Athens, 456 BC
Pericles held his breath. He felt confident in his impassioned speech, the Athenian council standing behind him, adding to his presence. His tranquil words still vibrated off the marble walls of the council chambers. Some men called his oratory arrogant, presumptuous even; but no other manner of address would have impressed his audience.
No, it wasn’t his own words or lack of confidence therein that gave him pause. It was the creatures that stood before him, the Atlantian delegation. He coveted their militaristic might. Upon their word, they would go into battle together; not his first love—Pericles would be happier still to embrace the arts and culture that Greece was beginning to value—but Sparta was getting out of hand.
Pericles’ heart sank, and behind him a senator took a step forward. “But you do not understand, we are at war. We are Greeks, and we will fight to the last man, but—”
“You think us so ignorant? Do not besmirch the quality of knowledge by repeating it beyond edification,” the leader of the delegation snapped.
Pericles winced. These people valued knowledge above all else. To imply ignorance, even a lack of understanding, was a grave insult. He tried to smooth things over. “It is your knowledge we seek. Knowledge you provided for us still in a capacity so great it continues to bring an unparalleled prosperity in Athens. Knowledge we wish to spread beyond our borders. It is a grave reality that the conflict between knowledge and ignorance will bring inevitable war. We ask only for your help in that war.”
The creature fixed his purple eyes on Pericles. “We are Elves. We will not take sides in an Earthborn conflict.”
And with that, the discussion was over. With no wasted words on useless pleasantries, the Elves cast their magic and removed themselves from the council meeting.
Pericles was numb as the meeting wrapped up and he walked home to his estate, a contentious cloud of despair hanging over him. What were they to do now? He should not doubt his people. As the young senator had said, they were Greeks, and they would fight to the last man, but what good would that do if there was nothing left to fight for? There had to be another way.
The shadows shifted in his private quarters as he entered. A voice spoke from the darkness. “Never have I seen such tragedy on one face, my dear Pericles.” The shifting shadow resolved into a small creature. It was a Fae, creatures of Darkness magic. Like the Elves, Fae had pointed ears, but unlike the Atlantians’ milky fair completion, the Fae’s skin was slate gray. The Elves were tall and statuesque; the Fae was diminutive, like a child.
“The Elves refused aid,” Pericles said. He wouldn’t normally be so bold as to discuss politics with a strange creature, but he was well aware at this point that the secrets of the mind were not hidden from the Fae.
“Oh dear. Whoever could have predicted this, I wonder?” Pericles made no comment. The Fae had warned him of this possibility. The Elves were aloof and unconcerned about anything beyond their narrow minded view of what they considered knowledge. He’d resisted this assumption at first because, after all, the Elves had gone to great lengths to improve the culture of the Greeks, and to share knowledge. He had thought that they’d be happy to impart more and help them fight.
“Hm. Well. I present this thought to you.” The creature drifted through the air, its shadowy tendrils wrapped around Pericles. She twisted around his body until her eyes were level with his. “If they won’t give you the knowledge…then take it.”
Pericles was taken aback. “They have been nothing but generous up till now. I understand their reservations. They have a vast fount of knowledge that they’ve said we must earn.”
The Fae wave her hands in the air, exasperated. “’In due time,’ etcetera, etcetera. Tell me, what gives them the right to dictate when that time is?”
Pericles shook his head. “They have control of the situation. And if they are dissatisfied with how we force the issue, they are entirely capable of simply leaving this plane of existence.”
The Fae regarded him for a moment. “What if they were not able to leave?” She paused, and the grin on the creatures face made Pericles feel as if she relished his stunned look. “The devices that power the portals between here and our world Myrathelle are of Darkness magic. It would be a simple task for I and my fellows to infiltrate Atlantis and disable them so that great city is forever trapped here on your world. The Elves would be at your mercy. This is your world and your rules. They must then obey.”
Pericles was surprised to find himself considering this. “I cannot see such a powerful race simply bowing in compliance. Their mastery of magic is unparalleled.”
“A battle will be fought, that much is sure. But if we were to fight by your side, the Elves would quickly be brought into submission. Then, with little recourse, their knowledge would be made yours.”
He gave the Fae a suspicious look. “And why indeed would you help us?”
The Fae laughed. It was a child’s laugh, one without comfort or warmth. “You must understand what drives us. We are the Shadow Fae, the purveyors of Fear. Now, don’t give me that look, my dear Pericles. You Greeks are warriors, so proud of your courage, but courage itself cannot exist without fear. It is fear that drives respect, and ultimately the greatest principle of hierarchy. The strong must lead.
“It is that strength we seek. That strength we must follow. It is that strength we see in you. But say the word, and you may command us as an army. The Elves…the Spartans…the world. We will follow you, and we will win. So I ask you, Pericles. Will you take command and triumph?”
* * * *
The night was peaceful. Ali’zar could see the full moon and the stars from his post. It still seemed strange to him that this place had only one moon. With less light to fall on the planet, he wondered, did the Darkness Element have more power here? He meditated on the concept. Magic was not as strong here, that much was certain; though not powerless.
