Prologue and 1st chapter of my novel in progress:Revised
| In The Beginning
17”But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
The sun shone through the leaves of the orchard, casting flickering shadows on the ground as Eve made her way from tree to tree, gathering up the fallen fruit beneath them. She hummed a tune as her mind wandered farther a field than she herself had ever been. She had spent much time of late, wondering what the world outside of her Garden was like.
This day she wandered closer to the edge of the Garden than ever before, hoping to catch a glimpse of what lay beyond. Her husband had told her many times that God had given them the whole of the Garden to be theirs, but that they should never leave its protective borders. Of course God had never deigned to speak to her directly, always giving his commandments and advice through her husband. Sometimes Eve had her doubts as to whether some of these were God’s ideas or just her husbands, trying to keep her from seeing all that life had to offer beyond their small world.
She was no more than twenty feet from the tree line as she placed one of the last fallen fruits into her basket, when she saw something out of the corner of her eye. What she saw made her gasp in astonishment, for sitting under one of the farthest trees was a man, and not just any man, but the most beautiful vision of a man she could have ever imagined. Even though he was sitting she could tell that he was extremely tall and well muscled, his hair was blonde, almost to the point of being the color of the purist gold, and his face was sharp as to remind her of a hawk but as he smiled up at her it took on a wolfish cast that was not at all unattractive.
Eve moved closer to the man, almost unconsciously drawn to him, as a moth is drawn to the flame. As she got closer the man seemed to be staring with eyes as blue as the sea. Finally the man spoke, “Won’t you sit and join me? I have just sat to a light repast, and the company of so beautiful a vision would make my morning complete.” When she heard his voice she thought she had never heard any sound or music that could match it. She had a hard time finding her voice but when she did she replied, “You are the first man I have seen in our Garden besides my husband, where have you come from?”
“I have traveled far and wide seeking others like unto me that I should have company in this marvelous world that surrounds us,” he replied “and it seems I have finally found those who I seek. For never in all my travels have I seen anyone so fair.”
Eve could barely contain her excitement and not wanting to seem rude, sat down with the man, who immediately handed her a slice of fruit the like of which she had never found in her Garden. To give herself time to think of what to ask next, she bit into the fruit and was surprised at its sweetness, but as she swallowed the last bite she found herself craving more as if she could never get enough of this new luscious fruit. As they sat the man talked about the world outside of the Garden and told many stories of adventure and excitement. Eve was thrilled to hear these stories for it proved to her that all that she suspected of the outside world was true. As they finished the repast of fruit, cheese, and bread, the man stood up and held out his hand to help her to her feet. “Come with me but a short ways beyond the Garden and I will show you some of the things that up till now you have only imagined.”
Her body thrilled at the touch of his strong but gentle grip as she came to her feet, her mind racing with excitement at the opportunity to see a little of what she had been missing. Eve took his hand and followed him as he walked to the edge of the Garden and as they cleared the trees her eyes were assaulted by the most breathtaking view she had ever beheld, for in front of her was a ledge and beyond the ledge were row upon row of mountains containing all the colors she had ever seen and some she hadn’t. As she took in this site the man put his arm around her, now she felt as if her heart would burst from her chest. At that exact moment a motion caught her eye to the right at the edge of the ledge and as she turned to see what it was she heard a great hiss arise from that direction.
Quickly the man pushed her behind him and faced the ledge his muscles tensing and taking a defensive stance on the balls of his feet.
Over the edge of the ledge came a serpent, but unlike any serpent Eve had ever seen. It was twice the size of the man and had a scaled hood flaring at the sides of its head. The serpent did not hesitate, it lunged immediately for the man and Eve was sure that this beautiful creature was sure to die and that would leave her alone with the great serpent. As the serpent shot forward the man side stepped faster than she would have ever thought possible and swinging around encircled the serpents head with his left arm, then faster than lightning he brought his right hand up and slashed across the serpents throat with what Eve realized was a sharpened stone. The power in the man’s arms must have been great indeed for the snake’s head fell backwards almost completely severed from the body.
The man whirled around and tossed the sagging carcass over the ledge and turned back to Eve with exultation flushing his features. Eve’s eyes met his and she felt herself falling through them as if sinking through the clouds, the man took Eve in his arms and bent his head to kiss her. Somewhere inside Eve knew she should be resisting but her body had other ideas. Her last rational thoughts were of how strange this day had become before she fell into an abyss of ultimate pleasure.
Adam stumbled into the tent, the wind howling behind him as he closed the flap. While he piled more wood on the fire he glanced over at Eve lying on their pallet. In each arm she held a small boy child; each looked just like his father. One was small, squat and dark of hair with squared chin and dark eyes; the other, slim, light skinned, and hair as gold as the sun. Adam stared at the second child and wondered at God’s design. As he stared the child looked up, and seemed to look right through Adam with eyes as blue as the sky.
9”They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.”
