As I sit at my desk on the day of my birthday, I am reflecting over the whole of my forty-eight years on this world. I can’t believe how completely lucky I am to be doing what I love full-time, and how incredibly long it took me to have the courage to do it. I have often come across those little posts on Facebook and Twitter asking: ‘what would you tell your younger self’, and my answer has always been the same. Do what you love sooner.
I grew up one of four children, and the only girl. From early on I remember playing imaginary games; or “what-if” games as our mother called them. We would spend hours rearranging the living room; declaring the floor was the sea or lava (way before it became a viral thing). Our games had us riding tall, ferocious seas, fighting off man-eating sharks and pirates. They also had us climbing mountains spewing lava and fighting through jungles. I look back on those times of our great imagings with enormous fondness and I hope that I have passed that passion for play and make-believe on to my children.
My childhood also afforded me the freedom to roam. Long days on a bicycle going from one end of the valley to the other, and back again, swimming in the river without supervision. All those things that kids these days are told they cannot do, for fear they may hurt themselves. We fell out of trees and climbed the hill behind us, raced our home-made carts down the steepest roads we could find, and stayed out in the sun all summer long. We would leave shortly after breakfast during the summer holidays, and only wandered home for lunch when we got hungry. Then straight back out until the sun went down and the streetlights came on. It was idyllic, and we were so lucky.
Life moves on and school always seemed to get in the way of the imaginary games. I will put up my hand and say, yes, sometimes I let my imagination get away with me at school and may have exaggerated things a little. I look back at those times and realise that it was my creativity trying to find a release. It wasn’t until I was eight that I realised that I could make up stories and not get into trouble for it. That was when I discovered my love of writing. It was thanks to an English test on grammar, that required me to write a story. Oh, what a story. I still remember it, even though I think the paper it was written on has long since disintegrated. A simple story about a hermit crab trying to find a new home by climbing into all sorts of things it found on the sea floor. I remember not finishing that story and the comments from my teacher after she had marked it. She wanted to know how the story ended.
Writing was always something that I did in secret. I never really told anyone and if I did, would often come against laughter and ridicule. It was not something my friends understood. But I persisted. I wrote small pieces and I still have some of them. I refuse to look at them, for fear of cringing at how innocent and unformed they are. I would have dreams that were so vivid, and when I woke, I had the urge to write them down. I have a whole notebook filled with these dreams, which I use as a reference and inspiration now to give me ideas when I am having trouble writing. For years I have done this and then one year it changed.
On 10 December 2006 I lost my mother to cancer, after a very long and hard battle against breast cancer. This insidious disease, spread to her bones, liver and eventually her brain. I was with her when she passed and mourned her greatly along with my brothers and father. She left a large hole in our lives. She had been there for us every day and passed on her great love of reading and stories to me. Her passing had a strange affect on me personally. For a week after her death I had very vivid dreams, and they all seemed to be connected as I wrote them down. After the last one I kept writing. It was the first time I had written a completed long story. It seemed to pour from me. It was not the kind of story I normally wrote, it was a romance/thriller, just what my mother loved to read.
It was also the first time that I let someone else read something I had written, and the response I received was not what I was expecting. It was positive. The friend I finally entrusted this book to read encouraged me to work on it, and to ultimately submit it to a publisher. I did work on it, but I have never sent this one out. It just seems too personal to send somehow, and I think it is too clumsy to be accepted.
After this one was finished I had more vivid dreams and did start another story, but I felt it was too hard to carry on passed the few chapters I started. Ten years would pass before I would write anything really seriously again. And that was only after my own brush with cancer.
In 2014 I had my annual mammogram. I had been having them regularly for the previous four years after moving to Australia. Given my family history, my doctor thought it was a good idea to put me in the programme. Thank you so much for that. I never thought anything of it and carried on with my life for the next few days. Until I received a letter in the mail. An appointment had been made for me at Sir Charles Gardner Hospital’s Breast Clinic as an anomaly had been found. My heart sank. I knew what that meant.
I was scared—that was a given—but the ladies who saw me were lovely. They spoke softly and with great care, they explained what was going to happen and what could happen, and they took great care of us ladies who were all in the same boat. My mammogram showed there was something and a biopsy was ordered for that same day. It came back positive. I was alone. My husband worked away, a FIFO worker out in the oil and gas field at that time. He rang just after I received the news that I had breast cancer, while I was still with the doctor and councillor. There was nothing he could do from so far away, accept listen to me cry. It was hard. I still had the long drive home to pick up my two children from soccer practice.
With my tears dried, and my big-girl panties pulled up, I got on with my life while I waited for surgery and the future ahead. That was the only time I cried about the fact I had got this horrible disease. From the moment I saw my children that afternoon walking towards me—with big smiles, laughing and joking together—I decided I was going to be positive about this thing that had invaded my body. I put a smile on my face and went to meet them and explained there and then what had happened and what was likely to happen. Their reaction remains with me today. “You got this Mum, you can beat it.”
