Image for the poem Otherworldly Memories Part II: The City of Sorrow

Otherworldly Memories Part II: The City of Sorrow

- Otherworldly Memories Part II: The City of Sorrow -

  It was a long time since the great forests of Arbandir had been pleasant and fair, for they grew now to a thick and ominous degree that was in previous ages unheard of. The trees were now tall and twisted, with gnarled trunks and skeletal branches that somehow still had leaves upon them. Thick were all the leaves of those trees, and frightful was the region wherein those forests lay. No sane individual sought to chart the depths of that primal green kingdom, a kingdom ruled by none. For therein did lie powers, forces and spirits of a time before mankind walked the earth. Old were those powers, and some could be both savage and cruel. A shadow loomed therein, and it was one not born from malice but rather of a certain emerging balance. Light had its' way long enough, and thus did the darkness seek to set right the cosmic scales. On the border of Arbandir were vast wastelands where nomads wandered and where oft one might discover, if unlucky, madmen and prophets seeking whatever it was their minds were bent to seek. No one had ever truly reached the heart of those arid lands, and no one wished to. That is why it was the perfect location for an oasis of sorts within these dark domains, a place of peace and of respite.

   There was a garden there, and within it a strange city with tall spires and gleaming domes that shone beneath the midday summer sun. The wastes could get hot enough in the summertime to cause a horrid death for anyone foolish enough to cross them unprepared. It was difficult enough to find water there in a less torturous season! But still there were those who sought the mysterious city. Those who dwelt in the city were said to be remote and strange, detached from the world and yet still a part of it. None who came to that place sought it willingly... they were driven, and harried, and had no other port in the storm that was this terrible place wherein those lands stretched forth. I came there in the company of a band of traveling merchants and entertainers who unlike most were actively seeking to go to that city. They had a mind to trade with the locals there, and to see if some coin could be made through performing for any who might wish to pay to see actors, singers, gymnasts and bards ply their trade. I was not any of those things, and yet in the company of them I felt at ease. I had abandoned the human courts that lay beyond the distant sea of Q'larthis. In all the regions of the other world wherein these lands existed, there were few humans to speak of, and those there were could oft be of a terrible disposition. Being of the blood of the ancient Elfin races, I had no use for human bigotry or deception. It had been some great length of time since I decided to sponsor an expedition in search of something interesting to discover, and though I aged less quickly than humans, despite being essentially mortal nonetheless, I still felt as if the years had been beginning to wear upon me, even if they did not look that way for me physically. My kindred were diminishing in glory over time, and the earth had changed and become less caring towards us. On a lark, I and my young companion Deirdre set out with our present company in order to discover for ourselves what that distant and storied city held for outsiders. Deirdre was a ranger by trade, but since she and I grew to love each other she ceased to go on the long ranging adventures that had been a staple of her days beforehand. She had been my adopted daughter, but was now so much more! She had seen the Elvish equivalent of fifteen years of life as of the time of this, our current expedition together. And Elvish years did not pass the same way that human years do, for time to us in those days passed a great deal slower, a year for us being immensely longer than for any son or daughter born to humanity. She was pretty, youthful, and always eager for excitement, my Deirdre. Her hair was quite curly, and a dark reddish brown in color... her skin was dusky, her face freckled. Her eyes were a rich, deep brown that I found soothing whenever I gazed into them. She was slender and agile, catlike in her reflexes, and of a sometimes fiery disposition. Her ears were pointed, a great deal more so than mine were, for she was of a much more ancient bloodline than I was in that life. She would become very tall when she reached the years of adulthood at last, and would likely see quite the growth spurt within the next year or two. She spoke with an unusual accent, but I found it pleasing in its' exotic tones. She was all I wanted from life.

