World Exclusive: Read the First Chapter of the Solomon Kane Novel

World Exclusive: Read the First Chapter of the Solomon Kane Novel

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You may have noticed that we have a couple of competitions currently running for  Solomon Kane. The first is to win a signed poster from the movie and the second to win a copy of the novel.

If that’s not enough to whet your Kane appetite, we have exclusively been given permission to share the first chapter from the novel very kindly by the publishers, Titan Books.

Both Solomon Kane the movie and Solomon Kane the novel are released tomorrow, 19th February. The movie is directed by Michael J. Bassett and stars James Purefoy, Laura Baranik, Mackenzie Crook, and Pete Postlethwaite. The novel is written by Ramsey Campbell based on the screenplay by Michael J. Bassett and based on the character created by Robert E. Howard. You can follow all our Solomon Kane coverage here.

You can purchase the novel on Amazon here.

So grab a cup of tea or coffee and settle in for chapter one which I’ve embedded below:

Solomon Kane, Chapter One:

Stay close to Captain Kane!”

As the men of the Relentless fought their way across the drawbridge of the castle, Martin was never more than yards behind his captain. More than once he came so close that he was sprayed with the blood of guards that Kane cut down. The blood was as hot as the African night – as hot as the rage for victory with which Kane filled his men. Fighting in his wake felt like following a storm of blood, and now their nearness to the treasure seemed to have rendered him indomitable. Martin saw him gut two adversaries at once, pausing only long enough to snatch his blades out of their vitals. Another guard took that chance to rush him, but Kane thrust his rapier so deep between the man’s ribs that he had to kick the dying man free of the weapon. A defender seemed to think this left Kane vulnerable, but as he ran at the captain the point of the rapier skewered his throat. “Yes?” Kane enquired of his screams, and Martin saw him gaze into the man’s eyes as though he was seeking some truth. When he found none he held the man up with the sword like a specimen he was examining before he pulled the blade out, letting the body crumple to the bridge. At that moment the doors at the end of the drawbridge shut with a thunderous slam.

It seemed to shiver the obsidian minarets that towered against the suffused black sky. Martin heard a massive bar rumbling ponderously into its sockets, and then a stampede of footsteps made it clear that many defenders had added their weight to the barrier. Martin saw Kane’s eyes glitter, not only with the flames with which the bombardment of the castle had scattered the drawbridge. “Aside,” said Kane, and beckoned behind him.

At once four men pushed a cart onto the bridge. It was loaded with barrels of gunpowder. Martin felt the bridge vibrate beneath his feet as the cart trundled towards him. He and his fellows cleared the way, kicking scraps of fire aside or stamping on them. At last the cart reached the end of the bridge, and the men piled the barrels against the doors before setting a trail of powder. One of them lit it and ran back to safety while Kane stood his ground, challenging the explosion to harm him.

The bridge quaked, and the doors caved in as if the wood were rotten. The doorway was blocked by a dense flood of smoke, through which could be heard the clatter of falling rubble and the screams of men. Kane was already stalking towards it, swords held high. His mirthless grin made his lean face wolfish. As he strode through the insubstantial barrier, Martin was close behind him.

Beyond the doorway a wide corridor of amber stone was strewn with men and parts of men and blazing chunks of wood. Not a guard had been left standing, and those who could still move were almost indistinguishable from their dead comrades. Kane strode among them with his swords crossed behind his shoulders, his long black cloak flapping like a vulture’s wings, and peered at each face or remnant of a face. He might have been examining pieces of meat on a slab. All at once he stooped closer to a guard whose body was a mass of torn flesh and tattered armour but whose eyes turned fearfully to meet his. “Where is the throne room?” Kane said through his bared teeth.

The man’s face worked as though he would have dragged himself away from Kane if his shattered limbs had let him, but he gave no answer. His eyes rolled in the sockets, more wildly as Kane traced the guard’s cheek with the point of his dagger. The point came to rest a fingertip’s breadth short of the man’s left eye. “Ajna tudgadur ghurfatul arsh?” said Kane, and Martin understood that he was repeating the question in Arabic. Either this or his fear of the blade gave the guard back his voice. “Hunaak, hunaak,” he gasped and raised a shaky finger to point along the corridor. “Tafadzal, tafadzal.”

“Good lad.” For a moment Kane’s Devonshire accent made him sound as gentle as a lover. “Good lad,” he repeated and stroked the man’s cheek. He straightened up, shaking his long black greasy locks out of his face, and sheathed the dagger. The guard must have had time to conclude he would be spared before Kane took his musket from his belt and levelled it at the man’s head. “Let not one of these putrid heathen live,” he shouted.

The shot added the man’s brains to the rubble on the floor, and seemed to infect Kane’s companions with a lust to kill. They thrust their swords into the hearts of every fallen guard, even those who betrayed no sign of life. Martin drove his blade between the ribs of a man whose last breath seemed to shape a word that might have been a protest or a warning. As Martin dragged the sword out of the corpse Kane shouted “Follow me.”

Had they slain every one of the defenders? None challenged them as Kane led the way through corridor after broad corridor supported by circular arches, past enormous halls where towering columns effloresced against ceilings encrusted with elaborate mosaics. The deserted amber corridors put Martin in mind of tramping through gigantic veins of gold, and the prospect of treasure helped him quieten his indefinable doubts about the absence of any guards. Then Kane held up one hand, saying “It is here.”

