Pivot of the Sky

Pivot of the Sky – Chapter 139, Dead or Alive

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Translator: adomman

Editor: Snorri


Metatro used the shuttle to leave Amon’s territory, which was much faster than riding a horse for long distances. Amon reminded him to be careful on the way and to avoid the areas which were densely populated when he was flying in the air. 


Several days passed. The guard who had been sent to Memphis should have returned, but he didn’t. Amon started to have a bad feeling.


In the Shrine of Isis, the Adoratrice had the highest authority, while high priest Idu was the one in charge of the records and documents. They were the only two persons who could refuse his request. Was the document so important that Maria or Idu didn’t want Amon to borrow it? It was unlikely from all perspectives.


Amon was about to send someone else to Memphis to speed up the matter, but the messenger of the Shrine of Isis unexpectedly arrived at this moment. Even more surprisingly, it was Idu who came personally. He brought with him a piece of news as well as a man.


The news was regarding Bablon and Hittite. The two kingdoms started fighting a war not long ago, but the Kingdom of Hittite suddenly withdrew its troops even though it was winning the war by far. This was because King Lucier had passed away.


At the same time that Gilgamesh invaded the Ejyptian Empire, Bablon’s elite Marduc legion and the Kish legion had assembled at the middle section of the Euphrates River. When the Uruk legion advanced into Ejypt and occupied a large area of ​​the Cape, the Marduc legion and the Kish legion also crossed the river and approached the Duc Plains.


Bablon’s army was stationed southeast of the inland lake at the northeastern corner of the Syah Desert while waiting for news from the Uruk Legion. If Gilgamesh managed to achieve his objective, then the entire Syah Desert would fall under Bablon’s sphere of influence. When that happened, its army could simply cross the inland lake and head north to occupy the entire Duc Plains.


Hittite had just signed a peace treaty with the Ejyptian Empire and was not keen to fight anymore. However, due to Bablon’s ambitions, Hittite was forced to regroup its army and station at the southwest corner of the inland lake to observe the situation.


Since its army had not fully withdrawn, it was convenient for them to regroup. King Lucier did not return to the frontlines but headed back to the capital. Before leaving, he wanted to reappoint Golier as Commander-in-chief as there was no one else more suitable than him. However, Gelie rejected the appointment and recommended Prince Asher to the King.


Prince Asher was Lucier’s younger son who had followed the King on the expedition. During the period of time when King Lucier had been kidnapped by Amon, Golier was not at the frontlines and Prince Asher had taken command of the army in place of Golier, and performed decently well. After experiencing the most recent war, the prince had humbly studied under Golier. He was also able to get along very well with all the generals at the frontlines. Therefore, Prince Asher was a suitable choice for the post of Commander-in-chief.


Lucier had been a little wary about the influence of Golier in Hittite, so this proposal had matched his intentions. Naturally, he agreed to the proposal. Prince Asher was quite aware of his own capabilities so he asked Golier to be the Chief Priest of the army. This was a new position that had not existed before, and its purpose was for Golier to assist the prince in commanding the army. Golier agreed to his request.


Although Prince Asher was the Commander-in-chief, he listened to Golier’s every word. When Golier advised him to hold their position, Prince Asher stayed put and simply observed the situation.


As Ejypt and Hittite were allies, Golier sent people to the sepat of Cape every day to obtain the latest battle reports. The soldiers did not need to fight, but a group of mages in the army were exhausted. Every day, they had to fly back and forth from Cape using shuttles. The army of Bablon stationed at the inland lake were also doing the same thing to obtain the latest reports from the Uruk legion. Once Gilgamesh succeeded, they would be able to advance to the Duc Plains.


Even for a supreme mage, it usually takes more than two days to drive the shuttle from Hittite’s camp to Cape. At the same speed, it would take more than three days to travel from Bablon’s camp to the rear of the Uruk legion. In other words, a round trip takes seven days for Bablon, and five days for Hittite.


