Plight of the Tivinel

Author's Commentary



CAUTION - Spoilers ahead!

Do not proceed if you haven't yet read the book.



Having now completed the manuscript, it's time to look back on the last four years since the release of Cry of the Bunyips and offer a glimpse of where my train of thought took me on this much-convoluted journey. The epilogue of that book saw Pedro rescuing fourteen-year-old Peter from the Blue Mountains wilderness in 1989, so that seemed the logical place to start, following Pedro's footsteps as he found his place, or not, in that time frame. I also had it in mind to tag along with Joel and Loraine who, five years on from their adventure with the bunyips, would be honeymooning in Europe, walking barefoot along the Paths of Saint James through France and Spain. Loraine's twin David also had a part to play, as, now a confirmed naturist after losing his board shorts to the bunyip and spending several chapters roaming naked around the galaxy, he would be starting his enrolment at a clothing-optional university on Cornipus. At the core of the story, though, are the Tivinel, one of the original two telepathic human species on Huntress prior to the apocalypse caused by Drago's malfunctioning (or sabotaged) star-dimmer. In The Mind of the Dolphins, Damien claimed that all the surviving Tivinel had perished on their planet of exile after confronting the Lost Barefooters, but I thought perhaps that wasn't the case. I'd already hinted that Charon, the ferryman on the River Styx, might have been a Tivinel, so maybe there were others hiding in enclaves scattered about the cosmos.

If there's a theme to this book, it's about fulfilling one's destiny and doing what's right rather than what's easy. This applies to all the main characters: Pedro, Peter, Elissi, Joel, Loraine, David, Cam, Roly and even Tristan and Jameed, although some interpretations of what's right might differ from others.

Pedro's Journey

When I started writing, I'd thought Pedro, having been captured by Sunnygrove, would be bullied before escaping and going off on a train to Narrabri to find Frank Halliday and, through him, Elko. Beyond that I had no idea, which is why my writing stalled for so long. Eventually, though, and with a helpful nudge from Ray Foret, I realised his science teacher would have to be Andrew Schilling, a.k.a. Andushin, and that his means of escape would be to join the Barradhim. Once on Eridani, my next crazy idea was that the girl stepping from the car would be Rebecca Gosling, but that seemed too obvious so I started wondering about who would be a bit more unlikely. Having her be Elissi was one of those nice little flashes of inspiration, all the more so when her recollection of that time became crucial at the end of Part Two.

Right from the start of Jameed's antagonism towards Pedro, I knew he'd be ultimately given the task of killing him but his conscience would get the better of him, leaving him to become the embittered old ex-Barradhim accountant we saw briefly in Barefoot Times and Cry of the Bunyips. That Jameed would also turn out to be a Tivinel wasn't pre-planned, but was ultimately needed to give purpose to Pedro's stint with the Barradhim. In Jameed's final scene with the elderly Elissi at the Sydney AusScience offices, his cryptic remark about the photograph of Ignus suggests his involvement with Tristan and the overlords goes deeper than he was prepared to admit.

After Pedro's execution and return to Charon on the River Styx, his next appearance is as Joel's guardian angel. Again this wasn't something I'd pre-planned, but seemed the logical thing to do when the emaciated Joel needed help to escape from Tristan's ship. At that point my thinking was that he would ultimately merge with Peter in some form, as lame as that idea now seems in hindsight, and perhaps that's why I could never quite bring myself to go down that path. It wasn't until he'd returned to flesh and blood on ancient Huntress that I realised his future lay there with the lovely Elsa, being now destined to play a crucial role in the Rise of the Gomeral as described briefly by Hamati in The Mind of the Dolphins. I could say more, but that'd be giving away spoilers for the next book whose title should now be obvious!

Although my hopes of closing Pedro's circle in this story were dashed, he was at least able to come to terms with Peter, not only sacrificing himself to save him in 1989, but in his final gift of the 2071 version of Elsa. I hasten to add that it wasn't my intention that the two Elsas be the same person, but they are definitely connected - perhaps the latter day one is a distant descendent of the first. All will be revealed in the next book, I promise.

Peter's Journey

Peter was such a sweet boy but with a terrible sadness at his core. I hope –”

The sadness at Peter's core is a central theme of Part One, revealing for the first time what lies behind it. A forced separation, bullying, loneliness, a death and betrayal would be enough to leave deep scars in anyone, I'm sure, yet he eventually finds true friendship with Cory and later, of course, with Billy. Will he at last find his true peace and contentment with Elsa, or is there more trouble yet to unfold for my aging hero?

