Today I have an extract from King of the Asphodels, a fantasy novella written by David Jordan.
When she had hung up, he sighed with relief. It was good to know that he wasn’t alone. But when he looked around him, he was suddenly struck by how empty the apartment was. He began to feel himself being pulled down into the void again. Julia was gone. Without a trace. Not even a whisper.
He got up and went to the kitchen. He opened a cupboard and took out the envelope and the coin Foster had given him. He sat down at the kitchen table and inspected them. He was tempted to open the envelope and see what the magician had written but he remembered the warning. Besides, he probably wouldn’t be able to decipher it if it was written in the same language as the words that were written on the envelope itself. It looked and sounded Irish, but it made no sense to him.
Cuillog do Garadh ag Grainneach Cernnach
Maybe it was a different kind of Gaelic. Manx or Cornish or something. Or maybe it was Old Irish. Whatever it was, he couldn’t make head nor tail of it. He spoke the words aloud to the silence and was answered with silence. But there was a slight tingling sensation in his body. It started in his chest and spread out to the tips of his fingers and toes.
He suddenly became awed by his surroundings. By the sheer isness of everything. The breeze coming in through the window, stirring the curtain. The scent of air freshener. The giant Watchmen poster in the living room. The African tribal mask. The luxurious brown leather couch. Everything seemed to be calling to him, in a chiming, singsong kind of way. He became aware of a symphony of sensations. It suddenly occurred to him that God was a symphonaire, sternly writing away. Writing out the soundtrack to our lives, and it was such a joyous thought that it made him smile. And amidst all these instruments, all these vessels of the divine, was a place of calm and quiet. And a peace so profound it made him want to cry. And he wondered if Julia was there. And if she was, maybe she was here with him now, too. ‘Julia?’ he said softly. There was a sudden gust of wind at the window and the curtain moved with a whisper.
But that was all.
John Thomond has made a deal with the mage, Jack Foster. In return for directions to the Underworld, and the means to bring back his dead wife, he must become the magician’s apprentice. In the Underworld, Thomond is guided by the spirit of the great Bluesman, Robert Johnson, who sold his soul to the Devil to become the ‘King of the Delta Blues Singers’. As they travel through Hades, Johnson shows Thomond some of the sights the Underworld has to offer and Thomond also learns the principles of magic. Eventually, newly empowered, he makes it his business to free the soul of the Bluesman, but there are hazardous consequences, in both the Underworld and the world above…
King of the Asphodels is a novel concerned with many things: power, music, magic, myth. But at its heart it is a book about friendship and freedom.