the warriors that stood out beside him on the ferry when fighting with the monster snake. They were the bodyguards that Leiskkhut had hired. Only now they were not in armor but simply dressed like normal farmers. But their clothes were clean and had simple decorations on their sleeves and collars. Behind them were their relatives and the servants of their farm. They followed the two men and lay prostrate.
Amon wanted to extricate himself from the situation. But he realized that he could find no other place to stay in such a remote region. He put the lash on the shaft and stepped forward, “Please get up! What a coincidence to meet you again! My horses are sick. And I need to find a place to take a rest too. Can I stay in your house for a few days? I will pay you enough money.”
The two men answered simultaneously, “My dear lord! It’s our honor to welcome your carriage into our humble home! Please don’t talk about money! You’ve saved our lives and it is us who should repay your kindness. Please come in. Your horses will be attended to with the greatest care.”
Thus Amon settled in this farm. He had been planning to stay for only a day or two, but things went beyond his expectation. His magic power recovered much more slowly than he thought it would and his body remained in a deep fatigue. He spent two weeks on the farm. The two warriors, who turned out to be brothers, treated Amon with the greatest respect. Amon was invited to live in the best room, have the best food and provided with the best service.
The elder brother was called Qayin and the younger one was called Hevel. They inherited a large farm and a big house. The house was divided into two areas by a common living hall in the middle. Amon lived upstairs in the area that belonged to Hevel.
The two brothers belonged to a declined noble family. Their manor had reduced to this farm, the hill behind and the vast farmland next to it. Therefore the two brothers still lived together after they established their own family and divided the property in two. After all, on his deathbed, their father had told them to live peacefully together and help each other.
The crops and the flocks were taken care of by the servants, but the two brothers would also do some labor from time to time. In their spare time, they liked travelling around and hoped to find some chances to serve the kingdom and restore their family’s glory.
Although born in straitened circumstances, they still had had the chance to learn body arts when they were young. The two brothers both achieved the second level. They lived a comfortable life, but their earnings didn’t allow them to travel frequently. On the way home of their last journey, they had run out of money for their travelling expenses, so they found themselves a job as a merchant’s bodyguards. The merchant paid them to escort him across the desert and make sure his goods arrived at Uruk safely. However, they had been attacked by the monster snake when crossing the Euphrate River. They couldn’t have seen their homeland again without Amon saving their lives.
When they were together with Amon, the two brother treated him with utmost respect. They would tell Amon whatever he wanted to know in plain detail whenever he asked them something, for fear he felt neglected. By talking with the brothers, Amon had learned many things about Uruk and the Bablon Kingdom. He finally understood the story between Humbaba the so-called “Patron of the Euphrate River” and Uruk, and why Gilgamesh was so eager to kill him.
Amon had also heard another interesting story that helped him “identify” who Inanna was. That beautiful young woman must be Sissila, the younger sister of Samsu, who was the current king of Bablon.
It was said that princess Sissila was a stunning beauty. Growing up in an unrestrained and unstructured environment, she often ran away from the palace to go riding about in the countryside. She admired the heroes in the epics and loved to travel around in disguise. A lot of young men had fallen in love with her and for the obvious reason, the ones who decided to chase her (including a large number of philanderers who planned to achieved their goal by evil means) all ended in a bad way.
Amon could recall the song Gilgamesh had been singing when they had crossed paths. If the person he was singing about was Princess Sissila, it would be easy to understand what it meant. Another piece of important information was that Sissila was Gilgamesh’s fiancée. The arrangement had been made when king Hammurabi, the father of Samsu, was still on the throne. The purpose of this arranged marriage was clear: to tie the most famous hero in the kingdom to the royal family. The old king had also promised a city as the princess’ dowry.
This political marriage was to strengthen the rule of the Bablon Kingdom and to better control the state of Uruk, since at the other side of the Euphrate River was the desert that marked the edge between Ejypt and Hittite. The marriage was already set and the two persons concerned couldn’t say no to it. Moreover, there wasn’t any good reason to object this marriage, since the bride was the most beautiful princess and the groom was the most famous hero in the kingdom.
However, the old king had passed away three years ago, and things seemed to be slightly changing after his death. Samsu, the heir of Hammurabi, succeeded to the throne. But the new king was not young and he didn’t have a son himself. The potential participants for the race to the throne were Princess Sissila and the nephews of the current king.
