"I will tell you an ancient legend, just as mother told me long ago." Nirupa and Lisa, set around the dinning oak table, watched Dara intently as she spoke. "That is the source of it all." She paused. The room filled up with silence.
"First," Dara said, as though having found the lost thread, "billions of years ago the earth was devoid of life. I mean, before the time of dinosaurs.
But there was life in the universe. Planets Mars and Venus were under the rule of two groups of very powerful beings that had developed highly advanced civilizations on each of their planets. The people of Mars were white-skinned, red-haired and had some branchy golden horns. The people of Venus were dark-skinned, black-haired and hornless. The people of Mars were great magicians and controlled half of the universe. But nor were the people of Venus less in terms of magical powers; these powers were the reason they ruled the other half of the universe.
The people of Mars were bellicose. They were bloodthirsty warriors fighting for destruction. Quite contrary the people of Venus were amiable, peace loving creatures. The two planets had engaged in a constant war against each other for ages. The people of Mars wanted to become the sole owners of the entire universe; they wanted to wipe the people of Venus out from the universe, such were their greed and wickedness.
So the wars continued until the day all that fighting caused both planets to brutally collide which definitely destroyed the two civilizations. Those who were lucky to survive wandered about throughout the galaxy, searching for a place to settle. In the end, the Earth - this new, uninhabited and pristine planet- seemed to them quite appropriate to settle on.
"Wait! Lisa, interrupted Dara. "This is nothing but a legend. Whatís your point?"
"Be patient, Lisa!" - Dara said. Iíll get to it."
Lisa crouched at her corner of the table, waiting, though she didnít look convinced.
"Go on, Mom," Nirupa said. "They settled on Earth. What happened next?"
"Well," Dara resumed, "the Earth was completely desolate and new, so both groups had to work hard to make it habitable. They had to, if they wanted to lay roots on this new planet. And indeed, they could not find a better place anywhere. Besides, they possessed all the knowledge necessary to set up a new civilization right from the beginning. So the two peoples concluded a peace treaty and promised they would not step in each otherís way until theyíd built up a normal life in this new planet. To be sure the treaty would be respected and to avoid coming across each other, they settled in the two farthest corners of the earth. The Martians established a new civilization. They built up many cities and provinces; an entire continent on the Atlantic coast, which they called Atlantis.
On their part, the Venusians established India near the Ganges River and spread north in the course of time.
Both these civilizations developed and strengthened at unbelievable rates and, only within a few centuries, the Martians and Venusians had built from scratch on Earth the same amazing development, which they had known before on their own former planets.
With the first daysí difficulties behind them, the Martians once again turned back to their old envies. But now the two peoples had also changed the names depicting the new living conditions. As a matter of fact, neither of them cared to remember their past as natives of Mars and Venus. For a long time now, they had called themselves Atlanteans and Indians 2.
Once again the Atlanteans started attacks against India, to become sole owners of the earth. Indians, for their part, used all their extraordinary powers to protect their land from their enemies. For centuries the bloody wars went on, but there were no winners because both sides were equally powerful.
In the end, the king of Atlantis, tired from unending destruction, asked the queen of India to sign a peace accord and establish friendly relations between the two peoples. The Queen of India and her people immediately agreed and the peace accord was signed.
But the peace wasnít but a decoy. While everybody was celebrating the vile king of Atlantis attacked. He seized the capital, killing thousands of innocents. He would have captured the Queen also hadnít her magical advisers informed her in time. She escaped the trap and sought shelter inside the Moon Temple where she was safe. She and her advisers decided to use a powerful secret weapon to repel the enemy, a weapon which their ancestors had brought ages ago from Venus. They had never used this weapon before because it was extremely dangerous. The mysterious weapon was a ruby ring the queen had inherited and wore on her finger.
The queen pointed the ring at the enemies and pronounced the ancient prayer. The ringís powers woke from sleep. Changing into a whirlwind, they swept the enemies back to their land. A horrible quake shook Atlantis and, the continent sank into the ocean. No one had time to escape this time. Atlantis disappeared from the face of earth.
