STORY 7 OF THE DIVIDED KINGDOM:
“…it just went to show, Joe reflected, that the past truly was the greatest teacher. Today he had learned from it everything he wished to know, and much else besides. Now however, as he said, the time had come for himself and Flashtease to leave the past behind.
After all, it wasn’t as if the future could wait.”
BY DOC SHERWOOD
DOC SHERWOOD Answers your letters
The Divided Kingdom’s all about the old meeting the new, so here’s one of our longest-term readers Ratty of Bingham and letters-page debutante Neet Law!
Neet on Stories 4 and 5: DOC Sherwood, your work is beyond highly rich and descriptive, and it also proves that creativity and entrepreneurship are essential to keep us mentally alive despite our location. I like all the covers of your books, and your books even more than the covers, for besides the drawings I’m impressed with what my imagination perceives when reading between the lines. You really know how to grab your fans’ attention besides being so well-informed.
I love the green on the cover to Story 4 and I get very enthusiastic every time Petunia appears. Speaking of whom, I like everything about her appearance on the cover of Story 5 too. Everything. From Flashtease’s underwater to the recycled paper cup, and the detail I most appreciate is the delicacy with which Petunia holds this latter. What artists you and your friends are!
More and more I feel fascinated by rare people like you who devoted so much passion for teaching through the arts. Is there any reason the books aren’t published or readable online?
DOC SHERWOOD REPLIES: Neet’s closing question is a good one, as it calls attention to her somewhat overgenerous use of the word “entrepreneurship” in her first paragraph. Business sense is not something DOC Sherwood possesses in abundance, it must be said, but he’s delighted the stories themselves are winning such praise from his newest fan!
Here are a few lines of the Story 7 of The DIVIDED KINGDOM: “TATTERED with faith that one day, soon we’ll seeing all stories published.
“And there she was…
It so happened that the small space-lounge was already candlelit, but now this soft illumination was supplemented by a source which for many of the attendees proved more romantic still. For far above the beehive bouffants of girl Mini-Flashes and tables loaded with half-eaten hamburgers appeared the golden-glowing features of Neetra Neetkins, in holographic projection no less lovely than the genuine article. The highlights of her russet locks were like waterfalls that tumbled and twinkled down upon the gazing crowd, while those mysterious inviting depths where Neetra hid her hairpins blended gently with the shadows of this darkened room and framed her shining face.
Joe, Neetra said. Because something tells me you’re the one who’ll hear this message first. I’m counting on you to do what you think best when it comes to my family and Dylan, because I know what kind of time this is. But I hope it’ll be you.
It was the smile she here let slip, one of tenderness, familiarity and above all else of love, that started the tears to Joe’s eyes. Up until now the last time our hero beheld Neetra had been on that sunset afternoon in Nottingham. A pre-prepared recording this may have been, but for Joe it was still enough to dispel every fear and doubt that had preyed on him since then. As long as he was looking at Neetra thus there was only the resolve to be the hero he should be, together with the knowledge that if it was in her name, then there was nothing else he could or would do. They had found each other so long ago, and what they were to each other now was the same in her case as it was in his. The one, the first, and the only.
I’m striking out into the galaxy to find the truth, whatever that may mean these days, Neetra went on. But before that, as I guess you’ve already figured out, I had to check in with my friends the four farns on Planet Eshcaton. Manual, Prune, Benmor and Albazorascabaranthi needed to be told about recent developments, especially the things you and Gala learned from The Prophecy of the Flame, and what we all discovered back on Earth towards the end of the Solidity War.
Flashtease’s wide blue eyes shone in the light of Neetra’s image, for he had adored her too. Joe knew this, and put his arm around the Mini-Flash to reassure him it was alright. After all, if our hero himself could not help feeling that way, it was hardly fair of him to expect others to be able to. Indeed, Joe was more than happy to share his sentiments with such a friend as Flashtease had been.
This rift between you and Dylan, however significant it may be to future events, the farns hadn’t actually heard of, said Neetra. That’s not their fault. Local versions of the Prophecy are far more detailed on what the coming struggle will mean for this galaxy, and the role of The Four Heroes is never very clear. Empress Ungus only knew about those parts because she’d stolen our Earth-authored edition during the Fourth Dark Advent. But I filled my friends in, on that and also the theory I know you agree with, Joe, about the important role the Mini-Flashes and the present younger generation here seem destined to play. Because I guess that was a discovery I made myself.
Flashthunder had every right to fancy the reason Neetra’s luminous cheeks briefly brightened yet further was not only due to the modesty demanded by such a statement. For his own recollections of when Neetra first voiced her hypothesis to a private audience of him alone would have been sufficient to raise an identical blush,# had not Cherry beside him started to look even more like dangerously volatile dark-matter than she usually did. So instead Flashthunder took his girlfriend’s hand and gave it a comforting squeeze, quietly confident that Neetra’s words to Cherry when together they collected from her the password for this same communique had not been wholly ignored by the temperamental outer space teen.
