By Wim_Garnet 4 Comments
All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.
Previous chapters are arranged in sequence on my blog.
South Pole, 1990
As the screen faded to black again, a large, armored Eternal shouldered his way past Ikaris, Thena and the others. Gilgamesh stepped out onto the ice in front of the Ameythst Celestial and began to bellow, his arms flying wide, fists clenched in frustration.
“We tire of this shadow theater, space god! Enough! Let us speak the full truth in our own defense. Show our heroic deeds, of which you must know. You know they are many yet you conceal the facts!” Gilgamesh gathered a breath, pointed to the face of the Celestial and roared.
“You are a coward! Coward!”
This time the horn blast was so loud it drove all of the Eternals to their knees, clutching their ears in pain. The ice beneath the feet of Gilgamesh heaved up and he fell forward, prone at the feet of the purple giant. When they rose again, the black screen was shimmering again.
Mesopotamia, 2738 BC
It revealed a palace of stone and clay brick masonry, surrounded by a city of rough, single story dwellings and several tall ziggurats. Within the palace, Gilgamesh sat on a raised throne, resting his head on one arm. A palace priest was telling him tiresome news. It was the time of harvest feasts, but hunts and harvests have been weak this year. The people must go without the traditional rituals or the granaries and stores would not last the winter. Gilgamesh’s eyes brightened and he sprung up from his throne.
“The hunts of others have failed. I shall provide the harvest festival for the people!” He clapped the priest on the shoulder and strode off toward his armory.
Soon after, with a brace of javelins strung over his shoulder and a short sword at his belt, Gilgamesh set out for the edge of the city. He had not bothered with his armor or the helmet horned like a bull. It was just a hunt - what wild creature could harm him. He passed the guard at the northern gate of Uruk with a promise to return with meat for the feast. The guards cheered him and struck their spears on their shields as he strode off toward the nearby hills.
As soon as he was over the first hilltop and out of sight of the city, Gilgamesh raised his arms and leapt into the air. He levitated low at first, to stay behind the hills. Then he rose high into the sky, certain he was over the horizon visible from the walls of Uruk. He saw the landscape of Mesopotamia unfurl below him, broad plains of silt-formed fields braced by two great rivers. Soon he was soaring over the kidney-shaped sea that stretched into north. The cool air refreshed him.
As he passed the northern boundary of the sea, close-turfed steppe lands rolled out in all directions. They were dotted with herds of wild deer and elk. Gilgamesh knew he could simply cast javelins from the air, gather a mountain of venison on his back and return to Uruk within the hour. But what sport was in that? He wanted boar and he wanted to meet it on the ground.
Swooping lower, he spotted evidence of his prey. A sounder of eight females was grazing in a clearing. But these were barely two hands taller than Gilgamesh at the shoulder. He wanted bulls, their heads ten feet high, their shoulders twelve, their tusks longer than his short sword. He wanted a real fight.
Dropping to the ground near the females, Gilgamesh began to scout on foot. Soon, he spotted small trees with their trunks snapped over. There was coarse hair in the bark where a boar had scratched his back. From there, the Eternal picked up the musky scent and followed the trail of the animal into a small clump of denser trees. On the other side he spotted the bull. It scented him immediately and turned.
Gilgamesh brayed a loud sound of challenge. He knew words were wasted on the beast, but his intent would be clear. The boar lowered his head a moment, then reared up and brought his front hooves crashing on the ground, throwing large divots of earth and shaking the turf under the feet of Gilgamesh. The Eternal grinned in answer and brayed again. His hand went for a moment to his short sword but he left it in place. Yes, it would be a real fight.
The boar began to charge forward, lowering his tusks. Gilgamesh charged in turn, stretching out his bare hands to catch the beast by the head and throw it. But the first throw went to the boar, who tossed his head up at the last moment, evading Gilgamesh’s grasp and hooking the strap of his javelin quiver. Tossing his head sharply left, the boar hurled the Eternal over the full length of his back and into the range of his hind hooves. No sooner had Gilgamesh landed then the hooves began to pound his chest and midsection like trip hammers.
