Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 57 – A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey[3162 words]
Peri muttered, “The dwarfs are certainly not as strong as the highlanders. But I heard that they are quick and nimble. Some of them are good blacksmiths and born craftsmen. They could be quite helpful to the building of a state. Maybe they could be a nice reserve force. It appears that our luck hasn’t finished in Arcade.”
While Princess Sissila and Peri were having their conversation, Gekait and Prince Benut were having another conversation in another house in town.
“Has Your Highness found something peculiar in this affair?”
The prince nodded, “The giants had asked for a lot of living materials. They seemed to have been preparing for a long voyage from the beginning. And they are indeed strong enough to go through the mountains with all of these goods. What bothers me is that my aunt was not surprised at all about this. She even gave them the order to leave.”
“That’s what confuses me. Ussir went right to us after we got Her Highness out from the valley. It looks more like a plot than a coincidence to me… May I suggest Your Highness send somebody to trail the highlanders, figure out where they are going and what their mission is.”
The prince shook his head, “They left soon after we got on our journey back here. Now it’s too late to catch up to them in the deep mountains. We’d better stick to our plan. No matter what others do, we make no mistakes… Gekait, I know what you are worrying about. Please keep that in your mind. Don’t say anything.”
Gekait smiled bitterly, “If Your Highness knows what’s going on and what you are doing, I’m not going to say anything… What I want to remind you is that the greatest contribution to this affair was made by one person.”
The prince smiled too, “Mayor Tich. He is indeed a talent. I can see that the princess is looking forward to having him as her follower. But as a matter of fact, we do owe him our gratitude. I will go to Kish and tell Naram about him and recommend him to be the vice quaestor. Although I cannot appoint him to be the vice quaestor with my own power, Naram should grant me this favor.”
“So you are not going to visit Humbaba’s last battlefield?”
“The battlefield is there. I can visit it whenever I want. Now that my identity is exposed, I should focus on current affairs and escort my aunt back to the capital. She is certainly going to pass Kish on her way home. I guess she wants to introduce Tich to her state and ask him to be the quaestor there. But I bet he prefers to stay in his own state.”
The princes frowned and continued, “As for those two warriors, they are real brave people with talent. They walked further than us in the night and arrived earlier to their ambush spot. That’s a feat as well. As comrades, we should invite them for dinner.”
Gekait nodded, “That’s a good idea. I will have dinner prepared and send my apprentice to invite them.”
The prince suddenly thought of something, “I heard that a sorcerer slew an offspring of Humbaba when crossing the river. It happened in Uruk. And it’s the excuse that Gilgamesh and Enkidu used to kill Humbaba. Send someone to Uruk, find the boatmen and find out what that sorcerer’s staff was like. Was it like a branch?”
“Are you suspecting that Amon was the sorcerer of that day?”
“It’s just a feeling. Thinking about what we have been through that night with your guide. If he could cross the forest and climb up the ridge at night quicker than we did, it’s possible it was because he is a sorcerer. Now that we are inviting him to dinner, we can just ask him on the occasion.”
“If he indeed is the sorcerer, are you going to expose him?”
“No. I’m just being curious. If he is the sorcerer on the ferryboat that day, what he did shouldn’t be punished but praised instead. Even Gilgamesh didn’t make things difficult for him. Not to mention he has helped us rescue the princess. Why would I do anything bad to him?”
Amon and Metatro returned to the inn. They were talking about what they had experienced during their meetings with the princess. They felt glad after they made sure that their identity as sorcerer wasn’t exposed.
“Happy to see you totally recovered. You are now as enthusiastic and energetic as you were when we first met. I have to say congratulations to you for becoming a nobleman… But you seem to be a bit too happy. Is it about Princess Sissila? You have been watching her too much on the way back.”
Metatro was embarrassed, “Oh my god, don’t get me wrong. I am just a humble admirer. From now on, she will be my idol!”
Amon patted his shoulder, “Good. You go back to the capital with her the day after tomorrow.”
“But Amon, you are still my only god! An idol is just an idol. I’ll always listen to your guidance and be your humble servant.”
“I understand you. The princess is charming indeed and she fulfils your dream. It’s normal you want to render a service to her. But now it’s me who asks you to escort her back to the capital. Even in our original plan, we should be saying goodbye to each other after we cross the river. I traveled with you all this way because I felt worried leaving you alone in the capital. Now I’m not worried anymore.”
“I will teach you all you need to know in practice before the supreme phase. With a noble title, you can practice with less to worry about. Go back to the capital and stay there. If you want to see me again, you can go to Lynk when you settle down. Let’s fix a date. One year from today, I will see you in Lynk’s home.”
Metatro wanted to say something when someone knocked the door. It was Elitt. He invited the two to dinner with the prince.
