Atlantis Prime

This then is told of the downfall of Atlantis, which men with more subtlety used to call Atalante, "that which has ceased to be", but whose true name of old was Noumennora, "the sunset kingdom", for as the sun set to the mountains of Angamaide, the capital of Zukong Gi-morlag-Siragosa was incomparably beautiful bathed in those red rays: the tower of Zokkar, the Olden King, a sliver like a flower of the gods; the domes of the Sarnathian Palace a hypnotic fractal swirl in silver and ebony; the pools of the New Garden red as heart's blood, and bordered in silver that broke the late light into ten thousand colors, most of which this ugly world has never seen since. The capital of Atlantis was the most lovely city in all the world, in its past and present and future all. Kadatheron and Ilarnek had their charms, as had all Atlantean cities in the beginning; but it was Zukong Gi-morlag-Siragosa where poets came to dream, and the common people to die.

Atlantis was fair beyond all description, and her people were innocent; but to that paradise came a serpent, hungry for blood. It comforted Atlanteans and their descendants to say the serpent was a foreigner, one of the bare-skinned barbarians of the world's rim; but those were false comforts, for the serpent was as Atlantean as anyone could claim to be. It was merely a fancy of Kio the Serpent to go among the barbarians, and to dress and behave like them; those were disguises he shook off in an instant if he so wanted. He could take the aspect of any of Zo-Kalar and Tamash and Lobon, the chief gods of Atlantis; and he could crouch and speak in low cadences so menacing that men said Gorthaur the Cruel was come again; he was a peerless actor, and the people of Atlantis saw nothing sinister in acting.

As is told in ancient tales of Egypt, long bereft of their true meaning, it amused Kio to warn Atlanteans of all manner of bizarre dooms and disasters that were to come, and to laugh when his warnings were taken seriously. This distressed the Atlanteans, for they knew not the applications of acting into life, which are lying, and betrayal, and deception; but they took Kio's seeming harmless antics with patience and a smile.

Hence, when one day Kio came to the foot of the tower of Zokkar and said he had seen the sigil of doom glowing on the side of the altar of Ish-Taran, people did not believe him; but the sigil was there, and when others saw it, there was much fear and crying. And yet it was not the sigil that was the Doom of Atlantis; it was that they could not believe what they were told by Kio, and soon by infection not anything anyone said. In a forthnight they had assembled a guard to always go where Kio went, to make sure the people could know whether his oracles were true. In a month, which were longer then, Kio tired of this and went to among the barbarian tribes once more; and being Atlantean and hence long-lived he was among the barbarians for five of their generations. When those generations were gone, the barbarians worshipped Kio as their god; and he did not desire that; and he fled back to Atlantis, which had utterly forgotten him, but was by now well-acquaintanced with lying.

And so when the barbarian tribe, numerous and warlike, and named Yis, came to the gates of Kadatheron at the edge of the immense valley of the heartlands of Atlantis, this was their demand: "You have stolen our god, Chio, whom we call Ahwe, the Self-Revealer; for he does not wear clothes, like we the people do, and he does not hold back his tongue, like we the people do, and he does not conceal his desires, like we the people do. Give us back our god. You have no right to lure our god away from us; he is ours." The people of Kadatheron beheld these barbarians of Yis, and were afraid; for despite their clothes it was clear they were naked below, and their nakedness was an unbearable ugliness to the sweet people of Atlantis. Because the people of Kadatheron did not know what to do with the uncouth barbarians, they bade them leave; when the barbarians of Yis stayed outside the gates, the people of Kadatheron sent food and drink to them, for they did not wish to be unkind.

In this manner the people of Yis were conquered: for they grew used to white bread and dark wine, and did not long for their harsh lives beyond the borders of Atlantis; and they took to dressing in long coats and close-fitting caps that made them look like the nudity of the beautiful Atlanteans; and they did work to show themselves worthy, and to get more white bread and dark wine; and they became Atlantean.

Now slowly, indolently the word of the arrival of the people of Yis came to Kio, who was in Ilarnek at the other end of the Atlantean lands; and he had grown tall, old and serious, and now disliked acting for pleasure, or any action done for pleasure's sake; and he often sourly mocked those around him for their love of pleasure. In this he was joined by others, who thought it fit to gather in underground places to talk to a great god of darkness there; and at other times they gathered in high stepped towers to talk to a god in the lights above. These gatherings troubled the other Atlanteans, for they knew these gods not, and knew not where they had come. In these acts the youngest and most zealous of Kio's fellows was a girl called Shalome, which in the language of Atlantis means "little flower".

When the word came to Kio, he cried: "I left Atlantis for the Atlanteans were not amused; I left the Yis for I was not amusing. Atlantis drew me back, to be one of those who I so despised when I was young; must now Yis too draw me back, back to the dull Yis-men who always adore me, and call me an inscrutable god, and emperor of the Circum-Atlantean lands?"

Those in his company advised him to not go to Kadatheron, to stay in Ilarnek, to ignore the barbarians; but he could not; and the more he heard of how they were becoming more and more like Atlanteans, the more and more Kio was distressed. "I told to them what Atlantis was, and they wanted it not --- I recounted them morals, and sophistries, and laws --- they wanted none of it. Must I now then see these people accepting by baubles and wine and bits of colored glass what I could not force on them through wit and word?"