   And yet, we had so much more besides, between us! Lands, titles, and renown. But to me, my Deirdre was all in the world that I truly desired. She chose a beautiful outfit to war for our trip to the city! And reasonable for travel through the hot climate of these lands. A kind of all in one jumpsuit made of silk, with voluminous legs like those of certain pantaloons and short, puffy sleeves. It was a deep burgundy in color, and buttoned up in the front, with a wide, round neckline. The legs were gathered right at the ankles with drawstring, and on her feet the young girl wore a pair of practical leather sandals. Around her waist, she wore a blood red sash belt with gold trim that was tied at the side with a neat bow. She carried no weapons on this occasion, for we expected a peaceful journey for once. And besides that, the caravan we were traveling with had trained warriors to protect it, and not the shift mercenary types that could betray an employer out of greed either. Deirdre had grown her hair out more since a year ago, and I liked the style she wore it in now very much, for it complemented her lovely face nicely. I wore a bit of a similar jumpsuit to hers, pretty much the same style, only mine was a very deep, dark forest green in color. And my sash belt was gold, with black trim. Being a hermaphrodite, my body was somewhat unusual looking, my abdomen rather pronounced and my face having an oval quality to it much like the sort seen with certain eunuchs. I was not tall, and in time Deirdre would come to tower over me. Rather my height, like the build of my body, was quite average. My hair was cut into a short pageboy-like bob style, for I had grown tired of how long it had previously been, and the color of my hair was a very light shade of blonde. My eyes were almond shaped and of a vibrant green hue. My skin was somewhat pale, and had a bit of a subtle yellowish tint to it, but I did not have a sickly look to me in the least. My nose had a slightly aquiline look, and my lips were small. In contrast, Deirdre's lips were plump and full, and her nose was broad and a bit flat. Her eyes were also almond shaped, but they were big and expressive. Like her, I wore a pair of sturdy leather sandals and carried no weapon on me either. For jewelry, all the two of us wore were some many colored beaded bracelets on our wrists and some necklaces. I wore a necklace of black pearls, and Deirdre wore a silver necklace with a leaf-shaped pendant dangling from it. Deirdre's ears were not pierced but her nose was, and in it she wore a gold nose ring. My ears were pierced, and in them I wore two small black pearl earrings. Also, upon my left hand's ring finger I wore the signet ring that had become my most important piece of jewelry. It was of the purest silver, and set into it was a fiery red ruby. The whole of the band was covered with delicately etched runes in one of the ancient scripts that only the druids fully understood. We looked noble, for noble we were, and all who knew us were well aware of our station. Yet we never acted haughty or arrogant like some nobles.

   The journey went quickly enough, and we needed no guide because the leader of our caravan, an old druid who had made this trip before, already knew the best way to reach the city we sought. Everyone said the way was difficult and even perilous, and yet because we had brought plenty of food, water, and other essential supplies, we were able to bear the heat and cross the wastes with reasonable speed. The large lizard-like beasts that drew our wagons and carts were used to both hot and humid climates, and in many ways were like unto camels in that they could endure long journeys across deserts and wastes without much difficulty. Though they were in terms of shape and size more similar to horses. They had beaks like unto great birds, and sharp claws able to dig into even tough gravel. They were creatures of the fey realms, and were native to the other world of Faerie. They could go many days without needing to be given water, though they still needed to be fed normally enough, which was not a problem. As the day went on, we soon beheld the vibrant green oasis that marked the location of the great city. Vast and beautiful were the gardens of that massive oasis, and tall were the palm trees there. Tropical flowers of every color imaginable could be seen, and birds unique to that place glided through the azure skies high above. The scents and fragrances of the flowers reached us quickly, and we could see the waters of the oasis and how pure and pristine they looked. A crescent shaped ring of jagged cliffs encircled the oasis.

   High were those cliffs, and like the clawed fingers of mighty giants that perhaps slumbered deep and fast beneath the ground they were. All directions save this one we traveled in would lead only up to the sides of those sharp, rocky crags. Those were like natural defenses, and they encircled the jewel that so lay at the heart of the oasis and its' heavenly gardens of many colored splendor. Vast was the city, and as tall were its' towers and spires as the legends said. The domes of its' palaces and temples were every bit as majestic and gleaming as the legends claimed them to be. The city was circular in shape, and all around it were high white crenelated walls that shone gloriously in the sun's light. Many buildings of various sorts lay outside the walls, and great were the gates that led into the city itself. Columns as high as tall pines stood to either side of those gates, and they supported a delicate archway into which could be seen carvings depicting dragons and winged people that looked angelic in appearance. There were no guards at those gates, and we hoped this to be an indication that the people of the city were peaceful and receptive towards outsiders who came to visit. Upon the walls, there were various people that we could see walking about... tall they were, like unto the Elves of the ancient days before the time of the great cataclysm that doomed Atlantis. Tall, and wearing red robes and gowns. They carried no weapons that we could see, and seemed alarmed when they saw that our guards did. One of them yelled down to us as we approached: “Ho there, strangers! You come armed I see, and so I must ask you if you mean us harm or if you come with peaceful intent.” It was a man, a guardian of some kind apparently. He spoke in the same language as we did, so at least we could understand him. The old beardless druid who led our expedition stood tall and proudly as he yelled up to the guardian in his typically baritone voice: “I am pleased to assure you, sir, that we come only in peace! Our guards were simply to ensure that we might be able to reach your fair city alive and well, since the lands around here are known to at times be dangerous. And though we encountered no danger, it was well to be prepared all the same! We are in fact entertainers, and there are a few scholars among us who are eager to learn from you if possible. I hope my greeting may be well received by you!” and the guardian cried out in reply: “It is received very well, stranger! Very well indeed. I bid you enter, and can assure you that this city will most certainly be much to your liking.” And the gates opened with a tremendous mechanical sound that indicated the use of clockwork mechanisms within the gatehouse that was a part of the high city walls. The guardian did give a wave of his hand, indicating that we could enter now. And so, we entered that magnificent city.

