Emperor Ashurbanipal kills a lion

The Lions of Ashurbanipal

by McPoodle

Emperor Ashurbanipal kills another lion

Day 1

Ashurbanipal and Queen Assur-sharrat enjoy a quiet evening, with the head of an Elamite prince hanging in a nearby tree.
I am Ashurbanipal, the great king, the mighty king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, king of the four quarters of the world; offspring of the loins of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, viceroy of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad; grandson of Sennacherib, king of the universe, king of Assyria.
--Cylinder seal inscription unearthed near Mosul, Iraq

In my reign there was fullness to overflowing, in my years there was plenteous abundance.
--Cylinder seal inscription

It was the twelfth day in the month Nissanu, in the seventh year of the reign of the emperor Adad-nirari, the seventh of that name. It was in Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire, jewel of the cosmos, supreme ruler over seven-eighths of the world's land area, over four-fifths of the world's population. It was in the penthouse apartment of Dananu, chief of the Imperial College of Engineers, childhood friend of the emperor, the fifth-most influential man in the empire, and unimpeded master of scientific affairs. It was in the bed of this influential individual, in the ninth bere after sunset, with the sun at its highest, that the telephone rang.

Dananu was about four cubits tall, with about as much bushy black hair on his head as on his chin. Both were particularly bushy this morning. He had celebrated the end of the New Year's ceremony the previous night at the biggest party of the year, and the resulting hangover was worthy of the gods--he had to hold up his reputation for leaping headfirst into every situation, after all. Nevertheless, Dananu managed to answer the phone himself, as he had let the servants have the day off. "Chief Dananu here," he said, with only a trace of slurred speech. "What can I do for you?"

"It's me," said the emperor. His voice was instantly recognized. Emperors were not allowed to have hangovers. "Is there anyone who could be listening in on this call?"

Dananu fought off the nausea caused by standing so suddenly and quickly checked the apartment to ensure it indeed was empty before picking up the receiver again. "I believe we are alone, but we can never be too sure that your phone is not being monitored." The emperor had on occasion used him as an industrial spy on China and other known enemies of the state.

"True," answered Adad-nirari, "but this is too important. I need you to charter a plane to Bitlis immediately. I'll have a man there to meet you."

This was a surprise. Bitlis was the capital of Nairi, the province immediately north of the capital. There had been no sign of disloyalty there for the past seventy years, ever since half of the population had been replaced by captives from the island of Britain. "Should I bring anyone?"


"But, can you tell me anything? Will I need to bring some equipment..."

"You can order anything you need when you get there. Your immediate responsibility will be to control the situation. Anything I tell you now will be a waste of time, because frankly, nobody appears to know what happened."

"I'll do my best, your highness."

"And Dananu, pray to the gods for me. The fate of the empire may be in your hands."

After calling the airport, Dananu took his time tying back his hair and arranging his beard into its usual impeccable order. He picked out a shimmering blue robe to wear, applied the usual unguents and oils, made his prayers to all of the gods, then went downstairs. Multitudes hailing from every continent parted at his passing, and the masses gladly allowed him to cut in front of them in the line for taxicabs. Likewise, the traffic melted before the taxi once it had put up its 'Assyrian passenger' flag.

When he arrived at the airport, he was led to the plane he had chartered. Dananu had to put a scented handkerchief to his face to ward off the smell of the large number of commoners and slaves crowded into the public part of the airport. Finally, he was in the air. This was a common commuter route, and it was fairly quick--he landed at Bitlis Airport on the tenth bere. Waiting for him was the shaknu of Nairi, Rabshake. The gravity of the situation was reinforced by the fact that Rabshake himself was to drive the car instead of a servant.

Rabshake, like most shakni, was extremely resourceful at running his province on the pitiful revenue provided by the empire. He was also a Nairi, unlike the vast majority of his subjects. For millennia, the Assyrians had maintained their power over troublesome provinces by the policy of exchanging populations. Nairi leaders now ruled a Britannic populace, while in Britain, native leaders had to deal with the customs of millions of Nairi immigrants. Such population swapping was practically all that the vast cargo plane fleet was used for nowadays. Like all Nairi, Rabshake was short, dark-complexioned with unmanageable hair and shifty eyes. They were absolutely not to be trusted around sturdy and far superior Assyrian stock.

