Chapter Nineteen - conclusion

The Tomb of Knowledge part three

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The man went to his god without a sound, without a drop of blood, and without even realizing what had happened. His neck snapped cleanly, death was swift, kind, and he was in the embrace of Helios in an instant. Soran hefted the body over his shoulder and with great care made his way up the steps into the evening sunlight.

By all accounts, the gardens should be deserted at this hour, but he took the time to make sure. Gongs were ringing across temple and palace to call people to the tables. This scribe would have been returning to the library to cover his inks, roll his parchment, clean his brushes. It should be morning before anyone discovered the body -- and even then, they would have to stumble over it in the dense oleanders and hibiscus, behind the figures of Apollonos and Hurucan.

Breathing heavily, Soran teased the bushes back into place until the disturbance was covered. No one saw him make his way to the gate where the gardeners came and went about their work. He slipped like a thief between the sheds where they kept their tools, and climbed the lowest wall which separated the temple gardens from the orange groves.

From there, he cut a zigzag route down to the canyon-like alleys of the palatine. At this time of day they were deep in shade, but every brick and paving stone was still roasting after the heat of afternoon. The air felt thick in his lungs as he dropped into a fast, steady pace, headed down to the water.

On both sides were high white walls with locked gates. From within came the sounds of industry and entertainment, of tables been laid, wine being fetched in, musicians tuning, singers trying out their voices. The revels would soon begin, and would go on until dawn; but by that time Soran wanted to be far away.

Time was against him. Well before he reached the waterfront, he saw the shape of Priolas’s sail out in the harbor, and he cupped his hands to his mouth to shout. As he broke out onto the quay, he saw Priolas at the rail -- heard him shouting back.

“I left a boat! A boat!” He stabbed a finger along the quay. “Damnit, I knew you’d be late! Hurry, my lord!”

The boat was hitched to a bronze ring, bobbing beside the steps at high tide. Sitting at the oars was a waterman whose muscles shone in the evening sun. He steadied the craft as Soran stepped down into it, and threw the line over onto the quay. Soran caught his breath as he watched the boatman throw his weight against the oars. Muscles swelled with effort, and the Vayal waterfront fell away.

With a curious sensation he watched the familiar buildings diminish, until figures on the piers were like ants and the sun-glitter off the harbor waters made him turn his face away. He would see Vayal again at the pleasure of Hurucan and Peseden, and even if he returned, it might be many summers, many winters, before he walked the avenues of the palatine again.

“Come in alongside!” Priolas was shouting to the boatman. “Soran -- my lord! -- catch the line, we’ll pull you up. Where in Hados were you? We thought you weren’t coming.”

“I was detained,” Soran shouted as he twisted around and watched a thick, woven hemp rope come snaking down toward him. He caught it, thrust his foot into its noose, and waved up at the deck. “Lift away!”

The rope squealed through its wooden block, high overhead. Soran seemed to soar up out of the boat, and after a moment of curious dislocation he landed lightly on the deck. Priolas had only been waiting for his feet to touch down before he bawled orders in several languages, and the yardarm swung over. The great ivory sail caught the evening wind at once, and the Incari leaned over to ride it.

The deck canted steeply under Soran’s feet, but he was long accustomed to ships. He caught the nearest line for balance and gave Priolas a look of wry amusement. “How long before the Quezelus can expect to see Thebes?”

“Under her weight of cargo -- three days,” Priolas told him. She wallows like a pig in the mud when she’s heavy, and I watched the cargo carried aboard. She’s loaded -- and she’ll be island-hugging, trying to stay out of the way of pirates. Senmet’s been fighting a running battle with some of them for years. It’ll come to blood and fire one day, maybe soon.”

The outer islands were full of brigands. These were not the same pirates who had long ago agreed to sail beneath the banners of Vayal. Those captains had grown tame, fat and idle, with villas on the palatine, in the days of Soran’s ancestors. A new breed hunted in the outer realms now, and master mariners like Priolas were rightly cautious.

“We’ll catch the Quezelus,” he promised. “I know exactly where Senmet will be -- but still, we’ve no time to tarry … and there’s danger.”

“There always is,” Soran said tersely. “Keep a tally of what I owe you, and if you can get me back to Vayal in one piece, for all I care you can have the keys to Azhtoc’s treasure vaults.”

Priolas’s dark eyes widened, and he indulged in a chuckle. “Well, now, it won’t be cheap, my lord prince, but I won’t rob you. You know me better than that.”

“I do.” Soran dropped a hand on the mariner’s wide shoulder. “First -- catch the Quezelus. With her passenger aboard, where I can see him … I can think about what course to set next, and what to do.”

“As you say.” Priolas was vastly amused. “Will you dine with me tonight? In fact, you can take my cabin till dawn. I’ve a lot of work to do ... and you look ragged, Soran. What have you been doing?”

The observation was keen, and Soran did not deny it. “My job,” he said simply. “And I’ve been reading.” He dropped his voice. “I paid a visit to the library.”

Now, Priolas’s brow creased, and he toyed with the heavy rings in his left ear. “I’m Incari, born and bred, and even I know you should never have been there. The knowledge entombed in that place is said to be sacred, reserved for the eyes of priests.”

