Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
When we left the Garden of Foirfeachta, the little group there had just settled in to sleep for the night;, but as the full moon bathes the clearing in silvery light, their world is about to change….
Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
by Cheryl Pennington
all artistic and copyright reserved
The child! Something must be wrong. What had she done wrong? She felt so much pain. Her logical mind sought the answer. M’na had eaten foods that did not agree with her now and then, causing a similar feeling; but this, this was nearly unbearable. Feeling the next wave of pain roll over her, she screamed again in terror and anguish. Fireann was no longer groggy as he stared into the face of agony beside him. Terror gripped his insides at the sound of his companion’s cries. He had no idea what to do to help his beloved. She was sitting up, stroking her body as though to soothe the child, and she began rocking back and forth as she sobbed. He reached out to soothe her, touching her body where their child lay, and recoiled slightly at the feel of her skin, so taut and hot. She cried out in pain again, this time pleading for the life of her child. “Mother, pleease.…sa…save my chiiild!”
Now it was Eagna who hurried in to kneel next to M’na. Although no one had yet experienced the birth of a human child, she had keenly observed the animals in her land as they gave birth so that she could help the daughter of Eternity when her time came to deliver their miracle; but when is one ever completely prepared for the unknown? She knew she had been created for such things; and without hesitation, the Female of Wisdom knelt next to a trembling M’na, who frantically rocked back and forth on her bed, moaning and continuing to clutch her unborn child and feeling as though someone were putting the coals of their fire to her lower body. She only wanted to sleep; and she fought the urge to relieve herself right upon her place of rest. M’na tried to rise to her feet, and Eagna pushed her gently, but firmly, back down onto the bed.
Fireann climbed around his suffering companion to join Eagna where they now both knelt in service to the mother of his child. His mind was also grappling with wild questions. Why was this female holding his beloved down? Why did she not allow her to rise? Perhaps if she could just walk, he thought.. But in his own wisdom he kept silent, for surely Eagna knew more than he did. It was why she had come, after all.
Just beyond the doorway, under the moonlit sky, a different miracle was unfolding. The muscular white tiger awoke at the first sounds of M’na’s cries, then yawned and stretched as she gazed up at the fullness of the glowing moon. The beast got quietly to her feet and sauntered towards the doorway that led into the shelter. As she climbed the steps, there came a soft growling from her throat. Although the sounds were low, the tiger’s presence soon became obvious to M’na and Fireann who felt a new wave of fear rising in their chests. Both looked to the Eagna for comfort; but their guest watched the beast as though transfixed. She gazed directly into the watery gray eyes of the big cat even as it ascended the steps; and her chin dropped open in awed wonder as she watched the transformation which began to take place there in the light of the full moon that filtered through the opening where she now stood.
M’na screamed again; but neither Eagna nor Fireann, who was only now fully aware of the spectacle taking place in the doorway to his shelter, could take their eyes off of the great cat who was rising upon her hind legs. Soft ripples slid down her body as her chest began to elongate and her front paws lengthened, melting into long, slender arms. The massive white, furry chest began to shrink, then briefly to blanket full, shapely breasts before the hair fell away to reveal smooth, human skin. The thick tuft of white beard on the tigress’s face withdrew into a gentle curving chin as furry cheeks flattened to sharp, high cheekbones with a full blush of pink upon them. The female’s skin glistened as though covered in dew. Great lengths of black locks fell around the gentle curve of her shoulders; and as she strode into the shelter, the tiger’s legs evaporated into long, muscular, but very feminine legs. As they stretched across the floor, her clawed paws transformed into gentle, sloping feet that gingerly stepped toward the astounded trio where she stopped and looked upon the suffering M’na.
M’na, who had momentarily been lost in horrified wonder, was now abruptly molested by another searing pain. She gazed upward, transfixed, at the only thing which remained of the white tiger that had been-those watery, deep gray eyes that looked lovingly and comfortingly into her own.
Eagna would long recall that these eyes were steely and gentle at the same time. Jolted from her shock by M’na’s new cries, the kneeling female quietly arose and hurried to the shelter where she had been sleeping only moments before. Glancing around, she pulled the leather blanket from her own bed and, quickly returning to the others, threw it about the shoulders of the exposed female.
The fully transformed figure of Naofa grasped the edges of the skin with her newly formed fingers and drew the length of it around her naked body. Eagna knew of Naofa’s existence but never imagined she had been traveling with Dohman’s Sacred Sorceress. She had so many questions and she saw them all etched in the wonder on Fireann’s face as he gawked at the newly transformed human standing beside him..
There was no time for such things now, for M’na was writhing upon the bed and beginning to thrash about as all attention became focused on her suffering. She suddenly felt abandoned, alone, and somehow being punished by some unknown terror. Her weakened mind raced with strange ideas. How unfair! She thought Mor loved Its creations, forgave them, and eased their suffering. What was this thing that was happening to her now? And why?
Instinctively, Eagna and Fireann made an opening between them as Naofa knelt beside M’na, placing her hands on the young female’s shoulders. This mere touch brought instant relief to the searing fire in her back and lower body. When she began to speak, the voice of Naofa filled the room as wind in the trees, soothing them all while commanding the hysterical mother.
