Chapter Eighteen - conclusion

Zeheft is Burning part three

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The question was so vital, his heart pounded in his ears as he waited for the Oracle to frame words. Everything pivoted on Iridan’s next riddle.

“The Cosmos, by the enchanter’s will,
Is fashioned from chaos -- being woven, still.”

The meaning was convoluted, dense. Soran struggled with it. “You mean, Faunos told me the truth? The foci exist, and the Power is real? Iridan! Help me, damn you!”

“Three gems, three jewels -- of diamonds, all,
Hidden like secrets, till the heavens fall.”

They were real. Soran’s pulse quickened. “Thank you, Iridan,” he murmured. "Do you know where the foci are?”

“The ocean rolls -- not too far, nor too wide
For the jewels fore’er and e’re to hide.”

“They can be found,” Soran whispered, “but even you don’t know where they are. Damnit. Does he have the Power, Iridan? Is Faunos the One?” Silence. “Iridan! If you see all things, answer me! You know I’m not hunting him down to destroy him. We need him -- Vayal needs him, though Azhtoc would cut his own throat before he admitted it. And I need him most of all. Iridan!”

It was a long time before the Oracle answered, and the ethereal voice was almost too soft to be heard. Soran strained to make sense of it,

“Seek thou the learning ... but tarry too long
And shalt thou miss the sweetest, sweetest song.”

And then the enchanter’s web dimmed, the crystal shards seemed to lose their luster and become no more than chips of broken glass. Soran’s pulse drummed in his own ears, a cold sweat broke fromevery pore, and a restless urgency drove him out of the vault.

Time was his enemy. If he let Faunos slip through into the islands, he would be gone forever. Never in his life had Soran been driven by blind faith, but it was an animal, instinctual belief that inspired him now, sent him out of the labyrinth of the Temple of Mayat at a jog.

He left a gold piece for the priests, strapped on his weapons and sandals, and jogged on, down the steep, narrow alleyway that cut a line directly from the lower palatine to the waterfont. He knew the Incari had been in harbor last night, still undergoing repairs after the insane run she had made through the storm.

By now, Priolas would be looking for a cargo, anything that would turn a profit on the voyage back out to Ilios, Abrax, Thebes, and the islands beyond. He might load the galley with fuel oil if he were unlucky in trade, or silver and silk, sweetmeats and joss, if he had he could find the cargo. Soran prayed to any god who would lend him an ear that the Incari would still be tied up.

A few days ago he would have said it was madness to undertake such a hunting. He would have called himself a halfwit, sent for a physician. Now, he knew such truths as haunted him. He had lain with a witchboy, felt the heat of a living body, the suppleness of youth, the eagerness of his mouth, the buttery softness of his insides, as ordinary and vulnerable as any mortal man. He had seen the green fireflies in the Zehefti eyes, heard the ancient wisdom from his lips -- and had it confirmed by Iridan.

Now, Soran knew, and he was so furious with his father, his teachers, his priests, he could barely contain the wrath. If he could have laid his hands on Druyus in those moments, the high priest would have been whimpering in bloody tatters -- which was better than he deserved.

As it was, Druyus could wait. He and Mahanmec Azhtoc would have their chance to speak for themselves when the time came; and they would not speak from a position of authority, much less threat. Soran promised them this much as he strode down to the quayside, and looked for the bright, high prow of the Incari.

Luck was still with him. The galley was berthed not far along the waterfront from the alley Soran had taken down from the temple. Haunted by Faunos -- possessed and inspired by blind faith -- he jogged on along the quay, looking for faces he knew.

“Priolas!” He cupped a hand to his his mouth. “Priolas, are you aboard?”

The master mariner’s face appeared at the rail a moment later -- weather beaten, tanned bronze by sun and sea, still handsome despite the creases inspired by the elements. “Is that the witchfinder? Soran? What brings you back, my lord? We’re just finishing repairs.”

The acent of Incaria was music to the ears. As Soran came to a halt in the shade of the galley’s high side, Priolas let himself down the rope ladder, and for propriety’s sake dropped to one knee at Soran’s feet.

“Up,” Soran said at once. “You know how I despise the bowing and scraping.”

