Authors: Glenn van Dyke,Renee van Dyke
“He let desire and appetite lay claim to his soul. Only death will release him. Those are but a few of the reasons why Lord Enki and I went to the Council seeking permission to stop him. We could not allow the atrocities against our uplifted Anunnaki brethren to continue.
“As the millennia passed, Enlil came to see you as a threat to his rule—and perhaps more importantly, a threat to his ego. Enlil is not a man capable of humbling himself. He would rather see you destroyed than surpass him. And he has instilled this same hatred for your people in the lords loyal to him. Though Enki and Enlil are brothers, it has put an enmity between them that cannot be reconciled. And because—” Ninmah paused.
“Because?” pushed Steven.
“Enlil loved me. I was promised to him at birth. It was all part of an arranged alliance between two powerful families. But instead I fell in love with a bright, young geneticist, a man whom I admired and found irresistibly charming—his younger brother. Enki and I kept our relationship hidden of course, for years, but just one week before the ceremony was to take place, Enlil caught the two of us together.” Ninmah shrugged her shoulders. “It is but one more reason why Enlil hates your people. He opposes all that Enki and I love.”
“That explains why Enki told us that the love of a woman can turn brother against brother, that it can destroy families,” said Steven.
Ninmah nodded. “Enlil is now your responsibility, Lord Steven. I do not expect that Enki and I will be allowed to return to Tiamat once we reach Heaven. The Council will recall their ships and scattered forces to strengthen their defenses as a precautionary measure, should Lord Enlil decide to retaliate against the home world.”
Ninmah’s eyes then shifted to Ashlyn. “And because Lord Steven will be gone, I guess that is why the hard part is left up to you. You must free your world from the influence of the Anunnaki Lords loyal to Enlil. You must enforce the decree of the Council that ordered all pure Anunnaki to abandon Tiamat. If they refuse, you must kill them.”
Steven shifted his stance, his brow furrowed, and his lips pressed into a straight line. The two women noticed immediately.
“I understand your concerns for what Lady Ashlyn must face, Lord Steven. However, there are things that you do not know.”
“Then enlighten me,” said Steven to Ninmah. “Because unless you can make me understand, I’ll not put her at such great risk.” The prickles of fear he’d been feeling for Ashlyn’s safety were quickly turning into heated anger.
Ash stepped up to Steven and took his hand in hers and put them to her heart. “Do you trust me?” When Steven didn’t respond, she pressed him again. “Do you trust me?”
Steven sighed loudly. “That isn’t a fair question. You’re going to use my answer to flip the situation to support my leaving you.”
“Maybe,” Ash responded. “But you know as well as I do that we each have a path to follow. Your path in confronting Enlil is no less dangerous than mine. Should I stop you?”
“It’s not that simple, Ash.”
“Yes, my love. It is. The time paradox which brought us here today came at a great cost. We have been taken back to the beginning—when these events first happened. Remember when you spoke about a missing piece to the puzzle?”
Steven’s mouth twitched. It was all the response she was going to get from him.
“What we couldn’t see, couldn’t understand then—is that in the great war between Heaven and Earth, it is not the Anunnaki that solved Earth’s problems as we had been led to believe. It is us! It will always be us. We’d been told that Enki defeated Enlil, but it isn’t—it was you portraying Enki that cast Enlil out, banishing him forever to Hadaesia. The history books will record it as Enki—but only the people in this room will ever know the truth.”
Steven was fighting, not wanting to believe. “That doesn’t make any sense, Ash. You speak of us as representing the Anunnaki, almost as if the past, present, and future are all one—us doing it all.”
Ash smiled. “It is, it was, it will be. It’s easier to see the big picture. It’s easier to believe if you view the timeline from the perspective of a time traveler, one with a singular perspective—someone who has personally witnessed each event throughout all of recorded time.”
Steven exhaled, his shoulders slumping as understanding dawned. He knew he would have seen it himself, had he not been so preoccupied by his thoughts of leaving Ashlyn. Until now, he’d not stepped back to take it all in. “The Keeper.”
