The people fear me, but it is my God that they should cower before. I bring my iron staff down upon the rocky ground and it makes a pleasing noise to my ears. Uriah stands at my right hand side, his sling and bullets ready should the fear of Chaos not lead us to where we need to go. One of the villagers who had surrounded the two of us has enough courage to approach me again. He looks carefully at my face, his eyes and mouth wide open. I had taken my hood down when the people looked as if they might rob us, and it was enough to cause many of them to scatter. This brave one now steels himself as he inches closer. I speak and the words form without magic.
“I am Joshua, Son of Nehushtan. I come here on the business of the High King Suhis, Lord of all Hittites. The ancient city of Hattusa lies before us. I need a guide to bring myself and my companion within. Our task has been blessed by Leviathan, great dragon of the sea. Help us and her gaze may not linger on your lands.”
He hears my voice and knows the name of Chaos. And yet there is reluctance as he returns his words. “Stranger, we will not hinder one who is on the business of kings and gods, but you will not find any who will willingly go into the city of Hattusa. It is cursed. The ancient giants who built it have long gone but their shades remain. If you venture in you will either die or be driven mad by the ghosts of the fallen.”
I look around and judge the people here to be simple folk. There may not be much to be gained by taking a guide, and much to be lost by being delayed. They fear us for the moment but hospitality is rare in these lands far from Carchemish. It would not do to die so close to our goal. I smile inwardly though my face could not reflect my feelings even if I wished it to.
“I thank you for your warning. We will not require any of you to accompany us into that cursed place. We walk with the blessing of Leviathan and none can harm us without the seventy fold vengeance of the Sons of El descending upon them. Offer a sacrifice to Kubaba when we have gone and you shall have peace here.”
It has worked. The people must reckon us to be holy, certainly holy enough to leave alone. Why risk the wrath of the gods when their messengers walk amongst you? They part and let us pass. A child at the rear stares at me. He has never seen a Levite before, never seen the scars. He will remember us now. We continue along the road.
“Laying it on a bit thick there Joshua, don’t you think?”
“No Uriah, it was exactly what they needed to hear. Besides we got some useful information out of them. If the locals think that Hattusa is cursed then it likely isn’t inhabited by bandits. Your skills may not be needed inside. If there are spirits of the dead however, then my skills will be tested.”
“If you say so. I wonder though, it’s been generations since Hattusa fell. Even if the stone of Kubaba was here when the city was destroyed it’s very likely that someone has made off with it in the years since. If its magic is as potent as Suhis thinks it is…”
“We will find out one way or the other. Fear not, our failure to bring back the stone will be a kind of success in itself. If it is truly gone then it cannot be used against the King.”
Our mission is important to our Lord. He rules the Hittites well and prepares to expand his dominion. He requires the approval of Kubaba, the Goddess of the Earth who founded the city of Carchemish where our Lord rules. She holds much knowledge in her sacred stones. There is rumoured to be one in Cyprus and another in far off Elam. They are too far for our purposes, but I had heard that Hattusa, ancient capital of the Hittites, held a sacred stone in the bowels of the Temple.
It is late afternoon, the sun is still yellow as we enter the city. The walls have long been collapsed, though the gateway still stands. Many houses are in perfect condition too, it is strange that no one lives here. As we get closer to the centre of the city the devastation becomes more noticeable. Old barracks, the granaries – all burned. The ruins of the palace are choked in dust and it takes some time to get my bearings. Finally I work out where the Temple must have been and my heart grows cold. It is ruined beyond any hope of rescue. If the stone was in there once it will be impossible for mortal man to bring it out again. But perhaps not for the immortal gods.
Uriah has returned from his scouting and he sees me setting up the altar. He nods at me and heads away again, knowing that I will need a suitable sacrifice. He returns shortly after I have finished the altar and lit the flame. It is getting dark and the flame will be beacon to any danger around us, but it must be so. Uriah has brought back a crow, his skill with the slingshot is second to none. I take the animal and thank him.
“I hope this works Joshua, I spotted some wild dogs roaming the city. If a pack of them decide that we’d make a tasty snack then I may not have enough bullets to keep us safe.”
“I will work quickly then, as quickly as the ritual allows. A shame it wasn’t lions you saw, they are sacred to Kubaba and that would have been a good omen.”
I start the ritual by looking deep into the ignited wood. I feel the fire as the intermediary between a lowly one such as myself and the power of ultimate Chaos – Leviathan! I start speaking the ancient sacred words and begin to lose myself in the trance. Distantly I hear Uriah speaking words about wild dogs, I hear his sling whirl around him and a sudden crack as a bullet hits its mark. But my mind is in the moment, and now I share the world with the awesome power of the Gods. Nothing is like this, no one can understand what it means to be a Levite until they have experienced the terror of the Chaos Dragon. In this ritual it all comes back to me and I feel afraid, and I feel exultant! The blood of the crow drips over the alter and I bite deep into its flesh. I do this in service to Leviathan, and hope that she answers my prayers.
My faith is well rewarded. Uriah looks at the dogs as they stop in their tracks and start to howl. After but a moment they turn tail and flee. Uriah turns to me with a look of puzzlement in his eyes. I notice the stillness in the air, the quiet in the city. I feel the power of Leviathan ready to be unleashed.
“What’s going on Joshua?” my companion says, the worry clear in his voice.
“Be calm Uriah, we are about to be tested. I have felt this before when Leviathan strikes. Stand away from any buildings and hope that your sacrifices have been well received by the Gods!”
The earthquake hits us. We feel it and then hear it. Rubble tumbles about us, then another noise, louder than thunder, sweeps across the city. Groans and shouts of the spirits we hear. The underworld of below is shaken by Leviathan thrashing in her cage deep beneath the earth. She is angry and the world above will know it. It does not last long but the devastation is complete. The houses that were standing before have collapsed. The ground has shifted in many places and we are lucky to be alive.
But praise to Leviathan. The ruins of the Temple have been split open and I can step inside. It is dark inside and out but I know not to light a flame in the aftermath of an earthquake. The breath of the dead can burn long after it has risen from the ground. I am not at all surprised to discover an ancient stone inside. It is carved with the old language and is small enough for a man to carry. This is surely the stone of Kubaba. We have been led here by the Gods, it can be no other. It takes us many hours of work to dig out the stone, especially difficult in the dark. Once we have it away from the Temple we rest for a while. We will set out at first light and try to find a donkey to carry the sacred stone for us.
“Great change is ahead Uriah,” I say. “We will be well rewarded for bringing this stone back to our King, and then you know what will happen?”
“I know what I hope will happen. With this stone I hope that Suhis grants me the hand of his daughter Bathsheba, she is all the reward a man could ever need…”
“Oh Uriah, think bigger. With the blessing of Kubaba there will be nothing to stop our Lord from extending his hand, and his armies. Before the year is out war will be upon the whole of Canaan.”
War brings death. War brings suffering. War brings Chaos. Leviathan will be pleased.