The Eyes of the Oracle

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A fever burns in his breast, sickens his belly, and Soran struggles. Duty has always bound his hands, as if he were a slave to the office -- bondsman to his great father, beneath whose wrath all the Empire trembles. But if Soranchele Izamal-xiu Ulkan fulfils his duty tonight, everything he desires will be delivered into the hands of the one he despises. And Faunos will surely die. Druyus will find a way to have him, and break him.

The stallion runs like the wind, foam-flecked, eating the miles eastward from the City of the Sun. Soran has only to give him his head and let him go. The horse lives to run, and is rarely granted the gift. The moonlight is near as bright as day; the highroad is like a white ribbon, following the backbone of the dolphin shape of the island.

And Soran’s thoughts are far from the horse, the road, the duty which binds him. He is back in a pavilion on the beach, with the soft sounds of the ocean, the music of a blind harper, and a sublime creature beneath him who seems less mortal than godling. Was his father one of the spirits of wind or lightning or rain? To be sure, his mother was a mortal woman, but his father must have been air or storm or starlight.

Soran has seen nothing like him, save the effigy in the Temple of Apollonos, who is the brother of Aphrataya, goddess of love. Apollonus is the patron of passion, of lust and desire, and the sculptors cast him in a form so like that of Faunos, Soran is captivated.

Enchanted? Still, he is uncertain, and only reason whispers to him, over and over, that Faunos is innocent. Even if the witchboy who was seen in that pig-pen of a village is actually Faunos -- and the birthmark insists on it -- then, witchboy or no, Faunos called upon no fraction of his Power.

And why he did not leaves Soran deeply disturbed. Everything he has been taught tells him, the Power is monstrous, dangerous. Faunos might have killed him, addled his wits, calcified his limbs, turned his belly to molten lead. Yet here is Soran -- confused, aching and sore at heart, but vividly alive as he brings the stallion in to the stable beside a tavern.

He shouts for the stablemaster and drinks ale to slake his thirst while the harness is changed to a long-legged black racer, the fastest animal in this stable. The stallion is spent now, and hangs his head, sides heaving, while the tall black gelding is envious and eager to run.

In minutes Soran is back on the road, and his thoughts are a hot, dark maelstrom of duty, desire, reason, superstition -- despair. He can make no sense of this, and feels himself caught up in the hands of Fates, gods, demons, any or all of whom will make him their pawn, their chattel, trade him for gain and leave him for dead, when it pleases them.

The highroad arrows into west, on the shoulders of the hills. On his left hand, he sees the firefly lights of the water gypsies’ camps, and his belly churns once more as memory takes him back there. He wants no more than to throw down the amulet of the witchfinder, curse the whole line of kings that has led to Azhtoc, and vanish with the tide, like the gypsies.

Three times, he changes horses at taverns lately overflowing with fugitives seeking the refuge of Vayal. The closer he runs in to Zeheft, the more fugitives are on the highroad, and at last he must cut speed and thread through the tangle of wagons and carts, to find the physician’s house.

The moon is high, two hours before midnight. The soldiers who will burn Zeheft are just hours’ march from the ruins, and by dawn nothing of the old city will survive. The night is full of the squeals of rats, jackals, foxes, all gorged on the bounty of Volcos.

The village squats in a valley with the bay to the south, and Zeheft lies over the hill. Soran knows it well enough; he has been here many times before, on his way to and from the old city. He has never liked the place, nor the people. They are mean spirited, grubbing for money in the shadow of the grandeur that was once Zeheft, and hating the Zeheftimen for the greatness of their ancestors.

Too many of the old folk here are tricksters, while the young seem mostly to be thieves and whores. Life is hard, this far from Vayal. People do what they must to survive, but the process has soured them, and their revulsion for the people of Zeheft divides them from a market that would have lent them prosperity. Proud Zeheft would have traded with them, but dread, hate, superstition, are cruel taskmasters.

The native pride of the Zeheftiman is part of Faunos’s allure -- Soran knows this now. He feels it, deep as his heart, and he realizes in this instant, what a gift he was given. Faunos set aside the pride of his people, used no fraction of the Power to damage Soran, and when he was given leave to go, he chose to stay. He withheld nothing of himself, not the delight of his mouth, nor the haven of his loins.

