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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Action/Adventure · #2234441
In Babylon, two slaves meet their former master again. What will happen to them?
Ancient Mesopotamia
546 BC

The sky pierced the horizon by the intensity of the clarity of its colours, like a sea of endless desires. Arshaka and Nidintu ran across the hanging gardens of Babylon. The flowers were in full bloom.
The bushes diffused the sweet perfume of the renewal the seasons. The sun splashed its lavish rays above the city, You could see for miles ahead the entire region. The fields of wheat and barley surrounded the walls. Arshaka and Nidintu liked to refresh their faces with the running water of the fountains to cool down under the sweltering heat. They were twins, Arshaka was a vivacious boy, and Nidintu was a very energetic girl.
If you observed from a distance you could not tell that they were slaves. They had been captured when they were five year old.
It was their fifth year being the helpers of the master gardener for the king palace. Nidintu was the leader and Arshaka always followed her sister.

Normally, siblings were separated once they arrived to serve their master. But because they were so gifted to help growing flowers and other plants, Nidintu and Arshaka stayed together. They knew all the corners of the palace. In some way, they enjoyed a great degree of freedom. They could barely remember the city where they came from.
They were placed under the surveillance of the master gardener. He was a very serious man.
But strangely enough, he had a gentle heart.
He was very satisfied with their work. He let the twins wandered around the gardens because they knew when not to go too far before the sanction could come.

The different varieties of flowers were the pride of the court. The king Nebuchadnezzar the second thanked the master gardener for his creations.
The god Marduk would be pleased with their achievement.
But the god Marduk was also someone that needed to be appeased as often as possible if you wanted to be protected and to receive his grace.
The sacrifices of slaves and youngsters were the best way to do it.

Arshaka was looking for a gardening tool when he caught a conversation between the high priest and the master gardener, while he was hidden behind a tree.

“This year, for the festival, we have to give Marduk the best souls possible, like that he will offer us his blessings. I need two of your best children.” said the high priest.
The master gardener was conflicted; he knew that he had to do it, but with the years he grew fond of his slaves. He would have to give Arshaka and Nidintu to be sacrificed.

Arshaka immediately understood that He and Nidintu was in grave danger. He raced to join his sister.
“We have to go now!” said Arshaka to his sister explaining what he had heard.
“I agree, let’s go now, it’s either the guards will catch us, and we will be put to death or will be sacrificed for the festival.” said Nidintu
During the following night, they discreetly went to a place where the guards could not see them.
They waited the right moment to go down the walls, they knew so well, with ropes they fabricated by weaving different elements they could find in the gardens without being noticed. They counted on the fact that nobody would suspect them.
They went to the main market, and they hid among the animals which were stationing to rest.
Arshaka and Nidintu went under a cover in a merchant’s carriage.
In the early morning, the merchant passed the gates with the carriage and went outside the city.
Arshaka and Nidintu could see under the cover the decorated walls of Babylon they hoped to see for the last time.

When the master gardener realized that they had fled, he did not immediately tell of their disappearance.
He wanted to give them a minuscule chance of succeeding. As soon as the alarm was given, a team of guards looked for them.
The master gardener was normally due to be severely punished because he was responsible for his slaves. He thought that it was the right thing to do in these circumstances.
In absence of his father, the crown prince was in charge of the city. It was a man that valued fairness above else.

He decided even though the master gardener had made a serious mistake, it was the first time he failed in his duties. The crown prince gave him a lighter punishment. The master gardener was whipped five times.

Arshaka and Nidintu waited for the first stop to the nearby village to jump out of the carriage.

