500 Years…20 Generations…1 Memory…
Ellen’s inheritance is centuries old. The fragmented memories of an ancestor passed through the generations. Only by solving one of the world’s most baffling mysteries, will she stop the haunted memories, and finally give her family peace.
Targeted Age Group:: 30+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The discovery of Richard III remains, suddenly opened up many questions. This got me thinking, about how factual our knowledge of Richard III and Edward V really was. So I wondered. If Richard didn't kill Edward V, then what really happened?
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The historical characters were obvious, Richard, Edward, Elizabeth, William. What was more interesting were the 21st Century characters. Some came from inside me, some were inspired by people in my life, and some were augmented by memories of people in my life.
She stared deep into the hearth, watching its glowing embers flicker and gradually fade. It was time; she was ready.
Gently she sacrificed a sprig of rosemary into the coals. It flared briefly and was gone.
“Remember, my daughters.” She whispered.
Even in the morning light, Ellen found the box menacing.
Sitting in her country kitchen nursing a cup of medicinal coffee; the box on the table demanded and held her attention.
It had been a tough week, and her beautiful new kitchen showed it. Dirty dishes dumped in the sink, a grey film of dust and grime covered the black stone bench tops, and in the corner, a tower of used pizza boxes teetered towards disaster.
I need to get onto this today, she thought and released a loud sigh of defeat.
Ellen waited years for this renovation. Every time they managed to save enough money, another bill or crises occurred, demanding a dip into their savings. Finally complete and perfect, Ellen loved spending time in it. She looked around again.
Just not now. she thought
Over the last few days, Ellen’s life revolved around her mother's death. The weight of funeral arrangements and family arguments had taken their toll. She barely slept, and now even this coffee struggled in its appeal.
“Coffee. That's right. Drink.”
She lifted the cup to her face, breathed in the long lingering moment of the aroma. Then carefully sipped it.
Warm, comforting and welcoming.
It had an immediate effect, and she noticed the room brighten a little, and the pizza boxes no longer looked quite as threatening.
She sat at the table in her comfy clothes as she called them. T-shirt, and track pants and runners. Her red hair, dulled by age pulled back roughly into a small ponytail. As she sat there, she suddenly felt tired and older than her fifty plus years.
She surveyed the room again, and her eyes stopped at the old wooden box in front of her.
With a deep sigh, she remembered the task ahead and took another gulp of the coffee for courage.
“Oh Mum, what the hell have you dumped me in?” She whispered
She thought back to when she’d found it. The box lay precisely where her mother said. Hidden in the bottom of her wardrobe, under the case containing her wedding dress. Ellen removed the gown, remembering as a child playing dress up when her mother wasn't looking. Now old and yellowed, it smelt of naphthalene flakes. As a war bride, and it had taken the clothing rations of three women to get this dress for her. Ellen’s mother, her grandmother and her great-grandmother, all saved their valued ration cards for this beautiful gown.
A strong history of women ran through her family. Matriarchal, some might say. Now, following her mother's recent death, she found herself in the role. I don't feel very matriarchal, she thought to herself and took another sip of coffee
“Did you get any sleep?”
David, her husband, came into the kitchen and dropped a light kiss on her head.
Ellen watched him as he proceeded to make himself a coffee. The drone of the coffee machine interrupted the silence. A tall but stocky man, David appeared strong and intimidating, yet his gentle and protective nature appealed to Ellen from the moment they met. She smiled at the silvery tips through his hair “ kids” he used to say to explain his greying.
They shared their twenty-seventh year, and their two children now young adults were making their mark on the world. Katherine, their eldest, pursued her dream as a violinist, and now playing with the state symphony orchestra. Their youngest, Tony, chose a more scientific path, studying computer science in education with an idea of teaching Information Technology to high school students.
David finally sat next to her and drew the local weekend paper towards him.
“Is the review in today?” Ellen asked him.
