Gilgamesh Immortal (Chronicles of the Nephilim) (23 page)

Chapter 42

Gilgamesh hid in the forest
watching Urshanabi cutting lumber, no doubt for the building of a new boat for his shoreline pier out on the water. It was a simple pier, made for the purpose of a sole black boat tethered to its posts.

Memories
of the previous evening intruded on his thoughts. The ale wife Shiduri would not tell Gilgamesh what she was, goddess or other, but one thing was sure, she was beyond human.

Gilgamesh doubted her claims to virtue based on her performance
with him that provided the most intense and memorable sensual experience he had ever had with a woman. He did not know one could achieve such climactic heights of carnal knowledge. It was as if she gave to him what Ishtar had only promised but no doubt lied about in order to ensnare him in her talons.

But he was hiding now because of what she had said.
Beware the Stone Ones
. A warning meant danger, and all he had for his protection were his two crude spears and a dagger that Shiduri had given him, along with some new clothes.

There were four of them. Apparently they were called Stone Ones because they were made out of stone.

They were taller than him, maybe ten feet high, and without his weakness of flesh and bone. He had heard of these in the past. They were creatures that had come out of the western Levant and were called
golemim
in the plural, and
golem
in the singular. They were soulless bodies made from mud or rock, much like the original Man was made from the earth. But unlike the original Man, a golem did not have the breath of God in it, but rather was invested with animation through magical incantation that was written on a parchment and stuffed in their mouths. Since they were mute and did not breathe, the parchment would not fall out. But take the parchment out and they “died,” or rather, ceased to move. Since they had no soul, they could not really die. And since they had no flesh, they could not feel pain either. They were like animated yet lifeless statues made of earth. They were perfect for the slave labor they were engaged in. Gilgamesh thought it would be of great use to have an army of these things if he could only get his hands on the incantation that created them.

The golem Stone Ones chopped trees. They were so powerful, they could fell timber in a couple of strokes with their huge axes. How could he fight these moving blocks of stone if provoked? His spears would be of no use against them. They were larger than he was, stronger than he was, could not feel pain, and did not have a breath to extinguish. These walking boulders were intimidating even to Gilgamesh.

Urshanabi stood by the log pile supervising his work crew. He was a gangly man, who looked like death itself
, tall and gaunt but with a round little pot belly that stuck out from his skeletal figure. Gilgamesh thought he must have frequently patronized the tavern of Shiduri for her fine variety of beers.

Urshanabi
was impatient with his Stone Ones as a cruel master would be with disobedient dogs. He yelled at them, cursed, and paced back and forth irritated. He even kicked one in anger, only to hop around in pain, nursing his stubbed toes.

Despite
this unstable scenario, Gilgamesh decided he would avoid a fight to pursue his interest through the fine art of negotiation. As king, he may have had a past of being oppressive to his people, but he changed when he saw the injustice of it, and when it came to royal diplomacy with other city-states, he was quite proud of his ability to inspire compromise. The incident with King Agga was one example of avoiding a very bloody and very costly battle and getting what he wanted. Gilgamesh was not merely a master warrior, he was a master negotiator.

So h
e set his javelins in the brush, stood up with his hands open in surrender, and approached Urshanabi with a deferring posture.

He called out, “Urshanabi
! I come with the blessing of Shiduri the ale wife! My name is Gilgamesh!”

Urshanabi looked at Gilgamesh at first with surprise, then with
confusion. He pointed at him, and yelled at the top of his lungs, “STONE ONES! KILL!”

Gilgamesh
was shocked. No consideration, no thought, just the command to kill. Who would do such a thing to an unarmed surrendering man?

There was no time to
think, the Stone Ones were upon him.

The first one swung its mighty axe. Gilgamesh ducked and it buried itself in the tree behind him.
The blade sank deep into the wood from the tremendous force of the blow, and wedged tight. The Stone One struggled to pull it loose.

But just as it
yanked it free, another Stone One collided with it in full force and the two of them crashed to the ground in a pile of rubble. The thought flashed through Gilgamesh’s mind that he was watching a moving earthquake. It was like monumental boulders crashing into each other.

This surprised Gilgamesh even more.
The charging Stone One did not have quick enough faculties to slow down or steer clear of its comrade in time. Evidently, its lack of soul meant a corresponding lack of brains.

These things were stupid.

And once they fell apart, they were useless. It was like chopping off the head of a shade.

He got an idea.
He found the axe in the rubble and lifted it. The other two Stone Ones approached him with their axes and backed him up against a tree.

Gilgamesh was experienced with a battle axe.
Very experienced.

But the
Stone Ones were not as stupid as Gilgamesh had thought. They began to attack with synchronized swings of their axes. They worked in tandem. The first one took the top of the tree off right where Gilgamesh’s head was. The second one swung low to lop off his legs. Instinctively Gilgamesh leapt off the ground and did a backward somersault over the newly made tree stump behind him.

But they kept coming like
unstoppable automatons. They did not tire like Gilgamesh did. And he was now breathing hard dodging and jumping backward. He did not know how much longer he could keep this up. They were wearing him down with sheer relentlessness.

He had to make his move.

He tried to break the rhythm of the attackers by blocking with his axe instead of dodging.

Unfortunately, their strength was incredible and he could feel their hits ring through his whole body to
its core. He almost lost his grip on his own axe. That strategy would not work for long.

On top of all this, Urshanabi, the little bugger, had come near enough to keep
shouting invectives at Gilgamesh as he fought, though careful to stay out of reach. Gilgamesh did not know what would wear him down first, the axes of the rock warriors or the annoying tongue of their shrill commander.

