The two beauties by the sides of the Scorpion King were holding staffs in their hands as well, which seemed to be made from some unknown animal’s bone. One had a Pyrosprite on top, and the other an Aquaticore. Did monsters have mages as well? The giant in the middle must be Girtablullu, the Scorpion King, one of the monsters created by the fallen ancient goddess to defy the gods, the same as Humbaba.
Unfortunately, Amon and company were not Gilgamesh and Enkidu. It was impossible for them to slay Girtablullu. Raphael whispered to Warret with message magic, “The Scorpion King is not something we can fight against. We have to use all the scrolls and leave with the boat!”
Warret whispered back, “The boat can only carry two people. They’ve just helped us. We cannot leave them here.”
Golier had given Warret a magic boat, so that he could run away with Raphael in case of an emergency, along with three flying scrolls to help the boat run faster. Alas, since Warret wasn’t a supreme mage, he could only expand the boat to a size big enough for only two passengers. It would have been enough for him and Raphael, but now that there were also Amon and Metatro, and their sense of responsibility forbade them to run away by themselves.
Raphael responded in whispers, “At least the Scorpion King can talk. We still have hope. Maybe we don’t need to end up fighting.”
Unlike Amon and Metatro who had heard nothing, the Scorpion King caught the contents of their secret conversation. He suddenly spoke, “It’s not usual to see human silliness overwhelm their cowardice. What are you two fools talking about? You try to show your courage because you think you are able to run away? I invite you to try the opposite!”
His voice was low and hoarse, as if his throat was gratingly harsh or even metallic. Metatro was the only one who didn’t realize the situation. Having Amon as his support, he was still eager to fight, but before he could rush ahead with his glaive and buckler, Amon grabbed his arm and pulled him behind his back.
Taking hold of the iron staff, he stepped forward with composure, “Are you Girtablullu, the Scorpion King?” Not even a tremor could be heard in his voice.
The giant nodded with his huge head, “You are right. I am Girtablullu, the Great Scorpion King. Do you still intend to struggle, rather than kneeling down and begging for my forgiveness?” The gleam deep inside his eyes could be seen to be glowing, and even his two companions were now slightly frightened.
Behind Amon, Metatro and the two mages didn’t notice that a grey scroll was being held in front of his chest. He answered, “Begging! What can that do? The scorpions that have attacked us, they were your subjects, were they not? Would they have spared our lives if we had begged instead of fighting? The Great Scorpion King has a power that rivals the gods. Why does he pick on some humble mortals?”
The Scorpion King humphed, “How dare you ask me, lowly human? You knew that they were my subjects, and yet you killed so many of them! Do you think you are superior to the scorpions?”
Amon shook his head, “I do not think I am either superior to a scorpion, nor the opposite. But you call me a lowly human, you must think you are superior to all of us.” The grey scroll was spinning slowly in his hand, like a soundless warning: ‘If you really believe that you are superior, you don’t need to die together with us here’.
The Scorpion King laughed. His laughter was harsh and irritating, like the hum of sand in a storm. He continued, “You are bolder than the other humans I’ve seen. You didn’t prostrate yourselves and beg before me. I appreciate your courage, so I decided to give you a chance. Of the four of you, two are going to pay with their lives for my subjects, and the other two may leave. I grant you the right to choose who shall die!”
He had already found out that Warret and Raphael were not originally with Amon and Metatro. The two mages were the ones who first fought back against the scorpions. Furthermore, he felt disinclined to make an enemy of Amon, who possessed a [Tiamat’s Wrath], so he tried to cast a bone between the two groups by offering such a choice.
It was not an offer, but an order. There was no room for negotiation in the ruthless expression of the Scorpion King. Standing behind Amon, Warret and Raphael exchanged a meaningful look with each other. If Amon chose to hand them over to the Scorpion King, they would have to flee with the magic boat immediately. Metatro whispered from behind his lord, “Do not be fooled, my Lord! This big one is trying to break us apart! He wants to play us against each other!”
Amon shook his head again, “I do not have the right to decide who lives and who dies. Human or scorpion, one only has the right to decide for himself. We never meant to hurt any scorpion in the first place, but they attacked us again and again, all the way until we reached this place. What we were doing was simply self-defence. It ought not to be a question about who is superior to whom. If you were me, oh Great Scorpion King, would you have killed the attackers?”
The female scorpion on the left side of the Scorpion King interrupted in a milder voice, “You’ve killed so many of our kind. We only ask two lives from you. Isn’t that more than fair?”
Amon still shook his head, “We did not want to kill them and we would not have killed them, if we had a choice. They were so powerful and their attacks were lethal. If there is anyone to blame, I can only think of one, who is not human.”
“Who is this person?”
Raphael picked up the thread of the dialogue, “Those scorpions are intelligent and trained. The one who trained them used their intelligence for his own good, at the cost of their lives. They are good at attacking and cooperating, but they do not know why they fight. The fighting of no purpose is wasting their lives. He who trains them and orders them to fight like this, should be responsible for their deaths.”
The Scorpion King’s face twisted. It was the female scorpion at the right side of him who spoke now, “That’s how you humans do, isn’t it? Those scorpions, their intelligence taints them with humanity. That’s why they attack. It’s your mankind’s fault.”
Amon shook his head like a rattle, “You are wrong, lady. Humanity is not only about greed and malice, it is also about compassion, and love, and the pursuit of a better life. Intelligence does not necessarily lead to what you believe is humanity. What you believe is humanity is just the bad side of it.”
