Atlantis Lost – A Novella in Flash (AKA FlashNovel)
By Sharon Collins
Chapter 1 (Prompt – NIGHTMARE)
“Awake!” commanded the voice that never slept even when the others did.. “Awake! Awake! Awake!” It shouted dragging all the other voices into consciousness . Immediately they took up the clamor, “Your prophecies are true. To your duty, Old Woman! To the Sanctuary! Save the children! To the ships, Ankara! Go! Now!”
Wrapped in a watered-silk bedrobe , Ankara, Elder, Seer and Keeper of the Crystals, struggled to stand upon the mosaic undulating like a leviathan of the deep beneath her feet. Losing her balance, she fell to knobby knees and crawled to the window, where she hauled her ancient body up. Peering over the blue-tiled, sill, she needed no lantern to see. The dark shadow of Atlas, vomiting gouts of reeking smoke and bleeding rivers of liquid fire, illuminated the hellish tableau. Blazing wooden structures, backlit the columned Temple of Poseidon as it collapsed, the glow of it orichalcum façade fading into the rubble. Choking fumes churned, as weeping men carried their children into the streets followed by silent, white-faced wives. Although foretold, the utter magnitude of destruction paralyzed her. Surrendering to despair, Ankara collapsed against the cobalt dolphins gracing her bedchamber floor and wept.
Stung finally, into action by a shattered tile slicing her withered cheek, she reached for her veil of byssus, a rare sea-silk, wrapped her long silver braids and covered her mouth. Clinging to the heavy mahogany furniture, now strewn in a shamble about the room, she fought her way out of doors and into the heaving chaos. Wheezing, and squinting against the acrid smoke, Ankara searched the horizon, and was heartened to see the ships still anchored a safe distance away. The sight of the beach littered with writhing sea-creatures, the sand extending farther than even the lowest tide, however, tightened the grip of iron terror into a stranglehold and she limped even faster.
Keening with grief and pain, she heaved open the Sanctuary gates, ignoring the heated bronze, singeing her palms. As Keeper of the Crystals, Ankara was sworn to protect The Eleven. Her children, as she called them, were in reality eleven unearthly beautiful crystals. No one, not even Ancient Ankara knew their true origins. The Scrolls spoke of wandering Star-Beings bestowing them upon the Ancestors. The color of rare gems, each vibrated with a single, perfectly-pitched tone. Ankara loved to hear them hum as she tended them. When coupled and tripled, their harmonies produced a powerful magic. When The Eleven sang in unison, their melody, it was rumored, could move mountains.
Unwinding her veil, Ankara reached the crystal of emerald-green as seawater surged through a widening rift. Swaddling her first child, she sloshed through knee-deep water to the second and chest-deep to rescue the third. As the water reached her mouth, Ankara faced a parent’s worst nightmare; choosing the safety of one child over another. As she made her choice, she knew the gratitude-songs of The Chosen would never drown out the hissing curses of the Un-Chosen as they sank.
Chapter 2 (Prompt – BONES)
There are scared spaces, within Mother Gaia, where, when the Privileged delve, they may glimpse Her granite bones, eternal and arching, buttressing the weight of the world. In these deep spaces, pulse dark channels of Her crystalline lifeblood, pure and powerful, seeking to spring forth from Her forested skin and quench our endless thirst. Vaulted chambers echo with the tandem beat of Her iron heart and Her hurricane breath. In such a space did once thrive my children, three living and seven lost. In my daily duties did they share their haunting harmonies with me in the joyous Time of Being. Tragically, my unworthy soul has returned to HerTemples of Awe but a trio of times since the Day of Ending, there not to share song but to do penance, pray, and remember…
Dragged from the waves of destruction, I lay wracked with chills and grief upon the deck of a rescue vessel. Under a silken canopy I raved. A Privileged One, yes, but also Keeper of Crystals I had failed to keep, I wanted nothing more than to breathe out and never again breath in. Clutching my three surviving children, blessing the tiny life-spark in their hearts of emerald, amethyst, and sapphire, I grappled with the nightmare demons of my guilt. I cringed and cried, hearing and rehearing the dying hiss of my Ruby, Opal, Aquamarine, Topaz, Tourmaline, Peridot, and Diamond daughters. I know not how long my battle lasted, but when my un-seeing eyes could see again, a rugged coastline of soaring cliffs and screeching gulls loomed before them. Our ship of refugees had reached the island known as Eiru.