I spent the rest of that year going through surgery (lumpectomy, no mastectomy), chemo and radiation. I got through my bad days watching Mrs. Brown’s Boys and laughing. I slept a great deal but looked after my family. I took myself to my appointments and got on with my life. I know not everyone who has breast cancer reacts the same way, but it was they only way I knew how to get through it. I had my mother as an amazing example.
For my first-year clear diagnosis I went out and celebrated with a tattoo. A black a grey piece which is on my left ankle, the side of my cancer. It is of a dragon rising from smoke and symbolises new life. That is what I felt I had been given. It was not long after that that I finished the first in a series of seven books. I didn’t have a name for it, I didn’t even know it was going to be a series. But I was proud of it, and again it came from a dream. I had dreamt I was running away from someone, down a busy street, through traffic and ending up in an abandoned theatre. Of a tall man standing over me dressed in a long overcoat, saying “Come on, Kid; we don’t have all night.” It still amazes me that from that one simple dream a whole series was born.
I sent it to my best friend to read. She loved it and wanted to know what happened next. So, you can blame her for the series really. As I wrote I gained more confidence and allowed others to read it. With their encouragement I started to submit to publishers in all my innocence of how these things work. My naivety was laughable. I had no idea of what I was doing, and I look back now and shake my head at my actions. After connecting with others online, who were either streaks ahead or just starting out like me, I learned a lot and began to self-publish with a little success. My knowledge grew and so did my writing style. I had finished the series bar one, when an online friend suggested I submit to a little publishing company, I did and was greatly surprised when they took me on. Thank you, Cherie, for having such faith in me and my work and to Tamara for polishing my raw material.
I couldn’t have got to where I am today without the love and support of my family and friends. Without those moments in time where my life changed dramatically. And as I look back on my forty-eight years, I realise something. I shouldn’t tell my younger self to start doing what you love sooner. I was already doing it. I just had to wait and be patient for the life experiences to give me the material I needed to get it done. Without the loss of my mother and my own battle I would never have thought up the theory of Order vs Chaos. Of the embodiment of Chaos as cancer and my heroine, Carling, as me facing that odious creature.
I have been blessed. With an amazingly supportive husband; two wonderful, beautiful and caring children; a wider family who I am so proud to be a part of. Blessed also with friends who encourage and build me up. I have been blessed with a new life and enough energy to tackle it. I have been blessed with a creative imagination that seems to be endless.
So, to any aspiring writers and especially to my younger self, I say;
Just be yourself, keep experiencing life and keep writing.
****BELOW ARE THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS****
Sentinels: Book 1 of The One True Child Series
The rage knew no bounds as he held the world in his fist. He had created it to be his and his alone—for the people he had brought to life to serve only him and his ways. They did not appreciate what he had done for them—they had wanted more, demanded more. Now his rage would be the last thing they knew as he squeezed the world and brought it all to an end, creating a vast explosion that lit up the darkness surrounding him. A pinpoint of light grew and spread, for a moment blinding him, and he roared at his displeasure of it.
The light encompassed all, sending out waves, pulsating deep into the reaches of the universe. Fragments of the old world riding the shockwaves were flung into the depths. Fiery-hot chunks burning brightly spun out of control, attracting rock and minerals to circle them. As the spread of the explosion began to slow, the fragments began to cool. In the centre of the explosion, the bright light continued to shine; from its core, a Being became conscious and rose from the wreckage, glowing brightly with swirls of white light under Its skin.
The Being looked around and found a universe in chaos; order and stability were lost to the winds. It stood and looked out at the remains of a great world, gathering its memories to Itself. One large piece of rock It stood on, circling the star that warmed the ground at Its feet, and the Being began to weep for those who had been destroyed. All the history and the suffering they had endured under their cruel master brought forth great sobs from the Being. The tears It shed dripped down from Its eyes and onto the ground. So many tears for the loss of so many that a river began to run.
The river flowed away from the grief-stricken Being and filled all the low spaces on the rock, collecting into great lakes and seas. The sadness the Being had felt now turned to rage, and It struck the ground with Its fist. The land split, and the great molten core that had not yet cooled swelled up and burst out of the gap It had made. The hot magma created new land and boiled away some of the water, creating a great steam cloud that hung in the sky.
The distant star warmed the ground and condensed the water until the clouds were so sodden that they dropped from the sky. As the rain fell, the sunshine created a perfect form. An arc of light split into seven perfect shades of colour that stood out from the barren and dark landscape. The Being stood on an upthrust of rock and wondered at the amazing vision; It did not see the dark one approaching.
“You are not welcome here; this is my world, my universe. Who are you?” the dark one demanded of the Being. It turned to face the form that approached and recognised him as the being responsible for the turmoil that now reigned over the universe.
“I am from the light. The source of which is due to you, and in this place you shall never have authority. Never again will you oppress a people and use them for your own ends,” the Being said back, Its hands clasped in front of It and a sadness still in Its eye.
