Friday, October 08, 2021

WoAF - Sunday Night One Shots - The Plane of Shinar II

Having escaped the arena amid the smoke and fire the four party members lead by Jay Hammond moved south along the Euphrates.  They came to the docks where scores of sailing vessels were tethered to small wooden piers, and bustling porters were busy loading and unloading goods for the city.  A steady stream of wagons and people were flowing along the road to the east gate of Ur.  The towers at the gate were sturdy square structures mounted by armed soldiers in their leather cloaks.  They all had bronze spears and daggers, and the party noticed that amid the commotion an increasing number of guards were occupying the gate area, searching people and goods as they entered the city.  

Jay wanted to get back into the city and find Allen and Carlos, who had gone to the Ziggurat to search for literary treasures to bring back to the the year 2222 AD, which he estimated was around 6,000 years in the future.  As they were clothed in the stolen raiment of the locals, they could more or less blend in with the crowd.  They trailed behind a donkey cart filled with bails of hay being driven by an old man and a young woman they took to be his daughter.  They tried to sneak onto the cart in order to hide in the hay, but the daughter was having none of that.  She yelled at them in Sumerian, but her words were easy enough to understand, and translated roughly as "Get off our cart you thieves!"  Not wishing to draw attention to themselves among the guards at the gate, they held up their hands in gestures of contrition, backed away slowly, and headed back to the river.  Fortunately, the guards had not taken notice, and so they fled further south along a footpath that wound its way through the reeds by the waters edge.  The occassional serpent or crocodile slithered into the water ahead of them, but they had no trouble getting to a spot where the trail split into two paths.  One continued due south towards the gulf, while the other vanished into the reeds heading in the direction of the south wall of the city.  They took that path.

It wasn't long before they arrived at the South Gate and looked to see if they could find an alternate entrance.  They figured tangling with the guards at this point was too risky.  Having searched the walls beyond the gate, they found a three foot wide crack in the stone work that might have been caused by an earthquake at some time in the past.  The city was, at that point, already quite old, and such defects were not entirely uncommon.  This section had been hidden behind a mount of stones and brambles that had probably been placed there to conceal the gap.  Slipping inside, they found that it lead up into a long corridor inside the city wall.  It appeared to have been unused for some time, as the floor was covered in dust.  They speculated the corridor was likely only manned in times of war.  Heading west along the dark corridor they eventually came to a heavy iron grate that opened into the city.  It took considerable effort and a number of tries, but they managed to yank the iron grate out of the wall and slipped into the city streets unseen.

Meanwhile, Zord-Iak, the Star Powered Mage with the glowing black gem in his forehead, was attempting to persuade the party to help him on his mission.  He stated that he is was Emissary of the Elder Elkron, the gods who existed before the Young Gods, such as Enlil and Enki, whom he explained had came from a world known as Nirabu.  He futher explained that he represented the Elder Elkron, and that his ultimate goal is to free his Masters from their eons of imprisonment in "The Land of Eternal Shadow".  This he suggested would be beneficial to the world, as there are forces in the Cosmos that only the Elder Elkron understand and can deal with.  Allen and Carlos were both baffled by these statements, but they were said with such depth and conviction that they could not but believe that Zord-Iak spoke the truth, although they really had scarcely and idea what that truth really meant.

Allen decided to cut to the chase and asked him what his Mission was, and Zord-Iak told them that he had been sent by the Elkron of Death to protect a young man named Sargon.  He was the cup bearer of the King of Kish, a city to the north, and was in Ur attending the King's son, The Lion-Prince, Umashu-kar.  It is Sargon's destiny, he said, to rule over the first human Empire of the world, and should Lugal Sage-Si succeed in killing him, the world would be put in jeopardy.  He elaborated on the tale, explaining that Sargon had been illegally born to a High Priestess in the Temple of Innana, the Goddess of Love and War.  His mother hid him in a wicker basket and put him on the Euphrates, appealing to the Elkron to watch over him.  When the basket was found by the daughter of the King of Kish, the boy was taken into the palace and raised there by the Royal Gardener.  When he was 12 Sargon had a dream in which he was taken to a high place by Innana and placed on top of a tall mountain overlooking the whole world.  At the same time the King of Kish had been sent a dream in which he was drowned in a river of blood, while Sargon was lifted above him into the light, and placed on his throne.  It was for this reason that the King of Kish wished to have Sargon slain.  Hearing this, the party decided to help Zord-Iak and so agreed to help protect the young Sargon.

At this point Allen, who had been generally accepted as the leader of the AXE Team, wished to reunite and get all of the party members in the same place.  And so Zord-Iak sent a servant to go to where Jay Hammond and his group were located and fetch them to the temple.  Since they were in telepathic communication with one another, as this was one of Carlos' Mentarian Powers, they had no problem keeping in contact and transmitting information between the teams.  Once together, they were given priestly clothes with which they could move about without being required to speak, as priests were often known to take vows of silence.  Carlos, who could speak the Sumerian dialect fluently, was given a Chief Commander's military sash which allowed him to take charge of soldiers and enter any precinct.  

