Chapter Twenty

Red Sails

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The sheets of coarse paper were in the back of the last volume in the Mysteries. If Galen were still alive, Faunos would never have seen them at all, and he only discovered them when he was opening the books to ‘air,’ which was vital to their preservation. If they were sealed up for too long, moisture inside the leather wrappings would make black or green mold bloom in the books’ bindings, and after a millennium of being treasured, the volumes would quickly go to ruin. One of the first lessons Galen had taught him was how to care for them, and one of the most important things he must remember was that the books needed to ‘breathe’ every day.

They were lying open on the narrow bunk in a tiny cabin, high in the stern of the galley. Faunos had slithered down the curved timber wall and sat on the floor, too tired to think clearly and much too restless to sleep. The books would lie open for an hour, perhaps two, and when the goatskin wrappings had been cleaned and checked for moisture, he could put them away.

He saw the sheets of paper as he opened up the Mysteries. They shifted in the back, and curiosity made him slide them out, wondering if they might be Galen’s notes, or even his father’s. He knew his father’s handwriting well, but this was Galen’s. And the sheets of old, crinkled brown paper did not carry notes.

It was a letter, and as he saw the first few lines, Faunos felt as if he had been struck a blow.

‘You won’t find this for some time,’ Galen had written, ‘and I hope I shall be bare bones by the time you read these words. But I have so much to say to you, my dear child, that I could never say while we both clung to life. I would tell you this: your gift is greater than your father’s. Dormant in your flesh is a Power the equal of Diomedas himself, while Mykenos, may the gods love him as I did, would never allow himself to feel, and employ, the fullness of the grace that was born in him.

‘I never told you this, for I had no wish to frighten you, and the Power already affrights you enough, for you know as well as do we all, the price it will exact from you. But you know also that nothing fine is ever won without struggle, without pain. To be sure, a path lies ahead of you which will be fraught with both, but I have seen your strength as you grew from child to man. You have the fortitude to profit from hardship; and if you can do this, abilities you cannot yet grasp lie before you.

‘So I bid you -- run and hide! Keep safe while you learn. These books are your allies, your friends and kin, but you will need more. On the Keltoi shores there are men and women with the skills of the shaman. Seek a mentor, my child, one who knows the Power and can read the books. Find someone who will love you like a son, as I did.

‘This parting is not of my choosing. I leave so much undone, and am pained with regret. But this much, do I know: you possess the strength to survive, and gifts which exceed anything your father would permit. Go warily in the world, Faunos Phinneas Aeson, for it is stranger than you know. Never forget your heritage, which is the glory of Zeheft; and honor your great father, whom it was my duty to serve.

‘I love you always, my son.’

Faunos’s eyes stung with hot, painful tears as he read the three flimsy sheets. He read them twice, and then very carefully slid them back into the final pages of the book, where they would be preserved like a thread of memory.

A knife seemed wedged in his gut, and he hugged his arms about his knees, wishing to all the gods that he could just slither down into a deep, dreamless sleep, and not wake till the ship reached Thebes.

Sound sleep eluded him, but he sank into a torpor, a light doze that granted him an hour’s peace while the Quezelus swung wide around the shoals known as the Myrmidae, and thrust her beaked prow out into the open ocean.

The smell of fish frying teased him awake. He smelt ale too, and only then became aware of his parched tongue. For the first time in so long, he was hungry. Youth was still on his side, as Galen had always known. Like any young thing, he would struggle to live while a shadow of hope remained.

The sun had swung well across the sky. It was afternoon, and Vayal, the Myrmidae, familiar waters, were all far astern. He had packed the books and pushed the laced-shut goatskins under the bunk when he heard a shrill commotion from the deck, and he cocked at eat to the port through which the following wind blew grudgingly.

The voice was bellowing down from somewhere up on the mast, and he made out words now. “Sails! Red sails!”

Feet pounded across the galley -- the crew needed no orders to get behind the oars. Before Faunos had reasoned what the lookout meant by ‘red sails,’ the galley was cracking on a decent speed. A warship? Was the Quezelus trespassing in someone’s waters?

Heart in his mouth, he left the cabin and scrambled up the ladder into the open air. He had barely put his head through when he sat the galley’s captain. Senmet was a short, stocky man with skin as bronze as the Aegyptian and curly hair that hugged his skull like a cap. He wore big emerald earrings, and would have been handsome indeed, if his nose had not been broken many years ago. It had set crooked, which gave his features a rakish look. He kholed his eyes and gilded the lids, in the Incari manner, and his fingers were thick with silver rings.

“I told you, boy,” he said grimly in the accent of Incaria, “you’re headed into dangerous seas. You knew this when you shipped out with us.” He gestured at the horizon, aft and starboard. “She’s a galley out of Casserta or Onides, by the look of her.”

A warship? Or is it pirates?” Faunos clambered up on deck and shaded his eyes to follow the line of Senmet’s pointing hand.

“They’d say hunters, profiteers, privateers, mercenaries,” Senmet said with wry humor, “but those are all fancy names for the same thing. If we had a valuable cargo, we’d stand to lose it.” He gave Faunos a grin, displaying good teeth. “Fortunately, we’re loaded with shipnails and pottery, and I’ll be damned if I know what in Hados pirates would want with them.”

Faunos had made out the scarlet sails now. He gave Senmet a hard look. “Still, you’re trying to outrun them.”

“Still.” Senmet leaned on the rail beside him and watched the big, triangular red sail, which was gaining slowly over the Quezelus. “It’s a matter of pride … I don’t like being boarded, and they don’t like finding out they’ve just run down a galley full of nail and pots! So,” he said philosophically, “the bastards will rummage through my own belongings and yours, and those of every man aboard, and if it shines, or if it’s pretty, they’ll take it. They’ll help themselves to every drop of wine and ale, and every bite of food, which means we’ll be fishing for our supper and drinking water, all the way to Thebes! And then they’ll look around for something young and pretty to beguile away a night or three, before I find myself on some dock in Casserta or Onides, ransoming you back with money you’ll be owing me till you’ve worked it off.”

“So you’re trying to outrun them,” Faunos repeated. “Will you give me a sword? I was taught how to use one well.”

The captain hesitated, frowning deeply at him. “Lessons only, or have you survived a real fight?”

“Lessons,” Faunos admitted.

The Incariman shook his head slowly. “This is not the time to try your hand against an actual foeman for the first time. These bastards will be stone-cold sober, and there’s precious few fools among them. They’re well schooled in brawling, street fighting … and with all due respect to your teachers, boy, lessons and brawling are two different things.”

It was exactly what had been on Faunos’s mind, and he did not try to defend what he knew of the warrior arts. Galen had warned him time and again that his first fights were critical, and he must choose carefully when to fight, when to run. “Then, what do you want of me, Captain? I don’t want trouble any more than you do, if we can avoid it.”

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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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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