And there she lay in splay of ruin — Uruk — as if torn apart by evil bruin and, indeed, she had been; only the splendorous Temple of Innana stood in radiance in bright light of new sun rising on newly begun day, yet in complete disarray. People could be seen like ants running to and fro and in between half-eaten buildings, bitten by the Watchers. The great city had been hard smitten by foul attack, but evidently in no lack of defense… Uruk did, after all, survive, and she would revive.
Some sizeable clouds rolled across high-sky, teasing of rain without appeasing, proud they could partly shroud war-torn land without answering demand for much-needed water. As I drew nearer, the slaughter was unimaginable; the day hotter than usual, which only worsened matters for the rotters. And where was the Mater, Innana, in all this? She may as well have been little more than squatter! How many lives had been lost, tossed into netherworld, to defend her precious parental temple?
“A bit harsh, don’t you think?” came familiar voice. “In blink of an eye, you shrink from grace and lace your thoughts with condemnation.”
I turned. My heart burned. No better sound could have entered my ear, and no dearer sight could have met my eyes than the one I beheld: Kheba. Battle weary but alive, she revived this weary man, smiled and piled on kiss after kiss. “Did you think I wouldn’t miss you? That I wouldn’t worry that you had to leave in such a hurry, to scurry through wasteland filled with haunting band of ghosts and wraiths?” And I made most of the moment and held her tightly, pressing lips to lips again. And all doubt about what had happened left as I breathed out with one great heave. Leave such foolishness and believe, I told myself. If Kheba fought, she brought sister with her, too! This much I suddenly knew.
“And Metuşelah and Lemek?” I asked as we continued our trek back into Uruk, or what was left after being horrifically ransacked.
“No death toll has rung for those two. Except for a few wounds, they do well,” Kheba answered. “But you? Tell me what happened to you? I knew your journey would be hard and fraught with danger, perhaps even bought at the price of your life… Yet here you are alive, and though worn you somehow seem to thrive.” She took pause to consider the cause. “Ah … you met Şifalâhe … after being saved from blight of Ddiafol and set aright again … and you sank into crystalline lake, and drank freely sweet honey of heaven. Am I right in my divine hindsight?” She swung me around off my feet and began to beat in laughter.
“Oh, the gods! The gods! Never did human trod this earth as mysterious as the gods!” I had to laugh, as well, but then chaff from the ruins floated round about. “But how can you be so joyous and buoyant in chorus of mirth amid such death and dearth?”
“Well, we finally won by the rise of yesterday’s sun; at great cost, for many, many were lost. We scorned and cursed the Watchers even as we mourned family and friends fallen … but in that hour victory was ours.” Kheba looked at me squarely, barely able to continue. “Even still, I had no joy, no thrill in having bested the enemy, especially having invested so much blood to do so… Oh, no. No … my joy comes in seeing you, and being here, right where I am now … after all, even the goddess knows true love.”