Tomorrow's Guardian, p.1Richard Denning
What readers have said about Tomorrow's Guardian:
'Denning keeps the action fast and furious. Diving in and out of time ... there's never a dull moment as the inevitable confrontation with the villain of the piece, comes closer and closer.'
'I recommend it to readers around Tom's age, whom I confidently expect to absolutely love it.'
Robert James The Bookbag.co.uk
Teens will love this book because they can relate to Tom who is their age and is very believable. With Tom's time travelling, the reader gets taken to a different time too.
Review on Flamingnet
I received Tomorrow’s Guardian on Thursday and my youngest, James (10) and I are reading it together. It's causing bedtime issues in that he wants to read more than time allows. Great story.
Written by Richard Denning
© Copyright 2009 Richard Denning
Copy–editing and proof reading by Jo Field.
Richard Denning was born in Ilkeston in Derbyshire and lives in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, where he works as a General Practitioner.
He is married and has two children. He has always been fascinated by historical settings as well as horror and fantasy. Other than writing, his main interests are games of all types. He is the designer of a board game based on the Great Fire of London.
By the same author:
Hourglass Institute Series
2. Yesterday's Treasures
Northern Crown Series
The Amber Treasure
The Praesidium Series
The Last Seal
For Jane, Helen and Matthew
The existence of this revised and expanded edition owes much to the encouragement of authors Helen Hollick and Jo Field. In Helen's case it was her support and words of wisdom that I value most highly. There is no one I know who so enthusiastically supports new authors. Jo, meanwhile, is quite simply a superb editor who really gets into the story to the extent that she knows the characters as well as the author. Many thanks to both of you.
I would also like to thank Cathy Helms for her amazing cover design that really brings the book to life.
Finally I want to add my thanks to my family and in particular, John and Margaret (my parents) and Jane (my wife) without whom none of my books would have ever been written.
CHAPTER ONE – THE DREAM
Lieutenant Edward Dyson was fighting for his life amongst the cook fires and tents of the army’s camp. A huge Zulu warrior screamed as he charged towards him, a spear held menacingly in his right hand. Edward sidestepped to dodge the attack and clipped the enemy on the back of the head with the butt of his revolver – the blow sent the warrior stumbling to the ground.
Edward shook his head in disbelief: how had it come to this? Not four hours before he had been one of an army of well over a thousand highly trained and well–armed soldiers. Now, almost all were dead.
Yesterday, the army had advanced this far from Rorke's Drift with little sight of the enemy. Last night they set up camp here on the plain beneath the conical shaped mountain of Isandlwana. His fellow officers had invited friends from the 2nd Battalion over for drinks to celebrate the rare event of two battalions from the same regiment serving overseas together. The last time that had happened, the 24th had almost been wiped out in a battle against the Sikhs in India. Someone had joked that they hoped it did not happen again this time.
Not that this was likely. Indeed, it was preposterous. Surely these Zulus facing the might of Queen Victoria’s British Empire were nothing more than savages with spears and wicker shields. Rapid firing, breech loading Martini Henry rifles, artillery, rocket batteries and well–trained light cavalry would be more than a match for these barbarians.
Edward had thought so: but all that soon changed.
Late in the morning, a squadron of Natal cavalry attached to the British expedition had been scouting far out on the plain, perhaps half a mile or so from the camp. Cresting a rise, one of the patrols suddenly came across thousands of Zulus hiding and resting in a valley. As one, the Zulus rose and hurtled up the slope toward the horsemen, who fell back in alarm and then started exchanging rifle fire with them. The enemy had few firearms and were poor shots while the British were superb marksmen, but the sheer number of Zulus forced the horsemen back towards the camp.
Soon, whole regiments of Zulus emerging all along the British front. The red–coated soldiers formed up into a firing line and began shooting at the natives. The brave enemy warriors fell in droves, but still they came on: as unstoppable as a tidal wave, as irresistible as a glacier. Only the devastating volleys from the British companies kept them back – for the moment.
