A Glass Hand Cuts Through The Water
Gone Where The Goblins Go
"Come daughter mine, most beauteous Princess of the Great Atlantis, come and whisper thoughts into the triple heads of the Atlantean War Machine, dread guardian of our gates," I said.
I handed seventeen-year-old Chloe of Achaea, Chloe of the Golden Hair, up onto the gantry that shrouded the War Machine, known across the Empire, known by various names depending on the dialect - the Ketos, the Kebus, the Kelun, the Kraken, the Leviathan.
"What shall I whisper, Mama?" said Chloe, brushing the summer hair from her sun-kissed face.
"Here - use this cornet device. Speak with respect, for three of our finest warriors gave their brains to be enclosed in gold and pierced with silver needles, to direct the dreaded dreadnought that is the War Machine."
Chloe took the speaker.
"Hail brave warriors," she said. "I hail you, I, the Royal Princess Chloe, Chloe of Achaea, Chloe of the Sabines. I raise my hand in salute at your bravery and steadfastness, and thank you for the years of service that you have given in defence of the state."
I should explain that the Sabines, originally supporters of Chloe's chariot team in the Hippodrome of the City, were now her own cadre of supporters, a political party, a trend, a fashion, a way of adjusting and accessorising of clothing, a celebratory club with the Princess of Achaea as their celebrity icon. I was glad, for one day she would need advocates (aside from her unpopular mother) to press her suit as a Ruler of Atlantis.
"Invincible you stride the land, from the bed of the Middle Sea to the steppes of the farthest lands, your claws rending, your feet stamping, your voice demolishing and your fire-nostrils consuming our enemies. Receive the blessing of a great-grandchild of the Olympean God Poseidon, blessed be his name."
Beneath us the War Machine shifted in its dry dock, and gave a soft hoot in acknowledgement.
I leaned over the gantry and spoke to Qualopec and Tihocan far below. "The Royal Chloe and myself have spoken to the Machine, and all seems to be well."
"Then all is good, most Royal of Sisters," called Tihocan, "we shall proceed with the repairs. I thank young Chloe for her solicitude."
We retired to a room of the Palace of Tihocan, sited above the dry dock.
Chloe laughed thoughtfully. "Still the Royal Tihocan refuses the word daughter to me," she said.
"It is but a word," I replied, placing an arm about her.
"He loves me still."
We stood at an archway looking out at the pouring rain.
"Will it never cease, Mama?"
"It is the longest downpour," I said. "We have been buttressing riverbanks and raising bridges. Where the crops have been swamped we have provided, thanks to you."
Chloe had the power of dreams. At the age of seven she had warned of seven fat years and then seven lean years, and had persuaded us to build seven giant granaries so that the fat would feed the lean.
"I have had other dreams since," she said, clasping my hands in hers.
"More phrases than dreams, daughter mine."
"Do not anger Great-Grandfather," she said, her cerulean gaze distant, "and prepare to be preserved for an eternity until you rule again."
"Daily the ten twin kings in their dotage gather in the newly themed Temple of Poseidon, formerly of Demeter, and try to contact their father and beg for his pleasure at your behest. And for two years now I, your father and your uncle have laboured to create great tombs where we may rest secured for a millennia until duty calls again."
"I fear that Great-Grandfather does not hear," replied Chloe of the Sabines, wiping a drop of rain from her ivory cheekbone.
I had built my future tomb in the farthest reach of the Territory of the West on an icy plain set on a peninsular, the whole topped at ground level by a giant circle of stone pillars joined to each other by equally massive stone lintels. Qualopec had carved out a mountain in his new country across the Ocean, its gate guarded by water, whilst Tihocan had chosen as his putative final resting place the caves under Mount Kyrenia. The whole of Atlantis took the Royal Princess and her dreams with great seriousness. The one non-believer, the august Astarte, regarded our foolishness from her eyrie at Mount Nemesis with benign amusement, ostensively neither helping nor hindering. So detached was she now from Atlantis that its future fate barely seemed to concern her, but we were still in her prayers, or so she said.
Chloe stepped out into the rain, her white arms raised and her tunic clinging, and addressed herself to the sea.