At the beginning of Barefoot Times, fourteen-year-old Peter arrived with his parents in Narrabri where he befriended Billy, but after just six months that time line collapsed, with him instead moving to Sydney as part of his father's promotion within AusScience. At that point the story jumped forward twelve years, with nothing more said of his childhood until, in Cry of the Bunyips, his meeting with fourteen-year-old Pedro forces him to reflect on the horrors engulfing him back then. The beginning of those horrors was later revealed to be his encounter with the yowie while lost in the Blue Mountains, and his ultimate rescue by Pedro, but I felt there had to be more to it than that, some greater trauma that Peter had completely forgotten.

My first thought was that he'd be ensnared by Rebecca Gosling, then also fourteen, with her luring him off into some Barradhim house of horrors until Pedro came to his rescue. This was something I just couldn't seem to flesh out, probably because it was too simplistic and obvious.

His move to Avalon at the end of Part One was born of a happy coincidence. My friend Paul Goodall sent me a photo of Barefoot Boolevard, prompting me to take a closer look at this suburb on Sydney's northern beaches. With my perusal of maps and satellite images looking promising, I joined Paul there to suss out the area, finding it to be an eminently suitable home for Peter where his new friends would help him forget the traumas of Eastwood.

In Peter's face-to-face with Pedro towards the end of Part Three, Pedro asks, "What is it I'm becoming?" "Your guess is as good as mine." "I'm becoming you, aren't I?" "Or perhaps I'm becoming you." "Either way will be interesting, I'm sure." At the time I wrote that, I had no inkling of how Pedro's fate would play out in Part Four, but it was something that just felt right. I'm still not sure what it means, but I'll be exploring it further in the next book.

Joel's Journey

Joel, about to turn eighteen, is on the cusp of adulthood, preparing in his own awkward way for life as Loraine's devoted husband. His relationship with his parents has soured since we last saw him at the end of Cry of the Bunyips, though, with he and his father mutually and openly despising each other. So a large, and also unexpected, aspect of Joel's journey was their reconciliation, each driven to recognise the other's qualities under the duress of Joel's kidnapping. For Joel, his journey was also about discovering the depth of his love for Loraine and the sacrifices he'd be willing to make to save her, even to the point of accepting that to save her he'd almost certainly lose her.

Joel's being a singleton was one of those little flashes that occurred to me when I was pondering which of his traits might be crucial to the story. There was certainly no hint of it in Cry of the Bunyips, even though I subsequently manipulated one of the scenes from that book to become his first singlet moment. Sorry, but I couldn't resist that tired old dad-joke of singleton = singlet on, especially since, as a child, I had to endure wearing a singlet under my shirt until finally becoming old enough in my mid teens to be rid of the horrid things for good. Like Joel, one layer of clothing is the most I like to wear. Anyway, back to singletons, the other one to carry that trait was Mark back in Barefoot Times, where it enabled him to thwart Farley's attempt to bring back Morgoth, but Mark didn't have the ability to initiate a split in the flow of time, he just experienced them sequentially.

This trait also provided a link between Joel and his grandfather Cory, Peter's new-found friend at the end of Part One. In my Joel's World prelude on the Cry of the Bunyips blog, I hinted that Joel might have been carrying something special when Peter said, "Perhaps he gets it from his mother" and, having also established Joel's maternal grandfather as someone special in his life, such a link became pretty clear. In any event, Joel's ability became not only the motivation for his kidnapping but his unique way of overcoming the series of obstacles confronting him on his long and tortuous journey back to Loraine.

After Joel lost Bert to the volcano, and almost lost Willy the same way, it was perhaps inevitable that he'd be successfully recycled in that manner as the means of resolving his apparent defeat by Tristan, and that his singleton trait would be crucial to the success of that recycling. His journey has taken its toll, though, leaving him mentally battered and scarred, something that will become increasingly apparent in the opening chapters of the next book.

Loraine's Journey

Except for the chapter immediately after Joel's kidnapping, Loraine has never been a point-of-view character in this story so her internal machinations have mostly remained hidden, her feelings revealed only through her words and actions. From the time they first met at age twelve, she has always felt a strong affection for Joel, although at times baffled by his undiagnosed Asperger's traits. Over the next five years she comes to love him, but until the Dead Cow Creek moment is unsure if he can really reciprocate that love. From then until St Guilhem le Desert, everything is pure bliss for her, her greatest dream come true, but all that is snatched away when Tristan strikes. As her hopes of finding Joel fade, she passes through all the phases of grief - anger with everyone and everything, pleading with the authorities and her parents to do more, depression and ultimately a numbed acceptance - until the day David calls to say he's found him on Ignus. From there it's an emotional roller-coaster ride with the failed rescue mission, Joel's rise as the mastermind of the mining company buy-out, then finally his decision to go off with Pip to confront Tristan rather than return home, leading to her threat of a divorce. But behind the scenes is her conversation with Pip's wife Cloe in which they concoct her surprise reunion with Joel.