Brought before their Wise-Woman, our tale of sorrow retold, we were given succor and solace in the warmth of their welcome and their honey mead. Both, healing balm for our broken hearts. With these generous people we stayed a full turn of the Year’s Wheel before the Time of First Parting came upon us.
Thrice eleven of our people arrived. Twice eleven embarked upon our journey onward. Homeless and perhaps the only survivors, I gifted a third of my people’s children to this land, their tresses of burnished red and their sea-born blood to mingle and strengthen the tribes. To their Wise Woman, I also gifted one of my children, knowing my Emerald Daughter’s soprano solos would forever happily haunt this island’s mists of countless greens.
Last night, cloaked in moonshadow , the Wise-Woman and I entered their sacred circle of stones and descended into darkness. Our path illumined by my daughter’s small green glow, we sought the warmth of Mother Gaia’s womb, where before me rose a basin covered in elaborate runes, carved from the Mother’s living bone, and filled with her crystal blood. Gently prying my daughter from my lifeless fingers, the Wise-Woman set her in the center, igniting the emerald spark in her heart and reawakening her song. Shimmering curtains of green and chimes of delight flooded the chamber, and I was forgiven.
Chapter 3 – (Prompt PRECOCIOUS/TRANSIENT)
Dedicated to the service of Selene, Goddess of the Transient Tides, the assistance of Moonstone’s adularescenct voice, was requested. An out-of-breath acolyte arrived with the summons. Having completed their calculations, the magi advised the High Priest to have my most talented daughter sing beside him during the Rites of the Vernal Equinox. A perigean spring tide was expected and Moonstone’s powerful siren song would be needed to soothe the surge into submission. The combined pull of the sun and the moon added to an unusual alignment of the planets threatened to flood the island’s outer two rings and drown the grain fields. The Head Magus had determined the added frequency of Moonstone’s voice was necessary and commanded me to release her from her duty of holding harmony and present her forthwith.
Always uneasy whenever one of my children was separated from the rest, I reluctantly obeyed. Descending into the Crystal Chamber deep within Poseidon’s Temple, I collected and carried her, back up the endless, pale, marble steps to the Council Chamber at the very top of the Temple – three hundred and three steps each way. My services rendered and my ancient bones exhausted, I retired to my own chamber where I fell into deep slumber, awakening only when the island began to tremble and heave.
Although annihilation was foretold, arrogant beings that we were, we could not reconcile its arrival at such an auspicious time. In truly dark irony, the first day of spring, our Day of Beginning, became our Day of Ending. Occupied thus with the heavenly concurrence coalescing above us, we ignored the earthly warning signs. Seabirds, sensing imminent peril, fled into a wounded dawn the color of blood. Dogs howled and cats cringed, crawling into quiet corners. By midday the bruised sky was lanced with lightning and temples echoed with thunder. By twilight the mountain’s hot breath burned, bringing tears to the eyes. By midnight, our world was gone, lost beneath the waves.. As I said, the signs were all about us. We failed, I failed to heed them and all our children suffered.
We continued to suffer as our vessel of twice eleven sailed from misty, green Eriu and into the teeth of yet another violent storm. Battered and blown off course we landed on new windswept shores and again were taken before a leader and our story told. Once again we were welcomed with friendship and warmed with uisgea beatha. When the Time of Second Parting arrived, I again gifted eleven of my people’s children, their red-gold tresses and seaborn blood to mingle with and strengthen the wode-painted tribes. To keep them company, remained my Amethyst Daughter, my darling; her anguished alto echoing across the heathered highlands and purple gloaming.
Thus of my Moonstone daughter, my youngest and most precocious, I cannot tell you. She may not be lost as are her seven sisters; yet she may not be saved as are the other three. The truth of her fate escapes my seeking still.