Ashlyn gave a compassionate nod. “Yes—the Keeper. The Keeper aboard Destiny 2 has been alive for millions of years. He is very near to our conceptualized version of God. He has seen everything, past, present and future. Since the beginning, he’s been giving us what we need to know. He’ll always be with us, watching, guiding, and protecting us. It is the Keeper that will remember this day, and carry each event, each memory of us forward throughout the galaxy.”
Ashlyn’s eyes filled with tears, knowing that what she was about to say would break his heart, his dream. “From what the Keeper has shown me thus far, the changes we are going to make mean that we will never see the Heaven that Ninmah speaks of. We are never going to see Novacek or our friends again. The lives we thought we were going to live, will never be realized.
“Enki tried to warn us two days ago when he said that we will be faced with many hardships—and our sacrifices will be great. But, he also said that he was jealous, because the universe was still new to us and that we would see amazing things. He told us that our lives would be legendary. He didn’t know all of it—only a tiny piece in fact. But he knew enough to give us a warning and encouragement.”
Steven had a question, one that couldn’t wait to be asked. “Ash, having learned all this from the Keeper, how does that fit with what you said earlier—about us being vulnerable? Like you said, if we can die once, we can die again. This legendary future may not last another hour. And that creates one fucked up situation for the all-knowing Keeper. Don’t forget, that even he agreed we were vulnerable, warning us to be cautious.”
“And that, my love, is your answer. We are no longer walking in the footsteps of those who came before us. Our destiny is not written in advance. With every decision, we are creating a new path. That is why, if our hypothesis of the timeline holds true, it is my belief that we will never see our friends again. Remember when Enki talked about ripples in a pond? There are no greater ripples than the ones we’ll be creating. With Enlil’s death, the entire timeline will be changed. It means that the ones we left behind, will never have been born. It is why the Keeper knows that we will never see them—they won’t exist.”
“Dammit, Ash,” said Steven, her words overwhelming him. “Had I known—”
“I’m sorry,” said Ash, her own sadness profound. When Ashlyn had joined with Renee—the crew had instantly become part of her memories, making them her life-long family too. Steven’s losses were her losses. They had endured the same hardships and shared the same moments of happiness. And yet, feeling the pain of his sorrow shattered her.
“I guess I should have known,” said Steven, yielding. “All that we fought for—it was for nothing.”
“No, it wasn’t for nothing. The people we knew, the challenges we faced, all of it made us into the people we are today. We’ve been given a second chance to make it a better world. It is still our Earth, our people. And they need our help now, more than ever.
“But there is one thing I do know, it’s that I can’t do this alone. I need you. I need your support—but no more than you need mine. It is why, you and I must separate. Together, we’ll create a new future for mankind, giving them a new destiny.”
“I knew you were going to do this to me,” said Steven.
“Then you should have surrendered sooner.” Ash gave a reticent grin, trying to lighten the somber mood in the room. “We will be together again, I promise. But today we must each do what must be done, though the price is hard to pay.”
Steven took her tightly in his arms. His heart ached with sharp pain as he thought about the people they had left behind. They’d shown such endurance, such strength of character. Sharing the gifts with them had been one of the happiest moments of his life. “So Enki’s prophecy, about preparing the people of Hadaesia to go to Heaven—it’ll never happen. None of it.”
Ashlyn melted deeper into his chest, her eyes tearing. Tara and Ninmah shared their pain.
Ninmah, though she knew little, sought to give words of hope. “If I may interject—the future is unknown to all of us in this room. But we must not forget that the prophecy is very ancient. Though it be in the future, if it is as you say, that Anu asked Enki to prepare the people of Hadaesia, it is based upon knowledge that we do not have access to. The prophecy from the past has not changed. It still exists and it alludes to a future that none of us have yet lived.
“And if what you say is true, that you are making a new path, then it should not be forgotten, that it is also a new path for the Keeper. The knowledge he has shared with you is based upon a perspective that will change. For like you, he has not yet experienced the new timeline yet. Your changes affect his future as well, not just your own. So perhaps, it is not as you believe. Perhaps you will still see them again.”
