Due to 'resource constraints' this month, did not manage to do much more than add a garbled addition to the story...
Atos looked into a night of entombed stars. Eternal, calm yet pitiful, two universal eyes gazed back; and from them came a cosmic raven with wings out-stretched. It birthed entropic Presences, nameless Immensities drawing existence from non-existence, looming with titan scope over a dying world. They shrouded the horizon of Tarasha Lehi, the home of Flame
An immense mouth gaped, a spreading chasm of night. From it came a buzzing, like the frenzies of bees in a nightmare parade. A storm of machines exploded, flying, crawling, swarming, tortured and fused with seeing darkness and wreathed in spells that rot the light. They came, matter animated with spirits gorged by death’s milk, terrible weapons blighting Flame. Around them were the roar and stench of charging soldiers twisted by slicing energies and burning machines driving flesh. Barely human, with minds empty of all but a terrible Will, they came on at unnatural speeds, their bodies chained to the word of the Six.
Next came rings upon rings of blood-drenched sorcerers. Standing on flying machines, organised in circles, they chanted madness and waved their staves of rot and doom. They invoked curses, they hymned the Abyss, they twisted to inferno’s tunes. They drew upon their god and the nameless Presences of death, and hurled their wills against the Border of Light that ever retreated. It was their moment, the day when the Eleven would fail at last.
Then came the great Abomination, the skyscraper of Hell. Carved out of a great Atlantean hill, and filled with numberless corpses compacted, it was the living temple of Moloch, the fallen prince once a god, now a demon and master of the Six. The Abomination floated forward, planted firm on vast slow-flying machines, its dark Blood-Eye feeding the army with ecstatic torment and shielding it with an energy mocking life; furious and rapid, yet suffused with the stench of cadaverous mountains. Thus protected, the army of the Abomination had overwhelmed the Towers of Flame and destroyed their Guardians.
In spirit, a Word was shouted, and a vast Flame fell. Atos’ spirit form became lightning pregnant with ocean fire as his storm songs surged. And reaching above, Atos called on the Eleven. Yet they were remote. The wide, august potencies native to their Plane were too far removed from the cramped and narrow confines of the ignorant Earth. Even in the land of their descendants, even in the being of their great disciple, they could not put forth their full might. The great Work had taken too long and now it was too late.
Nevertheless, Atos raised his staff, its tip a terrible blue-white star.
A huge Presence struck first, its Will unflinching and hatred cosmic. Fire rose and Darkness smite. Atos felt the Six combining, their wills one with the Will of their god. Claws of fierce flame leapt, gigantic swords of tearing doom. But Light exploded into Night. A divine eagle with eleven-hued wings rose up like a huge fortress of white flames The claws were ripped apart like thin paper.
The eagle of the Word thrust into adamantine darkness hunting Prey, its victorious dawn spreading. Sweeping aside resistance, Atos’s spell stabbed deep into the Abomination and bound the huge Darkness with greater chains. The Blood Eye faltered, its fire smothered.
From afar, a diamond white staff was raised high.
A star-force besieged the Eye like an ocean crushing in; a Word foreign and ecstatic devoured from within. The Six faltered as their god, the son of Death, was eaten by ruthless Light. Chains of fire pulled, and for a while it appeared as if Moloch would be hurled, mortally broken, back into the abyss.
But only for a while. Not all of Atos’ power could force Moloch out or destroy him. The dark prince endured, though torn by luminous wounds that would never heal. He called on his slaves. The Six rallied, chanting mighty spells and summoning the Presences of Death. They came, looming, like clouds of claws, like a dead night full of eyes. They challenged the burning spirit wielding Flame.
The ancient fall of man fought his ascension. The primal sin wrestled first rising. Bloodshed of the Earth overwhelmed the dreams of peace. A burning continent, a burning city of the Tarasha, destroyed the triumph of the Light. Too little, too late was the goodness of man. Tenebrous claws ripped into the emissary of the Eleven.
A thunder of yellow Light and Atos was free. But the Blood-Eye flamed anew, its darkness resurrected. The eagle of Light became splinters quickly swallowed by overwhelming Night. Atos’ exorcism had failed. He withdrew, defeated. A monstrous laugh mocked him, echoed by a thousand Presences, immense and nameless revolving around a Nether God. Death would conquer; hell would reign. Tarasha Lehe would fall.
A great white desk of fine wood; many chairs, tucked into desks; a little library, with books neatly shelved. The evacuation was sudden, but the students had left their classroom in its usual condition. Order and beauty, Atlantean virtues, reigned here.
