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The Fall of Atlantis
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Author Marion Zimmer Bradley
Cover artist Darrell K. Sweet
Country United States
Language English
Series Avalon series
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Baen
Publication date
Media type Print (paperback)
Pages 512 pages
ISBN 0671656155
Followed by Ancestors of Avalon

The Fall of Atlantis is a fantasy novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It explores a possible reason why Atlantis disappeared: a forbidden ritual carried out in secret, releasing dark powers and dooming the sea kingdom to destruction. Originally published separately as Web of Light and Web of Darkness, the book was later republished as a single volume.


Domaris and Deoris are sisters, born in the Temple of Light in the Ancient Land -- one of the many islands, including Atlantis, that make up the Sea Kingdom. Domaris, whose Temple name is Isarma, is the elder sister, while Deoris, or Adsartha, is much younger. Their mother died when Deoris was born, so Domaris is both sister to Deoris and the only mother-figure she has ever known. Their father, Talkannon, the arch-priest of the Temple of Light, is mostly absent from their everyday lives. Their father-figure, and Domaris' mentor, is the high priest Rajasta. Domaris' role in the Temple is planned out for her according to her astrological birth chart. One of twelve Acolytes of the Temple of Light -- six men and six women -- she is to marry Arvath, her fellow Acolyte, whose astrological sign is opposite and complementary to her own. While she feels no passion for Arvath, she accepts her eventual marriage to him as natural and inevitable.

This changes when Deoris is assigned as a scribe to Micon, a recently-arrived Atlantean prince who, together with his younger half-brother Reio-ta, had been captured by the outlawed Black Robe sect. The Black Robes had tortured the brothers to force them to surrender their hereditary ability to control certain elemental powers. At one point during the ordeal, Micon tore the mask from one of his captors, and the Black Robes blinded him so he would never be able to identify him. No longer able to bear his brother's torment, Reio-ta surrendered, allowing the Black Robes control of his powers. Though he escaped with little physical injury, his mind and memory were severely damaged. Micon's mind is intact, but he lost his sight and the use of his hands, and suffered internal injuries that he knows will eventually kill him.

Now in hiding in the Ancient Land's Temple of Light, Micon is struggling to stay alive long enough to father an heir. This is the only way to keep his power from passing to the barely-sane Reio-ta. When Reio-ta meets Micon again during a rare moment of lucidity, Micon reproaches him bitterly, saying it would have been better if Reio-ta had let him die, or died himself, than give in to the Black Robes. When Reio-ta weeps to hear this, Micon softens and assures his brother of his love, acknowledging that Reio-ta surrendered only to save him. But by giving in to the Black Robes, Reio-ta only made Micon more vulnerable -- and so they may never meet again. In the meantime, Reio-ta lives as an unknown, low-level Temple servant, pitied and avoided for his feeble mind. Later on, the Grey-Robe adept and healer Riveda notices him and takes him under his protection.

Micon and Domaris meet and fall deeply in love. Although they cannot marry because Domaris is pledged to Arvath, the law of the Temple gives Domaris the right to choose a lover before her marriage and bear him a child if she wishes. Micon asks Domaris to invoke this right, and she agrees. Their relationship deepens to the point where they become husband and wife in the deepest sense. In due course their son is born. Domaris names him Micail, while Rajasta gives him the Temple name Osinarmen, "son of compassion." Micon survives only a few days after his son's birth, long enough to pass on his powers. Domaris grieves deeply after Micon's death, at times sinking into depression, and in general taking little notice of anything besides Micail.

Through all this, Deoris becomes increasingly jealous of Domaris' devotion to Micon, which leads to her alienation from Domaris and, ultimately, her rebellion. At first there seems to be no harm in her choice to enter the temple of Caratra, the mother goddess of the Ancient Land, rather than the Temple of Light as Domaris had done. But in her desire to become not just a healer but the rarer female magician, she falls under the influence of Riveda. While Riveda is not a Black Robe, he is accused several times of not being stringent enough in punishing those Grey Robes who stray into Black Robe teachings. At one point, Riveda admits that he admires the Black Robes' ambition to use power without caring whether its purpose is for good or evil. Riveda accepts Deoris as his disciple, which includes the awakening of her sexuality. He is physically intimate with her, but impersonally: as a devotee of power and magic, not as a lover. This is emotionally painful for Deoris, who by now has fallen deeply in love with him.

Succumbing to his desire for power, Riveda draws closer to the Black Robes. At one point, he leads Deoris and Reio-ta in a ritual that goes horribly wrong when an enchanted fire suddenly erupts and attacks Deoris. Risking his life to save her, Riveda suffers severe injury to his hands. The jolt of the interrupted rite restores Reio-ta's sanity -- a fact that he keeps carefully hidden for fear of rediscovery by the Black Robes.

Deoris suffers severe burns that scar her chest for life. As she slowly recovers under Riveda's care, they become lovers at last. A short time later, Riveda tells Deoris that she must return to Domaris' care to avoid suspicion, but first performs one last Black Robe ritual with her in a subterranean chamber. The ritual's purpose is to awaken The Man with Crossed Hands, a godlike being with destructive powers who had long ago been bound, presumably by the priests of the Temple of Light. It has another purpose as well: the conception of a child who will be dedicated to the forces of darkness. Unaware of the ritual's purposes and blinded by her love for Riveda, Deoris participates willingly.

Now married to Arvath, Domaris is unable to bear him a child and has suffered several miscarriages. Deoris returns to Domaris' care and for a time, all is well. But one night, Domaris sees the terrible scars on Deoris' chest and demands to know their cause. She also discovers that Deoris is pregnant and wearing a triple cord -- a girdle Riveda bound around her waist that marks her as his inferior rather than as the honored mother of his child. With mounting horror, Domaris learns of Deoris' relationship with Riveda and the blasphemous rituals he performed with her.