In actual fact, Bablon’s army did not send shuttles as frequently as Golier did, since a powerful sixth-level advanced mage was needed each time to be able to drive a shuttle back and forth. As nobody could tell when the confrontation would end, it was a tremendous cost.


When Gilgamesh retreated after Enkidu’s death, Golier got the message four days ahead of Bablon’s army. At that time, Golier suggested to Prince Asher to launch an assault immediately before Bablon’s army could respond.


The battle plan was also formulated by Golier. Prince Asher commanded the three legions of Enlil, Anu, and Nanna, but Golier’s route of attack was not a straight path to the main camp of Bablon. Instead, they would march into the Syah Desert from the south and send the Nanna legion to attack towards the north.


A single legion obviously could not defeat Bablon’s army. During the march, the Enlil legion would turn back to cover the retreating Nanna legion and stop the counterattack from Bablon’s army. As for the most elite Anu legion formed by Golier personally, while ignoring the plight of the other two legions at the rear, they broke through multiple lines of defense and entered the territory of Bablon, occupying the piers on the western bank of Euphrates River.


This tactic of splitting troops and ambushing the enemy’s rear had thrown the two legions of Bablon into disarray. Once they lost the area at the Euphrates River, their route of retreat was cut off. At first, Bablon’s army achieved several victories, and it seemed that the Nanna legion and the Enlil legion would be forced back into the desert. But now, the Anu legion occupied the piers and captured the enemy supplies located at the banks of Euphrates River.


At the suggestion of Golier, Prince Asher divided the Anu legion into two. A smaller force would guard the western banks of Euphrates River and prevent Bablon’s reinforcements from crossing the river. The larger force would turn back and make a pincer attack on Bablon’s army together with Enlil and Nanna legions. Bablon’s army was defeated immediately and was nearly pushed into the inland lake. After several tough battles, they finally managed to stand their ground at the edge of the lake. There was no longer anywhere for them to retreat to.


Startled by the sudden changes at the frontlines, the Kingdom of Bablon urgently mobilized the Ea legion as reinforcements. In terms of strength, Bablon fared better than Hittite. It had a larger territory, a higher population, more fertile lands, abundant resources, and greater wealth in general. However, it did not mean that Bablon’s military might was superior. Under the command of Prince Asher and Golier, Hittite had obtained an absolute advantage in the battle around the inland lake.


In order for Bablon to reinforce the frontlines, they faced two huge problems. Firstly, it was unlikely for the Ea legion to reach the frontlines in time. Even if they could, they would have to cross the river to take back the territory on the western banks of the Euphrates River. Since the enemy had taken the piers, crossing the river would come at a great cost. The time taken would also be significant, and by then Bablon’s army would probably have been decimated.


Under such circumstances, while the Kingdom of Bablon ordered its reinforcements to speed up its march on one hand, it also sent messengers to Hittite’s camp using shuttles to negotiate for a truce. On the surface, it was called a truce, but in reality, it was an admission of defeat. They were willing to pay a ransom for Hittite’s army to retreat, after which both the Marduc and Kish legions would then retreat back to the eastern banks of Euphrates River. In this way, the fighting would cease and both countries would reduce casualties to a minimum.


This was a humiliating task, but at the same time, the messenger had to be someone with a sufficiently important status. Ordinary ministers were not qualified to represent the country. All the princes and nobles came up with various excuses and ways to shirk the responsibility, and in the end, the errand fell onto Prince Benut, who had always kept a low profile. On the surface, Prince Benut was not interested in the battle for the throne, but was fond of making friends with various talents as he travelled the land, which made the other nephews of King Hammurabi II jealous and wary of him. This time, they had made a collective recommendation to let Benut take on the dreaded task.


Originally, the king wanted to send Princess Sissila as a messenger. However, the princess maneuvered her way out by claiming that she was unwell and pretending to be sick. Although he knew that it was not a good thing, Prince Benut accepted the task for the sake of the country.


