PAPERBACK BOOKS
THE GATEKEEPER

Watching the sun rise on the midsummer solstice at Stonehenge , Jenny’s holiday takes a terrifying turn when a chance combination of time, location and ancient Druid magic sweeps her back to the year 1347.

The ancient Gatekeeper, who should have guarded against this, intends to hide Jenny in the safety of her cave until the next time warp, but fate is against them.

Jenny finds she has to live in the squalid conditions of a peasant village but is soon on the run after exposing a fraudulent tax collector. Hiding in the forest she saves a Lady from thieves and is taken to live in her castle. But she is not much better off there after she uncovers the younger son’s murderous plot to depose the old Lord, his father.

Matters are made worse by the greed of a powerful neighbour and the evil magician that controls him. After many terrifying encounters everything depends upon the final battle between the vast army of the Dark Lord of Blackraven Moor and the small force from Glenhaven castle.

Can Jenny’s ingenuity save the day?

And more importantly – can it get her back to her own century?

In Store Price: $AU23.95 
Online Price:   $AU22.95

ISBN: 1-9211-1854-7
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 213
Genre: Fiction

 

Cover: Clive Dalkins
 

 


Author: Richard Blackburn
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Language: English

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Author Biography    

Richard Blackburn was born in England during the Second World War. He grew up in a house built on the site of a 12th Century castle and later lived a few kilometres from Dover Castle . This gave him a strong interest in Medieval History.  

Richard emigrated to Australia at the age of 20 and worked at first as a bookkeeper on a cattle station to the north of the Simpson Desert . He then moved to Darwin and worked as an internal auditor in the Health Department, travelling extensively around the Northern Territory . Finding the ‘Top End’ lacking in challenge, he moved on to Papua New Guinea where he worked for thirteen years among the people, as a District Officer.  

Since returning to Australia he gained his degree in Information Technology and has worked for a number of Government Departments. His interests outside work are now restricted to his family and scuba diving. He had to give up parachuting and long-distance running due to a back injury and now has to be content to leave the real excitement to characters in his stories. For this book, Richard draws on his interest in Medieval History as well as his experiences living in New Guinea villages, in conditions not unlike those of the peasants in England during the fourteenth century.

News Flash:
 

The Gatekeeper has been accepted as one of the books students can read when taking part in the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge 2008. Last year 140,000 students from 1812 schools in NSW participated. We, at Zeus, extend our good wishes to the 2008 entrants and hope you enjoy reading The Gatekeeper as part of the Challenge.
 
The sequel to The Gatekeeper, Rudigor's Challenge, will be available for purchase later this year.'

 

CHAPTER 1  

 

John knocked softly. ‘Jenny? Are you awake?’

‘No!’

‘That’s helpful.’

‘I’m not paid to be helpful. Hey! Don’t come in!’

Jenny lunged for the door a split second too late.

‘Get out of my room,’ she growled.

‘Hold on! Calm down a bit. Mum told me I’ve got to give you a message and make sure you listen.’

‘Okay, crawler.’

‘Don’t be like that. You know how Mum worries. It’s bad enough you’re going away on your own for the first time but she’s stressed out that you’re leaving everything to the last minute. It’s Friday already and you go tomorrow. You still have all your …’

‘… packing to do,’ Jenny said monotonously, finishing his sentence for him. ‘Well, you can go back and tell Mother that I’m not in the mood to pack. I haven’t got the energy.’

John gave his sister an impish grin.

‘Don’t you ever get tired of being lethargic?’ he asked, ducking just in time to miss the pillow aimed at his head.

Jenny was furious. ‘If you’ve come here to lecture me …’

‘Hold on! Just listen to me for one minute. You’ll be glad you did. Honestly.’

Jenny sat on the edge of the bed, her face set in a stubborn frown. She was ready to evict the intruder if he didn’t keep his word.

‘Look, like it or not, Mum wants me to talk to you. So here it is: Don’t do just about anything I did overseas last year and you’ll be okay. There. That’s it. Now for something of a more practical nature.’

John cleared his throat theatrically and put on the kind of voice so often heard on TV commercials. He pulled a few, much used, travel guides out of his pocket and fanned them like a hand of cards.