Chapter 4 (Prompt – SMITTEN)
My sapphire daughter is smitten with this wild land called Mynydd Preseli whence everywhere is tilted gray. Truth be told, it is not the gray mountains as much as it is the stones, the bluestones in whose presence she now happily chimes. For this miraculous change in her, I will forever be grateful. The added loss of her Amethyst sister to the purpled Highlands and her Emerald sister to the green Mists, threatened to shatter her. When the time of Second Parting arrived and we set sail southward with the remaining eleven of my people, I feared for Sapphire’s sanity. Thankfully, the waves and weather finally calmed as we sailed the Shallow Sea, for her constant off-key toning drove us nearly mad. The sailors, the eleven, and even I slept on the deck to escape the chilling sound of her grief. When the wild shores of the Cymru came into view, the captain put us ashore, advising us to either cure her or cast her aside. He cared not which, for in her current state, she was no longer welcomed aboard his ship. He feared her forlorn calls would summon sea monsters from the depths to swamp and devour us. I could no more argue with him than obey him. Sailors, even sailors of our land are a superstitious lot. Setting sail with a woman aboard, let alone sixteen maidens and an ancient priestess, was an act of untold courage on his part. Only the dire circumstances of the Day of Ending could have convinced him to consider such a ship’s company. The endless storms and violent seas we had encountered on our journey, only added weight to the proof of his fears. He wanted us, especially my suffering daughter, off his ship.
Thus, for a third time we waited where the tide meets the shore to be taken before a council of elders. Luckily the wait was not long, as Sapphire’s wailing grew louder and more unnerving as the sun slipped into the sea. My silk cloak, in which she was wrapped to keep her safe, did little to cushion the assault on our ears. Only when we were seated within a circle of hanging stones, did her cries diminish and finally fade away. With relief on their faces, our hosts welcomed us. Twelve hungry mouths blessed their steaming bowls of cawl redolent with chunks of delicious wild goat, seasoned with thyme and a bulbous vegetable called a cennin. The thirst of twelve throats, parched from sea salt and fear, was quenched with bottomless horns of ale fermented from elder flowers. Many ears, abused by Sapphire’s constant keening, were soothed with songs sung by warrior bards to their bent willow harps. We knew joy once more, as did Sapphire whose chimes of delight echoed off the bluestone sentinels surrounding us. In this wild land of deep shadows and secrets, we would end our exodus. Or at least Sapphire and the final eleven of my people’s children would.
Chapter 5 (Prompt – HELP
Empty hours need filling so I muse endlessly. In the dark chill of pre-dawn I find myself mulling over Value, most particularly my value in this life. I conclude that there are people whose value can be measured by how much they help themselves to what others have. These are usually very worldly people. Then there are those whose value can be measured by the amount of the help they offer to others. These are usually very spiritual in nature. By these calculations, my value is both priceless and worthless, as I have helped myself unendingly from the generosity of strangers and have barely helped a soul since being dragged, drenched and senseless from the waves three summers ago.
My daughters’ lost harmonies echo in the emptiness of my mind as I stand beside this dying hearth fire, my nose sipping the sweet scent of applewood smoke. Twirling and dropping over and over, regrets twine around my heart like heavy thead upon this spindle. I am neither good nor bad at spinning and certainly much better than I was at carding, or churning, or smoking or drying fish, labors of truly dreadful drudgery. A Priestess and Keeper of the Crystals, I was freed from such lowly tasks. My skin enjoyed the caress of silken skirts spun for me. Now I endure the eternal itch of barely-washed-wool and rabbit fur. I once ate of pomegranates and oysters not salted sheep and foul fish. Alas, no longer the Keeper and hardly a priestess, I now work for my supper, my tunic, and my bit of warmth next to this fire and do not complain. I have even come to appreciate the opportunity as does the thin skin and knobby joints of my ancient hands appreciate the oils within the wool. So, willingly I twirl grey puff after grey puff into slubby thread and hum along with the haunting harmonies of my daughters echoing in my memory.
I was thus occupied when the messengers arrived with a request of the Cymru Chieftain and the most wonderful news for me. It seems I am needed once more. My Moonstone, my precious youngest has survived. She sleeps barely twenty days walk to the east, in a place known as Sarum safe within my brother-priest’s care. The waves of destruction did not drown her as it did her seven lovely sisters. Like me, the High Priest was saved, pulled from the waters still clutching her. Like me, he sailed to strange shores. Unlike me, he stayed not as the sea’s edge but traveled inland to a place of chalk hills and windswept plains. Unlike me, he is both welcomed and revered. He has heard from the wandering Druids of my survival and sorely begs me to travel to him. My Moonstone sleeps, the fire of her powers banked within her auralescent glow. She needs my song to awaken her to his mighty task. He needs her to bring the bluestones to the henge.
