Blue Skies Over Bad Lands

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Stories & Tales' started by Warning Sign, Sep 11, 2007.

  1. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

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    Greetings everyone, and welcome to what’s sure to be the grand story of the game I’m currently playing! This is my first attempt at a Civilization IV online tale to tell to you all, and I’m looking forward to it immensely. It’s my guess that this narrative will have several surprises not just for you but for me as well, as I have not as yet played all the way through an entire game of Civ IV, let alone Beyond the Sword. Try to keep that in mind when you see me founding cities in the “wrong” places, researching silly technologies, and generally squandering advantages left and right. I’m in it for the fun and the story.

    Because of my inexperience at the game, and maybe as a general principle too, you’ll likely not see me doing a lot of the things that seasoned, or “good,” Civ players take for granted. I’ve nowhere near memorized the technology tree, for example, so it’s doubtful I’ll be “bee-lining to Liberalism” as I see is popular. (As regards to “Stacks of Doom,” well, we’ll see.)

    Make no mistake, though: I’m playing to win.

    I intend to play only a few (couple of dozen?) turns ahead of writing, therefore I’ll know little more about what’s going to happen in the future of my game than you. While this could take away the knowledge necessary for some meticulously-planned storylines that might otherwise be possible, it will encourage me to think on my feet – er, in my chair – and is closer to the real world anyway. Special thanks are due to Sisiutil especially for his ongoing (I hope) and epic Princes of the Universe saga, as well as to Flouzemaker for his comical Gilgamesh’s Court and recently-completed Suleiman’s Harem.

    For ease of viewing, my story-posts will be in blue, and my normal posts (such as this one) will be standard black.

    The game is set on a Huge map at Marathon speed. The version is BtS with the 3.03 patch. More details (and plenty of screenshots, don’t worry) will be posted here as the story reveals them.

    Now, I’m not a fan of further ado, so without more ado than is necessary – but still some ado – I bring you the beginning of my tale…
     
  2. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

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    I saw something.

    I saw… nothing? A vast and everlasting greyness. A blanket. It was a blanket that did not touch, but it was still there, covering everything. Yes. A soft, monochrome quilt that seemed something like… my own, the one that I had slept beneath since I was a baby. My mother made for me before I was born. It was only half the size then that it is now, for instead of simply creating a new one every time I grew too big and my feet began poking out from the bottom and passing along the old one to someone else, she insisted upon adding new extensions to what I already had. She told me that I would someday understand why. I remember that my blanket had once been bright and alive… indeed, both of these blankets had been. I remember that once upon a time each was bursting with fiery reds, confident blues, brilliant yellows and purples. I remember… They were full of a sense of life and vibrancy which contrasted with where I was now. “Now” was grey. Grey, grey.

    Yes, my universe in that moment was indeed that halfway between not only black and white but also good and evil, life and death. It was a sort of persistent hesitancy about which way to turn. And I felt that it was reflective of something I had to do, a choice I had to make. What was it? I knew that it was very important that I get this decision right. This was no mere inkling of a half-formed thought, either. I knew, absolutely knew, that my choice here must be the right one. Not just for my own sake, or the sake of my family, but for the sake of countless generations of families to come after me. But, again… what was this decision?

    By now I noticed that my covering, my colourless quilt, was weeping for my hesitancy. Its tears were falling onto me and each one that pattered into me brought with it a sense of agony, a plea for me to make a choice – and I somehow now knew that it was a choice between light and what would certainly be never-ending darkness. I could feel there was a pitched battle going on in my head between two forces for what my decision would be.

    I chose – I determined to choose the light.

    And with light came colour. A slow-but-unexpected advance on my right side by a mass of brown that came crawling out of nowhere. Then it stopped. And with this colour, too, came feeling. Next to the water flitting down from the heavens, it was the first experience I’d had of feeling something. Mere dirt. Its texture and temperature was mercifully and strangely soft and warm, far different from the drizzling rain. The rain was soft and cool. My all-encompassing grey blanket had of course been the sky above, with its tears washing away my unconsciousness and now working upon doing the same to the soil on my face. There was a calm, fresh breeze snaking down the hill, and I began to take a deep breath.

    In that instant, almost before I’d had the opportunity to fully savour my earthen pillow and cloud blanket, suddenly came an awakening of such violent physical pain that I felt my insides were being lit aflame with a hundred torches. I silently gasped, for my voice had retreated, apparently feeling that its services would not be enough to properly articulate the horrible pain that had started in my midriff and immediately swept like a ravaging forest fire across my body. I bent in half and my hands went to the central location of the agony, finding its source – the tree that was surviving the inferno. It was the broken end of a sharpened pole of wood, the tip of which lodged firmly in my belly at the bottom of my ribcage. At I touched it, I involuntarily thrashed, the pain becoming even worse with just the slight amount of pressure my hands had caused.

    I instinctively tried to call out for my mother and managed a tiny squeak of sound barely enough to attract the notice of a rat, if anything. In my next breath I nearly choked, then coughed up crimson blood which discoloured the brown of the earth. The only time I had felt pain like this was when I’d been nearly gored while helping my father deal with an irritable bull when I was eight. The stomach-wound had become tainted and did not heal for over a year, leaving me infirm and unable to play with my friends. I barely even saw the sky except during those few times a year when everyone was on the move, changing our location with the seasons. In that time, it seemed my mother never left my side, telling me stories and playing games with me so that I might be less lonely. I was of the age that boys were to be just starting to think in earnest about their responsibilities, and foremost of those was hunting. Of course, they were not going out for actual prey with the men yet, but they were honing their skills with ever-more-competitive games and drills, improving daily. My sister and younger brother were there with me too, entertaining and talking to me. Father and my two older brothers would always come straight to our tent as soon as he and the men returned from the day’s hunt to see me, as well. Family was everything, and ours was an honourable and respected bloodline. My family…

    My family… where were they? The silly and nostalgic reminiscence disappeared instantly, as now I was truly afraid. No longer for my own condition, but, if this had happened to me, if there had been an attack – yes, we had been attacked! Trying my best to block out the searing pain (and mostly failing), I dragged myself up the dozen or so feet up the hill to the plateau where my tribe had made camp.

    I was shocked at what I saw.
     
  3. oynaz

    oynaz Prince

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    Nice start. Looking forward to reading more.
     
  4. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

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    Danke schön, Oynaz. I'll be posting the next installment tomorrow. Lately I've been too addicted to the final season (*sob!*) of The West Wing to do much else with what free time I have, but with only three episodes to go, I'll have a bit more of it soon.

    Long live Josh Lyman!
     
  5. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

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    I wished my eyes needed time to focus. I wished that the gods would suddenly black out the sun. I wished that a bolt from the heavens would strike me down or that I would be impaled with fifty more spears right there and then. If only something, anything would happen that could take away what I saw in front of me at that moment.

