Chapter One

The Wrath of Hurucan

The roll of the deck under Soran’s sandal-shod feet was almost enough to pitch him over the side, and he grabbed for a rope. The sea was like molten lead, heaving in a great cauldron, and like any man aboard the Incari he knew were the great waves came from. They were born when the earth shook as if a god had taken it in his hands and tossed it like a toy. The gods often shook the outer islands, harder and more frequently every year, since Soran was a boy, as if the ancient homelands were no more than skittles in a game played by Titans. The game had gone too far, and the cities of Nefti and Kush were already scattered into ruins.

The monstrous waves making the Incari bob like a cork marched out of the northwest -- Soran saw them clearly as the ship rode another mountainous swell into the sky. In the instant before the Incari wallowed down like a pig into the next trough, he glimpsed a regiment of such waves, stretching back toward the gray-white cliffs of Zeheft, where the storm sky was heavy as a funeral shroud.

Fear whitened the faces of the trading galley’s crew. She was heavy under cargo, on her way home to Vayal with a prince’s ransom in spice and silk, indigo and ivory. They had hoped to race the storm back to safe waters, but the galley was no windracer at the best of times, and the men were muttering, now, that Priolas had overloaded her. She was an old ship, perhaps the oldest in Vayal harbor; but she was also in the keel, broad beamed, and Priolas trusted her.

His face was grave as he swung like monkey in the lines over Soran’s head. Big arms flexed, passing him down from the yardarm, where he had perched for minutes, to get his bearings. In the strange, silver-green storm light his face seemed hewn out of marble or malachite, but Soran saw no fear in the man’s flint gray eyes.

He dropped to the deck a pace away, agile, sure-footed where even Soran clung tight to the rope. Priolas had been at sea more than twenty years, and these were his waters. Incaria lay just over the horizon to the south. They could have anchored there, out at the deep-water line where the ship would have safely ridden out the storm, but the captain’s decision was to make for Vayal.

For once in his life Priolas had misread the sky, and of all men aboard, he had the greatest cause to fear. He might lose the ship, which was his home and his livelihood ... he might lose Soran to the sea, and the price of this would be his life, if he survived the storm, the wreck, the violent anger of the ocean.

His face was weather beaten already, though he was just thirty years old, five years Soran’s elder. He was Soran’s height, with sun-streaked hair and teeth that looked very white against his wind-bronzed skin. The lobes of his ears were heavy with rings -- amethyst, lapis lazuli, emeralds, obsidian, the sigils of his house, his homeland, his trade. He wore a little kilt of sky blue and white linen, and the sudden chill of the approaching storm prickled his skin.

The man’s voice was light and yet rough after the years of bellowing orders over the roar of the sea. "I fear for Zeheft," he said darkly. "We’ve all seen waves like this, too often. You know where they began." He made the sign of Peseden, the patron god of all mariners.

Zeheft could be shambles, ruins, tonight. The old city could be gone, like Nefti and Kush. Soran looked away into the northwest as the ship rode up the next great wave, but Zeheft was too low on the horizon for him to see, and the storm light was too dim. Clouds like the walls of a fortress of air reared over the coastline, and along the length of the Incari, crewmen had begun to pray even as they sat over their oars. They chanted the singsong invocations to Hurucan, ancient prayers begging for the clemency of an ancient god who had not listened to their fathers and would be just as deaf to them.

The oars were idle and shipped inboard. The sea was too violent, the galley rolling too heaily for the muscles of men to be effective. "How far to Vayal?" Soran wondered. "Did you get a sighting?" He glanced up at the masthead, where for minutes Priolas had stood with his back to the wood and his arms outstretched along the yard, crucified in the wind and intent on the pitching horizon.

"Two hours," Priolas judged, "if we can say one breath ahead of the storm." He gave Soran a wry, sidelong grin which mocked himself. "Your father could skin me alive for this."

"For misjudging the sky?" Soran demanded. The angry air clutched at his words, tore them from his lips almost before they were spoken.

"For taking his precious son into danger’s way," Priolas corrected. "One bruise on you, my old friend, one blackened eye or broken finger, and I’ll be stretched on the city walls, laid open from throat to crotch, for the ravens to feast on my innards."

Soran made a face. "My father doesn’t even know I’m aboard. I was supposed to wait for a warship headed home to Vayal, anything flying Ashtoc’s banners. But who in his right mind would tarry long in Ilios this month, with the sickness in the old city and the dread of contagion like a madness even in the palaces." He shook his head. "I was well out of there, Priolas, and I’ll take my chances with the sea." He gave the older man a wry smile. "You haven’t drowned me yet."

