Chapter Twelve - conclusion

The Wisdom of Ages - part two

[page back]

His dives began from the crooked, fallen-in roof of what had been the Myrmidae Tavern just days before. The walls had collapsed but the ceiling beams had gone down whole and were sitting, now, at an easy angle of a few degrees. He caught the shingles, hauled himself out and crawled up the incline of the old roof. The sun pumped heat into his limbs and he sprawled there as long as he dared, soaking it the warmth and letting his lungs rest as well as his muscles.

Early afternoon had become mid-afternoon while he worked. The shadows were beginning to lengthen as he picked up the bags, shoved his feet into his sandals and made his way back to the shepherd’s hut. He saw no other human, but crows were gathering by what the thousands over the old city. A few dogs yapped and goats bleated beyond the headland.

By now Galen should be awake again, he thought -- the old man was much sicker than he was admitting, and only the need to retrieve the books kept Faunos away from him today.

The smell of roasting fish greeted him as he stepped into the cottage. He had gone out netting in the early morning hours, for food. He and Galen had escaped from Zeheft with little, and supplies were scarce. Galen had picked over the ruins and found a little fruit, bread, wine, salt, honey, but these stores would not last long, and there was no more where they came from.

The ruins smelt strong by noon, and Faunos knew what it was. Too many dead were entombed beneath the fallen masonry. The crows were gathering to feast and the rats would thrive, but humans were leaving as fast as they would.

As soon as Faunos had hauled out the last books, he expected to be moving. He and Galen should be on the wharves of the Port of Vayal by morning at latest, looking for a ship, any vessel that was leaving, headed east or west – Jaymaca or the Keltoi shores. He had ceased to care which, so long as the Empire dwindled over the horizon.

With a grunt of effort, he lifted off the goatskin bags and set them down by the fireplace. He was blind for some moments in the dimness of the cottage, but he knew Galen was sitting by the hearth, wrapped in a sheepskin and watching the fire.

“One more dive, Galen,” he panted, “and I’ll have them all. Give me half an hour to get warm, and get some food.”

“Take your time, boy.” The old eunuch’s voice was no more than a dry rasp, and he had barely enough energy to speak at all.

The sound sent a worm of fear burrowing through Faunos’s insides, and he sat quickly at Galen’s side. His hands cradled the kind old face and found it burning hot. “You’re getting worse. And don’t ‘pish posh’ me. You need a physician.”

“To explain to me how my lungs are full of water of their own making?” Galen demanded. “How there’s a fire in my flesh? And if I did let one of that bastard brethren poke and prod me, what do you expect him to be able to do for me?”

“He’d have medicine,” Faunos remonstrated, “to take away the fever and empty your lungs.”

For a long moment Galen did not answer, and then he said, “Maybe. Ask me again when you’ve fetched up the last books. One more dive, you said?” Faunos nodded. “Take your time, get some food into you. I left it for you … I’ve no appetite.” He gestured at the fish which were roasting on the wide bronze tray.

“But not too long.” Faunos skewered a yellowtail and lifted it off the heat. “The water level in the hermitage is rising as fast as you’re sickening. If you’ll let me go for a physician after I’ve retrieved the last books, that’s all the reason I need not to tarry! One dive, and then I’ll run over the hill to … what’s the name of that town?”

“It’s Tydeas, and it was a hive of superstitious idiots the last time I was there. A lot of feeble minds, frightened silly because they live only one hill away from the old city.” Galen held his chest and coughed again, rackingly. Faunos laid a palm on his brow, but Galen batted it away like an annoying insect. “Leave me be for the moment. Eat, while you can … and tell me, boy, are you sad today?”

The fish was dry. Faunos washed it down with a cup of water and said uneasily, “I suppose I am. I might always be, but there’s no changing what is. I had my night, I gave the gift of virginity to a prince, what more could I ask?”

Galen’s slitted eyes studied him feverishly. “Yet you do ask. You ask for love, don’t you?” Faunos flinched, and Galen sighed heavily. “Am I so blind that I can’t see what bedevils you? Or is it that you think a eunuch knows nothing of these things? I was in love, before you were born. In fact, I wedded -- you didn’t know?”

Surprise caught Faunos up. He swallowed the fish whole and set down the plate. “You’ve never spoken of it.”

