Part One. Awakening.
I wish that I may
Escape this woe
Leave the tower
To the outside world go
November 27th, 2180 BC. City of Akkad, Šumeru, ancient Mesopotamia.
The planet spiralled lazily under the glare of the distant sun as two small comets, one tinged a soft blue the other dusted emerald green, blazed twin trails of star dust across the crystal clear sky. As they sped towards the planet's surface the punishing atmosphere rapidly diminished their mass till each was no bigger than a thumbnail. To the casual observer they would seem indistinguishable from the trillions of celestial bodies that had pummelled the Earth in its long history, but then they did something no other meteorite or comet had ever done, they came to a hovering stop just above the ground, and they sang.
Lilitu looked up from rummaging in the filth of Akkads refuse, the rank-smelling midden strategically located on the banks of the river outside the cities east gate. In the spring the gods would cause the river to swell and the goddess Ninlil would bless the crops for another year. The raised waters would also sweep away the annual filth of the city giving a few brief weeks when the river banks were not enveloped in a rancid stench, but that respite was still many months distant.
Standing erect she tucked a lank tress of dirt encrusted hair behind her ear and put a hand to her brow to lessen the glare from the sun. She listened as she looked across the dense papyrus bed towards the sluggish waters. All she could hear was the incessant buzzing of the black glossy flies that swarmed over the heap of domestic waste, and the constant gurgle of the river where it lapped over a tree that had become lodged in the riverbeds deep silts. Sighing she shrugged and looked disconsolately down at the half rotten apple held in her hand. It was all she had found that was even close to edible and the temptation to wolf it down was strong. Her sucked in stomach growled causing her to moan softly at the accompanying cramps but she would not eat the softened brown fruit. With a final glance over the pile of detritus she made her way through a patch of spiny scrub, following a narrow trail across the dry baked surface of a narrow wadi, to where a small outcrop of rock thrust up from the sandy ground. Tucked within a sliver of shade that was caste by a jagged shelf of rock the pitiable body of her twin sister lay amongst a pile of dirty rags and papyrus leaves. Her eyes were closed tight and her mouth hung slightly open, the only sign she was alive the slight rise and fall of her chest.
"Eva, I am back, look I have food." Gently shaking her prone sisters shoulder Lilitu gave a small sigh of relief when she saw her eyelids flicker and the hazel eyes she knew so well open. She held the apple up but felt a wave of despair wash over her as Eva stared vacantly at the roof of the rock overhang.
"She who is dressed in white with golden hair, she is the key my sister," Eva said, her blank eyes eventually swivelling around to connect with Lilitu's. "She will save us both in the end."
Lilitu sighed, her sisters delusions had become worse over the last day. Forcing a smile to her face Lilitu leaned forward. "I will look for her, do not fret."
Eva smiled in contentment. "I am glad little one," she breathed as she tried to lift her head. The effort proved too much and she collapsed back down with a small cry of defeat. Feeling her sisters hand on her shoulder Eva forced her cracked lips to curve up in a smile. "Do not worry Lili, I am well, I just need to rest, but you must eat for us both while I recover."
Lilitu shook her head. "I have eaten my fill, this is for you," she said as she placed the apple on the ground and glanced once more at her sister's leg, the limb below the knee now swollen. The skin around the makeshift bandage which encircled her thigh had turned an alarming purple and black. Lilitu could see the cloth was soaked with a putrid discharge and her nose wrinkled at the foul smell which wafted upwards. Forcing her own smile, which conflicted with her frightened eyes and the terror she felt deep inside, she cupped her sisters sunken cheek. "You must also eat so you will get better more quickly."
"I will, I just need to rest first," Eva responded, her words gradually fading as her eyelids fluttered closed and she fell back into darkness. "She is the one…"
Lilitu sat by her sisters side as her eyes brimmed with tears; her sister was dying and Sarrat, queen of the netherworld, would soon rise to claim her. Even though there was nothing Lilitu could do, and she knew there was no one who would help, part of her still hoped for a miracle and it was this to which her heart clung. Grasping Eva's unresponsive hand Lilitu bowed her head. Despite her guilt for not having an appeasement offering she prayed. "I beg you Gula, she who heals and cares for us, and Nanshe who provides us with shelter and food, look to my sister who has served you so well and hear my plea to make her whole again." Rubbing the back of Eva's hand with her thumb she looked down at her pale face, the mirror of her own, and sobbed. "Inanna, Queen of Heaven, hear me now, I have nothing to offer except my life and spirit, those I will give gladly in the knowledge my sister will be made well once more."
A slight breeze stirred the sullen heat of the midday air and Lilitu lifted her head, pale streaks running down her face where her tears had washed away the dust and grime. The noxious smell of the putrefying wound was momentarily pushed aside by the sweet scent of blossom, and then on the wind came the most exquisite sound she had ever heard, a melody so beautiful that it made the Akkadian temple music, which she had always thought rather wonderful, clumsy in comparison. Gently unclasping Eva's hand she stood, cocked her head and sought the direction from which the music came. It was surely being made by Inanna she thought, the goddess had heard her plea and was calling her; she would save her sister!
Crouching down she leant over and softly pressed her lips against the burning brow of her sister. "They have heeded my call sister, I must go and you shall soon be well." Feeling tears well up once more she smiled a sad smile of farewell as her eyes glistened with love, hope and desperation. "Know that even when I am gone I shall be with you; in your brightest days and darkest nights I will stand watch until, at the end of days, we shall be together once more."
Leaning down she kissed Eva one final time and then crawled out into the full heat of the sun. The music still sang and she turned, smiling, towards its source. "I am coming Inanna," she whispered as she began to walk, her heart soaring at the thought of her sisters imminent salvation. Her elation made her walk faster and faster, all tiredness and woe a distant memory, until she ran as swift as an antelope over the dusty plain. "I am coming!" she shouted out to the searing sun, laughing in her joy.