Older Enemies: Part 10

Cassie looked up from the tablet, “Do you think this is Magnus talking? Writing on clay tablets seems like too much work just to keep a diary.”

“No idea,” I said. “Do you think he’s seeing people from the Cabal?”

She shook her head, “Who knows? I guess I’d better get back to reading.”

Taking a breath, she continued, “I am not the only one. There are more. I don’t know how many, but I’ve seen them—two for the first time ten years ago in Uruk. The man was a soldier. I don’t think he recognized me, but a woman appeared a few weeks later. We talked for a time and then she left, but not before reminding me that we’d talked before more than one hundred years ago. That was when I was wandering and before I came to Uruk.

“I had them watched when they were in the city and when they left. Two months after seeing them, my men told me where the man and woman had gone. They had gone north across the rivers and into the mountains. My men in other cities found that there were others like them who traveled to and from a village called Iduka. I sent men to Iduka to find out what they did there and whether they left. None of those men returned.

“When I learned that they were missing, I traveled to Iduka with seven of my soldiers. It was a small village. The houses were built out of reeds except for one house made out of clay bricks. After we came to the village, the man who owned the clay house came back from his fields with his servants.

“‘You must go,’ the man said, ‘or the men will come from the mountains and kill you.’

“I told him that I feared no one and that if they came I would fight them. He said, ‘You will surely die now because here they are.’ In that moment, I saw them walking down the streets toward us, the man and woman I’d met, but also others, all of them of great size.”

“That sounds like the Cabal,” Jaclyn stepped closer to Cassie to look over her shoulder at the tablet.

“It gets better,” Cassie said, “Listen to what he does next: I told them that I feared no man, and that if I fought them and lost, I’d be their slave and if they fought me and lost, they’d be mine. They laughed but agreed. I fought them one by one and by the time I’d beaten four they declared that they were my slaves. Then I asked them why they were coming to kill us and if they said they’d been told to do so by their former lord.

“They led us to a great cave in the mountains and there I fought their former lord and became his lord as well. I asked him why he had told them to kill us and he explained that the cave was the cave of their masters and that their masters were gone, but that they would return.

“I asked them who their masters were and they said that their masters were not men, but came from the sky. I asked them if their masters were gods and they said they did not know. They knew only that they were not men but could take the form of a man if they chose.

“I asked them more questions, but they knew no more than that and seemed content to serve me until their masters came back. The cave contained all manner of strange riches—not only coins but tools that no man could make. Among their possessions was a recipe for a potion that could make some men stronger and ageless. They called it the drink of the gods.

“From then on, they served me and my power and influence grew among all the peoples of the world. Every man I met after that became my servant whether they knew it or not. Well, all men save one.

“Once when I visited the city of Ur, I passed a man riding in a chariot. He carried not one sword, but two. When I saw him, I felt ill and knew that should he notice me, I would die. I have no understanding of how I knew this, but since then I have sometimes heard whispers in my mind that I have ignored.”

Cassie put down the tablet and looked over the rest of them. After a little while, she turned toward everyone and said, “I think that’s everything—everything we care about at least. The rest of the tablets are stories about how he became more the power behind the throne in different city-states and grew his army of powerful men and their children.”

“Is there anything more about the whispers?” I stepped closer to the desk to look down at the tablets.

Cassie turned back toward them and shook her head, “Nothing. I looked and not just for that. I have a gut feeling that the guy in the chariot with two swords is Lee.”

I nodded, “He does like fighting with two swords or two daggers.”

Isaac Lim had walked over to the other side of the desk, “It wouldn’t surprise me. Our files on him show hundreds of possible identifications in the historical record.”

Lim’s voice reminded me not to go any further in talking about how the whispers and ill-feeling when Urin of the city Uruk passed Lee in the street hinted that Urin might be connected to the Artificers or the Cosmic Ghosts. While I didn’t quite feel ill, the one time I’d encountered an Artificer that wasn’t Lee, I’d recognized her in exactly that way.

Kee had later told me I’d have to wait a thousand years to develop the associated abilities that came with that heritage. It struck me, though, that if the Sumerian civilization came together six thousand years ago, Urin had all the time he’d needed and more.

6 thoughts on “Older Enemies: Part 10”

  1. I’m getting “the beat of a million years” vibes. It always is interesting to think about how things would go for an immortal in our world of non immortals.

    1. I’ve personally loved Roger Zelazny’s writing as well as Neil Gaiman’s. They both tend to use immortals a lot and that’s something I like about them.

  2. So if Magnus is Urin he might be something like Nick but the question is he as close to their kind as Nick is?

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