Chapter Forty-Three – The End Of The Beginning
The brothers searched through the ruins and the surrounding area, looking for Akhen. Not so much as a footprint was found. Believing that he had gone back to Adab wanting to be alone, they reluctantly made camp for the night. The brothers sat in the warmth of the fire, each lost in his own thoughts.
Max looked at Seti sitting next to him and asked, “I don’t understand why Akhen called her Sud or why he claimed to be Enlil. Why did he do that Seti?” The four others looked at Seti needing to hear the answer if there was one, as much as Max. (My kin were also curious; their plan to destroy Shu had taken an unexpected, but welcome turn.)
Seti sat for a moment in silence. “Well,” he began, “The ancient Sumer people believed they were descended from a race that came from another world. Sud was the wife of Enlil who was the firstborn son of Anu, the god of the skies. Enlil fell in love with the young teenage mortal named Sud when he saw her bathing naked in the river near here, from his hiding place in the reeds.”
“Yes, yes, but that still doesn’t tell us why Akhen used the names or why he pretended to be Enlil!” Khan said. The brothers nodded in agreement.
Seti sat in silence for a few seconds, before replying. “When we first met Shu we all fell madly in love with her, even Nefer, remember? Well, apparently, of all of us Akhen fell for her the hardest despite the bond between him and Nefer. Somehow when he made himself as powerful as Shu he firmly believed he was Enlil Lord of Sumer and husband of Sud. What other explanation is there?” Seti slumped down, unconvinced by his unlikely hypothesis. From the accounts he had read in the clay tablets, about the Sumerian gods, it seemed to be the only logical reason for Akhen’s strange speech. Somehow, in his mind, he truly saw Sud, not Shu, or perhaps a combination of the two. In any case, why Enlil should want to kill his beloved Sud mystified him! The Sumerian poem he had recited when Shu’s head and heart were consumed on the pyre was one Enlil composed for his sweet, much-loved Sud, thousands of years ago. The tears in his eyes were the tears of a man mourning the death of his soul mate. Why he called her “Queen of death” was beyond Seti’s comprehension.
The next morning the brothers set off for Adab, shadowed by Lek, Brak, and Tuluk, retracing their steps along the road to An-Nasiriyah. By noon, they were getting close to Ash-Shatrah on the banks of the Shatt-al-Gharraf. Besal stopped and turned his head left and right, sniffing the air. Holding his hand up, he signalled the others to wait while he dived into the thick reeds. The blood curdling screams of a child reached the waiting berserkers ears. Moments later Besal returned grinning in triumph, holding a small pig by the back legs as it screamed in protest. “We dine like kings tonight, my brothers,” he said, happily tying a rope round the young swine’s neck. They decided to stop for the night at Qal-at-Sukkar, not wishing to arrive in Adab too soon, fearful of intruding on Akhen’s period of mourning. The mist rose from the river and spread across the low lying lands on both its banks. The light from the moon created a ghostly effect over the mist-covered ground surrounding their camp.
The brothers gradually became aware of a presence that unnerved them. Silently picking up their shields and swords they stood back to back, peering into the gloom beyond the warm red glow of the fire, desperately searching for the unknown danger which lurked somewhere in the darkness. “Khan, Besal, Seti, Akkad, Max; it’s so good to see you again, my dearest brothers.”
Khan’s eyes opened wide in sheer terror. Max trembled as his hand tightened its grip on his sword. Besal, Akkad, and Seti nervously looked at each other. “But you’re dead; we buried you!” Seti yelled into the darkness.
The mist took on a deep emerald green colour and moved towards the tensed warriors. Then the familiar form of Shu appeared in ghostly form in the firelight. This time she was once again the benign loving avatar they had first met on Kallorn. She spent the rest of the night answering their endless questions. She told why she had become the murdering red-eyed monster, thanks to Hesket’s meddling when he extracted her essence and tried to make her into his own personal weapon in a futile attempt to rule over the galaxies. She spoke about the constant battle between her and her other self during the bloody years of her rampage, saying that the only time she was able to think clearly was when the bad side of her split personality shut down during her trance like meditative periods.
She backed up Seti’s theory about Akhen’s distorted belief that he was Enlil and that she was his wife Sud, realizing that if she was to end the reign of bloody annihilation she would have to sacrifice herself. She went along with the blind hatred of her bad side, wishing neither to alert nor alarm it into thinking she was against the suicidal attack on Akhen. Althought why she did that she didn’t elaborate. She managed to slow the crystal’s recharge times with great difficulty, but it was enough for Akhen to deliver the crucial blow and end her torment.
The reason Akhen had vanished was because when he burned her head and heart, both parts of her essence were released simultaneously making Akhen’s fevered mind the unwilling vessel for her personality. He had deliberately isolated himself while the good in him still had some form of control, not wishing to harm any of his berserker brothers who he loved. When he had turned to wave to them before the final showdown with Shu, he knew he would never see them again.
As the weak light of dawn approached, Shu gently enveloped each of the warriors in turn, repairing their wounds. They swore later that day they had felt the gentle touch of her kiss on their foreheads while they were in her warm embrace. The mist began to clear as the sun rose, and gradually Shu’s ghostly image evaporated as she smiled at each of her beloved berserkers one last time. By mid-morning, the brothers arrived in Adab. Shu’s personal shuttle and Akhen were gone.
Khan, Max, Seti, Besal, and Akkad turned east in search of the three hundred thousand human survivors, and in time took mates and settled down to a peaceful life for a while, until war broke out between the many tribes that sprang up.
My three cousins found sanctuary in the Kabir Kuh Mountains on the eastern side of Gilgama, where they reside to this day. Humanity, now in the guise of berserkers, slowly spread once again across the new continents over the ensuing years. Children were taught tales of the war between the gods and the terrible berserker army that rampaged across the planet, killing all the wicked and non-believers, which were corruptions of the real events, as all religious myths undoubtedly are.
Akhen eventually found a planet far enough away from Earth and deliberately crash landed his shuttle, destroying it and preventing himself from ever returning. During his infrequent lucid moments throughout the brief remainder of his tortured existence, he wrote his version of this story using his double-edged sword to scratch the tale into the surface of rocks across the jungle covered planet of his self imposed exile. Maybe one day someone will venture there and puzzle at the crude hieroglyphics and their meaning. The creatures of his prison watched him from the shadows, fearing the evil in their midst. Every night, while the monstrous red eyed berserker slept, a gentle green mist enveloped him, bringing him warmth and succour. But in the end, even Shu could not stop him from leaping from a cliff top to his death several thousand meters below.
Eugene and his forgotten men on Janus Omega busily pieced together enough serviceable equipment to build a ship capable of getting them into space and to return here to Earth to rebuild humanity, or at least Eugene’s version of it. My kin Pashtek patiently watched and waited from his hiding place above the construction area. His time in this my tale will soon come!
Now I sit in the confines of my hiding place here in the Atlas Mountains, reading all that I have written so far of this sad tale put together from our Khaz collective consciousness dear reader. I must rest while I wait for my visitor and before I begin writing the final chapter in this savage tale of meddling by my Khaz cousins and the unnecessary pain it has caused across the cosmos.
Next time, part three of Onet’s Tale – Orion’s Belt, begins with Chapter Forty-Four – Preparations for Escape