Chapter Nine - continued


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Soran indulged himself in a chuckle. “You know me?”

“Of course I know you.” The Zeheftiman caught his cloak with one hand, his whipping hair with the other. “I haven’t been on your shores for long, but who wouldn’t know your face in this realm?”

“Then you’ll address me as ‘my lord,’” Soran purred.

The gold eyes widened, and for a long moment the Zehefti boy was mute, too prideful to say it until he saw that others were watching, gaping at his audacity. At last he lowered his head and said it quietly. “My lord. And I ask a second time, what do you want of me?”

The cup in Soran’s hand was empty again. He passed it to the girl who had been singing, and tousled the child’s hair. “Oh, a night’s amusement -- which I imagine would be the same ambition that brought you here.” He looked around for the camp master, beckoned the bronze-skinned little Iliosian, and offered him a coin. “This should buy the use of your pavilion until the dawn light. Done?”

“Done, and you’re being generous.” The man made a grab for the coin, as if he had never seen such easy money. “The name is Keffek, my lord. You want wine and silks, and your own harper? A blind harper from Ilios, my lord prince, who doesn’t speak a word of the common tongues of Vayal and Zeheft, so you can say what you please before him.”

“Why not?” Soran said indulgently. He gestured to the young man he had chosen. “Is this one a freeman, or do I owe you another coin?”

He had taken the boy’s elbow and was about to steer him toward the green and white pavilion, pitched like a lean-to against the high side of the galley. Surprise brought him up short when the Zeheftiman snatched his arm away and stopped dead. Soran turned back with a sharp oath.

“You think I’m a houri, to manhandle me?” The boy’s accent thickened with anger. “You think you can buy me for a coin? And even if you could – which you can’t! – the coin would be mine, not his! No one owns me.”

“Then you have my apologies, freeman,” Soran said, amused now. How typical of the Zehefti. Any other man in the Empire would have been overcome by the flattery and honor of being chosen by a son of Azhtoc. “Do you want the coin?”

The gold eyes sparkled. “I don’t want any coin. You’ve not even asked me if I want to go with you tonight.”

Again, astonishment sent up Soran’s brows. “I’ve no need to ask,” he told the arrogant creature. “I am who I am, and every soul in this camp knows it, including yourself. The seventh son of Mahanmec Azhtoc asks for nothing.”

The young Zeheftiman took a breath. “But I’m a freeman.”

“Who could be a bondsman like that.” Soran’s long fingers snapped sharply. “Now, come with me as a freeman, or as a bondsman -- this much choice is certainly your own!” He glanced at the camp master, who had already beckoned his lieutenants. As Soran watched, a length of line, a collar and a hood were passed into the Iliosian’s waiting hands, and without being ordered, he was reaching for the Zeheftiman’s wrist.

The Zehefti moved fast, snatching his hand away. “By Helios, a freeman has the right to choose,” he rasped. His chest heaved with quick, harsh breaths. He was magnificent with fury. The spirit of his people was honored in every bone and muscle.

“Then choose,” Soran invited with mock patience. “But choose wisely, as the freeman you still are … and remember, I am who I am. You possess a name?”

Anger sharpened his features, gave his face a feline quality. “I’m called Faunos. It’s a common enough name. There must be a thousand called the same between your city and mine.”

“Faunos.” Soran tried the name on his tongue and liked it. “It has an elegant sound, well suited to an arrogant, beautiful creature like yourself.” He looked the young man up and down. “Have you chosen?”

“As if there’s a choice,” Faunos spat.

“Then you’ll be pleased to go ahead of me.” Soran held open the pavilion’s wide flap.

A young Incari girl with blond hair and skin like deep bronze stepped out with a fluting giggle, bobbing before him in obeisance. Behind her he saw lamps, a jug of wine, fresh silks on a wide, low divan, a dozen cushions strewn beside it, and the promised blind harper sitting in the far corner. Faunos hesitated a moment longer, and the camp master moved closer.

Soran dropped his voice. “Your fellows are all loyal to the Empire. They’re wise enough to know the law of this land and abide by it. You want to put them to the test? There’s little wisdom in defiance.”

Without a word Faunos stepped into the pavilion. The flap swung closed and the camp master sat outside, already stoking a pipe that would take a good hour to smoke. The air was warm with the crackling brazier and sweet with the fat sticks of joss which smoked in a great brass burner wrought like a drowsing lizard.

Still, Faunos stood in the middle of the wide pavilion, hugging the cloak about himself until Soran held out his hand to take it. With an angry jerk that might have torn the fabric, he tossed it down. All he wore beneath it was the wrap about his hips, and this, he threw at Soran before it could be prompted.

He struck a pose, deliberately seductive, something too obviously copied from the market square houris. “I came here -- my lord -- to seek companionship.”

“Then you should be highly satisfied, for you’ve found it.” Soran frowned at him, less angry than simply confused. It was the first time in his life he had chosen a lover and been told no. “In Helios’s name, what’s the matter with you, boy? Am I so hard on the eyes? Do you have some moral objection to lying down with a prince? Or is it that damned Zehefti blood of yours -- I’m a scion of ‘the great demon Vayal,’ and you’d rather perish than endure my hands on your precious skin. Is that it? Damnit, would you not have chosen me?”

“But I didn’t choose,” Faunos growled. “You gave me no right of choice. My lord.”

“Stop calling me that,” Soran snapped. “You pronounce it like an insult.” The boy’s eyes flared at him, but Faunos held his tongue, perhaps wisely. Soran sought patience, found it at last and sweetened his tone. “Look at me, now, and tell me you would have chosen another. Hados, will you look at me!”

The cat’s eyes lifted, and looked him over from head to foot, slowly and thoroughly. Prickling with annoyance, Soran threw down his own cloak, and stood before him in the sky-blue wrap he had chosen from the selection offered by his bodyslave. Never before in fifteen years of courtship and mating games had he been appraised, judged. For one split second he felt a rush of uncertainty, swiftly followed by anger.

He snatched off the wrap, wadded it up and tossed it like a ball at Faunos, who caught it deftly. “Is that what you want of me? Then, you have it. We’re even now, the pair of us, in the state we were created.” He held out his arms, challenging. “Choose, freeman.”

“Freeman?” Faunos echoed. “Am I?” The defiance persisted, yet his eyes – Keltoi eyes, green, gold, silver at once -- were fever bright, devouring Soran alive, limb by limb.

“You remain a freeman at my pleasure,” Soran said very quietly, his most dangerous tone, though Faunos could not know it. “It pleased me to invite you into this pavilion for a night’s companionship. It pleases me, now, to stand here like a hoplite, waiting be chosen. Waiting to see,” he added wryly, “how much sense you possess – enough to rein in that cursed Zehefti pride? Or not,” he finished ominously.

Turn page to Chapter Nine part three...

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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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