Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 50 – Under the Sun[2946 words]
After breakfast, Mirieh invited Amon to go out with great enthusiasm, and asked Fossah to accompany him once again. She gave a considerable sum of money to Fossah and said to Amon, “You’re too kind to have bought so many things for us. If you need anything, please just tell Fossah and she will buy it for you.”
Fossah clung to his arm tightly and smiled, “The capital is larger than you think. Many gardens are actually open to commoners. There are many interesting peddlers and jugglers there. We must go and see them.”
Amon nodded in a smile too, “That should be wonderful, thank you.”
Amon spent another day around the city. He was as relaxed as the first time, asking Fossah for all kind of anecdotes and interesting gadgets. Before they went home, he said to her, “It’s the first time that I’ve discovered that there can be so many interesting things in life. But not everyone knows what they want and what they should long for. The gods are watching us. We should be aware of that.”
They were crossing the square in front of the Marduc Shrine when he said the last words. He didn’t know if Fossah had understood what he had tried to say.
After dinner, Mirieh summoned Fossah to her bedroom and asked her, “What did you find out today? Anything new? Does he have anything else that he is carrying with him? Anything that is worth noticing?”
Fossah thought for a short while and answered, “When we were walking side by side at the square and watching the jugglers, I was so close to him and I felt a long hard stick…”
Mirieh blushed and stopped her, “How can you touch that! You are at the square, with so many people watching… Do that in the coach!”
Fossah blushed too, “It’s not like that. There’s a stick hidden under his armpit, right next to his ribs. It must be something precious…”
Mirieh became curious and nodded, “Nice job… But why haven’t you followed him back to his room right after dinner?”
Fossah answered upsetly, “He refused me to tidy his bed and wait upon him before he went to sleep. He said that he preferred to rest alone… Mistress, is it because I’m not appealing enough?”
She wouldn’t have had such a thought, had she known that Amon had once withstood the seduction from a goddess. Mirieh looked at her face and said, “You are very attractive. Perhaps he was shy because you are Metatro’s maid. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”
The next day, Mirieh told Amon before he went out with Fossah, “Fossah admires you very much. Please allow her to wait upon you as she likes. You can do everything to her.”
Amon smiled politely and replied, “I’m happy to have her showing me the places of interest in the city. I don’t have anything else to ask from her… When looking into my heart, I know what I wish to have and what I can have. Every decision we make has its consequence, whether we like it or not. I choose to be modest.”
At the end of the day, Amon still didn’t let Fossah enter his room. The third day came. It was the day when Gilgamesh left the capital. A grand festival with revelry and parade commenced. Gilgamesh had stayed a long time in the city. Some even started to conjecture that he was preparing to marry Princess Sissila. However, the latter didn’t return to the capital in the end. And the rumors slowly ended themselves.
Gilgamesh left the city amid the cheers of the Bablonians. The king of Bablon sent out a team of guards to escort him until ten miles out of the city. Only a hero like him deserved this kind of honor. And the parading crowd even lasted to as far as thirty miles. The king announced that tonight the city would be open all night and everyone could enjoy the pageant till the next day.
Amon went out of the city in a coach too. The driver was Inoch, Mirieh’s younger brother. It was a farewell excursion. Amon had taken all of his belongings with him. Beside him in the coach was good beer and good food. Fossah was holding onto his arm, pointing out from the car window, introducing him to the scenery along the way.
Ten miles out of the city, the coach veered off the main road and got onto a small path between the hills. The weather of late autumn was a bit chilling, but the sunshine was perfect for an outing. Drinking beer and eating roast meat when surrounded by picturesque scenery, it was a luxury for people living in the city.
The sky was blue and the wind was blowing gently. The coach stopped beside a lake at the foot of the hills. The withered grass was softer than in the summer, more comfortable to sit on. Inoch dressed as a warrior, with a short dagger at his waist, which could not only serve as a weapon but also to cut the meat at the picnic.
They settled on the hillside. From where they were standing, the whole lake was under their eyes. The environment was quiet and secluded. The main road was faraway on the other side of the hill. There were no other people to bother them. What a good place it was!
Inoch brought down the beer and the meat. Amon helped him carry the table and the grill. Mirieh made the table and Fossah took a vase to get water. Watching the lake glinting under the sun, Amon sighed, “How clear the water is! Even the soul can be purified.”
Inoch complained, “What’s taking her so long, this Fossah? Is she playing around in the woods? What a silly girl she is, keeping our dear guest waiting.”