“Perhaps I should have.” Galen tugged the sheepskin closer and rocked to ease the pain in his chest. “We wed, all three of us. The man, the girl, the eunuch, and it was fine. Our times were grand, Faunos, before Mykenos’s first son was born, let alone his seventh! We were happy. I have those memories, and I’m grateful for them. Before you ask, they were both older than me by some years, and they died naturally, not long before you were born. It’ll be my turn soon, and my only regret is that I leave you with my work unfinished. Hush now! The grief was spent while you were still toddling! But credit me with enough wisdom to know what ails you … and tell me what you feel.”

It was Faunos’s turn to sigh. “What I feel? Sadness, it’s true. I went to the gypsy camp looking for one night to call my own, and I’ve had it. But it was a houri he wanted, Galen. And he got one. I behaved like one, and he was beside himself with the thrill of it. What else should I have done? I gave him what he wanted and took what I could in return, and when he slept, I fled. He wanted me enough to indenture me into palace service! I could neither refuse nor tarry, when we were done. And I hadn’t wanted to refuse … and oh, I longed to tarry.”

The old man rumbled a difficult chuckle. “You made a deal with cynical gods, boy: you gave him what he desired, took what you could, waited for Morpheos to seize him, and got out with your liberty! Don’t castigate yourself. It was the wise thing to do. How can you berate yourself for having the good sense to seize the moment -- and escape with your freedom?” And then he was coughing again, while Faunos held his head.

“I’ll get the physician now,” Faunos began. “I can probably get the books tomorrow.”

Probably?” Galen fended him off. “Get them now, now. Go, while you can. I’ll be here when you return from the sea.”

Faunos was less certain, but he had spent many years trying to find ways to argue with Galen, and none had ever worked. He wiped his hands, took a knife and very carefully cut away the sealing wax, which allowed him to draw out the rawhide thongs and lay open the sodden goatskins.

Both he and Galen held their breath, afraid of what they would see within, but the inside was dry. Galen reached over and lifted out the books. He cradled them in his lap, rocking them as if they were puppies. “One more dive?”

Already on his feet, Faunos was lacing up the bags, slinging them over his back. He paused to drink again, and returned to the door. “One more dive, old friend, and then I’ll be in Tydeas.” He hesitated and licked salt-chapped lips. “The physician is going to want money. I don’t have any. Damnit, the witchfinder offered me a coin.”

“The prince of Vayal offered to -- what, to pay for your services?” Galen cackled like an old crow. “And I imagine you were vastly insulted!”

“I was, at the time,” Faunos admitted, “and now I wish to Aphrataya that I’d taken his money. I could have demanded gold. The gift of virginity has to be worth gold. Hasn’t it? And it would have paid the physician today.”

“Pish posh,” Galen said succinctly. “The most valuable thing in the world, boy, is what I have in my lap. It’s not the books, it’s the knowledge. The magic of ages you can’t imagine.” He waved Faunos away. “Go and dive. I’ll be here when you return.”

“Your word on it?” Faunos was still on the doorstep, reluctant to leave.

“My oath upon it,” Galen swore with all due solemnity.

This, Faunos accepted. A moment later he was on the trail, jogging back toward the roof of the tavern where, a few days ago, he and Galen had drunk ale and talked with fishermen about the sky, the weather ... the ominous rumbling from the deep Lair of Volcos.

The fishermen swore the birds were leaving, and their nets were light -- the shoals were gone too, from the bay between Zeheft and Vayal. That bay was usually filled with fish, because it was much warmer than the open ocean, but two days ago, three, the fish seemed to have followed the birds. The market stalls were full of crabs, mussels, clams, instead.

So the birds and fish knew to get out, Faunos thought as he scrambled down to the tavern roof. Wild creatures were warned -- Volcos had no argument with them. The god’s ire was for mankind, though Hados alone knew who had insulted him, and how, and why. Volcos and Hurucan punished mortal men harshly and often, while Peseden seemed oblivious to their plight and rolled on about his business, deaf-eared to their prayers.

The shadows were much longer now. Faunos frowned anxiously at the sun as he began the minutes of deep breathing that dizzied him before the work -- the old pearl fisher’s trick. When his head began to spin just a little he committed himself to effort, and dove.

Turn page to Chapter Thirteen...

Return to Chapter Eleven...

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.

Aricia's Gay Book Shoppe

Aricia's Gay Book Shoppe
Every title hand picked, many of them already reviewed AG's Gay Book Blog -- hundreds of books and movies spanning a couple of decades, celebrating gay publishing and filmmaking!


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...

The commercial break:

The NARC novels are now at Amazon!

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.

Locations of visitors to this page