Aroha, born of the Universe, needs her godmother’s help. Danger is once more swirling around Claire and her family as Chaos seeks domination over the world. The continuing quest to protect them all will take them on a journey around the world, discovering things about themselves of which they had no prior knowledge. But will it be enough to finally defeat Chaos in the battle that will decide all?
As she stared out of the kitchen window drinking her coffee, Claire Drummond was feeling a little pensive. There was something happening up at the stones that sat on the hill behind the cottage, hidden away in a valley in the highlands of Scotland, her adoptive home. For days now she had felt the changes slowly emerging and spreading out to encompass its surroundings, including the old house in which she now stood. If she were asked how to describe it, Claire honestly did not think she could give a coherent answer that anyone would be able to understand. It was just a feeling.
Claire and her husband, Matt, now lived in the house that had been the home of his mother and grandmother. They split their time between Glasgow ‒ where they both worked at the university ‒ and the small hidden valley. But the cottage always felt more like home to her. Having been born and raised in New Zealand ‒ which Claire still loved fondly ‒ Scotland was where she felt she belonged and needed to be. There was a connection to the land, especially the valley, that she had never felt anywhere else.
Reflecting back over her life, she was in awe at how much it had changed since she had discovered the beginnings of her Abilities at the age of seventeen. The many Talents that were once buried deep inside had grown from the initial two: Hide and Flight. Claire had been born into a very special group of people; so too her husband and their children. Her studies in the library in the outbuildings of the farm had revealed a rich history and insight into this group, more than she could ever have hoped.
Claire and her family were descended from an ancient race of people, the first to live in these lands, and created by the Coimheadair. These people had openly used their Abilities until it was necessary to hide them away, as the rest of the world came to their shores. Claire had read with fascination the references to the Coimheadair, the Guardians of the lands, the creators of this world and, now, a new name she had discovered: Ancient Ones. She had just finished reading an account of an old creation story that had fascinated her and was still wondering if it were true or just some fanciful way of explaining how things had come to be. The Coimheadair were real – of that she was certain; she had seen and spoken to them herself.
Claire had emerged from the library with new wonder and, as always, she looked up to where the two hills joined behind the house. The large upthrust of rock was clearly visible and standing guard as it hid the stones, marking where the brook started with the spring at the top and tumbling down the rocks into the length of the valley.
She placed the empty mug down on the bench and looked at the brook once more. It sparkled under the weak winter sun that had managed to push its way through the clouds. According to the story it had been opened up by an Ancient One to give water and life to the family of people who would guard the stones. Before she knew what she was doing, Claire was out of the house and flying through the air, finding herself already halfway up the hill. She rose up and landed carefully beside the spring. It burbled and bubbled up from the depths under the hill, tumbling down the first few rocks and disappearing over the edge.
Kneeling down she plunged her hand under the cold water and lifted it to her lips. It tasted sweet and crisp. Claire stood and slowly, almost hesitantly, made her way around the guarding rock. They stood as they had done since the beginning of time, tall and straight; they were dark pillars, with only the clinging lichen giving any hint as to how old they really were. The standing stones still called strongly to her; she could feel their vibrations and the anticipation of her touch. She felt the energy swirling around and inside them as they reached out for her, pulling her closer. They had always healed and calmed Claire in her times of need.
Now she reached out her hands that seemed to have aged since the first time she had touched the stones. The energy immediately raced through her fingers and into her body; it filled her up and she felt revitalised. The energy surged and Claire felt the stones searching, seeking more of her. The feeling frightened her. With great effort she pulled her hands away from the dark stone. Always she was wary of touching them for too long, afraid of being lost to them. She walked around the large stones on the outside, touching each one briefly as she went.
This time as she walked it was different. The peace she normally felt was interrupted by voices. Faintly the murmuring came to her as if carried on a breeze from far away, and she frowned as she tried to hear them, only for it to slip away each time, just as she thought she could make out what they were saying. Reaching the entrance stones, she stopped in the gap. Very rarely did she step inside the circle. The last time had been with her family when Aroha, her niece, had been given the blessing of the Coimheadair of the north and south. It was also when Claire had pulled evil from Aroha that had lain hidden away in the depths of her soul, something she had inherited from her great-grandfather.
Stepping through the entrance Claire made her way to the centre of the circle. She stood and looked around her. The change she had felt grew and increased in intensity. It was urgent now. She wanted to turn and leave, it was expectant and weighed heavily on her, holding her in place.
