Chapter Ten - continued

The Curse of Diomedas part two

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The sea was calm and the moonlight struck deep into the water, bright enough for him to see the drowned streets and courtyards. He might dive, tomorrow, and look for what might be salvaged. People had left in a hurry, and in their haste to get out would have forgotten valuables. The city seemed to sleep, haunted by dreams.

He was still quivering inside as he waded into the still water and let the sudden cold revive him. He invited the ocean to bathe any trace of Soran, and Vayal, and self-indulgence from him; and he mourned.

One night, he had said to Galen, just one night; and he would hold to the pledge. A single night to remember in the long years of exile. He would never forget that Soranchele Izamal-xiu Ulkan was a tender lover.

And he was very beautiful, Faunos allowed as he swam out around a cluster of empty barrels which still marked the position of someone’s abandoned crabpots. Shafts of moonlight slanted into the water, illuminating the shoals of tiny silver fish. They darted in and out, around the columns of the temple of Nepte, which had graced the waterfront. Four columns still stood erect; the rest were tumbled like lumber. He followed the fish, playing tag until his lungs drove him back to the surface.

His eyes streamed tears which were lost in the salt of the ocean. The sense of loss was overwhelming, and he blamed no one but himself. Soran was everything he had dreamed of, through nights when the old eunuch slept and he watched the stars for hours, sleepless with longing.

He had made the promise to himself as well as Galen, and one night, it would be. It could never happen again, for the danger was incalculable. This time he had been incredibly lucky. Soran was so immersed in the act, he had not noticed when the Power began to scintillate in Faunos’s limbs, when his skin shimmered, his body seemed to float, and phantom scents wreathed him. Next time?

Only the wild excitement of the first time had saved Faunos, and he was wise enough to know it. If ever they lay together again, Soran would see, and know. There could be no next time, and Faunos was consumed by a ridiculous sense of loss. How could he lose what he had never owned? He castigated himself more harshly than Galen ever would.

He dove again, among the columns of the temple where fish flew now where swallows and parrots would have flown a single day before. His lungs burned but he stayed down, deep, and turned over on his back to look up at the distorted, wavering face of Selene.

It was cool silver-blue, filled with peace. He could remain here, he thought. All he had to do was breathe deeply of the water, fill his lungs with the stuff that was air to Peseden and Nepti, and the struggle would be over. Life would unravel like a worn-out sleeve. He felt so tired, he could have slept for a year, a century. The weariness was beyond his years, and he almost took that breath.

And then youth, the pure animal instinct that had taken him to the wanderers’ camp in the first place, sent him back to the surface. He whooped for air and pulled a long, aching breath to the bottom of spasming lungs. His eyes cleared as he breathed, coughed, breathed again. He had swum further out than he had realized. The shore was distant, the flickers of the gypsy campfires no more than fireflies in the night.

Somewhere among those fires, Soran would be waking by now, and he would reach out for the companion who was not there. He would demand of the camp master, where did the young Zeheftiman go? But no one had bothered to watch Faunos leave, and even if they had, once he left the ring of the firelight he had vanished.

Tired even now, careworn, Faunos struck out for the shore. The tide had turned and it was more difficult swimming back in, but he had always been a strong swimmer. His body still throbbed with the memory of Soran’s possession. He had made it good, Faunos admitted – even the first time, it was good. First time, and last time.

The night wind on wet skin felt very cold. He waded out, sat on a tumble of brickwork to dry off and get warm, and surveyed the stars. True dawn was two hours away, but the first glow of the false dawn was in the sky already, and he must get back to the shepherd’s hut before Galen woke.

He was still damp, skin still prickling and cold, when he tied the wrap about his hips and swung on the cloak, but he felt fresh, revived. Able to face Galen, who would glance once at him, and know what he had done. It was advice Faunos needed, the benefit of age and wisdom, not a lecture. At times Galen could be supremely sensitive -- and at others, utterly dense.

The Power disturbed Faunos deeply. It had troubled him since he was nine or ten years old, on the brink of leaving behind childhood, beginning the long, hard road to manhood. One night he dreamed of swimming in a warm lagoon with a beautiful sea sprite – it could have been boy or girl; he had never been sure. His passion stirred for the first time, and the Power woke him with a start. His skin was glowing, the air smelt of jasmine and bergamot, and he knew what it was. Galen had been teaching him for years, in preparation for the day.

Lately he carried the Power like a burden, and he wanted no more than to set it down. Would he never be allowed the simple pleasure of lovemaking, which any common man enjoyed? He must be celibate as a novitiate in the temple of Volcos, because he would always betray himself?

The night had been sheer stupidity, and this morning he could barely believe what he had done. How close to betrayal he had come! If Soranchele Izamal-xiu Ulkan had been one Iota less consumed by the act of taking virginity from the flesh he had chosen out from all others, the secret would have been loose, the manacles would have been on.

Vayal’s witchfinder had earned a degree of fame for being adept in his work. Only a week before, Pahrys had been arrested on the road outside Zeheft, and those who saw the capture swore it was Soran who took the young halfwit over his saddle, shrouded in a cloak, bound and silenced with a gag.

The ill-fated Pahrys was only a distant cousin to Faunos, and only a tiny glimmer of the Power was born in him. He was tall and handsome, with something of the look of the Zehefti kings, but he was much more like the Keltoi, with their wide blue-green eyes. The Power in him allowed no more than tricks.

He would earn coins in the marketplace, performing what the delighted audience assumed was gifted sleight of hand, and no matter how Galen scolded and warned, Pahrys would not be persuaded to stop. It was too easy to make fire sprites dance in the palms of his hands, to make a faded rose seem to bloom again, so the air was heavy with its perfume. Idiots from Vayal, out slumming in Zeheft looking for cheap entertainment, would assume he was a conjurer, and showered his feet with bits of silver.

It took the witchfinder to know the difference between sleight of hand, trickery, and the true gift of the witchboy. Pahrys was most certainly a scion of the House of Diomedas, but he was no seventh son, no heir to the real Power. By chance, he had inherited a knack for tricks. And he died for it.

With a sigh, Faunos clambered back up the cliff path, through the coarse sea grasses. He paused for a moment above the fallen tavern, and looked back along the cliff toward the mouth of the sea cave, the hermitage. It appeared as an ink-dark stain in the false dawn light. He would dive again in a few hours, to retrieve the books, and as he frowned at the cave mouth he whispered to Peseden and Nepti. Please gods, let the the books be dry and safe. Their loss would plunge him into a chasm of ignorance that would consume his whole life.

The walk back to the hut cleared his head as much as the swim, and he was calling himself a bigger fool than Pahrys when he heard Galen’s voice. The light was bright enough by now for him to see his teacher’s pale, seamed face.

The old man stood in the doorway, cradling a hot mug. “I’ve been waiting,” he said in a croaking voice, and coughed hard as he stepped aside to allow Faunos to trudge past him, into the cottage. “You’re still at liberty.”

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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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