Benut brought only two followers with him to Hittite’s camp to negotiate, and they travelled on the shuttle controlled by the supreme mage Gekait. Prince Asher asked Golier, how should he proceed with the negotiations? Golier’s suggestion was: when dealing with Prince Benut, he should let him wait, neither rushing to a result nor refusing the negotiations; when dealing with Bablon’s army, he himself should wait, neither decimating their forces nor giving them any room to breathe. At the same time, he should also reinforce and strengthen the defenses at the western banks of Euphrates River.


In this way, the longer he dragged on the negotiations and the worse the situation became for Bablon, the better it would be for Hittite, and the higher the price they could demand.


That was exactly what Prince Asher did. Even though the price demanded by Hittite got higher and higher, Prince Benut had no choice but to agree to it. To achieve such a resounding victory in the first battle where he was the Commander-in-chief, the young Prince Asher’s pride was swollen, and because of that, he made an additional demand.


He demanded the Kingdom of Bablon to officially cede the large piece of land around the western banks of Euphrates River, which had been occupied by Hittite’s army, to Hittite. There was no way Prince Benut could agree to this demand. Even if Hittite had asked for more money or resources, he could still relent, but such a demand had crossed the line. Even if Bablon were agreeable, Prince Benut’s reputation would be completely ruined by doing so.


Prince Benut had shown a humble and accommodating attitude thus far, but he could no longer hold back his anger. Infuriated, he told Prince Asher: “If Your Highness continues to be stubborn, then we shall settle this on the battlefield. Even if you manage to decimate our two legions and capture the lands on the western banks of Euphrate River, you won’t be able to avoid significant losses. When that happens, the Kingdom of Bablon shall launch a full offensive in retaliation, and none of us will get out of this unscathed!”


Having said this, Prince Benut left, and the conditions that had been agreed to previously were now considered void. While this was happening, Golier had been commanding the army at the frontlines. When he heard about what had happened, he immediately rushed back to remind the prince that his request was indeed excessive. If negotiations failed, a victory would turn into a long war of attrition.


Prince Asher also started to regret his actions, and hurriedly tried to recall Prince Benut and withdraw his previous demand. At this moment, the Ea legion had arrived at the northern banks of Euphrates River. They did not cross the river but waited instead for the results of the negotiations. However, a piece of shocking news came from the capital of Hittite. King Lucier had passed away!


It was said that King Lucier had died of an illness. According to the official statement, Lucier had suffered from mental shock when he had been kidnapped by Amon, and his state of mind had not been well since then. On the way back to the capital, he caught a cold. Despite the mages’ best efforts, his condition did not improve.


After returning to the capital, the king was able to relax slightly. However, during a banquet with the ministers, he had drunk excessively and his condition suddenly took a turn for the worse. He passed away in the middle of the night. The cause of the king’s death was suspicious, but all the court records were flawless and no one dared to voice out their doubts. The kingdom could not be left without a ruler, and the king had passed the throne to his eldest son Prince Ainis just before he died. At the same time that Prince Asher led the army to war, his eldest brother had succeeded the throne in the capital with the support of the ministers.


After succeeding the throne, King Ainis needed to hold a funeral for his father, so he sent news of the king’s death to the frontlines. Other than informing the army of the king’s death and the crowning of Prince Ainis, Prince Asher was also summoned back to the capital to attend King Lucier’s funeral. Meanwhile, Golier would be appointed as the new Commander-in-chief.


Asher and Ainis had been contenders for the throne, and each had their own influence in the country. The people had known for a long time that the one succeeding Lucier would be one of the two. This time, by allowing Asher to lead the army with the assistance of Golier, it was clear that Lucier wanted to pass the throne to Asher. Making achievements on the battlefield was simply a way to build up Asher’s credibility as heir and establish his influence in the army.


But no one was expecting King Lucier’s death. The eldest son Ainis took the opportunity to seize the throne. It seemed that he had succeeded the throne legitimately. Using his status as the new king, Ainis ordered Prince Asher to step down from the post of Commander-in-chief and return to the capital immediately to participate in the old king’s funeral. If Asher handed over his military authority, it would be no different from suicide.