The engineer decided not to reveal the extent of his ignorance of the matter at hand. "Tell me what you have done so far on this matter," he asked as soon as the vehicle had reached the lonely road leading to the mountains to the west. They drove through rich green fields. Mesopotamia was still the most prosperous part of the empire.

"Well, the guard at the facility called the local police department. It wasn't until an officer arrived on the scene that they realized the seriousness of the situation. My office was called immediately, and of course I went straight to the emperor. The police were very reasonable when I arrived and had no complaints to being temporarily confined until this matter is settled. I sent out word that a plague had broken out..."

"As a diversion?" I hope it's not a plague I'll have to deal with, thought Dananu.

"Yes, of course. It worked pretty well, if I do say so myself. We have an area of approximately ten square beru cleared out."

"That far? Was it really necessary to move that many people?"

"I'd move them a day's ride away or further from Ashur-ikisha if I could, sir. After all, you can see it all the way from here."

And with this, he gestured at the mountains ahead of him. Dananu strained his eyes to try and find something unusual, then suddenly fell back to his seat in shock. The top of the nearest mountain had been cut clean off. Gone with it was Ashur-iskisha, the empire's premiere institute for the study of mental health.

How could anyone develop a weapon of that magnitude without us knowing? Dananu thought in bewilderment. "Is...is there anything left?"

"Just the parking lot, sir. That's where the security guard called from. And that is where we have the survivors of the incident imprisoned."

Day 2

At that time Shamash-shum-ukin, the faithless brother, to whom I had done good, and whom I had established as king of Babylon, and for whom I had made every possible kind of royal decoration, and had given him, and had gathered together soldiers, horses, and chariots, and had entrusted them to him, and had given him cities, fields, and woods, and the men dwelling in them, even more than my father had commanded - even he forgot that favor I had shown him, and he planned evil. Outwardly with his lips he spoke friendly things, while inwardly his heart plotted murder.
--Inscription from a wall of the Nineveh Palace

The car reached the parking lot just as the sun set, starting the new day of 13 Nissanu. The sun turned green a moment before it set, sending out a blinding flash that nearly caused the shaknu to crash just as they reached their destination. Dananu ran across the pavement armed with Rabshake's flashlight as soon as they stopped, hoping to make out some clues before it got too dark (the facility was too isolated to receive outside power, and apparently the institute's generator disappeared with it). Later he used the headlights of the cars of Rabshake and the imprisoned security guard to continue his examination. The lot suddenly ended along a slightly curved line, which seemed to form a circumference that could be continued with the mind's eye all the way around the mountain. The new top of the mountain followed a concave section with mathematical precision, as smooth as glass where pavement or rock was cut in half by whatever mysterious effect was responsible for this.

Eventually it became too dark even for headlights to do any good, and Dananu reluctantly retired to the security office, which Rabshake had converted into a bedroom. Dananu removed his lowly cowhide robe and lay in the dark for awhile, reviewing the events of the previous day in his head. He was very lucky to be such a close friend to a powerful man such as Rabshake. Otherwise, he never would have had a chance to investigate such an interesting mystery. He only hoped that he wouldn't get kicked out by whoever the emperor chose to send.

In the morning, the junior engineer was able to confirm his previous observations. He was greatly puzzled by the fact that there appeared to be no trace of the missing mountaintop. Even if it had been blown to bits, he reasoned, the bits should have gone somewhere.

He returned to the office to see Rabshake on the phone. The man finished the call and hung up.

"Are we in trouble for leaving the airport without the emperor's engineer?" asked Dananu.

"No. Apparently, there was some problem with the lead engineer. I could have sworn I heard the emperor say that he had forgotten who he had called."

"That can't be right!"

"Well, in any case, the second lead is being sent, so I have to go and pick him up."

"You're leaving me alone here?"

"No, I'll let one of the policemen out, and you can interrogate the prisoners. If I were you, though, I'd find an inconspicuous spot when I return. I doubt any of those Nineveh folks will like the idea of a local snooping around."

"Very well. Take your time though, you know?"