Chapter 6 (Prompt – INCARNATION)
When I speak of my Brother-Priest who protects my sleeping daughter, my Moonstone, I indeed mean he is my brother as well as a priest. Twins we are, born into this incarnation through the Lion’s Gate, that powerful alignment of stars occurring just as the time of high harvest begins. Children of Prophecy, we are embodiments of Balance. Dedicated to the Night, my brother sings the Song of Dusk. My dedication is to the Day; I sing the Song of Dawn. In the Temple of Poseidon I sang the crystals awake. He sang them to sleep. Light and Dark, we were, but I believed no longer are. To know Light one must acknowledge Dark. Without one, the other ceases to exist. Before the Messenger’s glad tidings that I am needed, no longer superfluous, I had felt myself ceasing, my light fading more and more of late. I had begun to welcome the ripening fields and the approaching anniversary of my birth as my last.
Here in the blue mountains of the Cymru coast, the tribes celebrate the start of high harvest with a festival known as Lughnasadh. It is a pretty time of feasting, hand-fasting, and feats of great athleticism. The joy abounding has stretched the deeply graven lines on my face into lines of laughter. I see the transformation in my scrying bowl and I feel young again. When the festival celebrations draw to a close, I will journey east to reunite with my brother and assist in the building of his henge of earth and stone.
To that end I will offer him the Song of Awakening within my voice. I will end Moonstone’s slumber, most gifted and powerful of my daughters and hope her single voice will suffice. With her sisters, to echo and magnify her melody, she could move mountains. However, I fear my brother knows not seven voices have perished and my three surviving daughters no longer travel with me. I wonder have the Druids told him their never-ceasing voices now sing far distant duets. Will he be pleased Emerald’s song sustains the lush greens of the Isle of Mists; that Amethyst’s song fills the empty purple gloaming of the Highlands, and now Sapphire’s song echoes amid the deep blue shadows of the Preseli mountains?
After hearing the messenger’s request of blue stones, I can guess my brother’s plan. It is his goal, his great endeavor, to recreate on strange soil, a replica of The Oracle, the library of all-knowing which lay at the heart of our drowned home. Our capital, often described as constructed in a series of concentric rings, was in reality a labyrinth. Wide avenues of glowing turquoise water and graceful coral arches carved in the shape of leaping dolphins connected the neighborhoods. Each filled with pale marble villas veined in gold and surrounded by gardens of delight. Eleven circuits wound into and out of the central plaza paved with precious larimar, over which presided The Oracle, a majestic ring of standing stones.
Chapter 7 (Prompt – HOLDING)
Let me no longer fill the firelight with dark rememberings. My brother’s mission to rebuild has awakened happy memories, and I would share them with you, starting with those of our Oracle, so beautifully blue.
In the courtyard of the Temple of Poseidon stood The Oracle’s twelve sentinels. Coral, carved from the living floor of the ocean, each was the height and span of a man standing with his arms thrown wide. Upon them in tiles of rare lapis lazuli and clear crystal were inlaid the birth-constellations which wheel across the night sky, a year-full of midnights, a month at a time. During the daylight hours, the Oracle hummed with activity. Mothers, newly-made, could be seen placing their babes within the dawn-shadows cast by the stones of their birth and begging blessings of the Star Beings who brought us to this world. As was custom, even I and my twin were laid before the Stone of the Lion by our royal mother, as the third sunrise of our breathing brightened the eastern sky. When the sun was at its zenith, lovers thronged The Oracle, pledging their devotion while standing before their birth-stones, especially glad if their stones stood opposite across the courtyard. For those pairings were the most harmonious and destined to bring the greatest joy. To stand within Blue circle of The Oracle was a privilege unreserved during the light of day. At night however, the privilege belonged to the Seekers and only to the Seekers. When the twelve, six men and six women, convened on nights of the full moon, the magic they released was miraculous.
You query and I answer, ‘No I was not a Seeker. I was a Keeper of the Crystals needed by the Seekers to initiate their seeking, and thus witnessed their wondrous rites.’
