Chapter Twenty - conclusion

Red Sails part five

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“Your teacher was wise,” Afris said without hesitation. “He knew Vayal will pay a bounty for your kind, and there’s no shortage of vermin infesting the ports of Ilios and Incaria who’d betray you for silver, and take your books.”

“You’ve seen the books?” Faunos gave a start.

“No. But when I lifted you onto the barrels I saw the goatskins…” Afris frowned deeply at him. “I saw the jewel, and I know the legends. I didn’t believe they were true, but I know them. That jewel, and you, are worth a prince’s ransom. There’s little Mahanmec Azhtoc would not do, or pay, to get his talons into your flesh.”

Faunos swallowed hard on a dry, painful throat. “I know. Will I be cautious, aboard this ship? Your fellows might not betray me, but the stone, the books --?”

“Guard them well.” Afris stooped for the wine jar, drank a long draught from it, and passed it to Faunos. “Guard yourself just as well! It could be the jewel they desire -- or more likely your sweet arse! -- but probably both. Sleep with one ear open.”

“Damn.” Faunos knuckled his eyes. “I will. How long before we reach Thebes?”

“You’re leaving us?” Afris was surprised. “You’ll find no safety in Thebes, boy, if it’s bountymen and witchfinders you’re fretted about.”

“But I can try to disappear there,” Faunos said softly. “I’ll hide a while, and then take another ship, go further out where less is known about people like me. Perhaps in time I can find one of the Zehefti colonies, and vanish utterly among people who look like me.”

The Nubiyen seemed unconvinced. “No matter how far you run, the rumors will race ahead of you. You can’t outrun what you are.”

“Then I'll die.” Faunos closed his eyes, too tired to struggle with the future any longer. “It would be wise to dispose of the Eye of Helios, and the books, before I perish. If they fall into the wrong hands, they might change the world yet again, and I doubt it would be for the good of mankind.”

For some time they were silent, trading the wine jar back and forth, and at length Afris said thoughtfully, “Speak to Senmet. He’s wiser than I, better traveled, and he can read, which is a skill I respect and envy. You need,” he said deliberately, “a protector. A guardian. What happened to your teacher?”

It was oddly painful to speak of it. “He died last night. Zeheft is his pyre.” Faunos looked away. “He was half drowned in the storm, and never really recovered. I could do nothing for him, not even fetch a physician.”

He heard the pain in his own voice, and Afris’s long sigh. “We’ve all lost kinsmen,” the Nubiyen said sadly. “These times we live in will be sung of for ten thousand years, but they won’t be happy songs.” One large brown hand dropped on Faunos’s shoulder. “Speak with Senmet tomorrow. I’ve sailed with him for years, and I trust him as much as Priolas trusts him.”

“Priolas?” Faunos echoed. He had not yet heard the name.

But Afris only shrugged. “He’s the captain of the Incaria, the galley that runs in convoy with us on almost every voyage. When the two ships run together, the pirates let us pass … and after today, they’ll not stop us again. Not when the word will travel like wildfire between the islands. We have a sorcerer aboard.”

The words inspired a shiver. Faunos hugged himself as the evening wind became chill. “It won’t take long for the story to get back to Vayal that you have a Zehefti witchboy with you. You can expect the witchfinders to be waiting for you in every imperial port.”

“It’ll take six months, a year,” Afris said with a shrug. “By then, who knows where we shall be? Senmet and Priolas have ordered our destiny for years, and both crews have prospered. Have faith, at least until you hear their wisdom. Lie low in Thebes and listen for Priolas’s name. The Incaria will be headed there soon enough with some cargo or another.”

The brightest stars had begun to glitter, and Faunos was aware of a bone-deep weariness. His eyes were heavy, and when Afris gave him a gentle shove in the direction of his cabin, he was pleased to obey.

The night wind from the sternports was cool, clean. The moon was up, casting a river of silver across the ocean. He sat on the bunk, watching it until sleep stole over his mind, and wished he could accept the invitation to stay aboard. It was kindly made, but Afris had not considered the consequences; Senmet surely would.

