Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 47 – Paid and Gained[3807 words]
The two brothers couldn’t be blamed, for they were too young at the time. Not long after the priest’s death, their grandfather passed away too. The family didn’t lose their nobility, but the family title was obliterated. They were not much different from a wealthy common family except that they didn’t need to pay the taxes that commoners needed to pay.
Theoretically, the two brothers were allowed to practice magic. But as the power of the family fell, no priests in the shrine would take it upon themselves to teach them. They could have practiced alone if they had awakened their magic power after the rite. It was not illegal, but lone practitioners could seldom go far. Not to mention that they didn’t even succeed in awakening the magic power after the rite.
Qayin whispered to Hevel, “My dear young brother, don’t forget that our names are registered in the records of the shrine. It is totally fine if learn magic. If we can, by any chance, become advanced mages, we can take our family title back and restore the glory of our ancestors. We no longer need to be farmers and shepherds. This is the chance of a lifetime. We can ask Lord Amon to host the rite again and teach us magic.”
It was not an idea in Hevel’s mind to ask for anything from Amon. But now that the idea was put in, he started to give it some real thought. To commoners, mastering the magic power was like what solving the secret of the gods was to Crazy’Ole. Even ex-nobles like Metatro and cavemen like Lynk had requested Amon to teach them magic when they had the chance. It was normal for the two brothers as members of a declined noble family to have such thoughts.
The two brothers talked late into the night. Finally they decided to ask Amon the very next morning and each of them gave Amon his own tribute. Amon had heard their talk. And he chose to grant them the chance. Since they were already qualified practitioners, mastering magic wouldn’t bring them any trouble. It would be the best thing Amon could do for them.
Early next morning, Amon took a walk in the farmland. He went far away from the houses. As he had expected, the two brothers caught up to him with their own physical gifts. They kneeled down to Amon and said, “My dear lord, please accept my most sincere tribute. Though it is not as precious as what we are going to ask for, it was the benefit of my own labor. It represents the faith in my heart.”
What Qayin had in his palms was a bushel of wheat. He worked in the field together with the servants from time to time and the wheat could be regarded as his own harvest. Hevel’s tribute was the first lamb born this year in his flock. The meat was salted and the suet was made into tallow.
Amon looked at them and smiled, “Your welcome has been the best gift for me. I’ve promised to do whatever I can to help you. And I will keep my word. I know what you are asking for. You want me to host a power awakening rite for you and teach you magic. I can do that for you.”
Qayin exclaimed, “You can see through our hearts before we can even speak! Are you the emissary from the gods? In my heart, you are the god who give us power and faith!” He wanted to say this first to cover the possible awkwardness about Amon’s identity. Amon had heard similar words from Metatro and Lynk, he could sense that Qayin’s words were said with less sincerity.
Hevel also prostrated and said, “Thank you, my dear lord! I will remember your kindness with my life. You’ve given us a new life and new power!”
Amon waved his hands and said, “You don’t need to thank me this early. I am going to host the rite for you, but whether you can succeed depends on yourselves. Not everyone can pass the test and learn magic. Please get up! Tonight at the foot of the hill, I will host the rite for you. But at first, you have to promise me two things.”
The two brothers nodded together, “Please tell us everything you want us to do.”
Amon took a little time to organize the idea, then he said, “First, you can only practice my teaching. You shall not adopt any path other than the one I have told you. You shall have faith in what I teach you and regard it as the only source of power. Second, you can’t draw a picture of my likeness or make a statue of me. You shall not tell my name or describe my appearance to others.”
The reason for the first requirement was simple. He was going to awaken the power of two sides for the two brothers. He would only teach them the path that he had verified himself. It was the same requirement as that of Lynk’s. The second one was easy to understand too. Amon was a sorcerer. Since his “feat” had already been advertised by the Lord of Uruk, he could only hope that less people knew of his name and appearance.
The two brothers accepted them without a doubt. No matter how bizarre these requirements seemed to be, it could probably be the only chance in their life to learn magic. On the way back to the house, Amon accepted Hevel’s gift and said, “Thank you. I am going to need this on my journey.” But he returned the wheat to Qayin because he really didn’t need it on the road.