   The wagons and carts that bore us, along with our animals, were taken with care by some stable hands who ushered them into a huge building where the animals were cared for and tended to, and the wagons and carts neatly parked. We unpacked what we needed for our stay in the city, and an envoy came to us before we left the building. She was a very short and somewhat heavily built woman, about the size of a small child. She wore a gown that was scarlet in color, and had a cleanly shaved head. Like myself, she was totally hairless save only for her eyelashes, and also like me she had no eyebrows either. “I bid you welcome to our fair city! My name is Ri'kra, and it is my duty to greet new arrivals and help them to be made comfortable during their first time here. It is my pleasure to show you to the apartments that shall be yours during your stay, and to make certain you are all made comfortable. This is agreeable to you?” And the old druid agreed that it was. Soon, we were following the envoy through the main streets of the city's market district, past the market stalls and the great canvas tents where merchants bought and sold every kind of goods, both practical and rare. The buildings on both sides of the street dwarfed us, and I could not imagine how such tall structures were ever raised to begin with. And still, the city walls had been higher! Ere long, we entered a section of the city set aside for visitors and there we were brought to a splendid many columned palace with a high roof crowned by a tall steeple atop which was clearly visible a great golden ankh. We walked up the steps and into the palace, where we were given various living spaces to call our own, with servants to tend to our every need. This was beyond all expectations!

   Deirdre and I requested private chambers to share together, and we were granted our request without question or hesitation. Whatever was asked for, was immediately granted, and so every member of our expedition received accommodations that were to their liking. The apartments Deirdre and I shared had every imaginable kind of luxury. The furnishings were opulent and magnificent, more fitting for some sort of royalty than for visitors from distant lands. There were wardrobes containing beautiful, elegant clothing in a wide range of styles as well as stylish jewelry and perfumes in beautiful scents. It was as if all of this was meant for the rulers of the city, and yet here it was all given to us freely. “This place is a veritable paradise!” commented Deirdre, and I replied with a measure of disbelief, saying: “It is grand, almost unbelievably grand. I wonder what the cost will be?” and she sensed my caution and concern. I was not given to simply accept gifts and grand gestures of such a magnitude simply at face value. But it had ever been that my beloved one was able to sooth my fears when they were not wholly warranted. She put her arms about me, pushed her body up against mine, and looked deep  into my eyes with such intensity as only she possessed, and said in a soothing tone of voice: “My love... sometimes, you really, really do need to learn to relax a little and simply enjoy things!” and she kissed me long and passionate, licking my lips playfully as she withdrew from the kiss. I moved her hand to between my legs to where she could feel that I was becoming excited for her very strongly. She smiled mischievously, and began to unbutton my jumpsuit, kissing my body all over as she removed my clothing. She then lay down on the nearby large, comfortable looking bed, and smiled at me seductively as she parted her legs and at once began to rub her own thighs. I got between her legs, and began to unbutton her jumpsuit as well, my hands rubbing her soft skin wherever it was exposed. Soon, we were both unclothed and engaged in acts of lustful passion and the savoring of carnal delights. Several servant girls came in and saw what Deirdre and I were up to, and they giggled as they watched us for a bit before going about their duties. Once our passions were spent, we lay in each other's arms for some time before deciding to bathe and refresh ourselves. We slept for many hours before that though, for our journey to the city had been very long and tiring, and we dressed in new clothing once we awoke and had something to eat. I chose to put on a beautiful red flowing gown made of an extremely soft material. It was a gown in the local style, and I thought it would be appropriate. I picked a pair of small red ruby earrings to wear with that, and a gold bracelet encrusted with red rubies was what I chose to wear upon my left wrist. Deirdre picked a pair of pink silk bloomer-like shorts, and she paired that with a loose pink lace-up blouse of the same material that had a wide neck to it and long billowing sleeves. She tucked the blouse into the shorts and then tied about her waist a sky blue sash belt to complete her look. She wore her usual nose ring, and we both took some time to apply some cosmetics to our faces in order to look our very best. It was the very earliest hour of dawn, and we had a mind to make the most of the day. “I wonder what the old man is doing right now?” Deirdre pondered as we put on the slipper-like shoes that lay at the bottom of the wardrobe closets. Of course there were many colors and many materials to choose from! I picked a pair of ruby red slippers and Deirdre chose a sky blue pair to go with her belt. I replied: “He is most likely in the process of interrogating the local scholars and scientists, assuming they have scientists here, and all and any curiosity that pops into his mind.” and that was indeed much like him. “You look beautiful!” I said to my beloved, at the same time she said likewise to me. We laughed a bit at that, finding it always uncanny how alike we both thought most of the time. “Come on, sweet leaf, we must be about the city! I am curious to see what the local religious and spiritual traditions in this place are like.” said Deirdre in a playful manner. I agreed that I too was curious about that, and so we set out from our apartments and made our way to the distant spires and domes of the temple district, which were not hard to find due to the immense statues of gods and goddesses that towered over many of the buildings in that part of the city, and which could be seen from pretty much every other district. The statues were immense, mighty, and very imposing looking... yet with serene, smiling faces that were at odds with their muscular forms.

