She would not cry.
Running, bare feet throwing themselves at the dirt, she weaved in and out through the many walking bodies around her. Her paper-thin figure, barely skin and bones, made it quite easy to slip through the gaps in the crowd without anyone noticing that she was there. In time, she reached her final destination and came to a stop. She cautiously opened the door just far enough so that her eyes might be able to glance inside. The house was empty. The girl breathed a heavy sigh of relief and entered the home of her abusing spouse. As she tried to quickly pack most of her belongings, which were so few she could fit them all in the same cloth bag, she began to feel heat rising up into her face and tears forming in the wells of her eyes.
She would not cry.
The young girl finished what she had come to achieve in the small house and left through the back door, spitting angrily in the dirt before looking out onto the busy streets in front of her.
She began to cry.
Her broken run seemed more like a long trek out of the city as silent tears streamed down her face. In time, the young girl reached the wall doors at the end of the city streets. The doors were open, as they always were, allowing people to pass freely between the city and the lands beyond. As she emerged on the other side of the city walls, she stood up taller and wiped the tears from her eyes. She looked back to the walls of Uruk, her home, and then vowed to never look back again. She turned towards the empty lands and continued on her journey, following alongside the Euphrates River and using it as her guide.
The girl traveled for six moons on foot. No one could explain how she did it, other than the pure willpower of an expectant mother seeking a better life than the one she was destined for. Married at the young age of eleven, she had been forced to live with her despicable spouse for five long, miserable years.
Finally, at the end of her long journey, the girl climbed to the top of a hill where she stood up and gazed at the lands stretched out before her. Miles of lush, green cedar trees stretched out for as far as her eyes could see. She smiled. For months the girl had traveled alongside the Euphrates River and had seen nothing but sand and dirt underneath her weary feet. The forest ahead was that of an oasis to her. Realizing that she didn't have much time left to waste, she made her way back down the hill and traveled in the direction of the trees. Shortly after arriving in the forest, she gave birth to a baby girl in a clearing among the trees. The long journey had exhausted her, and had left her body gravely dehydrated and starved. As a result, the young mother's fragile body was broken and weary, and she could feel herself slipping away.
She began to cry for the last time.
The young girl's cries did not go unheard, and before long a large creature came before her. The creature did not speak to her, but she could understand its intentions. Perhaps exhaustion had made her delusional for trusting her newborn daughter in the hands of such a wild beast, but she just simply looked into the creature's eyes and smiled.
"Thank-you." she spoke softly. Then she passed away.
- Chapter One -
I raced through the treetops and laughed aloud as I felt the wind blowing my dark hair into my face. Jumping from branch to branch, I took pride in my skillful bounds, each landing better than the last.
"Come on, Baba! Catch me!" I looked down to the forest floor below me as I ran, trying to see whether or not my friend could keep up. I let out a loud screech of delight as I saw him trailing on the floor just inches behind me. In seconds, I felt a hand reaching up at my heels, so I quickened my pace and jumped faster. Before long, I felt something grab my feet and swing me down from the canopy in one swift, gentle motion. I laughed as I fell into his arms.
"Perhaps I'm getting faster then, is this right?"
"Yes Humbaba, you are!" I giggled, "But I just let you catch me, I'm still faster!"
"I hope to be someday quite as fast as you Ina, then that would be wonderful!"
I smiled in the arms of my large friend as he continued running through the forest. Each stride like thunder, but footsteps gentle like water. So tall that his head almost reached the canopy, but even with his large stature, my gentle friend still found a way to move and glide through the forest without harming the trees or anything among them.
"What is it that you would like to know, my friend?"
"Would you tell me a story?" I pleaded.
My friend, Humbaba, set me gently down on the forest floor beside him. As we walked together, he began his story.
"Long ago, there was a time before people. In this time, the world was very young, and the only ones who lived among the trees and the grasses were the mighty Gods. The Gods weren't lonely living by themselves; they each had eachother. The Gods had to do a lot of hard work. They planted the fields, grew the crops, dug out the ditches, cared for the animals, and worked hard every day. The Gods were not happy. They did not like how hard they had to work every day. So the Gods decided to make their work easier, and created people. They created people from little clay figures and gave them life. They sent people to go out and do their work for them. The people did their work good, and the Gods were very happy."
When Humbaba finished his story, we walked in silence. When I began to grow tired, Humbaba lifted me onto his shoulders and carried me the rest of the way home.
"Baba?" I asked as we entered the clearing.
"What is it that you would like to know, my friend?"
"What are other people like?"
"I have not met other people, only Inanna."
"But you met my mother, Baba."
"I did not speak with your mother much, only did I see her."
"Was she pretty?"
"I do not know what ugly is, my friend, I have only before seen you, and her in you."
My friend's answer did not satisfy me. For fifteen years I had grown up in this forest, just my friend Humbaba and I. I had never met any other people, and that made me frustrated. Humbaba was the Protector of the Forest, a Forest Demon, sent by the God Enlil to keep people from stealing the trees. He was the only family I knew.
"Baba, if we did meet a person in the forest, what would you do?"
"I would chase them away. People do not belong in the forest."
"I'm a person."
