Chapter 7 - Unexpected Expectations
Standing at attention, the two men looked down at the floor as the King of Elam stood above them on his dais with folded arms across his chest. A look of disdain pierced across the space to stab each man to his heart. Dismay showed on their faces as they waited for the king to speak.
“This is the second time you have arrived in my city requesting an audience. What is it that you have now to give and yet ask of me?” Shutruk-Nahhunte, the king of Elam, asked with a look of disdain and irritation.
“Oh, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, please hear our petition as humble servants to your sovereignty. We are men of free will looking to serve a king of moral stature under a treaty as a neutral nation of men along the border of Elam and Babylon. We humbly request your seal of authority to allow us to enter your land at the confluence of the Tigris River and the Sea above Akkad. We would like to build a city in tribute to your great name and become an ally in your worthy cause against the Assyrian hegemony. If it pleases you, Lord, grant us this favor, and we will enter into a treaty with the Elamite Empire for trade and military purposes,” an envoy announced as he bowed respectfully toward Shutruk-Nahhunte and waited for his reply.
“A treaty, you say. Of what benefit would it be for Elam to enter into a treaty with you? Who are you? If I remember correctly, you were slaves once under the Assyrian authority. Perhaps I should just capture you and send you back for ransom or use you to gain further concessions from the Assyrians in our negotiations.”
“Yes, my lord, that would seem to be a reasonable action to take, and under other circumstances, it would be acceptable. However, for Elam, it may perhaps not be the best course of action, if I may be so forthright. We can offer assistance in your continued resistance against the Assyrian Empire and work with you to continue to secure your trade routes. We would like to open a port at the Sea above Akkad for trading purposes in direct competition with the Babylonian ports situated along its shores. Many nations hate the Assyrian and Babylonian dictates and price-fixing, as well as their exorbitant port fees. We think they would jump at the opportunity to ship to and use a neutral port of entry with reasonable fees and no ties to anything other than the ideals of freedom and trade.”
“We are a nation of free men, as well. Our laws are the envy of the known world. Even our slaves have a degree of freedom, while protected under our laws. Why would I need you to build a port, take its profits, and reap all its rewards when I could have it done myself?”
“Cost, my lord—the cost in gold and manpower when, at this very moment, the Assyrians are threatening your northern borders and making incursions into your lands at will. Men are a commodity no nation or empire can squander, my lord, as you well know. We can free up your men for use in more pressing needs. We will bear the cost of the construction of the city. We will pay tribute to you for allowing us to settle within your lands as well, and we will enter into a treaty of alliance against the Assyrian and Babylonian powers.”
“Hmm . . . A fascinating proposal—very, very interesting indeed. I will think on this. Let us convene this discussion two days from now. In the meantime, please stay here in the palace and enjoy our hospitality,” Shutruk-Nahhunte said with a wave of his hand.
The men departed and were shown to their staterooms. Shortly, servants arrived to draw their baths and replaced their clothing with more suitable attire. They were to meet in the dining hall of the king for a meal and some entertainment that evening.
Two days later, the men re-entered the king’s court to hear the answer from Shutruk-Nahhunte.
“After much thought and council, I have decided to grant your request. My scribes will write up the legal documentation allowing you to enter our lands and set up a city and port along the shore of the Sea above Akkad. Your people will pay a tribute of forty talents of gold per year to begin at the end of the fourth year, and a treaty for trade and military purposes will be entered into, as well.”
“Thank you, my lord. Thank you for this honor. Today is a great day for the nation of Elam and us,” the envoys said as one and prostrated themselves before the king.
They rose and were taken by the viz’ir of the scribes and led away to collect the documents before they went back to the caravan. The men were in complete shock at the outcome. That was indeed a blessing, and they were most pleased with the positive conclusion. They could hardly wait to get back to the caravan and declare the good news to everyone so they would know of their new ally and the security of having an enclave of their own to conduct business and their experiment in a free society of men and women.
