Cora stripped off her dress and tossed it into the hallway where the servants were sure to find it. She latched the carved wooden bathroom door closed and stepped down into the recessed square of floor that served her family as a bathing area. The floor felt smooth and cool to her dusty feet.
Without her robe, she was aware of a new coolness just below her neck: the gold amulet her betrothed had bought for her in the bazaar that afternoon. The gold was expertly shaped into the form of Nanna, the moon god of Ur. It was the most expensive thing she had owned in her seventeen years and it was a sign of the luxury awaiting her in her new home. The man was nearly twice her age, but he was wealthier than a metal merchant like her father could have hoped to attract as a son in law. The amulet was also a sign of fertility.
Cora’s stomach tightened. Her skin itched at the memory of his fingers on her neck when he had fastened the necklace for her in the bazaar. She didn’t want to think about those fingers having free range on her wedding night.
An alcove next to the wall held a reservoir of water and had a ledge wide enough for a bucket. Feeling very naked and alone, she dipped a scoop into the bucket of water and splashed her feet and legs. The water was as cold as the day had been hot and her skin tingled. She filled the dipper again and raised it to her neck. A window set high in the wall let in the weak light of a fading day and the gold amulet glinted red in the light of sunset. A down payment for a bride.
She unclasped the delicate gold chain and it slipped from her wet fingers and fell to the floor. As she crouched to pick it up, she bumped the handle of the water dipper and it sloshed its contents onto the floor. In horror, she watched as the amulet slid from the chain and sailed down the drain on a tiny current of water.
Cora crawled closer to the small rectangular opening set in the wall near the floor of the bath. She lay flat on the floor and thrust her arm into the drain, feeling gently with her fingers for solid gold. The scent of the bitumen used to waterproof the sewer pipes just barely covered the stench of what else her family had flushed down into the pipes.
Her fingers felt nothing but slimy tiles. Her amulet could be a block away by now. Her betrothed would think her a fool and she would never be able to find such a husband again.
There was talk of a man named Abram whose god had told him to leave town. She could go with him. She could leave Ur and hire herself out as a servant to Abram’s wife. She would never have to marry, never have to produce an heir, never have to live up to a husband’s expectations.
She could live in a tent, bathing in rivers, squatting outside of camp, and fulfilling her mistress’s expectations.
Cora shifted her body so that she could push part of her shoulder into the opening and stretched, desperately searching for something solid in the muck. Her fingertip touched hardness and she pulled a scoop of sludge out with her cupped hand. Not letting go of her handful, she pulled herself to her knees and dug with one finger.
With a cry of delight, she saw Nanna’s head emerge from the brownish mess. She rinsed him with water and strung him on his chain. The amulet glittered faintly as it hung from her neck. Cora vowed never to remove it again.
(Images are from wikipedia.org and http://forums.civfanatics.com)