The field was strewn with the bodies of the slain, smoke billowed up from hundreds of fires scattered around the battle field. The sounds of fighting could be heard in every direction, and Felinus could find no sign of his company or even a comrade-in-arms. At the moment he was just trying to stay alive as the Assyrian warrior swung at him with his iron studded club, he ducked and side stepped at the last moment and brought his sword around in an awkward swing which fortunately landed true and sliced the Assyrian’s throat neatly from ear to ear.
As the corpse fell to the ground Felinus finally had a chance to look around the field and take measure of the battle. The conflict looked to be almost won. The majority of the fighting had moved to a small corner of the battlefield, and as Felinus counted the Standards waving in the light wind he realized that once again Babylon would be victorious.
Trying to locate his company, Felinus looked to the east and lucky he did for at that moment he saw the banner of King Nebuchadnezzar not 100 yards away, and from what he could tell the King was being pressed by at least 10 Assyrian elites. Felinus broke into a run, trying to gain the king before the last two defenders were cut down.
He arrived just as the last bodyguard fell beneath the swords of the three Assyrian warriors; immediately cutting one of them down from behind. Whirling around to face the second, who threw a heavy blow at his head which Felinus was barely able to duck. Letting the duck turn into a full roll which brought him under the Assyrians guard, he thrust his sword up through the warrior’s abdomen straight into his heart.
He turned to engage the last warrior, but he had already made it to the King. As Felinus took a step forward with a strangled cry of warning, the warrior brought his sword down on King Nebuchadnezzar, cutting him down.
Felinus reached the warrior before he could turn to face him, thrusting his sword into the Assyrian’s side. The Assyrian, however, was able to strike Felinus a glancing blow to the head before he fell dying to the blood soaked ground.
Felinus last thoughts as he fell to the sod were that he had failed to save his King, and how maybe he was lucky not to have to live through the chaos that would surely follow the death of so great a King as Nebuchadnezzar.
He awoke the next morning to find himself in a cot, as he tried to rise, it felt as if a herd mules were trying to kick their way from the inside of his head. Felinus laid his head back on the pillow and decided to take a slow look around, hoping the mules would quiet themselves or finally break through, and gallop the hell out of his head. Slowly the pain in his head became bearable and he was able to turn his head slightly to take in his surroundings. He had some how been found and brought to one of the military tents in the Babylonian camp. In the corner of the tent a wardu stood ringing out a rag, which he guessed had been used to clean his wounds.
It took him a moment or two to find his voice but then he asked, “How did I get here?”
The female wardu turned in surprise, and after a slight pause responded. “Master, you have awakened. Good. You shall live it, would seem. The battle has been won and the Assyrians have limped home to lick their wounds. It should be quite some time before they are able to trouble Babylon again. You mustn’t over tax yourself; lay back and rest, for on the morrow you have an audience with the King.”
Immediately Felinus mind went to the scene of King Nebuchadnezzar being cut down by the Assyrian Elite. He moaned out loud and shook his already rattled head. A feeling of loss and fear threatened to overwhelm him, but he was able to say, “Yes, I must be ready to present myself to our new ruler as soon as possible. He will need every possible hand to support him” then he laid his head back on the pillow and let the blackness take him away again.
Iulanae sat herself next to the cot and began to wash Felinus’s gashed head, softly praying to her God to protect this beautiful man; a tear running ever so slowly down her cheek.
The next day dawned with the sound of horns and men breaking camp. Felinus opened his eyes and took in the familiar sounds. He decided after a moment to attempt to rise, and as he did, a wave of nausea broke over him. When it passed he was able to actually take a few steps over to the brass basin of water left there for him. He began to wash his face and as he looked into the basin he could see his own reflection looking back at him.
His eyes dark but lit with an inner light, his hair fell down to his shoulder in soft brown curls, tickling the nape of his neck. His face was long, with a sharp chin and narrow cheeks. A large gash running from temple to chin that had just begun to scab over, the only blemish on an otherwise youngish smooth complexion. ‘Oh well ‘he thought’ just another badge of honor to add to all the other scars crisscrossing this body’. Felinus turned to look for his gear-bag, and found it laying next to the bed. He rummaged through it and finally found his shaving blade and returned to the basin to make himself presentable for his audience with the new King.
As he finished grooming himself the wardu healer entered his tent; in her arms he saw she carried the dress uniform of a senior officer. Laying them down on the cot she turned to him and said, “These were sent by the King’s councilor herself; you must not argue, but dress as quickly as possible. The King wishes to see you within the hour.” Then she turned as if to leave, but Felinus reached out and grabbed her hand before she could reach the tent flap.
Felinus took a moment to examine the wardu’s soft features; her face almost a perfect oval with soft light skin. Her lips were full, more pink than red and her eyes were an emerald green, shinning with an intelligence seldom found in the slave class.
“I wanted to thank you for caring for me, this wound on my head is healing faster than normal which tells me you must have a great skill in healing, what is your name that I might remember who took care of me when I pray thanks to Anu?”Felinus had never seen a wound heal this quickly.
