Chapter 2: Father and Son
“My son, you are my pride. Do not waste your life on the foolishness of this world. Know that I am going to another place soon and will be with your mother shortly. Please, do not disappoint us.”
“Yes…Father. I will work hard,” Talmido said.
“The gods saw fit to bless your mother and me with your arrival. Continue to adhere to the teachings of Ashur. Do not stray from the path set before you,” Talmido’s father gasped, trying to gain his breath while raising his hand to touch Talmido’s.
“Be careful in this world of men, for there are forces at work here we do not understand. You are a man and must determine your passage through life, but it is for the gods to determine your steps. I will no longer be here to guide you. I love you, my son, with all my heart,” Eschkta whispered into Talmido’s ear as he slowly slipped through Hades’ door.
Talmido’s father died with a small shudder and a squeeze of his hand, slipping off into the netherworld of the ancestors and gods. Talmido wiped his father’s hair away from his eyes as he shut them forever. The pain shot through him with such ferocity that his chest convulsed with the tears of all sons past and present. Death was never natural—no matter how inevitable it was. Talmido loved his father with all his heart and soul and believed the gods would spare him, but no amount of prayer or belief could stop the eventual outcome. He wept with deep sorrow. The loss fell upon his shoulders and chest with such decisive force it almost knocked the breath out of him. He heaved in choking gasps of emotional collapse and finally bowed his head in acceptance of the reality.
His father had loved him with a devotion that showed his character and strength as a parent and as a man. He mentored and coached Talmido with all the knowledge he had gleaned over the years of his life, trying to impart the wisdom of the ages so his son could live a life of success and happiness without the all-too-often tales of grief and devastation. Eschkta would often share with Talmido, “A man’s will to live and prosper was fundamental to his essence; however, when hope disappeared, the depth of his character and strength were the defining attributes required to fight for the belief of seasons to come.”
Talmido knew of his father’s love and desire for him to build his moral character beyond that of the animals. He worked fastidiously with exacting attention to his father’s teachings, holding fast to the reflections of his Chaldean heritage.
The next day, once the initial pain of sorrow had subsided, Talmido buried his father. Eventually, he sold the farm to purchase for himself a horse and embarked on a journey east towards Babylon, then south towards Ur and finally to Lagash, the home of his ancestors. He sought answers to many questions and wanted to find the elusive gods that seemed to have an ironclad hold on life and free will.
Eschkta had explained the promise he had made to the gods to spare his and Lydia’s lives. He related the strange course of events leading up to Talmido’s birth, including his mother’s death upon his deliverance into the world.
Talmido only knew of his mother through his father’s words of tenderness and love, which bespoke a deep upwelling of loss and regret at not being able to save her. He could not fully understand the feelings his father had; however, he tried to envision his mother as described through his father’s stories. He would often imagine her as a woman of confidence and quiet strength with an unending love for his father—this was the picture he brought to mind as he recounted the words while he pondered the complexity and depth of their relationship.
Soon the sound of his horse stamping its hooves in anticipation and flipping its mane back and forth as if to say, “Let’s move. Time waits for no man,” jolted him out of his memories and back to the harsh reality of the day.
Thumbing his father’s ring, he heeled the horse into a steady walk east, away from Tyre, the only home he had known for the past twenty-five years, heading toward the Sumerian city of Lagash. The sun shone down with its approval, baking the ground hard, making travel pleasant. He quietly rode past rolling hills with trees, full of dates or olives, waving in the breeze and small rivers sparkling in the sunlight while he marveled at its beauty. It was a breathtaking vista—blessed with an abundance of food and water. The people of that area lived life to the fullest, enjoying all their blessings with feasts and festivals dedicated to their plethora of gods. It was a time of peace and thanksgiving.
He slept under the stars, looking up at the heavens in wonder at the enormity of their presence and the brilliance of their lives. Ancient stories of myth and legend said the stars were the souls of his ancestors who were observing the steps of mankind and if he prayed to them for direction, they would provide the way forward. He smiled because he did not believe in this, as he felt life was his to live and walk within. His ancestors had their time, and now it was his.
It was the coldest part of the night, just before dawn, when he awoke to the whinnying of his horse and the snapping of twigs. Someone was trying to steal his horse, and at that he jumped up, fully awake with his father’s skinning knife in hand, to ward off any interlopers. To his surprise, five men stood before him with ropes and a sack.
“What do you men want?” Talmido asked.
“You and your horse. You can come with us quietly or die resisting. It is up to you,” a man standing directly in front of him replied.
“Why should I? The horse is mine, and I am a free man of Tyre.”
“Really! A free man of Tyre, are you? That means nothing here, stranger. All that matters is for you to surrender,” another man to Talmido’s right spat out.
“Come on, then. Just try and take me if you can.” Talmido said with a smirk on his face while brandishing his knife.
They rushed him, throwing a weighted net in his direction as they slammed into him, almost knocking the breath from his lungs. He swung his arms with all his might, trying to gain leverage for his knife hand to no avail as they overpowered him, tied him up, and put the sack over his head to the relentless whinnying of his horse and their cursing of Talmido’s blows.
Having worked in the tanning shop his father had founded for the past ten years, Talmido had built up an impressive muscle tone and strength; however, fighting was not his training, and he was led off by these men to a future of torment and denial. Talmido’s abduction was the beginning of his training in the world of men and warfare. His lessons were to come fast and furious without letup, developing a warrior out of him—one without pity, mercy, or remorse.
They traveled for twenty-three days and twenty-four nights before they came to the Assyrian city of Nineveh. Upon arrival, they immediately took him to the slave stockyard to put him up for sale the next day.
That evening, the slave auctioneer examined him with the careful eye of a curator, looking for any blemishes, of which he found none. Talmido was a perfect specimen—what all men should aspire to be in the flesh. His teeth were healthy, his back straight, his legs like tree trunks, and his arms thick with the muscles of endurance and strength.
“He’ll fetch a pretty coin,” the auctioneer indicated to his men, thus sealing Talmido’s fate and his immediate future.
The auction commenced the next day with the Assyrian military actively purchasing as many able-bodied men as they could to build up their armed forces for an eventual campaign into Babylon. The bidding was fierce, especially when it came to Talmido. The Assyrian army commander saw the potential for a good soldier in Talmido and wanted him; hence, he set the price to twelve gold talents—an amount unheard of for slaves—and with that, the auction sold Talmido to a life of torment and struggle. A life to define the character and definition of a man bound by unseen laws of certitude.