"I'll see what I can do. Good luck, Dananu!"

Dananu and the police officer made their way to the cell of the security guard, Iobates, a hulking Greek of limited intellect and apparently limitless cruelty, to judge by his record. "My Assyrian friends call me Bate," he said with a grin. Apparently the idea of not having to work for his room and board was more attractive to him than the realization that he was behind bars. He was also certain that he would be amply rewarded for going against his boss' orders in calling the police.

"Very well, Bate, just tell me what you saw on the 12th."

"It was one, maybe two bere after sunset, and there was some sort of party going on. I know because Roder came out with some of the fixings for me. Uh, no drinks though. I'm not supposed to drink on duty."

Dananu smiled indulgently. "I'm sure you didn't. What happened after that?"

"Like I said, I was eating with Roderick, that's the day-shift guard, when suddenly we heard this shouting, see, coming from the patient ward, which is where the party was. Roder volunteered to go see what was the matter, and he had barely disappeared into the night when he comes running back, followed by most of the staff. Behind him is the biggest, brightest light I ever saw. It's like a ball, see, and it's growing, even as I'm looking at it. And when it had gotten as big as it was going to get, suddenly it's gone! Huh, it was so bright in fact that I had things dancing in my eyes the rest of the day. I only got my sight back this morning."

"When you saw this light, did you hear anything?"

"Yeah, I heard all those people shouting that were running towards me."

Dananu rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Other than them."

"Well it was kinda hard to hear anyone else, as they were shouting so loud. Oh wait, I did hear something else. It was a woman, one of the patients back in the ward. She was laughing, but not any ordinary laugh. It was like she was crazy or something."

"Yes, yes. But did the light make any sound? Any sound at all?"

"Like a 'whoosh' or a 'boom!' or something like that? No, no sound at all."

Dananu scratched his head, once again at a loss. This was like no explosion he had ever learned of at the College initiations, indeed, it seemed like some new kind of energy altogether, one apparently devoid of force. There had been some wild theories at one of the Egyptian universities suggesting that matter and energy were inter-convertible--perhaps this was the first practical demonstration of this? There was also that explosion in Russia a few decades ago that the empire had covered up with some story about a comet. Dananu knew a conspiracy expert, and he decided to consult with him as soon as the imperial expert arrived.

The engineer and the policeman next went to the cell of Naqia, director of the institute and the empire's finest mind in the realm of mental illness. Naqia was a quite extraordinary individual, one of the very few exceptions to the male domination of the sciences in the empire (and all other occupations, for that matter). She was admired by her peers for thinking so much like a man, and not allowing her womanly compassion to get in the way of necessary data for her chosen field. Although at that moment, she looked less like a brilliant scientist and more like a mental patient herself. She was sitting in a corner of the cell, locked in intense concentration.

"Madame Director," said Dananu politely, pulling up a chair. "May I have a moment of your time?"

She looked up at him, a confused look on her narrow face. "Have we met?" she asked.

"No, we haven't. I'm here..."

"Are you sure? You could have forgotten, you know. I have forgotten a tremendous amount of memories in the last day. I can't seem to remember who my father was. I know his name, and what he did, but I can't recall his face."

The man decided to move forward. "I'm here about the...phenomenon that occurred on the night of the 12th. My name is Dananu. I'm an engineer."

"Then I guess I don't know you. A man of science, do you say? So you believe the gods have allowed the world to be ruled by rational laws?"

"Yes, that certainly is my view."

"I am afraid you are mistaken. This is a world of magic we live in, where powerful wills are capable of ruining everything a dedicated scientist has--WHY DID SHE HAVE TO DO THIS TO ME! How can she expect me to go on with my life after tearing it to pieces like that? I'd be better off mad than to have to witness something like what I've seen."

Dananu was taken back by this outburst. He had attended several seminars given by this woman, and he had previously been convinced she was the most brilliant, most rational being on Earth. "Could you tell me about it?" he asked, nervously.

"Well, I can tell you that my patients were putting on a play for us, and that monster Sammu-ramat decided to convert them into a fireball that consumed my institute. I know that doesn't make any sense, but regretfully, that's what happened. If you want to make sense of it, then you will want to consult with Madai, he visited with Sammu-ramat constantly, and I'm convinced he planned this atrocity on normalcy with her. He's an archeologist, works out in Media. You may remember he did the excavations at Anshan on the Persians."