Metatro whispered to his lord, “Should we say yes?”
Amon answered him in a whisper too, “Why not? We were in the same team.” Then he spoke up, “Let’s go have dinner!”
This night, Amon taught Metatro the rest of the practice of the power of two sides, from the level he was currently at all the way to the peak of the sixth level. Then he left the town of Arcade. At dinner, the prince asked them where they were going. Metatro said that he was going back to the capital with the princess. Amon said that he had been planning to go to the mountains at the west side of the river. Delayed by the rescue mission, he had to move as soon as possible now.
Amon got out of town in midnight, then walked to the west, towards the Euphrate River. He made several tours in the mountainous roads to make sure that he was not followed. Then he turned north and started climbing. He went higher and higher, all the way to the place where the rescue team met the giants.
Although it was the third time, it was a long, hard journey. Amon did all he could to speed up, and arrived at the place before noon. The big tent made of snow leopard leather was gone. There was nothing beside the snow covered bleak land. The giants’ villages were definitely not here. So where were they?
Looking over, Amon found some thin smoke rising from behind the highland that was one cliff away from where he was standing. They rose from three different directions. It seemed that the giants had already burnt their homes and departed. Would Inanna be awaiting him at one of the three? Amon was still hesitating while he heard some ringing giggles from behind.
Inanna’s voice arose from somewhere not far from him, “My little Amon, the handsome hunter and the brave hero. I’m so glad to see that you haven’t forgotten our deal and have come back to this place.”
Amon had been performing the Detecting Eyes ever since he climbed up to this place. But he hadn’t had the slightest sign of Inanna’s arrival. There was only one explanation for this: Inanna was a much better mage than he was! He turned around and caught sight of Inanna standing a dozen feet from him, with a mysterious smile on her face. She left her long hair unbound, loosely straggling over her shoulders. She was wearing a golden long robe whose gloss changed over time, like sunlight sparkling in the water of a lake at dusk, making her wonderful figure more attractive.
Amon poked his staff on the ground and bowed to her, “It is Your Majesty who found me.”
Inanna smiled and covered her mouth with her hand, “Oh, my Amon, the hero who saved my life. Why this courtesy? Don’t you recognize Inanna?… I was wondering, why would you get yourself involved in the affair concerning the princess of Bablon?”
Amon decided to tell her the truth, “There wasn’t much I could do in this affair. The princess had her own plan. But I once saw that you got on Gilgamesh’s chariot and left with him. So I had mistaken you with his fiancée.”
Inanna laughed amusedly, her shoulders shaking, “Oh I see! You are too cute, my little Amon. People always ask me to save them. Nobody has ever tried to save me! You are the first one who has decided to save me and actually took action! Although it was a mistake, I still enjoy it. I will never forget your kindness.”
Amon had to explain, “It’s not accurate to say that. You have helped me once too. When Enkidu acknowledged that I was a sorcerer, he told me it was all because of you that I could pass the state of Uruk and get rewarded.”
He said it solemnly and didn’t come close to her. Inanna stopped smiling and sighed, “So, you already know who I am.”
Amon replied with respect, “Yes, I think I do. But I still wish I could hear your confirmation: Are you Goddess Mourrin, the former Patron of the disappeared town of Duc?”
Inanna looked at him for a while, emotionlessly, then smiled, “My little Amon, you are a smart lamb. Could you tell me how you came to know of my identity?… I have to correct you on one thing: I still am the Patron of Duc, the guardian of its people. You are the lost lamb of my herd and I’ve made an effort to find you back.”
“I have seen your statue in the shrine since I was a child. But when I saw you in person, I didn’t relate you with the statue. I didn’t even dare to think about it. In the shrine in Arcade, I saw your statue again and suddenly I realized why I found you familiar at the first sight. I guessed that you should be related to Goddess Mourrin. As soon as I found out that Princess Sissila wasn’t you, there was only one possibility left. But it was too shocking as a conclusion that I still couldn’t fully believe it until you admitted it.”
Inanna nodded, “Now you should be sure of who I am. Why don’t you greet your Patron?”
Amon didn’t kneel down at once. He asked, “Although the town of Duc is gone. And maybe it’s not your fault, but I still have a question.”
Inanna was startled, “Please ask!”
“Have you really left the oracle that almost let me lose a finger?”
Inanna answered quietly, “Yes, it was me. It is the most important one. Duc is my realm. The deities may have the ability to know everything that is happening in their realms, but it is not possible for them to observe everything at every moment. It was months after it that I got to know what had happened to you… Are you going to hate me for that?”
Amon answered with another question, “It is said that the deities can see through everything. Can you know what I am thinking at this moment?”
