I’m so pleased to be taking part in the 12 Days of Clink St, this is my first of two posts in the christmas event, this one for J.C. Norman’s Sphere’s Divide. Below is a christmas story which also doubles as a sneaky snippet from a forthcoming novel which has yet to be given a release date and title so do enjoy! As always details to purchase the current novel are at the end of the post.
Sphere’s Divide is a dark, matured and thrilling romance told in the narrative of a physical and emotional journey designed to push the boundaries of love and morals. When Leo Raiden discovers the secluded site of a skyship crash on the outskirts of his island he finds a seemingly, single survivor. A new and devastating global disaster threatens Sphere. Raiden, the enigmatic Val and a Caster named Zahied are set upon a mission to a distant land, seeking only information of ancient human knowledge and technologies to protect Sphere from the threat that sits outside its atmosphere.
High Elementalist Acarlie of Eloma, a young girl skilled in the art of manipulating the Element of Wind has finally finished her training and is ready to set off on her dangerous pilgrimage. To visit each elemental stadium and fight in thrilling battles in front of thousands in order to master all the elements and become the Elemental Lord. With her on her sacred journey are her Sacred Guides, Tigian Sheeria and Human Miles, a charismatic mercenary paid to protect her. Together, these two parties discover their goals lie at the same destination and will pave the way for the most important story in Sphere’s history.
Combining mild science fiction, unconventional fantasy, romance and adventure, Pilgrim of Element is the first chapter to tell a unique story in a new world where humans are no longer a lonely race, but share their world with intelligent, evolved creatures descendant of mammals we know today.
Christmas Short Story:
The snow crunched under his father’s feet. The chill of the mid-winter air filled his lungs and he opened his mouth to watch his breath fog in the air and evaporate into the grey sky above him. Raiden loved winter. At four years old winter was fun, beautiful and exciting. With no mane on his head yet he still had enough of his mother’s golden fur to warm him against the cold air. But his father Degnaler insisted on him wearing a warm, green cloak also. Raiden didn’t mind, however, and neither did his big brother Valadad who trailed behind him. Raiden was sitting on his father’s shoulders as they made their family pilgrimage they had made for as long as Raiden could remember, which wasn’t very long.
“How you holding up there, champ?” his father asked holding onto Raiden’s little legs.
“I’m a train, Father, look!” He arced his neck up and blew upwards pretending his air was the steam of a train.
“If you’re a train maybe we can catch a lift there quicker,” Valadad suggested. “Where are we going this year anyway, Father?”
“To the less fortunate as always, Val,” his father replied.
They marched with several other families of leos. All on a short, annual pilgrimage the leo people make with gifts and food on the backs of lizziers for the rest of the world.
“What I mean is, who is it this year? With all this with the humans and us leos over the last few years shouldn’t it be us who are the ‘less fortunate’ for once?”
“Now, Val, I have brought you up to be better than that. Epically as Lifemas.”
“Lifemas!” Raiden screamed with joy.
“I know, Father. I just feel if we keep on giving out to others, then we’ll have nothing left for ourselves.”
As they walked, many other leos were in the distance and behind them. All following the trail of foot-pressed snow over the plains of Angland and towards the snow covered tree tops of the great forest of the country. The leos, proud as ever, were now divided from the rest of the world. Over the last few months the humans had continued the slaughter and mass genocide of the leo species, exterminating them from the face of the planet. The leos were still great in number, however, and remained to stick close to each other in large settlements around the Sphere. Recently, the news had come out that an army of humans entered the Great Forest of Angland, mistaking the local tigians as sympathisers of the leos and brought their village to the torch. The rest of the world immediately heard of this terrible tragedy and so the local leos decided they would visit this village and bring them food and supplies.
“Val, tell me,” his father started, “what is Lifemas?”
Valadad looked up. He himself was twenty years older than young Raiden. He took his father’s dark fur and fiery red mane but shared the same ruby red eyes as his younger brother and late mother.
“Lifemas is a holiday that the elders have taught the rest of the world over this history of Sphere. It is a time of sharing and to celebrate life itself in all its glory,” Valadad said, as if he was quoting an ancient book they all learned in school.
Raiden was too young for school and so listened to his wise father.