The old king only had two descendants. The heir, Samsu, who was almost sixty, while Princess Sissila was not even twenty. The large gap in age was not very rare. Of the old king’s wives, only two had had his offspring.
Princess Sissila had claimed several times herself that she was not interested in power. All she wanted to do was travel around the kingdom before she became a wife. Rumors that circulated in the kingdom had said that some of her rivals to the throne had planned to assassinate her when she was out of the capital. Other rumors said that Gilgamesh was coveting the throne as well and might launch a coup d’état once he married Princess Sissila. No one knew how these rumors became popular.
Gilgamesh was vexed by these rumors. Since he was not too eager to marry the princess either, the marriage had always been in delay.
It was said that recently Princess Sissila went sightseeing again. The expedition had begun last summer and she hadn’t returned to the palace. Rumor said that she had been involved in a series of escapades as usual. Disguising as a commoner and making pranks everywhere, she did not act like a princess at all. Her stunning beauty and passionate character had earned her the tears of many infatuated young men. Criticism had raised that her behavior didn’t match her status. Some worried that her political rivals would seize the opportunity to assassinate her.
Amon was pretty sure that Inanna should be Princess Sissila when he came to know of this information. It had explained all that he had seen with Inanna. The fact that she knew how to write her name in hieroglyphs, that she added a royal symbol to her name, that she knew Gilgamesh and that Gilgamesh had sung such a song while still saluting her and inviting her to go with him.
Enkidu had known that Amon was a sorcerer, and he said that Amon passed the state under Inanna’s protection. At the same time, he threatened Amon not to get too close to her or he would kill him. The reason was simple: Princess Sissila was Gilgamesh’s fiancée. Everything fell into place now.
Knowing that Inanna was Princess Sissila, Amon gave out a little sigh and didn’t want to think more about her. Perhaps he was just one of the many people that the princess had teased in her latest escapade. Amon didn’t believe that he could go to the palace to seek her even if he arrived Bablon City one day. He didn’t want to think about the reward that Inanna once promised him either.
Still, he held a positive view to Inanna. At least walking with her in the fields was a wonderful memory. The pancake she had shared with him was the most delicious food he had ever had. Retrospectively, it seemed that she had never done anything to hurt him. If anything, she had helped him, a sorcerer, pass through the state of Uruk. Amon decided only to put the nice feeling and the appreciation in his mind and not to think too much. He was going to take a good rest at the farm and wait till his body was recovered.
The two brothers had taken good care of him, offering a safe and cozy place for him so he could be healed and regain his magic power. Amon felt really grateful to them. It was also them who had guarded his flank when facing the monster in the river while the other passengers were hiding in the cabin in panic. And another thing that happened during his sojourn finally urged Amon to decide to return a good favor to them.
The seventh day after Amon had settled down, a troop of heralds came to the farm. They were sent by the governor of Uruk. They held the flag of command as token and carried two messages from the governor. The first message was: seven days ago, Humbaba’s offspring, a monster snake had attacked a ferry in daytime, and had been slain by a sorcerer. Gilgamesh announced to the whole state and pointed out Amon’s identity — a sorcerer, but he didn’t mention his name.
Gilgamesh didn’t cover Amon’s identity, but he hadn’t reveal his whereabouts either in the message. People in the state guessed that the sorcerer must have escaped after disembarking. After seven days, he should have already left the state of Uruk.
It was a shocking event that a sorcerer had slain the monster and saved all the people on the ferry. It was even a bit absurd considered how the sorcerers had been portrayed in folklore. But people’s attention was soon attracted by the second message for the latter was much more sensational. Lord Enkidu, the commander of the State Guard, had slain Humbaba, the Patron of the Euphrate River in the same night, cutting off all nine of his heads. Humbaba’s skin was used to make a battle drum. His bones were made into the drumsticks. Other trophies included nine strings and thirty-six fangs.
Lord Gilgamesh, the governor of Uruk, fought together with Enkidu, cornering Humbaba and helped Enkidu sever all of Humbaba’s heads. This heroic feat struck the kingdom with amazement. After the message was spread, Enkidu, along with Gilgamesh, became god-like heroes in common people’s mind.
It was also said that the governor had decided to divide the trophies into three parts. Each part contained three strings and four fangs. One would be kept in Uruk as a permanent memorial. One would be presented to God Marduc the Great. The last one would be sent to the capital as a gift to Princess Sissila.
