Chapter Nineteen - continued

The Tomb of Knowledge part two

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The truth was on the old vellum pages before him. Vayal was one of five trading cities which came to prosperity under the protective wings of ancient Zeheft. The others were Incaria, Kush, Ilios and Nefi, but of them all, it was Vayal which grew most wealthy, most powerful. Most ambitious.

In the decades when Vayal grew into the dawn of its military power, Incaria and Ilios were already being savaged by pirates from the outer realms, while Kush and Nefti had been battered by storms, shaken by the wrath of Volcos for so long, they were weakened. They were, Soran knew, easy pickings.

The inner realms of Kush and their neighboring Nefti fell to Vayal without a blow being struck in anger. Impoverished, feeble kings negotiated away their freedom, trading peace with Vayal for a torrent of young bodies to strengthen the imperial legions, and the grain and wine to feed them. Vayal grew ever stronger, and when they turned on Zeheft, there was little to stand between them and victory.

The first sovereign of Vayal’s empire was Medeios. He was priest and general, eldest son of a house that had grown wealthy on the trade in joss and silk, slaves and ivory. And he was as crafty as all his kind. He did not send a legion to hunt down the pirates, but offered the captains a treaty instead. If they sailed under the banners of Vayal, they were guaranteed the safety of imperial ports. Medeios took no interest in where else they plundered, so long as they left in peace the home harbors, and ships sailing under the empire’s colors.

A single year later, Vayal hired a vast mercenary army, recruited from the barbarian tribes of the Keltoi shores. They came west in multitudes, bringing their strange gods, bizarre rituals, their faith of the sacred trees, the standing stones, mist and water. Against such warriors -- savage and spiritual in equal measure -- the people of Zeheft were without hope.

Many fled in the very early days of the war, and they were wise to. Occasionally, trading vessels returned to Vayal with vague stories of Zehefti colonies which had taken root in distant lands. Aegyptos claimed one, as did Kriti and Troias, and even Jaymaca.

Soran had always been deeply skeptical, but according to the Annals, enough of the Zeheftimen escaped the bitter fighting for some shadow of their greatness to survive elsewhere. Did Faunos hope to find them? Was that where he was running to? Soran licked his lips and listened to the drumbeat of his pulse, loud in his ears in the cavernous library.

As the old city emptied out -- with the departure of the Atlantan diaspora and the casualty count of far too many battles -- the merchants, warriors and artisans of Vayal moved in. The Zehefti discovered themselves second class citizens in their own homes, laboring, often as bondsmen, in places where they had recently been nobility, or at least freemen.

And the priests of Vayal grew disgustingly rich, selling charms and spells to protect people from the evil which still lurked in the old city -- and would loom in every shadow there until the last witchboy was found and erased.

The first witchfinders were appointed within a year of the final, bloody battle which ended the war. Most of the direct descendants of Diomedas were found and destroyed in the ten years after. Finding witchboys became more difficult, and every year the hunt took Vayal’s witchfinders further from home. Soran had stalked his prey into the outer realms, and voyages to Ilios and Incaria were so commonplace, he had learned the seaman’s craft by spending weeks and months in the company of sailors. Priolas had taught him much of what he knew of ships and the sea, but there were other captains to whom Soran owed debts of gratitude.

He turned a page and his eyes scanned down the tight-packed columns describing the Zehefti high magic, for which Faunos’s people were so despised and so envied. And there, he checked in surprise, for the story was told of the second of the three foci.

The great gem was entrusted to a Zehefti high priest named Iridan, and it vanished only minutes before the soldiers of Vayal took him prisoner. He was tortured mercilessly for its whereabouts, but refused to speak. Prayers and incantations were the only words that passed his lips before he died under the abuse -- but his was no ordinary death.

In the moment of passing, an ancestor of Azhtoc threw over him a great golden net, and stolen words of high magic were intoned. Iridan was imprisoned, and he remained so. Soran’s hackles rose, his arms prickled with gooseflesh, and he heard again the thin, immaterial voice of the Oracle, whispering in the shadows in the Temple of Mayat. Iridan had suffered more than any mortal should ever have to, and death was only the beginning of his confinement. Anger churned in Soran’s belly. The desire to strike out against Azhtoc and Druyus was stronger than ever.

The Annals became increasingly vague in the pages detailing the events in the closing days of the war. So much was unknown, even to the Zehefti chroniclers who kept the document; much more was mere speculation. Soran groaned as the texts -- which had been so meticulous in earlier years -- degenerated into almost disjointed accounts of what was thought to have happened, who was believed to have said what, and why.

The information for which Iridan died remained lost, but the chroniclers faithfully recorded the belief of the day. Iridan’s life mate was the general, Hellas. Both were trapped in the vault beneath the Temple of Naxos, and only one could escape. Iridan gave the Eye of Mayat to Hellas, and turned like a stag at bay to face the soldiers, who broke into the temple minutes later.

Hellas -- like the Eye of Mayat -- vanished out of the world. The general was not descended from Diomedas; there was no Power in him, and if he actually touched the great crystal it would burn the flesh from his bones. But Hellas could get it away from the Empire, safeguard it, until a day came when a seventh son of Diomedas was born, nurtured, fetched to manhood.

“Faunos.” Soran whispered the name hoarsely. “You’re the One, aren’t you? It has to be you.”

He had lost track of time as he read, absorbing everything the ancient book could tell him. Not until the lamp began to stutter did he realize how late it was. The wick was burning down, and with a start he realized that the tide would already have begun to turn. He had an hour to get back to the quayside -- Priolas would be as good as his word. The Incari would leave on the tide, with or without Soran.

The wick stuttered again and went out. Uterine darkness settled like a shroud over the library, and Soran swore softly. It was darker than a tomb as he fumbled his way back to the shelf where he had found the book. He set it back there, under the copper casting of Hados. If he was lucky, no one would ever know it had been read.

With careful fingertips he felt his way along the wall, found the reading desk, and the door. The passageway was empty, dim, with a shaft of blue-white daylight streaming in from the stepway. Wanting no more than to breathe free air, Soran hurried back toward the stairs.

His head was filled with the images, ideas, mores, of another age. Knowledge was dizzying, overwhelming, and he did not hear the footsteps until it was too late. The scribe was coming down the steps, returning to work. Daylight from the gate above blinded Soran, but he caught a glimpse of an astonished face -- a shaven head, and the short white tunic of a junior priest in the service of Helios.

Turn page to Chapter Nineteen conclusion...

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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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