    None of that happened. In fact, the pain that just a second ago felt like it would eat me alive all but vanished as I was assaulted with a sight that will be seared into my memory forever.

    It seemed as if the greyness of the sky could have been started by the smoke from the smouldering, some-still-burning remains of our tents and possessions, things we had built and put together over my entire lifetime and before. Our dwellings lay wrecked and scorched. One of our grain-baskets had been sliced open, and millet had been spread and kicked all over the ground. What few animals we had – chickens, a few dogs, a cow – were gone. My people would be destitute, their chances for survival nil. It didn’t matter though. All that was meaningless compared to the dozens of corpses that were lying everywhere and the blood that made the now-rough soil all around look like one giant, festering wound itself. I saw bodies on top of bodies, the claret lifeforce from one flowed into the wounds of another. Looking almost as if they were still locked in the combat that took both their lives, there was one of my tribe, Stas, with his hands around the throat of a darker-skinned man. Stas had a stone axe-head buried in the top of his back, and it could have been his death throes that tightened his grip and took the other man’s life with his own.

    And right next to him, not three paces away, was my eldest brother Artem. He looked oddly peaceful and contented… and of course totally motionless. He was lying on his back, looking at the sky with lifeless eyes as the rain dripped down from above in a feeble effort to wash the earth clean of the blood and destruction which was laid out before me like a sick children’s game of pretend. Look, we’re pretending to be leaping fish. Now we’re sprinting wildcats. Now we’re dead.

    And then my second brother, Daniil, was the next thing I saw. Or rather, his head was. His body, I did not even see. His face was the opposite of Artem’s: instead of a mask of tranquility, Daniil wore a grimace of anger and fear, feelings which must have been shared by everyone in my tribe who now lay motionless before me.

    So much horror in this place, on this little mound of death… it was all too overwhelming… I was trying to see all I could and nothing at all at the same time. My tears must now have been beating into the ground with an intensity far, far greater than the lashing it was receiving from the now-downpouring rain. My stomach finally convulsed again with an agony unmatched by any of the ones that had wracked my body before, as if it had given me a brief, perverted stay in order to survey the gore and carnage uninterrupted. But the reminded me that I soon would probably join Stas and all the rest in the afterlife. So be it, I thought. If my family, my friends, my entire tribe had been wiped out, there was no further point for me to go on. The sky was getting darker now. Everything was losing its colour and going to dark. As I felt myself felling toward Mother Earth for the last time, the last thing I saw was a black-haired woman running toward me.
     
  6. oynaz

    oynaz Prince

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    Hey, you have got a talent for writing.

    Looking forward to more. It is a nice little break from the boring project I am doing right now.
     
  7. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

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    It was all desert. Looking around me left and right, I saw nothing but sand and flat horizon. A warm wind threw up dust which stung my eyes, then died down and caused no further discomfort. A second scanning of my surroundings let me see a single tree, no more than a sapling, lower than my hip. I decided to sit down, and was surprised to feel the coolness of the ground underneath me. Looking back again at the sapling, I saw that it had now grown to the tallest larch tree I had ever seen, its branches almost scraping the sky.

    The sky above the larch and me was a bizarre colour. I couldn’t explain it properly if I tried, but the closest I can describe it was as a swirling, glowing mix of blue and red, the two meeting and combining into a new, unnameable colour in places but mostly staying distinct from one another. It was impossible to tell whether it was day or night and it didn’t matter. This sky was not only uncanny to the eye, but also brilliantly beautiful. My chest heaved with pure emotion as I marvelled at the splendourous dance that these hues were enacting over me. The joy I felt was greater than any I’d experienced before – sheer elation at simply bearing witness to this miraculous sight. I felt the scene was almost close enough to touch, and I desperately wanted to. I didn’t, however, for I was fearful – even terrified, for some reason – that if I did, the colours would wash themselves into nothing, like the waters of a river flowing away, never again to be seen. Even worse, I thought, was the possibility that my interference with what I was seeing would reduce it to something ordinary. It was the horror of horrors that suddenly this beauty could mutate into an agonizingly common view of clouds and sun. Still… the curiosity and – more importantly – the plain desire for me to feel this sky were pulling at me.

    I pondered this and watched, for what seemed like an eternity. The colours continued to flit and swirl around each other, occasionally intertwining and mixing with a wondrous flash of light and then living in twin for an all-too-brief second before disengaging and returning to their separateness. After a time, the longing became too great. I decided finally that I would indeed touch this morphing airscape… because I wanted to. I somehow knew with absolute clarity that contact with this extraordinary event would provide me with absolute dominion over all that I could see and all that was here and I could not see. Ultimate knowledge, power, and security would be my rewards for simply standing and extending my hand.

    And it was at this moment when I tried to stand that I realized I couldn’t. I looked down in astonishment to see that the sand had somehow transformed my legs to stone! I grunted and strained, but was simply not able to move them. I screamed and panted, grasping frantically upward with both hands, to no avail. Fury boiled in my stomach and rushed into my head and arms, but went no lower than my waist. I began to smash my fists into my legs and felt my hands break after several blows. This was not working. Without even having to look up, I could sense that my wonderful sky and its colours were moving away, never to be seen again.

    I stared intensely at my legs, willing them to move, to free me. I was resolute that whatever trick had been played upon me would not reduce me to the humiliation of staying here for eternity. With sublime concentration I never knew I had within me, I closed my eyes and laboured to slowly, agonizingly slowly, uncross my right leg. I then did the same, slightly quicker, with my left. Before I could blink, I was walking, taking steps with my stone-legs, steps that quaked like thunder, toward the tree, which had now become the tallest mountain in the world. This mountain was covered with trees as far up as I could see. The height was so great it even ascended into the sky itself which, to my immeasurable relief, was still dancing its gorgeous dance with infinite beauty. From this mountain, I thought, no doubt I could touch that burning blue-red.

    In an instant, I was at the top of this mountain. The stone-legs were now as light as down-feathers, and I had the feeling that I was floating. I was proud at having gotten all the way to the precipice. This was a mountain so high that I now realized that the sky was no longer above me, but below. Indeed, it no longer looked as if it were the sky at all, but a great lake or sea of those same wonderful shades. They were now also shades of this mountain. I was atop a mass so great it cast its shadow over the entire world below.

    I looked up, and saw that I was underneath nothing but blackness, as if someone had whisked away the stars from a cloudless midnight. From this void I saw a dot walking towards me. It grew larger in my eye as it made its way nearer, its four hooves treading on something less than thin air. It was the same bull that had nearly killed me when I was a child, and upon its back it carried my old blanket. I faced the beast without any fear, just as I had when I was eight and it had taught me so valuable a lesson about respecting unpredictable animals. He stopped its march and stood a few paces away, staring at me blankly. No hint of malice was on his face. His look was one of simplicity and peace. And my blanket was being offered to me as a gift.

