I am learning that sitting down and writing the story that has been swirling around in my head for the last few years is harder than I ever thought it would be. Even after researching my characters thoroughly, when I sit down to write the words just don’t want to come. Every sentence and every paragraph is a struggle. Now that I have managed to write the prologue and most of the first chapter, I am feeling extremely proud of myself and more motivated than ever to keep going! And so I decided that I want to put a piece of this out into the world, just because I am proud of what I have accomplished, and am still accomplishing. I only ask that you please be gentle with me, this is still in the rough draft phase.
There was a certain hush that had fallen over the city of Akkad as the entire populace held their breath waiting for the return of their king who had left weeks before to put down yet another revolt to the south. Even after more than forty years upon his throne, unrest still remained and always seemed to lift its head anytime a feeling of peace came upon the fertile crescent. It was a hunting sand cat, silently stalking and waiting patiently for its unsuspecting prey to skitter by before bursting from its hiding place and grabbing the poor animal with its sharp claws and vicious teeth. And it was the thrill of adrenaline that ran through the veins of the southern cities, whispering its deadly dissidence into the ears of the people who always wanted more; nothing was ever enough.
Such thoughts did not touch the minds of the two girls standing on the palace roof as they strained their eyes to see the returning army winding their way around the maze of houses just inside the city walls. Akkad was a large city, comprised of sand brick buildings of varying sizes haphazardly built around the vital canals that were fed by the Tigris River. It was surrounded by high and thick walls, along with endless seas of farmland. At first glance, it would seem as though there was no organization to the layout of the city, but the two girls standing on that roof knew better. The intermingling of the wealthy homes with those of the slave houses kept order. The slaves always knew whose hand held their leash as they lived in the shadow of their masters. The meandering of the streets was designed so that the canals running through the city could carry away the waste that could create a putrid stench to fall upon the city. While it appeared to be born of chaos, every corner of Akkad was meticulously planned.
After what felt like hours, the girls saw the long, dark snake of the army slithering through the city gates and meander slowly through the streets toward the city’s core. They could hear the faraway cheers of the people who had stepped outside their homes to answer the muted thrump, thrump, thrump of the soft boots of the marching soldiers as they impacted the packed sand of the roads. Then came the flash of Utu’s rays bouncing off the polished gold of Sargon’s crown, making the young princess gasp in delight and relief as she saw her father returning from war.
Ada would always remember this day in clear detail, the day that the world shifted on its axis for her and her princess; it was the day the Great Sargon returned from yet another victory over the uprising southern tribes. They had seen that sight before, the parade of soldiers covered in blood and sand marching through the winding streets of Akkad, raising their swords, pikes, and spears over their heads in the exaltation of their victory. She and her princess stood upon the palace roof and watched excitedly, always enjoying the spectacle of grandeur that accompanied the return of Sargon, always leaning out too far to catch a glimpse of the magnificent king.
As always, the princess gasped and pointed while tugging at Ada’s sleeve, almost shaking with delight at the first glimpse of her father at the head of the army snake. “There he is!” she whispered, her soft voice full of awe and wonder. It never failed to amaze Ada at how happy she was anytime Sargon returned, acting as if she had never seen the pageantry before, despite the frequency of the occurrence throughout her thirteen years. Ada knew the truth of it, however. She was the only person who knew the princess respected the fact Sargon carried her destiny with him wherever he went. As long as he safely returned from battle, her future was secured. They both knew that it was only a matter of time before that destiny was bestowed upon her.
“Look at how majestic he looks, Ada, it is as if Utu himself is shining brighter just to illuminate Sargon with his light,” the princess breathed, leaning out further around the sandstone wall of the palace to get a better look.