Warret stepped forward as well, “Esteemed Scorpion King, with all due respect, I beseech you to answer me: you are training your subjects like soldiers and order them to attack people in the desert with no discernable aim. Are you raising an army? My name is Warret. I, and my partner Raphael, are high priests of the Enlil Shrine of the State of Syah. Our master, the Oracle of the Enlil Shrine, is a ninth-level mage. He can order the whole city of Syah, which is more powerful than your army. But we do not wage war and get our subjects killed for nothing.”
Metatro added, “Now that we are both unhurt, we should let this pass. And you should go home and think about why your subjects were killed… And these ladies, if you despise us humans, why do you transform yourselves in our image?”
After a flurry of panic, the rest of the four found that the Scorpion King wasn’t in a hurry to fight. Inspired by Amon’s poise, they gradually calmed down and participated in the argument as well.
The Scorpion King was not pleased. The flame patterns on his cheek changed colors constantly. He replied, “This is not your image, it’s the gods’ image! The gods made humans in their image, in their likeness. It should be your honor to possess the divine body and you fools don’t know better and don’t cherish it.”
Amon refuted, “Of course we cherish our bodies. That is precisely why we fought against your subjects. I would like to inquire further of you: Is it the gods that made humans in their image, or is it the humans that made the gods in their image? Do you know how to be a god? Or are you in of a mind to one day become one? If your answer to the last question as affirmative, I would like to make a covenant with you.”
Amon was the only one of the four who knew that the only reason that kept the Scorpion King from slaying them all was the grey scroll in his hand. But neither did he want to use it. He had to give both of them a way out, an excuse to persuade the Scorpion King to retreat.
The rest of the four were all stunned by his words. The giant scorpion-man’s face changed several shades. After a long silence in thought, he nodded, “Interesting human. What is your name, and what covenant are you proposing to me?”
“My name is Allaha,” replied Amon, “The covenant is simple. As long as your subjects do not attack my people, we will not hurt any of them. The desert is not a good place for us humans. You can try whatever you want to build your realm here. You should be thankful that we are not Enkidu and Gilgamesh. Think about Humbaba. And of course we should be thankful as well, for we had the honor and fortune of meeting you, instead of endlessly having to fight scorpions.”
Warret was confused, but he thought that he would miss a very good opportunity in the future if he did nothing now. He shouted, “I, representing the people of Syah, am willing to make the same covenant with the Great Scorpion King. Do you know that this desert is within the territory of the state of Syah?”
The Scorpion King squinted at the mage, “The priest from Syah, why aren’t you representing the Enlil Shrine?”
“I am not qualified.” Warret shook his head, “I can only speak for the state of Syah.”
The Scorpion King turned to Amon, “How do I distinguish your people from the others?”
“This is my staff.” Amon raised the iron stick, “It is special. You can recognize it at first sight. When my people pass your realm, they will show you this staff.”
“What if the covenant is broken?”
“Then, oh Great Scorpion King, you can do as the gods and punish those who break the covenant. There will be no grievance, no revenge, no reprisal. But as a covenant, both of us should make a vow.”
“A vow made by a human?” a scornful sneer appeared in the Scorpion King’s face, “How reliable can it be? What vow do you want us to make?”
Amon replied unhurriedly, “Girtablullu, the Scorpion King, promises that he and his subjects will never attack Allaha’s people. Allaha promises that his people will never hurt any of Girtablullu’s subjects in turn. If the Scorpion King breaks the covenant, he will never be a deity. If Allaha breaks the covenant, he will be a mortal human forever.”
Both Warret and Raphael wore an odd face. What kind of vow was this? That was pure nonsense! But this Scorpion King wasn’t of the same mind. He nodded seriously, “Fair enough. But every one of you must make the same vow!”
Metatro found it painful to hold his laughter. He pointed at the two female scorpions, “Not fair enough unless all three of you make the same vow as well!”
To his astonishment, the giant scorpion simply replied, “Of course. Deal.”
Warret and Raphael gazed at each other. They wanted to laugh too but fortunately managed not to. Thereafter, the four humans and the three scorpions vowed one by one. The Scorpion King who wielded his huge pincers, transformed them into human arms. The lower part of his body changed into human legs as well. He pointed his fingers at Amon and said, “Remember your words. Don’t let me catch you breaking it!”
The sand rose again, covered the three scorpions, and then fell to nothing. The Scorpion King was gone. Metatro heaved a long sigh, “Am – hmmm – Allaha, you are amazing! The Scorpion King just left with that nonsense? I thought we were going to die here today.”
Amon had put away the grey scroll. He thrusted the iron staff into the ground and turned to Metatro, “Come give me a hand.”
The young warrior took a step forward and grabbed his arm, asking surprisedly, “What happened to you? You are sweating terribly!”
Amon shook his hand without a word. Warret and Raphael went to him and bowed, “We owe you our lives, Lord Allaha. We might have become dead bodies covered in sand, if it weren’t for your wisdom and courage. And thank you for not having turned us in.”
“That was a trick.” smiled Amon bitterly, “If I had done that, all of us would have been killed. Let’s go. You are on a mission, aren’t you? We had better leave this place as soon as possible.”
Warret nodded, “We shall go now. You both should too. I look forward to being able to meet you one day in Syah!” He took out a fusiform artifact, and pointed at it with his staff. The artifact expanded into a floating boat. The two Syan mages boarded the boat and drove it towards the sky. When Warret activated a white scroll, the boat suddenly accelerated and soon turned into a dot near the horizon.
Watching the distancing vessel, Amon sighed, “They are both good people. They could well have run away with that boat, but they chose to stay.”
Mouth agape, Metatro asked enviously, “What is that? They are flying!”