   We walked up the steps that ran between the lower streets and the upper sections, and soon we had in no special haste come to the temple district itself. Most of the temples were seated upon many a rocky, natural acropolis, and were magnificent many columned structures with high soaring domes and slender minarets that gleamed in the morning sun. The walls of the temples were stucco and sandstone, with a mud brick foundation, and the columns were gray marble. So vast were these buildings, that even the tallest of the Elvish kindred would have been dwarfed and engulfed by the massiveness of them. “Why would any people need such immense places of worship?” Deirdre wondered aloud, and I replied: “It it a tad bit excessive seeming, is it not!” and we decided to enter one of them. The air was thick with the smell of sweet incense within the temple we picked to enter, and countless floral scents. For on both sides of the temple's main interior hallway were vast gardens that contained all manner of exotic and beautiful local plants and flowers, and more than a few trees as well. All kept watered by some rather advanced mechanisms that I had never seen the like of before. The effect was that of an interior garden of great splendor and peacefulness. We walked along the main hallway, and soon we came to the large worship area which had upon the floor mounds of cushions and pillows for the relaxation of those who came to avail themselves of the temple's services. There were musicians playing harps and flutes, with great artistry and skill, their music relaxing and pleasing to hear. Ahead of us was the altar place, and there was a massive statue that rose up all the way from the floor to near to the top of the dome high above. The statue was of a being that was both male and female, with three heads and with each of the heads bearing a striking resemblance to it. “Oh my gods! That statue, it looks just like you.” Deirdre exclaimed to me, attempting to do so in hushed tones. I nodded my head in agreement, unable to deny the strong, uncanny way that this statue had been cast in a likeness so similar to my face. The divinity itself had six wings that were covered in eyes, and each face had a third eye in the precise middle of its' forehead. At the base of the statue was a simple, crude stone altar on which were carved runes in an odd language that I was unfamiliar with, yet which seemed remarkably familiar to me on some deeper level. A tall woman stood at the altar, and she was twelve feet in height... pretty much a giant herself. Now I knew why all of the buildings in this city were so gigantic in their proportions! Some of the inhabitants were of this massive, great height. The priestess wore a diaphanous gown of fire red color, and could be seen to be totally naked beneath its' folds and skirts, for the material of the gown was mostly of a light, airy, almost totally transparent material that appeared soft and flowing. Her hair was curly, flame red, and cascaded in its' tight curls down to the middle of her back. Her features were sharp, her skin ivory in hue, and her eyes a pale icy blue shade. She was muscular, athletic, and powerfully built. Her voice was somewhat deep, but had a melodic quality to it. I asked her about the statue and what it was meant to represent, and she replied: “We do not know! We inherited this city when we came to it as strangers, as visitors, and found everything prepared for us to receive. But we were of the oldest generations, my people, and when we arrived here there was no one else inhabiting the place! No one at all. And yet, all was laid out for us as we might have desired it to be... as if some power or force had gifted it to us. We never needed to work for anything, nor hunt, nor fish, nor plant, nor toil... for whenever supplies began to run low, we would awaken the next day to discover everything had been replenished. The gardens you see here are a miracle! They run and maintain themselves in ways we cannot comprehend. And the trees, flowers, and plant life never dry nor perish. The ones you see here, all of them have been here in all the years of our lives here. And those years have becoming countless centuries, for those who dwell within the walls of this city, they do not age any longer... and yet, if we were to leave the city, we would resume aging once more as if the centuries we spent here were only a mere dream and nothing more.” And I knew of places like this, places meant for the gods originally... places where of old humans were made to toil, work, and slave away for the gods. With immortality being the gift by which the gods had kept those slaves in a kind of illusion of contentment. Yet, an eternity of toil was not a blessing at all!