By now, Edward was learning a new respect for this enemy. His men and those of the other companies were inflicting dozens of casualties with each shot, but the Zulus did not run away. Instead, he could hear them chanting their terrifying war cry: an angry buzzing noise that sounded rather like a swarm of infuriated wasps on a hot summer’s day.
The order now came to fall back five–hundred yards to the camp. Some of the companies moved more quickly than others, creating wide gaps between them. Furthermore, Edward became aware that his men were running low on ammunition. They were sharing out the rounds they had and trying to continue shooting as they retreated. Overall, the result was a slackening of the fire upon the enemy.
Suddenly, with a great cry of “uSuthu!” almost twenty–thousand Zulus surged forward in a charge on all fronts. The British were quite unable to stop them and entire companies disappeared: swept away as if that tidal wave had finally come crashing down upon them.
So it was that Edward now found himself fighting in the chaos of his camp. He fired his revolver at a fierce looking brute who had just stabbed a redcoat, saw him fall and then looked about for his men. Three were fighting in a small triangle twenty yards away; one firing whilst another reloaded and the third threatened a score of Zulus with his bayonet. A moment later, all three fell to the blades of the vengeful Zulus. To his right, a cook and his assistant were swinging cleavers wildly and shouting in terror that they were not soldiers but it did not save them. The Zulus came upon them, stabbing with their short spears. As his compatriots died, Edward realised he was alone. He glanced around in horror: above him the sky had turned a dark, angry red.
Fifty enemy warriors closed in on him from all around. His mouth felt dry. Shaking with fear he fired his revolver, heard the hammer click on an empty chamber. He fumbled for his sword, knowing he had only moments to live...
“Tom, wake up lad; wake up now! Your friends will be here soon.”
Tom Oakley opened his eyes, sat up in bed and stared wildly around his room, taking in the PC in the corner, a heap of abandoned clothes and trainers on the floor and the Nintendo DS on the bedside cabinet. Finally, he turned to where his father stood at the open door and gave him a bewildered stare.
His father's eyes narrowed and he came and sat on his son's bed. Reaching over, he swept Tom's hair to one side and touched his forehead to see if he felt hot.
“What is it lad? Did you have another of those nightmares?”
“One of those dreams when you think you're some
“They seem so ... real, Dad,” Tom answered.
His father frowned at him, searching his face. “They're just dreams, boy; nothing more," he said at last, getting to his feet. “Come on, get dressed." He paused at the door and turned to look back at Tom before adding, “Oh yes; happy birthday, son.”
Tom rolled out of bed, walked over to his mirror and stared at his reflection. For a moment he was almost surprised to see the young lad with brown eyes and jet black hair staring back at him. Why surprised, though? Was he expecting another face? He rubbed his eyes, yawned and then moved away to get dressed.
It was a warm day in the early spring, so he held his birthday party in the garden. He and his friends played football and then cricket, until he slogged a six over the fence and lost the ball. That turned out to be the signal for tea. There was the usual party food, including cakes and ice cream along with his father’s homemade burgers, cooked and half burnt on a barbecue. Then, of course, there was the cake.
It was baked in the shape of a dalek and as his mother walked out of the kitchen door carrying it, there were shouts of “Great” and “Wow” from his friends. The words ‘Happy 11th Birthday Tom’ were written in blue icing on the top.
His mother now started singing, “Happy Birthday to You,” and all the boys joined in. His oldest friend, James, was singing along with the alternative words, “You Live in a Zoo,” and Tom stuck his tongue out to blow a raspberry at him. James simply smiled and sang louder.
Tom bent forward, took a deep breath then blew all eleven candles out. His mother put down the cake and turned to take a knife to cut it into slices.
That was when it happened.
The world seemed to give a slight judder up and forwards and Tom felt as if he was being thrust backwards, like he was in a car that had suddenly accelerated, pushing him back against the seat. Feeling dizzy, he closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he blinked, because right there in front of him was the cake with all the candles still burning brightly. Around him the boys were singing, “Happy Birthday to Thomas, Happy Birthday to You,” and cheering. He was convinced they were all playing a trick on him. All the boys were in on it and his mother must have used those party trick candles that keep re–lighting themselves: that was the explanation, obviously. He leant forward and blew the candles out again and then went over to give James a friendly slap on the top of his head.
