Ea-Nasir did not often permit himself the luxury of an afternoon spent in idleness, but profits were high and a new wave of banditry stood between him and his most ardent creditors. A pleasing breeze wafting through his window, the burst of sweet apple upon his tongue, these things were worth savouring. Besides, had he not made good on his word to the palace? A man’s word was his bond, it was true, but no bond could long hold Ea-Nasir, who prided himself on his skill with knots and locks. Still, a bond held by a powerful man with many swords at his disposal was a fetter not easily shaken, and much might be lost in the attempt. Ea-Nasir was not a young man anymore, to take risks where he did not have to merely to prove his skill and slake his boredom.
As Ea-Nasir contemplated, (with some satisfaction) his own wisdom and maturity, he spied a man through his window, storming up the road before him. A messenger, perhaps, to be moving with such haste and urgency. He must be brave, to try the roads at such a difficult time. Ea-Nasir felt a distant stirring of pity, coupled with excitement. He did so love the tablets that came to him from all corners of the world, filled with news and opportunities and sometimes, hilariously, complaints. Oh, the impotent wrath of his detractors as they begged and raged against him, the most brilliant and cunning Ea-Nasir! The futility of their anger, the implicit admission that he had bested them, written down so that the moment could be experienced again and again, frozen in time for his enjoyment. He wondered if the gods felt half so fine, receiving the prayers of their supplicants and choosing whether or not to heed them. The man was almost at his door now, and his stomach tensed in anticipation.
Ea-Nasir heard voices outside his door as the man began to negotiate entrance to his home, and he felt a stir of disappointment. Perhaps not a written message, after all. He heard a crash, followed by the curses of his servant, and then footsteps hurtling up his staircase.
A messenger of a different sort, perhaps. He frowned, angered and a little frightened. And this, in his time of leisure. He had been cutting his apple with a knife, but it was a small thing, unlikely to be of much use against a hired tough, and in any event Ea-Nasir had never been much of a fighter. The door burst open, revealing the intruder. Up close, he was in terrible condition. His skirts were filthy and torn, and he had a cut visible on his upper arm. For all this, he was not ill formed, and his chest heaved wildly. Had Ea-Nasir not been concerned with immediate attack, he might have invited the man to walk beside him. Perhaps after a bath.
“You!” he shouted furiously, pointing dramatically at Ea-Nasir. Ea-Nasir relaxed. Assassins did not usually waste time upbraiding their targets.
“You! Are you not Ea-Nasir, the copper merchant?”
Ea-Nasir surreptitiously shifted so the knife was not in view.
“I am a merchant who deals in copper and other things; but who is it who comes to my door in such a fashion, quarrelling with my servant and not awaiting an invitation to my home, but instead forcing entrance and accosting me in my bedchamber?”
The man sputtered for a second, then seemed to regain his resolve. “I am Nanni, who you have treated with disrespect and contempt. I have come as I said I would in my last letter, to demand what you owe me”.
Nanni! He had not recognized him. Ea-Nasir frowned, casting his mind back to the time of their first meeting. He had not found him particularly interesting, though he had long enjoyed his letters. The man who stood before him, glaring as though he was the source of all the world’s ills, seemed far more compelling.
Ea-Nasir smiled winningly. Nanni’s face contorted with rage. How delicious! Ephemeral, but all the sweeter for it. No letter could capture this frustration, the way Nanni shifted towards him, flexing his fingers as though he would like to strangle Ea-Nasir. Nanni took another step towards him, and Ea-Nasir considered that unlike his entertaining yet inanimate letters or easily cowed messengers, Nanni seemed capable of violence. He stood up and attempted a dramatic stalk as he moved to put the bed between himself and his potential assailant.
“You dare talk to me of disrespect! You, who waited so long to pay me the silver you owed. You, who stand before me with the dirt of the road still upon you; who sent no message to announce your arrival but appear before me in disarray”.
Letting out a noise somewhere between a shriek and a scream, Nanni launched himself over the bed at El-Nasir, grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him.
“You deserve no respect! You say one thing, then do another, and always to your benefit and my ruin! You act as though I am a dog, with no right to courtesy or fair dealing!"
