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Selestor's Men of Atlantis, by Clara Iza von Ravn, [1937], at

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Weakening of priestly power. The punishment for certain crimes.

The state succumbed to the assertive power of priests until at last aroused by deeds of blood, they bade the priesthood pray to gods, and fix the mind on things above the clouds, and leave affairs of state to men whose minds were trained to earth-ways, not to higher lore.

The story of the slaying of the priest, asketh thou? ’tis thus enwrit upon the page which speaks the truth of such event: One of the number who did give to Ses his daily offering for the people's good was stern Bolandos. Dark of brow was he; a mixture of Atlantian sire with blood of that dark race that first knew form upon the planet Earth.

A man fierce-hearted. Crafty. Wise in guile and guilty of a wrong we give no name else did it breed like wrong. Thus we contend. And he—Bolandos—sinned in harboring love for one fair woman who did kneel each day before the shrine of Ses—the god of Death. And as she knelt she murmured: "Give, oh give! thou god of death—as life—what my heart craveth.

"I love not him I wed because, forsooth, no shelter for my form was there, save that I wed this scion of the house that caused my sire's downfall. Take, O take from me the son of Abbas, him I call my lord send far in galley, that I see his face no more!"

Bolandos pondered long. Priests might wed, for law permission gave, but she they wed must first

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have sealed the vow of constancy to one who, dying, left her free to wed with none save men in touch with gods. "The sons of heaven," they spake the priesthood's name.

"And were he dead," Bolandos muttered, "she of right were mine, for he first looking on her tears of widowhood is called entitled to the one who weeps."

No pity dwelt within his heart nor scrupled he to strike the blow to sever form and soul. But fear of his betrayal at the hands of some just brother or some slave, perchance, or fearing that another first might hear the tale of woe—of one struck dead by dark assassin's blow, held long his hand.

But when the rose tree's bloom did make a garden of the gods that favored land, there came an hour when the crafty Abbas' son did seek the confines of a garden fair, unfaithful to his beauteous Olasandron. This the priest did mark.

Before the dawn leaped up from sea and flung the shadow from old Day's broad face the son of Abbas left his garden tryst: The dew clung to the rose trees. Fragrant night did halt in silence. All things seemed to sleep, and o’er the pave the lover's step came softly.

Down beneath the wayside clusters lay the one who waited for his prey. A thrust of steel—a gurgle! Death was there! and on the sands lay Abbas' son to rise no more! Not one thrill rent the breast of his assassin. Fast he fled and flung his dagger on the sands. On to the temple, where at dawn of day the wife—the widow knelt at Ses's feet to plead relief.

She came. A lily tall. Wrapped to the eyes in fleecy mantle. O’er its folds her eyes shone like the stars. Her braids of jet and gloss, enstrung with jewels—like twin serpents fell inert and fragrant to her lithe, arched feet, and on her gorgeous rug, by

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slaves outflung she cast her beauteous length, besought the god: "O Ses!"

A murmur in her ear. A warm hand clasp. The pressure of an arm beneath the serge of priesthood. "Ses hath heard thy prayer" a deep voice whispered, "Thou art free indeed!"

And she, according to her race and age, bemoaned her fate, her early widowhood, and called upon the great god Phenox to sustain her heart in its deep torment. Thus her slaves bore her away, bemoaning as she passed the great arched door that led into the street.

"All mine indeed," he muttered who had slain. "The slaves bear witness that I first beheld her tears of widowhood, and when the moon shall fail and darkness clothes the night, and yet another rises over Ocean red and full, I shall recall the promise of the king and claim her."

A murmur loud of many voices smote upon his ear. "The rabble calls, and I foretell the doom of some rash lord the state assailed, or sea-king who hath locked with galley vast which bore much treasure and whose clime is known."

It nearer came, it louder grew. He paled; the voices which each possesses in his soul spake of some dire disaster to his hopes of love. It crashed along the arches where the gods in jeweled state, upheld by hordes of priests, sat calmly gazing with their beryl eyes upon the rioters who heeded not the sacred place, but burst upon this vision clamoring with hate.

And at their head, behold, a rival walked! a rival hated of Bolandos, for the priest well knew that he, too, had craved the wife—the widow now—of Abbas' son. Bolandos stood one moment like a lion caged, with eyes whose glare did scorch the looker's

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blood: and riveted were they upon the steel held in his rival's hand.

"Thine! Thine!" they shouted. "Priest as false as they who swear eternal fealty to the gods they barter for the gems each wears upon his crown!"

Upspringing like a maddened beast of prey, one leap Bolandos gave, his rival's hand did seize, and thrust! and thrust! and the keen dagger drank so well the twain lay on the marble at Ses’ feet!

Next: Chapter VIII. Punishment by the priesthood for murder. Punishment of women for children's death.