Chapter Three

The Heart of Imperial Vayal

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He was Soranchele Izamal-xiu Ulkan, the seventh son of the priest-king Uxmal Mahanmec Azhtoc, and he strode through the outer galleries of his father's palace on the night of his coming of age.

The last scarlet and purple tones of sunset brooded over the western ocean, but the storm had passed on. Its tail still lashed, but its fury was almost spent. Vayal had battened down, and as Soran walked up from the quay where the Incari had tied up, he watched the boards and ropes that had safeguarded roofing and walls being taken down. Hammers beat a tattoo across the city, and in the morning the work gangs would come in to demolish the few buildings that had been damaged beyond repair.

Like a great golden spire, the temple of Helios had withstood the onslaught of wind and ocean. The quays of Vayal were safe, and high above the city, where the view of the harbor was without compare, the palace itself smelt of sea and joss, ocean and spice. Lamps fluttered in the evening wind as Soran made his way in from the white marble courtyards. The coolness prickled his skin, reminding him for a moment of the gale into which he had stared from the bow of the galley. Death had never seemed so close as the minutes when the Incari ran the gauntlet of the Myrmidae, yet Soran had rarely felt so alive.

And then, as the galley turned toward Vayal, he saw a line of sails on the horizon. The Zehefti were fleeing, and no one would blame them. The only question in Soran's mind was, where were they fleeing to? With Kush and Nefti already lost to the sea, and Ilios rank with contagion, they should have come to Vayal.

But the people of Zeheft had never been welcome in this city, and even now, when they faced the extinction of their kind, Vayal would grant them little succor. All Soran's life, this had been the way, and if a voice were raised in protest it would soon be answered with wrath. Wisely, the men of Vayal remained silent, but the dread they would never utter was written in their faces.

The outer lands had been gone for years, and not all the prayers of all the priests in Vayal had kept the earth and sky at peace. If Zeheft were destroyed, how long would it be before Hurucan and Peseden come for Vayal?

The question itself was treason, and no one was about to speak it aloud, but it simmered in the mind of everyone in the city tonight. Soran saw it in the dark eyes of Azhtoc's people, in the instant before they prostrated before the priest-king's tall seventh son, upon whose dark head the double crown of the Old and New Kingdoms would one day rest.

If the kingdoms existed when the time came, Soran though sourly. Uxman Mahanmec Azhtoc was far from elderly. Many years of rule stretched on before him, before Soran could expect to stand beside of the funeral pyre, speak the grand words and light the taper that sent his father's soul to join their ancestors.

Long before Azhtoc expired, the empire would be gone, and every man in Vayal knew it -- save possibly Mahanmec Azhtoc himself. He was blinded by the glorious radiance of Helios, Soran was sure. Prophecies made timeworn by the ages spoke clearly to him, while the pleas of his people, even his own sons, were easy to ignore.

Two score priests of Helios knelt as they saw Soran approaching. The more lowly priests and acolytes prostrated, and two temple lay brothers doing penance for some fancied sin went down in his path, so he would tread on their raw, flogged backs, and bestow the blessing that could only be gleaned from royal touch. Soran had no idea what the brothers had done, and he walked over them with an expression of disdain. Their faith was less simple that witless, and in the sight of Azhtoc they were as worthless as the captives who labored in chains in the palace gardens.

Shadows wreathed him as he left the priests behind. The green eyes of leashed jaguars and leopards blinked sleepily at him. A pall of joss smoke shifted on the heavy air, and his pupils widened as he stepped into a realm of fat gold candles and slender eunuchs, billowing gauze and doe-eyed courtesans who ambushed him with smiles and obeisance.

The night of his coming of age was reason for all of Vayal to celebrate, and the palace was dressed in scarlet and blue. A pair of macaws shrieked from their perches in the audience chamber, where slaves from Nefti and Kush were sluicing the green marble floors with rosewater. Soran glanced at them and passed on into the private chambers.

The light there was gold, the air heavy with the scents of seduction. Houris lounged in the inner courtyards, waiting to serve the royal household and the temple, and several seemed to be watching for his return. One was more beautiful than the other, and he knew them all. They were from Ilios and Incaria, Aegyptos and Kriti, Keltoi in the east and Jaymaca in the west; and a few were from the distant lands where the Jaguar Kings claimed descent from darker gods than any who had ever held dominion over Vayal or Zeheft.

The women were sumptuous, the boys ripe and luscious, the eunuchs tall, slender and gorgeous. Soran graced them with a smile -- they were waiting to see which one he would choose for the night of his coming of age, but he passed on once more. Every houri in the palace was his father's hireling. Each was carefully selected -- this one for the lean perfection of his muscles, that one for the great roundness of her breasts, the next for the length of his legs, or the ripe pout of her mouth, or the lustrous cape of his hair. Not one among them was less than perfect in his own her own way, and tonight Soran wanted none of them.

Tonight, he would choose. He was of age, and he had the right. He would have passed by them all, continued to his own chambers, but a voice called him back. A thin, brittle voice which sought to ingratiate and only aggravated him.

Turn page to the conclusion of Chapter 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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