"You are different."
I watched Humbaba walk around the clearing for a short while, before he lifted me up into the branches of the tallest tree in the entire forest, which was right in the middle of our very own clearing.
"What makes me different?"
"You are my friend."
Humbaba followed me up the tree as if his tremendous frame was utterly weightless, gliding from branch to branch until we both reached the top. We sat in silence; gazing at the night sky.
"Baba, why am I called Inanna?" I finally spoke.
"You ask many questions, my friend."
There was a long pause before my friend spoke again.
"I gave you the name 'Inanna' because 'Inanna' means 'Girl who is gift of the Heavens'. When I first met you, I became happy. You were gift to me of the Heavens. That is why I call you 'Inanna'."
- Chapter Two -
"Are we really going to the river today, Baba?" I said excitedly as I fidgeted on top of my friend's shoulder.
"Is that not where you would wish to adventure today, my friend?"
"Are you kidding? Of course I want to go to the river, Baba! I've just never been that far to the edge of the forest before. What's a river like?"
"Rivers have much water...There it is. Are you able to see the river, Inanna?"
I stood up on Humbaba's shoulder and gazed with awe at what I saw in the distance. All I could see was water. Wide, massive banks of nothing but water. I had never seen so much water in all my life. I was utterly stunned.
"Is that the Euphrates River, Baba?"
"Yes Ina, that is the river. Do you like it?"
"I'm glad you are happy, my friend."
I smiled wide and hugged his head as tight as I could. "Thank you Baba! It's wonderful!"
My friend and I spent the rest of our time together playing down at the river, singing songs and telling stories. We were sitting by the river bank and Humbaba was just finishing one of his stories when we heard a noise near the brambles. Immediately, Humbaba reacted. He stood up, faced the direction of the noise and growled. He looked gigantic and frightening as he stood in front of me, limbs out as if to protect me from whatever danger lay in the bushes.This sudden change in atmosphere startled me more than the noise of the brambles.
"B-baba? Is everything alright?" I recieved no response. I began to stand up cautiously. Humbaba's reply to this was an impatient grunt that meant for me to sit back down.
"Baba! Calm down, this is ridiculous!" I ordered, annoyed from being ignored so rudely, but I soon saw my friend relax himself and sit back down next to me.
"Now what was that all about?" I huffed.
Out of the brambles came a slender dog-like figure with a very expressionless, yet gentle face. My mood softened at the sight of our guest.
"What's that, Baba?" I asked my friend.
"It is only a tree spirit, Ina. Annoying creatures, but harmless."
"Really?" I replied skeptically, "What makes them so annoying?"
"They like to play tricks on others often, and can be very mischievous demons--like Inanna."
"Hey!" I laughed. I began to walk towards our new guest. As I got near, I heard a whispering voice.
I stopped. "...What?"
I looked at the Humbaba in confusion.
"He is letting you know what to call him," Humbaba told me, "his name is 'Arboltung' he tells you."
"Why am I able to hear him say that?"
"Spirits are similar to Demons, like me, only spirits are more simple creatures. Spirits may talk, but not as you and I. Spirits only speak for important things. They can not often leave environments they inhabit. Tree Spirits can not exist this far away from the forest. It surprises me much to see a Tree Spirit this near the river, where many trees are not. He should be fading into nothing."
"Oh," I spoke as I reached my hand out to the small creature, "Hello, Arboltung."
Arboltung's expressionless face quickly changed to one of excitement and joy as he began to run around me and lick my face, much like a real dog. I laughed and rolled around in the grass as Arboltung and I played.
"We should bring him home with us, Baba! He would make a nice addition to our family!" Humbaba looked surprised, as if he didn't approve of the idea of having anyone else living in our home with us.
"Please! If he bothers you, I can control him. Life would be more exciting with a pet!" I begged. Humbaba stood in silence as Arboltung continued to lick me.
Humbaba sighed, "If that is what you would like, my friend."
- Chapter Three -
Occasionally Humbaba would go on walks by himself throughout the forest to make sure there were no people wandering around other than us. Today he was doing just that, so Arboltung and I had decided to go out exploring for the day. When we came back into the clearing at sunset, we heard two sets of footsteps coming from the trees.
"That sounds like other people!" I looked at Arboltung with a concerned expression. Arboltung tugged on my clothing to pull me behind the nearest tree, and from there we watched two people come out into the clearing.
"Gilgamesh, what a fine tree! The tallest one in the entire forest, I think!" Said the shorter, more scruffy-looking man. Both men were laughing together.
"Yes, shall we cut this one down, then?"
The shorter man laughed and slapped the one called Gilgamesh on his back saying, "Yes then, this tree indeed!"
"Do you not fear the Demon Humbaba, Enkidu?" Gilgamesh said to his friend, beginning to look worried.
"Nonsense, Gilgamesh! Utter superstition!"
With that remark, the one called Gilgamesh walked over a tree, raised the weapon in his hands, and swung at the tree. Our tree. The tree in the middle of our clearing.
Not knowing what to do, I screamed out in desperation, "HUMBABA, COME QUICKLY!"
