Chapter Twenty - continued2

Red Sails part three

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Senmet’s voice was sharp with healthy fear. “For the love of Helios, the cargo is just what you see. It’s been hard to get a decent load since the storm, and Zeheft, and --”

“And I say, you are the pig-face liar,” Eudoros growled. “And I think I just flick my wrist now, and your head rolls in the basket there with the broken pots, and then I take this stinking, piss-pot bucket you call the ship apart, and have what I want, and who I want.”

“Eudoros, we have only what you see,” Senmet panted. “Killing me won’t put silver and pearls in those barrels.”

“Maybe not,” Eudoros agreed grudgingly, “but maybe your head in the basket is worth a barrel of silver, you think?”

He would do it. Faunos felt it -- the man was beyond reason, as if he and Senmet had fought some kind of running feud for much too long, and it must end here, now, somehow. All he had to do was turn the blade of that axe and put a few pounds of pressure on it, and Senmet’s throat would be laid wide open. Afris, Leonidas and several of the crew were up above, poised on the lip of the hold, but they were under the archers and if they moved they would be quilled like porcupines.

The last thing Faunos wanted was to get involved, but the choice was not his. An icy sweat beaded his face and shoulders as he twisted in the cramped space and, with the tip of the sword, cut the lacings on the bag holding the books. Buried among them, concealed in its silk and leather and the wooden chest, was the Eye of Helios.

And he was about to go against everything Galen had ever said to him.

His hand thrust deep into the bag, he pulled the box onto his knee and threw it open. The old silk tore as he lifted out the bracelet, but the stone was already throbbing with life before he set it into the gold clasps on the back of his left wrist. And then he stood up and let Eudoros see him.

The axe blade had already begun to turn. Senmet’s face was clenched like a fist, his eyes were wide with dread, when Eudoros spun away toward Faunos. Released, Senmet could do no more than clutch his bruised gullet with both hands, trying to breathe, and to staunch the blood, where delicate skin was cut -- but his windpipe and the great veins within were safe. Faunos glanced once at him, knew this, and turned his full attention on the brigand.

His hands were still down, concealed by the barrels; Eudoros could see neither the sword nor the blue-white, pulsing jewel. The man’s eyes, nested in deep creases and almost invisible, narrowed on Faunos. The axe thrust toward him, a gesture of naked threat.

“What you are doing there?” The voice was deep, rumbling. “They got you in the hold?” He looked Faunos up and down, and glanced at his lieutenants, above. “I think we got the jewel of this load. The rest is trash. Get down here and truss him, then have what you want, take what you like, wherever you find it.”

Faunos’s voice was very light, very clear. “No.” He spoke simply, and did not move so much as a muscle. “You’ll not be taking me, or anything, anyone, else. Leave now and you’re free to go, but mark this ship well and avoid her in future. There’ll be no second chances.”

The big, square face screwed itself into a grimace. “Do they keep you in the hold because you’re mad as the blind wolf howling at the moon? Senmet, you mongrel out of an Incari whore, what is this pretty little creature? Where you find them like this, beautiful like starlight and too crazy to know brothel from temple? I’ll take ten, if you got them.”

“Just a passenger,” Senmet rasped. “Afris, throw me down a rag. I’m bleeding like a pig.”

“You are the pig,” Eudoros sneered, and gestured at his men. “I told you already, shit-for-brains, truss the crazy boy. Take what you want from the rest, but be fast. I’m done here.”

“No,” Faunos said in the same tone. “You won’t lay hands on me, and you’ll let Senmet wrap the wound. You heard me the first time, Captain. I won’t say it a second time. Leave while you can.”

“Little bitch,” Eudoros growled. “Crazy or not, mad or not, you don’t speak such words to me. You get the lesson, now. You learn who owns you. First, I finish what I started, put your friend’s head in the basket. Then, I put you over this barrel and give you the reason to howl. You learn why they call Eudoros the Bull.” The axe was already moving as he finished speaking, and none of it was bluster, nor lies. Eudoros meant every word.

Fear and shock had always ignited the Power in Faunos. It throbbed through him, from the pit of his belly into every extremity, and in the comparative dimness of the hold he knew the odd, blue-white light would be shimmering about his limbs as he lifted his left hand.

It seemed to him that the axe snatched itself out of Eudoros’s fist, twisted in the air and sank itself in the brigand’s belly. Faunos saw it there, felt it with his own hands, as if he had swung the blow that threw Eudoros to his knees, eyes bugging out in shock and disbelief.

