Indie Book Spotlight: Embers Drift, by Simon Williams
The Mothers, immortal rulers of the Citadel, are desperate to die. Through stirring the world into chaos, they hope that they might be granted oblivion at last.
Meanwhile, in the black and winding alleyways of this industrial metropolis, things that should be impossible show themselves to those few who are vessels of the Great Power. THE ENGINEER - defined by logic and ruled by routine, she helps keep the lights on for the teeming millions. She craves nothing but anonymity. But her quietly ordered life is about to fall apart. THE VOICE - highest servant of the Mothers, he incarcerates and executes at will. He revels in the void eating him from the inside out. But his privileged and carefully controlled existence will change forever after an apparently chance meeting. THE DARK RIVER - a troubled wanderer, inside whom impossible forces rage, she has seen the hidden inner life of the Citadel. She knows that another world touches this one, and the barrier grows thin.
THE FINDER - a man of deep insight and startling visions, he is adept at unusual investigations. A new case will send him on a journey that unlocks a forgotten past, a revelation that will change his world forever. "Things are only deities if you let them be..."
They no longer recalled when they began to name one another numerically. They could not even remember whose idea it had been. Perhaps the decision had been made eight hundred years ago, or eight hundred and fifty. More, less, it didn’t matter. Such gulfs of time, so important to their mortal subjects, had become a needless detail to the Mothers.
One, Two and Three had all but forgotten their names from that so-distant time, when they too were mortal. Yet they occasionally recalled with bitterness the distant events that had conspired to place them here, as absolute rulers of a dynasty that could not end.
One winter’s evening, as swirling blizzards ground the Citadel to a halt and citizens huddled for warmth wherever they could, Three knelt by the fire that raged in the hearth of the Southern Tower’s meeting hall. She preferred the austere, cold architecture of this section of the palace to any other. Some innate bitterness attracted her to the many marble columns, the chequered floors, the stark contrast of light and dark. The hard surfaces and simple coloration brought a degree of clarity to her conflicted emotions.
Her alabaster countenance showed none of this inner turmoil. Her pale blue eyes appeared washed free of all emotion, nothing more than gems set into stone.
Two watched dispassionately as Three extended her hand to the fire. The crackling flames leapt eagerly to consume the flesh from her offering. Three grimaced in pain but remained resolutely silent before she finally removed that flaming ruin. Acrid smoke curled up from the cooked and charred meat. Two and Three watched in silence as the flesh slowly mended itself and skin grew back, black char replaced by new pink flesh and skin. In the space of four or five minutes the repair was complete, and the hand looked no different to how it had before its temporary combustion.
"Do you remember the time when you threw yourself into this same hearth?" Two remarked.
Three scowled. "I remember well enough. Mostly I recall the days after that. The pain. The punishment, I thought."
"I watched as the flames appeared to consume you whole. But they died down eventually, starved of fuel, and you lay there for half a day, blackened and still."
"You watched me the whole time?"
"I had nothing better to do. The afternoon wore on and as the sky grew dark, I saw you move from out of the ashes, nothing more than char tinged with raw slashes of exposed flesh."
"The pain was excruciating," Three said with a shudder. "I lay still, but I didn’t lose consciousness. Perhaps that was my punishment- to feel every cell and nerve made again."
"I’ve noticed something." Two knelt next to her and took Three’s hand in her own much darker one. "With every attempt we make to end our existence, our physical forms are replenished more quickly. One might say it is a punishment. The Great Power pushes back harder with each attempt at unmaking."
"I wasn’t trying to unmake," Three pointed out. "I only wanted to feel the brightness of the pain." She flexed and moved each finger in turn and traced the finger of her other hand along the contours of flesh. "It’s gone now. It always goes."
"More quickly each time?"
"More quickly each time."
Two let go of her hand and pondered. Finally she asked, "Are the finger prints exactly the same as before?"
Three blinked in surprise. "How would I know? It isn’t something I’ve thought about. I never studied the old prints. Does it matter?"
"Such things may hold clues as to how we might eventually die. A pattern hidden in the detail, perhaps. Or a pattern that can’t be faithfully replicated."
Three smiled sadly at that hope. "Eternity will be unbearable if you fail to accept it. The Spider blessed and cursed us at the same time, and you presume to fight your way through her web a thousand years later? We belong to her, now and forever."
"Unless," Two said, "we displease the Spider sufficiently."
Three laughed, but then felt a prickle of unease stir inside her. "How could we possibly do that?"
"If we began the cycle again…" Two left many things unsaid, and Three’s unease only grew as she considered the ramifications of unleashing such forces- technology whose remnants they had inherited, but which they had long given up trying to understand. "We would stir an ancient hell into life," she said.
Two only smiled at that.
Simon Williams is a UK-based author of dark fantasy and occasionally other genres. His works include the five-book Aona series and Embers Drift, a standalone metaphysical fantasy. He has also written two books aimed more towards children, Summer’s Dark Waters and The Light From Far Below. He is currently working on a dark epic fantasy series, The Heralds of Misfortune, along with several standalone works.
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Embers Drift on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B088WF28QN
Embers Drift on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B088WF28QN
I've read several books by this author and can highly recommend his work. So if enjoy rich, complex fantasy, and Embers Drift catches your eye, please visit his website or Amazon page to check out his other titles.