“From my destruction came your creation. You are my being and you shall bow down to me and my wishes.” The darkness grew before the light, looming large over It.
“I am the light, the light that will dominate you and put you where you should be. You have no sway over me. The light shall overpower you and keep you at bay; the children I will bring forth onto this land will know light and know its kindness. They shall feed from the crops and animals that the light shall encourage to grow and they will worship you never. They will not know you.”
“You are nothing and puny. I am the great destroyer, the one who rules over life and death. I am the chaos of the universe, and all who reside here shall be my slaves. I destroyed my last creation because they did not worship me in the proper way. If you go against me, I shall destroy you also.”
The Being looked past the evil at the large rainbow and saw it in its magnificence. From the single source of light, the great star that was shining down on the earth, light split as it hit the crystalline drops of rain and splayed out in dazzling colours all arrayed in order. If this monstrosity that stood before the rainbow was Chaos, then this Being who marvelled at the spectacle should be Order.
Slowly Order reached down and drew from the centre of the world the energy that spiralled there. It pulled it in from the area around it and filled Itself up until Order thought It would burst. Order sent out Its will and split Itself into seven, each figure to be a Sentinel to guard the world that Order wanted to protect. A different nimbus of colour swirled under each of their skins: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The seven Sentinels stood together and faced Chaos.
Chaos stood his ground and stared at the beings before him, his anger rising inside at the defiance of the light and what It had done. “You shall not overcome me. I will rule you, no matter how many there are of you—or you shall all die!” he screamed at them.
“We are together; we are order. You will not reign over this world, over these lands. We have come to protect them, and it shall be beautiful and peaceful. Chaos has no place in this world. We banish you and beg you, do not come back to this place,” the seven said together.
“You banish me? You cannot banish me from what is mine! I will crush you and break you. You will bend your knee to me.”
The group lifted up, their own rainbow dancing high into the sky and each split apart to form their own group of seven in order to protect the world from Chaos. They spread across the face of the world, each taking up an area to defend and protect.
Chaos raged against the defiance of him. He fought against their barriers and defences, and the land buckled under the strain of his wrath. A large stone he threw at the world, seeking to destroy it; but it only skimmed the surface and began to circle the world, and there it stayed.
In the land to the north, they formed the great stone circle where Order had first declared Itself a conduit for the power of the beings. Each group sent out over the world to protect a piece of it, their own special areas. Sacred sites were formed in each area to stay connected to the stones and to the original group.
The rage of Chaos slowed, the wounds on the surface of the world still raw and weeping molten rock. Chaos departed to think on how to deal with the problem of the light and Its children. His attack had been useless, and he raged around the universe destroying stars and planets in his path. Meanwhile, the little world flourished and changed in his absence.
Seeing the bare rock, the Beings brought forth the soil to cover it, grinding the surface of the rock to dust and releasing the minerals necessary to start life. The grass to hold it together, plants to decorate and bring shelter and sustenance. At first the groups worked together, then they became interested only in their own pieces to protect. They moulded the landscapes to their liking, emptying great seas and moving land, easing the damage the dark one had inflicted. They created animals, who began to roam the world seeking out new, brighter, and fresher pastures to graze on‒some with the urge for flesh.
Chaos was still out there watching their progress and seething, feeling his own power fade with the lack of worshipers. A large rock swept past him, grazing his shoulder and leaving a trail of vapour and ice in its wake. He took the great rock up in his mighty fist and sent it flying to the world the Beings were creating. It hurtled at great speed and when it hit, it was with great devastation.
It fell to the earth with a mighty explosion, sending debris and ash high into the air. The flames from the explosion spread out with concussive force and almost consumed the tiny planet, destroying all their work in a flash. The cloud from the debris blocked out the sun and to help heal the damaged world once more, the Sentinels called forth ice and snow to cover the land. So thick it lay on the ground that the seas dropped and the stones were buried deeply under the snow.
Chaos watched with great delight at the destruction he had almost caused; he sent more and more in the path of the planet, leaving great craters over the surface, most hitting the circling stone as it protected the world. It was a cold and grey piece, but viewed from the planet, it was beautiful and reflected light in the dark hours. With each attack, the Beings used their abilities to fix and mend the damage, creating great crevasses that filled with water and were inhabited by creatures that would never be seen.
The group that guarded the sacred stones met, and together they began to banish the ice and snow that lay over their lands, the effects of the great impacts from Chaos. Great valleys were left from the carving of the ice, and it pleased them to fill some up with the water left by the enormous melting glaciers. The Beings walked the earth and were unhappy to find that not all the creatures they had carefully created survived the great freeze. Some had adapted, and they looked to that as a sign.
A group to the south had created a creature who seemed to be very hardy and adaptable. These they had made to be in some ways in their own likeness. The creatures learned quickly and soon grew to dominate their environment. They moved about the earth, searching further and further afield, meeting with others and merging together, always adapting to the changing conditions.