Atos smiled a little as he walked around. He could visualise the classroom as it once was, matching faces with desks, voices with silences, and lives with emptiness. As he turned a corner, splashed with light from the noontime sun, he found himself at a map of Tarasha Lehe, carefully pinned onto a wall. He stretched forth his fingers and touched Salem, the great fortress—the target of the Six. All the Towers of Flame had fallen, and the army of the Six was closing in. The surviving Guardians had gathered at Salem for a last stand. Part of Atos too, a portion of his being was there, feeding them light. But most of him was here, in this classroom, in the Academy. He will need all his Power for what had to be done.
He paused, concentrating within, musing on the sweet Flame that was always in him and above him. That, and only That was the real solution. Yet now, flame of another kind was needed.
He sighed, his hand slowly sliding from the frozen map. In a vast luminous peace, an ocean fire, he felt sorrow—stirrings of a Mother forced to slay her children. Turning away and raising his head, he looked out of the window. His classroom was in of the Academy’s great towers. He could see Salem soaring, its diamond Fire adamantine and unyielding, its towers like brilliant swords challenging Night. Beyond that, he could see a starless gloom that ever grew. He knew what was there.
He turned back to his classroom. For centuries, he had taught here. Though revered as the herald of the Eleven and the founder of the Guardians of the Flame, he had long ceased to engage in political or military work. He left that to the young ones. The Council was capable and wise, and given the circumstances, Tonfe and his commanders did an excellent job containing the dark Atlanteans. For himself, he needed peace and time to find a solution to the menace of the Six and the corrupted Stones. In addition, he knew that the future of Atlantis was ultimately fought and won not on the battlefields of Egypt or India or even Tarasha Lehe, but in the minds and spirits of her young. Thus, he became a teacher, taking a small class each year at the Academy.
Many of his students had become Guardians. Many of his students were out there now, preparing for the onslaught of the Six. Tonfe himself was at its walls. Many had also perished over the centuries, or had been corrupted by bloodshed.
Atos paused at the open door, looking around at the empty desks, hearing the voices and the dreams of long ago.
‘Farewell, old friend,’ he whispered. And he walked out and shut the door.
Down at the Academy gardens, Atos paced quickly. He was headed for the library. The silence was broken by shards of bird songs, and then a swirl of electric breeze, a tantalising life. Next to an old cedar burst out a cackling blue fire fused with multi-colored clouds swirling, a large sky-blue eye with tendrils of cold light.
Atos silently greeted the school Intelligence as its radiance sparkled in the shadows of trees. Created centuries ago, its tireless consciousness animated the army of machines that swept the grounds, ordered the library, trimmed the grass, guarded the compound; it had performed its thousand tasks with perfectionist zeal, and it would continue forever though the school would never open again. Machine-like though it might be, it was sentient and self-aware, though it knew itself not as a separate individuality, but as a portion of the Flame.
‘It feels so empty.’
Atos nodded. He too could feel the void. For those who look with eyes of Flame, and not those of flesh, the Academy was always radiant, especially with the Fire of Wisdom, one of the Eleven Rays. The Elder Philosopher had made his home there, putting forth a portion of himself at this great seat of education.
‘Why remain at a place that is already of the past?” Atos asked.
‘ For I sense the setting of many suns. Of death swallowing beauty. Of an age in its death throes, of the footfalls of a new and perilous age. I feel the sadness of the Flame. And I mourn the corpse of an old friend.’
Atos nodded, eyes lost in forlorn time. He would miss the Academy, the great school of the Art. He knew nothing like it would ever be built again until perhaps a distant age—when Atlantis rose again.
‘Come with me. Your mission here is ended. And come with the Order if you wish, when this age passes.”
The Intelligence grew still, inward and contemplating. It seemed to muse on the Academy’s soaring towers of learning, its massive stores of knowledge, its numberless pillars that rose like eternal trees, uplifting the weight of Light that was Atlantis. Then the blue eye hovered near, gently looking at its creator.
‘ Teacher, I will come,” it said quietly. Across the campus, quietness spread as machines slowed and gently ceased. In one more corner of Tarasha Lehe, high works and sculptured symphonies began transforming into silence and dream.
As the Intelligence began to fade, withdrawing its presence from the school forever, it looked into Atos’ sadness.
“I remember the boy you brought from Egypt. His sacrifice will not be in vain—though I know this will not console you.”
The boy who became the terror of the Tarasha, a serpent and lion of the light, and the commander of the Order who now stood at the gates of Salem. Atos looked across the training field of the Academy, over scattered hard rocks, across time that stretched into a distant green. There he was.
Tonfe was ablaze, clutching a small round stone that housed a hidden sun. A shard of white lightning, a luminous crystal orb, hovered in front of his out-stretched fingers; his dusty robes, badly ripped, revealed flesh that tore the evening dark with diamond light. Tonfe turned to Atos and smiled, his lips fiercely curled up in fire, his eyes lost in killing light.