From around the rocks a procession came, seven beings in all, dressed in dark hooded cloaks that covered them from head to toe. Their faces, hands and feet were concealed under the heavy robes. They entered the circle in single file and arranged themselves around her, standing in the gaps between the large stones. Claire did not fear them; she knew they were the Coimheadair.
“Greetings to the One True Child,” they called in unison.
“My greetings to the Guardians of these lands,” she replied.
“Carling,” One of the figures stepped forward, greeting her with the name she had been told was hers. “You once asked that we give you an explanation of what has happened to you.”
“I remember. It was shortly before I disposed of Marcus’s remains,” Claire said, nodding.
“It is now time that you knew everything, Carling. That you were made aware of who and what you truly are. The many lives you have lived down the ages have been hidden from you, your actions and deeds only hinted at and drawn on when those skills were needed. You are so much more than just a wife, mother and scholar. You are the Protector, the Staff and Sword of Order. Your spirit born from two who stand here and sent out into the world to guard against the darkness.”
“I don’t understand. What do you mean, ‘born from two who stand here’? I knew my parents. Is part of them still with me in my mind?”
“We know, we helped them be there to guide you and love you,” the figure said gently. “The time for your education to begin is now, Carling. It is time for you to come into your full potential in order for you to act as Guide and Protector to the Ultimate One, to help her achieve her goal. It has been written in the Book of Destiny and cannot be erased.”
“The Ultimate One is Aroha, our god-daughter?” Claire asked, seeking confirmation to what she already suspected about her niece.
“Yes, it is she that the world has been waiting for. The Universe has sent her daughter to us.”
“What is the task that lies ahead of her?” Claire asked, feeling anxious for her niece.
“That will be part of your education,” another cloaked figure said in a deep male voice.
Claire looked at each Coimheadair that was present; they all stood upright, taller than her. Never once had she glimpsed what was hidden in the depths of those cowls.
“When does my education start?” she asked them.
“When Galen arrives.” A third figure stepped forward, referring to Matt’s true first name. “He will need to be with you. You need to draw on his strength and his love as it has always been between you. That is the reason my son was born.”
“That is tonight,” Claire said quietly, biting her lip a little.
“It is the reason we called you up to the stones. There is so much you must learn, so much you must understand and not one piece can you doubt or reject. The writings in the library are all true, Carling. They were made so that you could read them now, to prepare for tonight. We cannot lie; it will be hard on you, and maybe a little painful. But the time is coming when you need to use everything you have learned over all of your lives to survive and protect Aroha.” Yet another figure spoke now, in a woman’s voice this time.
“You have told me in the past that you are the Coimheadair, the Guardians. But you are so much more, aren’t you?” she asked them.
“We are, Carling, and so are you,” the first figure said. “We must leave now and will meet you here tonight. You will know when it is time. Galen is not far away.”
Slowly the host of beings began to file out of the entrance to the stones and Claire was left in the middle as she watched them disappear around the rocks. All she could hear was the wind as it wound around the stones and the lonely, haunting cry of an eagle on the wing, high up in the cloud-strewn sky above.
Claire made her way back down the hill, taking her time as she pondered on the Guardians’ mysterious words. The texts she had been deciphering came to mind and she flicked through the pages in her mind. It was part of the Abilities she had acquired – understanding their ancient language. It was knowledge that she had shared with her father-in-law and with his help she had made great inroads into the myriad volumes in the family library.
Walking around the house to the front she saw a car making its way up over the rise in the track that led to the ford and the main road. She waited by the door of the cottage for it to arrive and smiled broadly as her husband got out of the car. Claire ran to him and flung her arms around his neck. Matt Drummond was tall; his dark hair now showing traces of grey and the beard he had grown was now almost completely white. He was still the most handsome man to her, still so full of life and love for her. Claire clung to him.
“Hey, what’s up?” he asked, pulling away. He placed his hands on the side of her face, leaned down and kissed her gently. He could always tell when something had happened.
“Just when I thought I was free to live my life, they called me back,” she told him.
“They said… They told you that you were free.”
She could see the agitation growing in him. His hands dropped from her face and he stepped back from her embrace.
“We have to be at the stones tonight. Apparently, I have to finish my education and I get to learn who I am.”
“But we know who you are. They told you that your tasks were done!” Matt said, a little forcefully.
