Rion stood in the back of the 800-year-old Dari Supreme Council chamber in Betin, the capital of Dari on the planet Auria. He looked up at the faded murals on the domed ceiling depicting great leaders from Dari’s past. Full-length paintings of six men and one woman radiated out from the center of the dome from head to foot like spokes on a wheel. Four sculptured columns supporting the dome, their exterior the most recent modification to the chamber, told the stories of the four major periods in Dari’s history—the age of exploration, the age of conquest, the age of industrialization and the age of space travel.
Rion knew the stories of those depicted in the murals well. They were engrained in the cultural, political, and military life of Dari; and he was reminded of them whenever he came to the chamber to visit his father Menor, Lord High Minister of Dari and Chairman of the Council. One section of the mural in particular always caught Rion’s attention. The 200 year-old painting was the least faded because it was over 600 years younger than the others. It wasn’t the visible mural, however, that interested Rion; it was the one beneath it that had been painted over.
No explanation identifying the leader who had been painted over or why remained in Dari’s history or literature. When Rion, on one of his first visits to the imposing structure as a young boy, had asked his father about the original, Menor told his son that records kept by the chamber’s builder indicated that section of the ceiling had sustained severe water damage shortly after the mural had been completed, rendering the leader depicted unrecognizable. The artist died shortly afterward and the mural went unrepaired. Who it was, was lost to time; there were several possibilities. When Rion asked Menor why it had taken so long to paint over that section, Menor said that it had remained unfinished for centuries as a tribute to the original painter, considered Dari’s greatest artist.
Rion never quite believed Menor’s explanation because growing up he heard numerous conflicting stories. The most popular of these, and most likely the correct one, was that the original painting was of Kana, the Dari leader who had defeated the indigenous inhabitants of the continent and settled it. Kana and the first settlers worshiped a supreme deity who they believed had created Auria and handed down his laws to Dari’s ancestors. The painting supposedly showed Kana holding a sword high in one hand and the bloody, severed head of a tribal leader in the other as he looked up at a beam of light shining down on him believed to be from the deity.
Deity worship or any form of religion no longer existed in Dari and all but the most remote regions of Auria. Scientific discoveries had long replaced them as sources for the explanation of life and the Universe. Deity worship hadn’t been banned outright. Over the past two centuries, it simply had withered away with help from those in and out of government that believed it no longer was relevant, and it undercut the authority of the state. Over time, as Dari’s written history and literature were converted to digital files, successive Dari leaders directed the removal of all references to supreme beings. Several generations of Darians had never been taught or even read about one. All they knew were stories whispered to them in the night and told to them by old women. Now, what Rion knew was that his curiosity about the mural would never be satisfied.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish