Chapter Twenty - continued3

Red Sails part four

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“I saved myself at the same time.” Faunos picked up his wrap and tied it on, for he was keenly aware of Afris’s dark eyes devouring him alive. The Nubiyen towered over Senmet, with dark velvet skin, luminous eyes and a lion’s mane of blond-streaked hair. “I didn’t care for the idea of being sold in some market in Karnossos,” Faunos said acidly, and then hesitated. “What’s to … become of me?”

The captain was clearly musing on the same thoughts. “Much depends on yourself, boy. I’m grateful for my life … my vessel, even my cargo! But I’ll give you fair warning. Use the enchantment against me or my crew in any way, and I shall certainly find a way to dump you overboard. And if you are indeed the incubus --”

“I’ll be celibate,” Faunos said quickly, “as I have always been.”

“Always?” Senmet’s brows arched. “A virgin?”

“All save one night,” Faunos confessed. “One lover, one night.” He shrugged awkwardly. “I should never have come back to these shores, but I was born not far from the old city of Zeheft. Part of me thought to come home.” He stooped to lift the bags up onto the barrels, and swiftly put away the gem and the bracelet. “Just take me as far as Thebes. You can leave me there. I’ll make my own way.”

“Perhaps.” Senmet was nursing his throat; speaking was difficult. “But you have that thing in your possession … and I’ve no desire to challenge you. I’ve no doubt you could bind me to your wishes.”

Faunos was still trembling in reaction to what he had done. It was the first life he had taken, and the shock of killing was more than he had imagined. He rubbed his arms hard enough to bring them up in ruddy weals. “I wouldn’t use the Power against you. I’ll harm no one, my word on it.”

“And oddly enough,” Senmet said slowly, “I’m inclined to believe you. Afris, what think you?” He looked sidelong at the ship’s mate, and Afris’s lion-maned head nodded. “Take care that you stand on your honor, boy,” Senmet growled to Faunos, and then held out a hand to Afris. “For godsakes, get me out of the hold, get me the surgeon. I feel --”

“You’re pale as scrubbed ivory,” Afris informed him, and tilted his head back to look up at the men on deck. “Send down a rope, haul him out, and shout for the butcher.”

The deck was busy, flooding as it was doused with seawater to wash away a torrent of blood. Eight bodies lay under a sheet of canvas, and as Senmet’s wound was cauterized with a sizzling iron, he listened to the tally of grief. Ten more men were injured; two would not live long, and two more were below decks, screaming as smashed limbs were removed.

“Yet I'd say we fared well,” Senmet said grimly, to Faunos’s surprise. “It could have been much worse -- it’s been much worse in the past. I’ve hunted my people into slave markets between here and Aegyptos … and never found some of them. But we’ll not see that ship, that crew, again. Eudoras’s body?”

“Fish food,” Afris said with fat satisfaction. “The Trident pulled out fast, as soon as we got the better of them. With Eudoras dead, the rest are no better than rats and roaches. If we weren’t so laden with cargo, I’ll be saying, chase her down.”

The iron sizzled again, and Senmet lost a shade more color while Faunos watched. Afris grasped his hand hard enough to break his bones, and Senmet swore in a curious rasp. Sweat rolled off him and he sagged back against the mast. “Get us moving, Afris,” he gasped. “I’ll sleep for a while. And you, boy …” He held out one shaking hand to Faunos. “I do thank you for my life.”

The Quezelus was undamaged, and the setback had cost them only a few hours. As Faunos watched, the vessel got back underway -- the deck tipped under his feet as the sail caught the following wind, the vast blade of the steering oar bit on a sharp angle, and the dead were sent to Peseden.

For Eudoras’s men, there were no rituals, no prayers or honors; but for the Quezelus’s own dead the full rites were sung. Four of the crew were eunuchs from Ilios and Nefti, and their voices were glorious. They sang as powerfully as men, in tones as high and pure as women. Afris’s vast chest gave his bass richness and volume which made Faunos shiver, as the litany for the dead was sung to Mayat, Hados and Naxos.

Aboard any kind of vessel, grief was a personal thing. Kinsmen and friends drew together and wept, while the greater crew continued to work as if nothing had happened. Only the big double-curved axe, taken out of Eudoros’s belly as a trophy, told the story. Afris had mounted it on the wall of the deckhouse, ahead of the steersman’s place.

It was still dirty with the bridgand’s blood, and Faunos could barely bring himself to look at it. Eudoros was his first blood, as soldiers called it -- less than a day after Galen’s passing, a matter of hours after the ship headed out of Vayal’s own waters. He glared at Helios, and spoke to Mayat as he stood at the rail, watching the pitching horizon.

“I took a life to save a life,” he told the goddess. “The life I took was worthless, and the life I saved belongs to one of the best men I know. But how will you judge me? What have you in store for me -- was it a test? Did I pass? Will you show me the gates that lead to the colonies where the Zehfti put down new roots, and people like me might still live and breathe?”

He watched the sky, waiting for a sign, but there was none. No one approached him as the afternoon wore through, but many eyes followed him, and he heard Senmet’s people whispering. Every man aboard knew exactly what he was, and Faunos began to fret in earnest. Many decades ago, a rich bounty had been placed on the heads of witchboys. Any man on this ship could be rich in his own right, if he handed the Zehefti fugitive to a witchfinder in Thebes.

Careful as ever, he secured the books and the Eye of Helios, laced the bags with fresh rawhide, and pushed them back under the bed in the tiny cabin. He left the sword unpacked, lying alongside the goatskins, where he could put his hand on it fast, if he were disturbed in the night.

But as afternoon dwindled into evening a Keltoi youth crept closer with a cup of berry juice; a young man from Incaria brought him a succulent mango; one of the Iliosian eunuchs gave him a bronze charm for good luck -- a dolphin the size of his small finger, on a leather thong. Faunos accepted the gifts, and when Afris returned to duty on the evening watch, he ate with the man.

Sunset had begun to flood the sky with blood and gold, which was the joy of mariners. Afris and the steersman were frying fish over a brazier in the lee of the deckhouse, and the smell of food made Faunos’s mouth water.

Before he could ask, Afris offered him a plate. “Senmet --?” Faunos asked.

“Is sore and sweated and in foul tempers,” Afris said unconcernedly, “which means he’ll be drunk tonight, cursing in the morning, and returned to his old, sweet self thereafter. And you, boy. What troubles you? I see you chafing at some puzzle.”

Faunos was eating as he gestured at the crew. “They know what I am now. Vayal pays highly for my kind. Who among them will turn me in for the bounty?”

The lion-maned head shook slowly. “We’re seafarers. Most of us are alive and at liberty tonight because of you, and we all believe that if you throw your good fortune back in the face of Mayat, you fetch down doom upon all. Look at them. They’re Incari, Keltoi, Iliosian, Neftish, Aegyyptian, a few from Nubiye, like myself -- which means we’re as superstitious as any man in Vayal, we just believe in different ghosts!” Afris lifted a brow at Faunos. “You’ll be welcome to stay aboard, if you like. We sometimes sail out as far as Jaymaca in the west and the Keltoi shores in the east, and the worst part of it is Hurucan. And the pirates,” he added with a white-toothed grin, almost as an afterthought. “With you aboard, bastard scum like Eudoros will soon learn to let us pass by.”

“I -- I could.” Faunos was astonished. “I hadn’t thought of it.”

Afris leaned on the long steering oar as he ate. “It would be difficult for the witchfinders to know you exist, if you’re never in any port longer than a tide or three.” He spat out a bone and looked Faunos up and down. “There’s Keltoi lads aboard who know a thing or two about the Power. They’ll fight for the privilege of your company, if you want to pick a lover.”

Now Faunos shivered. He had not thought of this, either. “The Power doesn’t concern you,” he observed.

“Not me.” Afris made the sign of the Jaguar before his face. “I’ve seen dark magic, where the jungle is so thick, you can’t look down and see your own feet! Zehefti magic is bright and clear as mountain water. I respect it. I know the names of Diomedas and Hellas and Iridan. They’re written into legend, even where I come from.”

A vast sense of relief coursed through Faunos. He sagged back against the deckhouse and mocked himself with a shaky chuckle. “I’ve never met people like you and Senmet. My teacher -- may the gods bless his soul -- kept me apart from people. Wisely, I always thought. Was he wrong?”

Turn page to Chapter Twenty conclusion...

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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