“He is brilliant, Your Highness,” Ada answered, letting her own excitement shine through. And he truly was, riding upon the back of his glossy stallion, the mount’s fur shining almost as brightly as the gold and lapis lazuli beads hanging heavily around the king’s neck. The king, himself, sat straight-backed and proud, his dark copper skin glistening with sweat against his leather armor. Sargon was a tall and handsome man with long black hair tightly bound in a knot at the base of his head with a long oiled beard worn in carefully curled ringlets and adorned with lapis lazuli beads. His lips were full and his mouth stern, but if one looked close enough, it could be seen that the king loved to laugh. His age was beginning to show in the lines worrying across his face and the silver scattered within his hair, but that could never detract from his handsome demeanor.
“Come on, we have to get ready for the celebration,” the princess said as she tugged Ada’s arm and pulled her from the edge of the roof. “I cannot wait to hear the stories!”
The palace was a sight to behold that night, filled with thousands of soldiers that had fought for the unity of Akkad. They all were bathed and oiled, looking much like the powerful men they were with their bare chests gleaming in the torchlight. The symphony of laughter and merriment lifted to the rafters of the great hall, mingling with the moans of the working concubines and the telling of stories. However, the deep baritone of Sargon’s laughter floated above it all. He held his cup aloft and looked down upon his men, all feasting upon the roast lamb and bread that had been spread across every table.
The princess and her honored servant watched from the royal table, her seated among her princely brothers, and Ada standing behind them all and holding the pitcher of beer keep their cups full. She could feel the princess’s excitement grow as Sargon stood and see her hands begin to tremble. The princess looked back at her friend and servant with a nervous smile as she whispered, “This could be it, Ada, the day we have been waiting for.”
Sargon continued to hold his cup out, waiting for the hall to silence so that he may speak. It did not take long for a hush to settle over the room and all eyes turn to him. “Tonight we celebrate another victory,” he began, his deep voice carrying over the air, “the southern tribes rose up against our unity and have been appropriately punished. The rivers flow red with the blood of their fallen, and now we feast; not just for our own victory, but in respect to their dead. They are our people as well. We are one, and shall forever be one!”
The king paused and looked at his men, watching as they gave him their full attention. At his moment of breath, the men pounded their cups against the table as they showed their approval at his words of unity. The pounding of stone against wood seemed as though it was the marching of heavy feet going into battle, the cadence reverberating in everyone’s skull and lending itself to the excitement of the night. Then Sargon continued, “we cannot forget about all we have worked so hard for. We cannot forget that we are not just Akkadians or Sumerians, we are all Akkadians! It is to that end I have decided the time has come for my daughter to take her rightful place as Entu at Ur, the High Priestess of Nanna-sin! At the new year, she will take her place as munus-nunuz-zi-nanna, the True Lady of Nanna!” He turned to his daughter and smiled proudly at her, motioning for her to stand.
The princess sucked in a quick breath and Ada could see how dizzy she was with nervous happiness at the proclamation. Even as she stood and the men cheered their approval, her hands gripped the edge of the table until her knuckles turned white. Her smile was bright as Utu’s light and her body stood straight and proud. This was her time, the time Ada knew would change her forever and would take the princess away from her, her servant and sister.
Her name was to be Enheduanna, the name she made for herself the day before the Marriage Ritual was to begin. She had cast off her role as Princess and rebuked her old name, becoming reborn as Entu, as High Priestess of Nanna-sin at Ur. Throughout her entire life, she had been educated in the ways of the Sumerians, learning their language, their traditions, and their religious beliefs. She was taught the standardized system of weights and measures, as well as the new form of law that Sargon had imposed over all the tribes upon his ascension as king. It would be her job to, not only uphold the religious beliefs of the Sumerian people but also to ensure Akkadian law was being followed. Her name, her role, would be the bridge between the southern tribes and Sargon’s will. Through Enheduanna, peace would be upheld and lives would be saved.
Good job, Joni! Yes, it still needs work, but it’s a great start.
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Loved it and now I need more. For a draft copy, it’s not bad.
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I am in awe of how much research you would have to done in order just to write this chapter. Amazing first step! I can’t wait to see the finished product!