Chapter 8: A Decision Comes
(1161 BC Earth Time)
Camp life did not allow for hope. It only gave the day’s routine, which was sprinkled with the gnawing anxiety of doubt and fear.
Will we see each other again? What does the future hold?
“My love, the Army is assembling again for another campaign into Elam. What will become of us? This anxiety and stress of camp life are making me sick to my bones,” Sapalulmea said as she laid on our bed.
“Yes, I understand. It is making me question the very reason for all this campaigning. Are we just fodder for the emperor’s greed and corruption? Does not Assyria have enough?” I vented with frustration and anger bubbling up and out to the peace of the day.
“This place is not suitable to raise a family, Talmido. Is there a possibility of discharge since you have served faithfully and well beyond your time limit?”
“I will approach Si-tatious with a formal written request and ask for a meeting with the general to determine if and when I may be discharged.”
“Yes, that is all you can do, my dear. That is all you can do and hope for,” Sapalulmea affirmed with a loving whisper of desire.
She accepted this with a grace flowing from her tears as each day ended with us together and love’s mantle firmly planted upon our bed’s hearth. I loved her deeply from within my core being. My heart pumped with joy at her sight. Whenever I went into battle, I did so with a ferocity and determination that dispelled any and all reason and pulled all actions and reactions into a synchronous harmony, to the detriment of my enemy. We talked about life beyond war and the camp, envisioning a time of peace and growth. This excited us to the point where we believed in our infallibility and the Assyrian army commander’s benevolence. I decided to approach my closest and most trusted friend to ask for my reprieve from army duty as I felt I had provided enough value to warrant my release. Frowning, Si-tatious accepted my written request and mentioned he would let me know his answer the next day.
“Do you think Si-tatious will grant us a reprieve?” she asked.
“I have killed more enemies than any other soldier in this army. I think it would be in their best interest to give me what I want,” I replied.
“But what if they don’t? You are, by all accounts, a military slave, as I am.”
“Yes, that is true. However, I think we have earned our freedom. I have more gold and slaves than Si-tatious has.”
“What about the general? Do you think he will give you what you want?”
“Only the gods know, my love. Only the gods know.”
We waited a day and then another, and by the time Si-tatious came back to me with a reply, a new moon had arrived. He seemed nervous with a slight tremble to his weathered hands as he gave me the answer. He held it out to me as I paused, looking at it with the gnawing anxiety of despair. I reached for it and grasped the package while thinking of the possibilities. I pulled the letter out and read the cuneiform inscriptions with ravenous hunger. As I read, a deep upwelling of anger flowed up from the bowels of my inner self, and a low cry of rage escaped my lips. Si-tatious took a step back and grasped the handle of his sword. I looked up into his eyes and saw a twitch of sadness and regret. He knew the answer and had anticipated my reaction.
“Si-tatious, what is this? I have done more for this army than any other man. I have enriched the commanders beyond compare. Why the denial? Have I not yet earned my freedom?”
“Talmido, my friend, we have fought many battles together. Saved each other from certain death numerous times. We have shared the cup of wine’s intoxication to celebrate our victories. Do you not remember? This is not my decision. If it were up to me, peace would be your reward with a lineage of children to carry on the stories of your bravery. However, it is not up to me. What can I do?”
“Convince the general to change his decision!” I spat out between clenched teeth.
“I tried. That is why it took so long to get back to you, my friend.”
“I will not stay. Sapalulmea will die if we stay. This is no life for any man or woman here. We are leaving. Will you join me, my friend? Si-tatious, will you help me?” I spat out in a whisper of pure fury and unbridled resolution, however at the same time with a plea coming from a sincere desire to attain peace and normalcy in my life.
Si-tatious hung his head in despair. His shoulders sagged under the weight of duty and love—love for his country, his companions, and his friend. I had saved his life too many times to recall, pulling him out of the possible defeat to taste the sweet victory that any man of mortal stature would have succumbed to.
“How long have we known each other, Talmido? How many times have you saved my life? We are like brothers, how could I not join you? I have pledged an oath of fealty to our brotherhood. I have bled with you, wept with you and rejoiced with you. Our friendship is deeper than blood. I will follow you to hades if need be,” Si-tatious exclaimed while grasping my forearm to indicate his dedication to our cause.
“Thank you, my friend. Please, prepare the company and the slaves for our departure one full moon from now. Also, find out from the captains the mood of the men to find out how many will follow us,” I said, looking directly into Si-tatious’ eyes.
“Yes, absolutely. I’ll take care of the company and the slaves.”
“I will have to deal with General Bel-Taggil and Hattusili. We will need to be very careful and take care of any wagging tongues, Si-tatious. I am sure Hattusili has his spies within our ranks.”
Si-tatious nodded his head. “Absolutely, I’ll assign counterintelligence measures immediately.”
Our riches had grown beyond compare, and the elites of the Assyrian army enviously scrutinized how to confiscate our bounty within the prevailing laws of the Assyrian hierarchy. They did not want to lose their most prized possession as it had returned to them more wealth and power than any other.The powers knew of my death-defying abilities and would never acquiesce to losing this most valuable asset. For them, something had to be done to put me in my place once and for all. The request for a reprieve was not taken lightly, and the authorities had mobilized quite a large force to stop my escape or release.