“That’s right, Val. It is a mass of lifeforms all celebrating the gift that Sphere has blessed us with. Something we share with all living things, even the humans. Which is why there is a temporary treaty for us to visit and help the tigians of this village.”
“I once heard that Lifemas was actually a human holiday many, many years ago.” Valadad said.
“That when the humans first met the elders all those years ago, the elders took their religion and customs on a holiday that was called something similar and changed little things about it over the years until it became known as ‘Lifemas’. The idea of it changed slightly also. My friend told me this when I was about Raiden’s age, years before the slaughter started. He said the humans once celebrated the life of a single person and the elders changed it to celebrate life itself.”
Raiden listened with wide eyes, taking in all the information he could while his father only laughed.
“And who told you that, son? What was he?”
Valadad laughed as he thought, “A human, Father.”
“And I’m sure your old friend believed that himself. But think about it, how many other creatures think that Lifemas is based on an ancient idea of their own religion? Also, if this is true, then how do we know the old human holiday was also changed from an even older religion and holiday?”
Valadad laughed again when he realised, “I guess so. But it could be true, right?”
“Maybe, but tell me this; Lifemas. When is it?”
“In the middle of winter.”
“Exactly. Do you know why?”
This Valadad had no answer for.
As they passed the first of the trees and found a trail that started to lead up a hill his father explained.
“Because life finds its hardest challenge of the year in winter. The trees drain all the nutrients from their leaves and let them fall in autumn; predators find it harder to find prey, and prey find it harder to escape predators in the snow. Everything struggles in winter. Many lifeforms die for many different reasons, so in the middle of winter the days are the darkest and coldest and life is at its most desperate moment of the year.”
As they passed one of the trees his father pointed to a familiar one.
“Which is why most of us all celebrate the Evergreen tree at Lifemas. Since it keeps its colour all year round, it reminds us all that even in the darkest days of the year, life will remain and spring will return.”
Young Raiden, still sitting on his father’s shoulders looked up at the magnificent tree smiling down at him with leaves like snow covered hair.
“And so what do the humans do with this symbol of life? They chop it down and leave it to slowly die in their living rooms,” his father laughed finally.
“Those humans, they do not understand Lifemas like the rest of the world does. Did your friend not ever stop to think that it was a bit of a coincidence that this one individual was born in the middle of winter? And also, if this was true, then why don’t the humans celebrate this tradition now?”
“I don’t know,” Valadad confessed. “Maybe it’s because the humans over the years have forgotten the ancient religions and traditions and have only conformed with the rest of the world.”
Degnaler nodded, “Perhaps, the humans will follow blindly to whatever the masses say. As have we all. Since the elders have taught us about the life of Sphere, that every life form is a part of the planet’s energy that we all borrow in turn before returning that energy back, is it so hard to believe that Lifemas is only a philosophy based on the idea that all life within Sphere is sacred? That, as part of the infinite cycle of life we have a responsibility to look out for other life forms around us? For in that sense, we are all connected, all brothers and sisters under Sphere as our great mother.”
“I think I understand what you’re trying to say, Father,” Valadad said again. “How about you, champ?” he asked Raiden.
Raiden tried with his young and innocent mind to understand and smiled, “I think so. We help others at Lifemas because we’re like family. And family helps each other, right?”
“That’s exactly right, son. You said the magic word there. Family. We are celebrating we have each other. So long as we have each other…” he said and directed the rest of the sentence to Valadad behind him, as to answer a previous question.
“We don’t need much else. I get it, Father. This is why we’re going to help the tigians.”
“That’s right. Now remember to be nice to them too. They have been through a lot lately and we Teleskys are going to be honourable and kind to them, understand?”
“Yes, sir!” they both said at once.
“Hey, dude, Happy Lifemas!” the young aeomon’s friend said as he sat down beside him.
Lifemas was known as a dark time for the aeomon, considering it was in the middle of winter, but where the aeomon lived it was always dark. In True Hiro.
“Thanks, buddy,” the aeomon replied as his best friend sat down beside him. The two boys were both nine years old, both as skinny as each other and each of them tired of living and growing up in their dark and lonely city. The aeomon was sat against a dark and dirty wall in a narrow alley near the busy streets. He liked to sit and watch the people walk about their busy lives and dream that he too would one day be amongst these busy people, working hard for their families to share Lifemas with.