    I took a step toward my new friend, and as I did so my air-light legs immediately turned back to unmovable granite. I fell forward and began hurtling toward the ground. The red-and-blue sky was actually parting way to let me fall. I could see the desert had now all turned to rock, as it had done to my legs before. As I plummeted with astounding speed, I saw a larch sapling right next to where I was about to make impact.

    ***

    I awoke with a start. I bolted upright from lying on my back, and then I was immediately levelled by that same piercing pain which had felled me before. I gritted my teeth and grimaced, instinctively reaching for my stomach and that damned spear-point. However, much to my surprise, that was not what I felt. Instead, my hand gripped a thin, worn blanket of what felt like bear-skin and fur. Looking underneath, I saw that the spear was gone, leaving only a gaping hole, out of which was oozing only a trace amount of blood and mucus. I should feel like death itself, I thought. Yet, strangely, I felt full of energy and vigour. The pain emanating from my stomach was still considerable, but definitely less than before I was… wherever I was. Looking straight up, I saw the treated, weathered leather of a tent-roof.

    Was it possible all I’d experienced had simply been an intensely real dream? In spite of my surprising physical well-being, I was having a tough time getting my bearings and figuring out what had really happened and what hadn’t. Whose tent was I in? It certainly wasn’t mine. I could tell from my back that it was rather larger than any I’d slept in; yes, at least twice the size. And somehow, the smell of the air, the quality of the light, the feel of the ground all felt… just different.

    Standing, I made my way, cautiously, to the tent-flap and, just as I was about to lift it, someone did from the outside. I stared into this person’s face for a second before I realized… it was my sister! Her blonde hair was frazzled and her eyes sunken as if she’d not slept in days, but it was her! She broke out into the biggest smile I’d ever seen and hugged me with a grip as powerful as a bear. “VASYA!” she cried, her voice cracking on the second syllable and she started to weep. “We’re alive and they’re all gone; you and me are the only ones left…” She trailed off and kept sobbing. And only then I realized the true extent of what we had lost. I fought back tears as well, and failed. And as I wept too, I saw through the tears dozens of black-haired people standing and watching us, compassion on their faces.

    My sister soon explained to me that these were the people who had saved our lives after we had been attacked, who had used their powers of healing to treat my wound and who had found her in the wilderness before the rampaging hordes who had destroyed our tribe and family did. She had snuck out before first light to get surprises of rare garlands and roots she had seen, for my mother to use for cooking. My sister did not return until the raiders had left. She told me how she wished she was there when the attack had happened so she could die with her kind – after having killed as many of the marauders as she could. Her story made me hurt… and so did the wound in my stomach, which I evidenced with a grimace on my face as a pang of pain returned.

    “I won’t talk any more tonight, Vasya. You’re still very injured, and you need to rest. The leader of these people is a very compassionate man. He will accept us into his tribe, I’m sure of it. Now rest.” She kissed me on the forehead. I did indeed feel that my vitality had been sapped by the simple acts of walking and talking to my sister. I was ready for a sleep. And I had security in the knowledge that it would not be my last.

    ***

    I was back in the desert, starting right where I had before. The sky was once again doing its thing. This time, however, there was no beauty in the movements, shapes, or colours I saw. No universal knowledge was going to come to me from touching what I now realized was nothing more than a bunch of hues meaninglessly floating around. I reached up with one massive hand and grabbed onto it, pulled it down, and ripped it in half. The colours sprung forth from within it, as water would if one was to rip open a goat-stomach water-bag. Some of the colours flew away into the blackness; others made their way over to the sapling I was supposed to plummet into, and together they turned the landscape into pleasant and prosperous meadow. I climbed the tall mountain – no sign of legs of stone now – and reached the top to find that the bull was still there as well. He raged as I climbed upon him and gripped his horns, breaking off half of each and throwing them down to the earth below. They stuck into the ground and turned into tents, roads, and people.

    I picked up from under me my old blanket my mother had made, and flung it up into the air, where it stretched out over the whole landscape and became a brilliant and calm bluish-purple. Taking one long look at it, I gently kicked the bull in its flanks and rode upon it down the hill toward my future.



    I slept soundly that night.
     
  8. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

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    I awoke from my slumber feeling as if my body had been trampled by a stampeding herd of very, very large animals. I knew that this would not be the most pleasant of days.

    I didn’t want to open my eyes – let alone get up – and spent a good two or three minutes lying there trying to contemplate my situation, in that stupidity one has right after awakening. The tent was empty, and sunlight emanated through the hide-canvas and a large rip in the wall. Ugh, too bright… dawn already! Sweet mercy, how long had I been asleep? Son of a… I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept this late, ever. This morning, more than any other in a long time, I desperately wanted to just stick my head under the blanket and forget there was a world out there. I knew, of course, that this wasn’t an option and that I had to move sooner or later. But with my body feeling this fatigued, surely at least this once I could choose the “later” option. I pulled the fur back over my head and tried to shut out the light.

    There was a rip in the wall. It had NOT been there the night before.

    My dreary eyes and my weariness disappeared in an instant and I shot to my feet, looking about for anything that could be used as a weapon. I saw nothing and dumbly stood there for a moment, paralyzed by indecision at the worst possible time. Do I hide, run, or fight? Immediately I chastised myself for even considering the first two options, and knew that the only honourable and right thing to do was to defend those I cared about by taking my chances in combat. I carefully peered out through the tear of the tent, terrified but ready to stand up to any enemy I might see.

    But a second earlier, I had noticed that there were none of the now-familiar sounds of battle and death. And I could now see that all was quiet and normal outside. The oldest woman in the tribe, Hebat, hobbled along by and glared at me, then moved her eyes downward and, with a look of shock, averted her gaze to stare firmly at the ground in front of her, and shuffled away a twice the speed as I had ever seen her move before. I was confused for a second, and then remembered with some embarrassment that I was naked and through the rip in the animal-hide wall she could see my... “horn”. Out of instinct, I shut the rip and then, a moment later, burst into laughter at having given the wonderful old crone a glimpse of something she likely hadn’t seen in years.

    Okay. Maybe today wouldn’t be so bad.

    ***

    Having put on my animal-skin shorts and tied up the drawstring tightly, I emerged from my tent. Almost immediately, Sudrir, one of the tribe’s best hunters, called my name and harshly grabbed his young son Gibil by the scruff of the neck and pulled him along to me.