When night fell, and the moonlight shone on the top of the trees on the hill, Hevel and Qayin came out and went to a clearing at the foot of the hill, where Amon had been waiting for them, with his staff poking into the ground before him. Amon was not a man who liked to talk much before action. Seeing the two brothers, he waved his hand and said,
“Let’s start the rite now. My staff is where the power will come from. Take this as the first rite you have ever been through. Don’t try to think about what power it is. It can be a gift of the gods. I can be the power inside your blood.”
“Once the power is awakened, desires will be awakened as well. The desires come from both your body and your soul. They are the reflection of the two sides. You should learn to face them and deal with them, but not to be dictated by them. This will be the first step to a long exploration. It’s a test that doesn’t appear only one time. It will appear throughout your lives as long as it is. Pray towards my staff, and look inside your heart. You are not appealing to a specific deity. It is going to be hard. Be calm, and focus. I wish you can enter the required state of mind.”
Being a fifth-level mage and warrior, Amon had a new understanding of the tests he had been through. From the “power awakening”, the “faith’s confirmation”, to the “devil’s temptation”, all of them had two layers of meaning.
The first layer of meaning of these tests was to require the practitioner to find themselves during deep meditation, recognize their self and restore it so as to keep up with his own power and even explore more power. The second layer was more complex. A test wouldn’t disappear after the practitioner passed through it for the first time. Each test reflected a change in their practice and it became a part of the practitioner’s self. It was always there and the practitioner had to face it throughout their life. For instance, the devil’s temptation would always exist as long as there was any desire of power in the practitioner’s mind.
Amon stayed at the farm for another seven days. With the help of the amazing staff, there were signs that the two brothers’ power of two sides had been awakened. Amon was fully recovered at last. After the half-month sojourn, he felt that his body and mind peaked again. He even had a feeling that his strength increased a bit.
Amon was surprised at the long time he had to spend to recover. What he didn’t know was that it was very dangerous for a mage to go beyond his limit when performing magic. The state of prostration might last a long time during which he could hardly protect himself from any danger. Ordinary mages probably had to spend two to three months to recover. It was already incredible that he was able to come alive again in half a month. This resulted not only from him being a fifth-level warrior, but also the unique path he had taken from the beginning.
Before his departure, he left one parangon to each of the two. They could use them as a medium to feel and explore the magic force in the nature and to perform magic. They would be the substitute of his staff, which he had to take with him on the journey. The rest depended on the two brothers themselves. If they could pass the first test, they would get on the same path as Amon and would be able to explore magic or even the secret of the gods one day.
These two parangons were Amon’s reward for their entertainment. Hevel didn’t want to accept it at first. He told Amon that although he was not rich, he still had inherited a collection of parangons. But Amon persuaded him to keep the parangon, telling him that more than one parangon would be needed if he was going to buy a staff later. Considered that the two brothers might not afford a good staff, Amon even had taught them how to make a staff by themselves.
They wouldn’t be able to make a staff before they became advanced mages. But it didn’t matter. Amon was used to practicing without the help of a staff, and he demanded his apprentices to practice in the same way. After the awakening of power, Amon found that the two brothers had different potentials. Hevel was better at learning magic while Qayin learnt body arts more quickly.
It reminded Amon of Bair’s notes on the practice of the power of two sides — leaning on one branch when practicing the power of two sides wouldn’t cause a problem. Some practitioners might prefer fighting with sword or spike while others might prefer casting spells. In fact, one could only learn to meditate, neglecting the magic casting skills, if he wanted to stress on practicing body arts, or only strengthen his body power, avoiding learning any martial arts, if he wanted to stress on practicing magic.
Amon left a set of instructions for practice from the first level to the sixth to each of the brothers, emphasizing a different regime for both of them. He did this mainly because he wanted to verify Bair’s guess on practicing. Amon’s situation was slightly different from what Bair had mentioned. Crazy’Ole expected him to be an erudite in magic and body arts. He wanted to finished the path that Bair hadn’t been able to explore to the end. Therefore he had to test every possible way. Bair’s speculation could only be verified by the two brothers, since Amon, who carried the mission to solve the secret of the gods, was not going to put stress on one side or the other.
