The Fall of Atlantis (Barus)

Six millennia ago the Great Flood came, and Atlantis sank. Only one man was given foreknowledge of this disaster: Barus, the High Priest of the God of the High Places. Barus took his family --- this means, his priesthood and his most loyal followers --- away from Kadatheron, the largest of Atlantis's green-gold-marbled cities --- to the wilderness and the high mountains to pray.

Six millennia ago Barus and his family looked down towards the city of Kadatheron, and they saw a flame leap up from the highest pinnacle to the dark skies, and felt the land shudder; and they threw themselves down and prayed ever harder.

Six millennia ago they felt no movement, but still saw the immovable waters creeping closer to them: and there are no words for the tumult and horror of the waters rising above the lip of Kuranes, the ridge which separates Kadatheron from the plainsland, and sweeping into the valley of Kadatheron in a torrent as green and silver as Kadatheron was green and golden.

And that day the foundations of Kadatheron were swept away, and its people dashed against their towers, and the gardens uprooted to rot in the rising swell, and the cellars and towers of many books all drunk with the salty churning of water mixed with blood. The people of Kadatheron had no escape from the rushing liquid wall that poured over Kuranes; no place to run from the green and silver doom that threw down their houses, claimed their riches, and ended their lives. As the waters rose, or as Atlantis sank, only dead bodies bobbling on the waters, or trapped below, were left --- but they were thinned away, for though the mass of the water grew, after a while the number of bodies did not.

Six millennia ago Barus was at the top of the mountain Barastek, and spoke to the God of the High Places; and all round them was the ruin of Atlantis, with no tumult nor tears. Around them was the flat surface of the waters, dotted with the debris of the first kingdom; and what tears were in it, were diluted to nothing at all.

Barus came down from the highest peak of Atlantis, down the very short way to the still rising waters' edge, where his family huddled and waited, and he said: There shall be forty days of respite; forty days and forty nights, no more, no less: after that even Barastek shall surrender to the waves, and Atlantis shall be no more.

Great was the lamentation of Barus's people; but he cried in a great voice that echoed round the last mountain as a moth flutters round an open flame; and he spoke these words.

Forty days, and the same night; no more, no less. After that the land of the wave shall be no more.

Forty and forty; now gird your loins, people of Atlantis, people of the High Places, and wade into the waters.

Forty is the number: bring to the God out of the depths the riches of Atlantis, and your memories. Dive into the depths and salvage your portion, and His.

Worry not for the sinking of Barastek, or your own fate; your God will provide.

The people then did as Barus had told them; and for forty days and forty nights they waded into the waste-strewn waters and dived under them, and brought up what they could of the beauty of Atlantis.

They brought whisper-thin gold plates that had writing on them;

They brought brick cylinders with spells on them;

They brought tiny ivory figurines of fantastic beasts;

They brought heartbreaking golden images of loyal dogs;

They brought breathtaking silver shapes of feline goddesses;

They brought mitres washed off the heads of immortal priests;

They brought bracelets torn from doe-eyed dying maidens;

They brought fans of ivory and ebony, malachite and sandalwood;

They brought gold-dust brushed from the sides of golden pyramids;

They brought unused prison chains carved with hunting scenes of glory;

They brought whips woven down with filigree to never be used again;

They brought collars with gems and geometries and no key for their locks;

They brought the crown of Amanra, who had ruled Atlantis a millennium ago, and been the beloved of gods and men; his tall crown of undulating jade and jagged onyx they brought up, the crown of brass spiderwebbed round undulating jade and jagged onyx, once worn by the beloved of gods and men; but the tomb of Amanra stayed under the waves, for the Old Palace had fallen atop it, and made a mountain on the ocean floor.

(One man, diving down, found his bride, bloating and claimed by the sea, and brought her body up and with magic made it breathe; but this angered the God of the High Places, and they were both swept up to the skies, and to the nameless cold waste beyond, never to be seen again. And Barus said, do not bring this up again, for this is not good.)

This all they brought up, and up-piled atop the highest point of Barastek, the highest mountain of fallen Atlantis; and there Barus sat and brooded.