    “Vasily, how does the sun shine for you this morning,” Sudrir said in greeting. Before I had a chance to respond, he continued. “I must offer my apologies. I suppose you noticed when you awoke that your tent wasn’t quite in the shape it was when you went to sleep.”

    Sudrir has a gift not only for truly throwing a pointed spear, but also – like me – for mild irony. This is one reason he and I got along well, despite the fact the level of my hunting skills was well below his. We were also, at the risk of sounding immodest, two of the more intelligent men in the tribe. “I did observe a small, gaping hole in my wall, yes,” I replied. “I won’t lie to you; it scared the hell out of me when I saw it; I thought we’d been attacked again.”

    “Three times in as many new moons? I doubt they’d have the stones. Especially after the licking we dealt to them the last time they tried it. Bastards are probably wondering how they’re going to replace four of their best raiders that never made it home.”

    I had no doubt that these were the same damned people who I had encountered before. But I may be getting ahead of myself.

    Since the destruction of our own tribe, my sister Katya and I had been accepted by these people we’d never seen before, who called themselves sag-gig-ga, which we later learned means “the black-haired people”. Though some took pity on us, others felt that we were a danger to the group – after all, what if the barbarians who attacked and destroyed this other tribe came to finish the job? Also, there was the consideration of my injuries: times were hard that year, and some felt that the tribe could not afford to add another mouth which could not contribute to the common good for weeks or months – and who may never contribute enough if he did not properly heal. Though there was heated debate over what was to become of us, the decision fell to one man: the chief, Ninurta. He declared that he would spend three days alone in the forest so that he may ponder and pray, and he ordered that we be kept comfortable and safe in the meantime.

    The three days were nerve-wracking to say the least, and I’m sure that didn’t help the early stages of my recovery. Katya barely left my side, and when she did it was to make our case to these people, although I’m not sure if that would have done any good. I think her goal was actually to build support for our staying to such an extent that the people would disobey and even overthrow their leader if his decision was against us – Katya was nothing if not determined. I also met the woman whom I first saw as I lost consciousness. Her name was Gula, and she was the beautiful daughter of the tribe’s healer, who was the man who expertly bound my terrible wound. She was being trained by her father to succeed him once he died – in spite of the fact that some grumbled that having a “medicine woman” instead of a man would bring punishment from their deities. Gula and her father ignored them, believing that if the gods had given her the capacity to learn such crucial information, surely they could not have intended her to live her life in ignorance and deny this gift? She was a strong and magnificent woman, and I found myself attracted to her immediately. Whether she felt anything similar for me, I had no idea, and it was not as if I was in a physical state to pursue her at the moment anyway. Plus I did not know their language, so I may as well have been asking about the weather if I wanted to make any sort of desire known. Besides, this was no time to risk offending anyone by trying to swoop in and claim one of this tribe’s most appealing women, unless I wanted to ensure a swift exit for me and my sister. I had more pressing concerns.

    Ninurta, it was said, was an exceptionally astute, caring and level-headed leader, and also deeply spiritual – and it was the spirituality that worried me. A man of wisdom would surely see that my sister and I could help their tribe – we were both young and healthy despite my physical ailments, and young, healthy people are a boon. Further, my sister was a masterful weaver, cook, gatherer, and sometimes even beat the boys at their own games. I was (somewhat) useful too as a hunter and labourer, or at least I was and would hopefully soon be again. All of these factors worked in our favour. But what would his gods think? All-powerful beings can be fickle and confusing to deal with – especially if they had been the ones to have allowed the destruction of my people to begin with. Would they tell Ninurta to follow the raiders’ example and kill the last two of our kind? Or perhaps simply send us into exile, the two of us alone? I wondered to myself which would be the more merciful fate to suffer.

    I was brought back to the present and Sudrir and his boy when a dog, snarling and barking, chased a hare straight past us. I’ve tried to teach my new people the ways we knew of taming dogs and other animals, but it had met with little success. It was just another small piece of knowledge that it seems had been lost with my family and tribe.

    “Gibil is the one who caused the damage to your tent,” Sudrir said with anger and shame in his voice. “Tell him.” Sudrir shoved his son toward me.

    Gibil had been just a toddler when I arrived. Over the course of the next few years I saw him begin to develop into a precocious and strong but rambunctious boy. And I could tell that he would someday equal, or even surpass, his father’s skills in the hunt. And though I knew his father was a proud one – Sudrir had told me as much – his rule over the boy was very stern, and any transgression, no matter the severity or lack thereof, was met with a beating. And I could see Gibil walked with no limp and had no bruises or marks, so this one had not yet been delivered.

    “I was playing with my father’s spear,” said Gibil in an uncharacteristically small and timid voice. Gibil was, as he told me, bragging of his spear-prowess to his little friends when, as boys do, they got a little out of control. A series of escalating dares resulted in Gibil being challenged to take a swipe at the “outside-man’s” tent while he slept.

    As Sudrir pulled his son away by his ear, I reflected on the fact that – in spite of all my sister and I had done to contribute and “fit in” amongst our new people – there were those who still thought of us as foreigners.
     
  9. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

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    I’m not quite sure if this contends for a time-record as far as resurrecting stories goes, but it’s gotta be close, right? In the past almost-two-years, I’ve often meant to come back and write this thing, but a usually-hectic schedule and meeting a great girl kind of got in the way. She’s moved out of town now, and although I’m moving cities too in a couple of weeks, I’ve got a little time for this at last. I hope to have the next entry up in the next two or three days; and after that, I may even start writing about stuff that actually happens in the game! In the meantime, I hope anyone who’s read this so far finds it enjoyable.
     
  10. Dumanios

    Dumanios MLG

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    Why do you write in Blue?
     
  11. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

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    For easy differentiation between my out-of-story posts (like this one) and my in-story ones.
     
  12. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

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    I paused at the entrance to Ninurta’s tent. I’d no idea why he had sent for me. Our chief was something of a recluse, a very religious man of few words who sometimes prayed for hours a day, asking the deities for counsel about the movement of the herds, future weather, the health of his people – anything and everything that was of importance to our survival. And, though there were some of the tribe who sometimes grumbled about the extent of his religiosity and how often it took him away from the physical tasks which everyone else performed daily, they couldn’t argue that his leadership had been anything less than prosperous over his many years in charge. Food, of both plant and animal, had been plentiful and allowed something of a population boom under his reign. Weather had been largely calm and pleasant, without any of the great storms his people (and mine) had spoken of in legend. The tribe had seen few deaths from disease and injury; even my wounds had healed surprisingly quickly. Finally, there had been peace with the other peoples that had been encountered.