His friend sat down beside him and passed him a stale roll of bread with a little cheese in it.
“Here, I swiped this from Matron’s office. I don’t think she minded,” he smiled.
The aeomon child only pulled his knees closer to his chest and shook his head, “No, thanks.”
“What’s the matter, dude? It’s nearly Lifemas, you should be happy.”
The aeomon looked back at him, “Happy for what? I hate Lifemas.”
“No one hates Lifemas.”
The boy shifted and pulled his knees up to his chest beside his friend. “Why?”
The aeomon looked back out and watched more people of the dark city aimlessly walking down the busy streets, with bright lights of passing vehicles and shop signs blinding the darkness.
“It’s all well and good for the people with families. But what about us? All we do is work, work and work for very little in return. Last year it was the same. Remember, everyone gets ‘ill’ come Lifemas rush. Then other’s have babies and Matron lets them off all the time.”
“Well, you can’t blame them if they’re having kids, dude,” the boy suggested.
“I know,” the aeomon complained. “It’s just hard, that’s all. We shouldn’t even be working. We should be at school like the rest of the kids. But no, we’re made to work to afford what little food we have and every Lifemas we have to work everyone else’s shifts because they all have families they can be with. What about us? When do the working people of this city ever give time to the orphans? Isn’t that what Lifemas is about? Giving to the less fortunate and all that crap? Well, we’re the less fortunate, but no, every bloody penny goes into getting Mister Smith’s little princess’s new shoes because she wants the colour to match her dress.”
The boy sighed and leaned his head back against the wall and took a bite of his cheese roll, “Lifemas isn’t about being jealous. Mister Smith works just as hard as you for the money for his daughter’s shoes, dude. You can’t compare what you have or want. It’s not about that.”
“That just sounds like an excuse for them, doesn’t it?” The aeomon held out his hands sarcastically and in the voice of Mister Smith said, “’Sorry guys, all my money is going into my daughter’s shoes and the rest of my family. But you’re not allowed to get angry that I haven’t donated anything, because that’s not what Lifemas is about!’” He then sighed, “I think Mister Smith is an idiot.”
The boy laughed at his impression, “Well, he’s right.”
“I think you’re an idiot too.”
The boy laughed harder now. “You’ll have your day, dude. We all will. We’re still young, remember?”
This the young aeomon slumped back and sighed again, “Who would want to start a family with someone like me? An orphaned aeomon from the slums of True Hiro?”
“You have a job, don’t you?”
The aeomon looked over cynically and again answered in his most sarcastic voice, “Sphere’s divide, dude, you’re right! I scrub plates and dishes after the homeless! How could I forget that? Great job opportunities there. I could climb the corporate ladder there, you know. I could maybe aspire to cleaning up dog shit off the streets.”
“Alright, alright. Sphere’s divide, dude, you don’t have to keep on about it. Remember, I’m in the same boat as you. Can’t you at least be happy with the things you’ve got? You’ve got your health, remember?”
The aeomon tutted, “Health is overrated.”
“You wouldn’t be saying that if you had a health problem, dude.”
“I just don’t see how anyone could like Lifemas who doesn’t have anywhere to go. We all work so bloody hard, overtime, extra shifts and days off, and for what? So we can have one day of going, ‘Yay, it’s Lifemas, let’s give each other all the money we worked so bloody hard for and eat until we’re fat!’”
“I’ve heard worse reasons, to be honest. But I think you’re missing one of the main points about it,” the boy said and he jumped up.
“It’s a celebration of life, remember? So let’s go and do something that celebrates that.”
“Like…let’s go and have fun somewhere, enjoy youth and health since that’s all we have.”
The aeomon finally stood up and shook his legs and brushed the dirt off this tail. “Okay, so what have you got in mind?”
The boy thought for a minute, “How about we go into the closed offices? They’re all empty for Lifemas, right? So no one would mind if we…had a little look around?”
The aeomon finally smiled a little, he liked the sound of this. “I guess it would cheer me up a little. We haven’t done anything but work in ages now. I’m sure one night off won’t hurt.”
“That’s the spirit.”
“But what if we’re seen? Won’t we get into trouble?”