The next thing Gilgamesh was going to do was to visit Bablon City, to pay his tribute to the main Marduc Shrine and the palace. The whole kingdom was astonished by this news. Even in the most remote villages, people were talking about this rare event.
Amon seemed to be far away from these agitations. But the arrival of the heralds put him into an awkward position. The messages carried by the herald were announced aloud. Even Amon who lived upstairs could hear them. It was certain that the two brothers knew his identity.
They could no longer plead ignorance as their excuse for giving accommodation to a sorcerer and treating him like a master. After hearing the message, they should have arrested him and turned him over to the shrine. Since the two brothers had seen what Amon could do, they knew that they were not able to bring him under control. But reasonably speaking, it would be inappropriate of them to harbour Amon at their farm.
Amon didn’t want to bring trouble to them either. Watching the heralds’ distancing figure by the window, he was already planning to pack up and leave. To his surprise, the two brother went back into the house like nothing had happened. They still invited Amon to dinner with respect, and the dinner was even as sumptuous like before. Over dinner, nobody raised the topic of the heralds and the messages they had brought. But Amon still discreetly expressed his gratitude after the dinner and told the brothers that he was about to continue on his journey. He was going to leave the farm as soon as possible, without bothering them for one more night.
The two brothers dismissed the servants. Hevel walked to Amon and said earnestly, “Please never doubt our sincerity, my dear lord. You saved our lives. Having your presence and being able to help you is our greatest honor. We have noticed that you still need to rest for a good time. And your horses have not recovered yet. Our men will take good care of them so you can have a nice journey once you are ready and able to leave. Please don’t worry about anything and stay here.”
Though they didn’t speak it out loud, Hevel was clearly indicating that they had known about Amon being an injured sorcerer. They also convinced him that they would not mind his identity, nor would they reveal it to others, but would treat him with full respect like before. Now that the message had been spread to the whole state, Amon could be recognized if he went back on the main road. Anyway, it would be safer to stay at the farm until he was fully recovered.
It was indeed a wiser choice. As for Amon, he didn’t need to worry about the two brothers even though he was still sick. In fact, the entire house was under the range of the Detection Eyes. Even in the worst scenario, he could easily hide into the field behind the hill.
After a brief thought, Amon nodded and answered, “Thank you for your kindness. I will certainly make up for you. If you need anything, please tell me. I’ll do whatever I can to help you.” What he was thinking was simple. Despite wearing a plain suit, he was rich enough to repay the two brothers. What he had in his pouch could buy several farms as big as the one where they were living now.
Amon’s promise was tempting. The elder brother was interested. At the same night, he called his younger brother to the field and asked him, “Lord Amon said at the dinner that we can ask him for anything. This is a good chance for us. What should we ask for, my dear brother?”
Hevel, his younger brother, shook his head and replied, “Being a sorcerer, he is quite wealthy. He can afford more than one powerful scroll. However, we invited him to live with us because he saved our lives. How can we covet his wealth?”
Qayin patted his younger brother’s shoulder, “You misunderstand my words. How would I covet his wealth. We have learnt how powerful he is at the ferry that day… Don’t forget that we are actually qualified to learn magic. We are even registered in the shrine. The only thing we lack is someone who will agree to teach us magic.”
Hevel sighed, “That’s true. We could have been mages if Grandpa Bamnu was still with us.”
It was a past story. In the continent, only nobles were qualified to learn magic. But it didn’t mean that every nobleman was able to walk in a shrine and demand somebody to teach him magic. He must wait for the permission from the shrine, receive the power awakening rite and get registered in the shrine. It was the necessary procedures to be recognized as a magic practitioner.
It was why a mage could hardly be faked. Every mage was well documented. There were detailed records about in which shrine the power awakening rite had been hosted and by which priest it had been hosted by.
When Hevel and Qayin’s grandfather lived, an old friend of his, who was the priest in the shrine of Uruk, promised to teach the two brothers magic. And he indeed had hosted a power awakening rite for them and registered them to the shrine. But for most people the awakening of power couldn’t be done in one try. The old priest passed away not long after the rite. The two brother only got one chance to awaken the magic power, and they failed.[List of Characters]
Samsu: King of Bablon.
Hammurabi: Former king of Bablon, Samsu’s father.
Princess Sissila: Samsu’s younger sister.
Qayin: One of the two warriors who helped Amon fight the monster in the river. Hevel’s elder brother.
Hevel: One of the two warriors who helped Amon fight the monster in the river. Qayin’s younger brother.