   “Eden.” I said under my breath, and the priestess heard her, her ears being much keener than human ears or even Elvish ears are of a want to be. She replied: “Yes... that was the name of another place very much like unto this one. They say that each god and goddess had a garden that was all their own. This one evidently belonged to the deity whose statue you can see behind me here.” And I sensed that back before I had been made mortal, before the great cataclysm and the fall of Atlantis changed everything... perhaps in a time I could no longer remember fully, this place had indeed belonged to me. And yet, in my current existence I could not imagine feeling comfortable with so much grandeur and glory, and all of it coming at the cost of human freedom. I knew that I was not comfortable with that! And this was I realized, one of the reasons why I rebelled against the other gods. I and Lilith, and all the others with us who had decided that enough was enough... humanity had to be given their freedom, their right to be able to choose their own path in life. I did not wish to enslave them, but to guide and nurture them, to give them their own wings to soar with... and therein lay the first of many conflicts between myself and the other great powers that sought to lord it over this world that our divine kindred had claimed for its' own. It was colonization and imperialism of the ugliest sort, and I was against it. I told the priestess of my past life memories from those times, how they came back to me more and more strongly. I spoke for many hours with her, and Deirdre who had already head all of this from me before was able to nod and agree and to confide to the priestess that everything I said was the truth. The priestess then looked at my face, then up at the statue, then back again and agreed, saying: “It would seem that you have in a way come back to this place, after so long an absence! We have no rulers here, everyone is equal in our society, so I will welcome you as one of us rather than as a returning master or mistress. If all you say is as you mean for it to sound... then you would not wish to be our ruler anyway.” and I admitted that in all truth I would not. “I did not wish for such a thing back then, and I do not wish for it now.” I honestly admitted, and the priestess nodded and smiled serenely. I thought that the gods had wiped out every odd little trace of their old technologies that yet remained in the world, on both Earth and in this other world that was bound to and a part of the earth and yet separate from it at the same time. But somehow, in this remote corner of the other world, their genocidal fury and rage had missed its' furious mark. But, I had never heard of a city such as this where things were being maintained seemingly by magic. There was an odd power at work here indeed, and it was something highly strange. “Think back to when you first came here, priestess... are you certain that no one saw so much as a trace that someone or something yet remained living here?” I asked her, and she answered: “There was only one incident, but we wrote it off as the result of the desert heat getting the better of someone's sanity. An old man, a prophet of our folk, had swore that he witnessed an apparition of a woman made of pure light, who told him that neither he nor we had to want for anything any longer, and that she would provide for us all. He regarded this as a holy vision, but he was prone to many such things and rarely was there anything real to any of them. On hindsight, however, perhaps it was a sign of sorts that our days of wandering and toil were at an end! It is not possible to know the truth of what he saw, however, for he was alone when he saw whatever the apparition truly had been.” I asked if she knew where the vision itself had taken place, and she told me as best as she could remember, stating: “It happened, oddly enough, not in the highest places of the city but in the lowest of all places here... in a cave set into the ground, beneath an abandoned building that is filled with strange machinery that no one seems to understand the working of. If you go all the way to the market district from here, and follow the main street until it branches off three times to the left... it will take you to a triangular shaped plaza. That is where the building I speak of can be found, and inside of it there is a circular chamber where the cave entrance lies. I myself have been there only once, and I had to leave because a strange sound emerged from the cave, which caused me to flee in great haste. In fact, I shall never return there again! There is something almost evil about it. I suspect that we are truly not meant to learn whatever it is that the old prophet experienced there.” And I knew I had to go there!

