Chapter 4 - Warfare
The drums beat a constant crescendo of the eventual damnation and hell unleashed upon the Assyrians. The horns blew a raucous call to arms. The Babylonian men began to march forward with large shields of toughened hides of leather and papyrus, impenetrable to arrows and worthy of any opponent’s spear. They stamped their feet and blew their breaths out with deep voices of dreadful condemnation. Slaves and oxen followed behind, dragging timbers of mountain pine and ropes to lash the tree trunks together as a barricade in front of the engineers. They steadily moved toward the river with a resolve firmly placed on their faces and hearts.
The Assyrian archers began launching their volleys of arrows toward the Babylonian men with thumps of sinew and wood. The fight had begun; the dice cast. There was no negotiation and no chance to surrender. There would be no mercy. The unit commanders continued to tell their men to hold and not waste their arrows or stones while the ballistae were made ready and taut with expectation. They waited until the Babylonian army contingent was almost at the shore. The command went out for the arrows and stones unleashed. The men roared, pushing their voices into the air, following the arrows and stones with conviction in the belief of their cause.
Shortly after that, the next command went out, and the ballistae let loose eight and twelve-pound stones, slamming into the Babylonian formation, smashing bodies and limbs into pulped-up lumps of flesh. The men closed ranks and continued their march forward, moving into the water and holding their ground as the slaves began to latch the logs together to create a buffer.
The arrows found their marks, the slaves, and sliced through flesh and bone, cutting them down as ripe shafts of wheat. The men screamed in their pain, begging for help of which none was to come; they were only slaves. More expendable slaves were thrust forward into the melee of the war construction as it moved forward. The Assyrian ballistae rapidly rearmed; the command issued; the slipknots pulled, and the stones hurled through the air, once again blasting their way through the soldiers and smashing apart the buffer the slaves were trying to construct. Again and again, the ballistae launched their stone projectiles into the Babylonian defense perimeter, smashing men asunder. They floated away in pools of blood and grime. The slingers and archers continued their barrage with an ever-increasing amount of casualties borne by the Babylonian side.
Eventually, the Babylonian soldiers and slaves abandoned their course and retreated to their camp in defeat. The Assyrian men shouted and yelled for the Babylonians to come back for more punishment. The Babylonian command had never experienced such a situation and was perplexed by the Assyrians’ abilities. The first day ended with hundreds of Babylonian men dead or dying on the banks of the tributary in front of their commanders. It was impossible to help the wounded as the Assyrian archers and slingers would continually drive any rescuers back.
Talmido’s men were in high spirits that night, singing praises to their gods and boasting of their deeds. Talmido smiled to himself as he walked among the men, slapping hands and shoulders to encourage the positive morale. Eventually, he went back to his tent to meet with his senior officers and plan for the next day’s continued fight.
“It was a good day, today, men. You all did well, including the men under your command. We all know this is only the start of the fight we will continually have to attend to as we move toward our goal. We are not here to defeat the Babylonians. We are here to delay them. Once we have the Babylonians in complete confusion and perhaps requesting reinforcements, we will have enough time to slip away and disappear into the wilderness. We will have to move quickly and cover our tracks until we get to the caravan. We will retreat in small groups splitting out from this location to make our way to the rendezvous point,” Talmido said as he looked at all the men in the tent with serious eyes.
“Commander, the pickets are all stationed to look for any saboteurs or assassins. The Babylonians will change their tactics tomorrow. What do you suggest we do?” a senior officer questioned.
“Under no circumstances are they to find out about our ballistic machinery. Every man must be vigilant and determined to do his duty. You must communicate this to the men with all seriousness. Two hours before dawn, we need to reposition the ballistae so the enemy cannot determine where the projectiles are coming from and attempt countermeasures. We should expect that they will try to build on two or three fronts as well. Hence, we will need to keep a careful eye on their movements. Other than that, keep killing them. Eventually, we may wear them down and buy more time. You are all dismissed.”