A few months, then -- a year at the longest, while the story of where he was, who he was, filtered back to Vayal. Soran Izmal-xui Ulkan would hear it, the day the tale arrived on the waterfront. Months from now, he would surely still be smarting after the scene in the shepherd’s hut. Had he believed a word of the histories, the truths, Faunos had told him?

At the time, Soran had believed, but in the cold blue light of day he would begin to doubt again. He would be back in Vayal by now, Faunos thought as he slithered down onto the bunk and pulled a cushion under his head. He would be back in the palace, bathed and perfumed, with a bodyslave grooming his raven-black hair, courtesans waiting to be chosen for the night, the finest of food and music waiting for him. And his father, ready with every argument the priest-kings of Vayal had always made to convince their people of the evils of Zeheft.

Well fed, wined and bedded, Soran would look back on the scene in the ruins and wonder how he had let the wicked creature overcome him, why he had not simply stalked him when he had the chance, and knocked the wits out of him before Faunos had even realized he was there. He could have done it so easily, and Faunos was at a loss to know why he had not.

The puzzle was too much, and he was too tired to wrestle it down. He watched the stars until his vision faded, his eyes lost focus, and he drifted into dreams without realizing he was asleep. But they were not good dreams, and though his sleep was sound, deep, he was troubled.

He had lost his time sense when he jerked awake, and as he eyes sprang open he saw the first light of true dawn. He was cold under the open sternport, but the chill was welcome. He rubbed his arms, wondering what had woken him, and then it came again -- Senmet’s voice, up on deck, calling out across the calm water.

“My gods, you made fast time! What demon’s behind you, to fetch you out here at such speed? What did you bribe the crew with, to keep them at the oars so long?”

A voice answered. It was too far off for Faunos to catch what it said, but he knew it had to come from another vessel. Not a pirate ship this time -- Senmet was laughing as he shouted to a friend. A moment later he called, “No matter -- come aboard and have breakfast with us. I have amazing things to tell you!” He stopped to listen, and laughed again. “No, it’s not something I want to bellow at the top of my lungs!

With eyes still full of sleep, Faunos grabbed a cloak and stumbled out of the tiny cabin. The morning chill woke him quickly. He joined Afris by the deckhouse and took the offered beaker of mango juice, but Afris was to busy to talk. The other galley was coming alongside rapidly. Grapnels had already been thrown over in both directions, and strong hands gathered along the rails to pull the vessels together and secure them.

A tall, copper-skinned Incariman in silks and gold hopped lightly over onto the deck of the Quezelus. Senmet embraced him like a brother and beckoned him to the captain’s plush cabin in the stern. “Come and eat with me, Priolas -- you won’t believe what I have to tell you.”

“Nor what I have to tell you,” the tall, striking Priolas said in a voice almost as rich and deep as Afris’s. He glanced once over his shoulder before he followed Senmet. “Come aboard,” he called back to his own ship, beckoning. “I’ll talk privately with Senmet, but I’ll not be long.”

He had called to a blue-cloaked man who wore his hood up to conceal his face. Faunos watched the man vault the rail with the grace of an athlete and land lightly. As he found his feet on the deck of the Quezelus, the hood slithered back and down, and the morning sun fell full in his face.

Faunos felt the blood drain from every extremity, and his head was light, dizzy. He stepped back against the deckhouse, but there was nowhere to run. So this was where it ended, after all of Galen’s dreams and plans. His life was forfeit on the deck of a battered trading galley, a mere day’s voyage beyond the Myrmidae.

The most crucial thing Faunos could think of was to destroy the books, to get the Eye of Helios into a sack, weight it and throw it into the sea, where it would be lost forever. His heart hammered against his ribs as he lifted his chin and met the newcomer’s crackling blue eyes.

Turn page to Chapter Twenty-one...

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.

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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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