‘Look this way, young lady. Have I got a deal for you! Take into your dainty little hand this set of lavishly illustrated booklets. There’s one for every country you’ll be visiting on your three-week tour of Europe .’

Jenny accepted the guidebooks with the beginning of a smile as her brother continued his sales pitch.

‘Don’t go away now. There’s more! As well as these fabulous brochures, you’ll receive a bonus, pocket-size guide to London’s most famous pubs.’

Jenny pulled a face through her grin. She didn’t drink so a hotel guide was of little use to her.

‘But that’s not all, my friend,’ John continued. ‘You’re going to be astounded by this offer. No, not a set of steak knives. I’m going to give you, absolutely free, this beautifully handcrafted money belt. It’s been made extra thin so you can wear it under your clothes for added safety. As well as the usual places to stash your cash, there are five secret pockets hidden in the inside leather and each one contains a disc of pure silver.’

He now moved closer to Jenny and whispered from behind his hand, as though giving away a trade secret. ‘They’re only worth a few dollars at the bank, but they’re invaluable if you’re buying strange-looking weed in a Moroccan souk.’

Jenny pretended to be disgusted despite her giggles. She was pretty sure her brother hadn’t done half the incredible things he often laid claim to. She usually treated his ramblings as entertainment but today he kept his story short.

‘That’s it, my friend, and it’s yours for just the two little magic words …’

‘John, you’re joking,’ Jenny gasped, jumping up and throwing her arms around his neck in a rough hug.

 ‘Just a simple thank you would have done,’ John croaked, pretending to be nearly crushed to death and it was not all acting. Jenny was fit, from a lifelong enthusiasm for horse riding and her black belt in karate. Even though she was otherwise unashamedly lazy and often quite shy, she was definitely not as vulnerable as her family seemed to think.

‘Thank you,’ she said quietly. ‘That’s a wonderful going-away present.’

John had known she would like the belt. Twins seem to be able to communicate that sort of thing to each other without words and his sister had the gift stronger than most.

‘There is just one more thing, though. Just a minor sermon,’ he said in a more serious voice. ‘This is your first time away from home. Hold on. I know. You’ve been told all of this a thousand times before, but there really are bad people out there. Even though you’re travelling with Auntie Iris, she won’t be there all the time and your karate mightn’t be enough when you need it most. So, if you’re in a really serious situation, just stick this into the bastard.’

‘I beg your pardon,’ Jenny scolded. ‘Remember what your instructor has to tell you all the time. Swearing is a loss of self-control.’

‘All right. So I’ll never be a second Bruce Lee, but this might help. It’s a loan for the trip.’

John handed his sister a soft leather sheath that contained a slim knife. Jenny hadn’t seen anything like it before. The handle was long and flat and its heavy plaiting was designed to give a grip that no attacker could wrench away. The blade was also very special.

‘Wow! This is fantastic. It’s all made of bamboo and it’s as sharp as a razor.’

‘And look at this …’ John helped her put it on. ‘You wear it on the inside of your arm under your sleeve. No one will know it’s there. What do you think of it?’

‘It’s fabulous, but I couldn’t take it with me. It wouldn’t get through Customs.’

‘Just pack the knife separate from the sheath in your suitcase and tell them it’s a letter opener you’ve brought as a present. That’s what I did.’

‘But a lot of things have happened since then. They’d throw me into gaol as a terrorist if I tried to do that. Anyway, I won’t need it. We’re on a conducted tour and Auntie Iris insists on staying in top class hotels in the better part of town. I’m not complaining of course. Unlike you, I need my home comforts. I couldn’t survive without soft beds, hot showers and three good meals a day.’

‘You really are a fussy fruit fly, aren’t you?’ John teased.

‘Rather that than a marauding maggot,’ Jenny answered with a laugh.

The twins often made jokes about each other’s eating habits. Jenny seldom ate meat but John made up for that with his excesses, hence the nicknames they’d invented for each other.

‘And fruit flies would commit murder for the salads in Germany ,’ John added enticingly.

‘Mmmm! I’ve got a feeling I’m going to enjoy every lazy day of this holiday. But why am I wasting my time talking to you?’ she exclaimed, bundling him out of the room. ‘I’ve got packing to do.’

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