Eleima left the mountain and walked through the valley back into the world of humanity. Wherever she went, she saw the people divide the world into the things they needed and the things they did not need, the things they believed and the things they did not believe, the things they allowed themselves and the things they denied each other.
She came to the city of Ur. In the city of Ur there lived a merchant named Archus. He was a good man, father to three daughters with a woman he loved and father to one daughter with another woman, who also had two daughters with another man. All lived together in a house and there was much love between them. The trade was steady and they lived without worry. Tradesmen from other parts visited Archus and many a meal was shared in his house.
A merchant trading in sheepskins came to Archus. He came from Gomorra, a city where the people treated their animals very badly and they themselves also had very little. The merchant showed Archus the skins he wished to sell. He said: As you know, my people do not have a good reputation. This pains me. Admittedly, many among them are unpleasant and blunt. The best you can say is they live their lives without causing much damage, but you and I know that avoiding damage is not the same as supporting your fellow man. I would say that they foresee in their livelihood for no other reason than that they desire life and not death. But they are the people I know best and I know them to be good people at heart. Poverty is to blame for their rudeness and were it not for poverty, they would most certainly be as well-tempered as you.
Archus asked: How can I help you?
The merchant said: What am I to you? I do not ask you to help me. But if you would sell the skins I brought, my people can have hope for a better life. I ask only that you sell these skins to your customers and give me a price in accordance with your own earnings.
Archus looked at the skins and saw that they were of meagre quality. The wool was thin, the leather was tough, and some skins even showed scars from a whip. He knew the stories of the inhabitants of that city. He knew how they treated their animals and he did not know what to do.
That night, he consulted the loved ones in his house, and he said: These people live in barren parts where the weakest carry the heaviest burden. If I accept their trade, I can sell it for a good price even though it is not of the best quality. The tradesman will be able to pay his people more than he can afford now, and this could be a great help to them.
The first woman, the wise Pharmakeia, replied: Our people are blessed. The earth gives us everything we need. We know this is a gift and that we owe gratitude for it. That is why we thank the Goddess in our temples. We bring her sacrifices and we look for her where we hope She is. In accordance with her commandments, we avoid cruelty towards people and animals. But those who wish to trade with us now are not like us: they do no honour the Goddess. They treat their animals badly, everybody knows; they take what they can get and they do not strive to give anything in return. If we accept their trade and earn money on their behalf, does that not make us just like them?
The other woman, Sybille, who was also very wise, said: The people all come from the same wood. The Supreme Mind has given them their freedom and they have spread out all over the world. We, who live in deference to the Goddess, do not have the right to rule over others, not by means of violence or by means of poverty, because poverty is nothing but another kind of violence. But we can ask them to respect our laws and treat their animals the way we know to be right; and if they are willing to do so, we can trade with them and give them what they desire.
Archus heard their words and he said: They offer these skins, they do not offer others. I shall sell these for them so they can make money. When I give them the money, I will request that they henceforth treat their animals like we know the Goddess desires us to. If, on the other hand, I refuse their trade, they shall not begin to live better lives and the misfortune will subsist.
In the months that followed he sold the skins for the merchant. They were of lesser quality than his customers were used to and Archus sold them at a low price. Because the merchant desired only a small part in equity, Archus nevertheless earned more than he did selling skins of better quality. Every time he gave the merchant his money, he asked him to urge his people to henceforth treat the animals better and not make them suffer. Yet every new shipment was equal to the last.
Archus’ trade blossomed and was now even largely made up of the skins from Gomorra. He noticed that his customers less often bough the good skins, but this made no difference to him. The people of Ur, who were very good to animals, did ask him why he preferred to sell bad skins, but he said: I would rather sell the beautiful wool of our own sheep, but I cannot sell what no one will buy. My customers prefer the skins from Gomorra, which are cheaper. But not to worry, this will pass. I urge them to henceforth treat their animals better, and their skins can not remain cheaper when they do.
Despite Archus’ reassuring words to the people of Ur, and despite his repeated requests to the merchant from Gomorra, very little changed. Through the years, Archus’ trade blossomed and although his house had grown quiet, he was very prosperous. He left the trade in Ur to his servants while he himself traveled and sold the cheap skins in other cities as well.
