“You were here,” Labash started, and looked around. “Most of you were here with Ishtar when Babylon was founded. Assur founded Assur—creative name—about two or three hundred years earlier, a small time in the life of the gods. But you may recall Ishtar saying, in effect, that now that the boys each had their own place, they would have to take turns. That was around 2000 BC.”
“I remember,” Boston said.
Assur raided southern Mesopotamia. Then Marduk raised up Hammurabi.”
“I remember Hammurabi,” Boston interrupted. “What a dweeb.”
Labash smiled for her. “Not to say they were the only players. Hebat sort of cheated and her Hittites took two turns. But the Mitanni, the Hurrians, the Gutians, and others, all got a turn, all being supported and encouraged by various gods. Enlil and Enki sort of supported the Elamites, who never went away until they got absorbed by the Medes and Persians. Marduk did not mind. He sort of held on to southern Mesopotamia and minded his own business. Assur, though, got mad. I think because he seemed closer to the front line, as Decker calls it. About 1366 BC, he had enough. He took a 300 year turn and shoved everyone back, taking on the Hurrians, Hittites, Mitanni, and the rest. He messed with Babylon and southern Mesopotamia some, but not much. Then it should have been Babylon’s turn, but Babylon had become occupied by Kassites. You might call them the first Hippies. Peace, man.”
“Far out.” Lockhart couldn’t help himself.
“Groovy,” Lincoln countered.
“They were some serious vegetarians, well, meat got so expensive. Marduk called it his mellow period. They endured the pull and tug of Assyria and Elam, and for the most part lived quiet, peaceful lives. Meanwhile, Assur went on a rampage, rearranging all his furniture. The Assyrians again came out to play after a hundred and forty-some years of Babylonian do nothings. This time, they overran everything in sight, including Egypt, but that is a different story. Oh, I guess you met Tobaka.”
“Yes,” Katie said. “He was Nubian, and his family ruled Egypt, but he said the Assyrians came in and threw his family out. Killed most of them.”
“He wanted revenge,” Labash nodded. “But he never made it further than the Levant. So, Assur made a big mistake when he burned Babylon to the ground. That was about seventy years ago. He got rid of that king and made sure the next one rebuilt the city and apologized to Marduk, personally. But from then on, they would not be in the same room together, and I think Marduk plotted.”
“So now, we have two brothers fighting for the Assyrian throne,” Evan said. “And I imagine Assur is behind the one in Nineveh, and Marduk is ready to support the other.”
“I became a frog,” Labash reminded them. “But, yes. Marduk appeared in his temple and yelled. He caused a small earthquake in the city. He demanded Nabopolasser get off his rump and take the army out to support Sinsharishkun. He said he wanted to see some Assyrian butt-whooping”
Decker laughed softly. Boston spoke up. “I wonder where he heard that term.”
“Yes, well, you know Sinsharishkun killed his brother, and I don’t know how it happened, exactly, but Marduk killed Assur at the same time. By some trick, I am sure. But the boys were pretty good at being able to read each other. I don’t know, but the deed is done, and Marduk has suffered ever since. I figure he will either come out of it, or in maybe fifty or less years, he will flip out entirely. I dread dealing with a split personality, or worse, a multiple personality disorder.”
People waited while some especially loud screams reached their ears. Several got up and stepped to the edge of the building to see how much of the city might be on fire. Katie sort of regained their attention with her question.
“Nebuchadnezzar goes sort of loopy in his older years, do you think?” She did not spell it out.
Labash frowned at her for talking about the future so flagrantly. “Perhaps,” he said. “But I don’t expect to be here by then. In the new palace, I am building a wing for captive kings. I said they can make it into a museum. I have also built a great camp area for strays and captive people. Nabopolasser has already moved some Arameans and Suteans into the area.” Labash appeared to enjoy shrugging. “That is about all I can do; that and exert what influence I can on Nebuchadnezzar for the future. I imagine I will be gone when Jerusalem falls. God, the source, seems content to let things work out that way.”
People nodded as they thought about it. Then Evan had another question.
“So, what is happening now? How do things stand?”
Labash shrugged. “Sinsharishkun is sitting on the Assyrian throne, but it is not exactly a safe seat. Many of the provinces have rebelled during the civil war, and have thrown out or killed the Assyrian presence. They would need to be conquered all over again, but too many Assyrian officials see Sinsharishkun as a usurper, even if he is a son of the emperor. And without Assur behind them, I think the Assyrian people are tired of war.” Labash shrugged again.
“Nabopolasser retook Nippur. You know, the pro-Assyrian hotbed where Sinsharishkun planned his rebellion. That did two things. It put all the cities in southern Mesopotamia on notice that Babylon is back and ready to enforce the law, so they better cough up their tribute, and fighting men, and not be slow. Babylon can just as soon flatten their cities as he did Nippur. It also gave him a chance to throw the Assyrian army units out of his territory, which he did.
“So, now there is stalemate,” Katie suggested.
Labash shook his head this time. “Sinsharishkun fears the support of his generals is only lip service. Right now, he doesn’t want to go there. Nabopolasser honestly needs three to five years to build his forces before he can make a move. Who will get there first? Will Sinsharishkun find his courage, and his generals obey him, or will Nabopolasser have the time to build up his forces and take the war to the enemy with some chance of victory? It’s exciting. Like a three to five-year horse race, but that is about as exciting as it gets around here.”
“Lord,” one of the dwarf wives interrupted. She stepped up with a goblin in tow. Labash and Boston recognized her as a female, but the others weren’t sure. She looked like a brute.
“Yes, Missus Hearthstone?” Labash asked what she wanted.
“This is Miss Thrasher. You got company. Tell ’em if they get hungry in the night, we left some meat and bread by the fire, there. You tell ’em just be asking and Miss Thrasher will be getting. There’s some vegetables there, too, and she is passable to cook them up if you want.”
“Thank you very much, Missus Hearthstone,” Labash said. “Miss Thrasher,” he acknowledged his goblin, and smiled for her, which made her turn away and turn a bit red under the gray. “I am sure we will be fine. Personally, I intend to have a good night’s sleep.”
“Not right a young man like you should spend so many nights alone. If you wasn’t my god, I would do something about that.”
“I am sure you would,” Labash said, with a touch of fear on his face.
“Good night,” she said, and she and Thrasher walked off into the dark
“Good night,” several people said, only to be interrupted by Decker.
“Here they come.” That was all he had to say.