This book is dedicated to the Mudie family
(Peter, Sue and Ross) for their unwavering enthusiasm and support throughout the
As always, my blind friend Ray Foret Jr has been a literal
sounding board for me throughout the writing of this book, providing valuable
feedback on my strengths and weaknesses and helping me see the light at the end
of the Deadfall Ridge tunnel.
I’m indebted to my friend and fellow author Tim Mills, a
Cheyenne Native American, for his enthusiastic support over many years and our
long chats on how stories like this evolve.
Inspiration sometimes comes from strange places. Stephen
Fry’s documentary Out There gave me the nudge I needed to pin down the
relationship between my characters David and Cam, adding what I hope is an
interesting twist to this story.
To my friends who braved a cold July evening in Woy Woy for
the launch of Plight of the Tivinel, many thanks for making it such a
memorable event. I look forward to seeing you all again for the launch of this
Thank you, dear readers, for following this story from its
humble beginnings in Barefoot Times. I hope you find this conclusion to the tale
as satisfying as I did in writing it.
Last but not least, many thanks to the wonderful staff at
Zeus Publications for their great work and support over what is now almost a
decade and a half since this series began.
Jeff Pages was born in Sydney, Australia in 1954 and from a
very early age was fascinated by science and technology. After finishing high
school he attended the University of Sydney from where he ultimately obtained a
doctorate in Electrical Engineering.
In 1989, his work took him to Tamworth in north-western New
South Wales, where he joined the Tamworth Bushwalking and Canoe Club and spent
many weekends bushwalking in the nearby parks and forests.
In 1995 he moved back to the Sydney region and now lives at
Umina Beach on the northern shore of Broken Bay where he has recently retired
from full-time work.
He has always enjoyed going barefoot as much as possible
and has been a member of the Society for Barefoot Living, an internet-based
discussion group, since 1996.
In 2013 he became a keen geocacher, combining his love of
technology and bushwalking in the GPS-based hunt for caches hidden by fellow
His other retirement adventures include walking barefoot
along the entire 250 km Great North Walk from Sydney to Newcastle, as documented
in his blog at
His first novel, Barefoot Times, was published in
2004, followed by Call of the Delphinidae in 2006, The Mind of the
Dolphins in 2008, Cry of the Bunyips in 2011 and Plight of the
Tivinel in 2015.
Rise of the Gomeral is the sixth and final book in
Further background information can be found on the series’
website at www.barefoottimes.net.
READ A SAMPLE:
Roly looked up, smiling, as Joel led the others
across in front of the dais.
“My time as Pasha is drawing to a close; I have
foreseen it. Do not despair at my passing, for I’ve had a fulfilling life far
beyond all expectations. A time of upheaval approaches, but don’t lose hope, for
from this will spring a far greater good. Thank you, my subjects, and I wish you
He closed his eyes before suddenly going limp and
falling to the floor, a dart protruding from his back.
“Who killed him?”
“I did,” Drago said, bounding down the rocks and
climbing onto the dais. “The rule of Roly is ended and I, Drago, am now your
“That’s preposterous!” Jarred yelled. “The
challenge of the Pasha is a rite of passage, a test of skills both physical and
psychic. You cheated, you little bastard!”
“Enough! The old ways have ended, old man Barungi.
Return to your village while you still live.”
Jarred shook his fist. “This means war!”
“No, Dad,” Hamati said, but Jarred was already
marching back up the aisle. He shook his head before following along behind.
“To hell with the Barungi!” Drago said. “Where are
“Right here, my lord,” Mayor Sandford said,
emerging from the wings.
Drago settled himself in front of the lectern.
“You heard Roly speak of global warming and the need to limit our use of fossil
fuels until something better comes along. I say no, there are other ways; the
Tivinel scientists have created a star-dimming machine, a device to control our
climate while allowing us to exploit our coal and oil reserves to their full
extent. No-one need suffer deprivation while the Barungi tinker with their
“Hear, hear!” Sandford shouted.
“Praise the Pasha!” chanted the crowd, this time
with much more enthusiasm. “Praise him with great praise!”
“I think we’d better leave them to it,” Joel said,
ushering the others down the stairs to the portal room. He turned to Charon.
“Someone on this side will need to permanently shut down the portal after we’ve
passed through; we can’t risk another Tristan.”
“I’m not sure if I know how.”
“I can do it,” Pedro said.
“But, but you’re coming with us, aren’t you?”