The two brothers saw him off for a long while till he had totally left the state of Uruk and reached the main road to Bablon City. Although Amon was a sorcerer, he didn’t encourage the two to offend or worship any deity. He had just awakened the power for them and taught them everything they needed to know before the supreme stage, which was much more than what they could have learnt in any shrine in Bablon.
Hevel and Qayin were so deeply grateful to him, they told Amon, “You are our patron, our savior. You glory will always shine upon our hearts!”
Amon continued on his journey with his coach. It turned out that he was still a nobody in this vast kingdom. Troubles didn’t come to him for the rest of his journey. He rambled across Lagash, Nippur and Kish. It took him more than three months to arrive at the capital city. The young man in front of the gate of Bablon City was no longer the innocent boy that had just come out from the mountains. Having been through quite a few things, he knew more about this big strange world. Experience was indeed a treasure.
He finally understood what the “devil’s temptation” really was. Although he had passed the test and ascended to a new level, the test itself didn’t disappear. That was his new understanding of the tests and what he had taught the two brothers.
Amon was a clever boy. He had learnt a lot during the journey. He loved to observe the people he met and tried to understand what they thought and wanted. In everything he experienced, he could find something interesting. There was always something new under the sun. The other reason that Amon didn’t go quickly was because he was still waiting for his old companion. Schrodinger had told him that it would come to him later. However, it never showed up.
Amon started to miss Schrodinger now. He even thought about going back and looking for it in Som, where it had left him.
Could it cross the river and catch up with Amon all by itself? Amon tried not to think about it. He was already at the capital. He could visit Metatro first. After all, he was going to cross the river again one day.
He had set Bablon City as the first stop of his journey simply because he didn’t know many people in this continent other than Metatro. He wanted to visit him and see how he had been doing with the practice of the power of two sides. He had left the caveman’s tribe before Amon found Bair’s legacy. Amon had quite a few new things to teach him.
If Metatro had entered a bottleneck period and didn’t know how to advance, he could continue to give him guidance. There was another idea in Amon’s mind: as an advanced warrior who grew up in the capital of Bablon, Metatro had received a systematic training of body arts, which Amon was not that familiar with. Amon could learn something from him too.
Standing next to the entrance to the capital, Amon couldn’t help thinking of Inanna. Would he meet Princess Sissila in the capital city once again? She must be together with her fiancé now, since rumor said that he had been planning go to the capital. What if she came to Amon as Inanna again? How should he deal with her? It was unlikely to happen though, for Inanna shouldn’t have any idea where he was and how to find him. It was better not to think about it.
As soon as he decided to enter the capital city, Amon found that he ran into the first barrier he had had in this journey.
As the capital city, Bablon city was under strict security measures even in peaceful times. All the guards at the gate were warriors, grouped into small teams led by advanced warriors. There were three mages at each gate, one of which was an advanced mage. Staying in the tower most of the time, they didn’t show up often, but they might use detection magic to inspect passengers at any time.
Amon thought of breaking in during the night by climbing over the ramparts. But he discovered in time the vague traces of magic upon the walls. There was a huge magic formation around the whole city. This should only be applied to the capital of a kingdom. Golier had once set up a temporary formation similar to this one in Syah City, but he hadn’t had enough power to run it at full power. As far as Amon knew, there were only five cities in this continent that were protected by a permanent round-the-city formation: Tebes and Memfis the capitals of Upper and Lower Ejypt respectively, Hattusa the capital of Hittite, Nineveh the capital of Assyr, and Bablon City the capital of Bablon.
The formation here was far more complete and solid than Golier’s [Defense] in Syah. Fully activated, it could be used to attack and defend at the same time. In peacetime, the formation was only partially activated, only keeping its monitoring function active. It was hosted by a supreme mage. Several parangons were consumed every day in order to put all the ramparts under survey. Only the capital city of a country could have the strength to assign enough supreme mages to host the formation in turn.
It was not possible for Amon to come across this formation without being noticed. He could only enter the city by day. Amon had a blank certificate of Ejyptian citizenship signed by the Cape state, which could prove his identity as an Ejyptian once he wrote his name on it. However, he was within the Kingdom of Bablon. A foreign identity was likely to draw him unnecessary attention.