The man's dark brown eyes glittered with amusement. “And I’m glad it does, or I’d have worn my knees out years ago! What can I do for you, Soran, my old friend?”

“Is she seaworthy?” Soran was looking for damage anywhere on the ship, and not seeing it. “Can you sail right now, this moment? Tomorrow will be too late.”

“We’re taking on stores.” Priolas caught the sun-streaked mass of his hair as the wind tossed it into his face, and cocked his head curiously at Soran. “What hornet’s got into your ear?”

“Are you for hire?” Soran gestured at the galley. “You haven’t taken on a cargo?”

“Not yet.” Priolas folded his big arms on his chest. “Where are we heading this time?”

“I’m not sure.” Soran’s teeth closed on his lip. “A galley shoved off from the gypsy beach, early this morning. I didn’t see it leave, and I have no idea which ship she is, but a vile little rodent named Keffek told me she left carrying a passenger. I wondered if harborside gossip is as fast and dirty as it used to be.”

Priolas chuckled. “And do I know what ship floated off just as your soldiers torched the ruins of Zeheft this morning?” He gave Soran a rueful look. “There’s an angel who guards your back, my lord. You have the luck of the damned -- I never knew a man so lucky.” He arched both brows at Soran. “It was the Quezelus, and you’re fortunate again. The only reason Senmet pulled her up on the beach with the water gypsies was a sudden need to look at the steering oar. The lines broke -- and better they should do it in safe, gentle waters than halfway across the Myrmidae.”

Soran could barely believe his good fortune. Priolas and Senmet had been running in convoy for years. “The little maggot, Keffek, knew of only one ship leaving from the beach this morning.”

“And so do I. The Quezelus shipped out alone.” Priolas stood aside. “Are you coming aboard now? I don’t see your baggage, nor a bodyslave.”

“I’ve one last thing to do,” Soran said grimly. “You’ll be off on the evening tide, no question of it -- and you’re under my hire as of this moment. You go where I send you. Agreed?”

“I’d be glad to,” Priolas mused, “but if it’s the Quezelus you want -- or more rightly, the passenger Senmet took aboard -- I can tell you, we’re headed for Thebes. He's loaded with shipnails, and pottery out of the Iliosian kilns, so he’ll be low in the water and running like a lame old buffalo. You want to catch him?”

“Possible?” Soran licked his lips.

Priolas gave him a reproachful look. “I know the route he’ll sail. He’ll be trying to avoid pirate waters -- you know as well as I do what it’s like between here and Thebes! As soon as you get out beyond the Myrmidae, you’re fair game. The only ships the bastards leave be are warships.” He nodded slowly. “We can catch him long before he gets to Thebes, so long as we get out of Vayal on tonight’s tide. Miss it, ride the morning tide out, and I’ll make you no promises.”

“I’ll be aboard before sundown,” Soran promised, “but if anything stops me -- don’t wait for me, Priolas. Get after the Quezelus, get to her before she makes Thebes. And have Senmet turn her around, bring her back to Vayal … without letting his passenger know why. Mark me well here: his passenger is a young Zeheftman. Very beautiful, very intelligent, educated. His name is Faunos. Don’t let him know where the ship is headed. He’ll know you’ve turned around, but have Senmet tell him some tale about rendezvousing with another vessel to pick up another passenger before he heads on to Thebes. Understand?”

The mariner dropped a bow before him. “Understood … and if I may say it, Soran -- my lord -- you’re making even less sense than usual.”

At last Soran indulged himself in a chuckle. He caught Priolas’s wrist in a warrior clasp and then turned away toward the alleys which ran back up to the palatine. “Trust me. You’ll be well paid, and I’ll be aboard before the tide turns in any case.”

Then he ran, hugging any patch of shade he could find as he took the alley back up to the levels where the nobility lived -- and where he might easily have bought a villa for himself, for Faunos. Those days might never be, but of one thing he was determined.

Faunos Phinneas Aeson was not going to simply vanish, taking with him everything Soran had ever desired, and any slender chance of survival Vayal still had.

Turn page to Chapter Nineteen...

Return to Chapter Seventeen...

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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