    All of this changed two years ago. At once, it seemed, everything around turned against us. It began when we had been following a herd of urus for several weeks, and were happy to have found a good food supply which was also relatively docile for its kind. However, their presence turned out to be a curse disguised. One day, we in the hunting party noticed that they were becoming more agitated at one another. We theorized that, perhaps along with their strangely calm nature, perhaps their mating season was also abnormal, and that the males were simply beginning the process of determining hierarchy for breeding. But we soon found how wrong we were. Suddenly the largest bull, apparently no longer thinking we were harmless, charged our position. This was something even the most aggressive animals rarely did. We immediately ran, trying to make it to a steep nearby hill where we hoped he couldn’t follow. But one of us was slower than the others. In our panic, we hadn’t noticed that Sudrir was lagging behind. Tragically, it was, in a way, of his own doing. The day before, while punishing his son for another act of disobedience, young Gibil had for the first time fought back, surprising his father with a violent kick to the knee and running away. Sudrir half-laughed, half-grumbled it off when we asked him about his limp, only saying that his son would “learn a hard lesson” when he next saw him. But the hunt waits for no-one, and proud Sudrir insisted he was fine.

    Now he had no time to extol his manliness, as the crazed animal was gaining on him. We yelled at him to hurry, and I and another man, Enki, dropped back to help speed him up. He screamed at us that we were crazy, that we must save ourselves, but we promised him we’d not leave him behind. The last words I heard escape his mouth were that we must protect his wife and son.

    In the instant that he’d completed that request, the great beast lunged and I saw his massive horn smash out through the front of Sudrir’s belly. Enki and I dove to each side as it lifted our friend off his feet and threw him high up in the air. Before he even hit the ground, the urus swung its head again and knocked him backward, behind it. It then paused for a brief moment, and turned its insane glare to Enki. But before it could do the same to him, I grabbed my spear off the ground, ran to its side and plunged the wooden tip into its throat. It thrashed and bellowed in pain, but I kept stabbing. It was now the victim, and Enki saw his chance and took it. He joined in the bloodbath, and the others, seeing that we still needed help and were through running, came to join us. Two of them scurried to Sudrir to help him while the rest of us exacted our revenge on this unholy creature. Once the thing had breathed its last, we all helped get Sudrir back to our camp as quickly as we could, knowing he needed our healer Ziusudra and his daughter Gula’s talents urgently. It was of no use. He never awoke.

    And the urus’ attack would be only the start of our troubles. It had long been said that there were certain animals who could predict the changes of the weather, and that these were one of them. The old sayings proved true, as no less than two days later began the most horrible storm I or anyone else had ever seen. Titanic rains, winds, lightning and great thunder beat down upon us for three days and nights, coming with such speed and suddenness that we were barely able to escape with a bare minimum of our possessions into a nearby forest for shelter. Even under the canopy of vegetation it was hell, as trees were blown down like wheatgrass underfoot and several of our people were injured, and two killed. Many more contracted ailments from the experience, including inability to properly sleep, sluggishness, vomiting, fever, and diarrhoea. It hit the children especially hard, and six young ones were not strong enough to fight it off and eventually succumbed. Add to that the fact that we had so little to emerge from the forest to – all that we could not carry had been scattered across a vast distance and our tents and other things were mostly ruined – and it was by far the worst year any of us could remember – even my sister and I.

    And then there were the attacks by other people –

    ***

    “Come in, my son.”

    Ninurta stood at the entrance to his tent and beckoned me inside. His was still the most ornate of our dwellings, though it was far less so than before the Great Storm. He had been able to keep some of his ceremonial bones and necklaces, though his beloved pipe – which he had used to connect with the supernatural – was lost in the chaos of the winds. It was night-time, and the orange glow from the small fire in the centre of the dirt-floor cast an eerie light on the old chief’s face as the smoke drifted up through the small opening in the top. Ninurta had, as had all of us, aged greatly in the past two awful years; and it was, for this first time alone with him in a long while, that I first really saw how old and tired he looked. There was a sadness about his eyes which I had never before seen, and a weariness in the way he shuffled back to his seat on the ground. He motioned for me to sit with him, and I did.

    “Vasily,” he began, and then paused. “The ancestors have not been kind to us lately, have they?”

    In our beliefs, a person who dies is transformed into something of a godlike being, and at the same time become part of the world in which they lived. If we the living are good in our lives and pay them the proper respect, they will be good to us – their children – in return.

    “I do not know what I have done to so terribly offend them.” Ninurta’s eyes were now downcast, and he spoke with heavy emotion. “I have followed our rituals and rites as I always have, but for some reason they have chosen to punish us. I’ve tried everything I can think of.”

    It was difficult for me to see him in such a dejected state. And we had certainly done everything we could think of to appease the ancestors, even to the point of giving up hunting: Ninurta has said that in a vision, he was told that the hunting of the herd of urus was an affront. He ordered it stopped, much to the dismay of the tribe, but they followed his orders. He was, after all, not only the chief, but the one amongst us who spoke to the dead. We would instead subsist on what we could find, and (in a small concession to those who said we would starve without meat) whatever animals happened to wander into our camp. These included hares, cats, quails, and even mice. In spite of his diehard beliefs, he maintained wiggle-room.

    “The people are hungry, I know that. And they are tired. Tired of being afraid, tired of wondering when they go to sleep each night whether tomorrow will bring disaster. This is why I will no longer lead them.”

    I felt as if a clap of thunder had just sounded. Ninurta had been leader of the tribe for as long as anyone but the oldest of us could remember. And in spite of the fact that he’d become a bit aged, he was still a man who had many years left of life as far as anyone could tell; and most importantly, he was still a man who commanded respect. It would take a long leap for us to accept someone else as our chief.

    “And I know who will lead us into a glorious future. The ancestors have told me,” he said, “that it shall be you.”
     
  13. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    Messages:
    29
    “This is insanity!”

    Rabishu was always one for bluntness. That wasn’t what worried me, however. What did was the fact that he was also the son of Ninurta, the outgoing chief.

    To say that the members of the tribe were shocked at the change in leadership Ninurta had just announced to them, assembled here on the hill overlooking the camp, would be like saying the Great Storm had been a brisk day. Most of the people had known Ninurta as their leader for their whole lives. And while there had been whisperings about his health – as there would be for anyone of his age – no-one had foreseen that he would willingly step aside for anyone. Ninurta, though a calm and religious man in his later years, has formerly been a fierce warrior and even now was regarded as a stubborn old man – but one his people would follow. And now he was asking them to follow me.

    “My friends,” Ninurta said in a deep, but slightly raspy, voice. “He has the gift that was granted to me. He too sees that which cannot be seen by our eyes. And I know that he will lead us to splendours we cannot even imagine.”

    No pressure.