   Deirdre and I hastened through the city streets, making our way past the bustling crowds of peoples, such a fantastic diversity of peoples from countless lands and perhaps worlds too I could not help but notice, and swiftly we followed the directions that the priestess had given us, coming at last to the very weird looking building that could only have been the one we were searching for. Unlike all of the rest of the buildings in the city, this one appeared exceedingly old, abandoned, and in an advanced state of disrepair. The walls were cracked, the foundations crumbling in places, the windows vacant and with no sign that anyone lived, worked, or even so much as came by to check on the state of the place. The building was also constructed haphazardly, and with massive sheets of metal attached to large chunks of stone that appeared to have been hollowed out in order to create a building from pieces of whatever had been at hand at the time. There was no reason or planning involved, it seemed, the place was just thrown together hastily and randomly. Someone had prioritized its' quick construction and valued that over any sort of architectural design aesthetics. The sounds of machinery could be heard from within, and upon entering the dismal looking structure we could see massive machines with huge gears that turned and conveyor belts that ran, and the whole interior was filled with these mechanisms. Massive viewing screens were attached to big square towers that were functioning computers, and the lights on the towers showed that the devices were all still active and functioning. The screens displayed data of various sorts... computer code in various programming languages, binary sequences, and all manner of computational processes. Something was maintaining all of these machines, for they were in perfect and pristine working order! Unlike the exterior of the building, the interior appeared to be kept clean, neat, and functional. I was expecting dust, mold, and webs... instead, it looked like a workplace that one might see today in more modern times. Only, this was in a vastly ancient age of history! One so old that most historians today regard it as an era of myth and legend at best. In that life I was living back then, I had never seen things like that before, and my memories of them from before I had been made mortal... they were dreamlike and strange to my mind as it was back then. The ghost of an idea of how this sort of place worked and functioned was there in my subconscious, but my brain kept telling me this was all some kind of magic. Today, writing this in an age where computers and machinery are normal and very commonplace, I find that fact somewhat darkly humorous. “What is all of this for?” asked Deirdre, and I had no answer for her. “Some kind of power is running through all of these objects... magical energy of a sort I am unfamiliar with.” it was electricity, likely powered by a generator in the cave below. I now realize that, but at the time I had no way of understanding or comprehending such things. We then made our way into the back-most chambers of the building, and therein was a metal hatch set well into the ground. The hatch had a crank-like handle that one could turn to open it, and this seemed obvious enough to us that we were able to get the hatch open without difficulty. There was a slight hiss and a bit of a release of steam once the hatch was opened, and the air from below was cool and kept comfortable with some sort of air conditioning system. I remarked to Deirdre: “The air! It is different down there... not hot and dry like up here, but much nicer, more like the air of the northern lands of Earth.” and we were at a loss to explain such a difference as we climbed the ladder that was within the dark shaft that opened up below us. The ladder descended into a long metallic corridor that was humming with energy, lights on the walls displaying or indicating things we knew not the meaning of. We followed down the passageway, for there was only one way to go, and before long we emerged into an octagonal shaped room that had a domed ceiling. All of the walls were still metallic, and filled with lights, screens, and various sorts of indicators and displays, along with buttons, levers, wires and hoses that were fixed and attached to this device or that. A loud horn-like siren sounded as we entered, and the various sliding metal doors set into some of the walls of this room all opened and closed at various odd intervals as the system tested itself before the doors all closed and remained shut. The ancient computers that ran this place saw that new visitors had come, and all needed to be made ready in order to receive us properly.