After receiving the news, Asher was so frightened that he spent the whole night in a discussion with Golier. Nobody knew what they discussed, but when Prince Asher came out of Golier’s tent, he immediately ordered that the messenger that came from the capital be confined. The news was strictly prevented from leaking so as not affect the army’s morale in the middle of war.


Prince Asher claimed that he could not believe that his father was dead, and he sent an emissary to the capital to “verify” the authenticity of the news. He also claimed that the messenger was a Bablonian spy in order to disrupt Hittite’s army’s morale.


This excuse was very unconvincing. Lucier’s death was a fact, and Asher was only trying to delay his return to the capital. He wanted to end the war with the Bablon before the messenger sent by him returned from the capital, and the only way for him to achieve that was to to complete the negotiations. Prince Benut seemed to have caught wind of the news, and the situation had completely reversed. Prince Asher was so anxious that he wanted to pay Bablon a sum of money for them to leave as soon as possible.


Prince Benut had originally taken up this task with the expectation of humiliation and the loss of his reputation. Instead, he managed to achieve the opposite. He knew to be content with this sudden windfall and did not make any excessive demands. In the end, the negotiations successfully concluded with Bablon paying a symbolic token of ransom to Hittite and the retreat of both armies.


Thus, Prince Benut had accomplished an immensely glorious achievement. Taking only two followers with him, he had gone to the heart of Hittite’s camp to negotiate. And now, he wasd taking the battered Marduc and Kish legions back to the northern banks of Euphrates River, while the legions of Hittite would retreat from their territory voluntarily. Most importantly, he had managed to salvage the losing war without any further bloodshed by only paying a small sum of money.


This caused a great sensation in the Kingdom of Bablon. Spreading by word of mouth among the people, Prince Benut had achieved the status of a legendary hero! After the death of Enkidu and the defeat of Gilgamesh, a new hero was indeed needed to restore that deep sense of loss in the minds of Bablon’s people. Prince Benut’s achievement had come along at the right time, and his reputation was currently unmatched in Bablon.


He was a prince, one of the legal heirs to the throne, and this was something that Golier and Amon could not compare to.


Prince Asher did not hand over his military authority. Although he returned for the king’s funeral eventually, he did not return alone. Instead, he did so while leading the elite forces of the army. The Enlil legion was originally stationed in the capital, so it was not strange for them to follow the prince back to their base. Prince Benut’s generals also led their elite forces to the capital in the name of attending the king’s funeral, and all of them made their way to Hattusa.


When Idu received the news in Memphis, the Prince Asher had just set off. It seemed that civil strife in the Kingdom of Hittite was inevitable. Golier also returned to the capital together with the prince, and it was uncertain what kind of role he would play.


Amon was filled with emotion when he heard the news. He had once captured King Lucier and held him hostage for more than half a month. Although the king was not exactly in the pink of health, his condition was not so bad. Besides, he was also accompanied by supreme mages who could perform healing on him any time, so he should not have died so quickly. There was most likely something fishy going on.


Amon also felt sorry for Golier. In both wars where he had led the army, he had performed excellently and should have achieved victory. In the end, the outcomes of both wars were neither defeat nor victory due to King Lucier. That king was now dead, and his death had caused the most trouble for his country.


With a bitter smile, Amon asked the man standing beside Idu: “General Hardedef, now that your injury is healed, why didn’t you go to the An-Ra legion but followed high priest Idu to this place instead?”


The “guest” Idu had brought with him was Hardedef, the former commander of the An-Ra legion. Not long ago, Amon had recommended him to be the Head of the legion. The Pharaoh did not refuse the recommendation, but only said that Hardedef would be appointed after he had recovered. By now, Hardedef should have received his appointment, so how could he still have time to visit Amon’s territory?


When Hardedef heard Amon’s question, he slapped the table heavily and said: “Supreme General, don’t mention it! I was fired as soon as I took office. Not only that, I was also demoted!”


