Destiny’s Shepherds


On a world where Earth is a long-forgotten memory, Jayan is fourteen years old, living and working on his family’s farm.  Like an unexpected shadow, the echoes of troubles long past start to cast their pall upon his world.  Hiding in a box canyon, Jayan is nearly drowned by a flash flood which opens an undiscovered cave in the rocks at the end of the stream.  When he explores where all of that water drained, he finds the cave, and he finds something else – something he can’t understand or explain.


Overview & Preview

27 Chapters

539 Pages

On a world where Earth is a long-forgotten memory, Jayan is fourteen years old, living and working on his family’s farm.  Like an unexpected shadow, the echoes of troubles long past start to cast their pall upon his world.  Hiding in a box canyon, Jayan is nearly drowned by a flash flood which opens an undiscovered cave in the rocks at the end of the stream.  When he explores where all of that water drained, he finds the cave, and he finds something else – something he can’t understand or explain.

It is the wreckage of a craft he could not have conceived existed, and the desiccated corpses of strange beings testify to the horror of that crash ages and ages ago.  He finds one survivor, locked in stasis – a crystalline being they awaken and befriend, and with his help, Jayan and his friends begin to restore what remains of the ship. 


“You’re back later than I thought you’d be,” a young wife told her husband as he entered their log cabin with a fair spring evening clearly finding its way into night. The small child rocking in her arms stirred awake and then looked up eagerly at his father.
“I’m sorry, love. Jesser’s wagon needed some extra work, and it took all six of us,” the husband offered as he reached for his young son and picked him up. “Hey there, my young lord governor! Is he feeling any better?”
“I think so. Some of the fruit blossoms in a broth seemed to help him, but he wasn’t this happy until you came home.”
The firelight from the hearth casting a happy orange glow around the small dwelling reflected in the boy’s eyes. “He looks better, I’m pleased to say. That kid of the new printer is still getting sick every month. I don’t know if he’ll make it.”
“I pray he will. His mother … went so suddenly when they first arrived.”
“Sto … sto … we!”
The parents just looked at each other and blinked. “Did he just say…”
“Story?!” the dad replied, smiling hugely. “Story? Did you say story, Jayan?!”
“Sto … we! Sto … we!” the boy repeated, smiling.
“Well, it’s the first thing he’s ever asked for, outside of crying and grunting as he reaches out.” the mother offered in merry delight at this new achievement of her firstborn. “I think you’d better tell him!”
“Okay, okay young one. Just a short story, and then you get to bed. Good rest is still the best medicine, when or if we can get it,” the father chuckled ruefully before clearing his throat and starting his story. “A long time ago, here on Ausallia, the first Ausallians appeared, created here by the great powers – the everlasting powers. They were like newborn babies in the wilderness and didn’t know how to hunt, fish, farm, or build! They were created with the ability to speak but had no knowledge of how to get anything done that would help you survive. Then, Old Abe came. He was the carrier of many answers, and the those first Ausallians learned from him and learned well. While times were desperate and hard, Old Abe was wise, and young Thomas and father Paul and sister Alisha and Kristov and all the others worked hard and learned from him, acting together in the first community. There were only three hundred and four of them, but they knew they could not afford to lose anyone.”
Jayan’s hazel eyes turned towards his mother, as if in request of confirmation. “Tis true, little one. It was very hard, at first, and they struggled – even as we struggle, but see, we stand on their backs. We have what they built and what those who followed built, but the founders had nothing.”
The father nodded and continued the narrative. “Sickness and hunger claimed many of them, but even though it was hard, families and friends worked together to build the first small town. It was called Foundation, and the City of Foundation is the greatest of all to this day. It would have grown too large, but Old Abe put rules into place that made sure that no city can become too big. So, many other cities and towns were created on Ausallia, one after the other, all through the years, until those in the south came to this valley and established Kingstown, in honor of the great king of the south. That is where you live, now, my son. Kingstown is where we farm and raise our animals and build what we need four our lives. And so it’s been, many a year. We follow the writings of Old Abe, and everything goes well and good. We—”
