Supper was held in a big, banquet hall with plenty of columns to hold up the bedrooms on the second floor. The hall was next to the outdoor kitchen area so the food could be good and hot. Altogether, there were some fifty adults on a staff which acted something like a government, though the people had no concept of government. These were simply the experts in their various fields. They were the chief carpenters, brick makers and builders, workers in clay, soft metals, and cloth. There were chiefs among the herdsmen and chief farmers who oversaw the irrigation system, and there were hunters, of course.
The children had their own tables out by the kitchen. They were under an awning in case it rained. The children from all the families ate together, but sometimes they were allowed in the big room to eat with their families. Anenki’s young children were presently out by the kitchen so his family at the adult table included his little sister, Dantu and her husband, Risah and hers if Risah ever sat down to actually eat something, Bashte with Niudim beside her and Anenki with Lili and Nanna beside him. Nanna was just making the leap from the children’s tables so this was still special for her.
Over supper, Anenki convinced his guests to stay a couple of days and rest. They looked worn and they knew it so it did not take much convincing. After that was settled, there were the questions and Anenki, and Bashte who took the travelers to her heart as she took everyone, did their best to answer.
“Actually, Bashte and I function more like a High Priest and High Priestess than King and Queen. We got caught talking with the Gods, you see, like we were old chums.”
“I’m the chum part,” Bashte admitted. “I grew up with Innan except for a couple of years when Dantu became my best friend.”
Anenki leaned over and gave Bashte a kiss on the cheek. “She is friends with them all, too. I’m just the old part.”
“Anenki! That’s not true.”
“True enough. Okay, but some of them don’t like me very much.”
“Varuna seemed to like you well enough,” Lockhart pointed out.
“And Astarte liked Saphira pretty well,” Alexis added.
“I know Asarte,” Bashte said, “But who is Varuna? Is she nice?”
“He,” Anenki corrected. “And yes, he is very nice.”
“Nagi and Shengi, too,” Boston added.
Anenki thought about it, but he shook his head. “That was just because Dayus, Tiamut and the Shang-Di didn’t like me at all, and still don’t, I might add. Anyway, something much worse is coming here tomorrow morning.”
“What?” Lincoln had to ask.
“My ex-wife. Lili and Niudim’s mother.” Niudim turned up his nose. Lili simply turned to Nanna who was determined to stay up.
“I would rather have Mother Innan,” she said. Nanna nodded in mid-yawn but could not respond.
Anenki smiled at his daughters before he turned to Captain Decker. “You are very quiet tonight. What’s up?”
Captain Decker appeared to pull his mind back into the room. “Sorry. I can’t help it. I feel we are being watched, but I don’t see anything.”
“Maybe it is just being in the midst of over two-thousand people, sir” Katie suggested. “That is a lot compared to what we have been through.” Decker shook his head while Roland added his thoughts.
“I feel it, too.” He spun his head around but there was nothing there.
The travelers slept around the campfire that night. No one said anything in particular or suggested it, but everyone felt the same. It was that feeling that they were being watched and that feeling would not go away easily. They all felt the need for company and the need to watch each other’s backs.
It was late when Boston woke up feeling antsy. She felt like she was missing something, but her hand went straight to the amulet and found it hanging around her neck where she had vowed to always keep it. She thought that perhaps she was missing something in her backpack, so she got up as quietly as she could and inched to her tent. The flap was closed, and when she opened it, she screamed. Two dog-yellow eyes peered back at her.
Everyone woke and hurried to her. But she watched as the eyes darted to the side. Boston almost looked in the same direction though there was nothing to see apart from the tent. Then the eyes sank into the ground. Lockhart and Katie arrived in time to see the last bit of the eyes before they vanished in the dirt. Then they heard the sound of thunder.
“That’s the river!” Lincoln shouted, drawing on some memory from his years in the C. I. A. before he came to work for the Men in Black.
“Make for higher ground!” Alexis shouted, and they started for the temple they had seen earlier in the day. Boston tried for the palace, but Lockhart and Roland combined to drag her to the temple steps.
“Someone has to warn Anenki,” Boston protested.
“Can’t worry about that now,” Lockhart said as he shoved her up the lowest set of steps. The temple was actually five terrace layers of solid bricks. Each layer was a man’s height and set back a man’s height in distance from the lower level. The fifth and topmost level was actually about the size of a house. It was in fact temple where priests sacrificed the animals on a stone slab and dedicated the fruits in season to Enki, god of Eridu.
When everyone got to the temple, they saw the water. It looked like a black snake against the ground. Curiously, it kept its shape even driven out of its banks. it curved and ran right over their camp. It extinguished the fire there and came on to the temple. It crashed against the bricks and shook the structure, but the temple was too much for it and the travelers were too high up to reach.
A man came out of the building when the water arrived. After one good crash against the bottom most layers of the step pyramid, the man waved his hand. The waters obeyed some imperative and turned away. They rushed right past the front door of the palace and reentered the riverbed. No further water came from the river after that.
“Looks like you have a bug problem,” the man said. “Like a cockroach, you know.” He pushed his glasses up on his face and smiled. That was when the ones close raised their collective eyebrows. What was a Neolithic man doing with glasses.
“A present from Anenki,” the man answered their unasked question and vanished.
“What?” Boston wondered.
“Enki, I presume,” Lockhart responded.
“I think he means the bokarus,” Roland responded differently. “The cockroach, I mean.”
“Darn.” Lincoln walked up to join the group. “And for once I was having a good dream. Now all of our stuff is going to be soaked.