"Yes, yes. Now, Sammu-ramat--do you mean the avatar of the goddess Ishtar?"

"No, one of my patients. Although, come to think of it, perhaps she was a goddess after all. If you abandon reason, then that's actually a pretty good explanation. She was of mixed European blood, although she claimed to have lived her life in the Americas. She also spoke a completely made up language, a mish-mash of Britannic and Frankish, and when she spoke Akkadian this language clearly influenced her accent."

"I'm surprised you recognized the origins of this language."

"I minored in linguistics in college. I had her teach it to me, in both spoken and written forms, in hope of tripping her up. It's one of the treatments for schizophrenia, especially for those patients that claim to be rational, to lead them to find the inconsistencies in their stories. Unfortunately, I never did find a flaw in her language.

"Her actual name was, let me see, Sammant'ha, I believe, but no one could pronounce that properly so she became Sammu-ramat."

"What was she being treated for?"

"Schizophrenia. The particular world she lived in was so complex that I was never entirely able to work it out. At times she sounded like a visitor from one of the other planets, at other times like an Igigi from Ekharsagkurkurra. Wherever she came from, it was an impossible world where the people voted for what they wanted and the poor had the same rights as the rich."

"I believe the Greeks wrote about places like these."

"Yes, well the Greeks are the world's best dreamers, are they not? Anyway, Sammu-ramat said she had a friend when she was a child, by the name of Rekard, or something like that, and he possessed a magical medallion that allowed him to travel through time."

"And where did he get this medallion?"

"She told me that an Egyptian named Merymose had found it in the sands three thousand years ago, and after a lifetime of visiting the past and future, had selected this boy to get it next. Sammu-ramat sort of stumbled on this secret, but she soon became invaluable, as she was very fond of history and was extremely good with languages.

"This was all very cut and dried so far, an obvious case of wish-fulfillment, although it was a little interesting that Sammu-ramat lacked the courage to give herself this medallion in her fantasy, claiming that only those with the blood of the pharaohs could wield it.

"They spent several years traveling here and there throughout history, with this Merymose showing up from time to time to help them out. However, Sammu-ramat over time came to realize that her friend was losing his mind. Several times, she had to stop him before he hurt some of the crucial figures. Finally, when they were visiting the court of Ashurbanipal the Great, her friend succeeded in killing him..."

"She told you that Ashurbanipal was assassinated?"

"Yes, and that this Rekard then took over as emperor himself, and tried to make Sammu-ramat into his queen. When she resisted, he sent her back to the present.

"When she arrived, nothing seemed any different, but with each sunset that followed, the world changed. With each change she found herself the only one remembering the world as it went before. Finally, she ended up in this world."

"That's certainly an original form of madness. But surely you could have caught her in a contradiction. For instance, why would she go from the Americas to Nairi?"

"She said she read the report of the Persian excavations, and recognized the name of Madai. He was apparently a well-known archeologist in her world as well. Here we are moving into the world of fact, as Madai did indeed bring this woman to us to be committed to our care."

Dananu scratched his head for moment, trying to figure this all out. "You said that Madai visited her afterwards. Was he ever caught bringing her any equipment?"

Naqia shook her head angrily. "You're not getting this, are you? She described what time travel looked like, and that's exactly what I and my staff fled from."

Dananu was confused. "So she had one of these medallions?"

"No! There was only the one, she told me. She told me she came to the conclusion long ago that that medallion was worthless, and Rekard didn't have a drop of pharaoh's blood in him. It was his madness, the blind certainty that it was possible, that allowed him to travel through time, a certainty so strong it could even bring along a skeptic like Sammu-ramat. She said she came here to surround herself with lunatics, to drive herself a little mad, so together they could generate the certainty necessary to go back. She told me all of this, the day we admitted her, because she knew we wouldn't believe her.

"She was here three years, and she was the only patient we had who got worse during those years. She gained the trust of the other patients, and every year, she convinced them to replace the traditional New Year's play of Gilgamesh with The Lions of Ashurbanipal."