Three days later, the men mounted their horses and headed back the way they came, leaving the city of Susa behind on their way to creating a new nation. Their hearts burst with excitement and joy from finally having concrete proof of their newfound freedom. They knew with certainty that Talmido and Si-tatious would not let them down, and they rode hard due west toward the intersection of the Karkheh and Tigris Rivers.
A trotting horse can cover much ground. The two men were making decent time, at two leagues per hour. They stayed on the main road leading into Elam while going through the mountains heading toward Babylon. The golden seals and the parchment documents were safely tucked away in the kits strapped to their horses. They neither veered to the left nor the right and kept straight toward their course until the Tigris River came into view, and then they turned left to follow the Zagros Mountains southeast toward the Karkheh River. Upon arriving at the Karkheh River, they abruptly turned northeast and followed it until they reached the travelers encamped along its banks. The construction of the bridge had come to an end, and the crowd had been gradually moving across it as sections of the encampment were called forward.
They immediately stabled their horses and went to the tent of meeting where they were sure to find Talmido and Si-tatious either in discussion or issuing the order to egress the area. Sure enough, the two of them were there directing men who were coming and going at a steady rate. The two men saluted Si-tatious and Talmido with grins as broad as their faces. They were almost literally jumping out of their skins as they handed the golden seals and documents of parchment over.
Si-tatious took the seals and handed them over to Talmido while taking the documents to begin reading them. Both Talmido and Si-tatious looked at the two men and then at each other with surprise written all over their faces. Usually, those were men of iron with hearts hardened by years of brutal warfare and deprivation, but today, their mouths fell open, and their eyes grew wide with shock as they both began to jump up and down in a most undignified manner not befitting men of such stature. The two emissaries also threw up their hands in joy and began to shout with excitement. None of the guards understood the situation and stayed quiet, patiently waiting for the four to calm down and explain what was going on.
“This must be announced immediately to all,” Talmido said, slowly containing his excitement.
“Yes, yes. Of course—immediately,” Si-tatious said. “You there, let the elders know a meeting with one and all is required this evening for two hours before sunset. Every person of the age of majority is to attend. We will have this meeting on the other side of the river,” Si-tatious commanded.
As commanded, all the required people walked across the river and set up their sitting places to find out about all the commotion. A current of charged excitement seemed to run through the whole of the camp, with everyone speculating on what the announcements were to be. Si-tatious had a dais constructed so everyone could see the speakers, and once all were in attendance, Talmido walked up to the dais and began his speech.
“Thank you for coming here on such short notice. It is a momentous day for us, my friends. We have experienced such hardship over the past year, yet we have prevailed over those who would love to see us fail. This day is a day that will live forever in our memories, songs, and stories. I have here in my possession from the king of Elam, Shutruk-Nahhunte, a golden seal of permission allowing us to enter his lands.”
At that, a roar erupted from the crowd, shaking birds from the trees and startling animals from bedding down up to a half league away.
“I also have here a golden seal of the treaty between our two peoples.”
Another roar of approval was pushed out toward the heavens for all the gods to witness, yet it was not finished.
“We have original documents securing our treaty with Elam and our right to settle along the coast of the Sea above Akkad and build our city and port of trade.”
The people jumped up with cries of happiness and tears of joy. A roar of released tension moved up, down, and throughout the crowd and seemed to be spontaneously cast about as people waved their hands, hugged one another, and began to sing songs of their once-native lands and in their native tongues. A cacophony moved throughout the valley, bouncing off the mountain cliffs, echoing back and forth, and increasing the crescendo of noise to an almost-intolerable level.
Talmido and Si-tatious could not get a word in edgewise, so they just stood there, looking at the crowd, smiling, and laughing along with them. The pressing matters of the details could wait until later. It was a time for rejoicing and releasing the months of pent-up tension. The revelries carried on until the late-morning hours when all finally fell quiet to the inevitability of exhaustion and sleep.
Unknown to the people, a man of singular purpose had entered the camp and mingled with the group. He listened intently to the announcements, and once the meeting had devolved into a cause for celebration, he quickly took his leave and mounted his horse to race back toward the Babylonian army group moving along the Tigris River.