A lovely sound to accompany you whilst reading…
Once the chapel was full, the song priests were joined by Coral and the other apprentice song priests of her rank in the balcony and songs of lamentation were sung, and then after the main ceremony was over and Reef’s teachers and family had given their eulogies and speeches, Pearl was ushered up to the lectern. The whole chapel was quietly observant of this tradition and all of a sudden Pearl was overwhelmed with grief. She tried to calm herself as she knew it was her responsibility as the elected leader of her Chosen group to address her people and speak the required words of her group’s loyalty to Reef. She started to say what was written in front of her and be the strong, calm leader that she was expected to be but the words seemed cold and had no meaning in Pearl’s eyes – they were not sufficient enough to express how they were all feeling.
Pearl looked up from the scroll and caught Triston’s eye. For a moment she struggled with the lump in her throat as his eyes held such a deep sadness that Pearl, for a moment, felt overwhelmed. She closed the scroll and looked up at the congregation. She paused and there was a slight ripple of questioning murmurs that ran through the gathering at her unusual behaviour, like a wave upon a beach, rolling to a frothy crescendo. But then the hall grew once again silent as they were all curious to hear what she was going to say, as the first ever human companion to their ceremonial figure head in the Dolphin of Knowledge.
She cleared her throat, took a deep breath and firstly sung a song of love in the sea song way, this was unheard of as funerals were generally only conducted in Atlantean speech. Her chosen group picked the song up and continued with her and then by the end, the whole congregation was singing an old traditional Atlantean song that had phrases in the language of the dolphins (sea song) and in Atlantean. The song ended and then she started to say what was in her heart,
“I know most of you knew Reef and had seen him in one way or another, going about his duties amongst the temples, but there was so much more to him than just a Chosen initiate! As a Chosen one his funeral is steeped in traditional words written centuries ago. I wanted to say what Reef the person was like, not what was expected of him as a Chosen Priest.”
She stopped for a moment expecting to be reprimanded for her outburst, any deviation from ceremony was strictly forbidden, but she was surprised to see all listening intently, including the Lord High Priest, so she continued feeling less nervous and slightly more empowered.
”Reef and I were not the best of friends and I barely knew him, in fact, we were not well acquainted in the First Temple. I knew him to look at, but only really met him when we were Chosen, so I am not even sure I am really the person for this most honourable of tasks. You see at first I didn’t even like Reef. I found him to be outspoken, spoilt and arrogant…”
As she said those words she looked at Reef’s parents who had their mouths open in astonishment at what she was saying but she didn’t stop, she continued confidently with her off the cuff speech. “…I was so wrong! It wasn’t because he spoke his mind that I disliked him (or rather misunderstood him), it was because he spoke the truth. I think now I understand that I was in fact jealous of Reef.”
She paused and took a deep breath. She sighed, “I was jealous of the loving relationship he had with his parents and friends and the freedom of spirit he seemed to have.” There was a sound of shock from the congregation. Love was an emotion not spoken of during traditional ceremonies. Love was a strange emotion that wasn’t easily defined by Atlanteans, being a people not used to sharing intimacy. Duty, honour and commitment to the Temple ways were a socially solemn affair not usually given space for such personal emotions as love and grief. She looked once more to Reef’s parents. His father was supporting his mother who made shy eye contact with Pearl and smiled weakly. She glimpsed her own parents out of the corner of her eye and turned to see that they were both crying. This social display of emotion from them shocked Pearl and she tried to smile at her mother, hoping she hadn’t upset her too much by what she had said. The lump in her throat returned and she couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.
“Reef had so many loving friends and family around him. I think that is why he was Chosen – because he really knew what love was. The dolphins sensed this in his character and the gods themselves wanted to share his love of life and all those around him. That is why he drowned. Not because he was wrongly Chosen but because he was needed for a higher love – the love of the very gods. His fate was sealed within the Tablet of Destinies from the beginning of time and this is his lesson to us. That we should put aside stuffy ancient traditions that push love to one side and ignore it over duty. Duty should come from love and through love and in love – and we should be honourable to each other and ourselves and in everything we do by putting Love at the highest point of our traditions and ceremonies. Not as a half-hearted attempt at emulating the dolphins’ love bonds. They love unconditionally. The dolphins do not follow ritual – we do! Put Love first I beg you Atlantis – as Reef did.”
She stopped crying and wiped her eyes. “I would like to introduce you to two of Reef’s closest friends, they were as family in the First Temple and I know they have so much to tell you about Reef; I give you -Triston and Angel.” She beckoned for the two to come forward. They explained what Reef had meant to them personally, prompting more crying from the assemblage. Then Pearl returned to the stand and continued with the ceremonial speech that was ‘written’ and must be read by reef’s Chosen group leader.
“ ‘Geshtu-e (the intelligent god) was slaughtered to make Man. Nintu (the womb goddess) mixed clay with his flesh and blood. Womb goddesses, seven and seven, seven created males, seven created females, for the womb goddess is ‘creator of fate.’ Likewise so we are Chosen, from male and female – ‘chosen by the fate of the gods’ through their messengers the dolphins. It was Reef’s fate to perish in the great ceremony so it must have been written in the tablet of destinies. Now it is Reef’s turn to return to the Kingdom of Erishkigal where eventually all souls must return so that Geshtu-e can be reborn. So it is written – so it is read – so it must be!”
When she stepped down to let Bel Enu take his place at the lectern, the elderly priest held her in such a tight embrace for a minute that Pearl began to feel suffocated. He released her and waited for the people to settle before committing Reef’s body to the sea. Pearl still felt suffocated and as she looked around at the priests and officials at the ceremony she could feel the walls pressing in on her from every side. ‘I need some space’ she thought to herself. ‘I need to breathe my own air. I need to run free from these temple walls, not just swim within the boundary of Atlantis and this confined city of temples! If only I had more space!’
She turned her attention back to the High Priest who had begun to speak,
“May your journey to the depths of the Apsu be pleasant and may the spirits of the gods and the seven sages greet you in their kingdom of glory.”
The body was sent off with a multitude of spontaneous song. The Song Priests were positioned as usual, where the acoustics had been studied and maintained to complement their voices and lend their aesthetic waves to direct the bodies down into the deep dark waters. The effect was truly spectacular as the body was lifted as if by magic and levitated up before diving into the water where The dolphin of Knowledge swam off after it to see Reef safely on his way to the after life.