"I sing to Great-Grandfather Poseidon, the great god, mover of the earth and fruitless sea, god of the deep. O shaker of the earth, tamer of horses and saviour of ships! Hail Poseidon holder of the earth, dark-haired lord! O blessed one, be kindly in heart and help those who voyage in the vessel of Atlantis!"
I draped a cloak about her shivering shoulders and led her in.
"May your hymn be heard, devout daughter," I said.
It was a year later - forgive the jerkiness of my tale, heaving with grief in it's telling - and still it rained. Our finest engineering arts kept the Empire dry, but the Ocean beyond the Camarinal Dam was rising, rising out of the unnatural warmth of the world.
(Modern scholars must identify this era themselves by the rings of trees and the deposition of sea-shells, for I cannot tell if it was four or fourteen millennia ago)
There being no more wars to fight - peace had been achieved, illness conquered, education spread and a clean glass of water made available to all - we, the Atlantean Royal Siblings, flanking Chloe the Royal Heir and Maia of the Seven Sisters stood on a balcony on the Royal Enclosure of the City and watched as the Lapithae, the Amazonian, the Aean and the Maian Regiments processed in step with the Atlantean War Machine, to the roars and applause of our loyal subjects. We had all gotten used to the constant rain - all were sheathed and covered and umbrella-ed against the downpour - and the troops in their water-proof hoods and stout knee length boots showed no concern at the wetness.
The War Machine had halted before us, its three heads orchestrating a threnody, a trio of triumph, trumpeting and tumultuous. I waved to my own dear Aean Regiment, the force assembled from creatures born in the Gold Pyramid of Aea, - centaurs and minotaurs, griffons and harpies - and they roared back. The Maian Regiment, the soldiery of the Seven Sisters, cheered until crimson at the sight of young Maia, whilst Qualopec acknowledged the manly hails of the old-established Lapithae Regiment with a gubernatorial gauntlet. Astarte's Dionysian dancers tiptoed a ribboned gavotte though the puddles to the flutes and fifes of an Ode to Joy composed by Tihocan. The whole of Atlantis cheered and was cheered and the sound of our pride rose up to the heavens and over the seas. Only the armed women of the Monstrous Regiment of Amazons, Chloe's personal militia, financed by her party the Sabines, seemed subtly subdued.
"Mother," said Chloe, her face all at once pale, her arm entwined urgently through mine, "come away."
"Beloved niece?" said cool Maia, placing a small calming hand in the small of Chloe's back.
"What ails, fair offspring?" I said, standing my ground, smiling and waving for the mob. "What sudden anxiety darkens your regal luminescence? It is important that we shine for our people."
"Ever united," echoed Qualopec in a mechanical boom. "The spawn of Atlantis leading onwards to even greater heights."
"The chosen of the gods," said Astarte, having deigned to return to the City for the ceremony, "pleasant both to the fates and to the spirits of the air and of the underworld."
"The eternally loyal servants of the Lord of the Sea and the Lord of the Sun," said Tihocan.
"I fear," replied Chloe. "Hubris comes before a drowning, the vengeance of the gods a-calling."
As she spoke as if prearranged there was a great cracking of the sky and it was as though a giant hand had taken the lid form a box in which we all were standing. A javelin of light - maybe electricity, maybe a flaming rock flung from the sky - arched down and smote the War Machine. There was a burst of flames and sparks, and crestfallen cries from the crowd. The Machine reared, bucked and neighed, causing us all to cover our ears. Then, regardless of the Regiments and the crowds beneath its metal feet, it turned towards the setting sun, and both oblivious and filled with a new motivation of its own, began to plough through building and flesh alike. Coming soon to the Inner Circular Sea it plunged undaunted into the waves and continued in a straight line, its wake lit by bubbles and the stirring of mud.
The sudden silence gave way to weeping and wailing, and we, the Royals, hurried inside to muster our response. How to stop an unstoppable juggernaut, and how to fathom the thoughts of a deranged giant? This was the challenge.
The First Plan
No longer the old original ruling quadrumvirate, we six met in the place now permanently fixed for our deliberations, the Primary Throne Room of the newly aggrandised Palace of Atlas and Eumelus, adjacent to the rooms jointly shared by Chloe and her half-aunts, the seven daughters of Pleione.
