Chapter Twenty - continued

Red Sails part two

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“Then make yourself scarce, lad,” Senmet said thoughtfully. “If they don’t find you, it might be water and yellowfins all the way to Thebes, but at least I won’t have to come looking for you -- and you’ll spend the next few days on your feet, instead of your knees!”

Faunos licked his dry lips. He saw the wisdom of the suggestion, though part of him bridled at the order to go to ground. Galen would have agreed with Senmet -- and Faunos could almost hear the old teacher chuckling. “All right,” he said quietly. “You know your ship better than I ever will. Tell me which crack to scuttle into, and I’ll tell your rats to move over and make space.”

Senmet’s eyes glittered with amusement. “You’re quite a character, lad. No heroics, then? You don’t insist on grabbing a sword and saving the ship? Not going to rescue us all and defend your virtue?”

“Another time,” Faunos muttered darkly.

“Aye, well, maybe you’re wise, at that.” Senmet stamped the deck with one sandal-shod foot. “Get down into the aft hold, right under the steering oar. It stinks and it’s wet down there, but there’s space behind the cargo. The buggers’ll break open a dozen barrels, and twice that many baskets, but they’re all the same. Pots and nails, nails and pots. They’ll give up in disgust long before they get to you, and two minutes later they’ll be up in my cabin, looking for gold and emeralds.” He pulled the big stone out of his ear lobe and deliberately thrust it into the pouch at his belt.

“Books?” Faunos wondered. “Would they have an interest in old books?”

“Books? No,” Senmet said thoughtfully. “I’d be surprised if one among them could read … though they might take books for the gold leaf on the bindings and the edges of the pages. We’re not carrying any books.”

“I am,” Faunos said quietly. “If you’ll excuse me, Captain, suddenly I’ve work to do.”

It was Galen’s words haunting him as he hurried away. So I bid you -- run and hide! Keep safe while you learn. These books are your allies, your friends and kin. The wisdom was harsh, and Senmet was closer to the truth than he would have known. The part of Faunos which had grown to manhood already itched to snatch up a sword and fight.

Yet Senmet was also right. A brawl was very different from any lesson Faunos had ever had, and this was a poor time to begin. Swearing fluently in several languages from the outer islands, where cursing had assumed the finesse of an art form, he slithered back down the ladder to his cabin and hastily repacked the books.

He laced them and over-laced them, since the hold was going to be wet and probably also filthy, and then he hurried forward, down a passage so narrow, he had to walk sideways to get through. Then, down a short flight of steps so steep, a ladder would have been easier to climb, and into the aft hold through the crawlspace where the inner gates did not quite fit.

The barrels of nails and baskets of pottery were stacked across the entire hold, but Senmet was right again: in the stern -- where it was darkest, and stank of mildew, and the deck was wet, greasy -- there was a hiding space fit for rats. Faunos saw it all in the checkerboard of afternoon light falling through gratings which closed the hold overhead.

Swearing more lividly than ever, he slithered into the crevice and made sure the books were safe. And then, on a whim, he opened his own bag and took out his father’s sword. The weapon was short -- not much longer than his forearm -- but it was honed like a razor; and because it was short, it was also uncommonly strong.

His nose wrinkled on the mildew stink, and he perched on top of the rearmost barrels, watching through the gratings as the crew of the Quezelus took the pirate galley alongside. They had armed themselves with swords, axes, bossed shields which were as lethal as any dirk, but the fight was cursory, as Senmet had predicted. They had no cargo aboard that pirates would desire -- nails and pots were not worth a man risking his limbs, much less his life.

Furious curses were exchanged and flights of arrows feathered both ships. In seconds, two men died that Faunos could tell -- he heard two very different voices screaming, and someone plunged out of the rigging into the water scant moments before a boarding plank slammed down on the deck of Senmet’s ship.
Now, Faunos was listening for voices he knew, and he heard Senmet’s at once. “You think you own the whole ocean, Eudoros. You’re wrong. I’ll thank you to get off my ship while you still have both legs under you. We’ve nothing you want.”