Martin raised his sword as he saw movement beyond a rounded arch, but the silhouettes lined up to face each other across an antechamber were not guards, or even human. Only the flickering of torches set in brackets on the walls granted them the illusion of life. They were oval mirrors taller than he was, and he and his companions would have to pass between them. They must be the paraphernalia of some kind of African magic, but no God-fearing man need be afraid of such things. As soon as Kane stepped across the threshold Martin strode after him.

He disliked the antechamber more with every step he took. Was it only the restless light that had made it seem to harbour some form of life? Each mirror was supported by two pairs of thin splayed limbs that might have been the legs of monstrous insects. Or perhaps they resembled bones, because they and the scrawny oval frames were covered in tatters of material unpleasantly reminiscent of human skin. When Martin glanced into a mirror he was unsure what he saw. The figure silhouetted by flickering dimness could only be his reflection, but he retreated to the middle of the way between the mirrors as a chill seemed to reach for him out of the glass. “What is this place?” one of his fellows muttered behind him.

“There’s dark magic,” another man whispered. “We shouldn’t be here.”

Kane swung around to glare at his followers. “Silence, you dogs,” he snarled.

When he stalked forward Martin did his best to imitate his carelessness. Either every guard was slain or any survivors had fled. That was why the throne room was unguarded, unless the guards themselves were fearful of the antechamber. As the thought overtook Martin he heard a murmur at his back, apparently too muted for Kane to catch. “There’s something in here with us.”

“No treasure is worth this,” came a response.

It was, Martin wanted to protest; it had to be. It would make up for the months of rough voyaging, of sleeping on the bare deck, of breathing in the stenches of the bilge, of drinking fetid water and wine turned to vinegar, of subsisting on putrid meat and biscuit infested with weevils. It had even to be worth the sense of dread that had begun to dog him – a dread for which he did his best to blame his companions, although it felt capable of stealing his breath. He glimpsed movements in the mirrors and glanced at one in search of reassurance, but his reflection appeared to be obscured by another shape. Was that simply a flaw in the mirror, which would also explain why the glass was blurred as if it had been breathed upon? Just behind him Daniel whispered “What’s that, in God’s name?”

Martin looked back to see several of his companions peering at the mirrors, more than one of which was blurred by condensation now. As he saw the grey mist fade from one glass oval he realised how unnatural it was. The moisture that looked far too much like evidence of surreptitious breaths was beneath the surface of the glass. The other men had hesitated at the whisper, but now they advanced, and Martin saw breaths swell up within the mirrors to greet them. He was opening his mouth to shout a warning when his voice retreated into his throat. More than breath had come to the surface of the mirrors. Alongside Daniel a pair of hands had planted themselves on either side of the patch of moisture, and Martin saw that the blur was masking a head.

The hands were dreadful enough. Their fingers were abominably long, and grey as death. Their gnarled segments were so prominent that they resembled insect legs more than anything remotely human. Their cruelly pointed tips scraped over the inside of the mirror, and a face loomed into view between them, searching blindly for its prey. It was bald as a worm and almost as featureless, except for a round voracious mouth low down on the long head. In a moment the shape found its way out of the mirror.

The glass did not shatter. It bulged like an egg composed of some material softer than shell, and two elongated fleshless arms sprang forth. As the claws fastened on Daniel’s shoulders, the circular mouth gaped as though the absence of a face had been designed to let it stretch unnaturally wide. It seized like a leech on Daniel’s head. He barely had the chance to scream as he was snatched into the mirror, which closed over him like a pool too deep for light to penetrate.

A second man was dragged off his feet and vanished struggling. A third had no time to cry out before a mirror engulfed him and the shape that had clutched him in a demonic embrace. The remaining men glared about, lifting their swords as they backed away from the mirrors, forgetful of the mirrors at their backs. To Martin the swords looked powerless, no longer weapons but simply talismans his companions were brandishing in a vain attempt to ward off unimaginable evil. He raised his own in a desperate gesture of defence as he stumbled to Kane’s side. “Captain,” he begged and heard his voice shake.

Kane’s eyes blazed beneath a scowl like the onset of a storm. “Hold steady,” he growled and put out a hand to take Martin by the shoulder.

Martin disengaged himself and stepped back out of reach. “Stay close to Captain Kane” – but the advice that every man heard before they fought alongside him seemed to have no power in this place. “There’s deviltry,” Martin said louder and turned to flee. “Let the devil take my share.”

“I said hold steady,” Kane told him in a voice as chill as steel, but Martin was already running between the mirrors. He saw some of his fellows think of imitating him, and then their faces betrayed a different kind of fear. Before Martin had a chance to draw another breath he was thumped with great force on the back.

For the briefest instant he thought a denizen of one of the mirrors had tried and failed to capture him, and then the impact exploded through him. It felt as though his heart had been punched from behind. As he heard the shot, his ribs splintered and his chest burst outwards. He was thrown to the floor, which was splashed with blood – his own. “I am the only devil here,” he heard Kane shout. Then he heard and felt nothing, but a final thought accompanied him into the dark: his captain was wrong. There was worse in this place than Kane.