The caravan came into the city, and for once the strangers in their strange dress and with their big horses were ignored. The people gravitated to the grain and began dancing in the streets.
“We aren’t exactly starving,” Ulrik said. “But near enough. We can’t hunt or gather much with roving bands of Gutians out there.” Ulrik paused to make sure his lieutenant took the grain to the storehouse. Alexis took that moment to speak.
“I can’t leave my patient until I get him home and in bed, and instruct his family how to care for him”
“That means I have to come,” Lincoln said. The man was tied to Lincoln’s horse and floating along, held up by Elder Stow’s anti-gravity device.
Lockhart made a command decision. “Decker, would you go with them to keep an eye out. Try not to kill anyone unless absolutely necessary.”
“Only if absolutely necessary,” Decker repeated, and rubbed his right eye. “That witch has sharp fingernails.”
“Mingus, Boston, keep your glamours up. I imagine we are going to see the king.”
“I should go with you?” Katie asked. She felt Lockhart’s unhappiness with her for a while now, and knew it was because she was taking risks and not especially following orders, so she thought it safest to ask.
“You are with me, are you not?” Lockhart asked in return. Katie smiled and stepped up beside him before he ruined it. “We need one marine on each team to watch over us.”
“Ready?” Ulrik asked before Katie could respond. He started to walk, and a man by the name of Amrabbi paced him. The others fell in behind, the horses following after them, Boston and Mingus at the back. When they got to what looked like the only finished building in the city where most of the people were still living in tents and squalor, Katie could not hold her tongue.
“Opulant,” she said. “Don’t let Alexis see this, she will give us the lecture on the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”
Ulrik heard and responded. “Actually, the poor here can’t get much poorer without being dead. But we are beginning to build houses for the people, even as we work on the walls.”
“How many?” Lockhart asked.
“Between four and five thousand,” Ulrik shrugged. “I have tried to get the king to order a census, but he sees no reason for it and calls it a waste of energy and time.” They had to go up the steps to get inside, and Ulrik helped them find a place to tie off their horses. He also found men to guard them, because in a city near starvation, it was not safe to leave unattended meat walking around.
“I suggest you camp outside of town and keep a careful watch on your horses in the night,” Ulrik said.
Katie wanted back on subject while they walked. “Shemsu builders?” She had looked carefully at the perfectly fitted stones in the growing walls.
“Some,” Ulrik said. “They have become careful over the centuries not to reveal themselves, but some. I don’t believe any city in this age would be possible without some Shemsu builders.”
They had to pause as a young woman ran and threw herself at Ulrik. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, and kissed him all over his face. Ulrik responded by going for her lips and her legs slowly slipped to the floor so she could be held by him and their two bodies could press together like true lovers. Katie and Lockhart glanced at each other and turned red enough. Boston had only one thing to say.
“I wish Roland was here.” Mingus reached out and patted Boston’s hand like a doting father.
Ulrik pulled his head back from the kiss and said, “We have company.”
The woman turned her head briefly and looked like this was the first time she realized others were standing there. “Hello,” she said, and her eyes and face zipped straight back to Ulrik. Ulrik pulled back, but she grabbed his hand for dear life.
“Channa,” he named her. “This is Lockhart, Katie, Father Mingus and Boston.”
“I love your red hair,” Channa said. “How did you get it that color?”
“I was born this way,” Boston admitted.
“No?” Channa said and snuggled up to Ulrik’s shoulder. “My Ulrik has the most interesting friends.” She grinned a mighty grin.
“Slave?” Lockhart said. He had not really caught that back when Lincoln was reading through the database.
“Yes,” Ulrik said as he got them walking. “The Akadians came two centuries ahead of the Gutians, and more from the bottom of the Black Sea in Anatolia. They swept down through the Levant, basically Syria where they took many people as slaves. They moved into Samaria, where they conquered many cities of the Sumer. Sargon himself only died five years before I was born. The high king is now Sargon’s son. Meanwhile, a nephew, my king’s older brother, took and rebuilt Kazailu, and promptly threw out my king, the younger brother, so my king gathered what people he had and came here to build his own city the way Sargon, his uncle, built Akkad.”
