The Eyes of Ishtar

"The crown really is beautiful, isn't it, Max? The Eyes of Ishtar. Sounds magical." Patsy was looking at a picture of it in the Journal of Ancient Artifacts, which had arrived in the mail that afternoon. "In my mind I had a picture of what it would look like. But it wasn't as beautiful as this." The eight-pointed crown was made of gold with a band of emeralds encircling it. Shimmering down from the back and side of the crown was a five-inch length of flexible gold mesh embedded with semi-precious stones. Atop each of the eight points was a small gold rosette. "Those emeralds are absolutely stunning. I can see why they were referred to as eyes."

"Emeralds were an exceptionally rare find back in that time," Max added.

It had taken Max and Antonio three months to finish their project and get Dr. Savarin's work published. They had personally presented the first copy to Mrs. Savarin. Another five months followed before the site of the crown and the accompanying treasure was successfully excavated. Zakai had led the expedition together with Leonard as his assistant. The crown was now displayed in the Cairo museum along with the other treasures found at the site: beautiful jewelry, statues, miniature sculptures, impressive stone reliefs, a blue chalcedony seal, and a bronze head of Sargon I.

"Did you know about all this other treasure that was buried with it?" Patsy asked Max.

"No, had no idea. But Hamadi was expecting it, Len told me so."

"Here's a nice picture of Leonard standing next to a stone relief. Must be a battle scene of some kind." Patsy picked up a magnifying glass. "Looks like a whole town has been impaled, and the artist didn't leave out any of the gory details. I'm sure glad I didn't live during that time."

"I know what you mean. The Assyrian Empire was an exceedingly brutal one, built on blood and tribute. I can still remember as a teenager seeing this bas-relief at a museum. It was of Ashurbanipal and his wife having a victory dinner in their garden with the head of the king of Elam hanging from a tree. My father told me that before Ashurbanipal hung it up, he slashed the king's face and spit on it." Max's thoughts wandered back in time, and Patsy waited quietly for him to continue. "He was Assyria's last great king. We have to admire him for promoting art and culture, and also give him credit for the library he systematically collected, the first of its kind. Did you know that he was the only Assyrian king who could read and write?" Patsy shook her head. "But over time, his long struggle with Babylonia and Elam depleted the troops and drained the wealth of Assyria. With the provinces so devastated, they could no longer meet the Empire's needs, and with insufficient fighting men he couldn't garrison the conquered populations effectively. Ashurbanipal died in 627, and at that time the Empire began to disintegrate, much, no doubt, to everyone's delight."

"When's Leonard coming back?"

"In a few weeks, I think. Hopefully we can convince him to stay here for at least a few days because I'm dying to hear all about the excavation. But then he'll have to hurry back to Minnesota to pack up his stuff and sell his house. He's been offered a job at Harvard Divinity School starting this fall."

Patsy turned another page. "Did you see this picture of Hamadi Zakai?"

"Honey, how could I? You haven't let go of the journal since it arrived."

"Quite a nice-looking man," she continued, ignoring Max's comment. "I wish I could have met him. From what Antonio has told me, he's a rather lovable rascal."

"Zakai's all right, and I have to admit that I was wrong about him. His passion is antiquities and protecting them from damage, no matter how it's done. I don't believe his roguish reputation is a hindrance in his work," Max said laughingly.

"There's an excerpt here from his upcoming book. I'll read it to you. It's about when they first found the treasure."

Patsy cleared her throat and in a serious tone began reading. "The night was cloudless and the moon full. We couldn't stop working, for the entrance to the chamber was now before us. Within the chamber would be The Eyes of Ishtar and the treasure that it guarded. To describe the turmoil of emotions within me would be a vain effort. I looked over at Leonard and noticed beads of perspiration dotting his forehead. His eyes sparkled with the passion and hunger of discovery that only a lover of antiquities can appreciate. Yes, it was a solemn, awe-inspiring moment. I wanted the stone door to swing open at once, yet at the same time I felt a sense of terror. No, I wasn't afraid that the chamber would be found empty, but afraid only that the glory of the treasure would be beyond my grasp.

The door slowly swung open on its stone pivots, our shadows engulfing the chamber in darkness. With a trembling hand I aimed the spotlight inside. There, on a small pedestal, was the crown in all its radiance. Green eyes flashed back at us, and I began to weep."

"Oh, Max, wasn't that beautiful? I would love to have been there. I can hardly wait for his book to come out."

"He's promised to give us an autographed copy."

With a sigh, Patsy turned the page. "Here's a wonderful picture of Dr. Savarin, so scholarly-looking. How sad that he didn't live long enough to see the treasure. But at least Mrs. Savarin did. Here's a picture of her at the museum holding the crown. She looks so happy. Such an elegant-looking woman."

"You'll get to meet her soon. Antonio told me she's definitely coming to the wedding."

"Oh, good. I'm looking forward to meeting her. Can't wait to see Jeff and Maddy again too," Patsy continued. "Their's was such a beautiful wedding. Did you ever know two people so made for each other?" She stared off dreamily as she remembered the ceremony. "Karen said the four of them have become quite inseparable."

"Yeah, that doesn't surprise me. I think of Jeff quite often, you know. If it weren't for him, who knows how all this might have ended. I wonder if he realizes how instrumental he was?"

Patsy laughed. "I think he probably does. He's just a little too unassuming and easy-going to let it go to his head." Patsy turned some more pages. "Who's this handsome devil?" and she looked at Max with lifted eyebrows. "Without the help of the renowned scholar, Dr. Jonathan Maxwell Devlin, The Eyes of Ishtar would still be a dream shrouded in mystery."

Max rushed over and eagerly took the journal from her hands. "Let me see!"

Much to his annoyance, there was a picture of himself taken twenty-five years ago. "Why do they do that!" he exclaimed in disgust. "There's gotta be current pictures of me somewhere. Look at all that hair and that beard. I look like some kind of hippie!" Scornfully he tossed the journal on the coffee table and sat dejectedly in his chair.

"Forget it, honey. There's no need to pout. No one 'round here subscribes to the journal, so you're safe." Patsy picked the journal back up and found the picture again. She started to laugh. "You do look sort of ridiculous, don't you?" She stared at Max's picture for another ten seconds and now began to laugh uncontrollably. "Max the hippie," she managed to get out. "Dr. Jonathan Maxwell Devlin, the hippie."

"Keep it up, Patsy. That's right, keep it up. You've been asking for a good paddling for a long time, you know that, don't you?" Max got up out of his chair. "In Assyria a man would have..." And Patsy, bent over in laughter, stumbled out of the room with Max in mock pursuit.

The End


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