“No, on the whole I think not. I’ve found my true
purpose here, as well as my flesh and blood.” He pinched himself, confirming he
was real. “While you were dealing with Tristan, Roly touched my mind, telling me
the Gomeral will need someone with my skills in the years ahead, should I wish
to remain. I told him I would.”
Elsa grasped Pedro’s hand while kissing him on the
“I think having a pretty girl by his side also
swayed his decision,” David whispered to Cam. Cam grinned, putting his arm
around David’s shoulder.
Joel turned to Willy. “What about you?”
“I’d like to come with you, Joel, if you don’t
“No, of course not.”
“Right,” Charon said, “I guess it’s settled.”
Pedro scanned the readouts. “Roly also gave me a
flash course on how to drive this thing. Now that Tristan’s cusp has ended, the
portal is locked back onto your own time. All I have to do is flick this switch
Joel half expected a temporal implosion, but
instead the portal ring became transparent.
“Off you go and good luck, all of you.”
“You too, Pedro.”
Joel ushered David, Cam and Willy into the portal
before following them through.
* * *
Hamati dropped a handful of soil onto the coffin,
before Pedro and Elsa did the same. Other Barungi and Gomeral from the nearby
village formed an orderly queue, quietly paying their respects to clan leader,
“I can never replace him,” Hamati said to Pedro as
they stepped aside.
“And nor should you; you have different qualities,
Hamati, qualities that’ll be sorely needed in the years ahead.”
“Careful, Pedro, you don’t want to say anything
that might mess with the future.”
“Don’t worry, I have only the vaguest notion of
what’s coming and even that’s third hand and most likely inaccurate.”
Another of the Barungi stepped over to them.
“Excuse me, Hamati, the Pasha, curse his name, has called for parley and wants
both you and the Tivinel leader to meet with him on the island.”
“Tell him I’ll be there.”
“Yes, my liege.”
Hamati grimaced as soon as he’d left. “I hate it
when they call me that.”
“So what are you going to do?” Elsa asked.
“I have little choice but to accept whatever terms
he dictates. Our army is spent; those still alive have barely the energy to
stand and if the Tivinel destroy our crops we’re finished.”
Pedro grinned. “I know the Pasha’s supposed to be
an all-seeing telepath but Drago’s still a boy and from all accounts didn’t see
Tristan sneaking up on him until he had a knife at his throat. Do you think you
can shield your innermost thoughts from him without it looking like you’re doing
“Of course, that’s easy.”
“Excellent. Body language is everything, so what
you should do is talk and act as if you hold the upper hand; make it sound like
agreeing to his peace is a concession on your part.”
“I see, yes, but the Tivinel will know I’m
“They might think you’re bluffing, but they can’t
know for certain. You must keep them guessing.”
Hamati nodded. “I want you both to accompany me,
but you’ll have to be disguised as slaves.”
“Free Gomeral are no longer permitted on the
Elsa spat on the ground before blushing as she
remembered where she was. “Sorry, Uncle, but that’s disgusting.”
“It’s something we’ll all have to get used to, I’m
On his previous visit to the island, Pedro had
thought the household staff looked like actors and actresses performing in some
great dramatic work, but now they were more like prison guards. In place of the
Count, it was The Screw who led them through into the Pasha’s hall.
Hamati gasped, staring at the walls, for where
there had once been beautiful frescos of corals and sea grasses, amongst which a
Black Dolphin reputedly hid, there were now only fanged creatures like winged
lizards or dragons on a sooty grey background.
“The ashes of hell,” Elsa whispered to Pedro.
“Hush,” Hamati said, walking forward to bow before
Drago who was seated on Roly’s throne atop the dais. Behind him hung a huge
portrait of himself, a black-skinned boy with bright red hair and pupils like
More prison guards ushered Hamati to a seat on one
side of a large table set before the dais, with the Tivinel mayor, Sandford,
sitting opposite. Hamati grinned at him, showing as many teeth as possible, and
Pedro was pleased to see Sandford look away.
“Hamati, what are these Gomeral doing here?” Drago
“They’re my personal slaves, sire.”
“I don’t recall Jarred ever needing slaves, but
then you’re not your father.”
“No, I’m not.”
Drago cleared his throat. “This war you two are
fighting serves no purpose other than to destroy valuable resources, my
resources, and will henceforth cease. You’ll both withdraw your forces to your
respective bases immediately.”
“But, sire, the Barungi started it,” Sandford
“No,” Hamati said, “you started it by conspiring
to kill our rightful Pasha. I wouldn’t trust a Tivinel as far as I could throw
“I didn’t come here to listen to Barungi insults!”
