Chapter Sixteen


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The house was dark when Faunos stepped back inside. The hearth was cold, and as the sun westered the chill had begun to creep back in. He struck flint to steel and breathed life into a new fire, but Galen did not stir. The shadows leaping on old walls and broken plaster looked odd, disturbing, and Faunos tried to ignore the flutter of dry wings he heard, as if he could hold off the sunbird through denial.

He had fetched water, lit a lamp and brought it to the bedside before the old teacher’s eyelids fluttered. How old Galen looked, as if his skin were parchment and the life force in him burned feeble as a candle. Tears stung Faunos’s eyes as he sat down and hunted for the old man’s hands.

They were cold and limp. “I tried,” he said softly. “I found a physician, but he wouldn’t come anywhere near the ruins. The soldiers will be here from Vayal before long, to burn them.” He swallowed several times before he could speak again, and his voice was raw. “Galen, we can’t stay here any longer.”

And yet the old man was dying. He seemed barely to breathe, and a faint mauve glow surrounded him. It was the strange, cold light of another world, Faunos knew. He had heard it described many times, and he was a scion of Diomedas, quite sensitive enough to the forces beyond the vision of common men to see it.

But Galen’s eyes had fluttered open now, and they were sane. Exhaustion brought him a kind of serenity. He was already at peace while Faunos was filled with restless urgency and dread. “Hush, boy,” he whispered, “there’s nothing to fret about. It’s quite simple. You must take the books and go.”

“Not without you,” Faunos said too quickly, and the tears spilled. “Galen, where will we go? I don’t know anyone here. Zeheft is gone, Pahrys was arrested, the people left with the fishing fleet. There’s only Vayal -- and the water gypsies.”

“And you’ll leave with the wandering people,” Galen murmured. Speaking was an effort of willpower, and mortal weariness dogged him with every breath. “Keep the books secret. Hidden. Sew them into the goatskins, let no eyes see them … not till you’ve learned what you must and found your place.”

“Found my place?” Faunos echoed. “Galen, for the love of Helios, I have no place. I can’t learn all this, not without you.”

“You can … you must.” Galen reached up and brushed a tear from Faunos’s cheek. The tender gesture shook Faunos deeply. “The books are your heritage,” Galen whispered. “Use them. Everything you must know is in them. Only find safety, give yourself time … learn, and never forget all that was Zeheft. You are Zeheft now. You, my boy, and the books, and the Eye of Helios, which was you father’s, and his father’s.”

“The focus.” Faunos took a long breath and courted peace. It was difficult to find. “You used to tell me the stories of the foci when I was small. You’d tell me how three were discovered by an old shaman, and two were lost. One is said to be in the Temple of Sehket, though no one has seen it in so long, the tale has become legend. And one rests in the tomb of Hellas, which was sealed and forgotten, untold years ago.”

Galen chuckled. The sound was no more than a rasp in his throat, and made him cough. “You learned the stories by heart, you could recite them with me! I had a dream, when I was your age. Younger. I would daydream that I was a great adventurer, perhaps even a warrior. I would have a magnificent galley with blood red sails, and a gallant crew of master mariners, and we would explore the face of Peseden, ten years and more … hunt down the foci, fetch them back to Zeheft, and vanquish Vayal. Zeheft’s glory days would return.” He shook his head on the goatskin pillow. “Such dreams are the pleasure of young men. Fetch it out now, boy. Fetch out the Eye of Helios. Let me see it.”

One last time. He did not say the words, and did not have to. Faunos heard them. The great blue diamond lay in its silk pouch, safe with the books. He brought it out, and the bracelet into which it would be set, when a great enchanter intended to work with it. The bracelet was made of woven gold filaments and fit his forearm like a glove, from his wrist halfway up to his elbow. It had been made to fit Diomedas, and without asking, Faunos knew why it fit his own arm just as well.

