Chapter Ten - conclusion

The Curse of Diomedas part three

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“Still.” Faunos sat down by the hearth, and hugged his arms about himself. “There were no soldiers, Galen. I looked for them, the moment I arrived. I saw only the gypsies, and they made me welcome. I didn’t drink anything. My head was clear, I had my wits about me, I swear it.”

“Have I called you a liar?” Galen asked with rough, disapproving humor.

Faunos closed his eyes. “No. And you’ve no need to call me a halfwit – I’ve done that already! If it were possible for a man to kick his own rump, mine would be black and blue! It was … not the most intelligent thing I’ve ever done.”

“Yet, you are at liberty this morning,” Galen observed. “The danger can’t have been so bad.”

“It was.” Faunos actually shivered. The sore throb from his buttocks was a sharp reminder of the needless hazard. He waited for Galen to speak, but for a long time the old teacher was silent, waiting for him to make the confession. The words were too hard to find. Faunos had helped himself to a cup of broth and shuffled his feet closer to the fire when Galen said,

“Do you want to talk about it?” He looked so tired, sounded so tired.

“No,” Faunos said slowly, thoughtfully, “but I have to.” He looked away. “You didn’t tell me how impossible it would be to control, still. I thought I could …” He swallowed the admission and whispered, “You should have told me.”

“Should I?” The old man sat down beside him, caught Faunos’s left hand and held it between both of his own. His skin was hot and dry, but Faunos was still cold and welcomed the feverish heat. “Would you have listened to me?” Galen wondered.

“Perhaps.” Faunos’s eyes misted with tears, but he blinked them away now. “Perhaps not. I only know what I wanted … thought I wanted.”

“And now?” Galen prompted. “Was it what you wanted, after all?”

“It was …” Faunos hunted for elusive words. “Wonderful, and strange, and then … I couldn’t control the Power. Couldn’t stop it happening, and I almost … he almost knew, Galen.”

“Hush, now.” Galen set one arm across his shoulders. “I know what you’re trying to describe. It’s always been this way for the men of your heritage. The burden on your shoulders has been carried by many before you, even by Diomedas himself. You think what you’re feeling hasn’t been called the Curse of Diomedas?”

Faunos turned dark, haunted eyes on him. “Is there no way to control it? It got away from me, ran like a wild horse. Gods, what a fool I was. He might have seen, known.” He squeezed shut his eyes. “I was with him. Soranchele Izamal-xiu Ulkan.”

He felt the start race through Galen, as if he had physically lashed out, struck him. The old man took a long, harsh breath and coughed, holding his ribs as if they pained him. At last he said softly, “What in Hados was he doing with the water gypsies?”

“Celebrating.” Faunos held his hands to the fire. “Celebrating the night of his coming of age by gathering another trophy. Me. You know what I gave him.”

“Your most precious gift.” Galen stroked the hair back from Fauno’s brow. “Your virginity. And I believe he took it gently … you’re unhurt this morning, merely miserable. Also lucky -- and much wiser than you were last evening.”

Much wiser.” Faunos worked his neck around to ease the stiffness of cramped muscles. “The thrill of the hunt blinded his eyes, but I did betray myself to him, Galen, to the witchfinder. He just didn't see.”

“And so here you are, innocent and free.” Galen stroked his hair again. “Some angel sat beside you and clouded Soranchele’s senses, covered his eyes and ears, bade him be gentle when he could have ridden you hard indeed, and left catastrophe in his wake.” He leaned over and kissed Faunos’s temple. “Well, the lesson was valuable and you possess the brains to learn from it. It was a lesson I could never teach. I’m not at all sure if you’ve been an idiot or not, because this lesson had to be learned one way or another! But you won’t go back to the gypsy camp any time soon, will you?”

“Never,” Faunos said hoarsely. “Not here, not within a thousand leagues of Vayal. There’s nothing for me here, Galen. We came back to Zeheft for want of somewhere to go, and now?” He stood, hugging himself in the fragile early morning light. The new sun streamed through breaks in the slats in the east wall. “It’s dangerous to stay here. The sooner we’re gone, the better.”

“But, where?” Galen followed him to his feet and tried the goatskins for water. There was enough to fill the copper kettle, and he set it to heat. “Will it be the Keltoi shore, and we’ll take our chances among the savages? Or Jaymaca, and we’ll run the gauntlet of the people of the Jaguar in stranger lands than I’ve ever known.”

The sunlight was white gold, without heat, but by noon it would be a different story. Faunos was thinking of the ruins of Zeheft, where so many lay dead. “I don’t know. So long as we leave, I’ll be happy. It doesn’t matter where.”

For a moment Galen studied him mutely, and then set aside his observations unspoken. “Then we’ll wait for the first ship heading out of the Empire,” he said thoughtfully, leaning against the wall as if he were too tired to stand up straight. He coughed again, holding both arms tight to his ribcage. His voice was hoarse; a sweat sprang out on his brow. “You must fetch the books out of that damned cave today, and when I’m recovered a little, when I can breathe without coughing the lungs out of my chest, I’ll go down to the wharves, see what ships are headed where. You realize we have little money. Passage will be paid for in work.”

Faunos answered only with a nod. “You’re sick, Galen. Don’t think I’m so miserable that I can’t see it – and I still say you should have a physician.”

“Pish posh,” Galen said succinctly. “Leave me be. I’ll be fine.”

“If you’re sure.” For the moment Faunos was too tired, too dispirited, to argue. He dropped his cloak and wrap on their bags and stepped out of the cottage. The rain barrel was full, and the bronze pail beside it leaked only a little. He gasped at the cold as he tipped a bucketful over his head to sluice the smell and salt of the sea from his skin.

And then he faced the rising sun, spread wide his arms and spoke silently to Helios. He could dream, at least. He had been a lover for one night, and it would be enough. It would have to be. He would dream of firelight and music, the spices of the drowned lands, silks strewn on a divan, and a beautiful young man who touched him with tender hands.

“Helios,” he whispered as the sun dazzled him, “I call myself a freeman, but I’m not. I lied to the witchfinder, the same way I lie to myself. I’m as much a bondsman as the slave laboring in the fields above Vayal. My body and soul are owned by the ghosts of my fathers, even by Diomedas himself.” He took a deep breath. “Helios, set me free. Take the Power from me. Strip it from me, the way anything maiden was stripped from me last night. Take it, for I don’t want it, I’ve never wanted it! Take the gift, leave me a common man, free to live, and find love somewhere, with someone who’ll have me as I am.”

But Helios ignored him now as always, and at last Faunos made the sign of the god before his forehead, and stepped back into the house to help Galen.

Turn page to Chapter Eleven...

Return to Chapter Nine...

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

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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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