the empire of atlantis, under the great emperor armon-mu, covered the earth.
its erstwhile rivals, the empires of mu and gondwana, had vanished like a pair of ocean breezes, leaving the red and gold flags of atlantis flying over the tallest mountains, and on the rockiest inlets of distant islands.
in his youth armon-mu had mastered the arts of war, and in his long reign he sought to master those of peace, so as to leave a perfect world of harmonious felicity to his successors.
philosophers, sages, poets and masters of all the arts, both from nations who had fought side by side with the empire in the final struggle, and those that had been forced to bend the knee to it, were summoned to the great capital, and encouraged by the liberality of the conqueror to compete with one another in creating works that would ensure the glory of the empire until the very end of time.
all arts - music, painting, architecture, the theatre - were encouraged, but the arts prized above all others by the citizens of atlantis were the arts of sculpture and jewelry.
the chief enthusiast and patron of these arts was the emperor’s daughter the princess alona, who, besides being a patron of the arts, was one of the chief contenders to be named the aging emperor’s successor.
alona was the daughter of the consort taliona, the youngest of the emperor’s wives.
her main rival for the emperor’s favor was the prince doro, the eldest son of the emperor’s first wife.
doro had little interest in the arts, and thought only of somehow bringing back the age of war - any war, against anything or anybody, so long as he could achieve glory in it.
the people favored alona. the army and navy, fearful that their very existences might be threatened by extended centuries of peace, favored doro.
as the emperor’s hundredth birthday approached, all who truly loved him and all who sought his favor began devising ways of showing their appreciation and celebrating his reign.
princess alona summoned her jewelers and workers of precious metals and commissioned them to produce something unique for the emperor - with no expense to be spared, so long as the final product showed the exquisite taste and artistry which were as much as the emperor, and the empire, which she expected shortly to rule, deserved.
a young artisan named zo, wishing to make a name for himself and secure the attention of the princess. made a bold proposal.
it was well known that the center of the earth was a golden pearl of inconceivable purity and splendor . it was a matter of debate among philosophers as to whether the sight of the pearl would blind any observer.
zo proposed that a mine be dug to the center of the earth, and the golden pearl be recovered and placed in a simple ivory pendant and presented to the emperor - who was himself the radiant center of the universe - as the most fitting present possible for his anniversary.
the princess was favorable to the idea. some among her retinue had reservations.
some though that digging the mine might unleash volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, fires, and demons.
but it was pointed that nothing amiss could come from so noble a project.
the princess had other reasons for embracing the project.
a vast army of slaves would be required. and a vast army of slaves was at hand - mostly taken from the defeated kingdoms of mu and gondwana.
many of the “old” citizens of atlantis felt that these slaves led too easy a life - that they were a bunch of layabouts enjoying the “delicious fruits of defeat”.
more importantly, to the princess, her rival prince doro was suspected of secretly fomenting rebellion among these slaves, in order to provoke a new war of rebellion - a war in which he could indulge his innate love of chaos and carnage, and ultimately present himself to the emperor and the citizens of the empire as the savior of civilization.
accordingly, the princess gave orders that the mine be dug, and the pearl at the center of the earth recovered.
at first, all went well.
as the hundredth birthday of the emperor approached, the wings of peace seemed to spread themselves ever more benignly over the empire.
the great mine was being dug. to the satisfaction of the citizens, the vast army of slaves was happily employed.
the mine was being dug with a starting point on a remote island in the great ocean, one blessed with a mild climate all year round.
a great city sprung up on the island, around the mine.
grand hotels were built. aristocrats from every kingdom began to frequent them, and to make pleasure excursions to view the activity at the mine itself.
prophets, mountebanks, swindlers, gamblers, and purveyors of all imaginable pleasures flocked to the scene.
it was glorious days for the princess alona, and her new confidant and toady, young zo. she was hailed already as the source of new wealth and glory for the empire, and was increasingly spoken of as the obvious successor to armon-mu.
as can be imagined, prince doro took a malignant view of all this.
he sought allies among others who might have had a chance at the succession, and who would like to see alona’s star shine less brightly.
on his own, doro sought the council of magicians.
pete paused in his story.
“i hope i am not boring you,“ he told cosima.
“not at all, pete. this is all very droll. i assume that this pearl at the center of the earth is what you call ‘the golden gumdrop’?"
“yes, it is. would you like me to move ahead quicker?”
“no, no. take your time. i see you are a little low there. would you like another drink?”