I’ve posted a couple of chapters from this novel and thought you might like to see where it all begins…

Perception

By Gregga J. Johnn

Chapter 1

Once there was a land full of Truth mildly disguised in the attire of fantasy.

In the center of this land was a great mountain within which the King lived and from out of this mountain a full, rushing river burst forth to feed all the land with nourishment and well-being. At the fjords of this river mighty cities were settled. Each city had a bridging roadway that crossed over into the next for the sake of trade, but few citizens left their own cities as each thought their city to be the mightiest and the best place to live. There were those who travelled between and there were those who lived without. There was also another kingdom out passed the edges, beyond the reach of the river. This was a kingdom that considered itself unfairly cast out from the grace of the King and sought to gain control of the mountain.

But, this tale begins in the First city, called such as it was originally built around the cave from which the river sprang forth out of the mountain. The citizens of this city were many and varied. It was the most tumultuous of cities and had the highest walls for they believed everyone else wished to attack and claim this First city as their own. They sought safety within the thick walls and often, as is the case with confinement, civil battles broke out and household fought against household. But the citizens were very proud of their city. They knew their way was the best and their laws were the only ones by which life must be lived.

In the rough and lowly parts of this First city, a humble man and his sweet wife brought a new baby girl into being. She was their gift from the King and they treasured her, loved her, and dedicated her back to the service of the King. Despite living on the outer edges with material lack, they were a happy family.

Yet, from the very first, this little girl was embedded in turmoil and uncertainty as the humble man and sweet wife could not even agree upon a name for her when she first arrived. She was not unlike any other little girl in that when she was good she was wonderfully cuddly and brought much comfort to her mother. But, she was also much like her father and thus made loud protest against that which she did not like.

Her father was an outspoken leader within the city. But rather than live in the central halls of wealth he lived humbly on the street by the wall so that he might provide communication between those within and those without.

Those without were citizens of nowhere and the First city peoples had mixed feelings for them. It was right and good to offer provision for those who lived without. It was also right and good to offer an alternative home for those who came from other cities. But it was most right and most good to maintain pride for First city and to live only within these walls and confines. It was after all, called First city and the only one to be built at the opening of the river cave. The Laws stated that First city was the only way into the mountain and the only way in to meet with the King. Unless he was met on his many journeys out among the people of the land, one just could not get into the mountain without first entering in through First cities gates. That’s just the way it was.

The sweet wife came from a faithful family right out of the First cities military guardians. A Warrior and his Gentle wife were the grandparents of this little girl upon which this story resides. Thus, the humble man and his sweet wife finally chose to name their little girl for their sake, and ‘Gentle Warrior’ was dedicated into the life of a Guardian in the service of the King.

The benevolent King held special dedications for such little citizens as Gentle Warrior. There was a precious ceremony held at the river cave where each new child was sprinkled with the sacred waters and marked by the minerals so that they might be identified as set apart for royal service. At the close of this holy practice, the humble man and his sweet wife took their little Gentle Warrior home and raised her in the sight and the ways of the King.

“Gentle,” called Sweetness, her mother. “By surety girl, you try my patience. Where are you?” She stood upon the roof of their home built into the thick walls of First city, looking out over the cattle pastures that caressed the mid rising slopes of the mountain.

Gentle did not hear her mother calling. The little girl was off toddling on unsure legs, newly accustomed to climbing. She scrambled and plopped on her swaddled bottom as she was not even old enough to attend to personal care. Yet she was increasingly curious and dangerously brave in that. She continued her waddle up the sleek slopes of fertile green pastures, up and up, picking dandelions and chasing butterflies as she went.

A shepherd sat by his wattle bark lean-to cooking a portion of healing herbs for his young lambs when he heard the tinkling of tiny laughter. His sheep dog barked and sat up scanning the hills for danger. The shepherd smiled and whistled a quick quip and the faithful dog raced off. He dashed down the hills toward the laughter and yipped at the little girl crawling through the weeds.

“Puppy, arf!” greeted the little one.

The dog yipped and pounced around, keeping just out of reach from her tiny fingers that sought to grab his ears, or tail, or fur. Upward toward his master the two chased each other without little Gentle even noticing she was being herded by her new friend. It wasn’t until she sniffed the wind and smelled the delicious fragrance smoking up from the Shepherd’s pot that she realized how hungry she was. Then, of her own tummies interest, she dashed up the last bump in the grassland on hands and feet toward the smiling shepherd.