The boy had summoned the white fire for the first time. He was fifteen.
In another time, another space, a boy lay on a bed, eyes lit by curtained light. He murmured a song interweaved with the music of home-bound birds, songs riding on sweet winds that bring sleep. His palm, scarred and almost warm, rested on an ancient hand. Atos gently touched the forehead of the boy, whose eyes closed in unaccustomed peace.
Soaring above Salem, another part of Atos watched a large army of men and women dressed in seamless white robes. A man, grim and huge, was at their head.
The man walked towards the growing mist, head hung, arms drooping, eyes shining with grey dreams of brooding night. The low light of dusk revealed white and red: a smooth, thin linen of Atlantean white streaked with the blood of battles. He held his staff firm, but wearily.
He raised his palm, an ascending star.
In his reverie, Atos had arrived. He pulled back most of his consciousness. He looked at the massive domed building ahead, ringed by beings of stone, in various poses, often eccentric and awkward, manifesting the frozen presence of the lost Melchis. Fronting giant pillars of sweeping stone lightning ringed by silver words, these statues rose from waters of flickering sunlight. Behind them, carved on a massive door, were sweeping golden lines celebrating the freedom of shining space. They blossomed into a vast silver-golden carving of the Tarasha, the eleven-hued truth that crowns the arduous climax of knowledge’s climb.
Starlight burnt in Atos’ eyes as he neared the massive doors of wood and stone. He waved a hand--the door parted, revealing a vast cavern illuminated by peace. He walked deep into the air of the Tarasha, the library of the Academy, the home of a hundred thousand tomes. Here was knowledge accumulated over 10 millennia, and faithfully preserved.
He cut into darkness, into the fragrance of shadowy books and mysterious scrolls. The staff had taken what they could in their hurried flight. Yet much remained, including the most precious. To that, Atos was headed, moving on well-worn paths through a maze of shelves, his footsteps echoing into cavernous night.
He reached a door—though to all others, there was only a seamless marble wall guarded by two massive pillars. Atos raised his left hand and opened his palm. A soft glow spread outwards, elongating, stretching—then a sharp light was made flesh. Atos lifted his staff and pointed.
A groan and a heavy rumble of massive weights shifting, and the wall parted. Crossing over, descending into warm depths, Atos moved down white steps past walls of strange beauty: ships with great sails parting rippling waters of ancient stars; a landing near sharp mountains and steep cliffs; construction and mighty works of stone rising. Unlike the other hidden rooms of the Guardians, this passageway was free of traps and massive defenses. What was here needed no protection.
At the end of the passage way was a smooth white cloth emblazoned with a chalice of eleven feathers rising like searing ether flames.
Kneeling in heart, Atos entered the holy of holies, the heart of the Atlantean Fire on earth: the abode of the eleven master Stones.
Ten millennia ago, when Atlantis was first settled, eleven master Melchis convened a great council where they discussed the future of their race. There were extensive debates, of visions seen from different perspectives, of knotted threads of time being interpreted and unraveled. The Flame spoke through multiple tongues and revealed multiple futures. Atlantis had been settled. The few had become many, the tribes, nations. Back in the womb of Africa, the Atlanteans were a small tribe that traversed the deserts and the grasslands under the cover of the stars, a people of song and Flame guided by king-shamans gifted with Light. Now, they were becoming a great people scattered across a continent.
Still in progress:
In a high mountain lost to memory, the Eleven gathered. Like stars around Light eternal. The Flame, eleven hued sat around a circle in eleven human forms, hierarchs of Flame, one and eleven and mighty. Meeting in a secret cavern, hewn by the Art and hidden deep, the first of many that would eventually be dredged into the mother soil of Atlantis.