At one of the meetings of all groups, they came together so Order could see their work. The Great Light saw and was pleased. It also saw into the future and the necessity to come. As It split again, Its wishes were made known to those who came, and they went out into the world and greeted the nomadic peoples in their areas.
The ice and snow still covered most of the sacred lands, reaching down to the lowlands. Very carefully, the Sentinels cleared the stones and the valley below, where they had met after Order left them. The great pillars of stone stood between them, reaching up into the sky. The greatest of the Sentinels and the closest to the one. They pushed their robes from their faces, feeling the warmth of the closest star as the ash and dust were starting to leave the atmosphere, and sat to discuss the plans of the One. The lights of their colours played in their skin, swirling, sparkling and dancing in the rays of the sun.
Their abilities were sharper and more intense, than those sent out into the world. As they leant up against the stones, they connected with the others, and the collected knowledge was then passed into the stones along with the enormous energy from the earth itself.
Sitting forward, Blue addressed his brothers and sisters. “Order has given Its wishes plainly; we must do as It commands. Our purpose to mate and pass the abilities on to the people to come is important for the survival of the world.”
“It must be so. We must go out and find those who wish to live in our lands peacefully,” Red said.
“It does not matter if they wish to be peaceful. These people will fight for survival and to protect their own. I have already seen it,” Green added.
“Do we all agree that the abilities will be passed to these people and down the line?” Indigo inquired.
“It is the will of Order that it is so; we must obey,” Violet commanded.
“My brothers and sisters, our lands are the most sacred and must be protected well. The need to have one of these people we create to guard the way to these stones is also important to protect the sacred stones and the access to our knowledge. This line should be constant and unbreakable,” Blue spoke.
“I should like to offer one of my line to the task. It shall be bred in them to be so linked to this place. The valley below shall be their home,” Red said.
“It is barren and bare; there are no resources there to sustain them,” Orange protested.
Yellow stood and went to the edge. In her hand she created a great staff, and she plunged it into the ground. A mighty crack split the rock and water poured forth, tumbling down the hill and spreading fast into the valley. When she returned, the staff was gone.
“There; water is a must for the survival of these people. As for food, we shall place plants and game generously so they can be sustained,” Yellow told them.
“I have seen these people; some strip the area bare and move on, leaving nothing of sustainable value behind,” Green told them.
“Then I shall teach them to harvest wisely and only take what they need. If you could keep your own lines from the area, it will sustain them,” Red asked.
“They will need to breed with others; I do not think it wise that they breed with themselves,” Violet spoke up.
“Others will come to seek wisdom from the light here at the stones. They will have contact with the outside world,” Orange said.
“Are we in accord, then?” Green asked.
“We are,” they each intoned.
“We will then part and find those that we need.” Indigo called the meeting to an end.
The Sentinels wandered the sacred lands; from themselves, they created the blood lines they needed. Red’s line he secured as soon as possible to the valley below the stones. In the river at the end of the valley, fish, large and fat, sustained them as well as the berries and other fruits of the forest that hid the valley from view. The line of protectors he bore was strong in both ability and physical strength, dark of hair and with bright blue eyes. The task to protect the stones Red left to the female line. The other people he fathered were spread wide, all distributed to guard the ways to the stones. They took to themselves the sigil of a boar—tenacious and hardy, protective of its young.
Orange went to the west and had the most land to care for—mostly rugged and hard to work, mountainous with great deep lochs and islands that stood alone out in the sea. The children he created were a strong, warrior-like people who took to the water and mountains alike. An eagle became their sigil, as it flew so high and could see so far. The water people became raiders, and those in the mountains were wild but loyal.
Yellow had lands just to the south of Red—arable and beautiful, with rolling hills and valleys. Her people grew crops, fished, and hunted. They lived in large family groups and were creative. They tended to roam the area, never settling down in one place for long. A bear they took for their own sigil. Ferocious in a fight, but tender-hearted.
Green headed south and had the smallest of the lands. His people became diplomats and traders. They were wise but also fiercely protective of the border. They were sometimes slippery to deal with but were never deceitful. A serpent became their sacred symbol.
Blue went north and east. His coast line was rugged and bore the brunt of the heavy weather that blew in from the great sea. Great forests covered the inland parts, and the game that lived there was plentiful. The people he brought there and fathered were hardy, determined, and proud of their lands. A great horned stag they took for their symbol.
Indigo’s people were cunning and wily. Their lands were to the south and had the largest border, which they protected jealously. Their skills sent themselves out to learn as much as possible from others; they were loyal to those who helped them and their family. The wolf was a perfect fit as their sacred animal.
Violet’s lands were to the east, and the only Sentinel she had no boundary with was Orange. Her people were gentle and peaceful. They were well protected and placed in the land. With highlands and coastal plains, they were leaders and planners. Their personalities could be big and brash, but their hearts generous and loving. Bullish sometimes by nature, the great horned bovine became their symbol.