He stood by a towering pillar positioned just within the walls of Atlantis. A translocation spell was written thereon, duplicated and magnified in several like pillars spaced throughout the city. The activation of the spell was intended to be done most efficiently from the chancellor’s quarters; though, with sufficient knowledge of Darkness Magic, the spell could be worked from any of the pillars.
Ali’zar’s current duty was perhaps not the most intellectually stimulating; yet he valued it. His position gave him time to meditate, to allow his mind exploration of knowledge one could only gain through peaceful contemplation of the All. He pitied the Earthborn from time to time. They worshiped multiple deities, viewing them with but few aspects each: male and female, the god of one thing or another. They were quite unmindful of how One could be All.
A shadow flickered in the corner of his eye. Rather than turning his gaze, he allowed his focus to shift to his peripheral vision. Direct sight could sometimes not be trusted.
A Fae was intertwined around a pillar engraved with runes of Darkness magic. That wasn’t unusual of itself. They were an Adept Race, beings created of an Element and given dominion over it. Fae occasionally would take a curious interest in how the Elves used their Element. They were harmless, however. Once told to leave, they would.
Ali’zar turned his head toward the Fae. He could no longer see the creature. That was somewhat disconcerting. Why would the Fae feel the need to hide from his sight?
Something caught his attention. The runes on the pillar were changed. Instantly he recognized the intent. One part of his mind thanked the All that he’d pursued the knowledge of Darkness magic, and the other called an alarm with a short spell uttered in the Air Element. The Fae was trying to destroy the translocation magic.
With that knowledge came confusion. This would trap Atlantis on this plane, forever separating them from Myrathelle. Why would the Fae attack them so?
Knowledge gained was never lost, but pursuit of such questions was but ignorance in the face of more pressing concerns. He could not see the Fae, and he dare not attack with Darkness magic, for they commanded it better than he. The winds whipped at his verbal articulation, turning to sharp, biting blades. Shadows all around him swirled and dissipated.
He knew with an instinct beyond knowledge that this was a battle that would change the course of history. He was in the battle of his life.
A sharp pain hit him behind the eyes. He had not destroyed every Fae around the pillar. It would prove his undoing. He was aware only of the blood that spurted from his ears, nose, and eyes. Then Darkness claimed him forever.
* * * *
The shout from a lone guard woke Chancellor Ar’mell. He was on his feet instantly from his meditative position. Why were the Fae attacking the translocation pillars?
It didn’t matter. He called quickly to his guards and sent a message through the city via the Fire Elemental runestone that he snatched from his bedside table. A surge of electricity rippled around Atlantis and alerted every other Light Mage within its walls that possessed a similar device. Together as one, they chanted a powerful spell that engulfed the city in white light and revealed the army within.
It was not just a few Fae that felt the need to play the trickster. The whole place nearly crawled with them. “Defend the pillars!” he commanded into the Fire runestone. He dare not utter a Darkness spell to coordinate the Elves’ efforts. They were already battling the Fae’s element of surprise.
It was a call he was loathe to make, because it left many secondary targets unguarded. The Fae’s plan of attack was terrifying. Messages came in all over the city of groups of the dark creatures laying siege. Within minutes, three libraries were destroyed, and one nursery decimated. Elves had few children, and those they had were precious. Ar’mell’s heart ached. He’d left his son there just weeks ago.
The Fae’s coordination was astounding. The Chancellor had never seen them like this; never in his knowledge had the Fae the capacity to devise such a strategy. No, on their own, the Fae would never do something like this. The Earthborn must be commanding them.
The Elves fought back against the Fae’s invasion. After time to regroup and gather their wits, slowly the tide of battle turned. The citizens of Atlantis pushed back with a resounding fury unparalleled in any battle their history had ever known.
When the sun rose, it was over. The Fae who still remained scattered in the shadows of the morning. With their defeat, there was left but one enemy for the Elves to deal with. The Earthborn.
When Ar’mell met face to face again with Pericles, it was with a seething, burning hatred that was as far beyond anger as the sun’s light was beyond the moon. The statesman had at least the grace to look ashamed, though the Elf could not tell if the shame was for his actions, or because he got caught. Ar’mell cared not. For the first time in his life, he found knowledge he was indifferent to possess.
He spoke, finally, and with icy calm. “There was once a man who possessed a bird that laid eggs of gold. Discontent with the wealth that was imparted to him in proper course, he killed the bird to gain the gold within. For his impatience, he received nothing. The flesh within the bird was naught but flesh.
“We would have made you the most prosperous nation the world over. Your people across the land would have been united in peace and knowledge. Yet, because you would have that knowledge now, you have gained nothing and lost everything. You have become but mean creatures, unworthy even of the honor we would grant you by ending your pathetic existence. Instead, we curse you with ignorance.
“Our existence will be wiped from your annals. Philosophers and poets may write about Atlantis, but until the time is right, your knowledge of it will never exist beyond mere allegory. And when the reality of our fair city is impressed upon your minds, it will bring with it, the end.
“You will never know the peace brought only by knowledge. Your land will be consumed by war so long as it exists. In time, ignorance will see to the beginning of your world’s destruction, its people saved only by true knowledge. Deception and lies will be your undoing.
“This is your penance, Earthborn. This is your doom.”