“Is it?” Soran leaned against the rail and drowned up into Priolas’s face angular, handsome face, with its heavy brows and evening beard shadow. “How do you know what’s hidden in that library? Sacred, is it? Or is it wicked? Is it the kind of wickedness that would blacken Vayal and curse my ancestors?”

The mariner hesitated and drew both big hands across his face. “What do you know? What have you read?”

“Later,” Soran assured him. “When I’ve rested and eaten, I’ll share what I learned.”

“Damnit, Soran,” Priolas hissed, “what storm are you sending this crew into?”

“Later,” Soran repeated, “and I’ll not be sending you and your crew into anything. If you don’t like what you hear, take me as far as Thebes and say farewell. The Zeheftiman and I will doubtlessly make our way from there. But,” he admitted, “I’d rather make this voyage with friends, men I can trust.”

For some time Priolas studied the horizon blindly. “Uncharted waters, new seas, fresh markets, treasures unknown, riches unimaginable?” He lifted a brow at Soran; Soran answered with a nod. “Then, there’d be profit in it. Likely as not, we’d sail home rich enough to buy the Jackal Throne if Azhtoc were actually interested in selling it.” He gave Soran a hard look. “If I had any sense, I’d put you and this damned Zeheftiman of yours off in Thebes, turn my back on this voyage, pick up a cargo for Vayal and pocket whatever profit I can wring out of it.”

“But you won’t,” Soran said tiredly. He stretched his back, only now acknowledging how weary he was, how much yesterday’s bruises and abrasions were still hurting, how hunger gnawed at his belly and thirst dried his throat. “You’ll chase a fortune -- you’re an Incari mariner, like your father and four generations of your clan before you! You can’t resist a challenge with a sack of gold and jewels at the end of it -- you never could.”

At last Priolas chuckled. “You know me too well -- and you’ve known me too long. Come and bathe, Soran, get some food into you.” He looked the witchfinder up and down critically. “I notice you still have no baggage, and no bodyslave. You’ll be wanting a man’s necessaries.”

“Tally it,” Soran said, gruff with tiredness.

“Perhaps. And perhaps there are small friendships that can, and should, be extended between men who’ve known each other too long.” Priolas gestured toward the deckhouse. “Come below, catch your breath. Sleep, if you can. You can tell me soon enough what you learned in the library.” His frown deepened on Soran. “Do the librarian priests know you were there?”

The deckhouse was hot and dim, but as Soran clambered down the steep spiral stairs the temperature swiftly dropped. Priolas’s cabin was half under the waterline, half above, and blessedly cool as the sea. Incari rugs, tapestries and cushions gave it a plush aspect, while the tools of the master mariner’s trade reminded him it was as much workshop as bedchamber. A white cat lay grooming on the end of the single wide bed, and a chameleon sat drowsing in the shaft of sun that fell in through the sternports.

Vayal lay on the horizon now, tiny with distance. He blinked at it, and part of him wondered how he came to be here -- and where he might be going. Zeheft was still burning. With distance, he saw most of the bay, and the pall from the old city’s pyre glowered in the west, gray-green and evil. When the wind fell, or shifted, the whole island would be blanketed.

He heard liquid splashing into a pair of cups, and Priolas had slapped one into his hand when he repeated, “My lord prince, I asked if the librarian priests know you were in their vault!”

“Not yet.” The cup was brimming with watered wine. Soran drank it to the dregs without taking a breath and handed it back. “More. And yes, the priests will know soon enough that someone was in their precious library ... though they won’t know what was read, and until the seventh son of Mahanmec Azhtoc vanishes, they won’t guess who invaded their vault.” He gestured vaguely in its direction. “I killed a scribe to safeguard myself. They’ll discover the body in the morning, but they won’t know who sent him to Helios. Eventually Azhtoc and Druyus will reason that it could only be me, but for a two, three days they won’t want to believe it. They’ll be waiting for me to return with a witchboy for interrogation, and they’ll delight in blaming the death of the scribe on him.”

“Are you sure?” Priolas refilled the cup and passed it back to him. “Be sure!”

“You don’t trust me?” Soran drank half the second cup and perched his buttocks on the edge of the chart table. “You’ve always trusted me.”

“I still do,” Priolas allowed.

“Then stop fretting about the library. Vayal will keep. And have your steward feed me!” Soran slapped his belly. “Just catch the Quezelus before she berths in Thebes, and … let me think.”

He knuckled his eyes, which were hot, gritty, sore. The smoke of Zeheft was still in them, and in his lungs. He was aware of Priolas’s frowns as the steward came down, but for the moment the Incari set aside his questions. He was burning to know what was behind Soran, driving him like a goblin with a whip in either hand.

Given the choice of mutton or fish, he chose fish, and sprawled on the settle under the sternports to eat. At last Priolas shook his head in complete exasperation, and retreated to the deck. Soran ate without even tasting the food, chewing mechanically while his thoughts fled across time and distance.

The future had a way of taunting a man. “Just catch the Quezelus,” he muttered as sleep began to tug at him. “Just catch that damned Zeheftiman, and then … Faunos Phinneas Aeson, it will be you and me, and we’ll have the whole truth.”

And then he was asleep, but his dreams were a hot, acid maelstrom that allowed him little rest.

Turn page to Chapter Twenty...

Return to Chapter Eighteen...

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.

Soon you'll be able to order prints, treeshirts, mugs, mousepads and a lot more, featuring this artwork and manufactured in the US by

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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