Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Akkad at 80k


The Great Ziggurat of Ur by Tony Caruana


Haven't done much writing lately because of work, but finally found some time to push Akkad over the 80k mark yesterday. Another 10k and it can respectably be called a novel, but I reckon it's going to be quite a bit longer than that. 

Anyway, here's a real roughshod excerpt. Apsu (baby Sargon), learns to fight in the Ebla-Mari conflict. Already King of Kish by 22, but a late bloomer on the battlefield. Good practise for the forthcoming showdown with Lugalzagesi.

Further upcountry, the fighting was fierce. Ibrium took the brunt of the Mari forces. Scores of his men were felled as they attempted to cross the Euphrates. Arrows and rocks rained down, and the Mari filled clay pots with burning tar and launched them with slingshots. Eblaites ran screaming and flailing, trying to put themselves out.

To the east, Apsu and Aba rode abreast with the mighty Astabil. He was quite a sight to behold. Whereas Ibrium was in the prime of life, skin taut over thick muscle, Astabil was what Ibrium might someday become. He was grizzled and broad shouldered, lips hidden beneath a beard of brittle grey. His face and arms were covered in scars, several of his teeth were missing, and he wore a bearskin over his armour that made him look twice his natural size. He wore a pointed helmet of red leather, trimmed with leopard skin and hawk feathers.

“One feather for every kill,” he said.

“That is a lot of feathers,” Aba observed.

“Aye, and this is my fifth hat.”

The first day, they marched to a village not far from the Mari border. The place was completely deserted, nothing more than a forgotten huddle of houses on a windy plain.

“The people here were tired of war,” Astabil explained. “First, they were Eblaites, then they were Mariotes, then Eblaites again, and so on. They changed direction so many times they forgot which way to walk. They got lost out there on those phantom-haunted steppes, and now this is a ghost village. Some nights, the wind rips through so strong you can still hear the screams of babes on the birthing bed. You stop and you listen, because you know those babes long-since grew to be men, and went to war, and never came home again. Yet here it was they first opened their eyes to the world. It is here they return to in death.”

They camped in that village for four days, allowing Ibrium to complete his journey north so that the assault could begin at the same time. During those four days, Astabil and his men tried to teach the newcomers about warfare. It began good-naturedly, in a teasing, cajoling sort of way.

“Hey, Kish boy,” one of them addressed Apsu, knowing full well he was a king. “How’d you get a throne without ever learning to fight?”

Apsu smiled and joked in return. The training had been light, almost a game. Then their faces hardened, and the blows grew heavy, and he understood that these were lessons that would keep them alive.

“Don’t you dare go playing the hero,” Astabil warned. “If I see you ahead of me in the charge, or if I tell you to stay put and turn to find you’ve moved, I will haul you out of there and kill you myself. A battle is never about one man. It may look like it’s every man for himself, but battle is about brotherhood. You fight for the man beside you,” he glanced from Apsu to Aba, “because you can be damned sure that he is fighting for you, so that you both get to go home to your wives and your lovers. You are not a single person out there, though you will never have felt more alone. Each action, each reaction, each breath that you take is on behalf of the whole. We move as one ferocious beast and we do not stop until we have devoured our prey. And I am the head of that beast. You take your orders from me, King of Kish. You do as I say, and we live. But should you be stupid enough to think for yourself, I will not slow down to save you. I have all of these men, all six thousand of them, to think of, and you are only one tooth in my jaw. Do you understand me?”

“I understand,” Apsu replied.

And he did understand. 

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