“Enough!” Drago said. “There’ll be no more
bickering; my word is final and my word is law. Is that understood?”
“Good. I need you both working productively, not
fighting each other, for I have great plans for this world, yes, great plans.
So, since you’re unwilling to cooperate with one another, I hereby decree that
from this day hence, the Barungi will be confined to the coastal lowlands. Any
Barungi found standing on ground more than 50 metres above the Geodetic Height
Datum will be immediately executed.”
Hamati leapt to his feet. “That’s an outrage,
Drago grinned. “Yes, it is, but you have only
yourselves to blame. Now, Sandford, I’m granting the Tivinel free rein over the
rest of the planet, but in return you’ll build a network of fine cities and
roads for me, filled with factories and industry like never before seen. For too
long my predecessor stifled development of this world; now things will be
Sandford grinned. “Thank you, my liege.”
Drago turned back to Hamati. “Such development
will require much greater food resources, which the Barungi will supply. Your
farm production must increase tenfold or you will starve.”
“That’s impossible; we don’t have the workforce,
particularly now the Tivinel have killed so many.”
“Indeed, which brings me to the third element of
my master plan. We all know that the Gomeral, while lacking any of our
telepathic ability, have great manual dexterity, therefore, from this day
forward, any Gomeral over 12 years of age and not otherwise indentured will be
enslaved into my service, from where they’ll be sent to work with the Tivinel
industrialists or the Barungi farmers as I may see fit.”
Elsa looked about to protest, but Pedro restrained
“Not now, not here,” he whispered.
Drago looked firstly at Sandford and then Hamati.
“Are there any questions?”
Hamati shook his head while quietly fuming.
“You are most kind, sire,” Sandford said.
“Kindness has nothing to do with it. I want
results, Sandford, and that’s all that matters.”
“Excellent, you’re both dismissed.”
The Screw led Hamati and his entourage back to the
portal room, standing guard until they’d all passed through.
“So what do we do?” Elsa asked once they were back
in Hamati’s house.
Hamati sighed. “We have no choice but to obey the
“What about us?” Pedro asked.
“I’ll have you both indentured to me; Drago’s
already seen you with me so to do otherwise would look suspicious.”
“Very well, but I take it we’re to be more than
Hamati stared into space for a moment. “Those
three Gomeral who came with you from the future, Joel, David and Cam, appeared
intelligent, resourceful and compassionate, am I right?”
“The future’s perhaps not as bleak as it seems and
Gomeral have a part to play in it, an important part. No, you and Elsa won’t be
mere slaves, as you put it. I want you to form a secret Gomeral society, one
that to all outward appearances is only concerned with the well-being of Drago’s
slaves, but there’ll be another agenda known only to us.”
Hamati drew them close. “The Rise of the Gomeral.”
Joel looked up, rubbing his eyes. “Chemistry? Why do
I have to do chemistry?”
“What’s wrong?” Loraine asked.
“It says here that I have to take chemistry, but
surely that can’t be right. Why would an environmental scientist need to be a
“Well, um, there are things like soil and water
acidity, I guess, and fertiliser residue, even chemical spills, I suppose.
Anyway, I have to do chemistry too and you don’t hear me complaining.”
“Yeah, but you’re majoring in biochemistry so of
course you’ll be doing it.”
Loraine sighed. “It’s only for one year, Joel; after
that you can start to specialise. Anyway, you did okay in chemistry at school,
“I guess, but back then I didn’t know what I wanted
“I don’t see why that should change anything.”
“It seems such a waste of time now, that’s all. I
could be doing interesting stuff instead.”
“No knowledge is ever wasted, Joel. You of all people
should know that.”
“Wasn’t there some critical thing you did that
“Oh, that. Yeah, but, um, okay, I suppose you’re
right; you always are, aren’t you?”
“Of course; that’s what I’m here for. Now finish off
that form before they kick us out and lock the doors.”
Joel stared back at the page, rubbing his eyes again
as he tried to find his place.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, but why do they have to make this damn
printing so small?”
Loraine glanced at the form. “It looks okay to me.
Maybe you should see an optometrist.”
“What? No way! I can see fine, really.”
“Joel, it wouldn’t hurt just to have your eyes
“No, I don’t want to.”
“What’s wrong with you? You’re behaving like a
Joel looked up at her, tears starting to form in the
corners of his eyes. “What – what if he says I’m going blind?”
Loraine shook her head. “You’re not going blind; you
probably just need glasses, that’s all.”
“Yeah, but, but what if it’s something more serious,
something they can’t fix?”