"I never was big on literature..."

"Lions of Ashurbanipal is about Queen Assur-sharrat begging her husband Ashurbanipal to end his continual wars against the Elamites, wars that were largely in revenge for them seducing his brother Shamash-shum-ukin into open rebellion. The king was finally convinced after seeing the suffering of a lion he killed in a hunt. Sammu-ramat changed the script each year. This year, the chorus was to advance from Nairi to Nineveh, led by Sammu-ramat as Assur-sharrat. I didn't see that script, so I don't know what happened after that. The invocation of the play pulls players and audience back into the days of the ancient emperor, and it looks like that's what she did."

"You can't expect me to believe that, Naqia, no matter how much I respect your work."

Dananu whirled around, to find himself face to face with Emperor Adad-nirari VII, who had been listening in on the entire conversation. An embarrassed Rabshake was beside him. "Your majesty!" Dananu cried out, falling prostate at his feet.

What can one say to describe a god on Earth? Adad-nirari was the image of perfection, five full cubits in height, and covered from the dangling end of his braided hair to the tip of his walking slippers in the finest gold filigree. When he stood still, he was a work of art, and when he moved, it was like he was the song of the gods being reenacted before your very eyes. The fact that he would even speak to you was a minor miracle.

The director was not phased by this vision of imperial splendor in the least. "Welcome, your highness," she said. "What brings you to this obscure corner of the empire?"

"I find myself lacking in engineers, so I decided to trust in my rusty scientific education and come myself. I ask again, do you have proof of your explanation of how Mount Ashur-ikisha lost its top? It seems to me that your tale resembles your patient's, as it leaves nothing that can be confirmed."

"Oh, but you are mistaken. It will leave a very great deal. Sammu-ramat and her group have been transported to the time of Ashurbanipal, and I believe her goal is to kill Rekard, or I should say Emperor Ashurbanipal himself, as she believes these two to be one and the same. If she succeeds, she will radically change history, and every step her group get closer to Nineveh, the more the world changes. Tell me, Emperor, other than your missing engineers, did you notice any other changes? We are not supposed to remember history changing like this, but apparently there are some residual leaks...."

Dananu had been cautiously staring at the emperor for the last few minutes. Adad-niriari finally noticed this, and glared down at his Nairi subject's presumptuousness. The look soon turned to surprise, however. "Do I know you?" he asked cautiously.

"I'm not sure," answered Dananu.

The emperor looked back up at Naqia. "Well, this is most curious, but you must have something more definite."

Naqia chewed on her knuckle for awhile. "I hesitate to repeat what Sammu-ramat told me. It was a great blasphemy against Assur."

Adad-nirari waved his hand. "Go on. I am not in the habit of punishing messengers."

"She asked me if I ever wondered how the empire had managed to rule the world for over twenty-five hundred years, when no previous empire in Earth's history had lasted more than a quarter of that. In fact, in her world, the Assyrian Empire had...had fallen, within a generation after Ashurbanipal's death."

The emperor and the engineer looked each other in the eye knowingly. Clearly, they had some suspicion as to what they were going to hear.

"And what explanation did she give?" Adad-nirari asked.

"She said that Rekard brought with him plans for all of the scientific marvels of the present day, especially weapons. He founded the College of Engineers and entrusted them to build only a few of his inventions at a time, so that they would always have an advantage over the other peoples of the earth."

This was the innermost secret of the College of Engineers, in fact Ashurbanipal's exact words to the first engineers, remembered and passed down in secret ceremonies from that day to this.

"Sammu-ramat was not an engineer?" asked Dananu, slowly getting up. "And what about you? Have either of you been in contact with any engineers?"

"Not that I know of. Why are you both looking at me like that? I thought you said I wasn't to be harmed, your majesty?"

"The penalty for revealing the secrets of the College is much worse than death, Naqia."

"But, I didn't...that's what she told me! I have no way of knowing if it's true!"

Dananu looked quickly between the two of them. "Wait!" he cried. "What of the inscriptions?" The writings on the Sacred Blue Sheets had used the Phoenician script, but were otherwise totally illegible.