"And won’t, if I can help it." Priolas glared at the sky. "Hurucan is furious tonight. What could ancient Zeheft have done to rouse such anger?" He dropped a hand on Soran’s bare shoulder. "It’s going to be rough between here and Myrmidae. Tie yourself on and hold tight. I’m going to let her run before the wind. It’s the only way to climb these waves. Trim sail, and we’ll be a great dead whale in the storm surge. If it takes us broadside, we’ll be fish food, all of us, before Azhtoc can get his hands around my throat." He squeezed Soran’s shoulder. "Go on, now. Up in the bow. Tie on and ride her like a wild horse."

"She’ll run before the wind?" Soran turned his face into the gale, felt the salt air smart his eyes. "You trust her, even in this?"

"I know her," Priolas said tersely. "She runs best when she’s laden. Under ballast, she’s a pig, and in the gale she’s a walrus." He waved Soran off. "I’ve work to do, lad."

About Legends...

This story has its roots in the 1980s. About the time I signed with GMP, I was kicking around the idea for a massive novel -- the problem being, I had no time to develop it. At the time, one of my "literary friends" was Lane Ingram, who passed away some years ago. When Lane volunteered to develop the narrative from my storyline, I was surprised and very agreeable; and a version of it was circulated on a small scale, to a very appreciative audience!

Lane had no aspirations to be a professional novelist, which meant writing was fun, and remained fun, while I did battle with "style" and "technique." And then one day Lane was gone, without leaving much of anything to mark the place in the world which had once bee occupied by an individual who was large in every sense of the word.

Let's change that. I'm bringing LEGENDS "to the screen" in a form which preserves as much of Lane's input as I possibly can, while at the same time properly developing it, bringing it up to full professional standard ... cutting and trimming, correcting the errant, though enthusiastic, amateur ... polishing it to the professional sparkle you've come to expect from Mel Keegan.

LEGENDS will be Lane's memorial. Here's to you, kiddo, wherever you are: enjoy.

Ebook screenreaders:

Downloading LEGENDS and reading from the computer screen? Join the club! Most people are stuck in the same situation ... and it's a right-royal pain. At this time, MK also is still trying to make the transition to one of the ebook screenreaders. The price of most of them is still high, but in the course of shopping around, Mel has found two that are coming under extremely close scrutiny. The Bebook and the Sony look like being the best deals at this time. In due course, we'll be reviewing them right here. Mel Keegan has decided it's going to be one of these two -- but they're very comparable, so ... take your pick. Either one would be perfect for reading LEGENDS, or other digital novels.

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Research Tales

A great deal of research for this novel was done, and subjects Atlantean most often begun with a study of the Trojan wars.

Why? Because the iLiad is one of the very oldest bodies of writing which is also extensive enough to be useful. The problem with the iLiad is -- unless you're fluent in Ancient Green (and who is?) you'll be working from the translations ... and the "disagreement" between them is counfounding for one who's not a Homerian scholar!

The solution? Track down a book that translates the translations -- gets them out of the rich, ripe, flowery language of poetry and into a solid historical context. And in this, MK lucked out. Such a book exists: The Trojan War by Barry Strauss. It reads like a novel, and if you wanted something to get your teeth into ... perhaps after watching the movie, Troy, or after reading Legends -- this is the book you've been looking for.

There's another very scholarly work, The Flood From Heaven by Eberhard Zanger, which "deciphers the evidence" and places Atlantis at Troy! Now, Legends is about five thousand miles from Zanger's work (literally -- due west!) but having said that, Zanger is to Plato what Strauss is to Homer, and the work was extremely helpful.

Now, working even further back through time, you want a "scholar" (and note the quotation marks on that word) who spent a lifetime researching (ouch!) Atlantis. And again, MK lucked out, because there is such a man. A very brilliant man by the name of Ignatius Donnelly, whose "pop-science" book, dating from 1882, is still in print today, in several editions! It's thorough, it's astonishing, and it makes ... quite a case for Atlantis. Not that anyone believes in such things. Right?

There are also some good documentaries on DVD, if this is altogether far too much reading!

And of course, if you want to get into the spirit of the thing (!) you can always put on Troy and let Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana and company provide the inspiration! Speaking of which, have you seen the director's cut? Highly recommended.

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION: Legends is copyright 2009 by Mel Keegan. Please do download the whole novel, which is in HTML format, compatible with your screenreader, PC or Mac. However ... please don't gift it to your friends. Instead, give them the url of this page and recommend that they download it for themselves. The reason is simple: author's income is earned via the adverting on these pages. If they're not loaded, nothing is earned. MK has bills to pay too, and for your cooperation ... thank you kindly!

Note that Legends is NOT covered by the "Creative Commons." This work is the intellectual property of Mel Keegan. If you would like to use parts of it elsewhere, please contact MK via this blog.

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