Such a grand, literary name for a person who I feel is a genius of the written word. I don’t remember how, exactly, I first encountered Simon’s work. I believe it was while browsing for a new fantasy title to read on my Kindle. The simplicity and starkness of his covers caught my eye, then his name, which sounded impressive. Of course, being a skeptic of most things, I went into his work with a raised eyebrow and a “we’ll see” attitude, and wow, were my expectations ever smashed.
Indeed, Simon’s prose is impressive, and at times imposing–this, from a man who writes some complicated sentences himself. But it hearkens back to an older era of writing, one that we’ve sped past with quick n’ dirty novels that sling language around as a bartender flings drinks at last call. There’s none of that ‘hastening’ that’s rampant in modern literature: where publishers have decided that their audience has the attention span of gnats (not entirely, unjustifiedly so) and can’t focus on words too big or ideas too grand, or a speed that isn’t better suited to an action movie. And here, Simon tells his characters’ stories in a world that is exquisitely framed, carefully explored and described. It’s really extraordinary to find someone who writes in so old and authentic a voice. Beyond the prose, there’s a lot to admire about the storytelling, too. Take a minute to see (read) for yourself. I hope you enjoy Simon’s work as much as I have, and as usual, check out the store and social links found in his biography if you do.
The arrival of Orkanir seemed to have a strange effect on Korfax. He suddenly found the ritual of the days stifling and felt in need of something else to break the rhythm. Despite the warning of Angalam he decided to take a ride into the old forest.
Without permission, he left the fortress and soon found himself deep in amongst the trees. He rode slowly, revelling in its immensity. Angalam had been right – this was indeed a wonderful place. The trees here were huge, ancient with moss, their aged scent filling the air about them. He breathed deeply and smiled. Here was balm for the soul.
He came upon a grotto set in the midst of a rocky outcrop, one of many that he had passed, an ancient spur of weathered stone born of the hills above. At its deepest part there was a cave. The great trees had coiled their roots about its opening, giving it an air of mystery, inviting mystery. Korfax wondered what its history might be. No doubt, during the wars, this would have been a good place to hide.
He approached the cave mouth, intending to put up his lance and draw out his kabadar to provide some light, but when something inside the cave growled back at him he reigned in his steed and tilted his lance downwards again.
A dim form reared up slowly, shadows moving within shadows. Something huge was there, shifting slowly this way and that. There was something else, too, something smaller and quicker, a crouching form that gleamed with a dim grey light.
Korfax drew his steed back further, his heart beating hard in his chest. He could already guess what he had found. A thrill of fear coursed through him as he remembered back to that terrible day when he had fled with his mother from demons. Then he had been a helpless child. He tightened his grip upon his lance at the thought. He was a helpless child no longer.
Almost as if they had been summoned by his thought, the shadows came forward, a rider and its mount, both snarling at him through wicked teeth.
Korfax stared at the headless rider for a moment, an unpleasant mingling of fear and disgust swirling inside, but then he looked at the Agdoain’s steed and felt the burn of bile at the back of his throat. Here was the very creature that Angalam had seen.
Like its squatting master above, the beast was a sick nightmare. Grey, ever grey, it came forward slowly on four muscular limbs set at each corner of its thick, wide body. Each limb ended in a great paw adorned with huge curving claws that left deep gouges in the soil. There was a tail, long and meaty, stretching out from its hind quarters and tipped with a great knotted fist of bone like a hammer, and as the beast ambled slowly forward so the tail waved back and forth with impatient violence.
Much of the beast was covered in a thick hide, a seeping patchwork like that of its rider, but on its back two huge bones had punched their way through the skin to make a saddle, a pair of immense lips that met in the exact centre, frozen for ever in an obscene kiss for the rump of its rider.
But even now that was not the worst of it, for just like its master the thing had no head. All Korfax could see was a mouth, a great mouth that stretched out from between its immense shoulders, a huge mouth filled with long and curving teeth like gutting knives.
Korfax did not wait, he could not. He wanted the thing gone from his sight. Forgetting his stave entirely he tilted his lance and charged. Such was the fury of his attack that it was over before it had truly begun. His lance went through the beast even as it reared, then through its rider.
Korfax let go of his lance, pulled his ormn back and drew his sword, his eyes wide, his teeth bared. The Agdoain was pinned to the ground by its mount, crushed to the earth, whilst its steed bellowed weakly and waved its limbs in the air. Korfax was mesmerised by the gruesome spectacle.
The Agdoain reached out with its sword of bone and pointed it at Korfax. It snarled and its mouth moved oddly as though trying to form words with which to curse him. Korfax felt another surge of disgust. Such abominations should not be allowed to live, they should be put out of their misery, but he could not move. Instead, a strange thought came to him, something from his lessons in the Umadya Semeiel.
