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Babylon - Quest for Love


He just adored his aunt, Queen Amyitis, and always thought her to be the prettiest woman in all of Babylon; as
did the rest of the city's male population. Her two daughters, his roya l cousins the princesses Al'Yavi and
Nitocris, definitely had their mother's looks; long, black hair, seductive, blue eyes and an unblemished, dark
complexion. The ir statuesque figures were the envy of all the other girls and he had seen many young men
ogle them when they went by. They were twins, about the same age as Zarko, and their nicknames were Yavi
and Crissy.
Zarko had a sister, Xonia, who was about one year younger than he was. Xonia's mother, who had been a
close friend of his mother's, had died giving birth to her daughter. No one knew who the father was, so his
mother had taken the baby home and cared for it as her own. She had named the baby Xonia, after her mother.
The four cousins grew up together and they had a very special connection. As kids they were always in each
other's company, playing, fighting and maturing together – inseparable. As his childhood years had been spent
mostly in the company of girls, Zarko's mother believed that was the reason for his softer nature.
Today was going to be an exciting day – the people were expecting the army to arrive home from the ir
military campaign in the West. Zarko's father, Nutesh-Kuri, was Chief Army Commander. He had always
hoped that his son would follow in his footsteps; but the life of a soldier was not for Zarko – he hated
violence.
His thoughts were interrupted when the sun peeked over the horizon to announce the new day. He loved
starting the morning on the roof of the ir house, two storeys up. They lived on a slight hill, which gave Zarko a
beautiful view of the city and beyond. It afforded him some time to do his da ily exercises, to meditate, to plan
his day or just to daydream. Yes, he had some dreams. One was to see the world. What was out there, beyond
the city walls and the distant horizon? He would love to meet people from different countries and cultures, see
their architecture and taste their cuisine. Who knows, he thought, ma ybe one day it might become a reality.
As his eyes surveyed the wharf on the opposite side of the river he noticed a commotion on one of the ships at
the quayside. It contained what looked like large cages with bars on one side; ideal for transporting wild
anima ls. Some hunters and traders made a living from trapping wild anima ls and then selling them to wealthy
sheiks or kings for their entertainment. He had seen ships with similar cargo pass through Babylon before. In
this case it looked like they were planning to offload a particular cage onto the dock. He shaded his eyes
against the morning glare to get a better look at what was going on.
There were four slaves struggling with one of the cages that was clearly too heavy for them. Even from this
distance he could make out the proud mane of a full-grown male lion in the cage. It was clearly distraught,
judging by the way it growled and pawed at the men around it. It was obviously not used to the human
presence and it was helplessly trapped inside the cage, unable to vent its anger. Its massive paws beat against
the sides and Zarko could just imagine the rasping sound coming from its claws scraping the bamboo
supports. The lion was impressive in stature and Zarko could visualise the yellow eyes and ferocious teeth as
its mouth parted in anger.
If only it could get past the barrier separating it from the prey easily within grasp. Its primitive,
uncomprehending mind could not fathom the situation and it couldn't make sense of all the different and
unfamiliar scents overwhelming its senses. It growled in frustration and hacked at the bars keeping it from the
freedom it so desperately sought. Its saliva made silver streaks on its chin and coated the area around it as it
shook its head from side to side.
The slaves doing the offloading were terrified of this scary, magnificent beast so close to them. It was only
separated from them by thick bamboo bars and they secretly hoped the bamboo was strong enough to keep
them out of harm's way. The lion grew more agitated and restless. At one point the cage tilted at a dangerous
angle as the animal's weight shifted when the men tried to pick it up again.
Zarko watched transfixed, his gut feeling informing him of an impending disaster. Every time the lion growled
the stench of its breath washed like a putrid wave over its captors. The mixed smell of urine and excrement
hung in the air and made the men's stomachs turn. They tasted the bile that rose readily in their mouths. They
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