Enraged at Riveda's treatment of her sister, Domaris tears the triple cord from Deoris' body and throws it into the fireplace. As it burns, she curses Riveda -- a violation of her vows as an Acolyte. Then, in an attempt to save Deoris from the consequences of her participation, however unwitting, in a Black Robe rite, she dedicates herself, Deoris and their children to Caratra lifetime to lifetime, through eternity, until Deoris' spiritual debt is paid. She then descends into the subterranean chamber where the Black Robe rite had taken place. There, she manages to slow some of the ritual's effects, but at great cost to herself -- she suffers a miscarriage that nearly kills her and ends her marriage to Arvath. But it is too late to save the Ancient Land; Riveda's actions have doomed it to eventual destruction.

Riveda is tried, convicted and sentenced to death for apostasy and abusing his power. Deoris' life is spared because of her pregnancy and because she is vowed to Caratra, to expiate her sin over many lifetimes. Still, she is stripped of honor: she may no longer be called priestess or even scribe. When Domaris confesses to having cursed Riveda, Rajasta has no choice but to dismiss her from the Acolytes.

Because Riveda's crimes are so grievous, Rajasta sentences him to the severest penalty: death by fire. According to custom, he offers the priests the option of commuting Riveda's sentence to the jeweled cup -- a swift and painless death by poison. When the priests refuse to grant Riveda a merciful death, Domaris speaks, noting that Riveda could have let Deoris die since the scars she bore incriminated him. Instead, he not only risked his life to save her, but also nursed her back to health. Accepting Domaris' argument, Rajasta offers Riveda the jeweled cup. Riveda acknowledges Domaris' mercy toward him and drinks, dying instantly.

Reio-ta now confesses his identity to Rajasta and reveals the secret that Micon kept to his death: the Black Robe priest whose identity Micon discovered before being blinded was none other than Talkannon, arch-priest of the Temple of Light and the father of Domaris and Deoris. In a general purge of Black Robes, Talkannon, too, is tried, convicted and sentenced to death.

Further inquiry reveals that Deoris had already been pregnant when she took part in the Black Robe ritual where she was to have conceived the child of blasphemy. This discovery removes some of the stigma from her unborn child. When Reio-ta offers to declare himself the baby's father to save it from namelessness, which has devastating implications for Temple children, Deoris reluctantly agrees. At the ceremony, Reio-ta gives the unborn child, a daughter, the Temple name Eilantha, "the effect of a sown cause."

As Deoris walks home from the ceremony, a tremor causes a wall to collapse. Deoris is struck by the falling stones. After a search, Reio-ta finds her and carries her to safety, where she bears her child prematurely. Injured and delirious after the birth, she believes her baby has died.

Although Domaris had been sentenced to lifelong exile from the Temple of Light for having cursed Riveda, her departure was deferred until Deoris gave birth. Now that the child has been born, Domaris must leave, and she prepares to sail for Atlantis. Although she goes in honor, Micail may not go with her. Once the voyage has begun, Reio-ta, who is returning home to Atlantis on the same ship, asks Domaris to foster Eilantha, whom he has taken on board with him. He explains that he feared Eilantha would be ostracized for her parents' sins or killed as a sacrifice by the remaining Black Robes. Domaris takes the baby in her arms, swearing to raise her with her tenderest care, and gives her her everyday name: Tiriki, "little singer." Thus Domaris raises Deoris' child, while Deoris stays in the Ancient Land with her young nephew Micail.

Deoris recovers from her injuries and picks up the pieces of her life. As an act of penance, she bears a son to her former brother-in-law Arvath, who cannot advance in the priesthood until he has a child of his own.

Years later, Rajasta and Deoris arrive in Atlantis, unaware that Domaris is gravely ill. Domaris had sent a message to Rajasta asking him to come to her, but since the temple had already begun to feel the effects of the deep disturbances beneath the earth, the message never arrived. Deoris is reunited with Tiriki, whom she had believed dead, and mother and daughter begin a relationship. Rajasta and Deoris have brought Micail with them; he makes his farewell to his mother and meets his cousin Tiriki for the first time. As Micail and Tiriki mature, they fall in love.

Reio-ta confesses to Deoris that he has loved her since he first saw her and asks her whether she can ever care for him. Deoris realizes that while she does not feel the same worshipful intensity toward Reio-ta that she had felt toward Riveda, she loves Reio-ta nevertheless, and accepts his proposal of marriage.

Early one morning soon afterward, Domaris dies peacefully, surrounded by all who love her.

Upon hearing from Rajasta that there is a prophecy that Micail will found a new Temple in a new land once the Sea Kingdom has fallen, Micail and Tiriki ask to be married as soon as possible to ensure the continuity of their family and way of life. The novel ends with everyone aware that Atlantis is doomed, but hopeful that with careful planning, their traditions will endure.

Major themes[edit]

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Development history[edit]

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Publication history[edit]

1987, USA, BAEN (2nd THUS ed) ISBN 0671656155, Pub date 1 February 1987, paperback

Explanation of the novel's title[edit]

The Fall Of Atlantis as a title is somewhat misleading. The book does not describe the destruction of Atlantis, or the other related Sea Kingdoms. Instead, the book shows the events and actions taken in the Ancient Land that are believed will lead to Atlantis' destruction in the next generation.

Literary significance and reception[edit]

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Awards and nominations[edit]

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External links[edit]