Chapter Seventeen - continued

History part two

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And intuition told him, Soran would be easy to distract. His heart skipped a beat and thudded against his chest as he looked back at the witchfinder, who stood in the pool of gold lamplight. He looked like a bronze casting, his eyes shadowed, the cloak of his hair half over his face, his limbs arranged with the grace of the sword dancer. He stole the breath out of Faunos’s lungs.

The witchfinder was beautiful beyond any dream he had ever cherished -- and, to Faunos, more dangerous than any other man in the Emipire. He begged of any god who would listen, to know why he was still alive. It might have been Aphrataya who answered, or her brother, Apollonos, or their cousin Hados.

A voice like the whisper of the wind breathed into his ears.Thou livest because he desires three.

With exaggerated care, Faunos rested his weight on one hip and flexed his legs, and he felt the prickle of reaction as Soran’s eyes went to them. He knew he had good legs, and Soran was clearly beguiled. In the same moment he slipped his fingers into the top of the goatskin and began to probe with their tips, looking for the stone.

The prince of Vayal remained intent on his limbs and Faunos said quietly, “If you’re here to kill me, best get it done before they start to burn the ruins. I’ve no desire to spend my last moments on earth choking.”

“You didn’t kill me,” Soran murmured, “and by gods, you had the chance. I gave you a thousand chances.”

“I -- what?” Faunos gave a start, wondering if Soran knew he had his fingertips on the great crystal now. But Soran was oblivious to the bag.

“At the gypsy camp,” he said distractedly. “You could have turned me to stone, torn my mind out by the roots and cast it into the sea, made the blood in my veins become snake venom and poison me.” He frowned deeply into Faunos’s face. “You humored me, didn’t you? You let me make an ass of myself, and humored me.”

Faunos’s throat tightened. “I’m not a murderer. I went to that camp for companionship, and you gave it to me. Why would I hurt you?”

“You were frightened of me,” Soran remembered. “That was stone-cold fear I saw in your face and heard in your voice. You were terrified I’d realize who you are. What you are. I should have, but you dazzled me, with or without enchantment. It only came to me later -- the sweet scents, the shimmer of light, the feeling of being buoyed up on a breeze that wasn’t there.” He tilted his head at Faunos, and the frown deepened. “You don’t look like an abomination.”

The Eye of Helios was wedged firmly between two of Faunos’s long fingers now, and he inched it back into his palm. His whole arm tingled with reaction to its touch; the churning began in the pit of his belly, long familiar -- and the airy, insubstantial sensation in his bones, as if they were suddenly made hollow, like a bird’s bones.

He breathed steadily, trying to bank down on the storm of feelings, as if he were trying to dog down a fire. “I’m not an abomination. It’s all superstition,” he said tautly.

But Soran’s dark head was shaking. “It’s history. Isn’t it?” His brows rose. “Did you enchant me last night? Did you seduce me with some old Zehefti magic?”

Faunos almost laughed. “I didn’t seduce you at all! You picked me out of the whole camp, shoved me into the pavilion and calmly held your hand out for my clothes!”

“I did, didn’t I?” Soran winced visibly. “Was I an ass?”

“You were the Prince of Vayal,” Faunos allowed. “You still are.”

“And I gave you leave to go,” Soran added. “You chose to stay.”

“I made the halfwit’s decision,” Faunos said, a harsh bark. “If I’d had the sense of a newborn, I’d have been out and running, the moment you gave me leave to walk out. And I dare say, at this moment you would have been sunk right up to your hipbones in some courtesan in your father’s palace.”

The witchfinder’s face expression was wistful, sad. “Yet here I am … looking at a youth in whose eyes the green fireflies dance, in whose veins ruins the cursed blood of the great kings of Zeheft.” He sighed heavily. “You take away my breath, boy. You cut out my heart last night, and I don’t believe I’ll find it again. I might have cherished you, held you to me, lifelong, if only you’d been the dancer I thought you were last night.” He pulled back his shoulders and shifted his grip on the swords. “This much, I can do for you: no torment, no priests and questions. No demands that you betray you friends and kin, and then the death agonies when you deny a fiend called Druyus. Come to me in peace, little one, and I promise you, you’ll feel nothing between this world and the next, save my lips on yours. What is your name?”

“Faunos,” he said thickly, faltering with confusion. “I didn’t lie. Are you taunting me? Trickery, is it, to get me to surrender without a fight, because you fear what I could do to you?”

“Oh, I fear you,” Soran admitted. “I’ve been taught exactly what you can do. I also see your teacher, your friend and guardian, lying dead there. I know you have nowhere to go, and no one left. You claim you’re the last of your kind? I’d be grateful to believe you, for I’m tired of the task Helios gave me. There’s too much blood on my hands even now, yet I’m a prisoner of duty, as surely as you are. We are what the gods made us, both of us … and it’s time to be done with it.” Very deliberately, he threw down one of the swords. “I can’t let you go, Faunos. But I’m not going to deliver you to them. I can pass you into the arms of Hados without a moment of pain.”

And he was ready to do it, Faunos thought. Grief was written into each line of Soran’s face, and Faunos heard truth in every word. He was shamed by what he was, but the duty of a lifetime manacled him like shackles.

For himself, Faunos was almost ashamed of what he was about to do, but youth and health were still on his side, and despite what he said, he was not yet ready to die. “I might even let you do it,” he said softly, “if there were no other way. But I’ve one option left, and you’ll forgive me if I take it.”

With great care, he drew his hand away from the top of the bag where it had seemed simply to rest, and Soran realized too late what was happening. The crystal cast a pale, wyrd light about Faunos’s hand and arm, and as he palmed it the glow intensified.

Before he could move or even curse, Soran discovered himself frozen like a statue, muscles defying him, feet fastened to the ground. His was throat paralysed, mute. Only his eyes were free to move, and he watched Faunus get to his feet.

“Do you know what this is?” Faunos opened his palm to display the stone. “You should, if your tutors knew the first thing about what they claim to teach. It’s called the Eye of Helios … Zehefti magic from an age so long ago, even the memory is lost. There were three, but the other two are scattered across the face of Gaya. One lies in the Temple of Sekhet, which is sunk beneath the sea, gone with the outer realms. The third was sealed in the tomb of Hellas, but no one knows where the tomb is.

“The third, the last, was passed down through the line of House of Diomedas, seventh son to seventh son, as your forefathers have passed on the double crown. When your father has gone to ashes, you’ll wear the diadem of a doomed kingdom. Your inheritance is water and ruins. You see Zeheft? How long do you imagine it will be before Vayal follows, and you will find yourself the lord of fishes.” Faunos had expected to feel triumphant in the speech, but in fact he felt only sadness.

“Shall I believe you?” Soran forced the words by willpower from his clenched throat. His voice was odd, strangled.

Turn page to Chapter Seventeen part three...

Return to Chapter Sixteen...

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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.

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