Right next to the lake was a small piece of woods. They couldn’t see Fossah directly from up high. It had been quite some time since she had left. Amon said, “Maybe the vase was too heavy and the slope was too steep. Let me go have a look.”
Seeing Amon disappear into the woods, Mirieh whispered to Inoch, “Are you ready? What are you going to do?”
Inoch squinted at the woods, “We wait till Fossah comes back. Then she’s going to bring Amon to the grill. You go to his side and grab his arm. I will finish him with a stab in the back… If you are too afraid to watch it, close your eyes. You don’t have to see anything.” He took out his short dagger and put it on the table.
“You don’t have to see anything? But I have to! And now there won’t be anything more to see… ”
A cold voice arose from behind the two, scaring their souls out of them. Inoch seized the dagger and turned around, then froze. It was Metatro. He walked up the slope with a sword in his hand, on which a trace of blood could still be seen.
With a scowl, he walked towards them steadily, not slowly, not fast. After a momentary shock, Mirieh was woken up by a little push from the side. She stepped forward with open arms, “Oh Metatro, my dear! I miss you so much! Did you notice us in the parade? Your dear friend Amon is here with us. He is about to leave and we are seeing him off with a picnic.”
Metatro tried to smile but he couldn’t. He nodded, “Yes, I know. I know everything. You’ve treated him well. I’ve asked Fossah. She’s told me a lot of things. Much more than I expected to know. I feel so disgusted that I don’t want ever to repeat it.”
Hearing his words and seeing the trace of blood on the sword, Inoch realized what Metatro was going to do. He rushed up to Metatro silently, stabbing the dagger towards his chest. Metatro seemed to have been waiting for his attack. He nimbly leaned to one side, then lightly poked out with the sword. Along with a painful cry, half of the sword sunk into Inoch’s flank.
Amon was standing to the side of the lake. The thick woods blocked his vision. He could just hear a long scream from Mirieh after Inoch’s cry, which then suddenly stopped, like a hen’s head being twisted off. He closed his eyes for a while, then turned around and gazed at the beautiful view of the lake under the sun.
After a long while, sounds arose in the woods, Metatro tramped to the lakeside. His sword was back in its sheath. His face was full of sorrow. He went behind Amon and greeted him, “My god, I can’t tell you how ashamed I am.”
Amon didn’t turn to him. He replied in a sorrowful voice too, “I didn’t ask you to kill them.”
Metatro bit his lips, “I pointed my sword to Fossah and asked her to tell me everything I should know. She told me all that they were planning to do to you, and more… things that even just mentioning them would disgrace me… None of them even tried to listen to your dissuasions.They didn’t give up till the last second… Let their blood be my sacrifice, my lord. You are my only god. I would still be living in darkness and unaware disgrace without you.”
Amon didn’t ask him more. He just looked at him with sympathy, “Three people are missing. What are you going to do? Go home like this?”
Metatro looked at the lake, “What a quiet place! Nobody will know that they ever came here and never came back. They chose this place, didn’t they?… My god, there’s nothing to keep me in Bablon City. Please allow me to follow you and travel the world as your servant.”
Amon thought for a short while and nodded, “All right. Actually, if you chose to stay, I would be worrying that you would do something unwise. But your home is still your home. I’ll give you three days. Go home and do what you need to do. I’ll be here waiting for you. ”
Metatro, the only son of the Krutu family who had lost the title of nobility years ago, came home in a hurry after four months of travel. But his wife, Mirieh, wasn’t at home to welcome her husband. It had been witnessed that the charming young wife had gone out of the city the day before, together with her lovely maid and a young man who had been staying in his home for weeks, and had never come back. The young man had been touring around the city in recent days and spending money with generosity. He must have been from a wealthy foreign clan — and he certainly had a fruitful trip in Bablon City.
Rumors like this had been circulating around the neighborhood. Metatro heard them too. He waited in his home for a day and a night bearing a sullen face, but Mirieh never came back. The rumors seemed to be confirmed: Mirieh must have run away with that young man!
Travelling with a rich young man was a better choice than waiting month after month for a husband running around all the time to make a living. It was said that Mirieh had even trained her maid to tie up his heart.
What would Metatro feel when he heard these rumors? He waited for another day and finally brimmed over with anger. He dismissed his servants and sold the house to a remote relative, then left the city with his sword and a light package. Rumors said that he was going to find the rich young man and have a duel with him. God knew if he would come back again.