The songs of my gemstone-daughters, were the engines which powered our society. The High Priests wove that power into incredible accomplishment and advancement. My children’s power was also shared with the Seekers, who possessed only a single crystalline child, a daughter so small, so black, so heavy she absorbed all light and sound. The talents of all twelve girls were required by the Seekers to preform the Ritual of Holding which unlocked the vast store of knowledge contained within The Oracle.
Once every twenty-eight moon-rises, the Seekers donned skullcaps of purest silver and cradling each, one of my daughters, they entered The Oracle to request the Gift of Knowing. Kneeling before the sentinels, one by one they mated the dome of their skullcaps with a perfectly matched hollow cut into in the lapis-covered coral. The instant of contact caused the birth-signs wrought in crystal to ignite with starlight. Curtains of the ice blue fire shimmered in the moonlight filling the space with the hum of ten hundred locusts. The Lead Seeker then entered, wearing a cap not of silver but of graven black crystal, in which rested their dark daughter, perfectly positioned over his Third Eye. Taking his place and mating crystal dome to coral hollow, he completed the circuit, allowing The Oracle to release what it has been holding for us since the Time of Arrival, the Songs of Knowledge.
Chapter 8 (Prompt – TESTAMENT/ASHES/PROSPECT)
I am returned from the Hanging Stones, the Stone-Henge, my brother’s testament to our drowned heritage. Would that I had argued harder, my tragedy might have been averted. How we clashed on that windswept plain dwarfed by the great circling mound of chalk and turf. Thunder and lightning were our voices, booming desire and flashing reason. His desire ultimately overwhelming my reason, wearily I acquiesced. The prospect of recreating the aqua and crystal beauty of our Oracle with Cymru Bluestone, seemed to me, a fool’s fantasy. My sisterly doubts, however, did not daunt him.
During my three-year-wander among misty greens, purple gloamings, and deep blue mountain-shadows, Brother had been busy. The henge was dug; the markers in place. All was set for the final stage, the transport of the stones. For this he needed me. He needed me to reopen the conduit allowing him access to each of my daughters’ voices – the conduit I closed in my madness after the loss of the Seven, the horror of their hissing curses another reason I argued so vehemently against his plan. With the conduit open, he could link Sapphire’s voice, twenty-days walk to the west and Moonstone’s in the heart of his henge, creating a river of harmonic vibration. It would be upon this undulating current of song that he would float the stones into place.
Consulting the omens, Brother divined the ferrying of stone should take place during the long dark of the winter solstice. The auspicious coincidence of a full moon and my proximity, he explained, would enhance Moonstone’s strength, necessary as she would provide not only the terminus for the river of floating song, but also maneuver the stones into place. Tragically, the drawback of my distance from Sapphire went unspoken . My heart hardens with hindsight and suspicion that he knew the terrible toll my precious blue daughter would pay, yet told me not.
In the cold of the solstice midnight, Bother raised Moonstone into the crystalline light. Smiling at the sight of her, aglow with the kiss of the moon, I unsealed the conduit. The dissonance was deafening. Dirges, seven songs of death jangled against the contented melodies of Emerald and Amethyst. Hands clutched to my ears, I muted each voice until only the thrum of Moonstone’s powerful baritone and Sapphire’s tenuous tenor resonated inside my skull and against Brother’s palm laid to my forehead. With the connection complete, like barges loosed from their moorings, the distant bluestones began to rise and slip into the stream one after the other. All through the long dark we labored and with dawn, celebrated. Satisfied, Brother released me. Raising the trilithons of local sandstone, he and Moonstone could manage alone.
Sent on my way, I returned to discover the ashes of my brave darling, destroyed in the effort to float the stones. Gathering each brittle fragment of bitter blue, all of Sapphire that remains, I prepare to journey onward once again.
Chapter 9 (Prompt – MELODY/PASSAGE)
I once again find myself in the under-earth, weary within Gaia’s warm womb. Carefully toeing my way along winding walls carved from the stone of Her bones and damp with her breath, I seek The Source, a well sacred to the Mother, revered by Druid and peasant alike. On this eve of Imbolc, under the coldest moon of the twelve, wrapped in coarse wool and worn leather, I waited my singular turn to enter the passage, to kneel and to plead that I might receive the same blessing all barren women beg. I would have a child. No, not a child of my bone nor blood, but my crystal darling made whole again. Holding hope hard against my heart, I bring my broken blue daughter into Her presence to request the boon of Her healing.