He reached out and took her hand. They walked together into the house and headed to the kitchen, which always felt warm and comforting. The traces of Matt’s grandmother were still there, and Claire had never tried to erase them.
“They want me to guide and protect Aroha as she faces her own task,” Claire informed him.
“This is not fair, Claire,” Matt growled. “You have already done so much for them. You have done everything they asked of you, and it almost destroyed you. They ask too much!”
The deaths of Jack and his father Marcus had affected her greatly, as had the ordeals that Marcus had put Claire and their family through. They were things that they had not spoken of for years; the memories were still too painful, and they had actively sought to suppress them.
She leaned up against the bench and looked out of the window up to the hill. Matt came up behind her and put his arms around her waist, his lips seeking the spot between her neck and shoulder.
“They want so much from you,” he whispered to her. “I fear they want your life, that you will leave me behind. I can’t live without you, Claire. I love you.”
Claire turned in his arms and wrapped her own around him. “I love you, too. I couldn’t have done what I did back then without you, without knowing how much you love me and feeling it within my heart. I still feel the rose that you created for me; it still surrounds my heart and protects me. It fills me with love and hope every day.”
“That is not just my love, but everyone’s.”
“But the rose and dewdrop from your tear is from you. It is the source of my strength and my love.”
“I guess we must go, then, and find out what they want,” Matt said, seeming resigned to the fact. “I’m pleased that they want me there too. In the past they have kept me in the dark and I’ve been floundering around trying to help you.”
“I know they have. I will make sure they include you in this; you have every right to know. Our lives are shared, we are one,” she told him and kissed him again.
They stood in the centre and waited. Inside the circle it felt warm; the wind and rain that blustered in the darkness beyond the stones did not affect them. Matt clasped her hand in his and was growing impatient. Claire turned to face him, her arms going about his waist as she drew him into her. He looked down at his wife and smiled, his bright blue eyes sparkling in the fleeting moonlight and showing the love he felt for her. He reached up and pushed her blond hair away her face and kissed her.
There was no need for words, they had been together for twenty-eight years and they knew each other too well. The connection between them ran deep inside their minds and was unbreakable. Claire rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes, taking comfort from his arms and his presence. Memories of their times at the stones came floating up and she smiled at the ones that meant the most to her.
“Claire,” Matt said, softly bringing her out of her memories.
Pulling away from the warmth of his body reluctantly, she watched the Coimheadair enter the circle. Each figure took their place once more in the gaps between the large stones and faced the couple. With increasing nervousness Claire waited for the Guardians to begin.
“Greetings to the One True Child, daughter and sister of the Sentinels, Staff and Sword of Order, Guardian of the Stones and wife of Galen the Protector,” one of the hosts proclaimed, as he stepped forward from his place.
“My greetings to the Guardians of the lands,” Claire said.
“Greetings to Galen of the Boar, Protector and husband of the One True Child,” another said, moving forward.
“Greetings to the Guardians of these lands,” Matt said.
“That is a lot of titles and some I have never heard before,” Claire spoke to the first.
“The time for all knowledge is now. What once was hidden and kept from you, will now be laid out and revealed to you, Carling,” he replied
“Before we begin, there is something I must ask,” Claire said, her hand still clasping that of Matt’s.
“If it is within our Abilities to grant it to you, Carling, then we shall,” the first Guardian told her.
“I ask that the knowledge is also passed on to Galen,” she requested, using her husband’s real name. “He has a right to know what I do, we share everything, and we are one.”
“My son shall know what you do as far as your joined history together. But there is still knowledge that my son will not be able to comprehend or understand. I do not intend to insult you, Galen, but some of the knowledge is specific for Carling to do with her Abilities,” the second Guardian replied.
“I understand, Guardian,” Matt inclined his head.
“I thank you, Guardians.” Claire bowed her head to them.
“Carling and Galen, it may pay that you sit. I fear that the knowledge will be weighty and hard for you.” Yet another figure spoke with a gentle feminine voice.
The couple sat facing each other, legs crossed, and hands held together. Their knees were touching, and Claire couldn’t tell if it were her hands that were shaking or Matt’s. She gave him a small smile of encouragement and closed her eyes.
The Guardians’ chanting started slowly and quietly, rising in tempo and volume. Some the words Claire understood and recognised as a blessing. The words then formed a request from a higher being than the host gathered, to grant knowledge to the couple. The pressure inside her mind increased as she saw her beginnings here in the stones. Claire witnessed her birth from a great being clothed in sunshine yellow, surrounded by others in multiple hues. Lights under their skin swirled as a storm raged overhead and around the stones. The scene shifted before her, showing Carling as a child with golden hair, her small hand clasped in that of a tall boy with bright blue eyes. Claire recognised the spirit of her husband. They had been destined for each other from the moment of her conception.