“Heh," James muttered, rubbing his crown. “Just for that I won't keep a look out for Rogers!”
Kyle Rogers was a bully and Tom’s enemy. Only two months older, but about two feet taller and much wider too, or so it seemed to Tom, who had been only eight when he had ridden his bike round the corner of the street without looking and almost knocked Kyle over. The other boy just had time to jump out of the path, straight into the milk bottles outside Mrs Brown’s house, smashing two and ending up sitting in the milk.
A charging bull would move less quickly: Kyle had exploded at Tom, kicking him off the bike and onto the road and then laying into him with bunched fists, before Mrs Brown came out of the door and chased them both away. Tom ran home with a bleeding nose and did not go out for a week. From that moment on, Kyle took every opportunity to corner Tom and make his life a misery. Fortunately, James was around him most of the time and Kyle did not bother to take them both on, but he still found other ways to get at Tom, like sniggering at him in class when he made mistakes. They were now in the last term at primary school and so Tom endured the jibes, thinking he did not have to put up with them much longer. The summer holidays were fast approaching and it seemed that Kyle was going to a different school in the autumn.
“I’m much cleverer than you, Oakley,” he had chortled, “I’m off to King John’s Grammar school in the autumn, not that smelly old comp down the road you two are going to.”
For the next few weeks after the party, Tom and James enjoyed counting down the days until their time with Kyle Rogers would finally be over. Kyle said nothing and just smiled at them. He left it till the very last day at the old school to find Tom in the toilets then he walked up and thumped him on the arm.
“Ouch! What was that for, Rogers?” Tom asked, rubbing his shoulder.
“Just something to remember me by, Oakley: until next term, of course.”
“What do you mean, ‘next term’?”
“Oh, didn’t I mention that I’m going to Parklands Comp as well?”
“What? You said you were going to King John’s!” Tom said, feeling his heart sinking.
Kyle smirked, “Nah! Was having you on. I couldn’t miss out on keeping you company for the next seven years,” he added with another vicious punch, this time to Tom’s belly. Tom collapsed onto the toilet floor and Kyle walked out laughing then turned to add a parting shot.
“Have a good summer, Oakley; I’ll see you in September.”
Tom dragged himself to his feet and groaned: Kyle, at the same school for the next seven years? Somehow, the summer holidays didn’t seem long enough.
If the strangely real dreams and the event at the birthday party back in April were the only odd things to have occurred, Tom might have forgotten about them, but a few weeks later the peculiar feeling, like sudden acceleration, happened again. He was on holiday with his parents and his sister, Emma, in Spain. They were playing a game of cricket on the beach with some new friends who were also on holiday, watched by a group of puzzled Spanish kids. Tom was bowling as Mike a boy from London who was staying at the same hotel took strike with the bat. Tom ran up and bowled. Mike swung his bat and missed the ball, which clattered through the wicket sending the stumps flying. Emma cheered and clapped and their father, sitting on a towel nearby, shouted, “Well bowled!”
Then, again, Tom felt the judder and strange feeling of being thrust backwards. He blinked and opened his eyes and now saw that he was once more at the beginning of his run up, the ball still in his hand. Mike was standing bat at the ready waiting for him to bowl and behind him the stumps were still intact. Tom was about to shout to Mike that he was out and what was he doing still at the stumps when, abruptly, he felt dizzy and the world seemed to spin like a fairground ride. A moment later, he was lying on the sand with his father and all the kids around him. His father picked him up and carried him to one of their rented sun loungers.
“Are you all right, Tom?” said his father. Except that somehow it didn’t sound like his dad. The world seemed very peculiar, though he could not exactly say in what way: it was just– odd.
As if from a long way off he heard his mum ask his dad if they should get him to hospital, when there was a click in his head as if something was fitting into place. Straight away, he felt fine again. He sat up, but his mother told him to lie back down and rest.
“It’s ok, Mum, I feel ok,” he said.
His dad leant over him and felt his forehead. “Um … he’s a bit hot: probably too much sun. Best get him to bed.”