So passed the forty days and the forty nights, and then the waters began to foam at Barastek's edge, and rise; and the family of Barus fled shrieking the short distance to the top, and waited.

In the end they were strewn among the riches at Barastek's top as were the dead of Atlantis in the gulfs below strewn among their riches; in the end they were pressed by the waters so they had nowhere to step to, and no place to go; so pressed a man could not step without stepping on some great treasure or pearl of great price.

Six millennia ago, as the last of Atlantis cried and thrashed on the last speck of the drowned kingdom, surrounded by the gold and silver of their drowned kingdom, as they were hemmed in and wetted by the waters that had drowned their kingdom, the God of the High Places came to their aid.

A great ship drifted down from the heavens, three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high, in Egyptian cubits; and it was made of gopherwood, shiny and yellow, and hard and slick to touch.

Barus and his people went into the ship, and took the remains of Atlantis into it; and they found it to be without sailors, and without a pilot; and some of the people were scared. But Barus went to the helm though it was alien to him, and said to the people: Be not afraid. I shall lay my hand on the wheel and move us. No human hands needs to guide us; for God is our co-pilot, and shall guide us true.

And the God of the High Places guided the wondrous ship, and it did sail away from Barastek even as the final peak of it was drowned; and it did sail on the waters, and did fly up to the air when a storm came (making Barus's family cry in terror), or did dive to the waters inhabited by fish and corpses (making Barus's family quake in fear); and though Barus held the wheel he did not know where God was taking them.

Have all lands been covered up and destroyed? A man named Lalach asked Barus.

No, Barus answered; no, the doom was for Atlantis alone. There is no strength that can drown the whole world without causing it to be destroyed; and Atlantis was not shadowed by the wave, but prostrated itself under it; Atlantis drowned, as a man drowns: going under while the waters round him maintain their level.

How long shall we sail? Lalach asked. Will this respite number forty as well? Be it forty days or forty years, we will perish; if the former, we shall die of hunger; if the latter, these slick yellow walls shall drive us all mad.

Barus said: Take your hand and strike that picture of a bowl on the wall, and you shall be fed.

Lalach struck the image, and a portion of manna-stew in a porcelain bowl was found behind it. He did this again, and another bowl appeared behind it; and in this way the family of Barus was fed. Also there was a rod which gave water for them to drink, and it was sweet and made their minds be at ease.

But Lalach against the wishes of Barus touched another tile, one with an image of a great burning flame, and was engulfed in a fire and killed.

Thus guided by the God of the High Places their journey led them to a low land and the mouth of a great river; and onto the banks of that river the ship left them and their treasures, and sailed back up into the skies.

The family of Barus cried and moaned, for the place was barren and unlovely, and there were no people in it; and they were afraid.

Where are our pyramids of gold, they lamented.

Where are our halls of falcons, our heron hallways?

Where is the peal of the bells of Kadatheron, the sweet scented bells of Kadatheron, the bells which divide day from night, and in their trembling make music of incomparable loveliness, music at the edge of hearing, yet heard everywhere in Kadatheron of green and gold?

This all is gone, Barus said to them; it is gone, and I cannot give it back. But you have your lives, and the most precious treasures of Kadatheron to remind you of its loveliness, and to give you strength. A Kadatheron we cannot build here: but we will build enough for our memory to remain, even as we find new glories and new contentment in this alien land.

And so they did build pyramids; but these were of stone, not gold. They built halls, and painted their walls; and they were content. They lived to the rise and fall of the Great River, and took slaves from the neighboring lands, gave birth and buried their dead; and in time they forgot all but a shadow of their former land, and grew to believe this new one had always been theirs.

But the sweet everpresent pealing bells of Kadatheron they could not replicate, and had not the heart to try.

But they still spoke of meeting in a far land of splendor some year, and going there by a ship of the stars after they died; and they embalmed their dead thinking they would better wait on the bejeweled beds for the ship to take them home.

And that place where they landed was called Soker, and is now called Saqqararat; and it is in Egypt.

last updated: (Mar 14 2011)