The ring sucked all the powers of Atlantis inside itself, imprisoning them forever inside the red magic stone. Now the one who wore that ring owned the powers of both Mars and Venus."
Here Dara paused and looked at Lisa and Nirupa to see the effect her words were having on them. Nirupa had buried her face in the palms of her hands, listening. Lisa took advantage of the pause.
"Would anyone like some tea?" she asked.
Nirupa shook her head. "Sit down, Lisa. I want to hear how the story ends."
"I feel like having tea, and I will definitely go for it," Lisa jumped to her feet.
While Lisa prepared the tea, Nirupa bombarded Dara with questions.
The hot tea revived them. Nirupa drank hers quickly.
"What happened to the ring then?" Nirupa she asked pushing away the empty teacup.
Dara got comfortable on the chair, drew a long breath and continued.
"The ring was passed on from generation to generation to the queens of India for several centuries. The tradition had it that only women could wear the ring.
Centuries passed and the people from India spread all over the world creating new nations and countries. World population increased greatly and Earth became a prosperous planet.
These days, nobody mentions Atlantis anymore. Yet the prophecy endures, passed on by word of mouth, along with the ring. The prophecy says when a survivor of Atlantis marries an Indian woman, the baby born of that union will inherit the great powers of the two planets, becoming the ruler of the world. Then Atlantis will again rise from the sea more powerful than ever. A new age will emerge; an age where evil rules. The king of that evil will be the almighty child who will inherit also the greed and wickedness of the former inhabitants of Atlantis. That would be the end of India, as well as of both peace and goodness in the world.
But all this was just a legend because in the course of thousands of years no one ever heard of any survivor of the lost continent of Atlantis. None had survived the flood to create descendants. The ring went from one generation to another and so did the tale until a time in the Middle Ages when the ring ended on the finger of a young black-haired girl. The young girl didnít believe in tales and legends. She laughed when they told her that her grandmotherís ring held magic powers. She didnít even believe her ancestors came from India. Her family had always lived on the Ionian coast. How could her people come from India when her own skin was marble-white?
That girl was betrothed to a man of a noble family living in a distant country. She was an only daughter among thirteen brothers who were all warriors. Middle Ages was like that, a period of constant wars between tribes. Her brothers wanted to see her married and in good hands. They might die in wars. Who would take care of their sister then?
The girl married and had a grandiose wedding. As was the custom, a convoy was sent to bring her to her husbandís manor. Because they were riding on horses it took the wedding caravan two full moons to get to her husbandís castle. But the road hardships were trifles compared to what was yet to come. The first wedding night, while her drunken husband slept, she discovered something that made her hamstrings tremble with fear. Her husband had a small visible birthmark on his right shoulder. He had the sign of Mars each native of Atlantis was said to have on the same spot. Besides, her husband was red-haired and, under his curly hair, there were two tiny golden horns he had forgotten to hide. She immediately recalled the ancient prophecy at which she had been laughing until that moment. That was enough to make the young bride flee from his palace. She travelled all night long. In the morning she stopped by the first river she saw, took the ring off her finger and threw it in the flowing waters. She had to get rid of the curse of the ring. Exhausted she arrived home after walking on foot for several months. When she told her story, her brothers rode out fully armed to wipe the last Atlantean from the face of Earth. But when they arrived at the place where his castle was supposed to be, they saw only a desolate field. They could never find the mysterious groom who had disappeared as though through magic."
"Wow!" Nirupa whispered. "How could he disappear like that?" Dara didnít answer but she went on with the story.
"Shortly after that, the girl married again, a young man from a poor family, whom she had loved secretly for a long time. Her brothers agreed, but only because of their fear of the prophecy.
The young man did not have money. Instead he gifted his fiancť with a beautiful ring heíd found stuck in his net while fishing. It was the ruby ring. The girl realized then that she could not elude this part of her destiny, so she wore the ring on her finger and then passed it over to her daughter, who in turn passed it over to her daughter, and so on until the ring was passed over to me."
Dara put out her hand, and showed the ring to Lisa and Nirupa.
Nirupa watched her mother open-mouthed.
