Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 51 – Let’s Go![2975 words]
Amon sighed in his mind. This was not something he could help. The only one who could help Metatro heal the trauma was himself. It was much easier to cut off the enemy’s head than to cut off the pain in your own mind.
The next day, they arrived at a new town. Amon told Metatro to halt and said, “This town is quite big. Let’s spend some time here and buy some necessities for the coming days. There are quite a few taverns and shops. You should go look around. Do with some distraction. Just remember one thing: don’t look for a fight!”
Amon went to an inn. He sent Metatro to go for a walk at night. Metatro went to a tavern and drank a lot, but failed to get drunk. Then he went to the brothel and asked for the most beautiful prostitutes to be sent to his room. He didn’t come back until the next day at noon.
Metatro was usually a thrifty person, but he spent a great deal of money last night, which he had just earned from the last Damasc iron trade. Entering the inn, he met Amon who was sitting at a table, smiling, waiting for him, “How are you? Are you feeling better today?”
Metatro felt a bit embarrassed. He replied, “When I walked out on the street and saw the sun in the sky, I suddenly realize that I don’t need to be like this… I promised to be your servant, but it is you that has been looking after me all this time. I’m sorry. Please forgive me!”
Amon nodded, “It doesn’t matter, as long as you find inner peace again. You’ve suffered a lot in these past few days. I’m happy that you have finally thought things through and walked out of the past.”
The old energetic and fun Metatro came back. He squinted at Amon and said, “My lord, you are so young and powerful and rich, if you went to that place last night, those girls would have been all mad for you. Do you want to give it a try? I can introduce you to them tonight.”
Amon had never been to a brothel in his life. He had never thought about it. During his stay in the caveman’s tribe, Lynk had already asked him if he needed the most beautiful girl in the tribe to serve him in the bed. But Amon hadn’t shown the least amount of interest. Perhaps it was just a problem of taste.
Amon knew his own physical desire. He wasn’t trying to abstain himself from it. He could feel it when facing Inanna, but he was not planning to do anything with her. There was already someone in his heart that took a unique place. She was sacred, untouchable, and she had a name that only belonged to him. It was a special link that made desire with the others unimportant and ephemeral.
Thus he didn’t have any interest to have a look in the brothel. He even felt that it would be a humiliation to his desire. He asked him back, “You still want to go there tonight?”
Metatro laughed dryly, “Not really, I don’t feel the need now.”
Amon raised his hand, “Then let’s continue on our journey. We can cross the Euphrate River soon, then we can enter the mountains. There won’t be a town as big as this one for a long while.”
Metatro was a bit reluctant, “Why are we in such a hurry? We are going to separate once we cross the Euphrate River!… Oh, I’ve heard some strange news in town today. Princess Sissila has been trapped by the mountain giants! She is in dire danger. This news will surely shake the whole nation.”
Amon stood up in no time, “Princess Sissila! What happened? Tell me more!”
Metatro was astonished, “My lord, why are you so excited? Is it…”
“I know Princess Sissila. She’s friend of mine.” added Amon, “What happened to her?”
Metatro was shocked, mouth agape, “Your, your friend?… Oh I see! You must have met Princess Sissila while she was travelling in disguise. No wonder you don’t want to have a look at the girls in town! They’re nothing compared to her! But I have to remind you about a certain something with her. Haven’t you heard the rumors about her when you were in the capital?”
Amon cast a stern glance at him, “I’m starting to miss the silent man yesterday! I met Princess Sissila on my way to the capital and we’ve become friends. She has helped me a lot. So how can I be indifferent when I hear this kind of news? What happened to her? Tell me everything you know!”
The town’s name was Arcade. Metatro had caught sight of a group of people gathering in front of the shrine when he was on his way back to the inn. It was the mayor of Arcade, Tich, recruiting warriors to rescue Princess Sissila.
About a week ago, a group of travelling merchants came to Arcade for a short stay. One of them was a charming young lady whose charisma had greatly impressed to the locals. Several days ago, they had set out towards the Syah Plateau to trade with the giants there. Mayor Tich had warned them that it might be too dangerous if they didn’t have enough hired guards. He also tried to persuade the young lady not to take the risk and stay in town. The lady thanked him with a smile that had nearly melted his heart.
The group of merchants left that night. The next time they saw one of them was yesterday. A man had returned to town holding his weapon, covered in blood. He went to Mayor Tich and told him that he was actually a bodyguard of Princess Sissila, who was the charming young lady that came together with the merchants. They had been ambushed by the giants in the mountain and became trapped in a valley. He broke through the encirclement at the risk to his life and managed to carry the message back to the town.
