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The moonchild, p.1

The Moonchild, page 1

 part  #1 of  The Moondial Series

 

The Moonchild
 


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The Moonchild


  The Moonchild

  Part 1

  The Moondial Series

  By David Cameron

  When night falls hard on Demeter's land

  And the Moondial's laws are broken

  Hope will come from a foreign hand

  Whose whispered name is spoken.

  The stones of law are cast afar

  and scattered to all ends

  Some will come to hunt them down

  Will one help make amends?

  The seven stones to seven worlds

  Have powers undiminished

  Created at the dawn of time

  Their journey never finished

  Unite the stones

  Rebuild the dial

  Heal their flaws

  Undo the evil in men's hearts

  And thus restore the laws!

  The Calender Riddle

  Chapter 1 - The Eyes Have It

  The two statues sat unmoving at either side of the brick pillars that supported the gates of the old house. The gates had long since fallen into neglect and the wrought iron had lost the paint that had protected it from the elements. Rust had now replaced the oil on the hinges and time had only to play a waiting game and they would surrender to the inevitable. The gravel path was being reclaimed by the once manicured lawns and cowslips and dandelions provided the only colour to the flowerbeds. Gone were the gardeners, gone were the footmen, butlers, maids and other household staff and the house stood alone, deserted, silent and brooding. Waiting. Watching.

  The footsteps that approached had the lightness of youth, a spring that crunched the gravel with vigour and vitality. The boy had no fear. Why should he? He did not know. How could he know what secrets slept within the walls, within the house. But the house knew. The gate knew. The wall knew, but most of all the statues knew and as he approached they felt a stirring within. A feeling they had almost forgotten. Their solidity felt it first, like a warm flush creeping beneath the moss and lichen. They resented this intrusion to their slumber and yet they felt reborn.

  The boy did not notice any change. The old house with its tall brick wall and rusty gate beckoned. It held the chance of a new place to explore. He had never felt fear and he did not feel fear now. Maybe an older soul would have hesitated, but this boy rushed headlong to push the gates open and two sets of blood red eyes looked down on him as the gates groaned and surrendered. The eyes followed asthe boy entered the garden.

  ****

  Peter had always wanted to know what the old house was like. He had been intrigued by the high brick wall and the strange towers that reminded him of fairytale castles. He did not know why, but he had felt a longing to enter the garden and explore its deepest recesses. The longing had been unanswered until today and now any reason to resist had evaporated. Today was his last chance. After today, he was leaving the village. He was to start a new life with a family he didn't know and he didn't want to know. Since the death of his grandmother, his world had turned upside down. The fabric of his security had fallen into ruin like the old house. They were much alike, the house and him. No one was left to take care of them. They were wild and longed for human company, and yet, it was human company that had led them to where they were now.

  The gate creaked open and he turned to take a fleeting glance at Lightholm village, his home for the last five years. He and his grandmother had lived in a cosy thatched cottage that oozed warmth and comfort. Since the accident that had taken his parents, Peter had always had his grandma. The silly, fussy warmth that had held him, scolded him, cherished him, had been his. She used to wash him as he stood in the old stone sink and rubbed him dizzy, as she dried him with deep secure towels of love and sadness. As he had grown stronger and taller, she had grown frailer and more stooped. It was as if his vitality drained her. Yet above all else, the two shared a love that was all the stronger for the fact that it was tinged with mutual sadness. The loss of Peter's parents bonded them both and made them cherish the time together.

  As a result, Peter never allowed anyone else to intrude. He had pals at school, but not one of them was allowed into his private time with his grandmother. There was a time for all things and the time with his grandmother was special, private and he was not prepared to share it.

  Lightholm was old. The village had a history that spanned many generations and the dwellings held secrets and ghosts of times long gone. Peter was to go to a family in Birmingham. He had been told that they were a lovely couple and that they had always wanted a boy like him. The problem was, he didn't want a couple like them. He wanted his grandmother and his heart ached at the memories of her touch, her smell as he held onto her tightly. Her silly flowery dresses and her big round face were always in his mind. Why must life be a time of partings? Why must everyone leave? What could he hold on to? He held on to the rusty iron gate. Even iron crumbled in time. In time everything crumbled.

  Yet as he thought this a spark filled his heart. He didn't know why, but something was calling him. Something was there and he had to find out what it wanted. He looked up at the carved statues on either side of the gate and he saw something that seemed to defy time. Stone. Cold. Hard and yet almost ageless resisting the ebbing tide of time. As he passed through the gates, he felt a change. The light seemed different and a voice called to him and yet he could not pinpoint the source. Was it something new or was it something old, a memory? He felt old. At fifteen years he felt old. Anger and sadness made him old. His parents and now his grandmother had left him. He was the last Peter Calender. The last of the Calenders. He had checked the telephone directory and there were no other Calenders. Sure, there were Calendars with an 'a', but there were no other Calenders with an 'e'. He was alone and he didn't want to move to Birmingham. He entered the garden and his world would never be the same.

