Historical Sci-Fi Action Drama
OldEarth Ishtar Encounter Excerpt
Beyond Mere Barbarism
In this Historical Sci-Fi Action Drama, humor and deadly experience jostle the good nature of friendship. “The strongest chains are in the mind.”
Eoban awoke from a deep slumber, scratching his tousled hair and rubbing sleep from his eyes. By the stars, I thought I’d died, and— A cooing sound turned his attention. He rose from his pallet and peered at the nearby figures. Snoring affirmed what he already suspected. The father and son were sleeping. Tiptoeing, he slipped out of the wine seller’s house.
After rounding the corner, he called. “Barak?”
Barak hissed. “Here.”
Like a blind man, Eoban reached out and slapped Barak’s arm. “Where’ve you been? I had to make up a thousand tales to tell that fool of a boy and his father. I thought they’d get tired and fall asleep like normal people, but no. They wanted nothing more than to stay up half the night and hear me tell one lie after another.”
Barak snorted. “Should’ve felt right at home.”
“On the contrary. I wanted to bolt out of their hospitable door and save my sanity. I’ve never been asked so many stupid questions in all my life.” Eoban’s voice simpered as he clasped his hands. “‘How many wives do you have? Where do your ancestors sleep? Have you built your tomb yet? What artisans do you employ?’ I would’ve liked to build their tombs—”
“Shhh!” Barak waved like a bat ready for takeoff. “Thank you for sharing. I’m fine. Your concern for my welfare is heartwarming. So glad you enjoyed yourself while I risked my life reuniting a father and son.”
Mild surprise caught Eoban off guard. “Luge found his son?”
“Not at first. He did see a boy about the right size and age, but when we caught up, he realized it wasn’t the right boy. The boy did, however, know of a training ground. He’d also been taken from his family and was inclined to help us. At the training ground, we found a group of slaves, and Luge’s son was among them. We managed to get near enough to speak to him. It took an ingenious plot on my part and a great deal of luck, but we got his son separated from the others, and Luge stole him back. They’re heading to the mountain pass.” Barak gestured to the inn. “Tell his men to go after them.”
Muttering under his breath, Eoban returned inside, tiptoed to the back of the dwelling, shook Luge’s men awake, untied their ropes, and hustled them outside to Barak, who gave them instructions.
Returning to Barak’s side, Eoban propped his hands on his hips.
Barak stroked his chin. “You’ll have to come up with a few more lies to explain the loss of your slaves.”
Eoban clapped Barak on the shoulder. “Not if we leave now. I’m in no mood—”
“You’re forgetting someone.”
With more muttering, Eoban traipsed inside, untied Obed, and shoved him awake.
Once outside, the three jogged away. Obed huffed as he trotted. “There’s a certain ironic freedom in being a slave, but would you mind telling me what’s going on? I’ve been tied up for hours.”
As the three men hurried along an empty thoroughfare, a streak of pink light appeared on the horizon. They turned right on a side street, jogged between myriad closed shops, and then at a wide intersection, turned left, searching for the main gate. Eoban clenched his jaw at the sight of people stirring at their doors.
Lanky dogs slunk to the shadows, as pigs, a loose goat, and a variety of scrawny hens scuttled out of their way.
As they entered a rougher, older part of the city, they slowed to a gentle amble.
Half-naked children appeared and stared through wide eyes. The stone streets turned to hard-baked clay, and the homes diminished to nothing more than waddle huts thrown up against the walls of the city.
Peasants in simple wool and leather garments shuffled by with downcast eyes.
Barak sighed. “I can breathe again.”
Eoban nodded through a huff. “I feel as if I’ve been living in a nightmare. That father and son—”
Obed turned, his mouth dropping open. “You think you can judge them? I heard a great deal as I sat there tied up like a sack. These people have rituals for everything— traditions that go back through generations. Men support more than one wife, they make wonderful trade goods, and their building skills surpass—”
Eoban halted and stared at Obed.
Obed stared back.
Averting his gaze, Eoban pointed to a grove of trees hovering on the edge of a meandering stream, which flowed down a gentle slope. He started away. “There’s a good place. I’m going to get a drink and a rest before I deal with you.”
Obed laughed. “Everyone who doesn’t see the world through your eyes needs to be dealt with, is that it?”
