Chapter Three - conclusion

The Heart of Imperial Vayal -part two

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"My lord prince." It was Druyus, the priest. The candlelight shone on the man’s gleaming bald head, as if he had polished his scalp. He wore the short white robe of Helios, sandals, and too much jewelry on every finger, wrist, earlobe and ankle. He was on his knees as Soran turned toward him, and he continued into the full prostration, though it was unnecessary for one of his rank. He was making a great show of loyalty and respect, as if he hoped it would earn him favor.

Soran had no love for the man. He could have given him leave to rise, but he was annoyed enough to leave him where he was. "What do you want, priest? I have better things to do tonight than listen to the business of the inquisitor."

"Yet, this remains my business," Druyus said, against the black marble floor.

"All right. But be brief," Soran said tersely. The priest was too good in his work, and much too keen. He worked with the captives who refused to speak, and he had become an expert in the trade.

"The man remains silent," Druyus said breathlessly, no doubt feeling the press of the floor against his ribs. "I fear my lord Azhtoc will be angered by my worthless efforts. I thought, if you were to speak to the man, my lord -- the prince of Vayal -- he would see reason."

"I doubt it," Soran growled. "I’ll give you one moment, Druyus, one moment only. I’m thick with the salt of the sea. I want to bathe and eat, but my father will be waiting for me by now, and I remind you that this is my evening, not his and not yours."

"Your coming of age," Druyus purred against the marble.

"Oh, get up, for the love of heaven," Soran snapped, and stepped back to give the man space to scramble inelegantly back to his feet. He would think twice about making a great display in future. "I do my own work, Druyus. I hunt the creatures, bring them down and haul them here. You want me to do your work also?"

The priest knew he was unwelcome, and bowed back-snappingly low. "Come this way, my lord. I have him secure, in the lower vaults."

The city of Vayal was honeycombed with vaults. Below palace and marketplace, temple and artisans’s shops, the chambers were two and three deep, hewn out of the rock by Zehefti slaves long before Mahanmec Azhtoc’s time. When the Old Kingdom fell, those who did not bend their stiff necks to the new priest-king found themselves swiftly shackled. Their labor built the new city of Vayal. It was said that the mortar of its stones had been mixed with their blood, and Soran believed it.

It was months since he had ventured into the lower vaults, and given the choice he would never be there. Too much pain, too much anguish, made the air sodden, made the rock itself ache, as if it could recall the lives and deaths of all the Zeheftimen who entered in here, but did not leave. When Soran was very young, the hunters brought the creatures in every month, but lately there were fewer, always fewer. In a single generation they had grown scarce, and in another generation, Soran thought, there would be none at all.

The darkness was thick, suffocating. Druyus went ahead, down the stairs which coiled about one massive pillar in the foundations of the palace. Two levels down, he plucked a torch out of a sconce to light the way, and the dense darkness took on a subtle reek. Soran had never known what it was. It might have been bitter herbs and embalming salts and blood, but he fancied it was fear, so heavy on the air that one could smell it.

The lower chambers were all but deserted. A single cell was occupied, at the end of the long, wide passage that bisected the palace’s ancient foundations. A guard’s face turned toward Druyus, and as the man saw Soran he went to his knees. "Up," Soran told him, before he could begin to prostrate. "Up on your feet, man. Just open the door."

The keys were as ancient as the locks. A pivot turned with rat-like squeals of protest, and Druyus stepped aside to let Soran go ahead. The cell was bright in the light of several lamps, and he recognized the prisoner.

The last creature he had brought in was a man of thirty years or so, virile and healthy -- or so Soran remembered him. He was naked, strapped to a chair in the middle of the cell; and at first glance, Soran was sure he was dead.

He looked old, after six weeks in this pit. His head lolled on his chest, his hair was unkempt, and he wore the scars of too many hours spent at Druyus’s tender mercies. Soran lifted the young Zeheftiman’s chin and looked into the dull eyes. No pulse beat in the throat or temples. With a curious gentleness, Soran let the man’s head fall back to his chest, and swung on Druys.

"You’ve killed him priest." As Druyus had killed so many before. Soran’s voice shook with a mix of rage and contempt.

"He was alive when I left him to seek you, my lord," the priest blustered. He knew he was balanced on a knife’s edge. A word from Soran, and it could be Druyus feeding the city’s ravens in the morning. "I swear --"

"I’ve no desire to hear it." Soran straightened and snatched up a lamp. "You can make your excuses to Mahanmec Azhtoc, not to me, and if he decrees that the vultures will have your testicles for supper, I believe I'll hand feed them. It’s time you were punished. Past time. Get out of my way."

It would be far less than Druyus deserved, and Soran still shook with anger as he took the stairs two at a time, climbing back to the inner courtyards, where the last steel-blue twilight and the first white-gold stars were a canopy over palace, temple and city.

The Zeheftimen had to be brought in. It was the law, laid down by Helios himself, out of the mouth of the oracle Leto. They must be questioned for what they knew, for the safety of Vayal, the future of the empire. But nowhere in Helios’s law did it state that the creatures of Zeheft must die; and nowhere did Helios say they should be murdered.

But Druyus enjoyed the work, and Azhtoc let him have it, though there were other methods, much gentler ways to get the truth, before the creatures were taken west into exile, where the terrible magic of the Zehefti witchkind could do no more harm.

Shuffling sounds and panting on the steps behind and below told him the priest was behind him, and on a whim Soran rasped over her shoulder, "Come with me, priest. You’ll tell Azhtoc what you’ve done, and let the priest-king of Vayal, my father, decide what will become of you."

Return to The Heart of Imperial Vayal, part one...

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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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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...

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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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