Chapter Eighteen - continued

Zeheft is Burning part two

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His feet took him down the long, stepped terraces, through orange, palm and olive groves, and at last into the palatine itself. White-walled, garden-roofed villas and demi-palaces shimmered in the sun. Slaves carried water, pulled weeds, swept pathways, exercised hounds, groomed horses, plied to and forth from the markets, but of the Atlantan nobility there as no sign. They drowsed through the afternoon heat, and only came alive again in the evening cool, when a single celebration could command a whole avenue.

The canyon-like alleys of the palatine led down, and down again, eventually to the quayside, but Soran was not going so far. The harbor was a glittering blue-green carpet beneath him, and he could smell the fishmarket when he turned right into the shade of palms and cedars, and stepped into the cool, fragrant twilight of the Temple of Mayat.

Vast expanses of white marble and obsidian, onyx and alabaster, defied the heat. Lapis lazuli and gold filigree delighted the eyes, and the dim, cool air was fragrant with joss. Priests moved like wraiths in the shadowed alcoves between the columns, but they knew him on sight, and did not approach.

Like any common man, Soran cast off his cloak, weapons and sandals. He left his belongings on a pink marble bench to the left side of the portico, and -- like any commoner -- he washed hands, face and feet at the long alabaster fountains. The water smelt of roses and jasmine. Its chill was welcome, and he wet his hair, plastered it back from his face, before he turned into the passage which meandered into the heart of the temple.

Acolytes, priests and lay brothers prostrated as he passed them; no one stood in his way, nor asked his business. It was many years since Soran had last cared to visit the Temple of Mayat, but nothing here had changed. Nothing was allowed to change.

The passage grew dimmer, the further he walked; only an occasional lamp lit the way. The temple was cut deeply back into the hillside, and the air was soon chill indeed. A great arched, golden gate, forged around the disk face of Helios, closed off the sanctum, but it was never locked. The mechanism was intricate, with six latches and bolts. He remembered them all. Though no one offered to help him, no one questioned his right to step through into the vault.

Few people outside the temple ever entered here; it was the place of high priests, seers, oracles, all of whom desired utter silence and privacy. The rock chamber was lit by many candles which warmed it just a little above an icy chill. An altar commanded the east wall, adorned with the symbols and sigils of Mayat. She was the goddess of justice, fairness, compassion, clear thinking and reason -- and there was no better place, Soran thought wryly, for the soul of an oracle to be trapped and imprisoned.

Fauos had called it an enchanter’s net, but Soran would have called it a web. Two candles, each as thick as his forearm, burned to either side, and a bronze urn stood directly before it, waiting for the sacrificial offering -- flowers, fruit, wine. Blood. At the back of the altar was a vast gold and platinum framework wrought in the shape of a tree. And draped over its boughs was the web in which Iridan, Oracle, had been trapped.

Made of gold filaments, sparkling with crystal shards which made Soran think of the Eye of Helios itself, the web seemed to shimmer and shift, passing in and out of focus while the candlelight refracted off the stones. The mortal eye was fooled into seeing it where it was not, and being blind to where it was. Soran shivered at the sight of it, and rubbed his arms.

He had seen it before, but as a child he had assumed it was part of the paraphernalia dedicated to the worship of the goddess, or perhaps a mere decoration. Now, he knew differently -- and it was knowledge no priest would ever have shared with him.

An unearthly cold seeped into the marrow of his bones, and he cleared his throat, hunting for his voice. “Iridan?” He spoke in a bare whisper. “Iridan, Oracle, are you here? The witchboy bade me come here … and if you are the Oracle, you’ll know this. Faunos Phinneas Aeson, the last Prince of Zeheft, bade me speak with you.”

For a long moment there was only crypt-like silence, in which his own voice sounded hoarse and unpardonably loud, though he had only whispered. And then a murmur rustled around the vault, thin and insubstantial, less a voice than a rush of air which somehow made words.

“Ask thou a question; shalt thou, then, hear
Some answer, some truth -- to thy joy … or thy fear.”

Soran groaned audibly. “Gods, is it to be riddles? I know who you are! You’re Iridan, who was trapped here, and they won’t free you because they need your vision. But you must know me, Oracle. I’m not one of them. I came here for very different reasons, and if you have even a hundredth part of the vision they say, you already know.” He glared at the web, the net. “Will you speak to me? They say you watch all things. This is true?

“All lives of men pass before mine eye…
I, who cares neither for the truth, nor the lie.”

“Speak plainly with me,” Soran muttered. “You know damned well I was with the witchboy!” Silence. “I don’t suppose,” he said icily, “you would be decent enough to give me a plain answer if I asked you where in Hados he’s gone?”

The loudest sound in the vault was Soran’s own breathing, but the air stirred through the net, making the candles stutter, and he heard the ethereal whisper.

“The ocean is wide. The drowned lands
“Cradle many souls, many hearts, between tender hands.”

For a moment Soran blinked at the web, where the crystals shone more brightly. “Are you telling me the witchboy has taken a ship bound for the outer realms?” Again Iridan said nothing, as if a clue were all he was prepared to offer. He had set Soran the hunt of his life. He already knew Faunos was on a trading galley, and the ship was heavy under cargo; Keffek would have had no reason to invent what he had said.

So the galley was on her way out to trade, not inbound, trying to make harbor in Vayal. More than a thousand islands and islets had been mapped, and as many more had not yet been, and might never be charted. If Faunos wanted to hide, Soran might search for a lifetime and not find him. He groaned his frustration to the vault and summoned patience.

He pressed his face into both hands and said, “Do you know what the Zeheftiman told me? Where you listening?”

“All do I hear, and all, never forget ..
Past, present, future -- all are one, and yet…”

Soran pounced. “Then you know Faunos told me that Vayal will be drowned, as surely as Zeheft and the outer realms.” The Oracle made no response. Soran’s voice rose. “Answer!”

“Ask thou a question -- and, if I can
Answer, I shall speak to thee, mortal man.”

The Oracle’s riddling speech had begun to probe like splinters under Soran’s fingernails. “Will Vayal be drowned, damnit?”

“The ocean is mother, father and kin…
All things shall, anon, her embraces sleep in.”

His mouth dried out to sand. “So Faunos spoke the truth. He has books, Iridan, ancient books that teach the histories, the magicks, the prophecies. You never told this to my father or the priests of any temple. Why did you not tell them?”

“A thousand times have I whispered rare secrets; but they
Hear only the truths they desire me to say.”

“They’re such fools,” Soran said, angry, bitter and sad at once. “Iridan -- straight answers, if you can speak them. I’ve no time to riddle with you, and I need to know, not to guess. You you understand? Did Fauos lie when he told me of the Power? Three foci, he said, with the Power to hold back the sea. Is this the truth? Or is it just the dream of a mad old man and an outcast boy?”

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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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