Wandering the lands, the Sentinels grew their bloodlines, gently protecting the families that would play an important part in the future Order had seen. Red and Orange tampered quite a bit with their descendants, creating many warriors utilising the strength and mind-touch abilities. Indigo and Violet tended more towards intelligence in their people, creating those who were strong in the mental abilities. Green produced those who became adept at healing and the use of plants, also Whisperers. Yellow and Blue distributed their abilities to their people equally. While the other Sentinels sired many sons and daughters, this final pair was very careful on how many descendants they produced.
“And that, my children, is how the world came to be,” Tarl’a told the boys, their eyes bright as they pulled the covers tighter over themselves. The wind howled outside the small hut.
“Ma, we are descended from Red, then?” the oldest of the boys asked.
“Yes, Galen; we are. We were born to look after the stones, but that is not for you or your brothers to worry about. It is always the women who watch the stones.”
“But we have no sisters,” he spoke plainly.
“I am still young enough to have more children, Galen. Now sleep, all of you.”
Tarl’a moved back to the fire and to the side of her husband, Mailcon. He put his arm around her as she began to sing a quiet song to send the boys to sleep.
“There have been no more children for some time now, my love,” he said to her quietly once the boys were asleep.
“There is still time, Mailcon.”
“You should go to the stones and seek the Ancestors’ help. I am sure they will help you conceive the daughter you so desperately want.”
“I will go next summer if there is no child before then. Loc is only two summers old now. There is still time,” Tarl’a said adamantly.
Mailcon drew her closer and they lay together beside the warm fire. He kissed her gently and they joined together as they had on so many long winter nights. But in her heart, she knew it would do no good. The feeling of no more children was overwhelming her; she had no daughter to pass the task on to, and that worried her the most.
In the morning as Tarl’a made the long trek up the hill to the sacred stones, she stopped at the spring, drank her fill, and then rounded the up-thrusting rock that protected the stones. Standing at the entrance, she waited. Normally her Ancestor would not take long to answer her call, but today she waited for a long time. She was about to give up when a shimmer of light flickered at the entrance and formed into a being whose light shone brightly.
Being so used to the red hue of her Ancestor, this one startled her and she took a step back at the staggering presence of Order.
“Tarl’a, daughter of our son, you seek guidance.”
She sank to her knees and bowed to him, the One. Order came and lifted her up. “We do not seek your reverence; we do not seek adulation. We do not set ourselves up as gods,” It said gently.
“I only sought guidance from my Ancestor; I never thought that you yourself would ever appear to me.” She still held Order’s hand, and slowly It drew her into the circle.
“We came to seek your permission to put a plan into action,” Order told her as they reached the centre.
“Yes child. We would not force this request onto you; we are not Chaos. This must first be agreed upon and discussed greatly before it can happen.”
“What is it you wish from me?”
“You came seeking understanding as to why there have been no more children for you in the last two turnings of the seasons. It is as we wish. If you say no to our request, you shall have the child you have wished for—a daughter.”
“And what is this request?”
“That, my child, is a great burden that we are afraid may be heartbreaking and hard for you to take on. If you take on our request, there shall be no more children for you and Mailcon. You have your four boys, one of whom the protector line shall pass through; this we have allowed. The task we ask of you is to foster a special child—a girl. The hopes and fate of this world shall rest heavily on her tiny shoulders.”
“Who is this girl—where does she come from?”
“The child will be born from two of our children, a true child. It has always been forbidden, this type of union, but she is a necessity. Chaos will become stronger and more of a threat to this world, and that cannot be allowed to happen. This child shall become even greater in the abilities than our children. She will come to possess the energy of the universe, and will hopefully one day defeat Chaos.”
“Why do you wish for us to foster her? She should be trained by her parents, by you.”
“Tarl’a, through the guidance of you and Mailcon, through your understanding and love for her, will she grow to have the traits that will be necessary. The child would not get that from her parents. She would be too much like them; though they are not arrogant, their sense of self-worth would be passed to her. We have thought long and hard about this child. You and Mailcon, as the descendants of their brother and sister, are the perfect pair to bring this child up. We do not ask you to take this on lightly; we ask you to go and think about it and talk with Mailcon.”
“I will think about it.” Tarl’a nodded.
Order placed a hand on her head. “Our blessings and love be upon you. Go in peace until we meet again, Tarl’a. We will wait for your answer. Take your time and make sure you know what it is you are taking on.”
When Tarl’a looked up, Order was gone and she was left with a singing in her heart. As far as she could remember, no one had ever been visited by the Great Light before.
Mailcon stood at the door as his wife came back down the hill; he could see already that something momentous had been revealed to her.
“Galen, take the boys and go collect deadfall for the fire,” he told his eldest son.
“Yes, Da.” The young boy, only six summers old, gathered his brothers up; taking the youngest by the hand, he led them down the valley towards the woods that hid the entrance.