Deeds played out before her, travels and people. Marveling as she recognised the spirits of so many, linking them with those she knew in this life. They had followed her down through the ages to be at her side, to support and love her. So many were there her mind began to rebel at the enormity of it and a flash of pain seared through her.
“Peace, Carling. Accept it,” a gentle voice called to her. It was familiar and she relaxed under its smooth tones.
The imprisonment of Chaos was before her. The crystal cave and its bright light she understood. Order was still standing guard over its brother, who was bound to two large pillars of pure clear crystal that pushed their way up through the floor of the cave.
The scene changed quickly. She saw the lives of her children and that of her husband, the love she felt for her ultimate parents, and the Guardians. She saw them once more transform into the seven great trees to stand guard around the sacred lands.
Another life rose to meet Claire. Another called Carling. The same in every single way. The house which sat over the water, flames leaping from the thatched roof and the roar that frightened the small child, the fire that claimed her family. The scene changed and once again she saw the spear as it pierced her grandmother, the blood and the sound of her cries. The man who had taken her and who wanted to possess her. The hazel eyes, the face the same as the Marcus Claire had known, only younger. She saw the evil begin in him.
She saw the great fire she had caused at the Roman fort and the final battle. Galen killing the man, the first Marcus, as he cried out for him to do so. The darkness had not fully possessed his soul; there was a part that was still human and capable of love. Claire also understood where that love had come from: the Guardians.
The aftermath of the great fire and the life as she lived it with Galen with their children on the side of the mountain. The broch she recognised, the little village she knew, and had helped to rediscover, where she had dug the stones from the earth with her own hands. The pendant Matt had found, with the image of a boar, the one she had once worn at her throat, the work of her husband Galen. It all came to her and she smiled at the memories.
Other lives she had lived: in the area around Loch Tay; some later on, further afield in America. She saw the lines of her children. Galen and her offspring spread far and wide across the world, so many now. One she recognised and she stood before its spirit – that of Maddison, her brother Tony’s first wife.
She saw her own home. The small settlement in the valley in New Zealand. The stones as they had once stood at the head of the gully, green stones from the ground, polished and gleaming in the southern sun. She felt the Sentinels of the south as they gathered there, joining their energy to that of the north as they imparted all their knowledge to her.
With the memories finished, it was now time for the truth. In the darkness of her mind, in a small corner, where the glow from the crystal that was the facilitator for her Abilities could not reach, she found herself. It was there that Claire tried to centre herself and accept the new memories.
From the shadows of that corner came another to stand in front of her. Identical to herself in every way except for golden points of light which danced and swirled under her skin. Her hair was the same, her eyes the same shade of blue. Dressed like one of the Sentinels she smiled at Claire.
“We are one,” she said.
“I take it you are the one I call Crystal?”
“I am. It was necessary for the Sentinel side of us to manifest itself in such a way. It was too early for us to understand and accept it. Our first life showed us that the human side would take a little convincing.”
“This is what the Sentinels look like?”
“It is. They were born of the light of Order, although for ourselves we were born from the bodies of Yellow and Blue.”
“This is a lot for us to take on, Carling,” Claire said to her twin.
“It is, Claire. There is more – the Abilities that we used in our first life must now be released. It will be painful as our mind grows to accept them all. To do this, Claire, we must wake from here and open ourselves up to the Stones. Do not be afraid of losing ourselves to them, they will not absorb us. The energy we have felt inside the stones is that which has been stored for us, to draw on at this moment.”
“We shall trust in the knowledge that is stored in your side of our spirit.” Claire told the glittering being.
“Are we ready?”
“We are ready,” Claire nodded and opened her eyes.
Matt was sitting watching her, still clasping her hands in his own. His bright blue eyes widened as he came to terms with his own history and that of his wife.
“The time is now, Carling,” one of the male Sentinels intoned. “Open yourself to the stones and take the knowledge that is yours. Use it well and protect the world and the Ultimate One. The task is yours to take on and once more we ask you to be the Staff and Sword of Order.”
“I accept the task,” she told them and turned to Matt. “I must do this, Galen, it is the reason I was created and born.”
