Three days passed and then the man was brought before Ishtar. Her servants positioned him before the throne and then vanished into the whispering scarves. The vagrant wore the robes of an unknown country, their colors long since leached by the road, painted with a new palette of sand. Much like his skin. Ishtar had endured the curious murmurs of the courtesans long enough. She would know this stranger’s tale and sooth her mind’s chatter, for it too had fallen prey to to the courtesans’ inquisitive ways.
“Stranger,” she said with the voice of a scimitar, majestic and cutting, “you survived the desert made from the dried tears of my former lovers. Gilgamesh himself supplied much to their number. You slipped through the gates by bribery or cunning. And now you stand in an audience where even emperors feel as paupers. Your hands are empty? Did I not seem worthy of a gift?”
The man stood silent. Outside the desert winds told secrets. She waited. Even Isthar’s wise eyes could not divine the strange words in his eyes. At last he spoke.
“And what might one bring before Ishtar that she could not take, unmake or break? Who can know what desires haunt her heart? Only fools presume to lay the poor gifts of this world at the feet of a goddess, for all must seem as dust to one such as she.”
“So you offer pretty excuses instead?” She smiled. “I have special oubliettes just for those who traffic in pretty excuses.”
“Forgive me, Lady of Sun and Sorrow, for I mean no offense. I spoke of one kind of fool. Another would be one who made no offering of gratitude for being allowed refuge in this city and even a moment in your radiance. I am neither sort of fool. For I did bring you something: a riddle.”
There is only one of me, but there have been many of me
Every morning you leave me, running towards my younger sister
You promise to remember me, but at midnight you will not know me
What am I?