Mailcon waited for Tarl’a to get nearer, and she gave him a weary smile. “There was no need to send the boys off,” she said as she entered the small house.
“The set of your face suggested otherwise to me. What did your Ancestor have to say?”
“It was not Red I met with at the stones.” She turned to him with a worried frown.
“Which one was it? Was it mine, Violet?”
“No. Mailcon, it was Order.”
Mailcon stood looking at her. “Order? The Highest Being?”
“Yes.” Tarl’a sat by the fire and stirred it to life, placing a pot on the edge.
“Why would Order appear to you? Order has never done this before.”
“No, not to my knowledge has anyone been so blessed. But I was today. The power that emanates from the Being is immense.”
“Are you able to tell me what Order wanted?”
“Yes; we need to discuss this very carefully. It is a great honour that will be bestowed on us, but one that comes with disappointment, I think, for you.”
“What is it? You are scaring me.”
“Order wishes us to foster a girl, a very special girl.”
“Is that all? Of course we will take her in.”
“Mailcon, it would mean there would be no more children for us. If we refuse, we will have one more child—a girl. But if we take this child in, she will become our daughter.”
“Who is this girl and why are we being asked?”
“A true child of the Ancestors. Born of two from Order, not from a mere mortal. She is needed to battle Chaos; her abilities will be great and stronger than the Ancestors themselves. We have been asked to take her in and raise her as our own, to give her the necessary human traits that Order thinks she will need to defeat Chaos.”
Mailcon sat beside her as he poked the fire. Tarl’a started to place grain and meat into the boiling water in the pot, beginning the meal for the evening.
“Think on it, Mailcon. It is something we must agree on together,” she told him and then stood to see where the boys were.
In the quiet of the house with just the crackling of the fire, he contemplated the great task that lay before him and his wife. The prospect of not having any more children came to him, but either way there would be one child, a girl. He poked the fire one more time, watching the embers flare and glow brightly.
“My son,” a sweet voice said beside him. He looked up and saw the softly glowing form of Violet. She sat beside him and smiled.
“My Ancestor, you do me honour by visiting me here at our hearth,” he greeted her.
“I sense a great worry in you, my son. I have already talked to the two who have been asked this task and assured them that their child would be in no better hands than those of yourself and Tarl’a. Red is of the same opinion. I feel your hesitation.”
“When you sent me here, I thought I would be given some great task. Instead I found myself falling in love with Tarl’a. Is this the task you sent me here for? To raise this child?”
“It is, my son. We have been planning this child since Order first made us aware of her necessity.”
“I am not worried about having no more children; we have our four boys. I am only worried for Tarl’a’s sake.”
“Your wife will love this child without question or hesitation. She is waiting for you alone to make the decision. She comes back.” Violet stood and waited for Tarl’a to duck under the doorway.
As she straightened up, her eyes grew wide.
“Violet, you do us a great honour.”
“No, daughter of my brother, you and my son do us a great honour by even considering what has been asked of you.”
“We have not decided,” Tarl’a told her.
“No, you have not, and we await your decision eagerly. I will leave you. My blessings on you both and your sons.”
“Thank you, Violet. Until we meet again,” Mailcon said, coming to his feet and standing with his wife.
The Ancestor disappeared, and they were left alone. The noise of the boys coming back to the hut floated in through the door, and Tarl’a turned to her husband.
“Was she demanding an answer?”
“No. She would not do that. Only encouraging. I think either way we will have a daughter. We should be honoured that we have been asked to take on the role of parents to the child. Will you be all right, knowing you did not birth her?”
“A little saddened that the line will not follow my own true daughter’s. But Order told me that it shall pass through one of our boys. Are you sure you want to take this on, Mailcon?”
He took her in his arms and held her. “Yes, I am sure. She will be loved and cared for, and she will be well protected until she comes into her abilities.”
“Then it is settled. We will go to the stones tomorrow and let them know,” Tarl’a declared.
“Da, Ma!” The call came from outside, and Galen put his head in the doorway. “We have visitors.” He ducked back out and the couple exited.
Before them stood a dazzling array of colour in a semi-circle around the house. They came towards the couple, and as they closed in together they merged into the one light. Order held out Its hands to them both.
“Thank you, our children. It has gladdened our hearts to know that you will look after this child.”
“It is our honour, Order,” Mailcon told him.
“The child will be born, as is the order of these things, in nine months hence. When we leave, we shall leave the two that are to birth her for you to get to know. A protection shall be placed over this valley. It shall only be allowed to be entered by those who come to seek true knowledge from the stones and protect you from those of ill intent, including Chaos. The child must grow up here in this valley for the protection to work. She cannot leave, or we cannot guarantee that Chaos will not find out about her.”
“We understand,” Tarl’a said.