“Well good morrow little lady,” the shepherd greeted her, stirring his cooking.

As the little girl pushed against her knees to stand up, she saw for the first time a bloody scrape on her shin that the distraction of adventure had kept from her knowledge. But at the sight of a boo-boo the little girl realized she should be feeling the pain of it and tears began to shimmer in her big lavender eyes.

“Well,” exclaimed the shepherd in feigned surprise, “look at that.” He pointed to the cut, “Do you see what your insides are telling you?”

Gentle was confused and wrinkled up her tiny nose shaking the grass and flower petals out of her messy hair as big tears began spilling down her grubby cheeks.

“Shh,” hushed the Shepherd and patted the tuft of grass next to him.

Drawn to the kindness, Gentle plopped her bottom where he suggested and looked up with wonder, again forgetting the imminent tragedy of a bleeding shin.

“If you listen to your body,” he carefully wiped the excess blood spilling down the little pudgy leg, “you will hear what you are trying to tell yourself.”

Gentle leaned her head down to her leg listening with all her might.

The shepherd brushed a warm mixture fresh from his pot upon her tiny wound and whispered in the little girls ear,

“You are alive.”

Gentle winced slightly at the tiny sting, but kept listening as the Shepherd crooned a soft lullaby, [to the tune of “Brahms’ Lullaby”]

You are alive

And you live

In the bre-ath of Love

You are strong

From within

The more you gi-ve in Love

So li-ve and live well

For the King loves you, too.

And your pe-ace it will dwell

In the heart of his . . .

He paused in the song as held her gaze just a moment longer then tapping her on the nose he spoke,

“…Love.

Gentle smiled and reached out to hug him. She kissed his cheek as he lifted her into his strong arms and carried her safely back home.

Sweetness was almost beside herself in anguish at the disappearance of her little gift. She climbed down into the house again and searched every corner she could find. She raced around the front court yard and searched with torches down into the well. She ran around the walled in back yard, looking in all the bushes and little muddy holes that she knew her daughter liked to explore.

Sweetness understood her little one and knew her desire to push limitations was dangerous and hoped only to keep her safe. When all the usual and unusual hiding places showed empty, Sweetness ran up to the roof again, calling with her loud voice and scanning with frightened eyes over the confines of the home and yard.

She heard a dog bark over the wall and saw the King’s son strolling down the hillside toward the city wall. She gasped and ran back down and out through the back yard. It was only then that she found the wooden door, locked into the wall, was unlatched and only resting against its secure hold. She ripped open the door and ran to the Shepherd crying tears of panic and joy.

“I’m so sorry, my lord.” She stumbled in her haste, “This little one will be the death of me in her wanderings.”

The Shepherd laughed,

“Fear not, Sweetness, no harm can come to her when she wanders on the mountain of my father, the King.”

The dog barked in agreement and jumped up looking for a loving scratch on the head. Gentle reached for the doggy.

Sweetness reached out to claim her daughter, but the Shepherd set the little girl down and let her hug on the furry companion. He then filled the outstretched arms of Sweetness and comforted her with his friendly hug. She cried in relief.

Then breathing deeply in comfort the mother smiled and took hold of her daughter’s hand, the one that wasn’t clinging rather roughly to the ear of the patient dog, and began to lead her home.

The little girl let go of the doggy ear and waved, blowing tiny kisses in the wind back to the Shepherd. He smiled in delight catching every one as it sailed toward him, even jumping in the air and diving on the grass to make sure not one kiss fell to the ground unappreciated.

Gentle’s laughter at his antics wobbled her whole body and her mother had to pick her up and carry her inside to safety. The door in the wall was shut and locked securely. Gentle was scolded for leaving without permission and the tale of her disobedience was rehearsed again when her father, Humble, returned home for the evening meal. The good father agreed with the good mother that their naughty daughter must go to bed directly after supper.

Gentle stood safely in her crib peeking over the wooden bars and out the open window. She blew raspberries with her lips until quite accidentally a quick whistle escaped her mouth. A bark called back to her from the twilight hillside and she waved at the shepherd doggy sitting on the hilltop. Laying back down, she giggled herself to sleep.

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