The Joey Red Wolf Connection

My friend and fellow author, Tim Mills, a Cheyenne Native American, has published a series of children's books featuring Joey Red Rolf, a wheelchair-bound boy destined to become his people's spirit healer. In Tim's latest book, The Stranger At Eagle's Landing, there are several resonances with my stories, something which he admitted were intentional, and from that discussion rose the thought that perhaps a much older Joey could make a cameo appearance in my new book. Thus the seed was sown, and with Tim's permission, I also borrowed another element from his earlier book The Mystery of Hawk's Canyon, namely the evil skin-walkers. Tim indicated he didn't intend them playing any further role in his tale, giving me free licence to develop the concept further into what became my Servants of the Core in Part Three. Joey's insight, that Joel's soul shines brightly in the spirit realm, also became a recurring theme as the story unfolded, ultimately leading to Joel's defeat of those creatures. I thank Tim for his enthusiastic support and assistance throughout this aspect of the story and welcome any Mystery Kids fans who may have ventured into my universe.

David's Journey

David has been an interesting character to develop, from the five-year-old teased by his twin sister, the ten-year-old possessed by the spirit of Drago, the fourteen-year-old constantly berating Joel until discovering, when Joel's life was threatened by the Eridanian bunyip in Cry of the Bunyips, just how precious their friendship really was. Now, as Joel's brother-in-law, he's been almost immediately separated from him as he embarks on his studies at Apogee university where he's billeted with Cam Dunn, an outcast from Hazler with whom he builds an easy friendship that's perhaps growing into something more. How much more? I was tempted on more than one occasion to out them as gay, but resisted, feeling it was better to leave this for the reader to interpret. I don't have strong feelings either way, but for now I'm happy to go along with this interpretation, if that's how it comes across, or just as happy if they're seen as nothing more than best mates. Be prepared for a surprise twist in the next book, though!

The idea that David is a naturist stemmed from the incident in Cry of the Bunyips when he lost his board shorts to the bunyip and consequently spent the next few chapters roaming naked around the cosmos, until his mother took him to the shops on Cornipus to buy him some clothes. In my description of Cornipus on the blog, I happened to mention that it was a warm humid planet where students wear little or no clothing, so it didn't take much to put two and two together and have David enrol in a Cornipean university as a naked astrophysics student.

After finding Joel on Huntress, David takes it upon himself to lead both his rescue and the ultimate confrontation with Tristan. Frustrated by Joel's fear of heights, he becomes increasingly annoyed with him towards the end, relegating him to spectator at the New Year Festival with disastrous consequences. As that final confrontation approached, I realised David had to be the one who pushed Joel into the lava, even if it was accidental, so that his arrogance cost him his devoted friend, his brother-in-law and any chance of saving the future, leaving him with nothing. His redemption comes afterwards, though, when he apologises to Joel and offers to do whatever he can to mediate a reunion between Joel and Loraine.

Cam's Journey

Cam was born to a wealthy family on Hazler who run a successful chain of cafes in the commercial heartland of the galaxy, but is considered the black sheep of the family because his interests lie in the esoteric field of theoretical physics rather than business and commerce. When he discovers that he's been billeted with the son of the Delphinidae High Priestess, he fears his university life will become one long sermon, but is relieved to find David is also cut from a different cloth to his parents.

Cam's self-esteem is easily bruised. Speaking only the Meridian common tongue, the lingua franca of the Triangulum Galaxy, he quickly becomes isolated whenever everyone else is speaking either English or Eridanian. The low point of his journey is when he's chastised for inadvertently leaking Joel's recording to the ultranet social media sites, but that leaking soon turns to their advantage so he's quickly forgiven.

His shining moment is when he sacrifices his own life to stop Tristan from jabbing Drago with the poisoned dart, though it's not until his emotional breakdown that David convinces him of the significance of that act. While paralysed but still conscious, he's deeply moved by David's professing his love for him, but afterwards is unsure whether it could possibly be true. David's response, "Don't be daft, Cam, couldn't you tell I was overjoyed at the thought of getting a new room mate?" and his invitation to spend the next couple of months hanging out with him on a quiet beach on Earth is his dream come true, finally vanquishing the loneliness monster of his childhood.

Nothing more is said of their holiday together, as I didn't want to taint the reader's interpretation of their relationship, but things get even better for Cam after they return to university, with his discovery of the higher order resonance in intergalactic grade fractal crystals that halves the travel time between galaxies, making him about to become one of the richest men in the galaxy and no doubt forcing his family on Hazler to eat humble pie. Or maybe not; humble pie is something Hazler's elite have little appetite for.

