Chapter 5: Cataclysm
Aliya lay on her bed, her mind completely absorbed by the conversation she had with Anton that morning. She looked around her, in her quarters, and then it struck her.
The juxtaposition of old and new, a world that was simultaneously medieval yet in possession of advanced technology… and the lack of clocks.
Time seemed to be in contorted in this world, but no one seemed to be bothered about it but her.
Pi. She seemed like the most likely source for any answers.
Aliya had to find her right away.
She hopped out of bed and headed down the corridor, out towards the Piazza. It was a warm, sunny and almost humid afternoon, although the entire idea of the insides of a microcosmic pocket world with acres of land and soaring statues being contained inside a tiny cottage continued to escape her.
It was like a pocket world.
A pocket universe.
Add that to the list of things to work out, thought Aliya to herself.
On the other side of the Piazza stood a building with an ornate marble portico, complete with columns, although on closer inspection it wasn’t marble, but instead a smooth, polished version of that same grey-blue stone that Aliya noticed before. Within that building, she remembered Pi saying, contained the library and the archives.
If there was any chance of finding answers, Aliya would find them there.
Entering the cool shade of the portico, Aliya headed towards what looked like the main doors to the archives. On either side of the doors stood intricately carved statues of two huntresses, similar in style to the giant statue of Snez’hana on the piazza, standing guard over the archives.
As Aliya approached the doors, they slid open. Aliya looked upon seemingly endless rows of shelves, desks, display cases, sculptures and art.
Bigger on the inside again, no surprise, thought Aliya.
On the walls hung art pieces that were constantly in flux, an ever-evolving palette of colour that made visitors to the archives feel like they were floating in a multicoloured coral sea.
“Ready for more, I see?”, came a voice from behind Aliya.
She turned around and saw Pi approaching her.
“No better time than now to take you for a tour of the Archives, follow me,” said Pi.
“I need to understand what’s going on here, why everything seems so… out of place,” protested Aliya.
“You’re a sharp one, I see. Most new arrivals don’t work that out until much later,” said Pi, sounding slightly excited for the first time.
“Well, let’s just say I don’t take things at face value easily,” snapped Aliya in slight annoyance at what she felt was a condescending comment.
“Don’t get me wrong Aliya, I meant that only as a compliment of the highest order,” replied Pi.
“What have you heard of the Cataclysm?”, continued Pi.
“Nothing, but that sounds… cataclysmic, depending on whether it’s coming or it’s going,” replied Aliya.
“Actually, it is doing both. No one knows what brings about the Cataclysm. But there are ways to seek shelter from it.
At the end of the first age, when the first Cataclysm came, it wiped out most of Bridgeworld. The towns and cities were erased from existence, and while the people remained, they recalled nothing from their prior lives. It was as if the entire world was reset.
However, as the dark flames of the Cataclysm – the flames that give off no light nor heat, their tongues appearing like waves of darkness – raged through the world, there were survivors who retained their memories and their knowledge. Their protection: Azurite.”, explained Pi, tapping on the grey-blue stones on the walls.
“By sheer serendipity, Snez’hana and her band of huntresses had taken shelter in an Azurite quarry when the first Cataclysm arrived. With them, their caches of treasures, their manuscripts from their studies of the bridgeworld and most importantly, their memories, were protected from the dark flames.
Immediately it was clear that all that was precious had to be protected in structures made of Azurite – the only material that could withstand the devastation of the Cataclysm.
While the Huntresses were generous in sharing this knowledge with the other inhabitants of Bridgeworld, many others sought to dominate and control the supply of Azurite. As the ages passed, the self-styled Lords and Ladies of the land built themselves castles and forts of Azurite, mining these magic-infused minerals from the deepest mines on Bridgeworld.
Azurite quickly became the most valuable form of wealth in Bridgeworld, since all the wealth in the world would be worthless without being in the protection of Azurite. As the ages passed, the mined Azurite itself started to become known as the Magic of the land.
Unfortunately, humans being humans, even after discovering by chance the means of surviving a Cataclysm, they couldn’t survive themselves. The growing factions of warlords waged war on each other with their Legions, razing the great keeps and forts to the ground in the process.
The madness of man came as a greater cataclysm than the dark flames of old – and so it was that every great age, regardless of length, technological advancement or societal progress, ended as the powers that be engaged in mutual destruction, exposing themselves to the inevitable cataclysm that cleanses the land.
All that remain are the treasures left in the Azurite ruins of those great kingdoms. And you, Aliya, are part of the order of Huntresses that protect and safeguard these remnants of our history. Without these archives, we would be mere animals at the beginning of each new age.
Does that answer your questions?”
Aliya stared at Pi, struggling to process what she had just been told.
“I’m going to need a while to work this all out, to be honest,” said Aliya.
“Of course, it’s quite a lot to process. Shall I take you on that tour of the Archives now then?”
Aliya nodded, following Pi down the steps into the vast hall beneath them.