A few days later found Nabu-sin staring down a long dusty stretch of road. He was in the middle of a small abandoned hamlet. The sad circumstance fits what he was told. Based on what he could see, it must have been an organized and methodical evacuation. The houses were nailed shut, windows included. The narrow paths on the sides of the shacks appeared clear. There were no tell-tale signs of panic. No detritus of the flight of a people in panicked fear. They must have a decisive and responsible headsman, he observed.
Fortunately, they left the village well open. The villagers must have been expecting to come back. As he drank from the bucket of cold water drawn from it, he thought about his new commission. The owner of the house he purified was a close relative of the region’s ensi, or governor. Delighted with the results, he enthusiastically endorsed Nabu-sin to the ensi who had a significant problem on his hands. Inhabitants of villages to the east were fleeing an unknown supernatural menace.
All the governor heard were vague reports of utukku ravaging a village, leaving no one alive. That interested Nabu-sin. Utukku are spirits from beyond the veil surrounding this mortal world. Predatory utukku were edimmu, or evil spirits from the underworld. The reward was a substantial one, equivalent to a half year’s income for him. The damage must have been considerable, the hunter thought. Even with his rising fame, the amount was way beyond the usual guild tariff. But he was more intrigued by the mode of infestation. An entire village meant a horde of the fiends. Rare were the instances which found them moving in packs. Precisely one of the signs he was searching for in his crusade against the hellish creatures.
Nabu-sin was an orphan. The lone survivor of a village attacked by demons. Hidden by his mother in the ceiling of their house, he watched as his mother was torn apart by his demon-possessed father. All through that long and unforgettable night of soul-damning horror, he could hear the growls and screams of the villagers as they died or killed each other. When the villagers were all dead, the possessed ones ravenously feed on them. The six-year-old Nabu-sin saw everything from a hole in the roof. The demons did every hellish and gruesome act right on the main street. It was a communal feast of infernal proportions. A chthonic imagery, punctuated by infernal ululations by the monsters. Then the hellish fiends began to leave each body in turns, loudly cackling at the horrified reaction of the restored human. After a few minutes, the other possessed inhabitants tore into the shocked and crying villager. Those who ran were relentlessly hunted down accompanied by unearthly screams of delight and amusement. Once caught, they were dragged back to the main road. The packed earth of the street was soaked in blood.
When all the villagers lay dead, young and old alike, their already mangled bodies torn to pieces, with parts gnawed or missing, the demons turned to a black mist and left as a group, heading east. Nabu-sin hid in fear for two days and a night, pissing and defecating in that small space. Extremely traumatized, he refused to leave his hiding place even to look for food. When men arrived at the village, it took a priest a few hours to convince him to come down from his hiding place. His hair had turned white and the priest assumed that the white iris in his left eye was also the result of his horrifying experience. It was not. He was born with it. But he didn’t bother to correct the priest.
Adopted by the temple of Enlil, the Sumerian leading deity, located in the religious complex of Lal-Har, he grew up among the faithful and studied hard to be a priest. His ambition was to be part of one of the priestly orders mandated with the grim task of fighting demons and otherworldly creatures which pose a danger to mortals. The sects were elite groups, deemed holy defenders of humanity.
He passed all the preliminary trials required for being a member of such a sect affiliated with the temple of Enlil. His final test, supposedly laid down by the deity, who was also called the master of fate, was a night in the Room of Reflection. An empty and dark chamber, except for a likeness of the god.
He sat before the human-sized marble statue for the whole night, keeping vigil for any sign from the deity. Nothing manifested. Not even a solitary rat showed its furry and whiskered face. When morning came, the priest who found and adopted him was waiting outside the room. Though the old man was smiling, his eyes told Nabu-sin all he needed to know. He failed.