The emperor thought this a good test. Obtaining a pad of paper, he carefully copied down one of the inscriptions from memory. "Can you read this?" he asked, sliding it under the bars to Naqia.

She looked it over for a few minutes, then looked up in confusion. "I can pronounce it, but some of the words are nonsense. 'The neutron will penetrate the electric field of the uranium atom, striking the nucleus and causing it to split.'"

This was greeted by a stunned silence. Engineers for centuries had known the meanings of the technical terms on the papers, but had been unable to deduce the common words in between.

"Nineveh is about three day's march from Ashur-ikisha, assuming the weather is good," announced the emperor. "That means that we have only a few hours to get to this archaeologist and try to find some way to prevent the end of the world."

Day 3

In a month of days I ravaged Elam to its farthest border. The noise of people, the tread of cattle and sheep, the glad shouts of rejoicing, I banished from its fields.
--Cylinder seal inscription

His strong cities, together with the small ones, whose number was countless, right up to the city of Izirtu, I captured, I destroyed, I devastated, I burned with fire.
--Cylinder seal inscription

...Hallusu, king of Elam, the one who plotted evil against Assyria, and engaged in hostilities against Sennacherib, king of Assyria, my grandfather,--his tongue which had been slandering, I cut off; his lips which had spoken insolence, I pierced; his hands, which had grasped the bow to fight against Assyria, I chopped off. To this end I proclaim the glory of Assur and Ishtar, the gods, my allies, to all....
--Inscription on a statue placed in Nineveh's main gate

Not one escaped, not a sinner slipped through my hands, of those the gods had counted for my hands.
--Cylinder seal inscription

The flash of sunset green came as the imperial jet was making its way southwest toward Ecbatana airport. "Quickly," asked Naqia. "Do you notice anything different?"

"Well," replied Adad-nirari after a moment's thought, "I do find it curious that the emperor would send me, his brother, to investigate this mystery when he clearly said he wanted an engineer on the job."

"And I can't seem to recall how I got from Babylon to Bitlis in time to get involved with all this," added Dananu. "I am after all but a common thief."

"Shouldn't you have taken the director with you instead of the security guard?" asked Naqia. "And weren't there four of us just a moment ago?"

No one had answers to any of these questions, so they just sat there and waited for the plane to land. Madai was waiting for them, so they climbed into his jeep and headed out to his archeological dig.

"There is a tablet I dug up a few decades ago that I was never able to decipher," he told them when they had arrived. "It was under the Temple of Ishtar in Nineveh. I was the construction crew's archaeologist, and the Institute generously gave me trusteeship of the slab while I tried to figure it out. Well, years turned to decades, and one day this woman comes out to my dig claiming to know me. Said that we had corresponded frequently and that she had assisted me in the Anshan dig. Of course, I don't believe a word of this, and I saw that the poor woman got the help she needed. I should have let it go at that. But I had had these dreams all my life that I was living two lives at once. And the odd thing about this fantasy was that this life was eminently better than the one I dreamed of. Here I was respected and had access to all the best resources to do my work, while in my dreams I was destitute and ignored. And among the huge cast of people I couldn't recognize in my dreams was this woman." The group by this time were crowded into his tent.

"So," he continued, "I followed up on her, got Iobates to show me her file. And in the middle of her insane story was the fact that her false Ashurbanipal was accompanied by an seven-century old Egyptian. So I looked at my mystery slab again, interpreting the cuneiform to be Egyptian syllables instead of Akkadian, and now I found that I could read the words easily. The record on that tablet confirmed Sammant'ha's story." With that, he removed a cloth and showed it to them. Dananu and Adad-nirari could only confirm that the cuneiform wasn't in Akkadian, but Naqia could read it, although she had no idea when she had learned Egyptian.

"I visited her quite a bit after that," said Madai, "to find out what her world was like."

"She told me that I remembered my other life so well because they happened to be so similar to each other. She said that for most people, her world was better than mine. More people had equal rights, most slavery was abolished, and women were treated the same as men. There were certainly problems in her world, wars that did not exist in ours, and a legacy of evils that might never be erased. But her world was continually getting better, while this is a world of domination and oppression."

"So you'll do nothing to stop this," accused Dananu.