Lisa broke the silence. "You are trying to say you are the last of a pure lineage of Goddesses and that your duty is not to let the prophecy fulfill? You mean that the destiny of all of us is in your hands? The future of the planet is in your hands? Dara nodded, and started to say something, but Lisa interrupted. "You say the ring holds supernatural powers inside itself. But you are a scientist, Dara. Witcheries do not exist. The legend speaks of powerful magicians. How can you believe this? Youíre just a normal human being."
Lisa paused, waiting for Daraís answer. Dara did not speak.
"Are you a normal human being Dara?" Lisa asked again. Nirupa heard the anxiety in her godmotherís voice. "Iíve known you since we were children. You have never..." she suddenly paused.
"No," she burst out. "That is impossible. Yes, now I understand everything. All those strange things you did, finding the most unbelievable excuses.
"Oh!" she fumed, "I almost went mad the time when I, with my own eyes, saw you flying down from the fourth floor. Your mother did not allow you to go out and you sneaked out at midnight because you had a date with him Ė what the heck was the name of the boy in our school? Címon the one who was mad about you? Címon, the one who would always serenade under your balcony?"
"Aidan," Dara muttered.
"Yes. Right, Aidan." Lisa went on. "Even now, I think of his strange love. He was completely mad about you. He seemed as though he were...spellbound!" she paused and looked into Daraís eyes. "You are a magician, arenít you?"
"I am, yes," Dara nodded, "but itís not the way you think. My kin had always fought to protect the goodness in Earth. We all are magicians of the good, Lisa. The bad part about it is that we have been charged with a difficult task, and the weight on our shoulders is heavy. My ancestors were the peacekeepers in the world and succeeded in performing their duty, but I...," Her eyes filled up with tears. "...I failed."
"Donít be silly!" "Your only fault is not telling me sooner. Had I known I would have better supported you."
Dara grasped Lisaís hand, "I have never doubted your love and care. I just wished to leave you out of all that. You and Nirupa are my family. You are all I have in this world. I couldnít bear anyone or anything hurting you and Ni." She choked back a sob. "But itís all become so complicated. I am a complete failure."
"Donít say that." Lisa squeezed Daraís hand. "You already have the ring, and Ni will inherit it when she grows up. We must teach the girl to be ready for when her time comes, but so far the future of the world is secure with you."
"No," Dara sighed, "Iím not in charge anymore. Ni is the one. I have no powers or rights anymore."
"What do you mean?" Lisa asked. ďAs long as the prophecy hasnít been accomplished, thereís nothing to worry about. The evil can be prevented."
"The prophecy has been accomplished." Nirupaís voice came from the corner of the table. Nirupa until then had remained completely silent listening alternately to both of them discussing together.
Both Dara and Lisa stopped talking instantly and swiftly turned toward Nirupa. They had completely forgotten that the girl was preset. But Ni, who, until then had been as silent as a church mouse, had heard enough to draw her own conclusion from that highly complex story.
"What? What did you say?" Lisa stammered.
"Yes, of course," Ni said. At this moment it felt like the most natural thing in the world for her. "I am the daughter of the last Atlantean. I was born to accomplish the prophecy. Now I understand the meaning of the letter my daddy sent to me. ĎThe birth of the new age.í ĎPredetermined destiny.í I was born to establish the rule of evil upon Earth." But now fear bubbled up inside her.
"But I donít want to be bad. I donít want to kill anyone! I donít want to have magic powers!" She couldnít help it. Tears leaked out down her cheeks and she wiped them away furiously.
In a moment she felt her motherís warm arms around her.
"Hush, darling, donít cry." Her mother rocked her in her arms as though she were a baby. "Everything will be okay, just donít cry!"
As it all began to sink in, Nirupa felt her whole body begin to shake. "I donít want to have an evil magician as a father." No matter what they say, Iím not like him." She pulled herself out of her Momís embrace. "I donít want to ever know my father. I donít care about him at all. Take his book and tear it to pieces! Burn it! I donít want it!"