Locals didn’t need to show any paper when they entered the city. But the guards examined them frequently. It was possible that he would be interrogated or asked to check his bag at the gate, and some of Amon’s belongings would definitely cause problems. For example, Osiris’ rib would certainly intrigue them once they found it too heavy to pick up.
To his surprise, it was Gilgamesh who “helped” him this time. He learnt that Gilgamesh was going to arrive at Bablon City in three days, bringing the tribute to Marduc and Princess Sissila with him. There would be a grand ceremony. Many people were ordered to come out of the city to welcome Gilgamesh and there would also be a big parade. Amon could slip into the city together with the parade. The guards would not be able to interrogate him.
Would he see Inanna sitting on the luxurious carriage, enter the palace with the great hero amid the wild cheers of the inhabitants?
Amon waited for three days. But he didn’t see Inanna. Gilgamesh came in the same carriage that he had seen in the field. He had changed into a majestic outfit, with an exquisite longsword at his waist. Standing casually under the hood, he received the cheering from the excited people, nodding and waving his hands from time to time.
Gilgamesh’s carriage came in second. The first carriage of the caravan was open too. There were two altars on it. On the altars were Enkidu’s trophies: Humbaba’s strings and fangs. They were the remains of a legendary deity! Gilgamesh just left them exposed to the people of Bablon City. Everyone in the welcoming crowd could see them clearly!
Amon could see them clearly too. The strings were much bigger than the one he got from the river that day. Each of them were as thick as a thumb. Coiled into golden circles that were a bit more than a foot wide, they were shining in the sun with a faint blue glimmer, like the glinting waters in a sunset. Together with the strings were four fangs on each altar, two longer, two shorter. The longer ones were a little more than three feet long and the shorter ones were about two feet long. It was horrible just to think about how big Humbaba’s mouths were!
Amon had a string and a god’s bone in his bag too. So he was particularly interested in these remains. At the beginning, he was too cautious to use the Detection Eyes to examine them, for fear that someone found out his identity. But when the caravan passed through the gate, Amon felt numerous waves of magic power coming from various directions.
Some came from the guards at the gate, some came from the towers upon the ramparts. Some were just from the parading crowd. But Amon didn’t notice anyone who dressed like a priest. It seemed that quite a few mages came in disguise to see Humbaba’s remains.
No mage could resist the curiosity towards a god’s remains. Even the magic formation protecting the whole city was fully activated. Perhaps the hosting mages were using the formation to study the strings and the fangs.
It was exactly what Gilgamesh wanted. He had put the remains on the first carriage of his caravan to let everyone check them by themselves. The facticity would bring Enkidu’s and his reputation to a whole new level. He was honest and candid when showing his power and pride to the world.
Many in the audience were female. They were not that interested in the strings and fangs. They were just waving their scarves and screamed to Gilgamesh, “Dear Gill! My hero! I adore you!…”, “Look! he smiles at me and waves his hands! The great hero Gill is watching me!” Facing young ladies who seemed to be going to faint at any moment in happiness, Gilgamesh just waved his hands, wearing that modest and elegant smile on his face.
Unlike the excessively passionate young ladies, Amon just took the chance to perform the Detection Eyes to examine the strings and fangs. The fangs were different from Osiris’ rib. He could clearly sense them by the Detection Eyes. There was a destructive tang on the fangs. Amon could feel an immense impact, like a fierce roar breaking into his head.
It was like the roar Amon had heard in the night when Enkidu slayed Humbaba. The impact would have driven him out of the deep meditation had he been less determined. Amon could tell that the fangs were able to became the top material for staffs and other important magic artifacts. But they were different from the bone in his bag. It was either the bone of a real deity, or had been processed in an incredible way.
Perhaps this was why there was only one item as sacred as “Osiris’ rib” in the Isis Shrine of Memfis. But after all, the fangs were already rare and powerful enough. Amon had the feeling that if the fangs were used as weapons, they could bring the target the effect of a spiritual shocking magic. Once processed by a master, it could became one of the most deadly weapons on the continent.