They went directly and without interference to the Atrium of the Lion and found the Lion Prince.  This outstanding warrior was the son of the King of Kish, the most powerful city of Sumeria at that time.  With him was young Sargon who was acting as his page. The team took up stations around the atrium and Jay positioned himself with his sniper rifle on a rooftop from which he could shoot into the atrium if needed.  At that moment Lugal Sage-Si arrived and spoke with great friendliness to the Lion Prince, whom he wished to have as his Son-in-Law.  Sargon was told to bring them wine, and when he served the cup to the Lion Prince, Lugal Sage-Si , the King of Ur, stood up suddenly and menacingly behind him.  Sargon sensed the sudden motion, however, and spun around, stopping Lugal Sage-Si from taking any further action. The King, seeing that the young Sargon was extremely quick, sat back down and finished his wine, his eyebrows furrowed, his mood suddenly brooding. The party was ready to kill Lugal Sage-Si that instant, but it was not necessary as Sargon handled the situation for himself.  

Later there was a banquet in the Great Hall.  The pages were all seated with their Princes at the great table, and food was brought out to them by servants on large ornately adorned silver platters and golden trays, all encrusted with rubies and sapphires.  Larry, on a hunch, followed the servant who is attending the Lion Prince and Sargon, and witnessed the servant boy pouring a small container of white powder into one of the goblets of wine.  As the lad carrying the heavily laden tray of dishes and wine goblets came through the archway to deliver his cargo, Larry tripped him.  The lad and his tray clattered to the ground, the precious and deadly wine splashing to the ground, useless.  The boy, terrified, stood up and with the right of a hunted gazelle in his eyes, bolted through an open archway.  Larry and Carlos dashed him, and finding him crying against a palm tree, asked him pointedly what had happened.  The lad mistook them for Priests, and told them that he was sure to die.  The two heroes demand to know why, and the boy, under pressure admitted that it was Lugal Sage-Si himself who gave him the poison to put into the wine to be delivered to Sargon. Larry, who was constantly in touch with Zord-Iak by telepathic link, asked if the boy could be saved, and Zord-Iak agreed to take him into the temple where he would serve the Elder Elkron from that day forward for the rest of his days (and this lad became the first of all Mentarians on Earth).  His name was Emil and so he went to Zord-Iak to serve him loyally from that day on. 

Larry and Carlos returned to the the Great Hall and found Lugal Sage-Si brooding and angry, his eyes flashing malevolently at everyone in the hall.  The banquet finished early and Lugal Sage-Si announced that the Great Combat of the Seven Princes was soon to begin.   The contest, he said, must be completed by Midnight in order for any of the Princes to win his daughter's hand in marriage on the day of her birth.  His charming daughter on her dais was all eyes for the Lion Prince.

And so, the Lion Prince took proud strides out of the hall and he and Sargon helped him to put on his magnificent black and gold armor.  The party lingered nearby watching carefully for any sign of further mischief.  A messenger came from Lugal Sage-Si bearing a note for Sargon, requiring his presence in the King's Inner Throne Room.  Taking his leave of the Prince, Sargon went to meet the King, while the party followed stealthily behind.  The young hero entered the chamber and the door closed behind him.  Six guards stood before the sealed doorway.  

This was very bad.  Sargon was alone with Lugal Sage-Si, and they knew that anything could happen.  They used their powers to overwhelm the guards but bad luck in the effort bewildered them, and so it far longer than they had planned to gain entrance to the chamber.  Perhaps an entire minute had passed!  Sargon could easily have been killed by then.

Meanwhile inside the chamber a battle had broken out between Lugal Sage-Si and Sargon.  The sounds of the two mighty men in hand to hand combat could be heard from outside.  When the party finally broke into the chamber they found the two men locked in a death embrace.  They were at the far end of the hall, and too far away to interfere directly, as the use of their pistols would have risked killing Sargon.  They could only watch the fight from a distance, and that with great anxiety.  Sargon, however, was indeed stronger than Lugal Sage-Si, despite his youth, and he lifted the great King over his head and threw him to the ground, breaking his neck.  The dull crack of bones echoed throughout the hall.  And Sargon stood over his enemy as a mightily lion would stand over his defeated prey.

He ascended the stairs to Lugal Sage-Si's throne as a crowd of palace guards and guests entered the Inner Throne Room.  At first no one was certain what would happen.  The King of Ur was dead on the ground at the foot of the stairs below the Throne and Sargon occupied it with such regal bearing that none made a move, or spoke a word.