"The scouts follow at a distance," said Qulaopec. "It moves at little more than walking speed towards the environs of the foothills of Mount Ida. If it aims for the Middle Sea we have less than two days to prevent it before it sinks below the waves and out of our reach."
"Can the mechanism survive submerged?" asked Maia, emollient of voice and soothing of expression.
"Sea water is as air to it Royal Step-Sister," said Tihocan. "Its heart and lungs take power from a fragment of the substance sustaining the Scion, buried deep within its carapace lest the malign influence of the fuel taint the surroundings."
"And who dared attack our Royal Procession?" I ask. "In whose blue did this bolt begin?
Astarte and Chloe came forward.
"We fear that this is a manifestation of the same malignity than has bathed our empire with rain and raised the level of the Ocean," said Astarte. Finally she seemed to taking Chloe seriously.
"The Lords of the Sun and of the Sea are displeased," said Chloe.
Qulaopec gave a metallic snort and I was unable to keep the scepticism from my expression. Tihocan wrung his hands, however, whilst serene Maia, mere schoolgirl, observed us with steady sea-green stare,
"We bow to the knowledge of the Royal Leader of the State Religion and the Royal State Seer whose gifts are many and manifest," said Qualopec, diplomatically trying to smooth over his own scepticism. "What do you suggest?"
"Naturally the Ten Twin Sons of Poseidon will continue to contact their father, whilst I shall procure sacrifices and prayers to the Lord of the Sun, the Zeus-Ammon newly named by the far-sight of the saintly Chloe."
"So - enough of this eldritch deliberation," said Qualopec, "Let us all ride united, every troop together and attempt to defeat our own mechanical genius of war on the plain below Mount Ida."
"Our Maian Regiment stands ready to fight," said Maia of the unfurrowed brow.
"As does the Aean, carmine in craw and claw," I said.
"Then let us sally out, strong sisters of sword and spear, to save Atlantean pride and Olympean heritage."
Of the first battle against the Atlantean War Machine I remember but fragments. I remember riding over a low rise on the following day and seeing, far in the valley below, the Machine crawling over the surface of the land like an obscene golden spider, howling and gesticulating. Behind us the cloud-clotted sky merely brightened with the rising sun, whilst far ahead through the curtains of falling rain sulked the shores of the Middle Sea.
"Delay the Leviathan!" I recall calling to my wing-ed squadrons. "Vex it with volleys of forearm fire until the cavalry and the infantry can engage."
I have an image of brave Qualopec attempting to climb the beast, only to be thrown aside. I have an image of Tihocan attempting to turn sonic cannon onto the marauder, only to be out-boomed and out-howled. The swift Amazons and Maians fronted by their fleet-footed commanders, attempted to ensnare the Machine with ropes, to trip it, to immobilise it, but the Machine, scornful, snapped the web and swept aside its tormenters. The stalwart Lapithae, veteran of many a battle, stood hard behind their shield wall casting their javelins before retreating to cast again, until the Machine resembled a porcupine - all to little avail.
And so the battle continued for several hours, the first and last time that all the armies of Atlantis stood and fought together, shoulder to shoulder. However at length, all a-flame and a-grimed but with barely a dent or a scratch, the Machine stomped down the shingle beach and into the brine, a midden of massacre in its wake. O weep, dear reader, at our failed deployment!
Back in the City the broken and beaten armies were met with tears and salves and many a query for a missing son or daughter. And I saw for the first time a doubt in the faces of the citizens, a doubt that I shared. Why, they and I silently wondered, had the Olympean Gods abandoned us?
The Second Plan
The six of us met again, a doleful meeting. Tihocan attended with his engineers to the dented Qualopec, whilst I directed my medics to the wounded Tihocan, and Chloe and Maia, uninjured, nursed my injuries. Never such a bruised Royal Family, miraculously all still living, was ever seen, and therefore holy Astarte declaimed a prayer of thanks for our deliverance.
Remember that the six of us represented the brightest and cleverest and most informed committee that the human race has produced to date, and so, of course we developed a second cunning plan to halt our nemesis.