“Then it’ll happen whether you see someone about it
Joel ran his hands through his hair, pulling it down
over his eyes before brushing it aside. “It’s just, well, it’s only started
happening since I fell into that fissure back when, you know. Hundreds of years
passed before my body was reconstituted and I think some genetic ones
might have turned into zeros or something.”
“You mean there might have been a mutation?”
“Well, yeah. When I had to inject Cam with the
antidote I couldn’t see well enough to find a vein and had to get David to help
me. That’s never happened before.”
“Oh, Joel, I’m sure everything’s just fine, but, but
hang on, that French policeman got a sample of your genetic makeup from some of
your stuff I’d been carrying prior to your kidnapping, so it ought to be
possible to do a direct comparison between then and now.”
“It might be expensive, though.”
“Let’s see what the optometrist says first, okay?”
“Yeah, okay, I guess.”
* * *
“Come on through, Joel,” the optometrist said,
leading him into the examination room. “Take a seat and tell me what’s troubling
“Thanks. I, um, I’m having trouble with close-up
stuff and fine print, particularly if the light’s not too good.”
“Has this only just started or has it been going on
for some time?”
“It’s been only in the last six months; ever since,
um, I went through a rather traumatic time.”
“Oh, you’re the one who was kidnapped, aren’t you?”
“I see. Well let’s begin by doing a quick check of
your distance vision.” He dimmed the room lights while turning on an illuminated
eye chart on the far wall. “How far down the chart can you read?”
“Um, the bottom line is D E F P O T E C, isn’t it?”
“Very good.” He handed Joel a card while turning the
lights back on. “Now try this.”
Joel stared at it, moving it back and forth in a vain
attempt to find a distance at which he could read it. “Sorry, it’s just a blur
The optometrist nodded. “It seems you have hyperopia,
but let’s make some actual measurements to be sure.”
Joel grimaced. “What’s hyperopia? Am I going blind?”
“No, not at all; it just means you’re long-sighted,
your cornea is too flat to be able to focus light properly on the retina. In
childhood the lens is flexible enough to be able to compensate, but as you get
older it starts to stiffen, so eventually you can’t focus on close objects.”
“Come over to the machine and we’ll put some numbers
to it. We used to do this manually but these days it’s all automated and
extremely accurate, or so the manufacturers say.”
He sat Joel in front of what looked like an overly
large set of binoculars.
“Just relax your eyes and don’t try to focus on
A series of rapidly flashing circles appeared,
firstly fuzzy but becoming increasingly sharp as the machine adjusted to match
Joel’s vision. Within a few seconds it was done.
“All straight-forward, Joel; there’s no astigmatism
or other aberrations to worry about. I’ll just do a glaucoma test and take some
retina photos to finish up.”
“So, um, what causes it? Is it genetic?”
“Actually yes, and they’ve even isolated the genes
responsible. It’s a bit of a strange one, as the same gene can cause both
hyperopia and myopia, which is short-sightedness. Some people can even be
long-sighted in one eye but short-sighted in the other, although it’s quite
“Gosh! That’d be confusing.”
“It is, and it can be difficult to correct without
making things appear bigger in one eye than the other. In your case, though,
both eyes are the same so it’s easy-peasy with either spectacles or contact
“I think I’ll go for the spectacles; I’d feel too
queasy trying to put anything into my eyes.”
“There’s also the option of laser surgery, but we
prefer to leave that until our patients are a little older, say around
“The spectacles will be fine, I’m sure. Will I need
to wear them all the time?”
“You can if you want, and ultimately you’ll have to,
but for now you can just use them for reading as your distance vision is quite
“Come on out and you can choose a frame you like.”
Joel stared at the bewildering array of styles racked
before him, ranging from the finest wire frames to bulky black plastic ones.
“How about these?” the optometrist asked, slipping a
gold-coloured wire-framed pair over Joel’s nose and ears.
Joel stared at his reflection in the mirror, thinking
it could be a whole lot worse. “Yeah, they’re good; I’ll take them.”
“Don’t you want to try any others?”
“No, I don’t handle choices very well. These are
“Okay then; I wish all my customers were as easily
pleased. Now just look straight at me.” He pulled out a marker pen, placing dots
on the plastic lenses.
“What are they for?”
“It’s to align the lenses with the position of your
“That’s it then. We should have them ready for you to
pick up in about a week.”
A week; just seven more days of youthful bliss
before the first stage of aging ensnared him. Soon he’d be having his hips
replaced and be riding a mobility scooter.