"Sweetie," Dara said. "Listen to me. When I first met your father I was so much in love with him. All I dreamed of was to become his wife and spend my whole life with him. He was so kind and I never doubted at him, not for a single moment. I spent the best days of my life with your father, rejoicing at the baby I would give birth to." She paused for a moment. Nirupa stopped crying. She sat still in her motherís arms. Yes, she could see from the look on her motherís face that this was all true.
Her motherís arms tightened around Nirupa, as if to protect her from what she was about to say. "But I learned the hard truth only two days after you were born. That night, I woke in the middle of a nightmare. Your father was not lying by my side. You were not in your cot. I thought youíd been crying, and your father, not wanting to wake me up, had taken you out in the garden to lull you back to sleep. I smiled, thinking I would go and hug him from behind his back. We always played loving games like that. I tiptoed out of my room. He was not in the next room, or in the kitchen, or in the garden. I began to worry, but I suddenly saw a light coming from the cellar. We used the cellar to store excavation objects and our working tools. I was worried that he had taken you into such a dirty place. I went down to ask him to come out.
Then I saw you. You were lying on an old wooden table, which had been arranged as an altar surrounded by many candles. Your father was conducting a magic ceremony, saying prayers in some other language. I knew this was a magic ceremony. My parents often held such a ceremony to help our neighbors or cure diseased people. Your grandfathers were powerful magicians of goodness, Nirupa. In my youth Iíd practiced the art of magic, but when I entered the University I gave it up. I didnít want other people learn about that. People might misunderstand or bombard me with requests concerning their problems. I didnít want any trouble. Besides, school was difficult and I had time only for studies.
What shocked in the cellar was the open book I saw on the altar. Your father was reading from it and I knew it was his book of shadows, a kind of notebook every magician keeps, where he writes down his magic rituals, spell recipes, his prayers, his healing herbs or anything related to magic. It is more or less a kind of diary. Do you get me?"
Nirupa nodded. She felt almost numb from all her mother had just shared.
"I was astonished that my beloved husband had kept his magic from me. But I had not told him about my magic either, so I couldnít put much blame on him. I decided your father was doing a kind of blessing and protection ceremony for his own newborn, and my fears went away. I was about to run down the flight of cellar stairs and tell him that I was so happy, and that I, like him, was a magician of goodness. But a sudden wind blew inside the cellar, and the book closed. Then I saw the cover with a five pointed pentacle inside a circle on it. But the star was positioned upside-down on the book cover - an unmistakable sign of black magic. At that moment, I noticed two small golden horns growing under your fatherís red hair. Within an instant they transformed into unbelievable branches. I will never forget the horror of that moment. Your father was an Atlantean. I somehow managed to keep my head and returned unseen to my room. I couldnít stop shaking. The prophecy had been accomplished. A single thought boiled in my head: I must take you and fly away, disappear, settle in some distant place where no one could find us. When your father returned to our bed, I pretended I had been sleeping the entire time.
The following morning, I had the opportunity to take you for a walk outside. We ran to you, Lisa." Here her mother looked up and over Nirupaís head for a moment. "The rest you know."
Nirupa swallowed. Now she knew. How could she ever have begun to guess the truth about her father? It didnít seem possible. Her mother was watching her now. "Nirupa," "despite all this, your father was the only man I have ever loved wholeheartedly. Because of this, I can tell you he loved you wholeheartedly too. I believe he is suffering now because you are far from him, because he has not been able to see you for so long."
A little splinter of hope poked at Nirupa. "Does that undo the prophecy? If Dad loves me the way you say he does, will he give up his ancient promise rule the world? Will he do that for us?"
Dara exhaled. "I believe, greed is a vice impossible to cure. His love for you will only increase tenfold his love for power. Now that you are born, nothing will stop him. You, his own flesh and blood, represent the oldest dream of all Atlanteans. The prayers he said that night were words of thanks to the Gods of Atlantis. He is determined to carry his task out to the end. Nothing will stop him."
"Mom, what will happen now?" Ni felt her heart pounding and she tried to push back her fear. "Will the prophecy be accomplished even though I donít want it to? Will I become the princess of darkness?" She could hardly say the words.
"I donít know baby." Dara stroked her forehead, and Nirupa felt herself tense against her motherís touch. "I donít know."
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