FLAME - Prologue
Six days after the spring equinox
Tomorrow morning would start with the procession, with all of Phaethon’s priests proudly marching down the main avenue towards the temple. Their order would be determined by rank; those at the front held the highest honors. Zanfor scrolled though the names on the crystal display, determining their seniority, his foremind occupied by a task his god approved. But Zanfor’s hindmind had other thoughts, musings Phaethon would incinerate him for if it detected them.
He had discovered his hidden talent to divide his mind in two as a young boy. He found he could think thoughts Phaethon could not detect, for he went unpunished. All his companions in the academy had received reprimands from Atlantis’ god when their minds strayed from its tenets, their arms dotted with puckered burn scars--but not Zanfor. With his foremind he dwelt on the blessings of being a child of Phaethon, but in his hindmind he could truly consider the horror of his people’s plight. Atlantis was dominated by an entity not of this world--a being of pure evil.
Almost two hundred cycles past, a metal vessel from the stars crashed into the ocean off Atlantis’s shores. Its hull so hot it boiled the surrounding waters. A few brave sailors approached the slowly sinking craft when the waters had cooled to a safe level. The strange vessel was enormous, large enough to contain the population of a moderate town. Its hull had fractured in many places like a dropped egg, steam issuing from within. The sailors found a large chest lodged in a crack, and managed to retrieve it just before the vessel from the stars sank into the sea. They brought it back to shore, and soon after Atlantis’s subjugation began, for the chest contained a god.
Zanfor in his hindmind doubted Phaethon was a true god. How could a god not know his secret thoughts? How could Phaethon be unaware the island it dominated would be destroyed this very night? A god that only knew what its subjects knew was no god at all.
Zanfor had known of Atlantis’ fate for almost a cycle now. He had stumbled upon the revelation by accident while studying an indexing of lunar patterns and planetary alignments. Six days after the next spring equinox, the earth would be torn asunder beneath the island, sinking Atlantis into the sea. The shock of this discovery was so great that Zanfor’s foremind nearly revealed it to Phaethon. Instantly mental fingers sank into his skull, questing for the cause of his alarm. His hindmind reacted instinctively, submerging the knowledge and replaced it with rapturous wonderment for his god’s creation. Phaethon dug through his consciousness like a ravenous badger until it was satisfied, then retreated; shifting focus as it tirelessly monitored thousands of subjects.
Since that day, Zanfor had been torn between keeping his discovery a secret and revealing it to his people. He knew that all would perish when the cataclysm struck--that Atlantis would cease to exist. But if he spoke of his findings, Phaethon would have itself moved to safe ground. Then the evil entity from the stars could continue ruling over mankind, eventually expanding its influence till it covered the earth in an ensnaring web of fear. No, it was better to sacrifice a single nation than all of humanity. And so he kept his secret shut off within his hindmind.
Zanfor took steps to keep the other priests from making the same discovery by making the study of the planetary orbits his own personal domain. Only his apprentice knew what would happen this night. Zanfor had suspected that there might be others who possessed his special ability, and so he went to the academies to seek out another. When he found young Perda unscarred, Zanfor knew he had found a kindred spirit. After the passage of eighty cycles, the High Priest knew that none could be so pure of mind to escape Phaethon’s chastisement completely. Tonight Perda would leave Atlantis to journey to the eastern continent; thus he would be spared from the impending disaster. He would pilot a solo hovercraft Zanfor had hidden in a sheltered cove, and bring with him remembrance crystals storing all knowledge regarding Phaethon. These wondrous devices were only a few of the many technological miracles inspired by Atlantis’ god. It was strangely fitting that they would be used to ensure its destruction. If Phaethon were to somehow survive tonight’s cataclysm, then Perda or his descendants would know the enemy.
Zanfor? Stealthy prods slid into his foremind.
"Yes, my lord?" The High Priest responded aloud.
You seem particularly light of spirit this evening. Your thoughts have been somber of late, but tonight you mind is aglow with positive energies. What inspires these feelings, foremost of all my worshipers?
"Why you, my god," Zanfor replied with genuine surprise. "You are the source of all my joy, as well as my moments of solemn contemplation."
Just as it should be, my High Priest. You should rest now. The dawn will bring a most glorious day.
"In that we agree, most holy Phaethon." Zanfor tapped his stylus at the corner of the crystal to extinguish its soft glow, and then placed it in its receptacle. He glanced at the giant bronze doors for a moment, a brief smile upon his thin lips, then he turned and strode out of the sanctum sanatorium into the night.