“The Wolves of Eridu” Part I: Chapter 17

All the birds flew away. The mother alone stayed.

Sumerian proverb


Enshanesha shook her head and sighed in frustration at the window, her eyes trained on the horizon as yet another day passed with no sign of Kurzu. The morning was waning, and he and his friends had now been gone for three days too long.

Her lovely husband had brought in a young woman seeking aid, a destitute jeweler from the capitol. Enshanesha introduced herself, and the two became instant friends. Qesma offered to teach Enshanesha how to identify the quality of various gems, and in return she would teach Qesma the refined Eriduan techniques of brewing beer. She found the girl to be polite and thoughtful, a welcome change from the sometimes insufferable populace.

In large, modern cities like Urim and Unug, priests and priestesses resided in the stuffy central city, abiding in the shadow of the mighty ziggurat. But in Eridu, the dividing walls of the temple precinct were long since crumbled. Enshanesha’s marriage to Ruut allowed her to live in his house. The three-story claybrick house was humbly furnished for one belonging to a man of his dignified vocation, and shared its walls with other affluent homes.

Her elevated position afforded her the opportunity to pursue her whims. Enshanesha was grateful for the privacy, as priestesses in the temple were subjected daily to the public’s problems and desires. As such, they were offered little in the way of psychological comfort despite living lives of respect, luxury, and authority.

“Ruut, are you still in here?” Enshanesha turned and called sweetly through the house.

“I’m out here,” came the grunting reply from the ground beneath the window. Ruut was helping some slaves to exchange tablets from the temple above. Life as an administrative official meant this accounting was a daily task, and one that could not be ignored lest the temple’s affairs grind to a halt.

She looked down and frowned. “Ruut, I am worried about Kurzu.”

“I’m sure he is fine, and having the time of his life. He has my khopesh, after all,” Ruut said wryly.

“Yes, but he has been gone for almost a week. It is not like him to disappear this way!”

“Maybe not, but he is getting older, and a young man’s heart seeks to test its mettle.”

“Are you not worried in the least for our son?”

Ruut laughed. His cavalier attitude toward important matters like this annoyed her to no end. He was lucky he was cute.

“Enshanesha, Kurzu is never far from my mind. Every morning and every night since he set out, I have prayed to Anu, to Enki, to Inanna, to Enlil, to Nanna, to Utu. The gods will protect him. And all that besides, he’s young, armed, and with two capable friends.”

“Will you come up here? I hate yelling out the window for the whole city to hear.”

“My hands are rather full, can you come down?”

She sighed and turned from the window to walk down the stairs. As she descended, she heard her husband’s voice echo through the house.

“Nesha, darling, will you please bring me my seal? Thank you!”

She sighed again with a grin, rolling her eyes and shaking her head. She turned to tread back up the stairs. Once on the top floor, where their treasured belongings were kept, she walked impatiently to the plain looking felt-lined cedar box that served as the vessel for Ruut’s personal seal.

The seal, an ornate cylinder of delicately carved lapis lazuli, was detailed with men and kings bowing and serving Enki. Enki’s eyes and hands were open wide, and fish-laden streams flowed from his oversized body. Enshanesha took it up from its resting place and marveled for a moment at the intensity of its color – a thick, saturated blue that might reflect from the sea in a dream. It was cool to the touch, and heavier than it looked.

When she made it outside, Ruut was shaking hands with the official. Two slaves effortlessly exchanged the tablets from the donkey-led chariot and Ruut’s tray cart. He turned and smiled as his wife approached with the seal in hand.

“Good evening, Sin-Manugal. Hmm, a slow day?”

“Good evening, Enshanesha. Yes, a slow day. Good for the treasurer, but bad for the treasury.” He laughed at himself as Ruut took the seal and carefully rolled it against the prepared soft clay tablet. The tablet rested on a thatched mat of grass. Enki looked up from the clay, eyes wide and all-seeing, and the reverent faces of the mortals expressed their absolute devotion. Such clarity would be welcome in this life, Enshanesha thought.

“Thank you, Ruut.  Good evening, Enshanesha. Let’s go, boys!” Sin-Manugal and his workers finished loading their chariot and set it rolling, the slaves leading the donkey down the street.

Ruut kissed Enshanesha as he walked past her into the house to rinse the seal clean, but she didn’t forget what was on her mind.

“I cannot wait any longer. I have to do something, Ruut!” She suddenly felt flustered, and quickly reigned her emotions in. “I am going to look for Kurzu.”

“I understand. I still have some work to do. Why don’t you ask Qesma to join you?”

“Yes, I will ask her along with me. I am going to check around the marketplace first. Do you need anything?”

“No, I… actually, yes. Visit that bakery around the corner, if you would, and bring me some of those cinnamon honey cakes.” He wrapped the seal in cloth for drying and set it on the table.

“Good idea,” she said. “Kurzu and I love those. I will try to be back before dark.”

She kissed him goodbye and left for the stairs just around the corner, only to see Qesma already coming down the street toward the house. Before long they met and exchanged a hug. Enshanesha’s face illustrated the worry in her heart, and Qesma gave her an inquiring look.

“Is everything all right?” She took up her friend’s hands when Enshanesha sighed as a response.

“Qesma, dear, I’m going to look for my son in the market. Will you help me?”

“Of course I will. Just let me deliver these cinnamon cakes to Ruut. I know he loves them, so I got a dozen!”

Enshanesha glanced back at the house and chuckled. “He’s got plenty. Let’s split them ourselves, shall we?”

Qesma smiled deviously and gestured toward the market.

“After you, priestess.”

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