Time and again, I write to you, and you write back, sometimes with pleasant lies to sooth me and sometimes with grave insults, which I will have an accounting for! Never are you honest, and never is the matter resolved. You have cheated me out of five minas of silver, and I will have them from you. Through letters and messages you may deceive me, but now I stand before you, and if you will not pay me what you owe, I will drag you through the streets to the court, and we will ask them to judge.”
Ea-Nasir managed to wrench himself out of Nanni’s grasp, but Nanni followed, and soon they were pressed against the wall, their skirts askew. Nanni looked down, and Ea-Nasir followed Nanni’s gaze down to the spot where his skirt was beginning to unravel. He decided to take advantage of the distraction. His knife seemed heavier in his hand then it really was as Ea-Nasir raised it towards Nanni, who stared at it in shock. Belatedly, Ea-Nasir realized that he had never actually brandished a knife at anyone and he did not really know what came next. Fortunately, Nanni slapped it out of his hand before he had to figure it out. It went clattering across the room. They both watched it spin until it stilled, then turned back towards each other, staring awkwardly.
“Well” said Ea-Nasir “I can see how that might have been hasty-” but Nanni, freshly enraged, had moved to slap him, and he countered, raising his arms. Nanni was a terrible fighter, but unfortunately so was he, and his accursed servant was nowhere to be seen, even though he must be aware of the danger his master was in. Ea-Nasir wondered where he could have learned such selfishness before being distracted by Nanni actually landing a stinging blow. Enough. Neither of them were skilled enough to end this fight through force, and so another means had to be found. Ea-Nasir dodged another slap and leaned in to kiss Nanni directly on the mouth. Nanni froze for a second, then pushed him onto the bed.
“Fiend! Do not think this accounts for the smallest measure of what you owe,” but he was undoing Ea-Nasir’s skirts as he said it, and his cock was hot and full against his thigh. Deciding to take it as a win, Ea-Nasir reached up to kiss him again, stroking along the edge of the wound on Nanni’s arm.
“I’ve been a poor host” he said “I see that now. And after you came such a long way, though there have been bandits on the roads.” His hand worked under Nanni’s skirt, and Nanni groaned, pushing against him.
“It must have been perilous. You must have wanted to see me very badly”
In response, Nanni thrust into Ea-Nasir's hand with greater urgency and bit him, which Ea-Nasir considered uncalled for but not unpleasant. Ea-Nasir turned his head so he could kiss the side of Nanni’s face, working his way down until he was sucking on his jaw, all the while being as clever with his hand as he knew how, until finally Nanni bucked in great, shuddering waves and spilled all over them both. Bringing his fingers to his face, Ea-Nasir sucked on them in what he hoped was a casual yet beguiling manner. Nanni stared as if transfixed. Good. He smiled, and flipped them so that he was on top, then moved to get Nanni out of his soiled skirt.
He said nothing as El-Nasir moved down his body nor as El-Nasir licked at the seed spilled around his cock, but when El-Nasir took his prick in his mouth Nanni groaned again and reached down to gather his hair in his hands.
“This changes nothing.”
Ea-Nasir hummed around his cock and reached up to pat his thigh consolingly. Nanni was not precisely wrong, as the odds of him paying had not, in fact, changed at all, but remained very low. Still, he felt certain that discussion could wait for a better time, when Nanni was not growing hard in his mouth once more and making soft desperate noises.
Excerpt from a tablet found in Ea-Nasir’s storeroom:
Incorrigible rogue! The gods of Marduk and Samas may keep you in good health, but it will not be on account of my prayers or good wishes. Do not think I have forgotten what you owe me. When we were together, you said “later, my flower, it is ill-mannered to speak of business in the bedroom” and "surely you are Inanna manifested in human form to please me in all ways a man can be pleased" and "by the gods, whatever you want shall be delivered to you if only you do not stop" and I did as you asked but you did not do as you had promised. You did not go to retrieve the silver while I purchased figs and wine, but instead remained naked in your bed, and distracted me upon my return.
Why do you continue to treat me with such discourtesy and insolence, and after I ventured through enemy territory to see you? No other lover treats me with such disrespect! Instead they ply me with gifts and fine foods.
How have you treated me in love? You have whispered sweet words but given me nothing. Now it is up to you to make amends. In half a moon's time I will be in the City of Ur, and you will come to me there and make amends, or I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have not treated me as a lover should.