There were tales from the Wars of Unification of the odd chances of battle. At the time he had thought little of them, but now that he had his foe helpless before him he considered again how advantage could be gained from the dying of demons.
It was said that whenever a demon died, whenever it passed beyond, sometimes one of the Urenith had managed to find her way back to the summoner by following the demon’s energies as they returned to their source. Always there was a summoning circle, and if the Uren was sharp enough, she might see the summoner themselves before the demon died. Korfax was no Uren, but he had learnt something of the technique from his teachers at the seminary. One followed the trail of energy with one’s mind.
The moment came. The Agdoain uttered its last rattling gasp, and Korfax, eager with audacity, breathless with fear, made his attempt. He hurled his mind into that of his foe and sought out its summoner.
He dived as deeply as he dared but encountered no overriding will. Instead he felt waves of energy beating against him like a tide of corrosion. He grappled with it for a moment and then felt the thread of life snap even as he grasped at it – a breaking, crushing sound that assailed him from every side. Then, with its last unformed thoughts screaming in his mind, Korfax felt it flee the world at last, dragging him along with it.
Down ever darkening tunnels he plummeted, following a formless vapour of grey that twisted and turned, a failing flame that stuttered at the edges of existence.
Into the depths he went, down into the grey depths, the fear ever-mounting the deeper he went. But he was held by it, in thrall to it, compelled to follow and compelled to see.
Finally the walls about him fell away and he came upon a vaguer place. Wisps of almost nothing floated by, the grey following the grey. He was adrift in a fog-bound void.
Though the fear was overwhelming, he knew there was something worse here, something below him. Though he dreaded it, he looked down. There it was, a portal onto an abyss so featureless that he could not describe it at all.
He realised, almost as if the emptiness had answered his unspoken question, that to enter the portal was to cease to exist. Now the fear became terror. Never, not even in his darkest dreams, had he ever imagined anything as terrifying as that which lay before him now.
He felt the essence of the Agdoain, such as it was, enter the nothingness. He felt it vanish, erased, ceasing to be. It almost pulled him in with it, but he stopped himself at the borders and resisted the urge to fall further. He should not be here, he told himself, this was no place to be. So he turned about and tried to go back the way he had come. But he could make no headway.
The nothingness pulled at him. Korfax fought the blind force with all his might, turning his back upon the hungry grey, but even as he moved he felt a dim stirring. Something below had turned upon itself and now looked back up at him, something immense.
He understood. He had trespassed where he should not have. His presence had disturbed the illimitable grey. His life, its flame, was as a thorn in its side, and the nothingness had awoken from its terrible sleep of oblivion, swelling the abyss below as it crawled its way slowly upwards from its depths.
Korfax fought not to see it, fought with all his strength not to see that which came for him. He pulled himself slowly away in an ecstasy of fear. It was like climbing an impossible hill, hand over hand, foot over foot, whilst something, some unseen and as yet unimagined horror, crept up from behind, gaining all the while.
Then came the sudden moment, delirium or nightmare, as he fled the reaching grey, flying upwards into the light whilst the void receded behind him, reverberating to the echo of mighty wings like drums of regret.
He found himself back in the glade again, still astride his ormn, whilst his enemy’s body and that of its steed crumbled into the ground and decayed at last.
Korfax breathed a long sigh of relief. That had been close. He shuddered again and looked about avidly, drinking in the world around him as though starved of sight and sound and sensation. But the grey abyss still sat in his mind as though he had brought it back with him.
It took all his self-control to suppress a sudden urge to run. It was there in his mind, the seeds of a panic planted deep, right there in his mind, demanding that he run, and run and run. Korfax thrust it away from him, sending his fear back down deep inside. But he could remove neither the taint of the grey nor the sense of foreboding that came with it.
He reclaimed his lance, turned his steed away and rode back to the tower, whilst in his mind he pondered what had happened. The demon had fallen into an abyss and at the end it had surrendered its life with a strange eagerness, before returning to its genesis. He thought unwillingly of the grey nothingness into which it had fallen and wondered what it was that he had disturbed therein.
Simon J. Cambridge was born in London, and though he has spent most of his life in the Midlands he still considers himself a Londoner at heart. One simply cannot expunge the influence of the City of Fire by a mere shift in physical location. Such things are bred in the bone. Having spent many years endeavouring to be useful, he has decided – as Oscar Wilde might have put it – to
become quite useless instead. To that end he has written three books, ‘Land of the First – Servant of Fire’, ‘Land of the First – Servant of Lies’ and ‘Land of the First – Servant of Darkness’, with many more on the way. He also likes lonely places. They are where some of the best ideas can be found.
His next trilogy ‘To Touch The Creator’ is currently nearing completion.
As well as writing, he likes to create art and compose music, both of which can be found on his website. Simon’s books can be purchased through a variety of retailers, and most easily on Amazon.