Back at the hotel his parents called out a local Spanish doctor who prodded him a few times, looked at his throat and made him go “ah” before announcing that he could find nothing wrong with the boy. He then left after giving Tom’s father a bill. His mum came over and sat down on the bed.
“Oh well, Tom,” she said, “if it was the sun you should be ok tomorrow. We’re flying home and granddad says it’s raining in England!”
As Tom had feared, the summer holidays did not last long enough and it was soon September and time to go to his secondary school. Kyle was unfortunately in the same class as Tom, but if the move to the comprehensive was accompanied by an old enemy, it at least brought some new friends.
James and Tom met Andy in the first science lesson of the new school year. Andy introduced himself by pulling out a long ruler and raising it like a sword above his head and swinging it down towards Tom. Tom ducked down behind the desk ... just at the moment that the teacher walked in.
“You can have detention, boy!” he boomed to Andy, who
Whilst the boys were lurking under a tree near the house one day, Tom had imagined he had seen a ghost in the window of the house and – without thinking – had picked up a stone and thrown it at the window, breaking it. The police were called in and Tom’s parents were, to say the least, furious when he was driven home in a squad car. That had meant no puddings, computers or TV for an entire week. However, the worst thing was he had to go and apologise to Mr Henry and offer to pay for the repairs out of half a year’s pocket money. At first, Tom had refused to go, saying he did not want to: having to face ‘‘orrible old ‘enry’, as the kids called him, was not a pleasant thought.
Tom’s dad insisted, however. “Sometimes, doing the right thing is not pleasant and nice. Indeed, sometimes it is horrible and painful. But, deep down you know in your heart that it’s the right thing and you do it anyway: whatever the cost.”
Well, that seemed rather pompous and Tom and Andy were not impressed, but off they went anyway. In the end, it wasn’t all that bad. ‘Orrible old ‘enry had seemed fierce at first, but ended up giving them hot chocolate along with cookies and then he let the boys play with a train set he had in the attic.
The experience strengthened the friendship between Andy and Tom and the two of them gathered a gang round them that included James and two others – Mark and William. They called themselves the Desperados, which was a name used in western movies for bandits, so James had said. Tom thought that James would know: movies were an area he seemed to be an expert on. Andy had been impressed as well and one day he made them all swear an oath of loyalty to the gang and to promise to stand by each other whatever the future might bring. They toasted the oath with coke and then they all recited a solemn vow.
“Loyal desperados are we, whatever, whenever, whoever and however anything happens!”
“All for one and one for all,” James had added, having watched an old film recently about the Three Musketeers.
A couple of months went by full of maths homework, French lessons and rugby matches and Tom began to forget the strange incident in Spain. Then, several things happened that convinced him he must be going mad. The first time was on the 5th of November – Guy Fawkes’ night. His family had gone to a firework display held in a local park, getting there early to see the bonfire lit and then round the fun fair to go on the rides. An hour later there was an announcement that the fireworks were about to start. They all bought hot dogs and made their way down the slope to the display area.
Tom was about to bite into his hot dog, when he felt the same strange juddering feeling coming on again but this time, it was different. The sensation of movement did not thrust him backwards as had happened before, but forwards. The unexpected change of direction threw him off balance and he swayed to his left and his right. He reached out to hold on to his father, but his floundering hands grasped nothing more than thin air. Looking around him, he was surprised to find that it had suddenly got a lot darker. The crowd of many hundreds that had gathered to watch the fireworks had apparently left and he was standing totally alone in the centre of the eerily dark playing fields.
The fairground rides should have been behind him, but there was no sound coming from that direction. Turning round, he could see there were no people there either, none of the rides was moving, the multicoloured lights had gone out and plastic sheets had been pulled over the top of most of them. Back the other way, the bonfire had burnt down completely and there was just a heap of glowing ash, where a moment before a raging blaze had been. Tom shivered, although it was at least as much from fear as from the chilly autumn night air.
He peered anxiously out into the gloom. “Help me!” He shouted, “Somebody, please help me!”
Tomorrow's Guardian by Richard Denning / Fantasy have rating 2.9 out of 5 / Based on38 votes