Barak groaned under his breath.
Each man took a long drink and soon found a soft spot under a large spreading tree.
Obed propped his head on his arm and stretched his legs. “I heard what you told Eoban about Luge, but tell me, Barak, how did you manage to get the boy away?”
With a grin, Barak shrugged. “I hate to say. It was nothing really. I just asked him where we should meet, and he pointed out a place. As the moon rose, we went to the spot and waited. When he reappeared, we walked away.”
Obed frowned. “No one was watching?”
“No one dares to cross the desert. After a time of mourning, most people simply accept their fate. The chains weren’t so strong—just never tested.”
“You mean other slaves could have walked away, but they never tried?”
Barak nodded. “The strongest chains are in the mind.”
Shoving himself upright, Eoban clapped his hands free of dirt. “Well, that’s a good deed done. Now, Obed, I’ve a few words—”
Obed waved his hand in protest. “Spare us your judgments. So, you’re blind to the magnificence all around you, who cares?”
Feeling like he’d been slapped, Eoban rubbed his jaw. “You have a way of saying things that make the most peaceable man want to knock you down. I wonder how Jonas stands it.”
Obed grinned, darting a glance from Barak to Eoban. “She loves me.”
Eoban snorted. “That’s about what it would take!” He rose and stretched. “Still, I think it’s you who are blind. These people are not great—”
Shooting to his feet, Obed jerked his hand in the direction of the city. “Have you no eyes?”
Eoban crossed his arms over his chest and glared. “The people who live there now are the recipients of other men’s intelligence and hard work. Slaves’ sweat and broken backs make their lives possible.” He stepped closer and peered narrowly at Obed. “They spend time comparing the softness of their clothes, how the colors strike their eyes, and how they feel when reclining on one pillow rather than another.” He lifted his hands as if imploring the sky to bear testimony. “Weak with madness, they are.”
“The city is well managed. There are guards and warriors in numbers beyond count to defend them. They have a well-developed system of trade, buildings for communal storage, magnificent homes for the rulers, and—if you didn’t notice—an ornate temple for their god.” Obed shook his head. “I doubt our clans could do as much over generations.”
Eoban dismissed Obed with a wave. “Why would I want to be like them? Did you learn nothing from Neb and Ishtar? No society can live long when it’s built on cruel force.”
“Cruel force? You know how many clans live in idle waste and make useless wars on each other? Here, at least every man builds to some purpose.”
Eoban shook his head as if to clear water from his ears. He turned, peering at Barak while pointing at Obed. “Who am I talking to?”
Barak frowned at his clasped hands. “I’m not sure.”
Obed laughed and stomped away. “Stop! So, I’m impressed with these people! I’m amazed that you two are too blind to appreciate the grandness of their design and execution. This city values its artists. They can ponder such novelties such as clothing design and pillow comfort because they have time to do so. They’re not sweating for every mouthful or worrying about how to keep their children alive. They’ve moved beyond the barbarism of mere survival.”
Barak straightened and stared at Obed’s back. “There is much to be said for the ‘barbarism of mere survival.’ I work hard to feed my children, but I still have time to think. Is it acceptable to you that this city’s grandness is paid for by the forced separation of a father and son? Would you let Onia be taken so that others might enjoy their art?”
Obed leaned on the tree and chewed his lip. “You’re right on this point, of course. But you can’t deny—they’ve built some marvelous works.”
Eoban snorted. “Anything built on blood is bloody, and I don’t admire bloody things!”
Barak lifted his hands. “We have yet to look earnestly for Ishtar in the city. One more day, and we’ll head home.”
Obed glanced at the towering temple that rose above the city walls. He sighed. “Agreed.”
Eoban felt his stomach fall into a black pit. “Agreed.”
A. K. Frailey is the author of 17 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
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“I enjoy how Frailey writes multiple stories within the book and brings them all together to create one big story! I enjoyed reading the different complex relationships and seeing these relationships react with the other stories…each point of view was well structured and developed and this created for me an exciting adventure. I was always excited to see what the next chapter would bring!” ~Amazon Customer
“a complex tale of sorcery, slave raids, and heroic rescues – dramatic events that bring the ancient world to life.” ~David
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