The rains raged on and on. The howling winds, the torrents, and the rising waters of the flood. The young priest looked out on the vastness of the sea and felt despair. It was the dark despair of the crushing depths of the rising sea. It gripped him and crushed him and forced the bright burning hope from his soul's lungs. He would drown. They would all drown. It was the end of the world. The slate wiped clean. With him or his or his city.
There would be no escape. The seas had risen over 6,000 feet and lapped now at the very foundations of Hamadan. Hamadan, the ancient. Hamadan, the true. Hamadan, the damned.
He considered whether or not to just throw himself into the hungering maw of the black sea rising. End it now, it seemed to whisper. End it all. You are damned. Embrace your dark oblivion, it sang through the torrent, gnawed at his soul, chewed at his heart. Dive within, escape the last true moments of dark despair.
The priest knelt and prayed one last time. He was not strong. He'd never been strong. He could not resist the wet darkness rising to destroy all, destroy him.
His prayers had never been answered before. He doubted he would get an answer now. Yet he prayed. But he did not pray for himself. He prayed for his people. He prayed with his heart and soul for his sister and her children, his brother and his wife. He poured out his faith, what little there was left, and gave it freely and profoundly and totally.
And when he was done, when he had nothing left, when his last faith was spent, he rose from his prayer, stripped and neatly folded his clothes, piling them carefully and began to step into the icy waters, his end, the end of all things.
In the moment his toes touched the waters, the priest felt a flash and warmth. He turned away from the waters and looked into the city. There was a flame, a fire, a brightness, almost too bright to look at but did no harm. It burned not his eyes. It burned not the city. It burned not the ground.
It hovered ten times the height of the tallest building, upon the tallest ground. It was a flame, a great flame, The Flame and it raged and burned, but did not harm its people. And where its light touched, the waters receded. Where its light stroked, plants bloomed back to life and bore fruit. Where its light shined, the rain reduced to a drizzle from a torrent.
The priest dressed once more and ran, he ran with the franatic faith of the newly converted, of new salvation. He yelled as he went, he screamed his ectasy as he raced, he called to all to join him. Beneath the flame, he dropped and worshiped and called out to his Lord. His sister, her children, his brother, his brother's wife, his city, his people were saved. Saved! Saved!
The prayers rolled forth and their faith was stoked to a full fire. They were saved.
They watched beneath the Flame as the waters still rose. Above and around them. Beyond the reach of the Flame. The sun faded and was snuffed out. The waters rose above and around and did not drown them. The Flame protected and nourished and saved them.
The foolish went and touched the waters and the waters consumed them. Yet, safe within the light, within the reach of the Flame, all were safe.
238 days later, the waters began to recede. The waters drew down from the top of the great reach of the Flame and drained away. The people led by the priest rejoiced. They sang and prayed even as the waters disappeared and left the world. The land was barren, but where the Flame touched once more, green things grew, hope renewed. And the people were saved.
The priest was supervising the people's return to their fields and their plantings. The Flame nourished those who nourished themselves, after all. Then he felt compelled, compelled to return to the Flame.
When he did, the Flame began to flicker, to fade, to die out.
And then he heard...
"I, Ahura Mazda, heard your prayers, the prayers of the pure, the prayers of the pious at the brink of dark despair. I answered your prayers and saved your people from destruction. Here and now, I make a pact. This shall not happen again: your people shall not die in the depths of drowning. You shall be preserved and protected until the end of time."
The priest was overcome with joy and power and faith. And in that moment, he felt overwhelmed by power of his God. His lord. His savior.
"However, Zartosht, my priest, you must seal this pact. You must do one task. You are not the only people to survive. You must find a man. You must kill him."
The priest was pressed by a vision, a flame of knowledge that singed and burned and engulfed his mind. And he saw. He saw the man. He saw a mountain. And he saw....a rainbow.
"Kill him, Zartosht, and I shall be well pleased. Your people will inherit the Earth and prosper and never fade away. Find this man and kill him and you shall be exalted above all others. Find this man and kill him.
The priest cried out. For the man and the god the man worshiped must be wicked, must be Angra Mainyu.
"Oh Mazda, who is this man? What is his name? Please, Oh Lord, I must know!"
The Flame's last flicker faded and in that moment, Zartosht heard. And knew.
The man's name was Noah.