When he returned from his travels he would sit on his balcony and smoke. When he was in Ur, he took the time to visit the temple regularly and he made sacrifices in accordance with the forms so that no one could say he was not a just man.
The shepherds in Ur could no longer live off the sales of skins. They sold their herds and moved away. The people that stayed behind became divided amongst themselves. They saw that the people in Gomorra prospered, even though they still treated their animals badly. Archus’ servants delivered the money to the people in Gomorra, but they no longer asked them to observe the laws of the Goddess, because they knew these people regarded their own laws as higher even though they were not just.
One day, Pharmakeia noticed that Archus was growing thinner and that his body displayed strange spots. Archus said that it would pass, but it did not pass and he became thinner and thinner. He even weakened to the point that it finally seemed he would die, but he did not. He remained among the living even though he no longer left his bed.
This strongly divided the people in Ur. Almost all of the trade left to the city was in Archus’ hands. If he were to die, they feared poverty for everyone, even though they knew he would not bring them new prosperity as long as he was alive.
Some said: We put the fate of Ur into the hands of one man, and now we are torn apart by our fear that this man will depart. But we were not unhappy before he came, were we?
Some said: What could happen to Archus could happen to any of us. Who says that there is not a warning hidden in his sorrow? Our city blossomed thanks to his ingenuity and now it shall parish because of his misfortune.
Some even said that if the people of Gomorra could now afford greater luxury, that they had, in fact, stolen that luxury from Ur. It was said that Archus had sold them out to the enemy and that they had the right to take back what had once been rightfully theirs.
So a new war loomed, and the people of Ur also argued amongst themselves. Simple gestures were misunderstood, those who spoke of peace were mocked. Because no one understood what was truly dividing them, they became ever more angry yet could not find a solution. Every group had its own leader who spoke of the injustices that had been done to them. Finally, a meeting was convened, where four leaders discussed what was to be done.
The first one who spoke was the sister of Archus. Her name was Promonthea. She said: My brother is an estimable man who has done much good. He brought trade to the people of Ur, he helped the people of Gomorra who were very poor, he traveled a lot and brought back knowledge and science. Now he is old and sick, which is eventually everyone’s lot. The people of Ur should take him as an example, the way he was when he was strong instead of jeering at him now that he is old.
The second one who spoke was Bonartus, an apothecary and a very pious man. He said: When he was well, Archus stopped visiting the temple. He was continually traveling or working, and when he finally returned he made his sacrifices after the time had passed. He had his reasons, but reasons are no excuse. He brought affluence to some, that much is true, but that affluence was not based on what we have always considered to be just. He has erred, and we have lost our way together with him. But perhaps it is not yet too late. We must return to the way we used to be, and learn from Archus what we must do differently.
The third one who spoke was a man named Epheuter, who had most of his friends among the seafarers. Epheuter looked all of them by turn in the eye and said: Some of us are fanatical about the old customs, others want to leave, some want to stay here to die, and you, Bonartus, you see the affluence as our virtue but its loss as the error of a single man, arguing that all will be well if we honour the Goddess properly. But why can’t we face that we are on our own? The Goddess has abandoned us. The fate of our people no longer holds her interest. For a long time, we believed in the rituals that had been passed down to us, and we behaved as we believed we ought to. It has now become clear that living in accordance with the rituals had no other purpose than to bring harmony between our people. Now that there is no more harmony, the rituals have outlived their use. We must not rely any longer on the support of a Goddess we have never seen. Instead, do as the people of Gomorra do and gear your behaviour towards what is profitable.
Hereupon the fourth, a young poetess named Peronea, burst out to him: If you can surmise from our misfortune that the Goddess has abandoned us, why do you think that you could surmise from our happiness that Eleima was with us? Is she so easily recognised? Are you the priest who can tell us what Eleima herself refuses to say? Are you the prophet who can foretell the departure of the Goddess? Now that our existence is threatened, we must believe more than ever that the Goddess desires more from us than ignorant worship. Now that times are hard, more than ever before we must trust that her laws are just and that we must act justly. If we were to know no adversity, our behaviour would be of little worth to ourselves as well. By giving us a choice, Eleima is giving us the chance to show her we are worthy of her guidance.
In the end they agreed that if Archus was the cause of the current dejection, they had to ask him why he had acted as he had, and that they had to ask him this before he was too far gone to answer sensibly. So, they hastened to him and asked him: Archus! You had the power to help the shepherds of Ur, yet you chose the people of Gomorra, a city that does not honour our laws. We have allowed you to do as you liked, to our own misfortune, yet we shall act towards you as we always have and when you die, we will burn the body you leave behind as the rituals dictate. But before you die, we ask of you to tell us why you have turned yourself away from the people of Ur.
And although the words came with difficulty, Archus said to them: My life was like a boat which I have sent to sea and the sea has transported me. Just like the sea does not refuse any rivers, so I have accepted the waves. I was always prepared to leave as soon as I arrived somewhere, and so I withstood the burden of a heavy existence. It is not up to me to resist what enters my path. I am but a humble merchant, I have little to choose. Who could ask of me to judge the people of Gomorra for what they were not? They asked for my help and I did not refuse it. The good people of Ur, the merchants from other cities, all have deemed the cheap merchandise from Gomorra suitable to their own purposes. I have offered the people a choice and they have made their choice. Now my body is prematurely painful and ill. Perhaps I should see that as a punishment from the Goddess although I have always honoured her. If you wish to know what you should do, then make a worthy sacrifice in a quiet place and hope that she is willing to accept the sacrifice.
They decided to heed Archus’ advice and have Epheuter and Peronea make a sacrifice in a secluded spot. The two went on their way and made the sacrifice in accordance with the rituals.
The omens were favourable. There was a mild breeze when they began their journey and a golden sun shone down on them while they said their prayers. On the last day, it rained down on the seeds of the sacrifice, and that too appeared very favourable. After three days had passed, they prepared to return to the city, but decided to spend the night in the place where the sacrifice had been made.
That night, Peronea dreamt that she lived in a house in the forest. During the day she heard the vague promises of the wind and the singing of the water. At night she flew around like a bird, longing to land nowhere. It was cold and her house offered her no protection. And as she flew there she heard a voice. She opened her eyes and saw below her the shape of a wolf with manes as light as gold. The poetess flew to a low-hanging branch and placed herself in front of the mighty animal.
The wolf spoke: I am daylight. I am the air, I am fire. Wheresoever I go, all will be visible.
Peronea asked: Oh, mother of the earth! Shall you preserve your children?
And the wolf replied: Be diligent in doing good deeds, so that your legacy may precede you. But if fortune smiles upon you, do not be complacent, for as she has come into this world so shall she perish. Prosperity is like the rain and the sunshine. Do not be conceited because of your affluence and your wealth, because those too you will have to leave behind. It does not suit you to be arrogant because of the ties to your people, because your true nature is proven by your own actions.
The wolf came closer and Peronea felt the hot breath on her face. The wolf looked up with glowing eyes and said: Avoid pride because you are alive, because death visits all, and the weakest parts are the first to fall to the ground.
The poetess fled outside where her companion had made his bed on the moss. She told him of her vision and both hastened back to Ur. Upon their arrival they washed themselves in the river, put on clean clothes and convened the others.
Once they were together, Peronea explained how the Goddess had appeared to her in a dream and they all said: We shall cease our fighting. Only Epheuter the seafarer said: The words of Peronea are not aimed at me. It is true that some have built their fortunes with the blood of others, and have seen it perish with their own, but it is also true that what applies to some does not have to apply to all. Those who refuse the wealth there is in the world act as haughtily and ungratefully as those who have gained their wealth in dishonest ways. If the city refuses to defend itself agains the blows of fortune, I and my family shall leave the city and we shall try our luck elsewhere.
Peronea said: When the night falls and the prayers die out, and all you can see is the glance of a falling star in the distance, then think of what unites us. It is only hope that springs eternal. If you leave in dispair, your flight will be endless.
The others asked him to change his position, so that he could support them in the trade with other cities, but Epheuter was inexorable. Soon thereafter he left the city, the ships of family and of those who had chosen to join him in his entourage. A strong wind rose immediately, sending him quickly towards the sea where many ships have perished.
The people that had stayed in Ur built new ships. They sailed out to the nearby cities and eventually to further regions too. After Archus had gone from them, they brought new cargo with their little boats, but they told the people of Gomorra that they would no longer trade in skins.