"Observe the map, my beloved Royal Relatives," said Qualopec, pointing to the mosaic pavement under our feet. "The Machine has few choices if it intends to pursue the setting sun, even fewer if we have convinced it by today's bravery to crawl along the seabed wherever possible to avoid attack."
"The far end of the Middle Sea is bounded by the mountain ranges separating that body of water from the Tyrrhenian Sea and its flanking marshland," I said. "To continue on a path to Ocean it must divert pass the flank of the Aetna, the volcano, since for all it's abilities it cannot climb."
"I with my craft can cap the Aetna and engineer a devastating explosion, not unlike that which levelled the Pentopolis," said Tihocan.
"Then that is our second plan," said Qualopec. "I will send riders to the Middle Sea to ensure that the beast does not come ashore and we will ambush it at the Aetna."
Overlooking the plain below the Aetna were two mountains named Ogygia and Gozo, in a region known to the local inhabitants as the Land of Honey, and on the peak of Mount Gozo was the First Temple build by Man, a pre-Olympian structure known as the Ggantija. Nearly five days after the debacle at Mount Ida, Astarte and her acolytes set about cleansing and sanctifying the ancient altars, whilst I set my slaves to build a lookout from where through an aetheroscopic spyglass I could observe the army of Qualopec luring the Machine into Tihocan's volcanic trap.
"It seems we women wait whilst the men manage," observed Maia of the Seven Sisters, sipping at resin wine cooled with snow. "Quaint and curious."
"Queer to be corralled by our current quandary," agreed Chloe of the Achaea.
"I see the engineers around the Aetna crater, and the machines to tap the liquid rock," I said, peering through the eyeglass, "and I see the stalwart runners - swiftest of the regiments - drilling in anticipation of their roles as hares to the Machine's hound."
"Join me in a prayer," said many-breasted Astarte. "I have report that scouts observe the renegade rising from the waves."
We four Royals, in sweet harmony, with clever twinkles from our jewellery, raised our voices in humble threnody, Chloe and Maia the soprani, Astarte and I the contralti.
Then, in ghastly coda, we heard the trumpeting of the galumphing Leviathan and saw the sparks and fireworks that heralded the approach of the maddened mechanism.
"To the air my three hundred harpies," I ordered, "and prepare to lift the bait away from the pre-positioned prey."
As the runners were lifted to safety, there was a rumble.
"Duck below the parapet and view the scene only through candle-smoked glass," I instructed my female confederates. "The trap is sprung - the Aetna awakes."
O gentle reader, what can I say? If the trap had worked would I be dictating this manuscript?
Huge boulders crashed into the brine, and tidal waves scoured the shore and beyond for many a mile. The plain below was crack'd from side to side, and fiery rivers of earth's boiling blood spilled forth. The sky turned black and the rain turned white. But the Machine, nimble as a flea, outsped the pyroclastic blast and skated over the bed of falling ash, and in a matter of hours had made a beeline for the last obstacle before the Dam, the Balearic Sea.
The Last Plan
"Judging from its previous antics, the Machine will take six or seven days to reach the Camarinal Dam," said Tihocan. "Then, regarding the Dam as an obstacle, the Machine may - will -bring it down."
"Let us plan for the worst," said Qualopec. "Let us call upon Admirals Noe and Atrahasis, Utnapishtim and Ogyges to construct a fleet of giant cargo vessels, caulked with bitumen and roofed with reeds, to evacuate the populations threatened with flood, both chattels and animals, flocks and herds."
"I shall take my Amazons to the edge of the last Sea and report should the Machine emerge," suggested Chloe of the Golden Hair.
"Whilst I and sister Astarte will remain in the City and attempt a water-borne evacuation," chorused Maia the Elder.
There was some quiet thought.
Then Maia of the Seven Sisters, serene servitor of the State, spoke. "What of the three brains, the three ex-worthies of Atlantis?" she said.
"Captains Esus, Toutatis and Taranis?" replied Qualopec. "Good men once, but now maybe little more eggs poached in their own juice."
"But apparently enough intact for the whole mechanism to function, my esteemed Royal Step-Brother?" said Maia. "Maybe we should aim for the ghosts at the heart of the Machine?"