  Beyond the gates, the garden was a myriad of colours. Colours so bright that they dazzled Peter and he took a step backwards in alarm. Why was the garden so light? The day had been dull and had matched his mood and yet here in the garden the colours vibrated with a wild energy. As he looked around, he was struck by the brilliance. He felt he was seeing flowers for the first time. The yellow of the dandelions almost burned with vibrancy and the red of the old roses was deeper than he had ever experienced. He felt as if he was truly seeing colour. Yet the strangeness of the garden held no menace. He was not afraid and he followed the gravel path between the box hedges that edged the formal flowerbeds. He knew where he was going, or at least, he felt a force pulling, leading, guiding him. Without hesitation, he made his way down the path. There was no one there. He knew there was no one there and yet if anyone had asked, he would have been unable to explain why. As soon as he had passed between the gates, he had known that he was expected. He had no idea what he was wanted for, but the garden called out to him with a silent voice that was no less clear. It soothed, it pleaded, it hoped and he had come.

  The path led him to a large vivid green lawn and at its centre was a raised dais with a low stone wall. Four footpaths converged on the platform and Peter could see a low stone column raised above the lawn like a beckoning finger. As soon as his eyes caught sight of it, he knew that here was the end of his journey. Here was the source of the summons.

  With slow, measured tread, he followed the pathway. The column was like a beacon and he was like a moth, drawn. He mounted the first low step and realised that it was a sundial. He has seen many in the village and one at school. Why was he drawn to it? Why did it call to him? As he stood before it, he felt his hands grasp the cold, stone sides, and he looked at the dial. There was the usual gnomon, pointing to the sky, but instead of the brass dial that he expected, he was faced with a bible black well, that seemed to be bottomless in depth. If the garden was full of onl
y true colours, then the dial was true black. A blackness that had no end. A blackness that cried out with empty loneliness. A blackness as cruel and cold as the garden was warm and welcoming. Peter felt that he was standing at the edge of a precipice and that if he didn't hold on, he would fall. He passed his hand across the face of the dial and his hand disappeared from view. He felt nothing, but startled he drew his arm back. His fingers were unharmed and he wriggled them to convince himself.

  It was at this moment that he became aware of the first sound. He spun around and he was faced with a glowing orb, burning like a sun and gliding across the garden. It emitted a hum that grew, building towards a crescendo. Growing with intensity, it floated at head height above the lawn. It's path meandered, but Peter had little doubt it was tracking him. The light was intense and clouds seemed to swirl across its surface. He saw greater detail as it approached and Peter felt he was gazing through a keyhole to another cosmos.

  For the first time Peter felt alarm and he instinctively stepped back. The stone column pressed reassuringly against his legs, but as the orb approached, he felt himself lose balance and he was falling. As he looked up, he saw a small circle of light, but around him, only black. His scream was silent as he fell into the starless night.

  Chapter 2 - In the Wink of an Eye

  When his mind stopped screaming, he was still falling. Falling, and yet falling could not really describe what was happening. He felt he was being swallowed by darkness. There was no sensation of time, but he had time to think of all that had happened to him since he entered the garden. Was he going mad? He had heard of breakdowns. Was this one? Was his world falling apart? He knew it was. Falling apart! Falling! And still he fell. After his initial fear he realised that it wasn't the descent that he was frightened of, it was the landing. After such a fall he would be flattened. He would be nothing. He would be gone. In time, he began to feel comfortable, almost secure, as if he were asleep. Maybe that was it. He was dreaming. At this point, he began to be aware of something below him, or was it above? No, it was below.

  A small disk of light was opening below him. The light hurt after the total blackness of the fall. The night seemed punctuated by the fullness of the stop. It became obvious that the light was his destination. Was it his end? He stared below and tried to see beyond the light. The brightness forced him to blink and then to shield his eyes from the intense glare. Suddenly, his senses were inundated. Sounds, touch, smells. He could hear voices and he was squeezed, stroked and a strange odour filled his nostrils. He was not alone.

  A delicate, shimmering of sound like wind chimes in a gentle breeze, moved about and darted nearer and further away. The air felt electric and his nerves ached with sensation. The atmosphere was warm and there was a heady scent of vegetation, like newly cut grass. Was he dead? Was this what it was like?

  He tried to open his eyes and the light caused him to clamp them shut. He tried again and after several attempts he managed to keep them open. His eyes grew accustomed to the brightness, but unaccustomed to the sight that filled them.

  He was in a clearing, surrounded by tall, slender trees with delicate foliage that shone silver in the light that flooded the glade. At first he thought it was daylight, but above his head hung the silver orb of the full moon. The silver disk was enormous and filled most of the clear sky above his head. He could clearly see the seas and craters that pockmarked its ancient face. He realised that this was no earthly vista and no earthly moon.

  Peter turned his head and became aware that he was lying on a gently sloping bank of soft moss. As he eyes acclimatised to the silvery light, he saw fleeting figures that hugged the shadows and darted about the clearing. Behind them, they left a trail of musical echoes. Voices could be heard whispering, but Peter could not glean meaning.

  He tried to sit up and the figures darted away from the movement.

  "See! See! See! See!" echoed on the night air.

  "Flee! Flee! Flee! Flee!" they urged.

  "Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait!" one reassured.

