The Oracle

Thus Spake Iridan

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O, such passions blaze within the human breast, such great loves, great lusts and fancies as would burn the world, if only the gods were less vigilant -- or more indulgent with the whims of men. And here is Soranchele, whom I watched come into this world, Soran who has left behind the days and years of childhood and embraced manhood, long since.

On this eve, not even his great father shall order him to stay or go, for the night belongs to those who seize it, and the gods have gifted it to him like a kiss. Shall I tell thee of the days of this seventh son of the seventh son, in whose veins flows the blood of the kings of Vayal?

I would tell thee of a boy who grew to manhood filled with doubt and anger, of a young man in whose heart is a vast yearning to know things and understand them, to take the measurement of the globe of the world, to hear the argument of the most base sinner and weigh it against the feather of divine Mayat.

For, all his life has he been told of the evils of the Others, the outlanders, the people of Zeheft, and since his twentieth year he has ridden the roads of the Imperial islands, hunting for the boys in whose flesh is reborn the power and heritage of Diomedas.

Yet when he has taken these youths in his hands, brought them back to the vaults of Vayal where creatures like Druyus prowl, more vile than the serpents of the Lower Realms were Hados and Tartaru yawn away beneath the sunlit world of men -- in these moments when Soran has taken the young men of Zeheft in his hands, he has found them as mortal and vulnerable, as fragile, as himself.

All this have I seen in the heart and mind of Soranchele Izamal-xiu Ulkan. He believes himself tainted like rotten fruit for the blood he has spilled, the lives he has ruined. Yet it is the charge and duty of the witchfinder to safeguard Imperial Vayal. It is the fate of the seventh son of the priest-king to place upon his head the circlet of the witchfinder, and wear upon his breast the gold amulet of this rank.

The office is assigned by the gods, not offered; nor can it be refused by the seventh son, for so many years of tradition weigh upon it.

Three of Soran’s brothers were fated to be warriors, and one of them is dead already. Three of them are priests, gelded eunuchs whose lives are dedicated to the everlasting glory of Helios. Suspended between the two castes is Soran, who is both priest and warrior, and into whose strong hands was placed the task of the huntsman.

His quarry is odd, elusive, and the hunt is demanding. The Zeheftimen, in whom the power is born in even this late generation, are rare among their people. They have become adept at hiding, and their fellows labor to protect them. Soran’s task is bitter, and his hands are often bloody. He has killed; he will kill again in the pursuit of duty, work, honor, and his limbs bear many scars, testimony to the quarry’s will to live.

All this would I tell thee of Soran, for he would never speak of it himself. From his lips will pass no syllable of the pain and doubt he feels, the grief and shame that have come to lie like a cloak upon his shoulders. To speak of this would be called treason, and not even the son of Azhtoc would be spared the wrath of the Jackal Throne.

He bathes now, in cool water, and his hair streams like a blue-black cascade down his spine. He stands naked in the sea wind by the window, high above the city of Vayal, watching the last blue glimmer of twilight die out of the western sky. Night falls like a shroud over the island of the Atlantan, and tonight Vayal mourns a little more.

To be sure, Zeheft is gone, the great enemy has been purged at the hands of Volcos and Hurucan and Peseden. For this, the people of Vayal celebrate. Yet ships without number have been lost from the harbor of Vayal, and twice a hundred houses in the old city are filled with weeping tonight.

The sea wind dries Soran’s skin, and a bodyslave rubs him with scented oil while he drinks a cup of wine. For once, he thinks, I will put aside the blood and doubt. For once, just a single night, I will go out as a man -- not as the son of Azhtoc, before whom the people of Vayal must prostrate. Not even as a warrior, from whom they flee in fear, nor as a priest, before whom they must offer themselves for coupling or death, at the whim of Helios. But as a man, among men.

The joy of owning the choice blazes up in him again. He seizes the bodyslave’s face between his hands and kisses his mouth in the bliss of celebration. Tonight, the boy is become the man, and he feels a freedom he has never imagined.

The bodyslave dresses him in gold sandals and silk, a wrap for his hips, a cloak against the unaccustomed cold, rings and bracelets as befit a nobleman; but when the Aegyptian youth fetches back the amulet of the witchfinder, Soran fends him off.