Gilgamesh was stunned for a moment, and then rolled out of the rain of the hooves. His left arm shot out, grasped one hind leg of the boar and reversed their roles. This time the boar flew over the Eternal’s head, landing like a felled oak on the turf nearby. The Eternal jogged away and turned at the same distance at which the duel had begun. He lifted off his javelins and unbuckled his sword. Then he threw two large handfuls of turf into the air and brayed again. This was becoming enjoyable.
The boar righted itself, shook off the dust and torn turf, and then squared off again. This time Gilgamesh charged first. The boar answered with a slower, more bounding charge, as if he meant to land on the Eternal and drive him into the earth. Gilgamesh smiled and began to time his maneuver. When the boar’s hind legs left the ground for his last bound, Gilgamesh stopped short and pulled his right arm back. The boar landed, head down, tusks safely out of reach, a half step in front. Immediately, Gilgamesh brought his fist down between the boar’s eyes, driving its head into the turf.
The beast’s momentum brought its body flipping over its head, so Gilgamesh ducked and hopped aside to let the bulk hurl past. As soon as the mass settled to the ground, he came down with his right again, this time below one eye socket, splitting the skull of the boar. Two more punches and beast was unconscious, though still heaving breath. Only then did Gilgamesh retrieve his sword. He found space between two ribs, pressed the point in and stopped the great creature’s heart. He did not want to mar the meat too much.
He sheathed his sword and tossed the boar’s carcass across one shoulder. Then he set out to track another. Three more times that day, Gilgamesh fought a giant boar bare-handed and each time he killed his prey with a different maneuver. With darkness nearing, he tied their hind legs together in pairs so he could carry two on each arm. Then he rose into the air with them and flew back across the steppes, across the sea and across the Fertile Crescent, landing unseen in the plain facing the north gate of Uruk.
Leaving his kill there, he walking to the gate and instructed the guard to take carts and retrieve meat for the feast. Once inside the city, he called the palace priests and told them to make preparations. Then he returned to his throne and rested, drinking honeyed wine and watching the palace retinue set out the great tables and hang the ceremonial tapestries and garlands. From the courtyard immediately outside his porch, he could smell the great fires they raised and the roasting of the boar’s flesh.
For seven days the people of Uruk feasted and danced and feasted and sang and feasted and slept and then feasted again. As the meat began finally to run out, Gilgamesh recalled that he had left his javelins on the Kazakh steppes. He hated to see the people’s celebration end, so he bade them continue and walked off alone. Out of sight, he again flew north, retrieved his javelins and quickly used each of them to fell a half dozen large deer. These he tied into a bundle and carried south on his back.
The feast continued and Gilgamesh was glad. The people of Uruk were so thankful for the bounty and were struck by the large mound of bones and horn that remained when the feast had finally ended. A court sculptor among them called for a stylus and a fresh tablet of soft clay. He sketched the design for a heroic column built of bone and antler, crowned with a ring the eight great tusks of the boar turned up toward the sky.
And so in the following weeks, the people of Uruk raised a narrow tower of sunbaked clay brick and wove the bones into a continuous sheath around it. When they set the crown of tusks, they baked a single marker tablet to set at the base of the column. The cuneiform characters read “Great Gilgamesh, Feeder of the People.”
The screen resolved to black and immediately Gilgamesh threw up his hands.
“What of it? If it is of this I am judged, I am proud to own it. I fed the people when the harvest did not supply their feasting. Saw you not how they loved me for it?”
The screen shimmered again and restored the image of the laborers of Uruk gathered in the central courtyard, hard at work on the monument. Then the image was replaced by an interior of a nearby granary, mostly empty. Then another, also under filled. Then an image of Gilgamesh striding away later, on a journey to the East. Then scenes of the people of Uruk wilting into privation, then starvation. Then the image of the scales, settling further down in judgment of the Eternals.