  Chapter 3 - The Piper

  The statues remained guarding the gates, silent sentinels. The garden still glowed in the pure light, but the orb was gone. Now the sounds of sweet cadences flowed over the lawns and all was well with the world. Peace washed over the grounds as the music grew louder. A figure appeared from the doorway of the house and slowly descended the steps to the gravel pathway.

  The pipe he held in his hands, for a man it was, was long and slender and the sunlight dazzled the silver as his fingers danced. His fingers were vital, and their movement crisp, but the skin was old like parchment. Sun spots stained the skin and lines grew a tracery of age up forearms that disappeared beneath the green folds of a gown that covered him from neck to ankle. His feet were bare and nutty brown from years of sun and rain. His face was ruddy and his crown bare, but his eyes shone with a joy that was childlike. White hair hung down like breaking waves from both his head and his beard. His lips smiled as he blew the purest of notes and he almost skipped along the path towards the dial at the centre of the garden. The melody could have brought a listener to the point of tears as the notes were too pure, too personal. It was true music. Real music.

  He reached the dial and gazed deep into its surface. He stopped his notes and the garden seemed to hold its breath. He sat down on the steps and held out his arms. Birds appeared and settled on them, and a family of rabbits played by his feet. Badgers rolled on the grass and a fox sunned itself. Life was complete in the garden and the piper allowed himself a smile of satisfaction. The Moonchild had been found and there was still hope. Hope was all the worlds had left. The time was gone. Unbeknownst to the rest of the worlds, time had run out and the Piper had played for the last dawn unless the Moonchild could bring the dawn of a new age.

  ***

  Peter sensed rather than heard the voices at first. They seemed to fill his mind, as a dream fills sleep. He knew he ought to do something, but what? They clearly meant him no harm. The timid creatures were frightened. The time to act was now and he did not know what to do.

  "Is he the one?"

  "He is our hope and our doom."

  "He looks so young, so young, so young."

  "Can he be the Moonchild?"

  "It has been woven in the web of time."

  "One will come. One will come."

  The last voice was clear and spoken aloud. Peter turned towards the source and gently said,

  "I am Peter Calender. Where am I? Why am I here? What do you want?"

  The voices emanated from small fairylike creatures that danced around the glade, unclear, urgent and then one figure left the shadows and advanced towards the boy.

  "I am Nightjar and you are in the glade of the Moon Pool. You are here, Peter Calender, because the Moondial called you."

  Her voice was suddenly drowned out by a screech that tore through the night air. Peter felt his blood run cold and fear strike his heart. A black shape passed across the face of the moon and a fetid smell of death settled upon the peace of the glade.

  A small hand took Peter's, in a firm grasp and pulled him towards the trees to his left.

  "Flee! Flee!" the voice urged. "For your life and ours, run!"

  Peter allowed himself to be dragged towards the shadows of the trees and the shelter they offered. The charge drew gasps from his chest and as they ran for cover, he turned and saw a dark shadow descend into the clearing. Silvery figures began to emerge and dart about as the gigantic beast filled the space. It was raven-like, but naked of feathers. It's black body was slick with rippling sinew and muscle. Leathery wings blocked out the moonlight and beat with power. The sense of evil was all consuming and Peter felt part of a nightmare. But worse, much worse, was the figure that sat astride the black beast. Holding an orb high above its head it sat, observing the darting figures of the glade. It was dressed in armour that had the sheen of black glass, mirror-like. The surface seemed to be filled with stars that flared and moved like fireflies. As it mo
ved, the armour flowed like quicksilver and the stars danced wildly. On its head, it wore a crown of jet that clawed at the night with taloned thorns.

  Peter could feel the suffocating evil of the monster, but the horror paled when he looked at its face. The rider turned towards him and he witnessed writhing, skinless, raw, weeping features that held searching eyes. The eyes found their quarry as they settled on Peter.

  A cry rang out again and the rider and beast took to the air. The orb, held aloft, pulsed with power and Peter saw the darting, silvery fae creatures attempting to flee the glade. Beams of dark light struck the delicate creatures. They vanished and their musical echoes were drawn to the blackness of the orb in a long wail, then all was silent.

  Peter was dragged into the trees and a voice urged him on.

  "Run! Run, or all will be in vain! Quick, or we will be caught!"

  The giant creature and its rider had now risen above the trees and a deep feeling of dread was pressing down on Peter, as they fled deeper into the forest. He didn't need telling twice and he ran as he had never run before. They push through bushes and branches that tore at his face and arms, but regardless of the obstacles, they still carried on. The girl seemed to know where she was heading. The route twisted and turned until Peter completely lost any sense of direction. How long they fled, he didn't know, but the feeling of black fear lessened over time. Eventually she stopped running and pulled Peter through a gap between two large boles and into a cave.

  Once again, Peter could see nothing, but he could hear the breathing of Nightjar and feel the warmth of her touch, as she led him further into the depths of the cave. With a gentle whisper, she told him to get on his hands and knees, as the roof was low. They crawled for what seemed like an eternity, as the passage twisted and turned. The floor of the cave was soft sand, but over time it wore Peter down. He wanted to stop and rest, but Nightjar's urgent tugging led him on.

 
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