Tristan's Journey

My first thought on Tristan when he appeared in Part Two (at that point being the nameless blonde-headed man) was that he was an agent for the miners on Ignus and wanted Joel to use his singleton ability to help devise a strategy to free them from their oppressive employers without any loss of life. A noble goal, perhaps, but my perception of him nose-dived when he began Joel's training, making me think he was an out-and-out psychopath, whatever his cause. When Jameed finally spilled the beans on Tristan's ancestry, in that sins-of-the-grandparents revelation that tied so much of the story together, I began to see what his real aims might be: firstly, to change history, with or without Joel's help, so that Drago never became Pasha, meaning the Tivinel were never decimated and scattered to the far corners by the apocalypse on Huntress, and then, as an added sweetener, to make himself Pasha in the process. While I didn't spell it out, it seems pretty clear that much of the groundwork for this was done by his grandmother, Rebecca Gosling, after she discovered Cory was a singleton at the end of Part One, and that her attempted takeover of Earth in Part Five of Barefoot Times was a part of this.

Tristan did make the point, though, that the return of the Barungi to Huntress and the freeing of the Tivinel peasants on Ignus opened up the prospect of a new Pasha being born, with potentially devastating consequences for both galaxies. For much of my writing, resolving that threat was going to be the major focus of the later chapters, but, as often happens, events got away from me and took a mostly different tack. Joel's retrieval of the hair samples from Roly and Drago was to have been the key to this, but by then, with my word count already past a hundred thousand, I really wanted Joel's defeat of Tristan to be the story's climax and his convoluted reunion with Loraine and the completion of their pilgrimage the denouement. In any event, Pedro's decision to remain on Huntress and his pending involvement in the post-Drago Gomeral uprising meant there was likely to be a follow-up book anyway, where the threat of a new Pasha could be given the depth it needed and properly dealt with.

Roly's Journey

Roly was first mentioned in The Mind of the Dolphins as the Old Pasha who'd been murdered by Drago, although he wasn't graced with a name at that point. When the time came for him to enter Plight of the Tivinel, that oversight had to be addressed and, since he'd been responsible for the Black Dolphin fresco on the palace walls, I began searching for a suitably dolphinesque name. All I could find were Greek gods, though, which didn't seem appropriate, and I'd almost given up when I discovered photographs of a sculpture in London depicting a boy flying with a dolphin. So much of this resonated with my vision of his first encounter with the Black Dolphin that I delved further, discovering that the boy was modelled on the sculptor's son Roly. So that, in a nutshell, is how Roly got his name.

Roly, like all Pasha, is gifted (or cursed) with foresight, so he knew when and how Drago would attempt to kill him, and also what the ramifications of this would be, both in the destruction of Huntress and the resulting spread of its Gomeral people to Meridian and beyond. His willingness to sacrifice his life for this greater good profoundly affected Joel, making him his willing agent.

Prior to becoming Pasha, Roly was the first Emissary of the Black Dolphin, a role now filled by Pip, hence the physical resemblance between the two. As Joel is already a Black Delphinidae acolyte, through his attendance at Mark and Lorina's school, Joel's devotion to Roly seems natural in that respect.

In Tristan's altered time line in which Drago is executed and Roly ensnared in a life debt, he goes into exile, disguising himself as a volcano temple worker while waiting and hoping for Joel's eventual return. While I didn't flesh out those intervening centuries, other than to show the consequences of the long-running war between the Tivinel and Barungi, it's likely that the trauma Roly suffered as a result of being unable to bring peace to his world left him bereft of many of his powers, save for his ability to telepathically reach Joel when he returned.

The Rise of the Gomeral

In The Mind of the Dolphins, Hamati told Pip the story of what happened on Huntress after Drago's star dimmer had been deployed in an attempt to counter the Tivinel's greenhouse gas pollution. "The tropics cooled, but the poles got hotter and the icecaps continued to melt, raising the sea levels and flooding our lands. So they dimmed our star even more, and that fixed the sea levels, but then our crops wouldn’t grow properly in the dim sunlight and food became scarce. The Gomeral were made to suffer the most, and eventually rose up against their masters, stealing their space ships and fleeing to the world you call Meridian." I expect Pedro and Elsa will have an important role to play in that Gomeral uprising, and my intention is to make that part of the storyline of the next book.

Back in the present day, though, there remains the unresolved issue of a potential new Pasha, which Hamati has pledged to work with the leaders on Ignus to prevent. Will he succeed or will another lord of the universe come into being? I'm pretty sure Joel and Loraine will have a part to play in this, as will David and Cam. Of course my books never turn out anything like I thought before starting them, so all I can say is expect the unexpected.

Jeff Pages
September 2014.