Chapter Six


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“For the love of all the gods,” Faunos said for the third time, “won’t you let me go and find you a physician? Why not? Tell me!”

The old man was awake, but he might have been blind and deaf. He lay in the nest Faunos had made in the furthest corner from the door, a pile of skins and furs that were dry, warm. Indeed, warmth was the least of Galen’s troubles. He was burning with fever, and twice he had gone to stand outside in the sharp night air, and let the wind strip heat from his body. He was sick, and Faunos was worried.

The third time Faunos spoke to him, he stirred in the nest, turned over to face the door and settled again. A single lamp was alight, providing just enough illumination for Faunos to see the flush of his cheeks, the feverish glitter in his eyes. The tide had come in while he slept, and the sea seemed to be lapping right outside the walls of the shepherd’s cottage.

The full moon was bright, white, streaming through door and window, and gulls were squabbling on the clifftop a dozen yards away. Faunos stood in the doorway, arms about his chest against the chill, alternately watching Galen and gazing trancedly at the moon. Selene had answered none of his entreaties tonight, and he had begun to genuinely fret for the old man.

Even now, Galen was as tough as old leather, but his years had accumulated until their weight had begun to bow his spine and dull his vision. He had slept for an hour while his fever burned, and in almost as long he had not spoken.

Lightning still flickered very low in the west. The storm was over the horizon now. It would be wreaking havoc as it made its way toward Jaymaca and the mountains where Hurucan himself had been born, when the world was young and mankind still wriggled in the primordial ooze. Was the god going home? Faunos had often wondered, while he and Galen watched the old fisherfolk of Zeheft and even Vayal strewing flowers into the ocean in tribute to one they had learned to fear.

This time was the worst. Faunos had seen many great storms, but none quite like this. Zeheft was erased, her people almost entirely fled, and with a start he realized the truth. If the fishing galleys did not return, the remains of Zeheft would crumble swiftly to nothing in the sea wind and weather. In a decade, the city that had stood for a thousand years would live only in the memories of survivors like himself, and like Galen.

When he spoke at last, the old man’s voice was not much more than a croak, and startled Faunos. He jumped, skin prickling, and spun toward the nest of furs. Galen had worked an elbow under himself, propped himself there, and was reaching for the water jug. “Stop your fretting, boy. I’ve no love of surgeons,” he said, husky, dry-throated. “I’ll be well enough come the morning, if you’ll just leave me be. I’ve caught a chill, nothing more.”

“You were burning with fever,” Faunos began.

“Fever,” Galen said dismissively. “What’s fever but a fire in the flesh? And what do you do with a fire? You put it out with water and ice and cold.” He drank deeply and waved one gnarled old hand at the door. “There’s no shortage of water and cold! What do you think a physician would say? He’d tell you the same, and then pick your pocket for the advice!” He blinked at Faunos as if focusing were a chore.

The lamplight outlined every line, every crease in the leathery old face. A few days’ stubble of white beard prickled on his cheeks, and his hair -- still thick and curly though it also was white -- was plastered flat to his skull with sweat. As he set down the water jug his hand shook.

“Still, let me fetch a physician,” Faunos argued, “for my sake, if not for yours. The water gypsies have come in and camped again, on the high ground that used to be the dunes when ...” He checked himself before he could reopen old wounds. Zeheft was gone, and the sooner the survivors grasped this and went on, the better they would fare. “I can run over the hill to the wanderers’ camps. You can hear the music from here. It’s not far, and they have the good herbalists who know the Keltoi remedies, and the Jaymacan cures.”

For a long moment Galen frowned at him, and at length he smiled wistfully. “How like your father you’re becoming, as the years gather about you. Tall and slender, and beautiful.” He shook his head slowly. “Mykenos died too young -- aye, and with his seventh son just a babe in arms, and his dear wife not a week in the grave.”

She had died giving birth to Faunos, and if the Zeheftimen had blamed the boy for her death, and the death of Mykenos -- who had surely died of grief -- Faunos would not have been surprised. Perhaps some of them did; he had never known. For twenty years he had lived in the shadows, following Galen from place to place, island to island, not quite hiding while they safeguarded the ancient books. In those years, and in a hundred places between Zeheft and Jaymaca, the old teacher gave Faunos the education he must have, if he would ever take the place of Mykenos Peleas Memnon.

“And now, see you!” Galen chuckled a little as he looked over Faunos, from his bare feet to the bronze tangle of his hair.

Tonight he had indulged himself in a small luxury. He had painted his face with the colors and sigils of the House of Diomedas, and they lent him a look so exotic, so seductive, he might have walked out of a temple fresco. The paint outlined his eyes and cheekbones in green, red, gold. Faunos knew his own reflection in the glass. His face was fine boned, with an almost aloof look, as if the years of living away and being alone had set him apart from others.

Some might have mistaken the look for hauteur, but this was untrue. Faunos felt none of the arrogance, pride and disdain of his ancestors. His face was fine with the look of kings. Galen swore that Mykenos had worn the same bones, the same features. And he had worn the colors and sigils of Diomedas just as proudly.

No matter that many generations had passed since the kings of Zeheft had been sovereigns in their own land, the bloodline of Diomedas endured. And the Power, born afresh in the seventh son of the seventh son. Vayal ascribed to the same tradition, but it was folly, sheer vanity. The Power had never been born in their line. They feared it, they coveted it, and because of it they had hunted the line of Diomedas almost to extinction.

Their priests had a name for the young Zeheftimen who inherited any fragment of the Power. They called them witchboys. The term was as accurate as it was derogatory. At the same moment Faunos hated it and admitted that it described him all too well. The Power crackled and simmered beneath his skin, whether he desired it or not; and at twenty years old, he still had little real control over it.

“You’re better,” he said quietly, “aren’t you, Galen? You scared me. For a while I thought you might die.”

“Die? Me? Not just yet,” the old eunuch insisted, though he coughed deeply and reached for the water jug again. “I have a chill, boy, a cold. Nothing more. What d’you expect, when one of my advanced years gets drenched to the bone and then sallies about in the storm? You wait till you’ve got as many summers and winters riding on your shoulders as I have!”

“All right, you’re better,” Faunos said with rueful humor, and relaxed a little. “You’re quite up to grumbling again. I don’t know if you heard all I told you before. You were here in body, but your spirit was away somewhere. The people have gone. What remains of the city -- and it’s not much! -- is deserted.”

“They’ll be back,” Galen grunted. “Some of them, at least. Not all wanted to leave, and those who can make it home will return.” He sighed heavily. “But Zeheft will never be the same, even if enough of its children come back to keep the old carcass alive a while longer.”

“The city?” Faunos echoed. “It’s gone! Three quarters of it is fit for crabpots and lobster traps, and the rest should be knocked down before it falls down and kills someone.” He hesitated and asked quietly, “Do you think any of them went to Vayal, to seek shelter?”

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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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