The guttering candle spits its rancid tallow upon my wrist. I welcome the brief burn, the fleeting pain. My other hand cradles the bits of bitter blue that were once whole and contained my sweet Sapphire’s song. I have carried her fragments across the Narrow Sea to the land of the Carnutes, away from my brother’s henge of stone and chalk, away from the terrible price of his ambition, but not away from sorrow. Weeks of wild weather drove us into the setting sun until we despaired of seeing land ever again. When the wind-maddened waves tired of toying with us, they tossed us upon empty shores, stranded us among the harvesters of sea salt and their eerie alignments of ancient stones. Wherever I looked, endless rows and countless circles of standing stones haunted me, taunted me, condemned me … Stone beings of every shape and size marched across the landscape. The magnificence of their multitude dwarfed my brother’s henge, and whence they marched, it seemed they drummed a death dirge for my daughter. Unable to bear their judgement, I fled. I joined the salt caravan and journeyed into the rising sun, finally halting here, among the Druids, taking shelter at their Mystery School with its sacred well hidden within a grove of towering oaks.
The very air feeding the flame thins to almost vanishing. As I blink farewell to the candle- glow, my ears welcome the running-rush of water. The pulse of the Mother’s blood fills my senses even as my lungs lose their struggle to fill with breath. Bowing my head to banish the sparks blossoming behind my eyes, I kneel at the verge and gaze down. Bending, beseeching, imploring, I offer the fragments of my dearest one, to the water’s dark surface. Near fainting, I freeze mid-stretch. Eternal eyes, dark with denial, ignite my soul. The answer is – No. There will be no Mother’s miracle for me this moonless night. No sapphire melody shall evermore serenade the shining sun. Too shattered, her fading voice finally fails; silence embraces …her…me…us.. Consciousness crumbling, my fingers loosen, and together we fall as grace-notes of blue bounce round the stone walls of the well.
Chapter 10 (Prompt – MONTAGE)
“Starting at the bottom right and reading up, our illiterate ancestors were able to enjoy the Bible in this optic vernacular long before Martin Luther’s proposed heresy of reading God’s word with one’s own voice…” Lucy’s voice trailed off, allowing the awestruck tourists bathing in the alchemical wonder known as Chartres Blue, their neck-craning stare. Before them soared the most famous stained-glass in all of France, the elegant rose and and five lancet windows gracing the Western Façade of Chartres Cathedral. “Survivors of fire and war, these remnants of the 12th Century, draw the curious and the faithful from the world over.” Pausing, giving her charges time to appreciate, she glanced toward her favorite masterpiece, the enormous stone labyrinth set into the floor, and sighed with relief. The hateful, ever-present chairs, their ranks of metal feet marching across the ancient stones, obscuring her view, forbidding her entrance, were gone. It was Friday. The lucky Friday groups got to remove the chairs, if they so wished, and walk the eleven circuits into the central, six-petaled rose.
Lucy loved guiding on Fridays, loved walking the labyrinth herself, loved listening to the haunting blue melody that vibrated up through the stones, through her bare feet, yes, she walked the labyrinth barefoot, and into her heart. Smiling, she returned to the magnificent medieval montage rising stories above her. “If you care to follow,” she interrupted the group’s collective blue trance, “we’ll continue around to the right where where we shall see La Belle Verriere, Our Lady of the Beautiful Window, also known as the Blue Virgin. She too wears the unique Chartres Blue of the Western Windows. Unique because, no matter how they’ve tried, no one has ever been able to reproduce its unearthly sapphire color.” Right on cue, the ever-obliging French sun slipped from behind clouds and fired the heavenly blues of Our Lady’s robes to the delight of a dozen iPhone cameras.
Onward she led them, stopping before the golden reliquary containing the Virgin’s Veil, miraculously saved from fire in 1194; stopping again before the sad specter of the once glorious Black Madonna, with her now-pale skin and cover-girl makeup; and finally onto the Guild Windows, donated by the various trades of the Middle Ages, including the one given by the “working girls”. The last was always good for a few suppressed giggles. Having circumvented the entire cathedral and eager to end the tour, Lucy pointed out the Gift Shop, the restrooms, and the entrance to the Labyrinth. Luckily, for her, but definitely not so lucky for them, this group had a terribly tight schedule. The lure of the loo left her alone to walk.
