Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 59 – The Gates to the Underworld[1846 words]
Amon nodded, “I think I am. But can I take a little rest?”
The goddess smiled, “You must be tired. Since you can’t eat or drink anything once you enter the Underworld, not even the water you gather by water magic, you need to have a long rest… I’ll be here before nightfall. Don’t go forward. Never try to enter it by yourself.”
She disappeared, leaving Amon alone in this gloomy gorge. The place was dark and soundless. But Amon felt that he could hear some vague noises from faraway. The huge cave ahead was completely dark. He couldn’t tell how deep it went. It was like a giant mouth that was ready to engulf everything that dared to go in. Simply standing in front of it would make people’s hair stand on end and curdle their blood. The coldness was like horror materialized, filling the air and permeating through one’s soul.
Inanna just told Amon not to go forward. But he could feel that there was an unearthly force that was dragging his soul to the cave. Whoever was standing before it would subconsciously struggle to step back and try to get away.
The cliffs were made of huge, black, smooth rock. The weak beams of sunlight reflected numerous times and left bizarre shaking shadows on these stone walls, as if there were some restless giants monsters hiding behind, ready to pounce from both sides. The tension could make one unable to breath. Once you lost the courage and retreated, you would never have the courage to come back.
The idea to turn around and run away flooded Amon’s mind too. But he had a vague feeling that Inanna was not really far away. She should be somewhere not far from here, observing him. He fought to clean out the fear in his mind and tried to relax. He guessed that Inanna left on purpose. She hoped that he would run away, so that she could stay away from the Underworld while keeping her promise.
Amon reminded himself of some similar experiences when he was younger. He managed to clean his body, then sat on a piece of rock and took a rest. He took out some jerky and made himself a pot of soup. Sipping it slowly, it helped him relieve his hunger as well as his sense of terror.
He realized that the frightening feeling that was eroding his mind was something semi-physical. The best way to fight against it was to use his mind and reasoning. First he told himself that Inanna was still watching him. Secondly, he had Osiris’ rib clinging to his own ribs. Osiris was the Governor of the Underworld in the legends he had heard of. It was so extraordinary that even Inanna had never asked him about it. He had put all the important items in it before he went to meet Inanna, including the special parangons, and enough food and water. Even if he was trapped in the Underworld, he should be able to live for a long time.
The hot soup helped his exhausted body relax. After the meal, he started to meditate again. Shortly, he found that there was something wrong in the atmosphere. The unearthly dragging force was constantly disturbing his soul. It wasn’t because he wasn’t concentrating hard enough. On the contrary, the stronger he concentrated, the clearer and more intense he could feel that force.
It was a kind of magic. A kind of magic that was not in his knowledge. Crazy’Ole had never mentioned this kind of magic. Its range was so vast that there should be a colossal formation behind it. With the help of the environment and possibly some special substance, it could control and manipulate people’s spirits and souls. The ones who couldn’t resist this force might be like the drowning men. Their souls would be sinking into a sea of unknown and horror.
Amon could only tell time from the narrow line of sky. When it got dimmer, it meant the night was falling. He could feel the temperature was dropping and the spreading horror was condensing into darkness. He tried using the Detecting Eyes, what he perceived was black and grey. There was no color in this place.
Meditation didn’t work well, he decided not to waste a second to recover his body. He laid down and tried to relax every muscle in his body. He didn’t know how long he had waited. Suddenly, he jumped up as if he was scared by something, his eyes widened and the staff leapt into his hand. He felt an eruption of that force from the cave. Some “thing” was coming out.
Using his eyes, he struggled to catch sight of a vague figure flowing out of the cave. A voice chiseled into his mind, “Who are you? How dare you wander in front of Kur, the Underworld?”
The voice crept into Amon’s mind, giving him the feeling that something chilly was sticking to his bones. But what really surprised Amon was that the voice didn’t come from a deity or a spirit. It should be from a living man. Using the Detecting Eyes, he could even feel his existence. The man didn’t try to hide his existence and power. But Amon couldn’t tell how strong he was, which probably meant that this man was in a higher phase of magic or body arts practice.
Amon tried his best not to tremble, he bowed and answered, “My name is Amon. I’m here following Goddess Mourrin. I would like to enter the Underworld and see my dead father.”
The voice suddenly sharpened, “Nonsense! How can Goddess Mourrin come to Kur, the realm of the Queen of the Underworld?”
