“I have so many questions,” Katie said as they left the king’s chamber.
“I thought you might.”
“Why are you a slave?” Lockhart interrupted as Channa came running to catch them.
“I am Aramean,” he said, before he added “oof,” as Channa ran into him and grabbed him. They started walking again, and he explained. “Channa is Akkadian, a grand niece or second or third cousin of Sargon himself. When the Akkadians moved through the Levant to invade Mesopotamia, north in Assyria as well as south in Sumeria, by the way, they picked up slaves, some whole tribes, and brought them along. My grandfather was a wandering Aramean. My mother was a slave.”
“But in the Bible, the word is often translated servant, and that is not incorrect. I don’t know any slaves that get the whipping and beating treatment you see on American television. I’m not sure slaves in America got much of that kind of treatment. Slaves cost money and are expensive. They need to be taken care of if you expect to get any good work out of them. True, slaves labor, but honestly, masters generally labor right alongside them, to plant, harvest, take care of the house and home.”
“Slaves can marry,” Channa said with a sheepish grin. “And when they marry a free woman they often get their freedom.”
“So if you are an Aramean,” Katie took the conversation. “Who was that man in the strange clothes?”
“Amorite. The Amorites will take over Babylon in a hundred and fifty years or so, and a bunch of other cities by then also. Hammurabi, you know. But notice the difference. The Gutians want to rule. They come in fighting and they do take over some places for a while before they get thrown out. The Amorites ask permission, migrate peacefully, and eventually take over, long term.”
“More farmers who can’t plant? How can they promise to supply food for the people?” Lockhart asked.
“No, actually the Amorites are wandering herdsmen, and it is no wonder, as people settle down to start farming in the Levant, they want to drive the wanderers out.”
Katie stopped them before they collected their horses. “One more question. I heard the brief list of people the man mentioned, but I didn’t know one. Kasidim?” They started walking the horses and Ulrik talked to the group.
“Kasdim,” Ulrik said. “I am not surprised a PhD in ancient and medieval cultures and technologies would not have much to do with the Bible these days, but they are mentioned in the Bible. Usually it is translated Chaldeans. They are a mixed people in the Levant, with herds, but also some rudimentary agriculture. The have a few towns in the west, mostly northern Syria. But here, the Amorites are the first wanderers to settle down. When they do, it does not take them long to learn the ways and advantages of agriculture. The Chaldeans come last in line, and have to travel all the way to the Tigris and Euphrates delta to find land to settle on. They build a sort-of civilization there for about five hundred years before they get absorbed into the native population. But that won’t be for a thousand years in the future. They get absorbed, or maybe assimilated just in time for the Medes and Persians to take over.”
“Hey. I thought you weren’t supposed to talk about future things like that,” Katie protested. “I have to keep my mouth shut wherever we go.”
Ulrik nodded. “It is safer not to say anything, but right now, I want to know what has Mingus so agitated.” Everyone turned to look at the elder elf.
“I’m—“ Boston started to explain
“Young Boston is trying to tell me what a good person Alexis is,” Mingus interrupted. “I know she is a good person. That is not the point. She has not been a good daughter, that’s all.”
“You don’t really mean that,” Katie said.
“But I do mean it,” Mingus insisted. “I now have two daughters. One good one and one bad one.” He folded his arms and turned away from them all.
Ulrik said nothing, so Lockhart said nothing, not that they knew what to say.
“Boston,” Katie got her attention. Boston went sadly with Katie to check the three horses which had been left there, seemingly abandoned. Decker had ridden off somewhere, and Alexis, Lincoln and Elder Stow were presumably off helping the wounded warriors.
Alexis, in fact, was pushing the hair out of her eyes at that point. The man who took them to the various tents of the wounded men turned out to have an arrow in his leg. He limped, but they thought he was just bruised. In fact, he broke off the arrow shaft near the skin and covered the spot with his pants. The wound bled little, but the arrowhead was still in his leg.
“Why are you here?” Alexis asked the same question the Kairos asked when the Gott-Druk first turned up and joined the travelers.
Elder Stow frowned. “You are family, such as you are, but these humans are not. I will defend you because I hope to get home, but I see no need to waste my energy helping these strangers.”
“Where is you compassion?” Alexis asked.
“It is not our way to help those who are not our kind.”
“Bull,” Lincoln said. “Homo Neanderthals are not so very different from Homo Sapiens. You have compassion in your DNA just like anyone.”
Elder Stow looked like he was going to be stubborn, but Alexis reached out and touched his hand. “Please.” Elder Stow grumbled as he got out his device. The man was already lying down, and they watched as Elder Stow waved his device over the leg and the arrowhead slowly pulled itself from the leg. It began to bleed, badly, but Alexis was right there to staunch the bleeding and begin the healing process. After she was done, she looked exhausted.
“I hope we are safe inside the city. We are all in need of food and rest,” Lincoln said, and patted Elder Stow on the shoulder with the word, “Thank you.” Elder Stow looked very unhappy before he spoke.
“Let us hope we can all get some rest.” He could agree with that much.
As they walked back to the horses, they saw the others had arrived. At the same time, they saw Decker ride up from the gate. There were men running behind him, but Decker on horseback got there first.
“We have Gutians in the field,” Decker shouted. Alexis, Lincoln and Elder Stow heard and tried to run, but it was a jog, hardly faster than walking. Ulrik was talking when they arrived.
“Channa, please go back to your father. If you get hurt, he will kill me.”
Channa stubbornly shook her head. “I am not leaving your side again.” She grabbed his arm.
Ulrik looked around at everyone standing there. “Tegon-ibbi, go inform the king we have Gutians in the field outside the Ishtar gate, and then come back whatever he decides to do. The rest of you, bring the horses.”
Lockhart yelled as they started toward the gate. “In a city full of half-starved people, you left your horses standing there, unprotected. Why didn’t you put a sign on them, free food, come and get it?”
“My fault,” Decker admitted without hesitation. “I heard, and went to make sure the Gutians were not coming in the gate.” He paused, and as they saw, the Gutians were stopped several hundred yard out in what should have been fields of grain.
“They are just standing there,” Alexis said.
“Decker,” Ulrik spoke up because the crowd in the open gate where the doors were not yet attached was loud. “Take some of these men and spread them part way down the wall. Katie, please do the same on the other side.” He spoke up to whatever men in the gate stopped talking long enough to listen. “I appreciate you not wanting them to get in through the gate, but it won’t do if they come over the wall.” The wall in most places was only a few feet high, easy enough for a man to clamber over.
Decker knew what to do. Katie also knew, but the men would not especially listen to a woman, so Lockhart helped. It was hard for men in a five-foot world to argue with these six-foot giants, even if they had their spears and shields at the ready.
Men were still coming, and Lincoln directed them to the wall on the left or right, or to the gate as well as he could. When Tegon-Ibbi returned from the king’s chamber, he quickly got the idea and helped.
Ulrik got the men to drag whatever they could in the way of stones and lumber to fill the gap in the gate in lieu of doors. He made the men fetch their hunting bows and all the arrows they had. It temporarily depopulated the wall, but the Gutians could not have known. They were just out there, milling about, or standing and staring at the city.
“This is exciting,” Channa kept saying, while she held on and kept Ulrik’s arm pinned to his side.
“Yeah, yeah,” he said and gave her a quick kiss. “But when the fighting starts, make sure you promise to keep your head down.”
“Yes, my general,” she said and grinned in lieu of a salute.