Chapter Eleven

A Bargain by the Jackal Throne

[page back]

Fury mingled with utter bewilderment as Soran walked out of the pavilion. He had never known a partner leave before told to go, never had a lover challenge him, much less spurn him. Yet when his dreams unraveled and he sat up, the pavilion was cold, the brazier had burned out, and the Zehefti who called himself Faunos was gone.

Hard-eyed, he snatched up his clothes and looked about for the camp master. The man was at the fire, drinking and tossing dice with his lieutenants. When Soran barked his name, he blanched and hurried to crouch abjectly at the witchfinder’s feet.

“Where is he?” Soran demanded.

“The Zehefti boy?” Keffek did not look up. “He left, my lord.”

“You let him leave?” Soran’s tone was dangerously soft.

“My lord, you had your worth out of him -- I was outside the pavilion, I heard, how could I not? You supped twice from his cup and then you slept. He left, and I saw no reason to stop him … you never told me I was supposed to stop him. I’d have bound him hand and foot, if only you’d said so.”

“Get him back here,” Soran said shortly.

“My lord, I can’t.” The camp master dared look up for a moment. “I never saw him before tonight. He’s just a Zehefti dancer, probably left behind when the boats put out. You know the old city is destroyed -- they all fled, and they were right to. My lord, I wouldn’t know where to begin looking for him.”

“Then stay your tongue,” Soran snarled, “before I stay it for you.”

He turned his back on Keffek and glared into the darkness. The wind tossed his hair and he caught it, held it in one fist while he dragged cold, clear air into his lungs. All he saw was the Zeftiman’s face, all he heard was the young man’s voice with the rich old accent. Was he bewitched? He shook his head, as if trying to be rid of the images, but they persisted, haunting him, and when he turned back to the fire, every young man he saw with Keltoi ancestors -- with the red hair and the fair eastern skin -- tricked his eyes into seeing Faunos there.

The camp master was still crouched in the sand, waiting to be told what to do, what to say, but Soran left the man to his plight. Keffek would take pains to be gone on the next tide high enough to float off his ship, and until then he would hide his face, lest the witchfinder’s fury seek a target.

None of it was the camp master’s fault -- even in the first white-hot flush of bewildered rage Soran was less inclined to strike off the man’s fool head than Keffek believed. With a blistering curse, he plowed through the cold, soft sand, over the shoulder of the dune, to the place he had tethered the horse. The boy watching him leaped to his feet, hoping for another coin, but Soran was no longer in any mood for generosity.

The moon was down as he took the racer back up the hill trail to the Whispering Well. The darkness had just begun to lighten with false dawn, but the horse picked his way carefully, slowly, and Soran let him. He was in no rush to get back to the palace, and had absolutely no desire to confront his father.

Even now his body throbbed with the aftermath of violent passion. His belly trembled in memory. No courtesan from his father’s stable had ever inspired him so, and he had relished the finest the Empire could provide. None of them set a fire in his blood, and this morning he wanted only the one who did. The one who had vanished like smoke on the night wind.

He had crept away like a thief, and Soran was angry, bemused, insulted, bruised. Had he hurt the Zehefti more than he knew? Had he failed to give pleasure while he took it? Yet he knew better than this damning self-interrogation. He had been taught the skills of love by the finest, since he was ten summers old.

The lessons began with great delicacy, when he was too young to even know what questions to ask. A teacher from the temple of Aphrataya brought the most luscious houris in the establishment, and for months demonstrated everything, the pleasures, the pains, the tricks and games, the manners of lovemaking as understood by Vayal’s patricians.

And what of freemen, born and raised on the waterfront in Zeheft? What did they know of the manners, the rights and responsibilities? What could Faunos possibly know? Supposing his name was Faunos. Soran had begun to doubt it.

He took a long deep breath as the horse stopped to rest and drink at the well, in the fragile predawn glow. Faunos was no patrician of Vayal; he probably knew less than nothing of the boudoir games played by the rich and powerful of another caste in another city. He might even scorn the pretty manners of those who stood arrogantly in the god’s noonday shadow.

It was ridiculous to think he should have fallen instantly in lust, even in love, with the witchfinder, and stayed for months, years, or for life; and yet Soran did not delude himself. He was bruised, angry and confused precisely because Faunos had not.

“So I’ll find you,” he said to the dawn as the young stallion lifted his nose from the trough. “I’ll find you, just as I’d hunt you down if you were a witchboy. And when I get my hands on you again -- be Helios, it’ll be a collar on your neck!”

And then -- no. The quality he most admired about Faunos was his free spirit, and the fastest, surest way to break that was to have him indentured to palace service. Bondsmen were treated well. They were paid handsomely, lived in the best apartments, dressed in silks that would not have disgraced Azhtoc himself. But even -- or especially -- the most beautiful lived at the beck and call of those whose names appeared on the indenture contract.

It would be only one name, his own name, Soran thought bleakly. But even so, Faunos would rail against the confinement, the servitude. It was not in his nature to be anyone’s to order, and before long the palace house master would be punishing him for fancied wrongs. For not kneeling fast enough when a high priest went by, or meeting the eyes of a prince, or not prostrating properly when Azhtoc approached, the price was paid in double-duty, gold, and discomfort.

“I’ll find him,” he told the horse as they moved off from the well and took the downward trail on the north slope. “And then I’ll have it out with him. I’ll know why the faithless creature ran like a thief.”

The horse snorted disdainfully. Soran glared at the first sliver of the sun as Helios showed his face in the east, over the white spires, cupolas and towers of Vayal. He sighed heavily. All this was easy to say, but if Faunos had come in with the water gypsies -- for work, shelter, companionship -- he could be on any ship in the vast bay that yawned between the two cities. By noon he could be gone.

“Helios, keep him here,” Soran said to the rising sun. “Hear me. I am the seventh son of the priest-king of Vayal, you know me. I’ve been marked since birth to be the living vessel for your glory, upon the death of my father. When Azhtoc is gone, you’ll bear witness to the coronation of the Priest-King Ulkan, and you’ll walk abroad wearing my flesh, my bones. So hear me now, while this flesh, these bones, still belong to me and my name remains Soranchele. Keep the one who calls himself Faunos here until I can find him!”

It was madness, and he knew it. He must have Faunos at any price, and he was haunted by the very real dread that he had been enchanted. The boy had a strong look of the Keltoi, and the savages were infamous for their dark, unknowable magic.

He patted the horse’s sleek shoulder and wondered aloud, “Am I being a fool? Am I making the halfwit of myself?”

Turn page to Chapter Eleven continued...

Return to Chapter Ten...

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.

Aricia's Gay Book Shoppe

Aricia's Gay Book Shoppe
Every title hand picked, many of them already reviewed AG's Gay Book Blog -- hundreds of books and movies spanning a couple of decades, celebrating gay publishing and filmmaking!


The art appearing on this site, illustrating elements of this novel, is by Jade, my cover artist from DreamCraft.

Soon you'll be able to order prints, treeshirts, mugs, mousepads and a lot more, featuring this artwork and manufactured in the US by

The portfolio is still growing, and a gallery is online. Return to this page now and then to see new addition...

The commercial break:

The NARC novels are now at Amazon!

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.

Locations of visitors to this page