Crime / Suspense / Thriller
Date Published: 06/07/2021
Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd
The town of Unity sits perched on the edge of a yawning ravine where, long ago, a charisma of angels provided spiritual succour to a fledgling human race. Then mankind was granted the gift of free will and had to find its own way, albeit with the guidance of the angels. The people’s first conscious act was to make an exodus from Unity – they built a rope bridge across the ravine and founded the town of Topeth. For a time, the union between the people of Topeth and the angels of Unity was one of mutual benefit. After that early spring advance, there had been a torrid decline in which mankind’s development resembled a crumpled, fading autumnal leaf.
Following the promptings of an inner voice, Tula, a young woman from the city, trudges into Topeth. Her quest is to abide with the angels and thereby discover the right and proper exercise of free will. To do that, she has to cross the bridge – and overcome her vertigo.
Topeth is in upheaval; the townsfolk blame the death of a child on dust from the nearby copper mines. The priests have convinced them that a horde of devils have thrown the angels out of Unity and now occupy the bridge, possessing anyone who trespasses on it. Then there’s the heinous Temple of Moloch!
The Abdication is the story of Tula’s endeavour to step upon the path of a destiny far greater than she could ever have imagined.
- The Acropolis
Tula staggered away from the Temple of Moloch to escape the toxic atmosphere. The air was thin. Her body was sweating, her stomach, knotted. Once in a while, she paused to gather her breath. Her head swirled with conflicting views about the townsfolk. At one turn they were kind and hospitable, but then they seemed to flip into a collective madness, in which they were possessed and intoxicated by a deluded sadistic pleasure.
There were no devils, other than those believed and invested in by people’s hearts and minds. The devils had no power without the freely given will of the people. She did not think this was how the gift of free will was intended to be exercised.
Then there was the bridge, a bridge to the future, away from the past and into the bright lights of tomorrow. Was its true name Via Angelica or the Devils’ Bridge? After Jevros’s fall and the tragic death of his baby girl, she had entertained her doubts. And now Moloch – the terrifying monster.
She needed a quiet place to meditate. The sun was arcing in the sky and sending waves of heat onto the town. The sunlight glinted on the derelict temple columns on Acropolis Hill. On first arriving in Topeth, the old structure had intrigued her. It would be an ideal sanctuary, at least until the gruesome ceremony at the bronze temple had finished.
Occupying the highest point in the town, the old Acropolis had been abandoned to nature, a monumental relic to a past era. She found herself at the head of a causeway leading to the first of three tiered terraces or courts, each separated by a low boundary wall running around the hillside like a girdle. The Acropolis building itself, or what was left of it, stood bleak and proud on the uppermost peak.
On entering the outer court, she scrunched up her nose. The stench was coming from a mound of rubbish. Blotches of weed poked through the gaps in the pile of old rotting clothes, discarded sandals, broken bottles and more of those nearly new children’s toys. The tip had attracted vermin, who, on her arrival, scampered for cover into the tall, thin spindles of dry grass. Schooled both by the adversity of the heat and the rarity of the atmosphere in Topeth, the rats seemed as big as beavers and mountain-ready.
Rats she did not like, neither the four-legged variety nor the two-legged. She had encountered a few of both in her short time on Earth and bore a particular disgust for the latter. Both smelled; the four-legged were putrid and the two-legged, well, they were even worse, since they had free will and therefore had volunteered to act like the four-legged variety.
Then there was the compliance, the serial inability to think for oneself and to follow others as a matter of course. She did not like that either. Yet it was as infuriatingly difficult to spot as to eradicate. Her pet hate was the giving of a name by its parents to a child. Her parents had named her Tula. She had not asked for it, condoned it, or even agreed to it, yet the name had stuck. One day, she would give herself a new name, to mark the beginning of her life-long quest, with a name chosen by her that chimed with her perceived destiny. Now that sounded like the proper exercise of free will.
She was Tula; Tula was she. The name had echoes of the tulip, the flower. Did her cheeks bloom with their fiery reds? Did she smell as nice? Could she smell her own body odour or her own clothes? They mostly smelled of sweat and fear, but on the odd occasion that she found that quiet, listening space in herself, she smelled as sweet as the turban-topped tulip.
About the Author
Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers – that’s history with a supernatural twist. His stories feature known events and real people from history which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural.
He gives author talks and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio Bristol’s Thought for the Day. He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.
The Genes of Isis is a tale of love, destruction and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt. A re-telling of the Biblical story of the flood, it reveals the mystery of the genes of Isis – or genesis – of mankind. ISBN 9781789014860.
“The novel is creative, sophisticated, and downright brilliant! I couldn’t ask more of an Egyptian-esque book!” – Lauren, Books Beyond the Story.
The Old Dragon’s Head is a historical fantasy and supernatural thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and played out in the shadows the Great Wall of China. It explores the secret history of the influences that shaped the beginnings of modern times. ISBN 9781789015829.
‘The author is an excellent storyteller.” – British Fantasy Society.
Set during the Great Enlightenment, The Coronation reveals the secret history of the Industrial Revolution. ISBN 9781838591885.
“The novel explores the themes of belonging, outsiders… religion and war… filtered through the lens of the other-worldly.” – A. Deane, Page Farer Book Blog.
His latest, The Abdication (July, 2021), is a suspense thriller, a journey of destiny, wisdom and self-discovery. ISBN 9781800463950.
“In Topeth, Tula confronts the truth, her faith in herself, faith in a higher purpose, and ultimately, what it means to abdicate that faith.” – V. Triola, Coast to Coast.
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