David, a theatre critic, regularly wrote for the local papers. He preferred reviewing Shakespeare; however, this genre had fallen out of fashion, and he spent most of his time reviewing local professional and amateur performances of anything. As a freelance writer, he wrote for both newspapers and internet blogs. His busiest time of the year came during the Adelaide Festival of the Arts and its Fringe festival. Thirty-One days of theatre madness in early autumn. Ellen didn't mind; as a high school English Teacher, it gave her insight and opportunities to develop her teaching skills and broaden her student's outlooks. In truth, during those festival days, Ellen and her students probably spent more time at the festival than in the classroom.
“They said it might appear today, I’ll check later, then blog it.” He explained.
“So what's your plan for today?” he asked, sitting at the table next to her.
“Well, the last of the funeral paperwork needs to wait until Monday.” Replied Ellen, ticking things off in her head. The weekend provided her with a chance to catch her breath from all the formalities of her mothers funeral.
“Good, you can relax this weekend.” David smiled at her and squeezed her hand.
“I wish,” she said. “This kitchen is driving me nuts. Also, there's this damn box.”
Ellen drew the old wooden box towards her and studied it. About the size of a shoe-box, its design followed elegant and straightforward lines. The timber stained and polished long ago, and now the shellac no longer bright and smooth, had become aged and uneven. An ivory inlay, marked a small keyhole, for a key long forgotten. Nothing seemed threatening or intimidating about it. However, to Ellen, the potential ghosts seemed overwhelming.
David gently put his hand on hers “This can wait, and I'll clean up here… you go and get some sleep.”
She smiled at David, wondering how she was so lucky to find someone like him.
“Tempting, but I need to go through this.”
“The box can wait, it's been gathering dust for years, in your mother's cupboard, one more day won't make any difference.” Growled David in his stern, loving tone.
She looked at him, looked at the mess and suddenly felt exhausted. “You win.” She pulled herself up out of the chair as though weighted to it, and headed upstairs to try and sleep, leaving David to battle the pizza boxes and reclaim the kitchen.
She walked into her east facing bedroom and the morning light revealed a large room, suffering the same fate as the kitchen. Clothes piled in wash baskets, shoes kicked off by the bed, makeup and jewellery discarded on the dressing table, and newspapers scattered on the floor next to the unmade bed. I need to get a grip and reclaim my entire house, she thought. but later. She kicked off her shoes and fell into bed exhausted.
The past week since her mother's death had been a whirlwind. As an only child, the responsibility of arrangements had fallen to her, and true to any family funeral, full of stresses and arguments. They seemed petty now, but at the time, frightfully important. It wasn’t an unexpected death. Her mother in her 80’s spent the last few months in a nursing home. Rather than tie up sentimental items within a formal will, Ellen’s mother gave her a list of specific gifts of jewellery and trinkets for sharing after her death. To Ellen came the very mysterious inheritance of the box.
“Why such a secret?” She wondered.
Ellen knew of the boxes existence since her childhood. Her mother often kept memories and papers inside it and guarded it with a fanaticism bordering on obsession. One day as a child, her mother caught Ellen looking through it. Ellen had no idea of its contents, too young to understand, it just seemed like newspaper clippings and bits, but her mother’s fury and the ensuing discipline stayed with Ellen all her life. Now, as an adult and the new matriarch, the box became hers, and she felt panic.
Ellen laid on the bed, closed her eyes, and listened to a chorus of kookaburras laughing in the trees nearby. As she relaxed to the familiar sound, she finally drifted into an uneasy sleep.
In the shadow of a dominating castle, the Dowager gathered her daughters around her to tend their garden. It was a significant moment. For this day, a new daughter came to share the tasks of generations.
Five hundred years ago, the Dowager planted the seed for her bush. From that day, each daughter nurtured and grew cuttings of her own, planting out in hedgerows, until the time came to pass it onto another daughter and a new arm of hedgerow began to grow. So continued this tradition for five hundred years. Daughter after daughter, taking on the task and passing it onto the next.
