Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 52 – We Understand[3237 words]
Metatro immediately caught everyone’s attention when he showed up at the square in front of the shrine, riding a horse, with his shining ornate armaments. Mayor Tich quickly strode towards him through the whispering crowd and bowed politely, “Dear foreign knight, are you here to help us rescue Princess Sissila?”
Metatro got off the horse and returned his gesture with a salute, “My name is Metatro. I come from the family of Krutu in Bablon City. Admiring the feats of the heroes from legends, I’ve practiced hard to be a warrior of the fourth level, and have travelled across the country to serve my king and my people. When I heard that you are recruiting braves, I come to see if there’s anything I can do.”
Some prostitutes were in the crowd as well. A sexy girl told those next to her proudly, “Look at that handsome hero! We were together with him last night!”
Metatro was dressed like a supreme warrior. It was a bit disappointing to hear him say that he was just a fourth-level warrior. But Tich still felt glad to see him join. Every man was valuable at the moment, especially one with such fine weapons. As a fifth-level warrior, Tich thought he was the only advanced warrior in town. Now he had company.
Mayor Tich took the reins for him and said, “Dear sir, you shall have gratitude from me, my town, the state and the Kingdom… Does this brave young man come with you?” He noticed Amon, who was walking behind Metatro, leading another horse.
“He, hmm, he is a friend of mine, a warrior of the fifth level. He is a modest gentleman, volunteering to rescue Princess Sissila.”
He didn’t want people to mistake Amon as his attendant. Usually, knights travelled with more than one horse, and Amon walking behind him leading another horse, appeared to be an attendant who took care of his horses. From the perspective of a servant, Amon was well dressed, with a pair of nice leather boots and a fancy leather robe. It had been Metatro’s idea to disguise Amon as his attendant, but when it came to the time to introduce him, he changed his mind.
A fifth-level warrior! Tich was more than surprised. He went to Amon and said, “Welcome, dear sir! You have the bearing of a hermit with virtue. Your righteousness and bravery has earned you the gratitude from us and the state. My town and the Kish State will certainly do everything we can to reward you… Please come and take a rest at the shrine. My clerk will introduce you to our plan… Don’t worry about your horses, they will be taken care of.”
Seeing Metatro’s sudden change of plan, Amon just gave a smile, then entered the Shrine of Marduc in Arcade with him. The clerk showed them to a room and told the servants to wait upon them. The team wouldn’t depart until after dinner, and while recruiting was still going on.
Dinner time came, Amon and Metatro went to the grand hall in the shrine. Tables were already laid out. He picked up a piece of pancake and devoured it with the broth while Deuke, the clerk of Arcade, started to tell them about the details of the plan. Being advanced warriors, he and Metatro were revered among the team members. Deuke was actually just repeating the plan to them for just their sake. Amon was just about to ask something when he suddenly caught sight of a “friend” and petrified. Actually, it was not a “friend” that he had seen, but a deity that he was familiar with.
In the middle of the hall was of course a huge statue of Marduc, the major deity of the shrine. Beside the statue, there were also many sculptures of various deities carved high on the walls. One of them was the goddess Mourrin. Since there was a shrine of Mourrin in Duc, Amon was familiar with her statue, but after the disaster, he chose to hide the memories of Duc deep within his mind.
But today in the shrine of Marduc, the sculpture of Mourrin jumped out into his sight. It was like a key that opened a door, old memories flooded out. Amon suddenly understood one thing: Why he would find Inanna familiar when he first met her. She looked exactly like Mourrin’s statue that he had seen in Duc’s shrine! Perhaps the word “exactly” was a bit exaggerating, since the solemnity and majesty presented in the statue in Duc was lacking in the smiling shepherdess. However, physically speaking, her face and her posture was like the statue in Duc revived.
Amon had been thinking about Inanna all the time since he decided to rescue her. So he immediately noticed this similarity. Doubts arose in his mind. Why did Princess Sissila look so similar to the Goddess Mourrin? Could it be just a coincidence? The royal family of Bablon called themselves the descendents of the deities. Did it mean that Princess Sissila was Mourrin’s offspring? That could well be an explanation.
Amon was lost in thought when a group of men came to the square in front of the shrine. Walking in the front was a middle-aged mage holding a staff. Following close behind him was another younger mage and three armed warriors.
Mayor Tich ran to them through the crowd and cried, “My dear lord! Please forgive my negligence! I was not informed that an esteemed mage was in our town… Are these esteemed mages coming to help us rescue Princess Sissila?”
The mage in the front answered, “You must be the mayor of the town. You’ve done a great job. I’m Gekait from the capital. I’m a sixth-level mage. This is my apprentice Elitt. He’s at the third level. These three advanced warriors are friends of mine. We heard that Princess Sissila was in danger when we settled down in the hotel, and that the mayor was calling for hands. As one who has benefited from the grace of God, it is my duty to serve the royalty.”