Order turned and looked at the four boys all lined up in order; he came to stand in front of Galen, the eldest. “Galen, you shall be a great warrior with strength and flight abilities, and a protector.” He went to the next. “Ru, I see a guide with stealth and tongues, a peacemaker also; your life will take you far and wide. Uven, a healer and mind touch—perfect for an advisor. And finally, Loc. Animals will come from near and far to talk with you, but be careful you don’t fall too deeply into their midst; you shall also possess the ability of foresight.”
Each child looked up in awe at the magnificent being. The blessing Order had bestowed on each boy was more than they would have gotten in the normal way.
“Each of these abilities will be necessary for the protection of the child. I must go now and leave you all to your lives. Yellow and Blue will tell you more. My blessings and love are on you both, Tarl’a and Mailcon.” Order’s last words floated away as It disappeared, and in Its place were two.
Yellow and Blue stood before them. “We find, Tarl’a and Mailcon, that we are in need of your guidance,” Yellow said softly, blushing.
Tarl’a’s view of the Ancestors changed that afternoon. While she had always thought of them as being all-knowing and aware, she now found that when it came to relationships between women and men, it was a different story. This confused her and she tried a few times with Yellow to find out how they had mated with the people, always stopping herself, unable to put it into words.
“Is it always necessary to have affection for the person you wish to mate with?” Yellow asked naively.
“No. Most find that it is a necessary part of the process,” Tarl’a said, embarrassed to be talking about it. “Sometimes a man can mate without consideration for his partner’s feelings or wishes.”
“He can force himself on a woman?”
“It has happened and sometimes the other way around as well. A man can be led easily into that state.”
“As you have suggested.”
“Yellow, may I ask you a question that may seem to be intrusive?”
“You may, Tarl’a.”
“How is it you have mated with the people but are so unaware of how to go about it?”
“Ah, yes, that word may be a little misleading. We do not mate as the people do; we are not built the same as you. This form is my own choosing; I can change it as I see fit.” Yellow’s body evolved fluidly into that of a tall, muscular, and very good-looking man and then changed back. “As you see. When we mated with the nomadic people who came to our lands, we put an essence of ourselves inside each child as it lay in the womb. We passed the abilities that way, some of us more strongly and some of us more frequently than others.”
“Is that still the case with each child?”
“No. The abilities are now in the people. They will remain so until such a time that all necessity for the abilities is at an end—and Chaos has been defeated and cast out of this world for good.”
“Will such a day come, Yellow?”
“We hope with our child, the One True Child of the Ancestors, that it will be so.”
“You would give up your child to be fostered by us?”
“Yes. It is necessary for us to do so. I am not equipped to bring up a child properly who will be one of the people. I have already seen that I will love her and care for her down the ages. Her spirit will remain the same, as will her name.”
“You have already chosen it?”
“Very carefully, Tarl’a.”
“Can you tell me her name?”
“No, not until I place her into your arms. If I speak her name, she will already be in danger. A name is a great talisman for her. Her true name, when spoken, is a herald of her abilities. There will be a time in the far-off future when she will be called another name, but her true name will always be there, written across her spirit.”
“You speak of a future; how can she live to be that old?”
“You have foresight, Tarl’a; cannot you see the future for my daughter?”
“I cannot; I have not met her yet.”
“We shall talk again when I bring her to you and you will see what I see. She will be a great woman with a great capacity for love, and it is love she needs to deal with her tasks and trials.” Yellow stood from the meadow where she had sat with Tarl’a.
The sun was beginning to go down on such a strange day; the final rays over the tops of the forest at the valley’s end were orange and golden laced with purples on the clouds above. Yellow faced the sun and breathed in deeply, the swirling colours under her skin bright points of light that glowed momentarily.
“Thank you, Tarl’a. I understand now the relationship between a woman and a man. I understand now more greatly the way a child is conceived. How I envy your ability to love a single man.”
“You do not feel love for Blue?” Tarl’a asked, standing now before Yellow.
“I feel affection for my brother, but not the love you so evidently have for your Mailcon. We are not permitted that kind of love. We are Sentinels. Guardians, Coimheadair, Ancestors, Ancient Ones are how we will be known. But as Sentinels it is our purpose to protect the world, guarding against Chaos, who inadvertently created both Order and us.” Yellow looked up and saw Blue and Mailcon walking towards them. “Would you consider Blue to be handsome?”
Tarl’a turned and watched the pair walk towards them. “Amongst The People, some would consider him to be an extremely handsome man, and many a heart would flutter over him. For myself, I find that he is too handsome.”
“Thank you for your honesty,” Yellow said and went to meet the pair.
Blue held his hand out and she placed her own in his. To Tarl’a it almost appeared as if Yellow were blushing at the physical contact. Within moments, both Ancestors had vanished from sight with the last of the sun’s rays. Mailcon came to her side and placed an arm around her waist.
“That had to be the most embarrassing conversation I have ever had.” He smiled as they walked back to the house.
“You will have four more to make as they grow.” Tarl’a laughed, watching their boys playing around the house.
“At least now I have had some practice.” He joined her laughter.