Her black leather flats off in a flash, her warm toes drank in the cool kiss of stone. A deep sigh later, she was in. Toe… heel… toe… inhale. Toe… heel…toe… exhale. Wait for it… wait… listen… yes, she sensed it, just at the edge of hearing, the ancient blue melody.
Chapter 11 (Prompt – BUZZ/ABYSS
With the last tourist exited and all the staff busy closing, Lucy greedily delighted in her solitude and continued to pace. Toe…Heel…Toe…, Toe…Heel…Toe, the three-quarter-time blue-melody arose, her familiar partner in the pas de deux she danced along the labyrinth’s path. It began as always, a tickling buzz beneath her soles, winding its way upward, until its pianissimo blue-notes saturated her ears, sinking her into a musical meditation. Moments later, however, the thunderstorm promised by the earlier clouds broke, its violence jangling the melody. The soothing, rhythmic waltz turned suddenly staccato, filling both ears and eyes with drum-beats of blue, an alarming counterpoint to the cathedral bells booming out the hour of six. Unable to withstand the whiplash of sound and loss of sight, time and her senses slipped away as into an abyss tumbling and bumping she fell…
Tumbling and bumping against damp stone, she realized that although she was falling, the rope snug around her shoulders and chest would save her from certain death. Jolted to a stop and swinging in dizzying circles, the urge to giggle replaced the grip of terror as she glanced up. Far above at the mouth of the well, silhouetted against the glowing circle of orange torchlight, the bobbing head of her father looked so funny. “Lucette, ma petite, ca va?” he called over and over, his voice strangled with fear.
“Oui, Papa,” she piped when her breath returned. I am almost to the bottom, but I dropped the lantern. It is dark, Papa. I am afraid ….I want to come back up…”
“Mais non, Lucette, you are the only one petite enough to reach the source and remove the blockage. Take courage mon couer, La Madeleine is with you and will keep you safe.” At the forbidden mention of Our Lady , Lucette did feel braver. If Papa could chance saying her name aloud in this place of priests, she could endure the ankle-deep slime and bits of broken unknown cutting her knees and palms as she searched. Three times, whatever cut stayed stuck in her skin. Wincing she pulled the pieces out and put them in her pouch to avoid a repeat encounter. Endless heartbeats later, her blind fingers found the blockage – round… smooth, a cobble, she thought, tossed down by some naughty boy. Carefully working her hands around to the back, she whimpered and then sobbed with realization as she hooked her fingers into what could only be empty eye sockets. “Papa, It is Modesta! I have found the blockage; it is Modesta’s skull. Oh Papa, I am so afraid. What shall I do?”
“Gather her, child. Bring Modesta back to the light.”
Swallowing fear, grasping with both hands, she pulled hard. With a sad kissing-sound, Saint Modesta was released from the embrace of mud and ages. Lucette, daughter of Henri, maker of stained-glass, reverently folded the skull into her apron and called, “Pull me up Papa..” And as he did, he imagined the Pope’s chagrin if he discovered that the bones of Saint Modesta, early Christian Martyr, had been recovered by Cathar “heretics”.
Chapter 12 (Prompt – OPULENT/STRIVING
Standing before the Monseigneur of Chartres, Lucette clung to her Papa’s scarred fingers and wriggled her bare toes into the opulent carpet from Brussels gracing the chamber floor. Striving not to tremble as the wet mouth of the hooked-nose priest praised Papa’s fine glasswork and her daring rescue of St. Modesta’s relic, she imagined she stood instead upon a field of stained glass and traced its intricate designs with downcast eyes. Papa was being rewarded with a great commission. He was to begin work immediately on the three enormous stained glass windows needed to fill the western façade of the cathedral. “Henri, you must strive, with these windows,” declared, the Monseigneur, “ to depict the grandeur of heaven. The colors must glow like jewels, must capture the glory of heaven, its gates of pearl, its streets of gold, must remind the faithful …must…must…must…” he droned, fingers ticking off each requirement.
“Well, ma petite,” grinned Papa as they exited the cool dusk of the cathedral, “I am to be famous. I will work your likeness into one of my windows. What say you, Lucette? Would you like to be my model for a stained—glass angel?”