Speaking of his identity, Gekait took out a special plate. It was the token of tutors of the Bablonian Academy of Magic, an emblem that also doubled as access to the Academy itself. It was a magic artifact too.
The ecstasy almost gave the mayor a heart attack. Yesterday he thought he was the most unfortunate person in the world, and today he found himself to be the luckiest one. What were the odds that two esteemed mages and five advanced warriors happened to be in town when he had only one day to call for help!
The town Arcade only had one advanced warrior, which was Tich himself. In the shrine there was a third-level mage and a first-level mage. But just in one afternoon, the strength of the rescue team soared to a level that he hadn’t dared imagine. And there was the dear Lord Gekait. He was a teacher of the Academy, which made him different to ordinary advanced mages.
Sixth-level mages could already perform supreme magics. They were just one step away from the supreme level. According to Gekait, he was travelling from the capital to the Euphrate River. It had not been a long time since the big fight of Gilgamesh and Enkidu slaying Humbaba. He had invited some friends to admire the battlefield. According to their original plan, Arcade was their last stay before their exploration along the river.
At sunset, a strange caravan set out from Arcade. The materials they carried were similar to what a big clan would carry when migrating to another city. The drivers and bodyguards were all armed warriors. Camels and horses trotted behind the carriages. The whole caravan moved at a high speed. Everyone looked serious, some even excited.
Normally, a large sum of materials should be carried by two-in-hand coaches. However, cabriolets constituted most of the caravan. There were also some lighter coaches that could move really fast with good horses. Every ten miles, one of them stopped and stayed behind the caravan, with a warrior watching out.
This was Tich’s idea. If they had to fight with the giants when rescuing Princess Sissila, they had to be able to send her back to the town as soon as possible. A knight could ride a horse, but for someone as majestic as the princess, a carriage was necessary. It was also for the reason that the princess might not be a good condition. The light coaches were hence left so that the princess could be transferred as quickly as possible back to the town.
Watching the orders being sent out and implemented, Amon was impressed by this mayor. Facing a crisis that could end his career and potentially even his life, he was dealing with it calmly and carefully. With what he had been given in the situation, he had done his best with thoughtful arrangement.
Amongst the “important persons” of this team, the most revered were the mysterious guests led by Gekait, and the most impressive one was Metatro with his shiny armor. Amon just kept his head down and followed behind. Tich was at the front of the team, riding a horse. Apart from the anxiety and nervousness, there was also a hint of excitement deep down in his mind. Before he knew who she was, he was already enchanted with her youth and beauty. He even had an impulse to court her.
When her identity was revealed, he believed that the fantasy in his head had ended. But now, a chance seemed to be in front of his eyes. If he could save her with his current team, he might earn favor from her highness and become a hero of the kingdom. Though he was not stupid enough to compete with Gilgamesh, the appreciation from the princess would already be a great honor that could change his life. Let alone the reward from the King.
It was actually a common thought in many of the team members’ heads, which gave them a drift of excitement beside fear and apprehension. For a moment, they felt like they were Enkidu on his way to slay Humbaba.
The two horses that Amon and Metatro had were good horses. Most carriage horses were unable to be used to fight, but the good ones could scantily bear a long journey. Fortunately, Mayor Tich offered them a third one to take turns, so the horses could be kept in a good condition most of the time.
Another thing that Amon had noticed was that there was a special young man among Gekait’s fellows. Appearing to be a servant, his dignified manner made him markedly different compared to his companions. And he was obviously regarded with reverence. Whenever they took a rest to change the horses or to drink, he was the one who had privilege.
The young man called himself Uledo. He claimed to be a warrior from a noble family in the capital. But Amon believed that his real identity was more noble than what he pretended to be. Amon told Metatro about his new discovery. If Metatro hadn’t changed his plan and still called Amon his attendant, their behavior might have already given themselves away.
At dawn, they took a short rest, having breakfast before they went on. Amon soon learned the reason why most vehicles were cabriolets. They were barely thin enough to pass through the dangerous narrow mountains roads. Sometimes they still needed to stopped at the corner and push the cabriolets with hands to help it make a turn.
At noon, when the sunshine came to the warmest of the day, the caravan took another break for lunch. They were now deep in the mountains, on a small path between two steep cliffs. The valley between them was just beside the road. The more they advanced, the deeper it was, reminding them how high the place they were standing at was. Looking up, the remote rolling peaks were the only things in sight. They were like some motionless giants standing afar, watching them silently, bringing a pressure that made them speechless. Tension accumulated in the caravan. Subconsciously, the travelers turned down their voices and put their hands on their weapons.
Weather on the Syah Plateau was much colder than in the Valley of Euphrate River. Every once in a while, chilling wind swept down between the cliffs, passing around the cabriolets. The higher they got, the colder they found. The indigenous people on the plateau were taller and stronger than common people in the plain. They were not cut off from the outside world. Many of them were recruited as mercenaries by Assyr and Bablon and learnt about body arts in the army, including the two giants who had attacked Gabriel in the desert.
