Date Published: 08-28-2018
Akasha is a precocious young woman who lives in a world where oceans circulate in the aquamarine sky waters.
Before she was born, the Helios, a tribe of angels from the sun, came to Earth to deliver the Surge, the next step in the evolution of an embryonic human race. Instead, they left humanity on the brink of extinction and spawned a race of monstrous hybrids.
Horque is a Solarii, another tribe of angels, sent to Earth to rescue the genetic mix-up and release the Surge.
When Akasha has a premonition that a great flood is imminent and falls in love with Horque, her life becomes an instrument for apocalyptic change. But will it save the three races – humans, hybrids and Solarii – from the killing waters?
30. The God Crucible
The moonlight flooded through the window but Issa was still awake. Once the street cats grew tired of fighting and the hyenas and foxes stopped scavenging, she roused herself and began her descent. Clutching a glow lamp in one hand and Fryme’s package in the other, she crept downstairs and stopped in the middle of a corridor, beside a section of wall that would have appeared unremarkable to anyone else. She knew otherwise.
A few words, an arcane utterance, followed by a shimmer of light and the astral curtain disappeared, revealing the secret door. She stepped through it, into the corridor beyond. She was going to the God Crucible, an occult chamber beneath her house. Its astral protections were such that no one, not even Cheiron, suspected its existence. Her breathing was shallow. This was the first point of no return.
Her glow-lamp threw long shadows down the narrow, sloping tunnel. Divided in two, it had steps on one side and a slanting ramp on the other. In front of her on the ground was a piece of white bandage, accidentally torn off the mummified body of her son, which she’d dragged down the ramp before Cheiron had arrived. How heavy he had been. They didn’t call it a dead weight for nothing. She could still smell the musty odour of the dust particles she’d dislodged.
At the bottom of the ramp, the tunnel gave way to a dome-shaped chamber, the God Crucible. Her son’s cadaver lay on a bench, and she ran her hand over the embalming bandages. Beside it was a second, vacant bench. There, she would lie during the ritual she was about to perform.
The Anubis embalmers had washed Horque’s body, encased it in natron salt, and mummified it according to all but one of the traditions of the Jackal-headed God – the exception being that they had not removed any of his organs. On his chest, she laid out a scarab pectoral and into his mouth, she placed a length of straw.
Opening Fryme’s package, she fingered the dark green leaves. She’d used hyssop many times before and had grown to enjoy its astringent odours. Deftly, she worked the herb into a paste and poured a droplet onto a wafer. Before lying down on the bench, she re-read the hieroglyphs on the wall: ‘The Spell of the Gods’ and beneath that, the warning, ‘Use me wisely, lest I turn and rend thee.’
This ritual was the ultimate. It was life and death. She had to be dedicated and fulsome, lest the warning would apply to her. She replayed every detail of the ritual in her mind before preparing for the trance. The timing was of the essence: according to the proscription of the ritual, it had to be conducted on the night of the round moon and completed by the rise of the sun.
Carefully, she adjusted the aperture on the glow-lamp so the amount of light hovered on the twilight between astral and incarnate. Lying on the bench, she placed the wafer beneath her tongue, relishing the minty bitterness of the hyssop as it suffused her being. Slowly, a mists and vapours of the astral veiled her eyes.
She drifted in and out of consciousness, as her ka eased out of her physical body, until she crossed through the Veil and entered its natural domicile, the huge edifice of the astral light. Immediately, she settled into her familiar astral cloak – the golden lioness. It felt good to be back amongst the warmth of her own kind.
Oh, how she’d missed the freedom of the astral light, where she could fly the universe at the speed of thought and take wing through millions of years in an instant. Through her ka, she looked down on herself, lying on the bench. Would this be the last time she’d ever do so? She banished the thought. For now, she had to be meticulously correct. Her enemies were doubt, fear, and hesitation.
She willed her ka towards Du’at, the realm of the dead, and quickly located the pair of columns at its entrance, the colossal Anubis Gates. She expected to find the jackal-headed Anubis operating its gates, but they appeared unguarded. Her voyage to the underworld couldn’t be easier – she’d enter Du’at, find the Hall of Truth, and rescue Horque’s ka.
As she approached, a curtain of force shimmered between the gates. On it silky, misty surface appeared a thousand faces – young and old, happy and sad, and all strangely familiar people she’d met in her lifetime, human and Solarii – until one only remained. No. It couldn’t be. It was her own face. She was so startled she nearly ruptured the precious umbilical connection to her physical body. Was it a mirror? No, it was a replica. It was more than that. It was her double.
The guard to Du’at was Issa herself. The face stared back at her, inspecting her, a most unnerving experience. To be investigated by oneself. She felt naked to the core.
“What do you want?” The double even spoke in her own voice.
“Entry to Du’at,” she replied.
“This is the realm of the dead. You’re still alive; go back to where you belong.”
The face of her double stared back, eyes unflinching, scrutinising her inner being. There was nowhere to hide from oneself.
“No, I can’t do that. Let me in. My son must live again.”
“Many come to plead for their loved ones. Don’t think you’re the first,” the face snarled. “Enter here at your peril, because you’ll never leave.”
“What does that mean? I’m more powerful than a mere guard dog,” she scoffed. “Let me pass.”
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,
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.