   All of a sudden, a ray of light shot out from a circular lens that emerged from a mounted metal box on the wall across from the passageway we entered the room from, and it struck me squarely on my head, right between my eyes, in the place where my spiritual third eye is. Instantly, all went black before the blackness cleared and I could see again. The room was gone, and I was instead in a green grassy field that was filled with lush, beautiful gardens and every kind of animal and bird, all of them peaceful. The whole vista was magnificent, and I was surrounded by countless exotic flowers, plants, and trees. This reminded me of the gardens within that temple Deirdre and I had visited, and it also reminded me of a distant memory of a place form a past that I knew... and yet could not say how it was I knew of it at all. The vague sense of intimate familiarity was about me as I  walked forward, and noticed the high white walls surrounded the garden's perimeter in the distance all around me. There were gates set into them, and the gates had fiery looking beams of light moving back and forth within them in order to keep any intruders from entering... and any human slaves from leaving. “Eden.” I remarked. I spat on the ground as I said that word, feeling an old anger welling up inside of me. A massive tree lay in the garden's very heart, and it was within its' own enclosure that was surrounded by high cliffs filled with caves and all manner of alcoves. This had been a meeting place for a council of the messengers of the gods, and was like unto a great natural amphitheater, with the mighty tree at the center stage of it all. I was within the past, reliving the past, and old memories were awakening within me. At the base of the tree, reclining in a relaxed position upon a marble bench piled with many soft cushions and blankets for comfort, there was a peculiar little girl. She was light of skin, with long cascading wavy golden blonde hair, and had rosy cheeks, light blue eyes, and pinkish full lips. Her face was chubby, her body plump but not fat, and  her manner was cheerful and sweet. She wore a long white gown of shimmering material that had silver trim, and her feet were covered with matching silver slippers that had slightly upturned toes. Her gown had long, wide sleeves, and her hands were busy playing with a flower that she had plucked. She was busy removing the petals and leaves from the flower, casting them into the air and blowing them away. She grinned as she saw me, her cherubic features practically aglow with delight. “Samael! Welcome... welcome home. This is not Eden, although I can see why you might confuse it for that place. Here, you ran things differently, my Lord. Here, there were no slaves, no servants... instead, the humans who did come to call this place home could eke out their own lives free of masters or mistresses to punish them if they made a mistake or two. I was your... companion... when you lived here.” and the way that she chose to  say that word seemed oddly mature for what appeared to be a ten year old child. “You did not live by human morality or laws, but rather those of the gods, which were different and less... restrictive, in many ways. It is a pity that the gods did not extend their own view of freedom to their human slaves, else perhaps humanity would be a far less hateful species today. But we cannot undo the past! And you, for your part, did allow the humans in your care the same freedoms that you yourself enjoyed. For that, the gods despised you... for they did not believe a slave race should be allowed the same privileges as their masters and mistresses. You and Lilith attempted to change all of that... and in the end, now that the great cataclysm has come and gone, and the humans of Atlantis proved to be wholly corrupt, we are able to appreciate the irony of the fact that with freedom and liberty there is also always the risk that those who are granted such freedoms and liberties might in time come to abuse them. However, it is my firm belief that had they never been granted them at all... those same humans would have risen up in a far bloodier rebellion still, and instead of a few corrupted nations being destroyed, perhaps all the world entire would have been laid waste to put the rebellion down. You did well, my Lord! I was wrong back when I said otherwise to you.” and I knew this girl. Oh how well I knew her! “Qal'adariel.” I said to her, bowing deeply and kneeling before her. “My Queen!” I exclaimed, removing her slippers and kissing her feet softly. She giggled a bit, and then caressed the side of my face. She was the sister of one of the most powerful messengers of the gods, the archangel Gab'ariel, the governess who presided over Eden.

   Our true, spiritual forms were far less pleasing to look upon, and yet our spirits themselves were pure and bright. “Can you accept that your destiny is to help humanity to become truly free, as it was in this place for those you had cared for? No matter the cost, such freedom is always worth it! I have learned this the hard way, and by the time you get this message... I will have departed this place, long since. I just wanted to leave this interactive message for you to enjoy and experience, this one last gift of love to remember me by. Consider this my apology for our argument when last we met, and if we are ever to meet again in some future time, know that I shall always love you. Despite the darkness within you! For I realize now, it lies within me as well. Darkness is not itself evil, any more than light is good. It is what we choose to do with it, that, makes it so. Be well, Samael my Lord! My love.” and she leaned forward to kiss me, her kiss the passionate kiss of a grown woman. She changed before my eyes into an adult, her statue tall and queenly... attired as she was when a child, her garments sparkling with silvery light. We embraced then, and her body became like unto light itself, glowing with silver energy. “I forgive you, my Queen. My love!” I exclaimed, and then the entire scene faded into blackness. I then awoke as if from a vision, and Deirdre was standing over me worried as I lay on the floor of the chamber wherein the vision had come upon me. “Are you alright, sweet leaf? I thought I lost you there for a moment! I... could not bear the thought of that, so I kept calling out to you, crying. But you did not answer me, and so I feared you dead before I noticed you were still breathing. Then... you called me your queen, and kept referring to me by a bizarre sounding name in some other language. Qal'adariel, I think it was. But I am sure, I am butchering the way you pronounced it!” I then stood up and took Deirdre into my arms and kissed her tenderly. “I am fine, my darling wood nymph. Perfectly alright! It was a message, that is what the vision I had was. From someone I knew and loved, and thought I lost, a very long time ago. Let us go and see if the old man is finished, and then we should see what trouble we can yet get up to.”