On a broad road within the territory of Kish, a state in the kingdom of Bablon, Metatro was driving a coach. He looked forward rather abstractly, pulling the reins subconsciously from time to time. The coach was the one Amon had borrowed from Leiskkhut. He deposited it at a small inn outside the city before he snuck in along with Gilgamesh’s caravan. He had paid the innkeeper well so the coach and the two horses were in good form when he left the city. Now he was sitting in the coach, while Metatro was driving the coach for him.
The curtain in the front was put up. Amon was studying the string from the monster snake. He was considering what kind of artifacts he could make it into. Processing a magic artifact was to deal with uncertainty. Once failed, the material could be damaged as well. Although Amon had learnt from the experiences of the best artificer in the continent, he had never made an artifact with his own hands. Now that he had only one chance, he had to be careful.
The coach bumped. Amon knew that Metatro‘s mind went astray again. Metatro had been in a gloomy mood ever since they started the journey. Amon found him looking even sadder than Schrodinger had been on their way back during the flood. He often spent hours in silence. Being a third-level sorcerer, Metatro should have been quite determined and strong in mind. But Amon could understand him. It was normal that a man having been through all that would sink into depression. Feeling were feelings, it wouldn’t change because of one’s faith.
As Amon understood, tests in the practice were not a one-time thing. Passing the test didn’t mean that the test would disappear forever. They would appear from the beginning to the end of the practice.
Looking at his back, Amon tried to distract him with some pleasant topics. He put down the string and asked, “What are you thinking, Metatro?”
Metatro’s shoulders trembled, he gave out a loud whip to get the horses back on track, and responded dully, “No, nothing. I’m clearing my mind.”
“There are soldiers at the gate of Bablon City inspecting passengers. How can you pass through every time with all the illegal materials? How did you do that? Can you tell me?”
A slight smile appeared on Metatro’s face, “Oh my lord, there’s no secret. There are too many people passing the gate every day. Not all of them will be inspected. The guards only interrogate those who they find suspicious. I’m a regular passenger, a local. I’ve house and business in the city. I’m not a stranger for them. Moreover, I’ve practiced body arts with many of them when I was young. I know the team leader quite well. They won’t seek trouble with me.”
“Oh, I see.”
The conversation went on, and Metatro’s mood seemed to be getting better. But there was still melancholy in his eyes. They went all the way west. The state of Kish was to the northwest of the kingdom of Bablon, at the edge of the Syah Plateau. To its north there were endlessly high mountains. Crossing the plateau would be the kingdom of Assyr. The Euphrate River went down from the mountains and passed by the west side of the state.
At the other side of the river was exactly the high mountains where Lynk’s tribe was living. Crossing the mountains was not a concern for Metatro. In the old days, the biggest difficulty had been crossing the Euphrate River. The section beside Kish was a good place, with slow water flow and gentle riverside slopes. But it used to be Humbaba’s home so that no one dared to cross the river from this place. Now that Humbaba had been slain, the state of Kish took the opportunity and quickly built a ferry. After crossing the river, there was still a long way to go in the mountains before reaching the Assyrian territory, but it was already significantly shorter than making a detour via Uruk.
In Amon’s original plan, he would be travelling with Metatro until they crossed the river at Kish. Then Metatro would head for Lynk’s tribe, and he would go south to the state of Cape in Ejypt to return Nero’s belongings to his family.
Metatro was at the peak of the third level as a magic practitioner. According to Amon’s way of practice, the next test he was facing would be the “bloodline purification”. He had already unwittingly passed this test once before, so it would be easier for him to pass it again. However, a quiet environment would benefit him a lot after all.
And in Amon’s opinion, Metatro definitely needed some time to calm his mind. So he thought of the caveman’s tribe in the mountains, where he could relax and practice without disturbance even until he passed the “devil’s temptation” and ascended to the fifth level. Unlike Amon, Metatro had already been through a lot vicissitudes of life. He should be able to see through the temptation from the devil.
The cold weather and the risk of passing the night in the wild field was not a problem for them. They chose a place in the forest and made a simple tent. Near midnight, Amon found a place near the fire and started his meditation again. He practiced meditation every night, no matter what had happened in the day. It had been an unbreakable habit for him.
In the deep serenity, Amon suddenly heard some utterings from the coach. It was Metatro. He was calling Mirieh’s name in his sleep again, gently but painfully — it must be another bad dream.