“He wanted me,” Soran whispers as he brings the horse through the deserted village, and sees a cluster of people at the physican’s house. “And what becomes of him now? It will be the vaults, and Druyus, and if the priest can conjure his way with slick words to Azhtoc, it will be the whip, the irons set to heat in the fire, sharps to pierce, weights to punish, salts and acids, venoms, and torments Soran refuses to think of.

The voices of old teachers haunt Soran tonight. Their lessons whisper in his ears -- tales of the wicked priest-kings of the lineage of Diomedas and Aeson and Dianos, whose magic was said to be dark as pitch, whose sons were possessed by evil, and who would bring the New Kingdom down in flames if ever they rose up out of Zeheft.

They must be extinguished, and the Power with them -- all his life, Soran has believed this. But now he has lain with one of them, loved with one of them. He remembers the suppleness and warmth of young human flesh, hard with muscle, taut with sinew, pulsing with life, gloriously male --

And it was just a young man sighing beneath him. Prideful at first, frightened of him, until the art and skill of one who could recite the Book of Aphrataya overcame both pride and fear. Pure, raw desire will chase out both, and at last it was a lover in Soran’s arms, contradicting everything he has ever understood.

The priests, teachers, and especially Azhtoc, would call him a fool for these thoughts. Questions are almost forbidden, and always answered with vague quotations from scriptures so old, their translations are tangled. Tales from the time of the Ice are lately raveled up with the histories of Vayal and the spirit tales of Zeheft … nothing makes sense any longer.

How shall the eons of our past make any more sense than the maelstrom of our present, when the Library of Vayal is sealed like a tomb? Priests toil there, copying books they can not even properly read, while the originals, hand-scribed on papyrus and vellum, are so incalculably old, they are falling away into dust as they are copied. The languages, like all the tongues of men, are drifting like the currents and tides of the sea … what do they mean, these scriptures from the great, glory days of mankind?

No mortal knows, but priests pretend to. Even Mahanmec Azhtoc visits the Library on rare occasion -- usually when the Oracle has spoken only gibberish rhyme to him, and he must seek wisdom elsewhere. He would flog Iridan to bloody tatters if only he could fathom how to do it … but how will he set the steel-tailed whip upon the very air? The Oracle speaks in riddles, endless riddles, to the chagrin of kings.

As a young boy, Soranchele Izamal-xiu Ulkan visited the library with his great father. Forbidden to touch the books, for an hour he watched the scribes, the keepers of knowledge no one understands, and he left the Library sure of only one thing.

Everything a man could ever need or desire to know, every secret, every shard of wisdom, is stored in those vaults where the face of Helios never shines. And Faunos’s secrets, his magic? Is the Power of the scions of Diomedas explained there, too?

A chill pervades Soran as he brings the horse to a halt by the physician’s house and watches the old man and his ancient wife prostrate in the dirt. He has no desire to know the secrets of Diomedas, nor to pry into ancient high magic that is too great for him to comprehend, much less master. Yet he marvels now, that he has seen it, felt it, at firsthand. He and the witchboy were as one body, fused and whole, when the Power began to burn bright in Faunos … and Soran recalls an odd lightness, as if they were coupling in a dim, warm ocean. Rapture, sweet scents -- these are his memories; and such pleasure as can make a man mad with longing. Or tear out his heart, never to be returned.

But he recalls no evil, no darkness or vileness of purpose. He remembers only joy such as he has never known before -- he sees Faunos’s face again, suffused with the pure, vital lust of the healthy young animal, glorious heat and painful longing.

And then he glimpses the face of Druyus, wreathed in shadows in his lair beneath Vayal, and he squeezes out the ugliness of the memory. Better that Faunos should die, quick and clean, like the gazelle or the cheetah, at the climax of the hunt. He will take the lifeless body back to Druyus to be examined for what it can tell.

To let Faunos live and go free would be the worst kind of treason. Not even the seventh son of Azhtoc would be absolved. But there are ways which not even Azhtoc and Druyus can deny. Death can also be kind.

Fury coils like a serpent through Soran’s belly as he glares down at the physician, the wife, the meddling, hateful, superstitious neighbors who must send for the soldiers. Grim with determination, he sets aside the lover and becomes the witchfinder.

Turn page to Chapter Seventeen...

Return to Chapter Sixteen...

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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