"There's nothing anyone can do," answered Madai. "Not unless you have a band of madmen you can convince to take you back twenty-six hundred years."

Adad-nirari sat down and put his fingertips together. "Perhaps it would be best for the world if the Assyrian Empire came to an early end. But you already know that you are headed for a life of frustration. What of us?"

"The Assyrians will be nearly completely wiped off of the face of the earth, largely by my race, the Medians. The wars I told you of will permanently destroy Mesopotamia's fertility. This area of the world, after a brief moment as the high point of civilization, will largely be left behind in the gifts of enlightenment."

"That's not very fair," observed Dananu.

"No, no it's not. Anyway, would you like to hear their progress?" Manai picked up the tablet and began reading from near the bottom: "Sam is coming. King Rick and I are at our wit's end to know how she managed to come back. We just know that she's headed this way, and she apparently hasn't gotten over that little 'assault' thing. She's also got an army. It started with just a handful, but there's something about her, and more people join her by the hour. The good thing is that it's slowing her down.

"I've been trying to convince the Boss to cash in and get out of here while the getting's good, but he actually thinks he can stand up to her. He doesn't know I have the medallion. I plan to skip before they come after me, but I don't mind watching the emperor's last hours on earth, and leaving this record to mess with the head of whoever finds it.

"The army has just defected to her side. They're opening the gates to Sam's army."

Dananu waited for Manai to continue. "And? And?"


The rules for making offerings to the dead and libations to the ghosts of the kings my ancestors, which had not been practiced, I reintroduced. I did well unto god and man, to dead and living. Why have sickness, ill-health, misery and misfortune befallen me? I cannot away with the strife in my country and the dissensions in my family. Disturbing scandals oppress me alway. Misery of mind and of flesh bow me down; with cries of woe I bring my days to an end. On the day of the city-god, the day of the festival, I am wretched; death is seizing hold on me and bears me down. With lamentation and mourning I wail day and night, I groan, "O god, grant even to one who is impious that he may see thy light. How long, O god, wilt thou deal thus with me? Even as one who hath not feared god and goddess am I reckoned."
--Last inscription from the Nineveh Palace

"That's the end of the tablet," answered Manai, to the empty tent. The tablet in his hands suddenly smashed itself to pieces.

From the Merriam Webster Biographical Dictionary

7th century B.C. King of Assyria (668-627 B.C.). Son of Esarhaddon. Seized control of delta region and Memphis in Egypt (667) defeating rebel king Taharqa; recognized Necho I as chief of lords of delta region in Egypt (664) and Necho's son Psamtik as regent (663); lost Egypt to Psamtik (c.660-654); defeated (c.652) Cimmerians, who had overrun Asia Minor; overcame revolt of his older half-brother, Shamash-shum-ukin, ruler over Babylon (648); subdued Elam (642-639). Records of his reign remain very full for 30 years (669-639), but none exist for latter part. Last years marked by attacks of Scythians on north and northeast and by rapid rise of Media and Chaldea. Able administrator; devoted to art and literature; raised Assyria to height of power; collected great library of tablets. Remains of his palace at Nineveh were unearthed at Kuyunjik, near Mosul.

From Ancient Cities Beneath the Sands:

In 827 B.C., there was a great revolt in Assyria; 26 towns, including Assur and Nineveh rebelled making the king's son their leader. The people demanded fewer taxes and a greater share in the wealth of the country. The sickly old king gave up the throne to his son Shamshi-adad V and died 3 years later.

Shamshi-adad (824-810 B.C.) fought the rebels for five years. He made Nineveh the new capital of Assyria. Leading three campaigns against the Babylonians, he entered Babylon and proclaimed himself king of Sumer and Akkad. As his heir Adad-nirari III was very young when he died in 811 B.C., his favorite wife Sammu-ramat became regent. She was from a foreign country and greatly missed the green verdure of her native land. For this reason, her husband built her the glorious Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Sammu-ramat herself entered into legend and later became identified with the legendary queen Semiramis.

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This page maintained by McPoodle43 @t Gmail.com. Last updated on October 2, 2003 (fixed various typographical errors and pointed out the severed head in the third illustration).