“I understand, Claire. And where you go, so do I, as your support, love and protector.”
“We cannot touch you, Carling, while you are communing with the Stones. This task is for Galen to support you. You must hold her onto the stones, my son, and do not let her release until it is time.”
“I understand, my Ancestor,” he nodded to the Sentinel.
“I’m ready, Galen,” Claire told him, and he walked with her to the largest of the stones.
Standing in front of it and feeling very small in comparison, Claire could sense the knowledge already reaching out to her. She raised her hands and placed them on the flat hard surface and found it warm to the touch. It vibrated with energy as it started to impart knowledge, releasing all the Abilities and so much more. In her mind a bell began to toll, it was a sound she had heard before at the stones and the understanding of where it came from washed over her. The Universe herself was giving Claire her blessing.
When Claire was first granted access to some of her Abilities, she had trouble controlling the influx of information. It was the same feeling she was now experiencing. Everything around her was blocked out, including the feeling of Matt holding her.
“Let it in and do not try to control it. Accept it,” the calming voice told her.
“We are trying to,” Claire replied gritting her teeth and she forced herself to relax, and the pressure eased some.
Beads of sweat appeared on her brow as she concentrated on the knowledge. Her body shook with the force and weight of it. Matt held his wife tightly and was amazed at the capacity she had. He noticed small points of lights flickering to life just under the skin of her hands. They spun and swirled as they made their way slowly up her arms. Looking around at the Sentinels who stood guard over them, he was concerned and sought their guidance.
“The side that has been hidden from her, she is now accepting, my son. Keep her there, the time is not right to release her,” the Guardian reassured him.
“What are they?”
“They are the lights of the Universe. When Order created us, he took the light from his own body, the light that was created from the explosion of the old world and split it into its many facets. We are those facets. A rainbow of colours to stand guard over this world and protect it from the darkness. Carling’s light is purer than ours, her light is greater. It burns brighter and the Abilities she has been granted by our Mother Universe far exceeds our own. She is a gift from the Universe to help bring back balance. Chaos was never meant to be only darkness, the Universe created Order from Chaos’s destruction to bring balance. But unfortunately, it never came to pass. The great plan of Carling was only the beginning. She was always meant to be a tool to be honed and used to prepare and protect the Ultimate One. Aroha is meant to replace Chaos and Order. The balance shall be returned when she has banished them.”
“And what is to become of Claire when it is over?” Matt asked with a great fear beginning to grow inside him.
“It will be decided on the day of the banishment. We cannot see the outcome. Carling, when she does pass, will join us and take her rightful place with the Sentinels, at our side to continue our work. This has been seen.”
“So, I will lose her…?” He looked at Claire. The love he had for her was written clearly on his face, and the pain of knowing they would be separated from one another.
“We cannot see that,” another spoke gently.
“But you said…”
“Yes, it is written in the Book of Destiny, but we cannot see what becomes of either of you,” she told him.
The lights that had started underneath the skin on Claire’s hands were now spreading faster up her arms. They pushed their way with a surging force, advancing and then retreating a little until Matt saw them reach under the pushed-up sleeves of her jacket. They emerged at her throat and he could see them seeking out the rest of her body. The moment they reached her face she grimaced in pain and he almost pulled her off the stone.
“A little longer, my son.” A thin, bony hand was raised over Claire’s head and a spark of light jumped from the hand to Claire, like a little piece of golden lightening. The Guardian pulled back and held the hand under its robe.
The others stood their ground, waiting for the moment when all knowledge had been passed onto Claire. Matt could feel her tremble under the pressure, and she began to weaken. He held onto her, holding her in place. The weight of her body slightly pushing him off balance as he tried to adjust. The lights were now rushing through her body, streaking and pulsating like a meteor shower in the heavens. Under his hands he could feel her racing heartbeat as she absorbed all that she should be, and it became a part of her.
“Now, Galen.” One of the gathered hosts placed a hand on his shoulder and gently pulled him back.
Claire’s hands released their hold on the stone, and she collapsed into his arms. Matt gently lowered her to the ground and cradled her, smoothing the damp hair from her face. Claire’s eyes flickered opened and the lights had even invaded the soft blue of her iris. They flashed for a moment before disappearing and she focused on his face.
“Claire,” he said softly to her.
“Galen, my Galen. So long have we loved,” she said in wonder as her golden laced hand reached up to his face.
“And we shall continue forever more,” he promised as he bent and kissed her lips.
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.