Both young adults stopped and listened to the dogs suddenly barking outside, aware that someone was approaching their somewhat isolated homestead. “Oscar!” a distant voice called out, and both of them smiled, immediately certain of their visitor’s identity especially when came the next call. “Elizabeth!”
The mother stood and went to the door, calling out, “Calvan! What in the whole of Ausallia are you doing here?”
“Now, now. Do I need an excuse to visit my best friends in the whole world?” Calvan called back astride his quietly moving way-pony.
“In a word, yes!” Elizabeth complained sarcastically as he drew closer seeing that the animal had been carefully harnessed to prevent excess noise. “Once you’ve tied up, come inside! We were just telling your godson a story. He even spoke his first word to ask for it!”
“I’ll hurry then!” he joked back as he nodded and moved towards the stable.
Going back inside, she looked at her husband. “Something is wrong; I can feel it, and he’s got a quiet mount strapped down to just a whisper. He wouldn’t be sneaking along the road this late without reason.”
“I know. Felt safe enough here to call out, and so the trouble is at home, I’d wager. We’ll hear the sum of it in a moment.”
“You’re taking lessons from my father, then?” she teased, smiling at how far her husband had come.
“The best compliment you could pay me. Maybe get him some stew ready, love?”
She nodded and went to work. Just as she was placing a wooden bowl full of the thick soup and ceramic mug nearly overspilling with water onto the table, the dark haired and thick-bearded Calvan opened the door. “What a peaceful looking life this is,” he commented, smiling.
“Evening to you, my good friend. What worry puts your blacksmith’s backside upon the road this late in the day?” Oscar questioned, rising and shaking hands with his visitor, Jayan still in his arms and looking questioningly at the newcomer.
The young man chuckled and shook his head. “Gunsmith, Oz, gunsmith!”
“He’s only having a bit of fun with you,” Elizabeth assured him, chuckling, her pleasant smile broad.
“Elizabeth probably already told you she read an ill tome in my expression and manner from a stone’s throw away.”
“That I did,” she replied tartly, “but see, you have a mug and a bowl of stew for your troubles, so eat up and tell us!”
Calvan shook his head. “If only simple joys like these would solve the world’s problems. Thank you.” Calvan hugged Elizabeth before washing his face and hands in a standing bowl. Drying off with a cloth and sitting down at the table for quick prayer, he looked up into the kind green eyes of his friend’s wife and breathed out a “Thank you.” She nodded a smile to him before stepping back and taking Jayan from his father, who then joined him at the table, sitting beside the man and putting a supportive hand on his back.
“What’s put you this far afield in near darkness, Calvan? It isn’t like you.”
After swallowing, their visitor shook his head, turning to answer Oscar. “It’s nothing like me nor what I’d be wanting to do, but there’s precious little choice, Beatrice and I feel. There’s … real trouble in Foundation. Brigands from the south have been making raids closer and closer in, and they even set fire to a farm within sight of the town. The Anchor of the Middle-Coast feels like a dreadfully uncertain place to live, these days.”
“Hasn’t the governor turned out the militia? Haven’t they gone after these brigands?”
“No, Oz, and that is what has us worried. It’s like he’s in on it. The farm that was burned was one of his political rivals; the whole family was killed. We don’t like the governor, and we’d attended a few meetings about voting him out, and now—”
“Now Beatrice is afraid they’ll start punishing disloyalty and dissent,” Elizabeth pondered aloud. “You think they would harm you? But that’s against the Charter of Abraham!”
“Charter’s just a piece of paper, sweet lady, and it’s not just Bea that’s anxious at the state of things. I’ve seen reasons for worry even in the gunsmith’s where I work. Soldiers have been asking for more and more arms for His Honor, and every order we’ve filled has gone straight into the armory for the governor’s troops. He says it’s to act as a deterrent to the raiders, but none of them are ever caught, shot, or hanged. What a bunch of locked-up weapons in a building is going to convince anyone of, I couldn’t tell you. Even more,” Calvan confessed, “we’ve got more than a handful of good customers who have put in orders for weapons only to have them retract the order – all recently. Some of them were fearful, and as if it were all happening by the governor’s leave, a new order for city weapons comes in to replace what was just canceled. More and more prisoners are pressed into the mines for ore, and it’s got us worried, I’ll tell you that.”
Looking at his wife, Oscar shook his head. “Your dad would say that so many weapons aren’t just going to stay locked up; I’ll grant you. What are you gonna do, Cal?”
