Enki the great crafter of all, created the being Enkidu to watch over Gilgamesh and his burning ambitions. Enki, the father of all beings gave unto his creation a task, to be performed in the City of Ur. Providing his son with a fine horse, glorious woven clothing and a heavy bag of lapis-lazuli; he sent Enkidu forth to complete the lesson, he sent him forth to the great City of Ur.
On arrival in the marvellous Jewel of Man, Enkidu became distracted by the many sights; the bare-chested women with jewels in their navels, the brightly coloured birds from the exotic mysteries of the lands far away and the flesh pits and gambling houses that vied for business with the taverns and street shows. Into one such gambling den did Enkidu spend the first day; losing badly at dice games to three traders of the City of Ur, a third portion of his bag of precious lapis stones went to each.
Awaking in the morning; Enkidu rubbed his eyes and looked around where he had slept. Bodies of men and women in various states of undress; disrobed, unclothed, lay strewn around the floor of the house in which he rested. Stepping gently over slumbering revellers, drunkards and whores; he entered the street and into the City of Ur. To the gambling dens he sought; looking for his three companions of the evening before, for those who had each a third portion of the precious lapis-lazuli entrusted to Enkidu by Enki.
All of the day and unto the moon he searched, until coming upon the Three sat behind a table in a den. Each had their back to the wall, each had an ornate chalice in front, filled to the brim with the sweet wines of Ur. Enkidu approached with salutations and much respect, for the Three were the richest and most powerful of all the traders. With palm on top of head Enkidu bowed to the Three. The First, nodded astutely without words to Enki’s creation. The Second, scowled and drew his purse closer to hand. The Third raised his cup and drank to the son of the Creator.
Enkidu joined the traders with an offer, games of dice to coax the night to good fortune. The traders laughed at his proposition.
“We are rich in all ways, what do we need with your fortune?” Asked the First.
“Why you have nothing left O foolish beggar!” Cried the Second.
“To fortune and games! I raise my cup and drink once more.” Toasted the Third.
The traders whispered among themselves. With heads raised to the interlocutor they assented to the games. Enkidu spoke unto the First Trader:
“Who will pay for the refreshments of the evening, O rich and wise Trader? Let the dice decide; for if I have a lower number than thee, I shall grant the tavern keeper my fine horse in payment for our libations of the night. If you should score lower than I, then you shall pay O Trader. Do you consent to these terms?” Enkidu inquired.
The wise Trader consented and dice were called for. Delivered by slave boy, an ornate dice of jade and ivory was placed before the first Trader. He took up the dice, shook it in his palms and rolled. The number was 3. Enkidu took his turn with the dice and rolled wordlessly onto the table before the traders three. The number was 1.
“Tavern master, I, Enkidu shall pay for the refreshments of the three magnificent gentlemen before me for the eve. My fine horse becomes payment for this debt.”
Enkidu gestured and the tavern keep brought forth his finest wine and filled the cups of the Three Traders of Ur. They drank deeply to the health of Enkidu and his father Enki. To the Second he turned, inviting the next game:
“Who will pay for the companionship of the evening, O rich and prudent Trader?” Let the dice decide; for if I have a lower number than thee, I shall pay for the most skilled and rich women of wondrous device to spend the night with the Three Traders of Ur. If you should score lower than I, then you shall pay O Trader. Do you consent to these terms?” Enkidu inquired for the second time.
The prudent Trader considered the proposal; with cajoling from his companions he consented and once more the dice was rolled. The Second took up the dice. The number was 4. Enkidu sighed, for fortunate was not his fate this evening it seemed. He took up the dice. The number was 1.
Enkidu called for the most magnificent women as companions for the Traders. The women approached, glorious in their costume of gold threads, gems hanging from their headdresses contrasting with the tanned smooth skin. They draped themselves over the Three Traders, in payment Enkidu promised unto them his fine clothes; weaved and conceived by the master creator. To the Third he turned, inviting the next game:
“Enkidu finds you but a beggar with only one item of worth remaining O Trader. I offer you a game of the dice. Whichever of us does have the lowest number; shall pay for the gamble with his life before the night is through. For life is the only possession of priceless worth I own. Do you consent to these terms?”
The Third Trader boomed with laughter, the exotic birds that fluttered in the ceiling of the tavern took flight from the quake.
“I shall receive the offer O penniless and unfortunate beggar, for it is not your fate to win this eve!”
The Third Trader took up the dice. The number was 5. A cheer from the Trader’s companions greeted Enkidu’s crestfallen face. He took up the dice.
The number was 6.
The laughter died as the Third Trader fell face down to the table, alarm and acrimony in his wake. The Second checked for life; there was none. The Third of the companions was dead.
“What is this mischief?” Demanded the First.
“You cheated and lied, O wretched beggar!” Accused the Second.
Enkidu spoke to the Two Traders of Ur with a new offer of a dice game:
“O Traders of Ur, O with wisdom and prudence I offer unto you a game; which offers each of you a gift. To the Trader with the lower number, they will receive a Secret. To the Trader with the higher number, I shall gift unto them the Truth. Do you consent to these terms?”
The traders conferred quietly with furtive looks thrown at Enkidu. Eventually, the First Trader, the wise one replied:
“We consent to your terms, O beggar who brings poor fortune.”
Enkidu placed the ornate dice on the table between the pair. The Second rolled the dice first. The number was 2. The First rolled the dice second. The number was 4. To the First was due the Truth and to the Second was promised the Secret. Enkidu stood by the right ear of the Second, whispering but a few words. The Second collapsed to the table in death.
The First and only remaining Trader of the Three Greatest Traders in Ur stood with alarm:
“What is the meaning of this O wretched beggar? What is the Truth of the matter? Why does the cold grasp of Death follow your words?”
Enki’s creation gestured for the First to return to his seat. Resting opposite him, Enkidu spoke of the Truth:
“O Great Trader of Ur, O he who has fortune and possessions beyond the sight of even the gods. I, Enkidu, promised you the Truth and the Truth is what shall be placed in your exquisite hands. Not less than three suns ago, my creator Enki sent me to Ur with a task. To deliver unto the Underworld, three persons who were overdue, who had tried to escape the Fates with wealth, soft living and slaves to work when they would not. The first two are delivered; the last remains. However, why must Enkidu not perform his duties with a pinch of fun? Come unto me O glorious whores, Tavern Master! Fresh wine for us! For the last batch was poisoned.”
Clutching his throat, the last of the Three Great Traders of Ur began his journey to the Underworld. Enkidu toasted loudly and raucously to the Three:
“May your journey be swift, O Great Traders of Ur!”
To Chapter Sixty-Eight – The Trial
So much to learn, so much to read. This was wonderful.
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Thank you very much, I’m glad you enjoyed it.