The Old One, the Head of the Eleven. the High Priest, the Hierarch of love and fire and peace, the beloved of the Most High. Future generations would know him as Melchizedek, King of righteousness, King of peace. Next in rank and stature were two: the Lady of justice, beautiful, swift, and powerful, a queen who smites the wicked and straightens the crooked, a warrior who crushes evil and hurls down the proud; the ancient Sage, the Elder philosopher and the son of Wisdom, the serene patron of all arts that seek truth, and the teacher supreme who shows the way. Next in rank were the Eight: the Lady of beauty, the patroness of architecture, painting, sculpture, music and all the arts that incarnate beauty; the Healer who closes the wounds of earth; the Exorcist who casts out the adversaries and who washes clean the filth of the Abyss; the General, commander of the Atlantean host and the patron of the arts of war, the Guardian of all guardians; the Poet who sings the magic and the word and the patron of the Altantean tongue and its great literature; the Mathematician who express the rhythmic symphonies of the divine Mind in luminous thoughts; the Melchi of the Blue Flame, the scientist supreme that gives humanity the empowering knowledge of occult and manifest Nature; the Mad Mage, guardian of Miracles, foremost of those who practice the divine chemistry—the teacher of Atos. The 9 Atlantean Kings and the 2 Queens, the Eleven, the human faces of the Flame, Masters of science and miracles, who had conquered the highest worlds of the Flame, and manifest perfectly the eleven gifts of the wonderful Fire
There were discussions: of the future glimpsed through different threads of Light and fate, of the Flame speaking with many voices. To continue wandering under the silver stars, singing the wonders of inner beauty and outer flame—that was one way. Yet this way had been tried since time immemorial, and it was limited. The Flame had perhaps attained its fullest breadth, its greatest heights possible under the limited existence of the Atlantean nomads. The achievements of the 11 and their disciples represented the culmination of this way of life. High and splendid vistas had been conquered; the highest Kingdoms of the Flame had been secured; the way of the Shaman had reached its luminous end. The achievements of the Atlantean Prophets, their spiritual mastery and occult lore, would be unmatched for countless generations.
Yet to widen, to broaden, to allow the Flame and Spirit His fullest expression on earth, a new form of life was needed: in the safe isle of Atlantis, shielded by oceans, a civilisation of peace could flourish.
The decision was made. The 11 and their disciples would give their fullest blessings to the birth of Atlantean civilisations. Together, with the elders of the seven tribes, they laid the foundation of the Holy City; they laid the cornerstone of the future Temple of the Flame.
Only then could the Flame fully blossom, with architecture and the splendid arts, the growth of commerce and government, the golden flood of literature and philosophy, the growth of the army of Flame and the great Return to the African homelands.
Yet as the seven nations grew, as cities blossomed and commerce and agriculture expanded, the effloresecence of civlisation distracted the Atlateans from their inner pursuits, even thougj they serve as the vehicle, the medium through which the high transcendent Flame was weaved on earth. Incarnation came at a prize; a lowering, a sacrifice of the deepest and innermost.
Thus was the Flame widened in breadth, while its heart gradually became obscured, and lost, except in the dwindling numbers of the Melchis. The Melchis, though their lives were far longer than that of ordinary men, were still mortal.
A second Council was held. The Eleven and their chief disciples and all the surviving Melchis were present.
Only then could there be the Rain, the transmuting Power that transfigure.
The Melchis had become few. The growth of the population had far surpassed the growth of the Melchis. Even in the days of wandering, there were never many who were suitable for the Flame. The paths were perilous; the powers many and dangerous. Few were those of that age or any age, who chose a high transcendent Fire as their home and destiny; who were willing to cut their ties with earth—pull out all desires, even innocuous ones, obstructing pride and ego of every kind, and the blind obscurity of the body. All these had to be sacrificed and transmuted.
And unlike most of the spiritual paths of later ages, the way of the Melchis embraced the mastery of Nature from the very beginning. Knowledge of cosmic laws and powers, their mathematical dance and elegant formulations, the skilful and orderly manipulations by Word and Will—these skills were possessed by most Melchis. The King of this Art was the Melchi of the Blue Flame. In a far distant age, physical science, inspired by hidden sources, would reincarnate an echo of the lost Art. Yet the reincarnation was but a chained serpent of earth that for all its wonders, could only vaguely ape its ancestor who dwells in shining space. Though forgotten, the Melchi of the Blue Flame still reigns, still the hidden Guardian of all science.
Some Melchis chose a more dangerous path. Some Melchis perceived the Force of Miracles, a mad pell-mell Puissance that laughs on the edges of the worlds, a clash and violence and divine Gift that uses all laws and yet obeys none but the supreme Will.
The Laugh that draws the flames of the worlds, that breaks the mould and splinters the borders, that mixes reluctant bedmates and manifest the impossible. This disruptive Art, mischievous and mad, a divine chemistry, complemented the disciplined and serene Science of the Blue Flame.
Armed with Science and Miracle, and submitted to the Flame, the Melchis became the lords of nature, exerting the power of mind and spirit over all inferior energies. The Eleven, together with their own specialities, through the gifts of the Flame became Masters of miracles, the Masters of the divine Laugh. They partly reversed the helplessness that was the fruit of Adam’s fall.
Yet for all their lore and power, they could not compel their people to follow after their path. Their people could only trail behind, and had already began wandering off the way. They could not bring their people along to the luminous kingdom in which they dwell.
Finally, as visions were sifted and the words of fate fell; the great devcision was made. The 11 Melchis would perpetuate their presence eternally in 11 Vessels, Master Stones. These Stones would be complemented by a vast network of Stones around Atlantis that would in turn reflect and channel their Presence and Flame.