Long rows of hedging wove through the garden creating a labyrinth. There seemed no form or pattern. Each row of hedging seemed to lead off in a different direction. Occasionally the hedging intersected each other, and others fragmented away.
Every woman had their hedgerow to care for, and they performed it silently. They worked happily and with peace, yet focused in their obsession with their task. For each one knew, until they completed their work, they could not rest.
Out of the shadows, a woman came into the garden with a young child. Work stopped as they all watched with interest.
As the child approached with the woman, the Dowager gently bent down to the child's height and smiled.
“Welcome to the garden, little one.” She studied her for a few moments. A pretty little thing, red hair, with bright eyes, grey and misty in colour “You share the eyes of your grandmothers.” She assessed. Then she stood and turned her attention to the woman who had brought her “Does she dream?” The Dowager's tone became formal and stern. If she didn't dream, then all was lost.
“Yes, she has the memory.” Assured the Guardian.
“Will she pass it on?” Pressed the Dowager. “We must be certain the task continues.”
The Guardian closed her eyes for a moment “A daughter lies in her future.”
The Dowager nodded. She looked at the faces of the women. “So many generations of searching, and still no end.” She said quietly.
“This one is bright, and the world she lives in has the tools to help her.” Replied the Guardian reassuringly.
The Dowager smiled, content, that the line continued. She returned her attention to the child in front of her.
“So my young daughter, today you receive a great gift.” As expected, the child smiled at the idea of receiving a present.
The Dowager took the little girl by the hand. “ Come, see my garden.” And walked her around the garden, showing her the plants and the labyrinth.
The child nodded and followed.
“It is filled with all my daughters. Twenty generations of them.” Explained the Dowager
The child's eyes widened with such an exclamation.
“Why are there no flowers, grandmother?” She finally asked.
Good, thought the Dowager, she is not afraid to ask questions.
“Because it is not the time for them. Perhaps you will see the rosemary flower.”
“But why do you only plant rosemary?” She asked again
“Because my dear, rosemary is for remembrance and we shall never forget.” whispered the Dowager.
“Forget what grandmother?” Asked the child, ever curious.
“Our search.” Replied the Dowager as she studied the young child's reaction to this new information. The child merely frowned and turned to explore the garden more.
The Guardian came over and handed the Dowager a small rosemary plant in a pot.
The Dowager watched the child searching the garden for the misplaced object, and she smiled at the innocence. She had seen this many times before. Children held a pure innocence without any understanding of the metaphoric. However, she sensed something different about this child. The Guardian was correct. She held intelligence. Her searching proved that, and an air about her, something new, something different, unsensed in her other children.
“Grand Daughter!” Called the Dowager.
The child hesitated, checked under one more bush, and returned to the Dowager.
“I can't find anything Grandmother.” She said sadly
“You can not find it today, but I have your gift as promised.”
The child smiled, distracted by the thought of a present.
“Here my child,” The Dowager handed the plant to the child “take this rosemary plant and tend to it, make it grow, and continue the search.”
The child looked at it quizzically. Not what she was expecting as a gift “But what am I looking for?”
The Dowager looked her in the eye.
“The Argent Falcon.” Her tone formal, mysterious, conveyed reverence.
The child stepped back, looking anxious and frightened.
The Guardian stepped forward and hugged the child to comfort her.
“Fear not, Ellen,” she whispered “you live with the memory of us all. You will know what to do.”
Ellen woke suddenly. Her hands outstretched as if reaching for something. Despite feeling disorientated, she felt a strong feeling of peace.
A dream? she wondered as she considered how vivid it seemed. She sat up, trying to piece the dream back together and remember it before it slipped away to the place dreams go. However, it stayed with her like a clear memory playing over and over again. The back of her neck prickled as she realised the Guardian was her mother.
Then she smelt it. The unmistakable scent of rosemary filled the room.
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