A Dance for the Fallen

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Gilgamesh was the son of King Lugalbanda and suckling child of the Great Wild Cow Goddess, Ninsun. Gilgamesh was unsurpassed in strength. Taller than all others, he was majestic and fearsome. Mountain passes did he open, and wells did he dig upon the slopes of the mountains. The oceans did he traverse, and sail the wide seas unto the sunrise, seeking eternal life. ... Gilgamesh restored the sanctuaries the Deluge had destroyed and brought back the sacred rites for the multitudes. Which King is the equal of Gilgamesh in magnificence? None can proclaim, as Gilgamesh did, “I alone am King.”

--The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet I

Michael’s plan was deemed a triumph. The whole of Hanael’s empire was destroyed by the great flood, only those pledged loyal to Heaven--the Followers of Enoch, as they were called then--allowed to board the ark with the handful of animals deemed necessary to renewing civilization. The followers were made gifts of the beautiful nephilim women, who were so broken by their brothers’ destruction that they were docile in their servitude. After forty long days and nights, the waters receded, and they were able to set forth to claim the land promised to them.

Tammuz, the only remaining angel of flesh, was given all that Michael had promised him in coming to Light. He was allowed to rule this new empire as the mouthpiece of Heaven, able even to live in the salvaged palace amid the finery it afforded. For wives, he was allowed both Inanna and Erua, the prizes he had restrained himself from sampling until victory was assured. Reclaiming his angelic name, he was known as King Dumuzi, and all knew to bow to him.

Twenty years had passed since the reign of the Fallen. And although Dumuzi’s rule was unquestioned, he found that managing the affairs of a sprawling civilization far more demanding than the trials of the villages in Eridu. Every day it seemed there were complaints of strife and hunger, rebellions springing up faster than he could train armies to conquer them. Begrudgingly, he began to miss the long, uneventful years of prosperity somehow managed by his late sister.

His frustrations were aggravated by the fact that despite frequent consummation with both his wives, with permission from Heaven, he was denied an heir of any sort. It was becoming apparent that while his actions were surely justified, the purging of his brothers from the land a long-overdue reckoning, some power of the mortal realm resented what had been done. This feeling was affirmed when, come spring, a blight upon all the southern fields forced even the capital to go hungry.

At his wits’ end, Dumuzi was forced to send his less agreeable wife, Erua, to scout fertile land. No woman of the new empire was allowed to be educated, but Erua was the only living child of Semyaza, who had taught her in his lifetime all there was to know about Earthen plants. The day she sent notice of her return, he awaited her in the throne room in his favorite white robes, perfect Inanna dressed in gold, sitting on the arm of the throne as she stroked his crown. If she resented him for the deaths of her surrogate father and her infant son, she had long since forgotten it. Of course he tired of her now and then, but in all, she made a pleasing reward. The people of Uruk called her the Goddess of Beauty. Blasphemous as it was, it pleased her, so he didn’t stop them.

His guards opened the doors, small thrones of loyal subjects that decorated the space parting to make way for the returning queen. They began to whisper when they saw that, this time, she wasn’t alone. With her was a stranger, taller than any man in Michael’s kingdom--built like an ox, a great sword slung across his shoulder. Dumuzi drew upright, batting away Inanna’s touch to better see him and the ruby that glinted from his finger.

“I send you to find food, Erua, and instead you bring a strange man into my kingdom,” Dumuzi said, gesturing for his guards to arm themselves. His anger grew when Erua grinned at him, a grin far too much like her father’s.

“Apologies. He was looking for you, see,” she said. “You always say it’s a woman’s duty to be helpful to men in need.”

Dumuzi stood, Inanna naturally retreating behind the throne. Though he hadn’t yet lost control, the people began to whisper; his hand moved to the dagger concealed within his robes.

“Tammuz,” the man declared, a booming threat. “That seat doesn’t belong to you.”

His former name churned his insides. The fog of unfamiliarity was clearing, those cool violet eyes strumming fears not felt for twenty years hence. He saw in him the monster Hanael had loved, the monster who had made himself a man.

It wasn’t possible. Everyone had drowned--how could he be here?

“You dare shake your sword at the King of Babylon?” Dumuzi demanded.

Gilgamesh answered by grabbing the guard who lunged for him, hair gripped, head removed from body with a clean swipe of his blade. The head tossed at Dumuzi’s feet, rolling blood across stone.

“Give back what’s mine, Tammuz,” he said.

The rest of the guards cowered back, unwilling to risk themselves against a man twice their size, who had their king trembling where he stood. Dumuzi drew his dagger, but it seemed then that all his years basking in the idleness of royalty had weakened his body with his resolve. This wasn’t supposed to happen, there wasn’t supposed to be an angel here to stand against him.

“Stand down,” he demanded, ignoring Inanna’s sobbing. “If you dare lay a hand on me, the wrath of Heaven will come upon you.”

Gilgamesh stepped onto the platform, undeterred by his words. He advanced without haste, confident in how this fight would end, even before he pinned Dumuzi by his neck to the back of the throne.

“So let it come.”

The lost prince skewered his gut, letting his blood run down the throne he loved so dearly, before pulling the body from his sword. He took the crown from his head, hooking it on his thumb as he discarded King Dumuzi’s lifeless body, tossing it off the platform. Gilgamesh’s sights turned to Inanna, who immediately threw herself to his feet.

“Dear prince,” she sobbed. “I knew you’d return.”

Gilgamesh’s lip curled, despite himself. It took a few breaths to stomach her groveling, before he touched his sword to her back.

“Get up, Sister,” he said. “I’ll spare you, on the condition that you spread word of my victory beyond the city walls.”

“You do not want me as wife?” she asked, and the awe in her eyes told him her surprise was earnest. Part of him pitied her, as much as it wanted to retch.

“Never, Inanna. Now leave.”

Stumbling away, her dress covered in blood, she fled down the pathway past Erua and the stunned bystanders. All watched as Gilgamesh donned the crown, taking his seat upon the stained throne, kicking the head away from his feet. As Erua came to his side, smiling, the subjects at last fell to their knees.

“Child of God,” they said, at first in murmurs, then an outcry. “The Child of God has reclaimed his land!”

“Gods,” he replied, and they echoed his booming decree.

Gilgamesh offered his hand to Erua, who was grinning like a madwoman. He pulled her into his lap, for there was only one throne, and placed the crown atop her head. She kissed him, and he allowed it.

“The True King of Babylon,” the subjects declared.

Erua held his face, thumbs tracing his golden cheeks, as he smirked.

“Welcome home,” she said.

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