Babylon - Quest for Love HTML version

By Leo Be rman
Chapte r 1
It was almost dawn and a warm summer breeze was blowing in from the east. Birds of all kinds were chirping
and cooing as they waited for the first warm rays of the sun to make their way over the rim of the horizon.
Small pockets of fog rema ining from the cool night before simply vanished as if by the magic of Hannuth.
Mirages were already starting to glimmer and dance on the ground as the dry earth responded to the gradual
warming of the sand. Zarko loved to witness the start of a new day. Today is going to be a scorcher, he
thought. Summer was in the air.
From where he sat he had the most magnificent view of the city be low him. Soon this slumbering giant would
wake up and throb with activity. Life would go on as usual for most of the citizens; some oblivious to the
happenings in others' lives – their own wealth their most important concern.
This was certainly the greatest city in a ll Cha ldea. He had been born here just over 22 years before and he
loved this place. Over the last couple of years this had become a city of note. Its army was unriva lled in the
rest of the world; conquering sma ller nations and swallowing them whole, it expanded its hold and influence.
Those who refused to join the fold were either killed or brought to Babylon as slaves. Anyone lucky enough to
survive as an exile was never returned to his native country. The spoils of war added to the nation's
burgeoning wealth, providing ample finances for all the renovations and building work that Nebuchadnezzar
had set his mind to. Bigger nations were wary to engage in battle, fearing that they too would cease to exist on
the face of the earth, and they gave in to the sometimes unreasonable demands made by the king.
It is surely impregnable, Zarko thought as his gaze followed the city wall; an immense snake guarding its nest.
The outer wall was about 10 paces wide and the inner wall about five, separated by about 20 paces of no
man's land. No one dared to venture into this piece of forbidden territory. Anyone found there would become
an easy target for the arrows of bored archers on the walls.
The river divided the city in two; the old part and the new part. Along the length of the western wall next to
the river was a quay where ships docked. This time of the year was busier than usua l with the traders coming
in from the East, their ships heavily laden with produce to trade for gold, ivory and other precious materials.
The port was alive with people of all nationalities trying to make a quick fortune.
Access to Babylon was through e ight enormous, imposing city gates, which were well guarded and locked at
sunset. Thereafter, entrance to the city could be obtained through a small door within each city gate.
Babylon had certainly gone from strength to strength. The king, Nebuchadnezzar, had made it his aim to adorn
the city and had subsequently had the streets paved and a network of canals, aqueducts and reservoirs built.
His best feat yet was the famous Hanging Gardens overlooking the river at his pa latia l estate. He had
constructed an artific ia l mountain with rooftop gardens for his wife , Amyitis, who had pined for the mountains
and green hills of her homeland, Media.
Nebuchadnezzar had ascended the throne seven years previously after the sudden death of his father,
Nabopolassar. At that time he had been engaged in a military offensive against Egypt and had had to hasten
back home, during which time his father had died and many days of mourning had followed.
Zarko's family had close ties with the roya l family. His mother, Vivania, was the queen's half-sister; they had
been born from the same mother, but had different fathers. So he guessed that made them almost roya lty. Big
deal. But at least it has its advantages.
Their home was next to the royal estate, towards the east.
As children they had loved playing in the Hanging Gardens and he still enjoyed going there to bask in the
romance and majesty of the surroundings.