“He is telling you the truth. I bring him here… Please tell the Queen of Kur that I’m here, Neti.”
Inanna reappeared in this colorless world, her shining figure only lighting a small area around her. The atmosphere seemed to be repelling her. Neti, the gatekeeper of Kur, bowed low to her and said, “Goddess Mourrin, please forgive my rudeness. But your sister won’t welcome you to her realm.”
Inanna said coldly, “That’s between the deities. You do your job.”
Neti bowed again and fell back into the darkness. Inanna’s voice arose directly in Amon’s head, “Please excuse me for leaving you alone here. If you couldn’t guard your soul in a place like this, you would definitely get lost in the Underworld. In front of you is Kur, the Great Land of No Return, the Underworld of Anunnaki, the realm of the Goddess of Death, my older sister.”
Along with the voice was a mysterious stream of information. Amon not only heard her voice, but also received a lot of other messages that couldn’t be contained in the voice.
“Anunnaki” was not the name of a certain deity, but that of a group of deities. In the legends, these deities belonged to a family. As far as Amon knew, Anu, Enlil, Marduc, Mourrin and her older sister, belonged to Anunnaki. As explained in the messages from Inanna, the relations between these deities resembled the members of a family, which was what Amon had learned from the legends. For example, Enlil was said to be Marduc’s uncle, Mourrin’s grandfather. But that was just an approximative way to describe the actual relationship between them, in such a way that a mortal could understand. The actual situation was not something Amon could understand now. But in the messages, one thing could be sure: the Queen of Death was indeed the older sister of Inanna.
The realm of Anunnaki was extensively vast, including large territories in Assyr, Hittite and Bablon. However, Inanna didn’t explain what a realm really was. The complex messages already confused Amon. Speaking of a realm, if he didn’t get it wrong, Inanna asked him to bring the surviving Ducians back home in order to rebuild her own realm. Anyway, right in front of him was the realm of another goddess. Maybe he could find some clues in it.
Neti came back soon. He flowed out of the darkness and said, “The Queen of the Underworld allows you to bring a living man into her realm. But you have to leave one thing that belongs to you through each gate you pass. This is the rule of Kur.”
Inanna was angry and a little embarrassed, “I know this rule, but I didn’t expect that she would one day apply it against me. She is humiliating another deity.”
Neti replied cautiously, “I’m just bringing you her words. If you feel unhappy about this, you can choose not to go in.”
His words enraged the goddess, “I, as a deity, have to fulfill my commitment. I must see her now.”
Neti leaned to one side and made an inviting gesture, “Please follow me.”
With the gatekeeper of the Underworld leading their way, Amon stepped into the unknown realm of the Goddess of Death, following Inanna. The moment he set foot in the cave, he felt like he had crossed an interface between two worlds. All the things around him that he could feel, before entering it, disappeared.
There was nothing but endless darkness. “Darkness” might not be the exact word, because in fact there was actually no color and no light. Using the Detecting Eyes, he could still sense Neti walking in front of him. Except for that, he sensed nothing. Amon even felt that he, himself, no longer existed.
The only thing he could see using his eyes was Inanna. She seemed to exist independently in this world.
Although he couldn’t see Neti, he could sense that he stopped not long after they all had entered. The gatekeeper turned to Inanna, “Goddess Mourrin, please take off your crown”.
The crown on Inanna’s head disappeared, as if it was taken by an invisible hand. Then they continued to advance.
Amon could only confirm that he was walking, he didn’t know what he was stepping on. In fact, he couldn’t feel his legs. There didn’t seem to be a concept of time and space in this world. Amon didn’t know how long and how far they had walked before his Detecting Eyes sensed another interface. Neti stopped and turned to Inanna, “Goddess Mourrin, please leave your staff behind.” The staff in Inanna’s hand disappeared as well.
Crossing the second gate of the Underworld, the environment changed. Although he still couldn’t sense anything, Amon could clearly feel the existence of his own soul. Various thoughts came from nowhere, running into his mind. They were the wishes and desires of the common people in the world.
The thoughts were neither images nor voices, they were ideas that directly projected into his mind. There was the fear to death, the query to the Underworld, the appeal to stay alive, the regret and hatred caused by unfulfilled wishes, etc.. Amon suddenly realized: these were the prayers from the mortals in the world. As Queen of the Underworld, this goddess could hear all of the thoughts of her believers.
[List of Characters]
Neti : Getekeeper of the Underworld.