“Thank you,” said Steven to Lady Ninmah.
“There is no need. I have learned much this day as well.” A soft grin lit her face. “Though I think we may know less for having had the discussion.”
It was true. None of them knew what the future held.
“It’s shadows and mirrors,” said Steven.
“Yes,” agreed Ninmah. “Though they are opposites, one absorbing light while the other reflects it—both have found a way to exist simultaneously.
“Tara, retrieve my sword and give it to Lady Ashlyn.” As Tara left the room to retrieve the sword, Ninmah continued, “You must restore peace to your people before there is nothing left to save. To do so, you must wield my sword, the Sword of Truth. You must become me. Like Lord Steven, you are empowered to deliver and enforce the decree of the Council.”
Steven and Ashlyn remembered the words Enki had spoken to them days before. He had said that Ashlyn was the ‘sword and that she must wield it with a heavy hand.’
Tara returned, holding the sword along with a strapped shoulder-sheath that sat beneath it.
It was the very same sword that Steven had seen beneath Enlil’s throne, and he wondered how Enlil would come to possess it.
Tara held it out to Ashlyn.
“It is now yours” said Ninmah. “I want you to take Destiny. The ship is damaged but it will get you to the surface safely. At the pyramid in Eridu, the Keeper will resume repairs. I would like to leave a few of my crew with you. They will follow your orders without question.”
“If I am to assume your identity, then I gather that I must take your physical appearance as well?” asked Ashlyn.
“That will not be necessary. The people of Tiamat are entertained by our ability to shift form. They often carve statues and make items of pottery that depict us in various stages of our shifted forms. They give these items as gifts to us, offering them in exchange for food or blessings. It will not be unusual for them to see you in a different form. I often do so, just to entertain them. What they will expect is to see the Sword of Truth upon your back and the Star of Elements. When you wear them, they will believe you are me. They will not question.”
Ninmah smiled lightheartedly. “The children often ask me to shift form into a lion. Though it scares them, they love to hear me roar. It is their favorite. They think it is magic. And I too enjoy listening to them giggle.”
Ninmah removed her bracelets. “Take these. Adornments such as these are expected of us. There are more in the adjoining room. As an Anunnaki female, it is all that we wear.”
Ninmah started to form the words of a question but paused, deliberating. When Ashlyn saw the pause, she encouraged Ninmah to continue. Ninmah then asked, “I have always wondered why the women of Tiamat wear clothing. I have never known why they do this? What benefit do they serve?”
Ashlyn grinned. “I do not like to. But there are those that believe clothing enhances the appearance.”
Steven blurted out, “Just the ugly ones, Ash.”
Ashlyn and Ninmah both sniggered.
“Lady Ninmah, if it is common practice for the Anunnaki females to not wear clothing, then why do the Anunnaki males do so?” asked Ashlyn.
Ninmah smiled and looking down at Steven’s crotch. “Because ‘they’ are ugly. Unclothed, Anunnaki males would sooner catch a fish than a female.”
Ninmah turned back to Ashlyn. “I ask because Anunnaki females never wear clothing, and you must not be seen wearing them. You must become me in every aspect if you are to restore order. Even in doing so, the overlords that are loyal to Enlil will fight the Council’s decree. You will be asking them to give up sovereign territories that they have worked hard to gain. If you are to be successful, they must be convinced that you are me and you must establish a precedent for disobedience.”
A chime sounded within the room. “Enter,” said Ninmah. The door next to her opened and Solon stepped in. He was tall like the other Anunnaki, but more chiseled and muscled. His stature denoted he was as much a bodyguard as he was a commander. After giving a quick bow he said, “Lady Ninmah, Enki is aboard the Kisurra. They are requesting your presence to safely see him into stasis. They are concerned about his wounds and want you to initiate the procedure. Commander Shintok also says the Kisurra is ready to launch.”