Sargon announced that Lugal Sage-Si had broken the Sacred Law of Hospitality, disgraced himself before the Gods, and had tried to kill him with the mace that was laying on the ground near Lugal Sage-Si, and so, he said, he slew his foe with the Might of Enlil in his right arm.  He stated that witnesses beheld this treachery and he told the the party members, who were dressed like Priests, to validate his claim.  Carlos, who spoke fluent Sumerian, spoke on Sargon's behalf, and said that it was as the young hero had said.  And the people bowed to Sargon because he sat on the throne of Ur, and had defeated his foe by the hand of Enlil, and Enlil's Priest had vouchsafed his claim, and so Sargon became the King of Ur.  And thus began Sargon's fantastic career as the first Emperor of the world after the great flood that swallowed Atlantis.

The party slipped away and headed back to the Temple where they met again with Zord-Iak, who praised their good work.  They spoke for a time about their bond, and Zord-Iak confided in them some part of his own history, and they explained to him that they were not from another world, as he had thought, but from another time.  This surprised Zord-Iak but once stated, he understood and was glad.  He declared that he had come down to Sumeria bearing two Great Artifacts from the Eldere Elkron which he would leave in the Temple.  One was a great blessing and one a dreadful curse, he said.  The artifacts were inside of two large and ornately carved stone boxes, shut with waxen seals.  He told the party that their good works had earned them a great reward, and that he would presently return to from whence he came until he was needed again on Earth some day in the future.  And so Zord-Iak took the young man Emil, and told all the priests that he was to be obeyed as if he were High Priest, and Zord-Iak imparted to the young man in a flash all The Keys Of Wisdom and Power, and the 12 Secrets of the Elder Elkron.  Emil knew wisdom, and could foretell the future, and understood what the destiny of mankind would be.  He served in the temple as the liaison between the people of Earth and Zord-Iak for three hundred and twelve years.

Once Zord-Iak had departed, Carlos and Larry decided to open one of the boxes, hoping they would be lucky enough to the select the box of blessing.  They broke the seal, and there was a clap of thunder.  They slid the stone lid off and inside the found a human being laying within a silken shroud.  The man sat up slowly, and the shroud fell from him.  He had a head with a metal face, and a glass dome over his brain, into which they could see the flickering and flashing crystals as it were like lightning, and thin rays of colored light.  He was not human.  

"I am Orrak", said the man with the crystal brain.  "I demand to know where the Emperor is, as I have come to serve him".  

The team was unsure whether or not this was the blessing or the curse.  At first they tried to hide the fact that they knew who the Emperor was (as Sargon was not yet an Emperor, but Zord-Iak had told them that some time in the future he would become the Emperor of Akkad).  After asking a few key questions of Orrak they realized that they could not possibly know what the right thing to do was.  And so they they trusted in fate and destiny and told Orrak that the Emperor was Sargon, and point him to the throne room.  Orrak left immediately, departing out of the temple, surveying everything in his path with multi-colored rays from his eyes.  The people cowered before him and he went unimpeded to the Throne Room.

The party quickly grabbed some scrolls, and a few small artificats that they could carry in their pockets from the inner chamber and then took the southern road back to the plateau where they had landed earlier.  No one stood in their path, and the arrived at the reed circle where they'd first seen the Prince of Kish slay the lion in hand to hand combat. They put their hands on the Symbol of Return, and again the wrenching feeling pulled them forward in time.  No one saw as their forms vanished into a hazy blue streak.  

They landed in the desert. Nearby was an enormous city protected by a giant wall covered in gleaming blue and gold tiles.  There they saw a great tower was under construction and almost completed.  They did not wish to stay there.  They'd had a belly full of the ancient world and wanted only to go home.  And so they touched the Symbol of Return.  Again there was the horrible feeling of being drawn like a strand of spaghetti through the Space-Time continuum, and they landed back in the year 2222 Ad in the Space-Time Transversal Chamber where they had started the mission what felt like 10,000 years ago.  No time at all had passed for those in the chamber, and the Commander of the operation stared at them in confusion when they declined to step through the portal and head out on their mission, having come back at the exact moment when they had departed.  It took some time to explain all that had happened!  And what a story it was!

The Commander and his team did a great deal of research in the following days, and found that the historical record showed that Sargon was a in fact a historical character, and indeed the first known Emperor on Earth.  Larry realized then that Orrakk was the progenitor of Altissimus XL-5000, and that the Mentarians who lived at the time of Sargon, and the fall of the Tower of Babel had founded their Order with the intent of watching for a very distant future incarnation of that incredible being.  Orrak, he concluded, was the first Artificial Intelligence on Earth, sent there by the Elder Elkron in order to build the next civilization after the fall of Atlantis.  What became of Orrak was a mystery, but based on their search through the historical archives, they drew the conclusion that the mighty mentality was likely buried in the fall of the Tower of Babel, and had never been seen again.  There were records in fact of several expeditions over the centuries devoted to discovering what was hidden in the ruins of that once mighty tower, but none of those expeditions ever returned.  And then the Ultra-War broke out in 2024, and all such ventures came to a permanent and decisive halt.