They all turned to look at me - as if the Machine was my creation - and I smiled ruefully. There was an unspoken thought in the room - unjustly - that the present emergency was mostly my responsibility. So many years of service to the State and still a scapegoat, I thought.
"I shall detour to the Golden Pyramid of Aea," I replied. "I shall take up a sword of my own devising - impregnated and implanted with arachnobots - that may allow me to defeat the Machine."
"But Mother - how will you approach without being destroyed?" said good Chloe, her hand to my forearm.
The noble Tihocan spoke up. "I have a shield whose patterns and reflections will confuse the sensors on the Machine, fresh from my workshop. Hopefully it will render my Royal Sister almost invisible."
"If only the Lapithae had been armed so," observed Qualopec with a deep sigh, the sigh of a dead man.
"If only I'd known of this emergency, I have caused more than one to be constructed. It is merely a prototype."
"And how, dear sister, will you catch up with the destroyer?"
"My winged horse - my pegasus - can out-gallop it on land and fly over any sea it plunges beneath. If I hurry first to the Pyramid and then to the Workshop I may be in time."
"It is the last best hope, hope the betrayer, upon which no sound plan should be built," muttered Qualopec, his head hanging low in its crustacean support.
I took chariot and trireme to the Golden Pyramid of Aea, a two day journey.
"Keep the Pyramid safe," I instructed Magnesian, as I strapped on my armour and led a pegasus from the stable.
"My last seconds on earth will be devoted to putting the welfare of your test-tubes before myself," said Magnesian. "For whom but the most human can measure the treasures of knowledge as worth less than the life of just one paterfamilias?"
"Good fellow. And keep the aetheroscope near."
"Nearer than my own inflatable life-belt, my Queen."
"And make sure that Urania keeps a close eye on the hatchlings."
"I am sure that Urania would rather watch over your hybrids than make her way to higher ground, Your Majesty."
"Very good, oh loyal Magnesian."
"And Your Worshipfulness?"
"What, my true servant?"
"Preserve your own life before that of the unicorn, that's what my old father used to say."
"Very gnomic, Magnesian, but I shall endeavour to follow his advice."
Over sea and under sky I rode, and within a few days - in time, to my surprise - arrived between the shore of the Sea and the foot of Dam. And what bizarre sight awaited me? My own daughter, Chloe of the Golden Hair, chained to a post on the beach in the predicted path of the Leviathan. Forgive me if I plunge on breathless with the bones of my tale - more of this riddle later.
"Fair one," I said, attempting to loosen her bonds, "who has mistreated you so?"
"The locals, my own Amazons, even Ethiops from the Regiments," wept the child. "They conceived a plan to sacrifice me, to attempt to placate the Machine."
"Their heads are forfeit," I raged. "No mere mortal treats a grand-daughter of Poseidon with such disdain. I shall free you in a moment."
"But mother," said Chloe, "I fear you are too late. Look! The monster approaches!"
Before us the Machine bounded from the briny main, watery and weed-clad, gigantic and grotesque, and roared what turned out to be an antediluvian roar.
Yelling an arcane Atlantean battle roughly translatable as "Come and get me!" and "Bring it on!", I mounted my winged steed. I could see the treacherous soldiery and citizens hidden about, and so I yelled for their edification. "I - the blood-daughter of the Ocean and the beloved of the Lord of the Sky, a veritable Perseis - will slay and destroy this catastrophic chimaera!"
And so I galloped upwards, skipping above the fiery breath and flailing claws of the leviathan, the pegasus vaulting the volumes of the air like a hunter over hedges, our wake like that of a glass hand cutting through the water.
The shield of Tihocan, with its kaleidoscope of confusion, its sub-conscious code of delusion, allowed me to approach the Ketos from the rear. I could see it peering down at Chloe - sacrificial victim - momentarily halted by words that she was shouting. All around the evil cowards cowered behind rocks and mounds, observing the results of their futile and brutal sacrilege.
Raising my sword arm I leapt from the pegasus into the back of the kraken, near that very place were mere weeks before Chloe and I had whispered sweet endearments into its bronzed ears as it lay in dry-dock. With a mighty blow I smashed the sword tip into the dome covering one of the triple brains. I could not see but I could imagine the miniature arachnids swarming over the surface.