Mayor Tich almost fainted when he heard the news. He couldn’t imagine what his fate would be if anything went wrong with Princess Sissila.
Normally, whenever there was an emergency, Princess Sissila could always get away by showing her identity. No reasonable man would like to offend the only sister of the king and the fiancée of Gilgamesh. But this time she met with the barbarians in the mountains. It was said that they attacked the caravan even more ferociously when they learnt that Princess Sissila was in it. The only idea inside their simple minds was to kidnap her for a big ransom.
Capricious as she was, Princess Sissila was not a spoiled, inexperienced girl. The caravan of merchants was actually a squad of bodyguards in disguise, which was sufficient to protect her in most circumstances. But odds happened that the tribes of giants that used to act independently and fight each other joined together and routed Princess Sissila’s escort. The defeated troops were cornered in a valley and their defense could be cracked at any time.
Before Tich could have time to organize a rescue, there came an envoy from the giants. It was a giant covered in raw leather, with a ring in his nose. The envoy left with a message that almost scared Tich to death.
The message was — They had a princess in their hands. The Arcadians must buy her back with a large quantity of materials. If they were not satisfied, they would kill the princess then hide deep into the mountains where the Bablonian army could never reach them.
Mayor Tich couldn’t verify the credibility of this message. Maybe Princess Sissila had already been captured right after the bodyguard had left, or maybe it was just a hollow intimidation? But to gamble on such a chance? It was frightening to even think of. The only choice he had was to prepare what the giants wanted and send them in exchange for the princess.
However, the list of demands from the giant confused him greatly. Classically, the ransom was always a large sum of money. But now he had no idea what was inside those barbarians’ ugly heads. They wanted wheat flour baked into naan, meat processed into jerky, barrels of salt, and clothes, farm tools, seeds, tents and camels in large numbers. Money was only mentioned at the end of the list, and the amount was not specified.
The mayor had ordered the townees to prepare these things. When Metatro was busy with the girls in the brothel, the local families were all busy baking flatbread and meat. A lot of clothes, farm tools, seeds and camels had been confiscated in the name of the shrine overnight. The only problem was the tents, since hardly any civilian would have made big tents for daily use.
It had to be admitted that Mayor Tich was a capable official. Under his orders, the townees collaborated well and managed to gather most of the materials on the list in one night and half a day. Most of the supplies were from the local shops. The shrine gave them receipts as guarantee. The camels and farm tools taken from the farmers were registered as well. They could get compensations later from the clerk.
Tich was also preparing an alternative plan. He published an announcement to recruit brave warriors with high price. These people were ostensibly called an escort for the materials to the giants. In fact, they were to rescue Princess Sissila in case the giants broke the deal. The mayor even planned to lead the escort himself.
The envoy only gave him three days, including the one day they needed to carry the materials from Arcade to where the giants were. There was no time to call for help from the capital or the state. Distant water couldn’t put out a nearby fire. As the biggest town in the region, Tich could only depend on himself and the five thousand townees.
He had sent a warrior to inform the state as soon as the envoy left. What he had in town were twenty-five warriors and two mages. Tich was himself a fifth-level warrior, but he thought the power he had was still far from enough. So he put out the notice to recruit braves, hoping that the reward could attract some powerful passing foreigners.
Metatro caught sight of the notice on his way to the inn. From people’s discussions, it seemed that Princess Sissila was already in the giants’ capture. People sighed that the bad things had finally happened to this capricious princess and felt sorry for her. Even Gilgamesh’s wrath couldn’t change anything facing those simple-minded giants.
Metatro didn’t stay long there. He went on to the inn after asking around about the whole thing. Amon was shocked by the news. He grabbed his staff and asked, “Do you know when they are going to set out?”
“They were recruiting braves for the escort. They are setting off at nightfall then going nonstop all night and all day to reach their destination. It’s going to be a tight trip.”
“My friend is in danger. I have to save her! Metatro, are you going to come with me?”
Metatro’s face brightened. He pounded on his chest and said, “I’m looking forward to! As a warrior, I am more than happy to wash away all the shame by taking on such a heroic feat! But I have promised to be your servant. I’ll follow you wherever you go.”
Amon nodded, “So you want to go too. That’s great! Let’s go!”