Amon was surprised. “What’s going on? Is it your temper again? What trouble have you caused this time?”


Idu shook his head. “This matter is complicated, and you can’t blame it on General Hardedef’s temper. Let me explain everything to you.”


When Hardedef reported to Memphis that he recovered from his injuries, the Pharaoh had ordered him to be appointed as the Head of the An-Ra legion, and to head to Cape to take office. Hardedef was a straightforward person, so he went immediately.


During his journey to Cape, the Pharaoh and the Senate in the capital received several reports impeaching Hardedef. It was a long story. Back when Amon had trained the soldiers in An-Ra legion, he had dealt with several priests who were incompetent. At that time, Hardedef was the one who dragged them out from the army and gave them a harsh beating.


One of the priests was seriously injured, and it was unclear whether he was only pretending to be so or it had been Hardedef who overdid it in his anger. Anyway, this person took the opportunity to transfer out of the army to recuperate and avoid going to battle. At that time, Amon did not have absolute authority yet. The priests were all under the jurisdiction of Idu, and Idu had to agree to the transfer because the priest was the distant nephew of Anhotep[2], the vizier.


Perhaps the priest was afraid to die and did not want to go to the frontlines, or he could have been indignant from the humiliation. However, Amon repeatedly made huge achievements on the battlefield, and the priests accompanying the An-La legion were rewarded greatly and obtained much prestige and honor. Of course, that priest had received none of the rewards and was often ridiculed because of that, so he especially hated Amon and Hardedef.


Now had Amon had such a high status, it would be unwise to find fault with him, so this priest targeted Hardedef instead. There were quite a few things that he could find fault with Hardedef, but one of them stood out in particular. Hardedef had once publicly rebuked the Pharaoh’s order as nonsense.


It happened just after they had returned to Ejypt after fighting with Hittite’s army, when news of the Uruk legion’s invasion had not yet arrived, and the Pharaoh had ordered Amon to be discharged from his post. On the way, Hardedef happened to meet the Pharaoh’s messenger who had delivered the order. He was very angry when he heard the order and said, “Nonsense! Amon is a warrior, is there a more suitable position than being the Head of legion? Even if he is to be appointed to another position, he can still serve as the Head of legion at the same time!”


At that time, Hardedef had his hand on his sword and gave off a murderous aura while the soldiers gathered near him, and the messenger’s face turned pale. It was at this time that Urhiya arrived with the Pharaoh’s second order which appointed Amon as the Commander-in-chief of the army, and only then did Hardedef manage to calm down.


This matter could be big or small. If no one pursued the matter, it could simply be written off as the vulgar ramblings of a general. However, if someone gathered evidence and raised a big issue out of it by sending an impeachment written in Hieroglyph to the Ejyptian military department and the Pharaoh, the problem would become serious.


Pharaoh claimed to be Horus’s embodiment on earth, and he symbolized the will of the god, guarding and ruling over Ejypt. His official orders were equivalent to an oracle. Who dared to say that an oracle was nonsense? It would be a great offense to the gods, and had to be seriously dealt with!


It was not likely for a mere priest to make a big issue out of it, but he went to the vizier Anhotep and told him about the matter. Intervening secretly, the vizier obtained the signed testimony from the messenger as well as the witness statements from the other people present at that time as evidence before submitting the letter of impeachment.


The vizier obviously had other reasons to intervene in the matter. He wanted to make use of this incident to deal a blow to the rising figures from the military after the war, and especially weaken the influence of Amon. Although Amon had surrendered his military authority, his words still carried weight in the army. Hardedef was his most important connection, and this was more or less in line with what the Pharaoh wanted.


Although the evidence was clear, it was still not easy to deal with people who had great merits. The military department had planned to send someone to Cape to question Hardedef in person about what happened and his reasons for doing so. It was equivalent to giving Hardedef a chance to explain. But before that could happen, another incident occurred. The priest who had impeached Hardedef was murdered. The culprit was not caught.


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