First of Atlantis, Fallen: Epilogue

I open my eyes… to darkness. This must be the Afterlife, because I do remember dying.

Little Raniel, barely six turns of the world, had been trapped in her home. I had heard her crying for help. Her parents and older brother had just burned to death trying to escape. A tree had cracked and toppled on top of them, bringing them crashing to the ground.

I had stood, wanting to turn away but unable, and watched them burn. Young Thaedras' head had hit the ground, killing him instantly. His parents were not so fortunate. Brisaine, lovely Brisaine, her face contorted in pain. The tree had her pinned to the ground, fire creeping toward her. Peren received a face full of burning twigs and leaves. He screamed in pain as his face melted away.

Raniel's terrified screams reached my ears and broke me of my fright. I turned to their dwelling, flames nipping at my heels. The curtained entrance was already mostly ash and the heat scalded me as I leapt through the doorway. I called Raniel's name, trying to remember how the dwelling was structured.

Smoke overwhelmed me. It was in my eyes and my breath. I sank to the floor in near-abandon, coughing. My breath cleared a little and I discovered that the smoke was less thick near the ground. I crawled forward on my hands and knees, searching for Raniel.

Eventually I found her and took her into my arms. She clung to me, her tears dampening my clothing and her wails filling my ears. I held her with one hand and supported myself with the other. I turned us around to retrace my trail.

A magnificent crack, almost like thunder, sounded above us. I shrank back from the noise. The roof broke apart and large chunks of flaming wood rained down. A support beam fell too, throwing ash and heat in my face.

Little Raniel screamed, digging her fingers into my skin.

Tears welled up in my eyes and I choked out a sob.

We were trapped; no way out.

I pushed Raniel's head into my chest. "Don't breathe in the smoke," I whispered into her ear. The heat intensified as the fire loomed closer. Raniel stopped her crying and her little body went limp in my arms.

I had broken our First Law.

Raniel had gone with someone holding her.

The fire was all around me… consuming me. It was a ravaging beast, never satisfied. I closed my eyes and let myself go…

So what happened? Had it been another Vision? No; I clearly remember dying, I am sure. But ever since Morgaan's announcement, I've had terrible Visions of Atlantis' destruction nearly every sunrise. That had been nearly three turns of the world ago. I had tried to warn the Council, but no one believed me. We are the mighty City of Atlantis. The winds, the rain, the seas, and the earth had never claimed us. The Gods have never dared touch us. Fire has never consumed us; it never will. We are the mighty City of Atlantis!

After a season, I exiled myself from my home. I left Mother's stone-jewel with Cerene and I said farewell to Jocelyn. I took with me only the clothes on my back, the coverings on my feet, and a blanket.

My Visions became less intensive and less frequent. They became bearable. I could not hunt, so I survived only on whatever vegetation I found. I built a small shelter to stave off the cold season, but for the rest I merely slept on the ground.

The world turned once, and in the sky appeared a magnificent orb, colored green and blue and white. Atlantis had completed their desire, I assumed. They had Created a world. My Visions returned for a few sunrises with many times the intensity of before, then lessened. The people that I lived near apparently could not see the new world above; they acted no different. Atlantis did not wish to share their power with the rest of the world; why would they allow anyone else to see their Creation?

I spent the next two turns of the world studying the natural world around me. I writ my discoveries on a rock wall. I also writ my Visions of Atlantis' past.

I begged the Deities every sunrise to spare my beloved city, my home.

I had woken up this morning to the most terrible Vision yet. The sky was ablaze with fire, as was Atlantis. All the previous Visions hadn't felt truly real, but this one… Smoke swirled around me, choking me; the fire ate at my skin…

I had flown as fast as my wings could carry me to Atlantis.

I had been too late.

Tears made their way down my cheeks.

"Atlantis would not believe you; they never did."

I snap my head up, searching for the voice in the darkness. "Who is there?"

An old man appeared before me. I knew instantly that he must be a Deity. While aged, he walked with no limp or wooden aid. He wore flowing clothes of the finest thread, jewels and gold about his waist and neck. His long, gray beard curled just above his knees. He was dressed in sky tones, the blue of a bright day and the almost-gray before a storm.

A young, mournfully beautiful woman appeared beside him. She too was a Deity, the fine purple and silver of her dress shone in the darkness. Her long, sun-golden hair fell past her waist. Bound up in her hair atop her head were trumpet vine-leaves. A single purple tear graced her left cheek.

No words could reach my mouth. I push myself forward and bow to them.

"Atlantis finally gives its penance."

"At the cost of thousands of lives."

I look up. He had sounded unhappy, she haunted.

"The Deities heard your prayers, Emrys of Arden of the City of Atlantis. Your city owed penance, as you have seen. Their debt is now paid. But a few are still on that – Gaea – but –"

The woman continued as the man stopped. "Gaea should not have to suffer as Atlantis did. Atlantis' mistakes do not transfer to Gaea. But Atlantis shall no longer guide Gaea. You have proven yourself out of millions – many, many thousands – before you."

The man began speaking again. "The Deities have held council, and you shall go to Gaea."

"Guide that world, Emrys. Guide Gaea away from the path of your ancestors. Do not allow Gaea to make Atlantis' mistake," the woman requested.

I gave the only answer I could.

Instantly I find myself in a forest. A short distance away I can see a dwelling. I assume the only other surviving Atlanteans live there. I begin walking.

I glance up and stop, sucking in a deep breath at the sight. I can see my world above me! I stare at it for a short while, then continue on to the dwelling.

Raniel greets me at the door; much to my surprise but I delight in knowing that the Deities spared one more Atlantean.

I tell my story to the other three surviving adults that night. They were horrified, but we Wish ourselves to Atlantis to bury our dead. It took only one to suggest we Separate our Atlantis from this world and all agreed without any discussion. We then Sealed the bridge between our worlds.

I find Mother's stone-jewel on the ground near our Mourning Stone.