    But why had it been me? This question still gnawed away. Although the leadership was not always passed from father to son and indeed there was no specific part of tribal law which said it must, Ninurta’s decision to pass over his only son in favour of someone else was highly unusual. Rabishu was, by all accounts, a fine man and he and I had gotten along well until today. He was one of the men who had, in vain, helped to bring the badly gored Sudrir back to the camp before he died. He was strong, generous with his time and goods, and had five excellent children – all of whom had survived childbirth.

    And, finally – the mother of these children was my sister, Katya. So, that was interesting.

    Rabishu may have had all these things, but he didn’t have, as Ninurta put it, “the gift.” As far as I knew, I only had dreams, not a “gift.” But Ninurta had shown great interest when I’d told him of these visions years ago, asking questions about what I had seen and telling me to let him know of anything important I may see in the future. They had been few and far-between since I and my sister had joined the tribe, but I dutifully kept Ninurta informed. Most of what I dreamt was perfectly ordinary, at least as much as people’s dreams can be. Nothing special.

    ***

    Back to the present.

    “He wants us to stay in one place for all our lives,” Rabishu exclaimed. “That is childlike foolishness! What will happen to us, oh great and wise leader” – he was referring to me – “when the food around us runs out? We must keep on the move or we will starve! That is how life is.”

    “We can accomplish much more by – ” was all I was able to say before he interrupted me.

    “But he had a vision. Oh, yes, a little dream floated into his head on the breeze one night, and now we are to abandon our entire way of life! How reassuring! These revelations are so helpful. But where were they, Vasily, when the Great Storm nearly killed us all? Where were the prophecies telling Sudrir to stay at home the day he died? All I see them doing is telling us we can’t hunt; maybe tomorrow we can’t eat something else or marry who we want?” Rabishu had a temper and he was really losing it now. “Or we’ll all have to wear certain clothes on certain days, or lie down and be killed when our enemies attack us again! But then, I don’t expect our pale-skinned friend here to care all that much. We’re all just different than you, aren’t we, outsider? Father, I simply cannot believe you would allow this… this lukur to lead us!”

    The tribe gasped and some mothers clasped their hands over their small children’s ears at Rabishu’s use of such a vile slur. It meant “outsider,” but with a snake’s venom. And it was a word I hadn’t heard since my first season with these people. Some of the young boys had used it against me but their parents gave them thrashings as soon as they knew. I had taken the last name Arqu – literally meaning “light-skinned” – as a sort of badge of pride after my sister and I had been accepted and integrated, as a way of honouring my former people. But lukur is a word that demeans, that makes one less than human. Although I had never known Rabishu to be a hateful man, I could see in his eyes now that he was furious and meant every word he said. He was not just irate that he was not going to be chief, but that I would be. And now he had gotten the new chief angry, too.

    “Do you never look around and see the potential for our people?”

    “OUR?! You – ”

    Now it was my turn to cut him off. “Yes, Rabishu, OUR people. Yours and mine. My skin may be lighter than yours, but I have lived amongst you for eight years and I am as much a saggiga as any man! And I did not come alone, either. Or do you forget who you sleep next to at night? Yes, the very woman who has given you five healthy children. The very woman whom you asked ME for permission to marry and who has the same pale skin as I do! I suppose your children, my nephews and nieces, are outsiders to you too? You call me lukur, but I and my sister have contributed as greatly as anyone here and we will NOT be talked down to, Rabishu!”

    “After all of our hunts, Vasily, all the time we’ve known each other, I thought I knew you better than this. You are a fool. You will lead our people into ruin. Your name will not be spoken by our descendants because there will be no-one to speak it. Death follows you. It has all your life. And if it were not for the pain it would cause my wife and children, I would slay you right now for the good of us all.”

    “You would, wouldn’t you? You are a small man, Rabishu Udsag. Look around you, at this land. Do you not know what we could be if we harnessed the amazing abundance around us? No more arduous travelling for days at a time. No more worrying about what may be over the next hill and whether it will kill us. Our homes could be safer and better if we didn’t have to take them on our backs all the time. And they could be passed down to your children when you die. Parents,” as I turned my attention away from Rabishu and toward the group, “don’t you want your children’s lives to be better, safer, healthier, and longer than yours?

    “We can do this. We have returned, season after season, to the vast field of turtur that grows near the lake. It is some of the best food we have ever tasted, and it is plentiful. We’ve observed how the fields replenish themselves and we can have it every year. The lake gives us all the water we could ever need, and there is the bounty of the forest to consider. We will leave our homes, during the day and return to them at night, just as always – but now, the houses will stay in one place. There is a word for that, my friends: security.”

    The people seemed at least willing to hear me out, which I took to mean a good start. At least one man, though, was unconvinced.

    “Do what you wish; you’re the leader now, Arqu. But not all of us feel the same way. And we don’t have to follow you. Who is with me?” he asked the crowd. “You can live as we have lived since the ancestors’ time, or you can take the advice and leadership of this outsider” – he was careful not to anger me again this time – “and take a chance with not just your life, but that of your children and grandchildren. We are leaving in the morning. Anyone who wishes to join us is more than welcome, and your descendants will thank you in worship.” And with that, he left to head back to his family’s tent, seemingly to pack. Katya, holding their year-old daughter, looked at me with terrible pain on her face, then hurried after her husband with her other children in tow.

    I had to take a second to recompose myself before speaking again. “By all means, I will not make you stay. I know that it is frightening, to change the ways we’ve lived by all this time. But I think – I know – that this way is a better one. No more moving aimlessly like a herd of animals, fighting, living, dying, and then moving on again as if we’d never been there. I want to build… to create something that is greater than ourselves, something to give to the next generation so that they can build on top of what we have left them. But I can’t do it alone. I need the help of as many of you as want to stay – to survive and to thrive. That’s all.”

    The people began to talk amongst themselves; no doubt we’d given them much to discuss. I looked at Ninurta and there was hurt on his face too, for the impending loos of his son. Still, he gave me a nod of approval. He’d known that the situation he was to put me in would be a difficult one, but he truly felt that it was for the best. He knew that the status quo was tenable, but only just. There would be no going back now. As the assembled mass of people went back to their tents and, for many, a sleepless night, I too wondered what the morning would hold.

    ***

    There were tears in my eyes as I quietly said good-bye to my sister. The dawn had come, and about a dozen families – maybe 40 people in all – had chosen to follow Rabishu out of the group. That was over a quarter of our number, but still less than what I’d feared (losing nearly everyone). There was never a doubt in my mind, though, that I would lose Katya. She had a responsibility to her family, and although she had tried mightily through the night to convince her husband to change his mind, to calm down and not break up the group, it was to no avail. She wept harder than I have ever heard her weep, and I hugged her tighter as if I could keep the air out of her so that she could not cry anymore.