“I was awarded my gunsmith’s journeyman rank last month, and everyone expects us to stay and just keep at it as the work gets more and more, but we’ve been saving our coin so we can both pay another month’s rent and maybe … put down something here in Kingstown. I met your blacksmith when he came south, and we talked – well out of the sight of anyone. He told me how free things are up here, and it’s quiet. If you don’t mind, our little family wants to join you, here. Bea wanted me to ask you first, Liz, just in case there was more going on here than what we knew.”
“We’ve been keeping watch, and that’s for sure. Old Scotty’s been ailing as of late. He’d welcome the help, I’m sure of it. Just have to find a place for you, that’s all.”
“I don’t know how we’d do that right now,” Calvan sighed rubbing his temples.
“Stop speaking nonsense! There’s a plot of our farmland not ten minutes walk away that you could have!” Elizabeth burst out, clearly thrilled at the prospect of having friends nearby. “Enough for a garden and small flock.”
“Exactly,” Oscar was with her, now. “It’s more land that I can tend, and it would be wonderful to put you down right near us.”
Calvan was smiling broadly. “I was hoping you would say that. Bless you, both! Beatrice will be bringing our littlest one along within the month, and I was to spend tomorrow morning confirming matters with your smith and then head back.”
“We’ll show you the land early,” Oscar promised. “Then while you’re gone, I’ll work with the others to get a house on it. I have to ask, though, Calvan.”
“Are the goings on you talked about the only reason that are causing you to pull up and move away?” Her stare was critical, and Calvan remembered her father’s look – one they shared – when came to demanding the full truth of a matter.
The journeyman gunsmith looked into the curious brown eyes of his friend and shook his head, slowly. “I know how to make a gun, my friends. I know how to do it well. I can mold it, drill the barrel, proof it, fashion everything that goes with it. There was a … weapon someone brought to us from the farm raid, left by the raiders or so we think. We didn’t have it more than a day before the governor’s men came and took it swearing us to secrecy. Oscar, I’ve never seen its like. I can forge and shape iron, steel, and even silver, but I’ve never seen a thing like this! It was lighter and stronger than anything I’ve ever held in my own two hands, and the way it was shaped was just…”
“Just what?” Elizabeth asked, intrigued.
“Too damned perfect! I could spend a hundred years at a forge and never shape metal like this! I don’t know. It was … unnatural. The governor continues to beg our weapons as fast as we can make them, but if there are weapons like this, I just don’t know if they would matter. These are problems far bigger than me or my little family, and they are the problems of a big city. Call me a coward if you’d like, but if there is a battle brewing between the powers, then I want no part of it. It’s not my fight.”
Jayan, despite the tenseness in the room, had drifted off to sleep. Elizabeth, looking down at him resting comfortably in her arms sighed softly, “You’re never a coward for wanting to protect your own, Calvan, and it’s a sacred duty we’re well familiar with. You have to know we’d never think ill of you for that.”
They both heard and understood the larger “we” in her answer, and Calvan’s head hung a little as he answered her, “Thank you. It’s a scary thing, but it’s like a faceless beast that’s stalking through the city, now. Someone will end up in debtors’ prison and get sent to the mines when they showed no sign of owing coin to anyone. Men walking the streets are checking all around them when they speak, and everyone holds their tongue, just in case. When the farm burned and those poor people died, that was it for me. That’s why we’re disappearing. We’ll be gone in the middle of the night and on our way here. I’ll leave a note saying we’re going to the west, to Hilltown. It’s far enough away that it will be a long time before anyone bothers to find us. It’s where Beatrice’s parents were from, and so it’s a likely story.” He looked up at them and shook his head. “I just want what you have here – a quiet life. I’ll happily give up gunsmith work as my only occupation, be a blacksmith or silversmith, and raise my family in peace.”
“Bertram and Jayan could maybe play together, learn together?”
“It’s what we thought,” Calvan answered.
“Then it’s done. We set all into motion, and in a month’s time, you’ll be living here, home and all!”
“Thank you, Oscar. Thank you, Elizabeth. Bless you both!” Young Jayan shifted happily in his mother’s arms and settled back down again, also seemingly contented with the decision that would change his future, forever.


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