Metatro’s eyes twinkled, “My lord, you can’t join the team as a sorcerer. But I’ve got an idea for you to participate in the rescue, which you may temporarily find demeaning though.”
“You’ve really come back to life now. Tell me your plan.”
Metatro ran his fingers through his hair on the back of his head and replied with a little embarrassment, “As an advanced warrior, I will certainly be valued if I show up and express my willingness to join. Since we have two horses, I can pretend to be an errant knight and your highness can pretend to be my attendant. In this way you can keep your staff and your bag on you without suspicion.”
Amon glanced at him, “You want to save Princess Sissila as an errant knight, like the heroes did in the legends? That’s good and it fits your character well. Let me make you more like a knight. Your look will change with these!” He put his hand into his bag, took out a golden spear and handed it to Metatro.
The bag was at most three feet long, and the spear had at least nine feet. Metatro’s astonishment was beyond expression. Before he could react, Amon once again took out a cyan shield that was three feet wide and five feet long. He put it on the table, and waved his hand, a silver sword was pulled out from the bag. It was much more delicate than the one at Metatro’s waist. Made by Damasc iron, dark silver decorations were meticulously coated onto its fuller by magic. They were small formations. A parangon was inlaid at each side of the ricasso, just above the crossguard.
“Oh my god! This is…” watching this equipment come out, Metatro began to feel that it was getting hard to support himself, let alone say anything.
But that was not the end, the last thing Amon pulled out from his bag was an elegant light armor. Full of formations carved over its surface, it was evidently a top-class artifact. He put all of them in front of Metatro and said, “These are what an elegant knight should have, isn’t it?… I’ve been keeping them for you. Now it’s time you got yourself armed.”
The spear looked extremely sharp and the shield looked very solid. The sword and the light armor were definitely not for an ordinary warrior, with all the formations on them. Holding his breath, Metatro carefully picked up the sword and ran his fingers along the armor. It had been a good while before he could look up and said, “Even my whole family couldn’t have afforded a set of equipment like this. How can I own this treasure without due contributions? Please allow me to borrow them for a while.”
Amon smiled and shook his head, “They are yours now. I’ve given Lynk a staff. Since you can’t use magic in the city, I got you a warrior’s set.”
Metatro had been envying Lynk’s staff in the mountains. He had no idea that Amon had prepared such a nice set for him. In fact, nor could he have had any idea of their actual quality. The equipment used to belong to the great warriors who had pursued Bair. They were all selected custom pieces that had even withstood Bair’s last magic.
Metatro couldn’t wait to put them on. With the light armor and the sword at the waist, he got on the horse and took the spear and the shield in his hands. The shining outfit almost turned this good-looking young man into a stunning god of war!
Meanwhile, in the backyard of another inn in Arcade, two people was also in discussion. A middle-aged man bowed to a young nobleman, “With due respect, I don’t think it’s wise for your highness to get yourself involved in this affair. You can send us to join the rescue team if you want to save the princess. If by any chance they fail to save her highness and you also fell into danger, we would be in big trouble.”
The young nobleman who was addressed as “your highness” replied, “You think I’m not already in big trouble that Princess Sissila was attacked and in distress when and where I pass by?… She is the princess. What situation do you think I would be putting myself in if people knew that I did nothing while she was in danger under my nose? I will lose all my reputation in the kingdom!”
The middle-aged man insisted, “Even her highness’ bodyguards couldn’t resist the giants’ assault. I don’t think we can do anything helpful. What we can do is to show our attitude, which won’t be different even if you stay here.”
The young nobleman shook his head, “Though I am one year older than her, she’s my aunt. It’s my duty to save her, with my own hands. Her troops were defeated because they were ambushed. Now it’s us who can ambush them! Besides, if we act with prudence, we might not even need to fight.”
After a long silence, the middle-aged man sighed and nodded, “Alright, if your highness insists. It will certainly be proof of your highness’ integrity and courage. Had there not been dire danger, I would certainly have suggested you to go ahead. But I have to assert that in case of an emergency, your safety will always be our first priority.”
The young man waved his arm, “I know. Let’s move.”
The middle-aged man took a look at the staff in hand and looked up, “I have one last piece of advice. Would your highness please not reveal his identity before we save Princess Sissila and meet her in person? Now that the giants want to kidnap a princess, they may well add you as a target once they learn of your identity… Moreover, if by some chance the rescue fails, anonymity will do well for your reputation.”
“Alright then.” the young man nodded, “I’ll be a warrior at your order.”