Title: Sentinels: Book 1 of the one true child series by L.C. Conn
Date Published: 14th February 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy
The world is new, created from a great explosion caused by Chaos in a childish rage. Order is born from the intense light of the explosion, sent as a balance to the Dark One. As the world is created around It, Order realises that It cannot stand alone and creates the Sentinels. Extreme beings with amazing powers, they shape and mould the world, creating creatures and plants to inhabit it. A world of light and love.
Chaos cannot understand why these beings will not bend to his will and worship him. He tries to destroy their work and riles against them. In answer, Order forms a plan. A being; born of two of the Sentinels, with abilities stronger than their own. A child in human form, who must be raised by The People in order to understand their race. The One True Child.
Carling is that child. Raised in the sacred valley in secret, along with her four brothers. Raised by Tarl’a, the Keeper of the Stones and her husband, Mailcon. Her life is quiet and uneventful, until she turns thirteen. It is then she learns of her true identity and purpose on earth. Now she must come to terms with this great change and prospect of finally being able to leave the valley to be taught her skills by the Sentinels. She must do this before Chaos can find her and attack before she is ready.
It is a story of learning and growing, of making mistakes and building on them. It is good vs evil, light vs dark and love vs hate. Carling’s very life depends on the love of her family and he soul-mate. It is also a story about how the world will only survive if we can control hatred and learn to love.
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“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.
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