She lifted her brilliant green eyes to meet his and said “We wardu aren’t suppose to have names, but to my people I am known as Iulanae. Any prayer you send to Anu is welcome, as my people worship him as the only true God. At least I know someone will hear your prayers.” She smiled a small but mischievous smile. “Of course I could be sacrificed to Marduk for saying so nowadays. It’s nice to know that not all in Babylon have given up worship of the only true God. I have had news from the city while we were away from Babylon; they have ousted the Anu temple from Etemanaki and supplanted it with the Temple of Marduk. From the look of things Anu worship will be outlawed altogether in a short time.”
Felinus’s brows drew together in consternation, “I knew the worship of Marduk had been on the rise these past few years but I can hardly credit that they would oust Anu from Etemanaki. Surely the new King will see reason and rectify this injustice when we return to the city.” He found himself liking this wardu very much, she had more guts than any he had ever met to speak her mind in the presence of a mushkenu.
The recent religious changes going on in Babylon troubled him greatly, he swore to himself to find out more about this after his audience with the King. He could feel Iulanae’s eyes on him as he finished getting dressed and a feeling of smug satisfaction swept over him. He would also have to look closer into this situation as well, when things settled down.
As he left the tent and started out towards the royal tents, a familiar face approached and he turned to greet his old friend, “Bourador you old wolf, nice to see you made it through another campaign, though I am not sure your wife will feel the same” Felinus threw his arm out and caught Bourador’s arm in welcome. “I myself had to fight off 10 mules from ravaging my skull just to be up and about this morning.”
Bourador gave a great grunting laugh and pounded Felinus on the back, “We were lucky not to lose our fearless leader.” A note of seriousness crept into his voice. “Fel, you should take better care of that ugly mug of yours. At my last count this makes twelve battles you and I have survived together, it would be nice to have you around for a few more. Besides we still need to get you married off so you can be as miserable as the rest of us.”
With a huge smile he went on, “After your meeting with the King, 2nd company will be holding a meeting, so come Captain Rarce’s tent as soon as you can.” With that Bourador turned to shout at a group of wardu who had just dropped a wagon of supplies.
Felinus gave one last wave and moved briskly on towards the king’s tent, thinking of what he would say to the new Monarch. Considering that he had never had the chance to actually meet the last one, he wondered what this one could possibly want with him. Then again he was the last person to see Nebuchadnezzar alive, so he guessed the King would want to hear how the old one had died.
With butterfly’s the size of birds fluttering around in his stomach he approached the King’s tent and informed the guard who he was. The guard had him wait outside as he went in to announce Felinus’s arrival.
When the guard reappeared he motioned Felinus to follow and turned back into the tent. Felinus followed trying to remember all the proper formalities to follow in an audience with royalty. When he approached the chair in which the King sat, he immediately fell to his knees and touched his head to the ground in a reverential bow but then he heard a low strong voice urging him to rise and he raised his eyes to look at the King. What he saw then would be etched in his minds eye for ever, for standing in front of him was not one of the Kings many son’s that would follow him in the Kingship of Babylon. Standing there in front of him was King Nebuchadnezzar himself.
Felinus’s mind started to spin and he almost lost control of himself, but before he could gasp out loud, or speak out of turn the King took his hand and said, “Ahh, the brave Lieutenant that saved my life has recovered nicely himself. I was worried you might have caught a fever or had more extensive damage than we could see, but it seems the expert wardu healer I sent did her job well. We will have to see that she is properly rewarded.”
The king lead Felinus to a seat next to his make shift throne, “Please sit Lieutenant I have a few things to ask and a few things to tell. First I can see by your reaction that you weren’t expecting me to still be alive, well the wound you must have seen me take was not as serious as it looked, barely a scratch actually. I have thought hard how best to reward such valor and heroism as you showed on the battle field; not least of all, the skills you displayed in dispatching three Assyrian Elite Soldiers by yourself. I have come to the conclusion that the only place for some one with your talents would be on my own personal guard corps. So when we arrive back in Babylon there will be a great celebration ceremony to commemorate this great victory and we shall see you raised from mushkenu to awiku. Then you shall be the new captain of my personal guard. Now, you are dismissed to your company to check on your comrades and put your things in order. When we ride for Babylon I wish you to ride as one of my guards.” And with that the king waved his hand in dismissal and turned to his beautiful councilor whom Felinus just now noticed had been sitting in the back ground the whole time. As he left the tent he stole a glance in her direction and caught her staring at him with a mysterious look of hope in her eyes.
Once outside, Felinus let out a great sigh of relief as the butterfly’s finally left his system, but he was still confused about the King. He was positive that he saw the King take a grievous wound, and after twelve battles, he thought he could tell a minor wound from a major. No man could have survived that blow; he knew he would not have. Felinus gave a shrug and put it out of his mind, there was way too many things to think about now, not least of which was the fact that he still didn’t know who in his company had made it through the battle. He headed for his captains’ tent to hear the bad news.