Talmido ended the meeting, took off his armor, and hung up his sword. He went outside to a washbasin and cleaned off the day’s grime and grit. Once done, he immediately headed back to his tent and lay down to quickly fall asleep.
That morning, Talmido awoke three hours before sunrise to the soft sounds of men sleeping and men working to position the ballistae. The sky was full of stars, with the Milky Way galaxy stretching out from horizon to horizon in full view of the men. They called it Ishtar’s milk of fertility and love. Talmido gazed up at it for a moment, staring at the awe-inspiring wonders, and eventually brought his gaze back toward earth and more human situations to contemplate. He looked around and saw officers gradually waking up and starting fires while the rank-and-file members began to emerge from their tents to stretch and yawn into the cold morning air.
He sighed and wondered at the futility of it all. All these men were destined to die either that day or another day in the future; life was so short and so filled with uncertainty and fear. Conversely, the men yearned for the warmth and pleasure of their wives, the love of their children, the camaraderie of men-at-arms, and the brotherhood of people with a common goal and desire. The fact that these men were so willing to give up their lives, no matter how short, for others, for a cause, for an idea, or for acceptance, perplexed Talmido. He initially did this for Sapalulmea; however, that had changed, as she was gone forever. Why did he continue the fight? Why did he keep on with the journey? He knew deep in his heart the reasons why. He did it for justice, because it was the right thing to do, and because he felt a close, brotherly bond with those men. They were the family he had never had, so he would fight and continue, even if it meant his death.
Eventually, the camp had come to life with the smell of cooking wafting on the morning breeze to the low murmur of men discussing what the day would bring and where they would find themselves. Photons of light gradually floated down to the ground, illuminating the dew-covered greenery of the location. The songs of birds rang out as they awoke to a new morning. Herds of various animals were seen coming down to the river to drink. They twitched their ears in the direction of the camp, oblivious to the struggles experienced by those beings of intellectual capacity and emotional depth.
The scouts reported, as did the pickets, that there was no activity from the Babylonian army, and no attempts to cross the river that night. It was quiet in the Babylonian camp that morning, and only a few cooking fires identified. So spies were dispatched to determine what was going on within the camp.
Shortly, messengers arrived with word from the spies that the main body of the Babylonian army group had moved northwest toward the Tigris River. It seemed they were going to come at the situation from two battlefronts after crossing the Tigris. It did not bode well for the Assyrians.
So they decided to wait the day out and then pack up and slip away that night. Nothing of consequence happened, and the men quietly prepared for the exodus. Dusk came and went with a new moon shining brightly in the night sky, providing light for Talmido and his men along their way. Within a few hours, all the materials were packed up, and the army split up into small groups of two hundred and fifty men. They alternated leaving the camp, and by two o’clock in the morning, it sat deserted as the remaining men moved quickly on their way.
The whole army group had split up and gone in various directions to confuse the enemy; to eventually meet at the rendezvous point, sixty-two leagues southeast of their original position along the banks of the Karkheh River where it met with the Tigris River.
The Babylonian army group, the Golden Lions, had marched southwest along the tributary toward the Tigris River and a bridge constructed centuries before, out of granite, to last through the ages. Upon coming to the bridge, they marched across, turned around, and followed the path along the banks of the west side of the Tigris River toward the junction of the tributary. Two days later, they came upon the merging of the two rivers; however, a messenger reached the commander to let him know the Assyrians had fled. He immediately sent messengers back to the army outpost with the command to bring two thousand men to reconstruct the bridge on the tributary and to construct a new bridge across the Tigris at the confluence of the two rivers.
The Golden Lions marched at a steady pace, following the Tigris River southeast while sending messengers to Nippur, Adab, Girsu, and Lagash requesting supplies and reinforcements to continue the pursuit for however long it was to take. Scouts were sent ahead to try to find the Assyrian army group but to no avail, as the group had split up and moved off into various openings of the mountain range to follow the valleys and tributaries within them. It frustrated the Babylonian command to no end and fueled their absolute determination to make Talmido’s group bear the full wrath and punishment of the Babylonian king.