From this moment, they changed places incessantly, sometimes stealing food or sometimes picking up fruits along the way. The first weeks, they had to be very vigilant to survive. The area was known to be full of Lions and Scorpios. They slept everywhere they could hide.
Against all odds, they managed to subsist in these very difficult conditions. They encountered a nomadic tribe which welcomed them because they could be useful.
They did not understand the language they spoke but little by little, Arshaka and Nidintu got accustomed to their new situation.
As the years passed, Arshaka became a skilled shepherd.
With her knowledge of the vegetal world, many learning experiences and practices, Nidintu became the shaman of the tribe.
She received a special status, she did not have to marry to allow her to better communicate with the spirits of the ancestors and mother nature.
Arshaka married the chief’s daughter.
He became a strong and very able man.
He was the best hunter and the best shepherd.
Many men were envious of his situation.
The tribal chief decided that Arshaka was the best candidate to be his successor.
It created numerous debates among the tribesmen, some of them vehemently disagreed with the chief’s decision.

During a particularly warm day, when Arshaka was near a pond with his flock, a man called Yahatti tried to ambush him when he could not see what was coming from behind.
Arshaka dodged his evil plan, and he managed to injure Yahatti.
It would be his word against Yahatti’s word.
They would have to be put through the ordeal.
Yahatti was very scared because if he was declared guilty, it would be put to death. He pleaded with Arshaka to spare his life.

Finally, Arshaka decided to let Yahatti go if he promised to leave immediately the tribe and to never come back. It was a huge risk but surprisingly Yahatti never went back even though he had a family.

When the chief died, Arshaka became the tribe leader. Nidintu assisted her brother in his duties to find new place to pasture.

Everything seemed to be peaceful, when one day Arshaka was prospecting a little forest, he heard from a distance people talking the language the Babylonians used to speak.
His natural instinct made him climb on top of tree, he tried not be seen.
He could not believe it, but the crown prince was hunting with a dozen of knights accompanying him

He recognized him even though he had aged.
It was strange to see him again in this area that was miles away from the city.
”it’s near my lord, we can see the marks on the ground.” His men were shouting.
Suddenly behind a bush two giants male Lions jumped on the horses.
One of them caught the crown prince’s leg, and it managed to dismount him.
It was a frenzy of powerful bites and roars.
Out of nowhere a pack of six lionesses joined them.

The crown prince and his men were overwhelmed by the savagery of the attack.

Arshaka watched the scene in complete disbelief.
Because he was very aware of this danger, he always had his bow and arrows with him.
He knew that the crown prince would not hesitate to put him to death in the past, but by living with the tribe, they taught him about the cycle of the existence. Arshaka realised that every life is precious and deserve some mercy.
With a supreme precision he managed to kill three of the Lions, the rest of them fled.

Initially, the crown prince and his men did not know where the arrows came from but when Arshaka showed his face, they all profusely thanked him.
Arshaka thought that he could interact with them because his face had changed. They could not suspect who he really was.
He guessed right, the crown prince did not recognize him.
Arshaka pretended to barely speak the Babylonian language.
He proposed them to go where his tribe was currently to tend to their wounds.
Nidintu immediately recognized the crown prince, she was apprehensive, at first, but trusted her brother.

It was not a pleasant memory to think about the years when they were slaves, but Nidintu gave the best care she could to the crown prince and his entourage.
After spending the night, the crown prince proposed Arshaka and Nidintu to come to Babylon to give a feast in their honour to celebrate their extraordinary help.
They accepted the offer. They thought that it was time to let the past behind and to completely forgive their ancient captors for what had happened.
They travelled back to the city which had grown even bigger that they remembered.
A giant feast was given in the palace, and the inhabitants were invited to take a day off because it was a sign that the god Marduk protected the dynasty.
Nebuchadnezzar the second decided to give more sheep to Arshaka for having saved his son’s life.
But while the festivities were going on, the old high priest looked intensely at Arshaka’s face.
He did not why but he was sure that he had seen it before but he could not remember where exactly.
He went to talk to the master gardener. He asked him if he knew this face.
The old servant could not see well any more, he said that he did not know this person even though he had a strange feeling of familiarity. He smiled at the stranger. Arshaka looked at the master gardener and he lifted his cup cheering with him from a distance.

Before they left the city, Arshaka and Nidintu visited for the last time the hanging gardens which were more beautiful than ever.

Arshaka and Nidintu went back to their nomadic life. They had a long and happy existence despite having tremendous tumults all around them in the Babylonian empire.

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