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I will weep no more for the lost, asleep in their water graves. I have no more tears for my youth in the temple of the brindled ox. Life is strong in me and I will not grieve for what was or might have been. Mine is a different path and I must follow where it leads.
But I look out from my high window onto fields of corn ripening to the scythe. I see them rippling like a golden sea, and in the rustling of the dry leaves I hear again the voices of my people calling to me across the years. I close my eyes and I see them now as they were from my earliest memories. They stand before me and I enter once more that glad time when we were young and the cataclysm had not come upon us—before Throm appeared with dire prophecies burning on his lips.
It was a time of peace in all Atlantis. The gods were content and the people prospered. We children played beneath Bel's golden disk and our limbs grew strong and brown; we sang our songs to fair Cybel, the ever-changing, to grant us dreams of joy; and we lived out our days in a land rich with every comfort, thinking it would always be that way.
The voices of the departed speak: "Tell our story," they say. "It is worthy to be remembered."
As so I take my pen and begin to write. Perhaps writing will ease the long months of my confinement. Perhaps my words will earn a measure of the peace that has been denied throughout my life.
In any case, I have little else to do; I am a captive, made prisoner in this house. So, I will write: for myself, for those who come after, and for the voices that cry out not to be forgotten.
Men called the royal palace the Isle of Apples for the groves that covered the slopes leading down to the city below. And indeed, in blossom time King Avallach's palace seemed an island floating above the earth on clouds of pink and white. Golden apples, sweeter than honey from the high meadow aviaries, grew in abundance in the orchards of the king. Apple trees lined the wide avenue that ran through the center of Kellios to the sea.
On a high seaward terrace, Charis leaned against a column, gazing out across the rooftops of the city, watching the sunlight glimmer on beaten sheets of red-gold orichalcum and listening to the sighing hum of the aeolian harp in the random fingerings of the wind. Drowsy, and slightly drunk on the heady fragrance of apple blossoms, she yawned and turned her languid attention to the warm blue crescent of harbor.
Three ships, their green sails bulging in the breeze, slid slowly into Kellios harbor, trailing diamonds in their wakes. Charis watched them heel about, empty their sails, and glide toward the wharf. The sturdy longboats of the harbormaster were already making their way out to the ships to secure the lines and guide them to berth.
Kellios was a busy city; not overlarge—not as big as great Ys, city of temples and shipyards in Coran, or even as big as the market city Gaeron, in Hespera—but blessed with a deep bay so that traders from every kingdom called frequently to provision themselves for longer journeys south and east across the great expanse of water that seamen called Oceanus.
Chariots and wains, the latter loaded with produce of the fields round about Kellios or with goods from other kingdoms, traversed the streets and avenues from early morning to dusk. The market stalls rang with the chatter of trade: value established, prices set, bargains struck.
From the temple mound in the center of the city rose the holy edifice—a replica in miniature of Mount Atlas, home of the gods. Sweet scented smoke ascended eternally from the many altar fires of the temple as costly sacrifices were performed day and night by the Magi. And from the stables below the temple could be heard the bellow of the sacred bulls as they offered their voices to the god just as one day they would make an offering of their living blood and flesh.
Next to the temple stood the bullring, a great oval arena joined to the temple stables by an underground tunnel. In a few hours the first bull would be led through that tunnel and ushered into the pit, and the sacred dance would commence. For now, the arena stood silent and empty.
Charis sighed and turned away, retreating back into the cool, shadowed corridor, the patter of her sandaled feet echoing along the polished stone. She climbed the wide steps at the end of the corridor and wandered onto the rooftop garden.
A light breeze lifted the broad, notched leaves of the slender palms lining the rooftop, rank on rank, in their shining orichalcum basins. Blue parrots chattered and shrieked among the thick-clustered dates, while quetzals preened their iridescent plumage in the grapevines enshrouding ornamental columns. Nearby, two leopards slept in the shade, spotted heads resting on their paws. One of them opened lazy golden eyes as Charis walked past, then closed them again and rolled over. A fountain splashed in the center of the garden, surrounded by tapering stone pillars carved with sun signs and charms.
The cool, clear water was afloat with fresh flowers and citrus fruit and the elegant shapes of black swans gliding serenely around the pool, necks curled in graceful arcs. Charis approached and took a handful of meal from a nearby amphora. She sat on the wide rim of the fountain pool and scattered some meal as the swans paddled over to scoop it up, jostling one another, their long necks darting like snakes.
Charis chided the swans for their uncouth behavior as they beat their wings and hissed at one another.Taliesin
Excerpted from Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead
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