Tarl’a sat up in the middle of a stormy night; a voice had called to her in her dream and she was compelled to answer it. She got up and started to gather some things around her.
Mailcon woke with her movements and watched her for a moment before speaking.
“What are you doing?” he whispered so as not to wake the children.
“I have to go to the stones,” she told him, standing, now prepared.
“It is the middle of the night and there is a storm.”
“It is important, Mailcon. It’s the child,” she said and ducked out the door.
The wind whipped up around her, throwing sheets of water into her face and drenching her within moments, pulling and tearing at her clothes. Pushing through the tempest, she headed to the track on the hill, knowing where she was going in the inky darkness of the night. At the base of the hill a light shone into the blackness, a dark and deep colour; Indigo nodded as Tarl’a passed her and followed on up the track. At the next switch was Violet, a soft, warm light emitting from her. At each turn she was met—Green, Orange, Red, and finally Blue. At the last turning she was met with Order, glowing brightly and illuminating the way to the great circle of stones.
In the centre she found Yellow; the swirling colours under her skin raced now with the effort she was feeling of birthing the child. Tarl’a did not notice the drop in the wind or the absence of the rain as she entered the circle, coming to the Ancestors side.
“How far along are you?” she asked the woman.
“I don’t know; help me, please, Tarl’a. I was not meant to give birth.”
“Let me check.” Tarl’a’s experience with her own four births came back to her as she checked Yellow. “It won’t be long; I can already feel the head.”
Yellow’s brothers and sisters all stood around the circle, placing themselves in between the great tall standing stones. Order had taken the place that would normally have been taken up by Yellow. All the Sentinels raised their hands and started to chant, the language unknown to her and unheard, as Tarl’a concentrated on Yellow and helping her.
The birth was long, and the storm that Yellow’s emotions had whipped up raged outside the circle. Inside she screamed out to the world, her hands grasping at the grass underneath her until with one great, final effort the child was born into the hands of the woman who would raise her. Tarl’a wiped the child and bundled the little girl up into the blankets she had brought, and then handed her to Yellow to hold.
Carefully, Yellow unwrapped the girl and stood. The parts of her she had changed so she could carry the baby were now gone, no longer needed. The pain she had felt was forgotten and was never to be remembered. But the love she instantly had for the little girl in her arms was immense, and she transferred as much as she could to the child.
Tarl’a stood back as the Ancestors all drew in close to see the girl, to bless her. Yellow passed her into the arms of Order and It held a hand over her tiny head; with eyes closed, Order saw the potential in the child and all the children down her line. Order nodded and smiled, then handed the child to Blue.
His own blessing he made on his daughter as he bent down and kissed her forehead. His own love he passed to her to join that of Yellow’s, then passed her to her mother.
“Tarl’a, it is time,” Yellow said as she still gazed into the blue eyes of her daughter.
Tarl’a came forward now and stood before them all. As each passed her and stepped out of the circle, they gave her their own blessing. With just Blue, Yellow, and Order standing before her now, she accepted the child into her arms.
“The child has a name; we spoke of it once before. It is now passed to you, but still you must not speak it until you are safely back inside your house. Take care of her, Tarl’a; let her know her parents love her.”
“I will, Yellow. I will love her and protect her, but also let her know how special she is.”
“No; she must grow with no preferential treatment, no special notice. The girl must grow strong in love of a family. We place her in your care along with Mailcon’s to raise her as your own,” Order told her.
“We will do so.” Tarl’a bowed her head. When she looked up, the three had already started to move to the entrance and she turned to follow them.
As she descended with the precious bundle in her arms, the Sentinels once more guided their way in the dark of the night, their lights shining the path for her. The storm had abated and the clouds gave way to the starry sky above, a meteor show streaking golden across the inky sky. But she had no eyes for the wonder of the sparkly display.
They stayed with her until she reached the little house. Each once more blessed the child as she passed them on her way to the door, last of all Yellow with one final kiss for her daughter.
Tarl’a entered the house and found the fire built up and glowing brightly. At the side was Mailcon, dozing with his chin on his chest. He woke with a start at her touch and she sat beside him, unwrapping the child.
“What is her name?” he asked her with wonder as he took the baby from her arms.
“Carling.” The name came to her as clearly as if it had been called out into the room. “Carling is her name.”
“Little Champion. It is truly a fitting name for her. She is so beautiful and perfect.”
L.C. Conn grew up on the outskirts of Upper Hutt, New Zealand. Her backyard encompassed the surrounding farmland, river, hills and mountains which she wandered with her brothers and fed her imagination. After discovering a love for writing in English class at the age of eight, she continued to write in secret. It was not until much later in life that L.C. turned what she thought was a hobby and something fun to do, into her first completed novel. Now married, L.C. moved from New Zealand to Perth, Western Australia, and became a stay at home mum. While caring for her family and after battling breast cancer, a story was born from the kernel of a dream. The first book of The One True Child Series was begun, and just kept blooming into seven completed stories.