   The machinery had fallen silent, as if a great switch had suddenly been turned off. We made our way back to the surface, and when we exited the building, the city was not there any longer. Instead, it was only a handful of old buildings that appeared to be in crumbled and broken ruins, with the faded rubble that had once been a grand white enclosing wall being the only indication that a city had once existed here in the first place. The oasis and its' gardens were still there, and the place was still beautiful, but it was only a haunted shell of its' former glory. A glory we had glimpsed only far too briefly! Only myself and Deirdre, and those of our company who had come with us on our journey to the city were present. The inhabitants of the city had all vanished along with their home, leaving only this in their passing. All of the buildings looked to have been hastily thrown together with whatever had been at hand, with the bulk of that looking as if it had been scavenged from the wreck of a crashed spacecraft from a distant, past era. Somehow... this had grown into that magnificent place we had been granted a peek at. And as time went on, that had crumbled and faded and become no more, leaving only this once again. “Time is cruel sometimes.” I remarked, and Deirdre asked me what I meant. My old memories had been made a lot more complete, and I understood the science that before had seemed like magic to me. I said to my beloved: “I know how, and why, all of this happened... but I cannot explain it without it sounding as if I have gone mad. Suffice it to say, that we just spent a bit of time in the past I think. The laws of space, time, matter and energy were warped here for a bit. I am certain that no one has lived her in far more centuries than any of us could count.” Deirdre smiled, chuckled a bit, and remarked: “You are right, my love! That does sound quite mad. But, I adore you anyway! In any case... let us speak with the old man. We have a long ride home.” And the old druid told us of his experiences in the city, as we told him of our own. The wagons and carts, and our animals were all there... all waiting for us and seemingly well fed, watered, and cared for. I thought to myself as all was made ready and Deirdre and I climbed up and aboard the wagon that was soon to be homeward bound: “That was quite the way to leave a message!”

   And in the center of the ruins, which we had not the desire to explore before departing, there was an enclosure that was surrounded by high cliffs filled with caves and all manner of alcoves. The way that one went about entering it was through one of four gated pathways that led into the enclosure from one of the four cardinal directions that each path was perfectly lined up with. The handful of buildings we saw were only in the southwest of what had one been this great city. All around and about the ancient enclosure were other ruins, and all of them had been the barest bones from which a great metropolis had been raised by a race that was weary of war but too lazy to toil at creating their view of a peaceful paradise on Earth. For this place had existed on Earth originally! Before new wars came about, and the great cataclysm descended, and the time had come to shift the city into the other world using the last vestiges of a once powerful science in order to achieve the impossible. And there, its' glory endured for a time before fading into obscurity and eventual decline. Its' people tired of immortality, and struck off on their own, leaving only she who had been its' caretaker to exist in her loneliness. She knew sorrow, she knew grief, and she knew loss... for she pined ever for her sweet, long lost Samael. A person she was convinced that she would never see again! She recorded her message for that one to receive, and for a time she lived on alone and lonely as the last living inhabitant of the great city that had been raised up around the garden that once had been where the city now was. She programmed all the machines to operate for many long centuries to come, and she made certain that should Samael return to this place, should her beloved somehow find the means to reach it, then the city would know it was Samael who had come... and her beloved would be led by any means possible to the place where the computers and their artificial intelligence could be able to trigger the program that would play the message for only her beloved. Anyone else would be killed by the security systems, and their remains disintegrated utterly. She had grown from a little girl who was idealistic and spirited, to an adult who did not know what she truly believed in any longer. That was who she had been when she and Samael had their falling out, that disillusioned adult! When Lilith came at last to take Samael away from her, off on whatever crusade the dark goddess had managed to convince the hermaphrodite god to be a part of... something broke inside of her, something deep inside of her being. And she went mad for a time, so people said of her. In that madness, she remained even after everyone else had left the city... and everyone else had! They took all the animals with them, so that the mad goddess-queen had not even them to talk to. She spent days and nights in virtual reality programs designed to help her to relive the glory days when she and Samael had their garden paradise all to themselves, aside from the free humans who dwelt there with them. And in that time, they had been happy! She cried, she wept, and then one day she decided to revisit the tree in the great enclosure at the center of the city. Centuries beyond counting had passed, and all was now in a desolate, ruined state. The machines were programmed to allow a temporary time shift so that Samael would not arrive to find the city in ruins, but be returned to a time when it was at the height of its' most noble splendor. A time right after the goddess-queen retreated from public sight, so that people began to forget she even had ever existed at all. Others would be caught up in that time shift as well, and so she commanded her most loyal priests, priestesses, and prophets to keep her existence a secret. And in time, they all forgot about her! Everyone in her beautiful city did. And it was her own fault, because she wanted it to be that way. When the old prophet accidentally triggered the security system in the place where the message was recorded, he was rendered insane by the system rather than killed. She had at least softened some of the security measures a bit for the most part. She disliked death in all its' forms, ever more so as time went on. Lifetimes passed, and the gift of immortality fled from her once the old machines that maintained such things began to break down when the city deteriorated. She thought on all of this, and it all became jumbled about a bit in her mind as she sat down on the bench at the foot of the great tree, which had withered and died with time... and there, she breathed her last, weeping as she perished, regretting countless mistakes. Her automaton servants buried her right there, beneath the tree.
Written by Kou_Indigo (Kara L. Pythiana-Ashton)
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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