Inanna stared at him with increasing interest. She quietly answered, “As a deity, I can sense every one of your emotions. I can perceive the status of every inch of your body. Even the slightest reaction will tell me if you are lying or not. But I cannot see through your mind. I cannot know the idea in your head. So, in order to show your loyalty to your Patron, please tell me your thoughts.”
“I don’t hate you. On the contrary, I salute you with full respect for the oracle you have left us. Somebody has explained to me the spirit of the deity and its origin. Without this oracle, the town would have already disappeared, and I wouldn’t be here considering whether I need to greet the Patron.”
He got on his knees towards the goddess and kissed the soil in front of her. It was the highest salute he knew. He did it when his drunkard father brought him to the Mourrin Shrine.
Seeing him kneel down, Inanna became a bit embarrassed. But she eventually began to smile, walked ahead and pulled him up. She took his arm, her tender chest pressing into it, like when they had walked together on the grassland.
She giggled, “My dear lamb, we are not in a shrine and there’s nobody around us. You don’t need to greet me like that. Doesn’t it feel better this way? Locking our arms and walking together, like what we did that night alongside the river? You are still the hunter and I am still the shepherdess.”
It did feel wonderful. Who could deny that? Amon replied, “Indeed. However, the fact that you are a deity makes me feel amazed.”
Anyone who had seen this scene would be terrified. Amon was walking with a goddess and chatted calmly with her, as if she was a normal girl. Even the great hero Gilgamesh couldn’t have done any better. But Amon was just a commoner from a remote town.
Anyway, Inanna was quite content with Amon’s attitude. She naughtily stroked her face on his shoulder, “Since you still prostrated yourself before me, I am still you and your clansmen’s patron. I summon you here today because I have something important to tell you. Look at this.”
She pointed forward with her index finger and waved it several times. Amon felt a huge perturbation of magic power. The light above the ground before them twisted and started to display a strange space. Various images flashed out and changed rapidly, first there was the flood, the water poured from the sky gathered on the high mountains and rushed down in the form of mighty torrents. The hills, the plain, the desert, all were inundated. It was like a map, but a thousand times more realistic. Judging from the physical features of the places over water, it should be Duc and its surrounding regions. The image was a reflection of what had happened to Duc in the great flood, but at an accelerated speed. Soon the flood faded away and a huge lake was formed at what used to be called the town of Duc.
The water went down and the highlands appeared, muddy marshes were everywhere. The town of Duc existed no more. To its west, grotesque rocks, shrubs and small ponds scattered in the vast marsh. There was no road. The water retained after dropping to a certain level, because it rained often. The local climate had been significantly changed.
To the north of the vast marsh area was the Syah Plateau. To its east were high mountains that extended all the way to the Euphrate Valley. A branch of the river was cut by the fallen part of the mountain and flowed to the south of the marsh, forming a large lake. To the south and west of the lake was still the Syah Desert, with the Cape State of the Empire of Ejypt on the other side.
Grasses and reeds started to grow on the north side of the lake. Small pieces of greenlands appeared in the middle of the marsh, like isles in the sea. At the foot of the big mountains there were already some large pieces of fertile lands. The flowing image stopped here. It should be what it was like at the moment.
Inanna made a snap. The image disappeared. She leaned her head to Amon and asked, “Do you understand what it means?”
Amon just got his thoughts out of this marvelous magic scene. He took a deep breath and answered, “It should be what Duc and its surrounding area looks like now, isn’t it?”
Inanna nodded, “That’s right. It is what your homeland looks like now. The terrain is still changing slowly. In about two or three years, it will become a fertile land of thousands of miles, surrounded by mountains, plateaus, marshes and deserts. Now it was mostly marshy, not suitable for a large number of immigrants. There were only several pieces of dry lands not far from the valley that can be used to grow crops and build towns… Amon, do you know where the highlanders are going now? What is the mission that the princess want them to accomplish?”
Amon had an epiphany, “I see. They are planning to cross the river then travel across the mountains. When they reach the newly formed lands, they could build their new home there. Princess Sissila asked them to be subjects of the Kingdom of Bablon then build shrines for Marduc in their new homeland. She wants to expand the kingdom to Hittite’s territory!”
Contented, Inanna added, “It is the only way to access that land. And the highlanders can afford to make this long journey with so many materials. If they make their way there, they can establish villages with no disturbance or competition. Once they build a fortress there… hmm…”
Inanna spoke in a thought-provoking manner, “If the war is destined, then better be prepared for it than to be afraid of it. The newly formed land is hard to reach for every country that covets it. The one who can be there first and settle down there will certainly have a huge advantage compared to the others… Don’t you want to go back to your homeland and build your new home? I can see a land of great wealth is forming, a land that will be flowing with milk and honey.”
↑ Naram : the governor of the state of Kish.