The sound of the man's weapon striking the bark of the tree was silenced by a booming roar that shook the entire forest. The two men shifted their eyes to look at me, anger in the eyes of one, and fear in the eyes of another's.
"A girl!" shrieked the one called Enkidu angrily, "She has called for Humbaba and brought doom to us all! We must kill her, Gilgamesh!"
Gilgamesh scolded his companion. "We will do no such thing. Simply tie her to that tree keep her safe from the beast, or from running away. He's coming..." Gilgamesh, ordered, sudden fear showing in his eyes.
I tried to escape, but my own fear and confusion kept me frozen in place, and within minutes the two men had me tied to the tree. Arboltung had run off the moment I called for Humbaba to go fetch him and bring him back.
Gilgamesh began to swing faster and faster at the tree in desperation; a look of terror in his eyes. Finally, the reality of the situation struck me and all at once panic and anger washed over me.
"STOP! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU CAN'T HAVE THAT TREE! THATS OUR TREE! STOP IT! STOP IT!" I screamed at the two intruders as I thrashed against my bondings, which grew tighter and tighter the more I worked against them. My frustration overwhelmed me and tears began to flood my eyes. Before I could finish my tantrum, Humbaba burst into the clearing roaring with the rage of ten-thousand lions, Arboltung following in closely behind at his heels.
Enkidu stared fearlessly into the eyes of my charging friend, a savage look in his own and a smile rising across his face. "Now Gilgamesh, Son of the Goddess Ninsun and King Lugalbanda of Uruk, my friend, take your honor for Uruk! Slay the wild beast!"
Gilgamesh, who had been frozen in fear from my friend's sudden entrance, put on a face of pure determination and rage, and struck out at Humbaba with the weapon he had been using to cut down our tree. Engaged in battle, the two fought for what seemed like hours; Enkidu shouting encouraging words of triumph and glory to Gilgamesh, and Humbaba roaring and shouting at them to leave our forest or die. Aroboltung attempted to chew through the rope holding me against the tree, but failed and instead reverted to comforting me through the battle. For most of the battle, it seemed as if Humbaba held the upper hand, but in the end Gilgamesh called upon the god of justice, Shamash, to assist him, and Shamash responded by granting him with the power of the 13 Winds of the legends, of which he used to restrain my friend, bringing him to his knees.
"IS THIS WHAT YOU SEE TO BE JUSTICE? MY FRIEND WAS PUT HERE BY YOUR KIND TO PROTECT THIS FOREST, AND YOU SEE THIS TO BE A JUST FATE FOR ALL HE HAS DONE?" I screamed helplessly towards the sky, angry at Shamash, and praying for the life of my friend; my only family. Soaked in my own tears, I watched from my bindings as my friend pleaded for his own life, and then mine.
"Spare the girl!"
For a split second, the expression worn by Gilgamesh, with his weapon raised, broke into one of sadness and sympathy for the creature, my friend.
"Finish it Gilgamesh! Free the lands of this savage beast and bring glory to the Kings of Uruk!" Enkidu shouted at the the hesitating warrior.
At first, Gilgamesh began to lower his weapon, as if he intended to spare my friend's life, then in one swift motion brought it up again and swung down with unmatchable strength, severing the head from my dear friend's helpless figure.
"BABA, NO!" I screamed, thrashing and panicking as I began to lose my mind in grief; not able to take in the events that had just unfolded before me.
"Now finish the girl!" Enkidu prompted his friend, a power-hungry look gleaming in his eyes.
Gilgamesh walked towards me as I sat there against the tree, helpless and broken, sobbing and waiting for my life to come to an end. He raised his weapon and brought it down upon me, cutting loose my bindings and setting me free. I should have ran, but my grief rendered me broken and lifeless.
"No. We will not kill the girl; she has done nothing wrong. We shall take her back to Uruk with us..." Gilgamesh stated, his tone steady and calm. A furious Enkidu scowled at his friend, but before he could angrily protest Gilgamesh quickly added, "...As a prize. We shall take her back as a prize for our victory here today. She will learn the ways of our people, then her and I shall be wed." Gilgamesh met my eyes with an apologetic gaze.
Satisfied, Enkidu retrieved the severed head of my friend and cheered, "And this, as proof of the victory won here today!"
The preparations for the two men's journey back to their homeland of Uruk were but a blur to me. My thoughts were nothing and my senses were left utterly numb. The only thing I could remember was that my friend, Arboltung, who for some unknown reason the men could not see for themselves, stood by my broken body in the clearing while we prepared to leave.
Finally, I was called aboard their raft, made from the cut wood of our tree, to cross the Euphrates and begin the long journey to the land of Uruk. I sat in silence with my hands tied together in rope as we sailed away, my friend's severed head resting beside me. Becoming ever-so-slightly aware of my current surroundings, I lifted my eyes to the horizon and saw Arboltung sitting near the edge of the riverbank, staring back at me with the same blank expression he wore the day I found him. A single thought ran through my mind.
"Spirits cannot leave the environments they inhabit. If they do, they will die."
Immediately, I heard a soft voice on the wind.
'Goodbye, Inanna. Our gift of the Heavens.'
Then he disappeared.
I began to cry.