He wore the bracelet on his left forearm, as tradition demanded. The Eye of Helios slipped into the big setting on the back of his wrist and pulsed there. The blue shimmers danced inside the crystal, as if a fire sprite lived deep in the stone, and Faunos watched, entranced as always. It was so beautiful, it was easy to forget that it was also supremely dangerous.

“I was always afraid of it,” Galen confessed, though he had never admitted it before. Perhaps this was a time for truths, secrets, to be spoken while the opportunity remained. “If I were to hold it in my palm the way you do, my lord prince, the Power would burn my hand away.”

“My lord prince?” Faunos echoed, looking down into old teacher’s eyes.

He smiled wearily. “You are Faunos Phinneas Aeson. Upon the natural death of your father, which should have been many years from now, you would have become the sovereign of Zeheft, known to history as Aeson. You would have set aside the common things of men and the world, and become the vessel for whichever god answered you, when you called from the highest altar in Zeheft, on the eve of your ascension. If Gaya answered, you would have become the vessel of the goddess. If Hados answered, he would have worn your flesh, your bones, when he walked among men.”

“Not like the priest-kings of Vayal,” Faunos mused, “who are vowed to Helios and accept the will and word of no other god.”

“No other god would have them,” Galen said disdainfully. “Helios is the great destroyer. Know you this: his light burns out the eyes, what his heat touches perishes, he dries the soil to dust and scorches the crop in the field. Mankind is no more than corn to Helios. Where is the surprise, that destroyers like the Vayalish should venerate the destroyer?”

“I’ve prayed to Helios,” Faunos said slowly.

“And to Selene, and to Hurucan, and Peseden, and --” Galen coughed and groaned. “No matter. The gods grant favor where they will, and if they don’t, all the begging in the world won’t make them.” His slitted eyes fixed on the great crystal on Faunos’s wrist. “If you had all three of the foci in your hands, Vayal would have cause to dread you! I never told you this, my lord prince … I wouldn’t have told you till you were of age, five years hence … but all the long years of our hiding, I hoped and dreamed that when you were a man, you would undertake the quest I never did. Time passed me by and duty shackled me. But once, I hoped you might find the foci, fetch them back and be avenged upon the City of the Sun. With the Power in your hands, you could have set Zeheft back into its rightful place.”

Faunos was speechless for a long moment. “I never imagined any such thing. The Eye of Helios is just enough to get me killed!”

“To protect you,” Galen corrected. “And, please gods, I’ve taught you enough for you to use it just a little, for this purpose.” His eyes closed. “I don’t have long to tarry here, and you’re so young. Too young.” His voice was fading. “Find Pahrys, your cousin.”

“Pahrys is dead,” Faunos murmured. “Don’t you remember? The witchfinder took him.” He swallowed hard, as if he were swallowing his heart. “Soranchele Izamal-xiu Ulkan took him, you know that. Galen? Galen!” The old teacher’s eyes opened again, but they were dull, and seemed not to focus on his face. The soft mauve glow which wreathed the old man was stronger, and his hands were cold as ice. “Galen,” Faunos whispered. “Don’t leave me.”

“I can teach you no more.” Galen drew a long, difficult breath. “You know enough to practice your craft, the way your forefathers practiced.”

“Alone?” Faunos’s voice was a rasp.

“You know enough, my lord price.” Galen reached up, drew a caress about Faunos’s face, and clasped one of the strong, young hands between both of his own. “My lord prince,” he repeated, almost soundlessly. “You are the son of my heart, Faunos Phinneas Aeson. Know always, I love you.” His hands fell back to the sheepskins and were still.

Faunos dragged both palms across his face. “I’ll try. You believe I can do it, but in the name of Hados, where do I begin?”

There was no answer, and when he looked down into Galen’s eyes, no one looked back. Grief choked him, and he put his head down on the old man’s chest. No heartbeat throbbed against his ear, nor was he listening for one. The tears came, hot and bitter, and he welcomed them.

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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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