“Die, you piece of M
esopotamian filth! Kill him! Kill him NOW, you stupid blockheads! Why have you come for me mercenary?!”

Gilgamesh yelled back, “I
did not come to kill you!” He dodged another swing, and clanged his blade against the other.

“Well, why are you here?!” shouted Urshanabi.

“Call them off and we can talk!” Gilgamesh shouted back. Clang! Another near miss. He was tiring. Maybe he would not take these warriors out so easily after all.

“Oh, sure,” yelled Urshanabi, “
that is just what you want, so you can kill me and drag me back for the bounty!”

So that was the reason for his hostile reaction.
He must have been hiding out from justice. After all he had been through, Gilgamesh was about to be killed at the screeching commands of a two-bit outlaw.

Another dodge.
And this time, he felt the blade nick his chest and draw blood.

But it threw the Stone One off balance just a little. Enough for Gilgamesh to see that this would be his last chance before succumbing to fatigue and their blades.

He stepped in toward it and brought his blade down on the shaft of the other axe. Connection! The shaft cut in half.

And then Gilgamesh spun around in a full circle to maximize his impact and brought the blade right at the neck of the Stone One. If he had hit it anywhere else, it would have shattered the blade with a mere chip off the old rock. But the neck was the thinnest part of the earthen warrior.

The blade connected with a resounding CRUNCH and severed the head from the body. But it also mangled Gilgamesh’s blade into a useless crumpled piece of metal. The impact was so hard, he fell to the ground.

He looked up to see the now lifeless body of the Stone One falling down upon him
like an avalanche. He rolled.

The Stone One fell to the ground
shaking the earth and missed crushing Gilgamesh by inches.

But then Gilgamesh looked up only to see the other Stone One with blade raised high, swinging down to cleave him in two.

Instinctively, Gilgamesh rolled again and the blade buried deep into the ground by his head.

The Stone One had not calculated for the
gnarly tree roots in the earth and his blade was instantly entangled in the pliable maze.

Gilgamesh jumped up, ran up the
shaft and the arms of the Stone One as it struggled to wrench it free. He flipped over its head, grabbing its neck on the way down.

He was now hanging on the back of
the Stone One off its neck. It tried to reach behind to grab him, but its arms were too bulky. Rock was not very flexible.

It spun in a circle trying to grab him, and Gilgamesh noticed that they were headed straight for a tree. He was going to be crushed like a bug.

He hung on with one arm and drew his dagger with his other. It would be utter foolishness to think he could cut the throat of a golem made of stone. But he was not going to cut the throat.

He dug the blade into
its mouth and leveraged the lips open. The Stone One spun further, whirling violently. He hit a tree. Gilgamesh lost his breath. And he could feel a couple of his ribs crack under the impact. He screamed out in pain and almost lost his grip.

But he held on. The Stone One reached up and grabbed Gilgamesh’s
dagger wrist and was about to rip his limb off his body, when Gilgamesh reached around its neck with his other hand and felt inside the mouth of the monster.

His probing fingers touched
the parchment, grabbed it and yanked it out of the mouth.

The Stone One froze instantly, its hand still grasping Gilgamesh.

It had worked. Pulling the written spell out of its mouth had sucked the life out of the creature. It was living stone no more.

Gilgamesh
wrested his hand from its grip and jumped down to the ground. He grabbed his back in pain and with a big growl heaved and pushed the Stone One onto the ground on its face with a thud, breaking it in several pieces.

Gilgamesh looked at the spell. It was pretty high level sorcery that he could not fully understand. But he folded it and tucked it away in his belt pouch for future use.

Then he turned and glared at Urshanabi who stood staring back at him in fear, no longer hurling invectives as fast as his mouth could move.

Gilgamesh trounced over to Urshanabi and then complained with a whining voice, “
What
were
you thinking? I told you I was coming in peace! I said I had the blessing of Shiduri! Do you not listen to people?”

Urshanabi looked downcast at the forest floor and said, “
I am sorry. I am a tad hot headed and impulsive.”

“A tad?” exclaimed Gilgamesh. “I almost got crushed to death by your
block heads! You call that a ‘tad’?”

“I was afraid!” blurted Urshanabi.
“You are a Gibborim! Should I not fear for my life?”

Gilgamesh stopped. He had a point.

“How can I make it up to you?” asked Urshanabi.

“Oh, you will make it up to me,” said Gilgamesh. “You will take me to Dilmun to the Land of the Living where Noah ben Lamech lives.”

Urshanabi sighed. “That, I am afraid, is no longer possible.”

“What do you mean no longer possible?” said Gilgamesh. “You are Noah’s boatman and your
boat is docked on the shoreline.”

“Yes, you speak the truth,” said Urshanabi, “but you just destroyed the only oarsman capable of getting us to Noah: The Stone Ones.”

Gilgamesh sighed. The day was
not
going well.

Urshanabi explained, “You see, in order to travel to Dilmun, we must cross the cosmic sea for three days. But the waters that surround the island are called the Waters of Death.”

“I have heard of them,” said Gilgamesh.

“For any human, touching the Waters of Death is instant death. A mere splash of the water
while rowing will kill you. So I always took one Stone One to be my oarsman through the Waters of Death. They were not humans so they could not die.”

“Well,
that is just great, boatman,” said Gilgamesh. “You had better put that impulsive nature to good use and give me one good reason why I should not crush your skull for your incompetence that just ruined my search for immortality.”

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