    “You’ll always know where to find me,” I reminded her. “You’re welcome to rejoin us anytime. I hope that someday you do.” My sister was a strong woman of many words, but at this time she couldn’t do anything but sob. I closed my I addressed the other departing families. “That goes for everyone. I thank you from the depths of my heart for taking us in and making my sister and I into two of you. You are all truly remarkable and I wish you the best of fortunes.”

    Rabishu didn’t take his stone-eyed gaze off me the whole time I spoke. At the moment, there was nothing more to be said between the two of us. He was set in his way, and I in mine, and both of us recognized that. There was no need to remind or warn him to take care of my sister and nieces and nephews; even for the bad way things had ended up between him and me, I knew that deep down he was still a good man, and would not allow any harm to come to them so long as he had blood in his veins.

    Minutes later, Ninurta whispered to me as they walked out of sight into the forest, “Now is the time when true leaders are made. The tribe is yours now. Lead these saggiga, these Sumerians, to their destiny.”

    I had a plan. I had a mandate from those who remained to carry out that plan. I had the blessing of the former chief. Now what I needed was a place to carry my plan out.


     
  14. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    Messages:
    29
    So, there’s the big reveal! Not just of the first screenshot (finally!) but of my civilization: the Sumerians. I chose them because they are the oldest culture that is represented in Civilization IV; and indeed, perhaps the oldest in the world. This is useful because this means that, as an author, I can take them in just about any direction, something which would not as easy were I to have chosen a better-known or modern nation (war-mongering French, peaceful Mongolians? I think not). Meanwhile, here are the rules and teams, also in screenshot-form:





    Unrestricted leaders, random personalities and choice of religions could lead to some interesting combinations, methinks… :crazyeye:
     
  15. GreyFox

    GreyFox Make it so ...

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Messages:
    5,553
    Location:
    Where No One Has Gone Before
    Wow, a huge prologue -- probably close to 5 thousands words and the game wasn't even started yet :crazyeye:

    But keep it up :goodjob:

    However, you might want to scale your images down by at least 30% ... most people hate to do horizontal scrolling.
     
  16. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    Messages:
    29
    9,038 words, actually... but hey, who's counting? :p

    And as for the screenshots, I can surely shrink them, but I play the game at the maximum resolution so I'm just concerned that the text may be impossible to read if I make the images too small. Still, I can give it a try.

    The first chapter of the real game will be up later tonight.
     
  17. Warning Sign

    Warning Sign Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    Messages:
    29
    Dawn sometimes has a way of soothingly and gently nudging you out of your slumber. This was not one of those times.

    It could not be one of those times, because I had barely slept. A week had passed since Rabishu and his followers—including my sister and nieces and nephews—had left us to make their own way. And I was still no closer to a decision on where we would make our home. I had consulted with Ninurta as well as many other members of the tribe, and was given many contradictory suggestions. “Stay well away from those urus, whatever you decide.” “We should settle among the turtur.” “Let us move inside the forest and live inside the greatest trees.” Everyone seemed to have the greatest plan of action except for me. Would I fail at my very first chiefly task? Would it indeed be the only decision I ever made as chief? I knew that, even with Rabishu’s departure, there were still unfriendly sentiments among the people remaining. How could old Ninurta have chosen the arqu to lead us? And passing over his own son, no less.

    Oh well, I thought. I would simply have to earn their respect all over again. That was nothing new. Of course, however, none of the other times I’d had to do so mattered as much as this. I desired to create more than a temporary settlement, some sad little place—barely better than what we had now—that would be gone within a couple of generations. I put my head in my hands at this dark thought. No, I resolved, this creation of ours must be able to stand the test of time. It must be something to pass down to our children, and our children’s children.

    “Still pondering away, great chieftain?”

    I recognized the voice immediately and it made my heart skip a beat. And just as I was thinking of “children and children’s children”, no less. I looked up to see a goddess standing at the entrance to my tent, and her name was Gula. Much to my amazement and joy, she and I had slowly been growing closer over the last number of months (yes, long before there was even any notion of my becoming the leader). I’ll not try to explain it for my words would only do her a disservice, but let it be known that her beauty was the stuff of legend. And I knew that I had an unparalleled chance to make her my wife, and that the fact that I was chief could either help or hurt me in this.

    “Please, come in,” I said to her, trying my best to keep my voice sounding as steady and “chief-like” as possible. “How is Idpa?” I asked, referring to the young girl who had been brought by her mother to Gula with a terrible fever.

    “She’s fine,” Gula responded, “I think Kashu was all worked up for nothing. A bit of rest and her daughter will have more energy than a wildcat.”

    One of the most remarkable things about Gula was her calmness. I had seen Idpa, and by what I could see, she was near death. She was not only burning to the touch, but her skin was discoloured and she had boils all over her face. Gula and her father had laboured long through the night to save the girl’s life, praying, burning special woods and moss, feeding her different concoctions of things Gula had searched for in the forest. I was present when she applied a strange paste, pale green in hue and made from stuff I know not, to young Idpa’s boils. The girl flinched and whimpered, and she slipped in and out of consciousness for many hours. But now, in the words of this wondrous healer, the girl was “out of the woods.” I asked her what she meant by that, and she explained that it was a metaphor she’d come up with regarding the Great Storm: once we emerged from the forest, the danger had passed.

    “I didn’t know you were such an adept weaver of words,” I told her. “That really is… good.”

    I was angry at myself for my inability to match her wordplay (“good” is just about as simplistic as you can get). I felt she could sense my embarrassment, and she did laugh, but I could immediately hear the good-heartedness of it and relaxed a bit.

    “I think I can forgive you that one Vasya; you have a lot on your mind.” She smiled. “Have the ancestors given you any signs, any clues on where we are to settle?”

    “I hate to have to tell you this, but they’ve been silent. The only voices I’ve heard are those of just about everyone in the tribe.” I thought for a moment. “Except you, Gula. I haven’t heard a word about it from your lips. Do you have an opinion on it?”

    A slight look of apprehension passed over those same lips, and she spoke in a voice that seemed somewhat strained. “I am a medicine woman. I follow in the footsteps of my father. You know, Vasily, that our family traditionally choose to keep quiet about the affairs of the chieftain.”

    I was mortified that I had spoken so stupidly, so brazenly. Of course Gula’s family had never spoken of Ninurta’s decisions before they were made. If the healers were to object to the chief’s choices, he would be undermined and that could lead to just the sort of fracture in the tribe that we had just seen with Rabishu. And now I had offended her—

    “Of course, it’s just you and me here right now… I won’t tell anyone what we spoke of if you don’t.”

    Relief flooded over me, and I tried my best to hide the fact from her. Damn it, why did this woman hold such sway over me? “Well, what would you suggest?”