He took a deep, steadying breath and looked up, past the stunned, wide eyed Senmet, at the faces clustered along the rim of the hold, and beyond, at the archers in the rigging of Eudoros’s galley. Both crews were frozen in sheer disbelief. Senmet’s people were wasting their advantage, and Faunos might have cursed them.

As one, the archers flung themselves into the water, as if the breath of Hurucan had picked them up and tossed them away like toys. The Power rushed through Faunos, a divine wind, a storm in his nerves, a song without sound or words coursing through the fibers of his body. He reached for it -- caught it and mastered it for a sublime moment, before it seethed out of his control, as it always did.

Too soon, he felt the scorch of the uncontrolled Power and slipped off the bracelet an instant before it began to burn. He skin was ruddy, as if he had been too long in the sun, but the shimmer of light around his limbs subsided, leaving him trembling. The Eye of Helios lay brooding and crackling on top of the bags -- but no one knew he had taken it off, or that yet again he had lost control of it. Or let it take control of him.

In the same moment, panic erupted across both ships with wild screams of Zehefti magic. Faunos sagged back against the bulkhead, rubbing his wrist and trying not to think about what he had done to the brigand. What mattered was that Senmet was alive, still holding his gullet and blinking foolishly at the crumpled body of Eudoros.
Up on deck, the Incari’s crew had at last seized the opportunity. It was a grudge match, Faunos was sure. The blood being shed across both vessels was far in excess of what was warranted by today’s display of cruelty and stupidity. Death was heavy on the air, sultry as an incoming storm. Faunos felt it like a great weight on his shoulders, and he pressed both hands to his face, clapped them over his ears, to shut out the sound of men dying.

Black and scarlet darkness overwhelmed him and he might have been drowning in it. He threshed, knew he was going down into the bottom of a deep, deep pool, as if he had forgotten how to swim, or did not care to try.

And then a hand touched his shoulder lightly and he jerked awake, shocked to see daylight and hear nothing save the wind, the sea. He was lying on the barrels under the open hatch, and both Senmet and Afris were peering into his face. He could see at a glance, they knew exactly what they had witnessed, and he was simply lucky that neither man was from Vayal. Senmet was from the far side of Incari, where the mountains were so steep, the people were said to be descended from sea goats. Afris was from Nubiye, where magic was coveted, not dreaded.

Thought and sense fell back into place like the pieces of a puzzle, and Faunos sat up. His eyes went straight to the bags where he had left the Eye of Helios, and his heart skipped a beat with sheer relief as he saw it still there. No one had moved it, much less taken in. Had they tried -- had someone been hurt, even killed? And then he looked into Senmet’s face, and Afris’s, and waited for the obvious question.

“We know you’re Zehefti,” Senmet said, hoarse, rasping. His gullet was bound with clean linen and the wound seemed to have stopped bleeding. “Are you also a witchboy? You can tell me the truth. This is an Incari crew, with a few like Afris, from Aegyptos and Kriti, and even a lad or two from Jaymaca. No one here will try to do you harm, so long as you don’t turn your magicks on us.”

Even if Faunos could have lied, he would not have. “I won’t do you harm,” he swore. “Why do you think I’m aboard? I’m trying to run! The witchfinder was right behind me. I can’t go to Vayal, and you’ve seen the smoke from Zeheft. I have to get out, there’s no place for me on these shores.”

“And here you are,” Senmet mused. He arched a brow at Afris. “I’ve heard of the witchboys. Never seen one with my own eyes. I thought you were a myth … you don’t look evil. I’ve been told you’re all monstrosities.”

Desperate, Faunos clambered to his feet and threw down his wrap. He stood naked before Senmet, challenging him to find any physical deformity. “I’m no more a demon than my brothers were demons, or my father.”

“Mariners from Vayal also warned me when I was very young,” Afris added in the thick, exotic accent of Nubiye, “never make love with a Zehefti boy, for your soul might be sucked out.” He grinned, showing large white teeth. “My people tell the same stories of the djinn and the genii.”

“And mine,” Senmet said hoarsely, “are not so superstitious.” He gave Faunos a thoughtful frown. “If you were as malicious as Vayal believes, you’d have seized power, taken Eudoros’s side and killed us all.” He fingered his throat. “I thank you for my life.”

Turn page to Chapter Twenty continued...

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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.

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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!

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