Chapter 6 - Misdirection
Each unit of two hundred and fifty men dispersed across the landscape to thoroughly confuse the Babylonian army pursuing them. They needed to keep out of contact with the cities, so they skirted them, at times traveling meandering, circuitous routes as if they were with no direction. After four days of this, as directed, they turned their attention toward the Karkheh River basin and marched steadily toward it.
Talmido’s unit of men disguised themselves as Edomite traders and entered a small town northeast of Adab to purchase additional goods for the caravan. Upon entering the town, he noticed the impoverished nature of the citizenry and the lack of products sold at the market. He asked a man what the situation in the city was.
“The Assyrian Empire exacts such a toll of taxes that it is impossible for us to keep up. Their military expenditures are outstripping our ability to pay,” he replied. “What can we do? There is only so much blood to take before death is the only answer left.”
“What happens if you do not pay?” Talmido asked.
“The tax collectors call in the army, and then our homes, livestock, women, or children are confiscated and sold to pay the taxes,” he lamented.
“Why do you not leave this place and go where perhaps there is a better life?”
“Where? No one will have us. We do not belong to anyone of importance,” he replied.
Talmido nodded his head and paid for the goods and took his leave. After exiting the town, he directed his unit south and marched with all haste toward the caravan. They moved throughout the countryside, keeping a low profile to not invite any inquiries from the local population or any officials.
It was on a night a few days later in their travels that they inadvertently came upon an army group camped along the Tigris River. Looking down from a small hill, Talmido instructed two of his men to investigate the encampment to determine who it was that had amassed such a large group. They were all suspicious, knowing with a degree of certainty that it was the Babylonian army group. The spies came back and confirmed the suspicions, to the surprise of no one present.
Talmido kept a wide berth around the camp and hastened with all speed to catch up with the convoy to let them know of the pursuing army. It was imperative that they reached them in time so they could instruct Si-tatious to move the caravan away from the Karkheh River basin and lead it into the Elamite territory, which the Babylonians would not enter so as not to incite the Elamites to declare war against them.
The Elamites were a strong and proud nation of people descending from the Mesopotamian heartland, primarily speaking the same language as the Assyrians and Babylonians. Trade from the east moved through their lands, and the people of that region eventually gained control over it and extracted tolls for the passage of people and goods moving toward Babylon and Nineveh. It was a contentious fact among the three empires. All three continuously fought one another, vying for the right of ownership of those trade routes.
The Babylonians were weak due to the infighting of their heirs. The Assyrians, under the rule of Tukulti-Ninurta I, took advantage of this weakness, and after a swift, decisive action, they were able to defeat the Babylonians, causing Babylonia to become a vassal state of the Assyrian Empire. Understanding that historical fact did not escape Talmido’s attention or consideration. It was because of that very situation he had sent emissaries to Elam requesting passage and possible protection.
By the time the men were thirty-eight leagues away from the caravan’s location, it meant they needed to do four days of hard marching to catch up with it. They calmly took it in stride and made steady progress. Their spirits were up, and they looked forward to seeing their loved ones again. Toward the late afternoon of the fourth day, the units of men began to arrive at the caravan encampment to the shouts of joy and tears of relief of their families and friends. Talmido and his men arrived in the evening to the smell of cooking and singing. He watched with a sigh of relief and pleasure, knowing Si-tatious had done an excellent job of taking care of business and the people.
By the morning of the next day, all the army units had made it to the rendezvous site in good order and spent some much-needed time recuperating from their ordeal. That morning, Talmido immediately went to Si-tatious and informed him of the pursuing Babylonian army contingent.
“Si-tatious, we need to finish the bridge across the Karkheh River and continue to move south. It is not safe here. We have, at the most, ten days before Babylonian scouts will find our position and inform their army of our whereabouts. We need to put as much distance between us and the army contingent as possible. Did you have a chance to send a second emissary group to the Elamites to request again for their cooperation and help?”
“Yes, I did. However, the emissaries have not come back with an answer as of yet. We should finish the bridge within the next day, and we will be ready two days after that to move out.”
“Another thing. It seems as if the caravan has grown in numbers. Where have all the extra people come from?”
“Yes, it has. These new people have come from the surrounding area after hearing of our purpose and exploits. They have all come to pledge their allegiance to our cause and join us in our quest to create a new nation of free men and women. So we have welcomed them all under a written oath of their support and adherence to our laws.”
“What laws?” Talmido asked with a smile on his face.
“Ah, the laws I have put together to govern these people in a fair and just manner, Talmido.”
“Oh, you put together laws to govern these people? I see. So you are their king. Is that it?” Talmido laughed while slapping Si-tatious on the back.
With a look of chagrin, Si-tatious cleared his throat. “Talmido, what was I to do? These new people, who were requesting entry into our caravan, were in such a pitiful state that I could not, in good conscience, turn them away. However, we could not assist members who, after taking from us, would not support our cause and perhaps go so far as to undermine its purpose.”
“Yes, yes. I understand, my friend, of course. It makes complete sense. I am only speaking in jest. We need law and order to prevail. It was a wise decision and one I am completely in agreement with. Thank you.”
Talmido put out his hand, and Si-tatious took it with a hearty laugh and broad grin. They both sat down to eat, drink, catch up on the news, and plan for their eventual exodus across the river.