    “Well, I can speak only from my own experience, but I much prefer healing sick little children than binding terrible battle-wounds,” she said. “The attacks from the foreigners may have abated for now, but everyone has that nervous thought in the back of their mind that they may return at any time. Wherever we do go, safety has to be our top concern.”

    “This is a good point. One I’ve thought over extensively.” I was surprised at how much like a leader I sounded. “But where could that be? Obviously these open plains are out of the question. There are forests all around and I suppose they could be fortified, but that would lend itself to concealing our attackers as much as us. We could make our home in the field of turtur, but such a valuable food source would be prized by any who come across it, and they may overpower us. Perhaps we should move afield and hope we find a better location.”

    “There’s one place you’ve forgotten, Vasya.” She suddenly grabbed me by the arm and took me to my tent’s entrance. I was worried for her that someone would see that we had been in the same tent and start a rumour going, but she apparently didn’t care. We went outside and she pointed outward—and upward.

    “There,” she said. “The hill.”

    She needed to say no more. It was as plain as the nose on my face. A city on the hill would be able to dominate the entire surrounding area, and to attack it, running up its slopes, would be foolhardy. That would be the place.

    I laughed happily as I praised Gula for her intellect. “You are truly remarkable. It’s right in front of us, but it took you to see what a brilliant idea it really is. Of course. We will climb the hill and that is where we will begin something spectacular. Thank you.” I paused again. “Quite the suggestion for someone who, by her own admission, is not supposed to be involved in the chief’s affairs,” I said with a bit of a smirk.

    “I suppose I’ve never been constrained by tradition,” she said in reply as she took my hand. At that moment, I wanted her more than I’d ever wanted anything. I put my free hand on the back of her neck, brought her forward and kissed her passionately. She kissed back. It was as if fire was passing between us. I gripped her body as close to mine as I possibly could. This is what I had dreamt of ever since—well, ever since this beautiful woman saved my life years ago.

    A scream. Alright, I could understand that this new pairing might have surprised some people, but would a bit of tact right now be too much to ask? The two of us broke from our embrace and looked in the rude sound’s direction. But the scream was not one of disapproval or even shock. It was one of terror.

    It was for another attack. This one was beginning just as the others had. They had come from the dense forest where we could not see them. They were here for our goods; perhaps they had not heard that we had very few left. But something told me that a calm and mercy-seeking plea of poverty would not turn them around.

    “MEN! FIND YOUR WEAPONS!” I shouted, then turned to Gula. “You have to go.” I could tell in her face that she wanted to argue, but I also saw that she knew that she would be better utilized as a healer than a fighter. We quickly kissed once more, then I ducked back into my tent for my spear while she dashed to her own tent to prepare. I emerged in an instant and, seconds after that, I was relieved to see the other men of our tribe quickly assembled, brandishing their spears, clubs, or failing that, sticks and rocks. The enemy were now only a few seconds away and running nearly full-speed at us—good, because it meant they would be winded by the time they reached us.

    “PROTECT THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN!” I bellowed, knowing that was the first thing one all the men’s minds anyway. They were almost upon us, about twenty of them, greed and avarice in their evil eyes. But there was also fear there, fear because they had expected to take us by surprise and were only continuing with the attack because they felt they had no choice. And we would make them regret that decision.

    I recognized the man in front of me. He was a muscled, square-jawed, olive-complexioned man, not unlike my own tribe. I had seen him in a previous raid. He had in fact even taken a swing with his stone-tipped club at Ninurta. You’re going to beg for the old chief when I’m through with you.

    His powerful swing missed me by a mouse-hair’s breadth—that is to say, not very much. I clipped him as he tried to pass me by and he crashed to the ground. I was above him now, and tried immediately to pierce his throat. But no, it would not be that easy, as from the ground he knocked the spear from my hand with his club. I dove upon him to negate this new advantage he had, and we wrestled and rolled on the soft ground. I was on top, very near to him, and I felt a rush of blood and my nose broke as he headbutted me. Stupid! was my thought, as I knew I had allowed my face to get too close. I desperately punched him twice with my left hand as my right held down his left, which held the club. He then grabbed my left hand with his right and rolled back on top of me, and I could feel him loosing my grip on his left hand. Thankfully, another man of my tribe cracked the man’s skull with a club of his own, just as he was about to break free. I got up and was able to survey the situation for a moment. It looked as though the attackers were already losing their nerve and trying to flee back to the forest.

    However, a few of the attackers had still broken through to the tents behind us, and we heard more screaming. “Sabad! Akkil!” I yelled to the two nearest men. “Come with me!”

    We followed them through the camp as they grabbed and stabbed at whatever they could while keeping up their pace. It seemed that by now they were only trying to sow fear and get out.

    But now I saw that they had something else in their sights. They had seen Gula and were going to try and take her. She was defending herself with a spear of her own, and with one thrust punctured one of her attackers’ chests. But there was another behind her. Now everything moved at a snail’s pace. I shouted at her to look out behind her, and moved as fast as I could toward them. She swung around to face the other man, and just before she could make contact with the butt-end of her weapon, he plunged a blade into her stomach.

    I tackled him down and rained blows upon him, the blood from my nose rushing from my face onto his, where it mixed with his own blood. My hands then moved, as if by themselves, to his neck and I squeezed as hard as I could. I felt his blade nick my body near my shoulder, but I did not let go. He thrashed wildly under me and his eyes looked like they were about to burst. I leaned in close to his face and screamed, closing my eyes. It was then that I felt his cease his futile struggling, and for a moment, everything was still.

    ***

    “She’ll be alright, Vasily. You can come in now.”

    These are the words I’d been praying to hear. I rushed into Ziusúdra’s tent and took his daughter’s hand. She was barely conscious, but I knew that she recognized me when she gripped my hand hard.

    “You still have strength, in your hand at least,” I said to her softly, trying to keep my emotions down.

    She smiled. “Is everyone alright? I couldn’t help…”

    I looked at the ground; I knew what I was going to say wouldn’t be easy for her to hear. “Dulúm and Niĝzu are dead. There are some wounds besides that, but nothing bad to anyone else.”

    “Ohhh…” she reacted as if she’d been stabbed again, but this moan was not of pain, but sadness. “I should have helped them, I should have been able…”

    “This will not happen again,” I told her. “We will build our city on the hill, just as you said. And soon they will learn to run whenever they see a sagigga approach. I promise you.”

    Gula smiled at this, closed her eyes, and slept.


     
  18. Dumanios

    Dumanios MLG

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2008
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    Why name the city Urukova?
     
  19. Vylinius

    Vylinius College Student

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2008
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    539
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    The Apartment of Janky Wifi
    For creativity? And I think we have another princes of the universe equivalent story. Now I have something worth reading . Thank You!
     
  20. Dumanios

    Dumanios MLG

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2008
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    I wish I had city sites like you have.
     

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