Then before I could be swatted aside I took wing and glided away from the monster, landing on the beach near my immobilised offspring.
The Machine seemed to have been distracted momentarily by my efforts, but now it resumed its implacable course. Embracing each other Chloe and I watched as the Machine stumbled away, obviously intent on crossing the last league to the base of the Dam.
As we stood frozen Tihocan and Qualopec and their cavalry cantered up to us, and each Family member greeted the other with some relief. Qualopec threw aside the last of Chloe's chains with a crustacean claw. But the relief was short-lived for soon all eyes turned to the Damoclean disaster that was poised to descend upon us.
"It seemed that we are doomed," said Qualopec, quietly enough so that none but us could hear.
"If the Dam is breached then the Ocean will fly in here like a stampede and drown us all," whispered Tihocan.
I suddenly had a vision of being trapped in an epic tale, whose telling and retelling down the ages, distorted and exaggerated, would feed many a poet.
"Quickly dear Royals let us plan our retreat,"
I said sotto voce, suddenly fleet,
undoing the reins of the horse from its cleat.
"Chloe let the pegasus act as your bearer
And fly to a suitable place with ... my brother."
On the tip of my tongue there had been the word "father".
"But what of you, and the Royal Qualopec?"
I stroked my daughter's hair.
"I have my wings and my flight, self-taught,
Whilst Uncle has armour and life support.
Thus we shall follow directly, in short."
"And what of the people and the soldiers?"
"Darling," I murmured, my face set grim,
"In the trial of life not all can win.
Let us just pray that most can swim."
(Actually, on reflection it's probably better that I didn't attempt to write this tale in the style of an heroic poem.)
The Machine approached the flat towering face of the Camarinal Dam and raising its stubborn, deranged heads hooted, hooting that sound that had liquefied the very mud walls of Jericho.
All around, including us, clapped hands over ears as we fell to our knees.
The Dam stood unmoved, maybe a few pebbles skittering down its face.
The Machine howled a second time, and the surface of the Dam shimmered, with surface fractures like that in the glazing on a china plate, but still it held firm.
The Machine, scratching at itself like a dog with mange, staggering like an infected metal stallion, managed one last mighty bellow. A single crack sneaked down from the high lip, a crack weeping with sea water. Still the Dam held, and the Machine - defeated - fell to its face in the dirt, forty days and forty nights after it had begun.
A tremendous cheer when up, and all were whirled around in a Dionysian dance for joy.
"Thank the Olympean Gods!" cried my Royal Brothers. "The most august and excellent Natla has saved us all!"
"Oh, Mother," cried Chloe, flinging herself my arms. "Who would have thought such a thing released would bring us so close to annihilation?"
Tihocan watched us, his face enigmatic, and Chloe saw that he watched.
She stepped forward one light step, and held out a pale hand in his direction.
"Father?" she said tentatively. "Surely this is a time for new beginnings?"
Tihocan quivered like a trapped butterfly, a rainbow of emotions crossing his face like speeding clouds.
Then; "Daughter," he said, and they enfolded each other in their arms whilst all around wept.
At that moment, of course ... I beg for you, dear listener, to allow me a breath.
Of course, then ... calamity.
Throughout the Empire volcanoes began to erupt; every sea was covered in ash or bombarded with boulders. The sky darkened and the barometer dropped in an ear-popping surge. Lightning and hailstones crashed all around us, and fiery pillars spouted up to heaven. Before we knew it a disastrous earthquake had seized hold of us so that we barely knew up from down, and even horses seemed to hover in midair, legs flailing.
Under the onslaught the levee broke and a tsunami, a super-tsunami perhaps, crashed through the ruins of the Camarinal Dam as fast as fate itself and wiped everything from the face of the earth.
A Mere Skeleton
For many days I flew towards the rising sun.
Occasionally I would alight in the ruins.
I still dream of shorelines cluttered with rubble and trees, clothing and bodies.
The only sounds were the buzzing of flies and the lapping of stagnant water.
I saw drowned babes still clasped in the arms of their drowned mothers.
I saw grotesque scarecrows rotting in the tops of trees.
I saw a cat using her half-chewed mistress a raft.