And Eudorus -- a raucous voice with a dense, coagulated accent. “Stand aside, Senmet, and I am the judge of your cargo. You so eager to greet Helios today? You don’t see the archers up in my rigging?”

“I see them,” Senmet rasped. “I’m sick and tired of you, and this vermin you call a crew. All right, have it your way. If it’s ship nails and empty amphorae you want, by Hados, you know where to find them. I’m damned if I’ll die -- or kill -- over a load of rusting iron and pots.”

Through the grating, Faunos caught a glimpse of movement up on deck. Eudoros was a big man, thick in the body, with the shaven head of a soldier or a pit fighter, and tattoos painting both massive arms. He wore turquoise and orange silk, a gaudy wrap and cape whipping in the sea wind about his shoulders. He was cradling a big double-curved axe as if it were a child, and he gave Senmet no space to move or argue.

True enough, at least four archers Faunos could glimpse were perched in the rigging. Double-curved bows of a design he had never seen before were drawn and aimed loosely in Senmet’s direction. A word from Eudoros, even a gesture, and the Incariman would be dead.

At last Senment stood aside and whistled piercingly for his crew. “Afris, Leonidos, pull the hold covers up. Show these brainless baboons what they’re wasting their time over. The sooner they see what we’re carrying, the sooner they’ll show us their stern, and may Hurucan and Peseden drive them up on the rocks before they see another port!”

The long hooks extended through the grating, and as big men swore and wrenched at the timber hold covers, Faunos ducked back down into concealment. His palm molded about the hilt of the fine old sword. Part of him longed to stand up, be seen, seek a warrior’s honor. Was it Galen’s voice, a thin, immaterial whisper in his ear, which told him to get down and stay down, while he could?

“You better have something we want,” Eudoros spat at Senmet, “or we take what we like … and I’m seeing much I’m liking.”

Senmet’s voice was like ice. “You can get your eyes of them. They’re freemen, they’re not for barter. You know damned well, there’s no slaves on this ship. I don’t trade in them, and I don’t own them -- and you’ll not be stealing freemen, Eudoros, not from any ship of mine.”

Booted feet landed heavily on the deck of the hold, not far enough from where Faunos crouched. Eudoros grunted as he took the impact in both knees. “Shut your mouth,” he told Senment, “before someone takes the needle and twine and stitches it shut. I’ll have what I want. You’re in my waters here -- you owe me the toll.”

“I owe you nothing.” Senmet dropped down into the hold a pace from him, landed lightly and stood with clenched fists. “Afris!” he bellowed up. “Afris, get those Nefti lads into the --”

Shut your mouth, bastard!” Eudoros roared. “Afris, you want so bad to feed fishes? You stand where you are, and maybe I don’t take your head for the trophy and throw the rest to the sharks!”

He lifted the axe one-handed and split the head of a barrel -- and then another, another. Faces peered down from above, silhouetted against the sky. Eudoros turned his attention to the baskets, and pottery smashed as he flung it across the hold.

A moment later Faunos caught his breath. He could see just enough through the gap between two barrels as the curved blade swung up and grazed Senmet’s throat. In two paces, Eudoros had him pressed hard against the timber, bent-backed over a stack of cargo, and blood showed, dark and glistening, where the axe stroked Senmet's exposed windpipe. Eudoros hovered over him, glaring into his face.

“All right, you have your laugh, mongrel. You laughing now? Make it the good laugh, son of the monkey whore … and then you tell me where you stash the good cargo.”

“Hados,” Senmet muttered, “there’s no other cargo. You’ve seen it! This is what we’re carrying -- to the port of Thebes. I have a buyer there for the whole load.”

Liar!” Eudoros’s voice rose to a roar. “Youd don't never ship out with less than silver and pearls, maybe houris and jade. You got ’em hid, no mistake. You tell me where they hid, maybe I let you keep your scrawny neck between your head and your shoulders.”

Turn page to Chapter Twenty continued...

Return to Chapter Nineteen...

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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