However, these highlanders were not that different from other people, just as the cavemen in Lynk’s tribe were not dwarfs. The harsh weather and food habits made some of them much taller and stronger than the others. The army of the Kingdom of Assyr even had small crack battalions that comprised exclusively of these giants. They had received specialized training in body arts and were experts of joint combat techniques. They were Assyr’s trump card in melee battles.
During the wars, some of the giant combatants lost track with the troops in the battle and chose to go back to their own tribes. The techniques they had learnt from the army and in the battlefield were passed down from generation to generation. The more there were, the tougher they were to be dealt with.
Princess Sissila’s bodyguards were quite a military force, but since her expedition was just for fun instead of for conquering, it was impossible that she could persuade a supreme mage to mess around with her all the way. She had two advanced mages, eight advanced warriors and one seventh-level warrior which was the one who had broken through the encirclement and sent the message to town. The major difficulty that they were facing, according to the message, was that the giants used bows and arrows. With their great strength, the range of the bows was incredibly large, which put the mages into danger.
The giants were not as well trained as their ancestors in the army. Only a small part of them had the luck to go on the path of body arts. One thing that was strange in this affair was that the biggest clans on the plateau seemed to be united and had acted together.
“Don’t fight an open battle with the giants to avoid being encircled and dragged into a battle of attrition. Don’t put yourself into the range of more than one bowman. Don’t let yourself be cornered.” Mayor Tich was telling the whole team how to react in some situations he knew and the things that needed attention when fighting with the giants. Fortunately, they hadn’t met any of them on their way, not to mention starting a fight.
In the afternoon, the caravan struggled to climb up a steep mountain road. At last, they reached an open field, where they saw the giants. They were indeed tall and big, all of them looked as strong as Enkidu had at a glimpse. Every one of them was holding heavy weapons like big clubs, hammers and axes in their hands, wearing messy leather clothes. Seeing the caravan, they broke out in a hail of cheers.
Mayor Tich got off the cabriolet. Amon and Metatro got off their horses too. With them aside, the mayor steadily stepped towards the giants. Gekait the mage followed behind them. The others also came to the ground and stood in front of the caravan.
Tich shouted, “Are you the clan that dares to assault the Princess of Bablon? We have brought you the things you have demanded. Please tell your leader to come talk to me!”
The crowd of giants shouted back in a loud but muffled voice with a terrible accent, “We are the leaders. You good you bring us the things. Give them to us!”
Tich shook his head, “That’s not the way things should be done. You abducted our people. I have travelled all the way here with what you demanded. We have showed our good faith. Now it’s your turn. You need to let me see the princess is safe. Or I won’t let you have anything. ”
“The princess?” “He wants to see the princess.” “No he wants to talk, you idiot.” “Yes, we are here to talk!” “Let’s talk to them!”…
The giants whispered with their loud voices for a good while. Then they shouted again, “Yeah we are going to talk, right? We know the rules… Come. We talk in the tent.”
Not only Amon, who had only just met the giants for the first time, was totally confused, but also Mayor Tich, who had dealt with them many times in the past. What was their agenda? But since they were already here, there was not many choices left. The four of them followed the giants to go to the tent. The young man called Uledo wanted to join the “talk” too, but Gekait ordered him to stay with the caravan.
On their way here, Tich had assigned missions to the members of the team. Uledo and his fellows were to escort the princess once they managed to get her out of the giants’ hands. Metatro and other warriors would be covering their retreat. The mayor had also perceived that Uledo was the actual one with higher status among his fellows.
The tent was beside a piece of brush not far from where they met each other. It was huge and round. Made of the fur from snow leopards which were extremely rare in the plains, it looked like a giant monster standing in the snow, scaring out the wild beasts. But at a closer look, it was badly sewn, probably with some bone needles.
Tables were placed in the tent. Some exotic meat and dry fruits were placed on a big, heavy table made of unprocessed pine logs. A chubby man stood up from the table and walked towards them, “Welcome, my dear guests. You must be Mayor Tich, of Arcade. I’m Ussir. I speak for the three clans union. Have you brought us the things we have demanded?”
Finally someone who can talk with reason! He doesn’t look like the dummies who roughed us towards the tent. The mayor muttered to himself in his mind. The man was in fact about as tall as they were, but appeared chubby when standing among his giant fellows. He wore a round head, a round nose, a pair of round eyes and a face that always looked like it was smiling, which made him funny compared to the fierce-looking giants waiting outside.
Amon noticed that Ussir had a club at his waist that looked like a fat staff. After using the Detection Eye, he confirmed that it really was a staff. Crude as it was, it could be a handy weapon to a primary mage.[List of Characters]
Gekait: A teacher in the Academy of Magic in Bablon City. Sixth-level mage.
Uledo: A noble young man who travelled with Gekait.
Elitt: Gekait’s apprentice.
Ussir: Leader of the giants.