Chapter Fifteen


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Evening shadows pooled like dark, still water along the terraces, and a sea wind had risen out of the south. Its fingers reached into temple and palace, chill and welcome. Soran was tired. Even after a long, cool bath and massage, his limbs ached. A dozen abrasions smarted on knees, elbows, ankles, and tonight they annoyed him like a swarm of mosquitoes. He had eaten without tasting the food -- fish, crabs, fruit -- and the wine tasted heavy in his mouth.

Sunset would be bloody, and his mood had begun to darken as he watched the first flushes of scarlet and crimson begin to gather in the west. A column of horsesoldiers had left just after the games, and not long after midnight everyone in Vayal would see the smoke from Zeheft. It would be in every nostril, cloying, impossible to escape for bondsman and priest-king alike.

He was sitting on a long marble bench above the terraced pool, brooding on the city, the harbor, the future. All trace of the storm was gone and the sea was calm, heaving gently like a cauldron of molten lead.

Footsteps were sharp, echoing back off the thirty-six columns of the palace’s south vestibule, and a glance over his shoulder made Soran’s pulse quicken. It was Baobo, hurrying along with a scribe in tow, and if the smug look on the man’s heavy-jowled face was anything to go by, the news was all good.

Soran set down the wine cup and stood. Silk rustled about his limbs as the breeze picked up the short tunic, and his skin prickled. Silk always felt like the touch of a lover, and tonight the word meant only Faunos.

“My lord.” Baobo knelt and the lowly scribe prostrated. “A man arrived minutes ago from a town in the hills just east of the old city. They’ve seen your Zeheftiman, and they know where he is.”

“They’re sure?” Soran’s eyes were hard on him.

“They described him perfectly. The red hair, the Keltoi features and complexion, the fine rings in his ears and nipples, the way he moves like a dancer.” Baobo swallowed. “My lord, there is more, and it’s not news you’ll relish.”

Soran hissed a breath through his teeth. “Your baboons have injured him?”

“No, my lord.” Baobo shifted on his knees, uncomfortable on the marble flagstones.

“Stand.” Soran beckoned him to his feet. “And if it’s bad news, for gods’ sakes make it brief.”

The soldier heaved himself to his feet and appeared to steel himself. “My lord, the young man’s looks aren’t Keltoi. They’re Zehefti. The people who saw him won’t go near him, for fear of being struck blind, or losing their wits, or turning to stone.” He met Soran’s eyes grimly. “They saw him work the Power.”

Disbelief twisted through Soran. “They’re wrong. They don’t know what they saw.”

An edge in his voice made Baobo duck his head. “You’re … probably right, my lord, but they swear they know that they saw. There was an accident in the street -- the Zehefti was trapped under a wagon. It would have taken three men to lift it off him, and that slip of a youth lifted it away, as if it were a sack of goose feathers.” He shuffled awkwardly, taking a pace backward as if he feared Soran’s fury. “My lord, I’m sorry … it’s what they say. What they saw.”

“And it will be for me to decide,” Soran growled. “I’m the witchfinder. Not them, and not you.” He took a long breath. “It’s possible it’s not the same man at all. What else did they say of him?”

Baobo pitched his voice carefully. “That he fled over the hill in the direction of what used to be the harbor and marketplace. He had come into the village looking for a physician. He said he had a friend, injured, too weak to be moved. And they saw a mark on his hip, or perhaps on his arse. It might have been a birthmark or an old brand -- the shape of a sea eagle, my lord. Does it mean anything to you?”

It did. Soran’s mouth dried. He swallowed on a sore throat and looked away. The birthmark confirmed the man’s identity, there could be no mistake. But it would not have been the first time that townspeople had panicked over nothing. He had known halfwits from the villages see witchboys behind every bush, and a handful of the young men who had been reported were not even Zehefti, nor even Keltoi, but only had something of their look.

“Get a saddle on the fastest horse in the stable,” he said grimly, “and send a messenger to my father. Tell him … I’m working tonight. There’s a mystery to be solved in the ruins before the fires are set.”

The captain bowed. “I’ll tell the divine Azhtoc you’ve gone for the witchboy.”

“You’ll say nothing of the kind,” Soran snapped. “There’s no evidence other than the inane babble of a couple of moronic peasants from an outland village. However, I have a vested interest in this individual, and it pleases me to go and find the evidence -- if any such thing exists -- myself. You’ll tell my father no more and no less than I told you.”

“My lord.” Baobo fell back to his knees. “I’ll have them saddle the tall white stallion. He’s the fastest, though he’s a demon to handle --”

“I can handle him.” Soran was already moving, heading back to his apartment to change. If he was headed out on witchfinder’s business, he would wear the amulet of his office, and his weapons, the tools of his trade. He knew the horse Baobo meant. The animal was half wild, but he was like the wind. Baobo had no love for horses. He had come up out of the infantry, his siblings were sailors, and like most people he had a healthy respect for any stallion, wild ones in particular.

As he stepped into the vestibule he heard the soldier shouting for a stableman and an acolyte. The horse would be saddled in minutes, and the young novitiate would take the message to Azhtoc. Not that Azhtoc would be interested until the ‘mystery’ had been investigated, and a witchboy delivered to the vaults for questioning.

Even then, Azhtoc had an interest in only one specific witchboy. Until or unless Soran had clasped the manacles upon the One foretold in the prophecy, the priest-king of Vayal remained indifferent.

When the day came, he would execute the One with his own hand, in a ritual designed by long-dead priests -- it would be Helios, clad in the flesh and bones of his vessel on earth who struck the blow for the liberation of the City of the Sun, and all of Vayal would rejoice.

The apartment was lit softly with many lamps. The sun had dipped down and the south-facing rooms were already dim. The sea wind was lively, and the air cool, fragrant with joss. Lydias was absent, more than likely arranging a dinner Soran would not be here to eat. For once, he threw open the great carved chests and looked to his own needs.

Heavy sandals and cloak, the harness for his swords, the same kind of leather loincloth he had worn on the court, and around his neck, the thick gold chain of the amulet. It was solid, weighty in his hands, too familiar, and overfilled with memories. The pleading faces of too many young Zeheftimen looked out of the dark corners in his mind.

With an intense effort of will he thrust away the images and hung the amulet about his neck. It was a circle set into an oval, with the sun-star shape of Helios stamped into both its surfaces. The weight was wickedly familiar on the back of his neck, shifting there as he caught his hair up to bind it --

And it was then that memory stirred.

His brain had been faithfully recording sounds, smells, feelings, while his mind flew high as eaglehawk, wafted out of his senses by the thrill of the Zeheftiman, the freeman virgin lover. Yet the mundane things were still there, filed away in musty corners, if only he cared to peer into them. Some angel -- or demon, he allowed -- jogged his memory, and once its spur was sunk into his flesh and smarting, he could not ignore it.

Turn page to Chapter Fifteen part two...

Return to Chapter Fourteen...

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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