“We are there,” Amrabbi said as they came to large double doors.
“Why here?” Katie wanted to ask her question before they entered. Ulrik smiled, knowing what she was asking.
“There was the foundation for a city here. This is Barak’s Urudu. I am sorry you never got to see it. Now, show respect,” Ulrik said, and they went in.
King Belusis sat on a throne at the end of the hall. He had men around him, attendants of one sort or another, but one man beside him was dressed in different sort of clothes. Katie guessed they were not Gutian clothes or they would have heard something in the gate. She also figured Lockhart did not notice because men did not notice such things.
Ulrik went to his knees. Amrabbi bowed deeply. Channa went to sit on a small stool, a few paces to the side and two steps down from the throne. Lockhart and Katie stood as Americans, and Mingus and Boston moved up to stand beside them. Belusis frowned at them.
“Do you not bow to your king?” he asked.
“No,” Lockhart answered. “In our home, we believe that all men are created equal.”
“And where is this home?” one of the king’s attendants asked.
“It is a land so far away, we have been traveling for over a year and a half to get here, and we will travel almost three more years to get home,” Lockhart said. He had been keeping track since Roland was taken from them. Boston appreciated his concern, but she usually whined when he told her his calculations.
“Well, here we respect our king,” the attendant said, like he had not heard a word Lockhart told him. He waved, and a big guard drew his sword and started toward the strangers. Ulrik looked up and commented.
“Don’t kill him, if possible.”
Lockhart and Katie both drew their handguns, but Mingus stepped up. “Allow me.” They all saw the flame and wind that blew from his hands toward the guard. The guard paused, not wanting to get burned, and then it seemed he could not move at all. Ulrik had to move. He could undo whatever his little ones could do, so he touched the guard and ordered him to return to his post. He had a word for the attendant.
“You, I would let them kill.” He turned to the king. “My Lord, I have a report. We brought grain from Kish, and I talked to a man from Erech, who suggested we contact him next time we are in need.”
“And how did you obtain this grain,” the obnoxious attendant asked. “Did you have your strange creatures steal it for you?” he waved his hand generally in the direction of the travelers.
“No, actually. I told the King of Kish if we ran out of foodstuffs, my people were instructed to suggest to the Gutians that Kish was a city overflowing with food and riches.”
Lockhart saw the king hide his grin as his attendant huffed. “Very good for now,” the king tried to straighten up.
The man offered a strange bow and spoke in a strange accent. “I am from Aram, a small kingdom with too many people. There is much war where I live, Hittites, Hurrians, Kasdim, Suteans, so many, and all fighting over such small space. I, and my brothers, have gone in search of a land where we may live in peace, and you have much land here, good, blessed by Hebat, fertile, and not used.”
Lockhart smiled. “I remember Hebat,” he said, and Katie hit him in the arm, and not too softly.
The king spoke. “He has promised to help us drive away the Gutians and bring us foodstuffs for a spot of land where they can live in peace.”
Ulrik turned to the man. “How many?” he asked.
The man looked at the floor and pulled on his beard. “Some tens of tens,” he said softly.
“A thousand, or a few thousand,” Ulrik told the travelers before he turned again to the man. “Will you acknowledge Babylon as your home and Belusis as your king?”
There was a long drawn out pause. “We hope for our own land.”
Ulrik nodded and turned to his king. “I do not recommend it. They might take the land across the Euphrates from where we are building, but it will only work if they accept Babylon as over all the land and accept you as their king. The two people must become one or it won’t work. Neighbors can be impossible, but family allows for things and works things out.” He bowed to his king and turned to escort his friends from the chamber. “Okay, Amrabbi,” he said as they left. “Now you can tell him all the juicy bits.”
Avalon, episode 4.4 continues with the second half, post 4 of 6 is Enemies at the Gate…as you can imagine. Don’t miss it. Happy Reading