Every now and then there would be a clot of survivors, huddled on a roof or wandering as if in a dream.
"Lady," they would call to me, "what has happened?"
"Have faith," I would reply. "Help is on its way."
I would bless them and they would thank me and I would go away choked with futility.
After some time I reached the site of the City. From a distance I could still see the outline of the Circular Seas and of the buildings, and hope soared. But it was a tomb, a relic, a mere bloated corpse.
I alighted on the roof of a gazebo next to the Tree of Knowledge, the place where infant Astarte had confided to my infant self of her sacrilegious love for Captain Attis.
I sat for a number of hours, twiddling an olive spring in my fingers. I had no more ideas. There was no other destination.
Then as the whispering wind changed direction,
I heard ancient voices chanting oration,
And raising my eyes spied the Temple Poseidon.
Maybe it was all a fever dream, but I seem to remember entering through the portico and there, seated in a circle, where the ten twin sons of the Lord of the Sea - Ampheres and Evaemon, Mneseus and Autochthon, Elasippus and Mestor, Azaes and Diaprepes, Eumelus and Atlas. They were chanting but seemed merely living dead, their eyes sunken, their flesh hanging. They begged Poseidon for mercy, but it was little more convincing than a child quoting by rote, slurred words devoid of sentience.
I took the metalled gauntlet of Atlas, sitting shrunken in his armour like the brain of a mummy.
"My Lord," I whispered. "My holy and most beloved Lord. This place is not safe, not fit. You will die or starve or fall prey to a contagion."
His eyes looked at me but did not see me. There was no recognition of me either as a colleague or a relative.
"Father," I cried. "They used to say that you could support the very earth on your shoulders. Come away with me, your secret but most devoted of daughters."
He blinked slowly, like a sleepy brown bear.
At length - I have no idea of the real time period - I seem to recall that the earth began to shake once again and the temple to fall down. In modern terms ... the magma dome under the city, remnant of the triple volcano upon which the City had been founded, emptied of molten rock, collapsed in upon itself. It was as if the mere act of me landing upon it had been the final straw.
I have a vision of myself desperately hoisting Atlas into the air, hanging into that cold, painful, metal hand, flapping awkwardly like an injured bird.
The waters flowed in as the City sank, and the lava beneath the waves set the liquid a-steaming. I could hold on for only a moment.
"Goodbye, my child," said Atlas.
He fell away from me forever, boiled alive like a lobster in its shell.
Altas and the City of Atlanta were gone.
Finally, one evening, as I was riding the thermals above the deluge, I saw a giant boat beached on a newly exposed sandbank at the foot of Mount A�r�.
I alighted, exhausted, and was handed down to the deck by Admiral Noe. It was one of the rescue flotilla, packed with people and livestock.
"Well met, Admiral," I said, handing him the sprig of olive. "As you can see, the waters have begun to subside somewhat."
"What of the City, Your Highness?"
"It is lost," I said, and there was much lamenting.
"What of my sister, the Royal Astarte, and the Seven Daughters of Atlas?"
Noe told me of the moment that the tidal wave had approached, and of how he had desperately hauled the bow around to meet it. The ship had almost floundered, flipped bow to stern, and when the crew had recovered their senses, they saw that the rest of fleet had been scattered to the four winds.
"After a short sleep I will go and find them," I said wearily.
Noe drew me to one side.
"Why has this happened to us?"
"If you want a scientific explanation," I said, "then the two plates of the earth - one under the Territory of the North and the other under the Territory of the South - ground against each other, and we were caught in the grinder. Almost as if the stones themselves reflected the tensions above them."
Tears came to my eyes, and my subjects, seeing them, joined me. I recalled the words of my daughter.
"Alternatively it is possible that my grandfather, Poseidon, the Lord of the Sea, Shaker of the Earth, growing dissatisfied with his own creation and seeing man's wickedness which had become abundant in the earth, was saddened, and decided to send a great deluge to destroy proud Atlantis ..."
To end this chapter, I leave you with the description of the aftermath from Plato's Critias.
"The consequence is, that in comparison of what then was, there are remaining only the bones of the wasted body, as they may be called, as in the case of small islands, all the richer and softer parts of the soil having fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land being left."
Gone Where The Goblins Go