Not tonight. Not that.

O, it is I, Iridan, Oracle, who sees the twists and tangles of a future these men of Vayal and Zeheft can barely even imagine. And before them do I see such ruin as would break the heart of me, if only I had a heart to break. I see chaos, and the day that will come when the very heavens fall from the skies, and no prayer the priests and kings of Vayal can utter will prevent it.

One has the power, latent and inchoate in his breast, and he is not far from Vayal. If Azhtoc knew he lived and was so near, he would live little longer. One has the power, still, but he has grown up as a poor boy, fishing for his supper and listening to the counsel of an old man who has lately been called mad. Galen is not mad, he was never mad, but the rambling reminiscences of age are dismissed by youth, and in the end only come to be scorned.

And here is Soran, my sweet young Soran, come at last to manhood. He drinks to the health and glory of his great father with a vast gathering of the nobles of Vayal, before he slips away into the shadows beyond the lamplight. From within gauze drapes which hide his face and form from the mortal gathering, the priest-king watches him go with angry eyes, and calls forth a guard.

Soran will be followed, no matter what he desires or where he goes. If he will be whoring in the taverns along the beaches where the water gypsies camp, so be it -- but he will be guarded by men whose skill is to be like the shadows. Perhaps he will never know they were there; but Azhtoc will know where Soran was, and with whom he spent this night.

The young man slips like a wraith out of the palace, and only the guards and the cats know he has gone. The revels go on without him. His father buries his face in the luscious bosom of his favorite courtesan. The wine flows, the music soars while Soran slips from shadow to shadow under the white face of the moon. In moments he is on the best horse in the stable, heading fast away from Vayal.

He has no love for the priest-kings, though their line is his own -- this could I tell you. He knows nothing of the carnage, the terror and brutal wrath that tore down the Old Kingdom and raised up the new. These things are hidden, few know of them.

Tonight Soran goes forth as a common man, yet the ruse is transitory, hollow. And Iridan has seen what will be. On a thousand nights no different from this one, Soranchele Izamal-xiu Ulkan will give his heart and lose an empire -- and will call himself the victor.

Shall I tell thee, now, of the last lays of the Old Kingdom? I would speak of how the priests came up like a storm out of the west and sundered the temple of Zeheft, and as they threw down and shattered its columns they swore it was the power of demons out of Hados, not the elder gods, that had built it.

They feasted upon the terror of the Zeheftimen, grew rich on the spoils of plunder, and strong with the might of the Keltoi mercenaries, whose armies marched out of the east to buttress the ranks of Vayal. But all this is nothing, not now. The years have gathered, deep and dank and heavy with cobwebs, since the priest-kings of Vayal came to rule the empire of the Atlantan --

But not much longer. Not when Hurucan comes boiling out of the depths of the very air, and brings the great water that, stone by stone, has taken the outer realms and pitched them into the sea like broken toys. Not when Zeheft is already engulfed, and tonight the people of Vayal are standing on their own shores and remarking in whispers on how much higher the sea is lapping upon the breakwater.

Soran knows. He has heard the whispers, and seen the truth with his own eyes. Still, he is young, and twenty years of lectures have filled his head with the nonsense his great father also believes. Soon enough Soran will know the truth. Sooner than he knows, he will fall into an abyss a thousand miles deep, from which there is no escape.

For Soran is heading to the wanderers’ camps on the beaches between Vayal and Zeheft, there to meet with his destiny. It is the single meeting for which he was born.

The witchboy also is alone and lonely on this night, and Iridan watches him still, as I have watched him all the years since his birth. I shall watch him until the moment of his death, and on that day shall I grieve like a father, like a lover, and like a son, for Faunos Phinneas Aeson is the last of the old blood. He is the secret and the Power --

And if Soran discovers this, the witchfinder is bound by honor to fetch him back to Vayal, or else commit such treason as will consign his own flesh to Druyus, who is vile as the slug and the toad never were. Druyus would salivate to welcome him, as Soran is keenly aware.

Page back to Chapter Five...

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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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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