The boy waved away his concern, “No, if we’re caught just shout and scream a bit. Make a scene, you know. They’ll just let us go after.”
“Shout and scream?” the aeomon asked.
“Yeah, come one,” the boy said and started leading him out of the alley. “I mean, what are they going to do, chop your tongue off?”
“I think we may have a problem,” one of the elders whispered. The elder slowly walked up the narrow corridor wearing a grey cloak and hunched slightly as most of the elders did. They had a larger nose than most of the other creatures of Sphere and only had three digits on each hand. This female elder had bushy eyebrows and small, squinted eyes with grey hair in a small bun on her head.
“I think she is having a crisis about her family again. This happens with every Lifemas. Do you think you could talk to her, Sheeria?”
Sheeria walked beside the elder in a blue tunic that tied from her shoulders. She always liked this tunic, even though she felt it didn’t match with her orange and black stripy fur and apple green eyes.
“Of course, Elder Dawn,” Sheeria nodded and she was lead to the young student’s room.
Sheeria had lived here for decades now, training and nurturing the elementalists. This one though always did have a problem at Lifemas. She had to be careful though. This girl was only seven and had not even started her training as an elementalist yet.
“Honey,” Sheeria asked as she knocked twice on her door.
“Go away!” came the young student’s answer.
Sheeria’s heart broke whenever she heard this little girl cry. She stood at the door like it was a magic seal and she was separated from her because of it. Only, fortunately for her, it wasn’t magically sealed.
“I’m coming in, okay? Don’t get mad.”
She gently opened the door and let herself in. In the corner lying silently on her bed was the young elementalist-to-be, scrunched into a ball and facing the wall.
Sheeria quietly closed the door. “I just wanted to sit and have a chat. Are you okay, darling?”
The little girl made no answer. Sheeria went and sat down on the corner of her bed. She had known this girl since she was a new born and had watched her grow every day for the last seven years.
“What’s the matter, Acarlie? Don’t you want to join the rest of us this Lifemas? You enjoyed it last year, remember?”
The young and upset Acarlie shook her head defiantly.
Sheeria sat silently and reached out to gently touch Acarlie’s black hair with the back of her fingers.
“Will you at least turn around so I can see you?”
Acarlie sniffed and considered Sheeria’s proposal and finally turned at sat up.
When Acarlie’s brown eyes, full with tears met Sheeria’s she couldn’t help but reach out for her and embrace her. She could never stand to watch any of the children cry. It was Sheeria’s one true weakness.
The young Acarlie allowed herself into Sheeria’s soft and furry embrace, hugging onto her tigian protector and wiped away the last of her tears.
“I want my mum and dad,” Acarlie finally admitted.
“I know you do, darling,” Sheeria countered and keeping Acarlie in her arms. She had known all along but knew to let Acarlie say it in her own time.
Sheeria never knew Acarlie’s parents. She was told that her mother was an elementalist and her father was her guide, that they came to Eloma when her mother has heavily pregnant but something happened that Sheeria never saw and the elders never spoke of it either. All she knew was that the day after Acarlie was born, her parents were dead and Sheeria was tasked with raising her. She had raised dozens of elementalists before, but Acarlie was different. She soon became more of a sister, daughter and friend to her than just a student.
“It’s okay to miss them too. Epically at Lifemas,” Sheeria comforted. She reached up and gently touched the side of Acarlie’s face, her small, tear swollen face could have fitted entirely in Sheeria’s large, tigian palm.
Acarlie sniffed and wiped away her tears and looked into Sheeria’s apple green eyes. Sheeria and the elders were all Acarlie had ever known. She was the closest thing a mother she ever had. But at a time like Lifemas it wasn’t enough.
“All my other friends are with their families,” Acarlie said, looking back down again. “I just want to be like them and have Lifemas with a family.”
Sheeria nodded again and pulled her close, rubbing her back.
“I know how you feel, darling. I lost my family at a young age too.”
“Really?” Acarlie asked, looking back up.
Sheeria nodded and sighed as her past flashed before her eyes. She rarely told anyone her past, especially someone was young as Acarlie was. But she thought it might help to take her mind off her missing parents.
“Yes, you see. Many, many years ago now. Long before you were born I lived in a great forest in a place called Angland. I was married and had a child…”
Her child’s face flashed before her eyes and she felt a longing sensation in her heart. Never in all the years had she got over this pain.