“Oui Papa, it would be my honor,” she agreed, more absorbed with the sore festering in her palm than upon the honor
“How are you hurt, daughter?”
Hiking her skirt, Lucette showed him the cuts on her knees and palm. In answer to his raised eyebrows, she carefully rummaged in her pouch and handed him the shattered shards of blue crystal she had knelt upon at the bottom of the well.
“They sing Papa,” Lucette declared; hold them tight in your hand and listen hard. Can you hear their song? Are they not beautiful bits of broken glass.?
“Oui, ma petite, I hear!” he assured absently carefully turning the fragments in his hand, holding them to the sunlight, rubbing them against his front teeth, and coming to the stunning conclusion they were indeed NOT fragments of glass.” Realizing with joy what he cradled in his hand, Henri scooped his amazed daughter up and whirled her round and around, laughing with delight. “Lucette,” he whispered, “these are NOT glass; they are pieces of sapphire, a rare and precious blue gem. And you have given me such a grand idea! The Monseigneur wishes windows which glow like jewels. I will grind these fragments and add them to the pigment as it cooks. I will create such a blue as exists only in heaven! Our Chartres blue windows will be like no others on earth! Come ma petite, run with me. I must begin at once.”
Sight and sound returning , Lucy struggled to her knees and then to her feet. Glancing at her watch, her eyes widened with shock; no time had passed since she tumbled onto the stones. As the familiar blue melody rose to rejoin the still-tolling bells, lightning illuminated famous blue windows. “Thank you,” she breathed with gratitude. “Thank you for sharing your secret…”
Epilogue (Prompt – MANKIND)
“Excellency, Whatever shall we do with IT?” the Abbot’s voice quavered as he handed over the the bundle, distastefully wiping both hands, and quickly crossing himself. Gingerly peeling away Lucette’s grimy apron, the Monseigneur broke a commandant with a horrified “Mon Dieu!” followed by a whispered, “”Delivre-nous du mal… Deliver us from evil.” Sinking onto his cushion of claret velvet, he began dabbing his forehead with a dainty square of fine linen edged with lace tatted in the Convent of Alençon. Ignoring the Abbott, he did not speak for a long minute as he inspected the empty eye sockets and ran his fingers over the strangely elongated skull starring up from the desk between them.
Finally breaking the tense silence, “Did Henri or his daughter behold this hellish thing?”demanded the Monseigneur.
“No Excellency. I took it from the child as soon as he hauled her out of the well. And I do not believe she could have seen it in the dark. Because of the legend and your praise, they believe this, this…thing to belong to Modesta!”
“A blessing and a curse to be sure. We have always had the heretic’s skull with its sinful red-hair. It and the rest of her bones are locked away as they should be. “SAINT Modesta, indeed…pah!” He spat. A woman allowed to preach, to spread false truths about Jesus’ marriage, to claim foul lies of a sacred bloodline!…pah! The pagans favored us when they beheaded that curse on mankind and threw her in the well.”
“Nonetheless Excellency, word of their discovery is out. Henri and the child have told the village of Modesta’s miraculous rescue. The people will demand to see her skull. The Silver-Guild has already begun work on a reliquary.”
“There is nothing for us TO do. We will have to display the real one,” he groaned and added, “Briefly, display it briefly; then we will send it to Rome. Let that Holy Father deal with it. Be sure to hide that damnable red hair when you prepare it.”
“Yes , Excellency, And what of this abomination? What shall we do with IT? “
“Sadly, the options are few and none are desirable. Let us return it to the depths. Dig a hole in center of the nave and bury it deep,” and so they did.
‘I, Ankara, Ancient Keeper of the Crystals, rested beside the fragments of my drowned daughter, my precious Sapphire, shattered by my ignorance and Brother’s ambition. Set free by the glass-maker’s girl, I am again thrust into darkness and now rest beneath these stones. From my prison, I call the Lucys, daughters of mankind, whose very name means Light, to brighten my darkness and listen to my darling’s sapphire-song. I also invite You, The Way-Finder, The Truth-Seeker, The Lover of the Light, to bathe in the heavenly Blue of Chartres Cathedral while You walk the winding paths of its Labyrinth.