Saturday Sampler: Leiyatel’s Embrace by Clive S. Johnson
April 16, 2016
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Saturday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Leiyatel’s Embrace, a dystopian fantasy by Clive S. Johnson.
As one reviewer said: Clive Johnson brings us a rich punch made from an ancient recipe and full of things to make us feel good. And yet, it has a kick to it, which takes the reader by surprise.
An epic mystery set within the exquisitely realised ‘created-world’ realm of Dica. At its heart is a story spanning the millennia – from ancient myth and legend to the realm’s turbulent present – all seen through the intimate vision of its idiosyncratic characters. These are folk who’ll become as real to you as friends or family, and whose revealing and somehow contemporary story will stay with you for ever more.
This is the kind of fantasy you might have expected to have come from the pen of Mervyn Peake, peopled with fully fleshed out characters reminiscent of those so joyously created by Terry Pratchett. The story at times, though, may seem to owe more to CS Lewis as it weaves its way through a rich, deep and multi-threaded tapestry of a plot that would have pleased the science fiction master Olaf Stapledon. And of course, there’s one character who mustn’t be overlooked, and that’s Dica itself – so real, immediate and all-embracing that you could be forgiven for thinking it had sprung from JRR Tolkien’s own hand.
Don’t be misled, though, for this series is entirely Clive S. Johnson – the author, the poet, the artist. Unique, inventive, idiosyncratic and thought provoking, this series will push you away from the shores of the everyday and into a delightful voyage of discovery. You will find wonder, surprise, dry humour and some gritty truths as you’re inexorably drawn into the pure joy of such a rich, poetic and deep tale, so well and beautifully told.
At the end of a long, slow decline, the huge castle realm of Dica seems to be drawing close to its final days, but few of its remaining inhabitants are aware of this. Even when stirred into some ineffectual action by the arrival of an unexpected army – amassed before its gates – the true meaning of what’s really happening only comes slowly, and only to a small group of oddly assorted characters. Follow their journey as they travel the realm’s vast and convoluted ways, as they eventually unearth a complex and strange past, and much about themselves.
This is the first book of the Dica Series, a leisurely introduction to much of the weird and wonderful that marks this out as a unique ‘created-world’ story. This is, however, a world wrought with mystery, a world of the unexpected, a world of vast vistas and intimate observations. It’s also a compelling tale, one that builds to a most unexpected and thought-provoking conclusion. At times lyrical, the rich prose will steadily draw you into a totally fresh yet seemingly familiar place and time, one that will stay with you forever.
To the rose! The rose, with its ruby expanses furled to a terrain of inescapable crags and crannies, explored only by those black and yellow striped wanderers busy with its sweet delight of nectar. To the rose, its wilting edges yielding their essence limply to the warm and dusky air. To the rose set against a scarlet sky, its soft and sharp silhouette still proud against the fiery stain now seeping from the sun.
Worthy protectors, sharp and fierce in their static defence, regimented thorns betokened bloody tears, tears that wept from that splendour-topped stem. To the rose reflecting the sombre hue now seeping along the horizon, as the sun’s imponderable weight slowly sinks beyond western hills blackened to card silhouettes. Suddenly, the sun’s quenched, soaked into the darkened earth as yet another day slowly draws to a close.
A deeper black upon black, the rose is left cheated of its greatest joy, its effulgence of colour, lost as it is against the raven’s outspread wings. The air hangs with the aroma of myriad flowers whilst the all-pervading saw of crickets brings in, at the open window, the sounds of yet another summer’s eve.
It hadn’t been more than two hours since Francis had said goodbye to his old friend, Aldous Cullingham. He was now standing tearfully at the open window, with its vase-held bloom, seeing all yet seeing naught, heedless of the traffic’s murmur, the cricket’s chorus or his face becoming coursed with tears. In his hand, he absently turned a leaden ring over and over but only saw his vivid memory of Aldous.
His friend had lain for some weeks with his old frame slowly yielding to the ravages of time. He’d mostly slept, but on occasions had awoken and motioned to the wireless. Once the valves had warmed, he’d only ever listened to some soft and soothing music for a short while before again drifting off.
However, in that final hour Aldous had awoken with a start. He’d stared at Francis and then, with difficulty, brought his hand from beneath the bedclothes. Beckoning him near, Aldous had reached out and grasped Francis’s hand with surprising strength. He’d then felt something small, hard and circular between their hands, but Aldous had only smiled and quietly passed into his final slumber, his hand slowly relaxing its grip.
Francis had held it tenderly for a while before finally bowing his head and weeping. Very softly, he’d implored Charon to take his friend’s freed soul mercifully beyond the Styx.
Francis could still see Aldous’s waxen face, framed by cascading leaden hair, a mane richer yet than the ring’s strangely dull sheen. Now, though, alone in his own home he stared through a blur of tears at Aldous’s parting gift.
It had been mentioned a number of times towards the end, but somehow, try as he might, Francis could recall little. It was as though he’d heard the words in a dream, a dream too long passed to remember.
Absently, he ran his nail along the ring’s band but then felt a slight indentation. It was really nothing more than a scratch but it somehow held his finger’s idle curiosity. Without quite knowing how, the ring slipped mercurially onto his finger.
Something subtly yet insistently began to drag him from reflection. It urged his eyes irresistibly down. There, before the heavy summer’s evening sky, before the sombre rose, he looked closely at the ring.
The scratch was steadily widening to a groove and from which a green light seeped into the very air about, bathing his startled eyes in its eerily soft glow. He held it before him, at arm’s length, and was suddenly engulfed in an almost painful brilliance before all once more swiftly became dark. In the murmur of the night insects, and the drone of far off traffic, all was as it had been save that Francis and the ring were no more.