Now the farns are going to set to work studying their ancient texts for any correspondences with the details we’ve gathered, even though they know there’s a risk Harbin might find out what they’re up to, Neetra declared solemnly. They’re brave old men…all the more so, because they’re aware this means something worse than just putting their lives in danger. It was you who taught me, Joe, to understand how an evil mind perceives opportunity. The adult Harbin who’s at large in this quadrant comes from a point in the future sometime between his defeat of our children, and the final conflict with our older selves. No-one knows yet who the winner of that battle’s going to be. So if Harbin learns about the farns there’s no question he’ll attack, but he’ll also keep them alive, in the hopes he can force them and their considerable prophetic powers to clue him in ahead of anyone else.
Flashshadow knew what came next. That Neetra felt it went without saying was testament to the person she was, who Flashshadow was proud to call her dearest and most trusted friend. For although Flashshadow spent most of her time invisible to the eyes of others, she herself saw much. She had joined Joe’s movement immediately on learning of it, perceiving right away that he to whom Neetra had become so close must surely share something of her principles and values. Now Flashshadow’s faith was affirmed in the girl who never once throughout all their adventures together had forgotten she was there.
The lounge in general saw Neetra’s point likewise. These young people would not have joined Joe had it been within them to remain oblivious to it. A quartet of courageous reverend wisemen must be rescued forthwith, not merely because information they might divulge under The Foretold One’s cruel compulsions posed a threat to the future of the universe, but rather because The Four Heroes’ cause was clear on how to act whenever innocent lives of any kind were in danger. Joe had taught his followers well. Even their newest member Mini-Flash Splitsville, though once she would have been the first to admit it was hardly her scene, found something in that which had gone unsaid she was able to get hip to. As for the longstanding Contamination, a gaunt man of radioactive blue-white silhouette, he slouched a-smoulder on the outskirts of the group and silently concurred. Here was what had ever spoken to him about the cause. Its duties and dictates drew upon the goodness left behind in the creature others had made of him.
Now for the important part, Joe, Neetra declared. My farn friends understand the likes of Harbin too, better in fact than you or I. With wisdom like theirs, when they predict something, I take it seriously. And they’ve told me that if Harbin does make his move, they already know where he’ll take them.
Petunia listened on…”
Doc Sherwood Answers Your Letters
Here’s RATTY of BINGHAM, as ever with the very best feedback on our latest offerings…!
What’s this about Joe’s parents? Would I be right in saying you’ve never written about this before, Sir? It sounds terrible beyond belief! To come home and find them dead like that…your whole world would come to an end, wouldn’t it? Talk about defining you as a person. You (and indeed your life) would never be the same again. He was forced to grow up from such an early age, wasn’t he? Forced to take charge of things, because his parents were no longer there to do it for him. He could rely on nobody but himself. Man, no wonder he went on to found The Four Heroes!
DOC SHERWOOD REPLIES: Story 25 was indeed the first time we learned there were dark secrets surrounding the deaths of Joe’s parents, so well spotted, Ratster! Making such a late-in-the-day revelation about this most central of central characters was always going to be a risky business, so I’m delighted to hear it fitted so well into your interpretation of Joe and actually furthered your understanding of him. And as for the full story of what exactly happened in his living-room that wintry afternoon…maybe one day!
Neetra is very much the leader of the Flash Club now, isn’t she? Good old Neet – she’s only gone and grown up into a leader! I really shouldn’t be so surprised about that, either. After everything she has been through over the years I guess it’s only natural for her to assume this role. Maybe she was always content in the past for Joe to take charge but things have changed recently, haven’t they? Yes. And I think Neetra will be a great leader!
DOC SHERWOOD REPLIES: Both you and Mike have voiced enormous satisfaction over Neetra’s leadership subplot and her ongoing maturation as a character throughout Season Five, and this makes me especially happy because you’re my two longest-running readers who’ve been following Neet exactly two decades this year. That these developments for her, which to me felt completely natural and right, should have played so well with the pair of you is the best kind of news a writer could hope for. Our little girl really has grown up, hasn’t she? As, erm, anyone who’s read the present story probably knows by now!
Joe taking Gala to task over murdering the Burghermeister had me gripped, Sir! Joe can never condone taking another’s life. But as Gala says, did the Burghermeister not deserve it? Did he not have it coming? Was she supposed to let the law take care of him? Would that have been justice enough for the crimes he had committed? Gala always has taken the direct approach over such matters, hasn’t she? But was she right to do so? Hmmm…
DOC SHERWOOD REPLIES: The other thing about this we mustn’t forget is that Gala essentially was the law, having only just that day reconquered Nottingham and deposed the Burghermeister. Many would argue therefore it was her absolute duty to treat him judiciously, thereby establishing rule of law in her new world order. But instead, by making herself quite literally judge, jury and executioner she set the precedent which, as you rightly observe, later instances of her taking the direct approach would follow.
Man oh man! What’s this now? I knew Space-Screamer was bad but this! So he and his cronies are going to STEAL The Four Heroes’ cause are they? Of all the dirty tricks! And DYLAN! Sir, how is DYLAN? I know I keep on asking about him but I really am most concerned about his welfare! Come on Dylan, you can make it! And I wonder if we will be seeing any more of Harbin? Yes, I do indeed wonder about this! And The Chancellor! How’s HE doing?
DOC SHERWOOD REPLIES: Fear not, Ratty. From our very next exciting issue we shall commence working our way through the final fates of all the above – Space-Screamer, The Chancellor, Harbin, at long last Dylan – not to mention everybody else! So to put it another way, don’t anyone miss these final thrilling episodes of The Four Heroes Season Five!