And Shalome, whose father was important, sent a runner to Kadatheron, and Kio knew not of it. So, while Kio dithered, a runner came back from Kadatheron, and he told the Yis had been scared back to the wilderness by a bad omen. And when Kio asked what omen this was, the runner answered, a red comet hanging over the city of Kadatheron. Kio, who so many times had warned Atlanteans of a red comet of ruin, was mystified by this, but he was also grateful to be rid of the Yis.

Soon people began to whisper that Kio had wished for the Yis to depart, and a red comet had come to drive them away; and the whispers said that Kio had great and terrible powers. And Kio was glad to be thought of this way. And for a long time only Shalome knew of the incenses that had been burned at Kadatheron, and of the unnoticed plague that had claimed a thousand virgin lives in that city before the comet rose. But when whispers of this plague became known, many in Atlantis said that the barbarians were all filthy, and bore diseases; and to court them was to court death.

This way Atlantis withdrew into itself even more, and became bitter and mean; and the cult of Kio grew; and while the barbarians round the sweet kingdom grew civilized and warlike, Atlantis grew no more, and its wisdom had no say beyond its borders. Then, when Kio was old and hoary, the descendants of Yis came to the borders of Atlantis, and laid to waste the city of Kadatheron, and killed or took as slaves all therein; and great was the wailing and the tearing of clothes, which Atlanteans now wore, too, in Ilarnek and in Hyarastorni, and in Zukong Gi-morlag-Siragosa even. There was then a great debate beneath the tower of Zokkar, and many opinions were expressed.

Some said the Atlanteans should become warriors, and drive away the barbarians.

Some said the Atlanteans should become warriors and conquer the barbarians, and civilize them, and rule them so they would never again be a threat.

Some said the Atlanteans should become warriors and utterly exterminate the sub-Atlantean barbarians, every single five-fingered two-eyed ugly bastard of them.

Some said the Atlanteans should become warriors, but teachers also, and through force and kindness make the barbarians civilized, and their equals, and hence their friends.

Some said the glory days of Atlantis were over, and the blessed kingdom was swiftly falling, and there was no hope, and nothing to do; but these people did not get any applause, unlike those that had spoken previously.

Finally, then, Kio spoke, and the people shuddered to listen to him, for he was gaunt, and grim, and terrible, and had tied white ropes round his head and arms to appear as if one of the barbarians, and he wore a suit of their armor, and carried a sword of theirs, of great antiquity, but exceedingly obvious utility.

"I am Kio", he spoke then. "I have taunted you; and I have taunted the barbarians. I have run from you, and I have run from them. I am no warrior. I hate the barbarians, while they worship me; I hate the Atlanteans, though you profess a liking to me. Let me prophesy to you, people of Zukong Gi-morlag-Siragosa, people of Hyarastorni, people of Ilarnek, people of fallen Kadatheron, people of Ondosto, people of Tampere, people of Atlantis! The hour of the wolf is at hand! The downfall of Atlantis is near! What has a beginning, also has an end. What is sweet, yet may turn sour; what in laughter begins, shall end in tears. One balm only I give to you, people of Atlantis! Though you shall fall, the world falls with you, into barbarism beyond words, beyond names, beyond memory! I am Kio, he who worships in the pits, and in the high places, and this I prophesy! Heed my warning!"

Having said this, he stepped down, and disappeared, and was seen in Zukong Gi-morlag-Siragosa no more. And the people were confused and angry; and some said Kio had spoken to mock them, and was a liar; and others said Kio was a true prophet. The former thought the latter gullible fools; the latter thought the former cynical bastards. In short time there was fighting and bloodshed on the jeweled paths of Zukong Gi-morlag-Siragosa, and death rattles near the pools of the New Garden; and those pools were red even when it was not sunset. Thus the Hour of the Wolf came to Atlantis.

One final day an old woman rose to speak, and attracted a great crowd: and it was Shalome, the former follower of Kio the Prophet. "Listen to me!" she cried. "Here we fight, while Atlantis falls! If war is our inclination, let us wage war against the barbarians then! And if it is beyond our skills to leave our homes for fighting, then let that be our method of fight; we need but wait for a small moment."

Others then spoke, sneering, asking if she wanted them to wait until the Yis and worse were at the gates; but she laughed. "By all means let us invite the barbarians to us! If Atlantis is to fall, let us embrace them so that in our embrace they too shall perish!" And still laughing she stepped down, and also vanished; and people of Atlantis knew not what to make of such talk.

And thus Kio came back to the people of Yis, and did great miracles and became again their god, called Ahwe; and he brought with him a goddess by the name of Shalome, whom the Yis called Sherah, the tall thin one; and the divine pair led the Yis away from Atlantis, and into the eastern wilderness and to a great mountain there; and Ahwe set up a looking-glass to look at the heavens, and spoke to the Yis: "The people of Yis! I am Ahwe, your god, the lord of lords, the lord of hosts, the only god you shall have. Behold now my power! You have left behind the wicked land of Atalante, and as it displeases me, it shall be destroyed! Behold... the Fall of Atlantis!"

And he raised his hands, and pointed west; and all of a sudden the day was as dark as night, and a fire sprung from the heavens to earth, and a great groaning was heard from far away; and the ground trembled, and the land became living fire in the west; and the land shuddered, and fell, and monstrous waves came to cover all land the Yis had crossed; and Atlantis was no more.

Then Ahwe smiled, and said: "Now that that little demonstration is done, I have a few laws to give to you..."

And the people of Yis listened with great attention, while the comet Kio had long foreseen ate Atlantis and the lands adjacent.

last updated: (Mar 14 2011)