“You did?” Acarlie asked, breaking her from her thoughts.
“Yes…a boy, a young tigian boy-cub, he was a lot younger than you though.”
“What was his name?” Acarlie asked.
Sheeria felt a quick sting in her chest again. She had never spoken his name. To her, the name was sacred, as if she felt it was only for her and her husband’s ears to ever hear. But now, looking into Acarlie’s soft, brown eyes did she realise that a new name now rested in her heart beside his. Acarlie should know what her brother’s name was.
Sheeria’s lips trembled slightly as she smiled, “His name was Vitae, he was the most important thing in the world to me. But a long time ago the humans burned down my village. My husband and my Vitae died that day.”
As a human herself Acarlie remained silent now. The elementalists were technically a separate species but were still referred by their races sometimes.
Sheeria continued. “I remember after the fires stopped burning the snow fell. It was Lifemas back then too. A large group of leos appeared with gifts and food for us.”
“You met a leo?” Acarlie now asked. To her, the leos had been extinct for decades now.
“I met many when I was younger. There was a family of leos who gave me my gift. There were three of them, a father and two sons, one was a little older than me and the other was only a cub. It was after that I saw them walking away that I realised I too needed a family again. I could not stay in that village anymore where everything reminded me of my son. So I left. I ran away and travelled for many years until I found this place.”
Her tactic seemed to work and Acarlie was now sitting quietly on her bed and looking up at Sheeria now smiling back down at her.
Acarlie was young, but old enough to understand what Sheeria was saying.
“I’m sorry, Sheeria. Did you ever find another husband?”
“No, child. I found something much better,” Sheeria smiled now and nudged Acarlie who now couldn’t hide a smile.
“I have you to have Lifemas with now. You, the elders, the students and Master Argo.”
Acarlie looked like she didn’t know what to say now so Sheeria picked her up and sat her on her lap, squeezing her again.
“I know you want your mum and dad, Acarlie. The same as I want my Vitae back. But you’re not alone, always remember that. I’ll always be here.”
Acarlie finally smiled now, “Okay, Sheeria. You can be like my mummy, and I can be like your Vitae.”
Even hearing his name from someone else’s lips made her heart thump, it made it much easier for her since it was Acarlie’s lips though.
“No, child. I don’t want you to be like Vitae. I want you to be like Acarlie, think you can do that for me?” she winked down at her.
Acarlie nodded, her large brown eyes now reflected Sheeria’s smile back at her.
“Good, Lifemas is about spending time with family. And as far as I’m concerned, you are my family, Acarlie. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes,” Acarlie finally confirmed.
“Good, now, will you come to the hall? Everyone is waiting and Master Argo has something special for you.”
Acarlie’s eyes now widened with excitement, “What is it?”
Sheeria wasn’t supposed to say but Acarlie’s eyes defeated her once again, “Well, you know Master Argo said your training as an elementalist was supposed to start after your next birthday?”
“Well, don’t tell him I said, but I think he may want to begin your training sooner rather than later.”
Acarlie nearly squeaked with excitement.
“Am I going to start my training and become an elementalist, for real?”
“Maybe…” Sheeria shrugged but smiled in a way that confirmed to Acarlie she already knew.
“Come on then, what are we waiting for!” Acarlie jumped in Sheeria’s lap. Sheeria had succeeded and her grief had now become pure excitement. Acarlie hugged onto Sheeria tightly, jumped down, grabbed Sheeria’s hand and began tugging.
“Come on, come on, come on, mum,” Acarlie called and pulled her to her feet.
Sheeria never knew if Acarlie knew what she just said. She only lead the way holding tightly on Sheeria’s hand, far too excited to see the tears well up in Sheeria’s eyes. Sheeria beamed down at her treasure before her and promised there and then, nothing would ever come in the way of them, nothing, ever…
About J.C. Norman:
J.C. Norman grew up and currently lives in Milton Keynes Village in the UK where he works in the food industry. He has studied martial arts all his life and has worked to incorporate this experience into his writing.
Title: Sphere’s Divide: Pilgrim of Element
Author: J.C. Norman
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: 6 October 2015
Review Format: N/A
Other Formats: eBook | Paperback
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