“M’na, you must be still. This is your time of birthing Dohman’s miracle into our world. I have come to ensure its safe arrival. I was called to care for and protect you during its passage.” Her words, although spoken as encouragement, had a distinct air of authority in them; and none dared protest. Even with some relief and Naofa’s words of support, M’na continued to thrash about on her bed.
Clearly now Fireann was in pain along with her as he shifted on his knees uneasily, pleading with their new guest. “Please, if you can do it, let me take this pain for her. I don’t know what to do now. I feel so helpless. Why does she not calm? Surely something is gone wrong with the child!”
Naofa took Fireann’s hands and led him to sit behind M’na’s head. Then she guided them gently to rest on his companion’s temples, no small task as she writhed in pain. Still, the Sorceress forced him to hold them firmly in place, with her own hands covering his as she looked deeply into Fireann’s eyes. He felt pulled into those oceans of gray, like being drawn under a wave, unable to do anything but succumb to its power.
“Now you can share her experience and so ease her fears,” the Sorceress whispered.
Suddenly he felt a searing in his gut and bands of heat rolled around his waist as fiery coals crawled across his lower back. The pain was frightening, and his own fear was matched by that of his beloved. He instinctively jerked his hands to remove them; but then his eyes fell upon those of M’na. He saw great dark circles full of helpless confusion as she tried to stay afloat in her sea of pain. Instantly he found the surface once more. Naofa pressed her hands on his gently, nodding at him, for she knew he was beginning to understand. Relaxing his body, he pressed his own hands firmly against M’na’s temples and leaned close to her, as he gazed into those pleading eyes. Yes, blue sky was what she needed now and would be what she saw in the face that hovered over her own. Blue skies, with no pain…
“I am with you in all things,” he assured her. “I will not leave your side. We are all here to help you. Our child is coming!” A gentle smile found its way to his lips, and between spasms M’na nodded and gave her own weak smile in return. With Fireann working to distract his companion, Naofa returned to kneel beside the bed next to Eagna and placed her hands a short distance above M’na’s twisting body. She began rubbing them together slowly, steadily, as the others waited breathlessly for the next miracle to unfold. Suddenly, a spark flashed between her palms, followed by a tiny orb of light. As she slowly pulled her hands apart, the tiny orb grew wider as she stretched it into a thin line that measured the distance between them. She leaned in toward the band of light and blew into it gently. It began to swirl as it spun itself into a ball of sparkling energy, flickering and dancing above the struggling M’na. Naofa continued to guide the ball so that it hovered directly above M’na’s belly as she instructed the female, “Turn your eyes to the light, Daughter, and you will no longer feel the pain within your body. Think of only this Light, for it represents Eternity, which is with you-and in you-now. This will make your experience more bearable until the child is with us.”
The Sorceress’s promise was true. Once M’na looked into the dancing ball of lighted energy, she became mesmerized as she felt her pain diminish to mere twinges. What was this wonderful thing? She cared not for it brought relief. Fireann felt her ease from pain as well and was soothed along with his companion.
Eagna observed it all in awed wonder and admiration. Her own talents now seemed paled in comparison to this new female. For an instant she felt a pang of envy, but it was instantly joined by immense gratitude to the Creators for not allowing her to face this task alone. It was from within this gratitude that she found her words, “Is there any way in which I can help you Sister?” she asked of Naofa.
If there were any sense of lack within Eagna’s mind and heart before now, it ended as soon as Naofa spoke to her. “You have done well in your role. This miracle is not for one alone; but with the efforts of all, the child is being delivered into this world. I was sent to help ease the mother’s burden because she has never given birth. After it has arrived safely, we will make preparations for its sanctification and blessing.” She smiled at Eagna, easing any jealousy that may have begun to root itself within the Wise Female. “Thank you for seeing me safely here while in the beast’s tunic. It was a good journey, getting to know you.” She smiled again before returning her attention to the miracle at hand.
Becoming more serious, Naofa instructed Eagna to position herself at M’na’s feet. The Wise One did did not question but moved quickly to her place. Naofa pulled the cloak from her shoulders and handed it to Eagna. Turning her attention to M’na, she saw the young female begin to shudder uncontrollably as she began moaning once more. The look on her face was one of defeat and despair. Looking helplessly into the eyes of the Sorceress, she began to plead, “Please help me deliver this child. It feels..It feels like I am dying..,” she sobbed.
A smile played at the corners of Naofa’s mouth as she looked down at her charge. She feigned a voice of disdain, “And you know what it feels like to die, do you, Daughter of Immortality?” There was chiding in her voice and each present understood it. This teasing somehow helped to ease the tension in the air. But not the pain. It seemed nothing would ease that. Naofa became gravely serious at once.
Eagna immediately saw what was needed for completion of the birth, for the child in her arms remained tethered to its womb. Quickly and gently she urged the mother, “Now, M’na, you need one last push to complete the birth.” At first discouraged that her ordeal was not yet over, M’na once again felt a pain; but she pushed as instructed while Naofa reached over and gently tugged the living vine that had connected mother to child.
Eagna looked about the room for Fireann but he was already gone. Sensing what would be needed he had run outside and returned with a fresh container of water from the creek. “Go, bring me a limb from the fire, one with a smoldering end.” Quickly, he hurried into the clearing where he poked the remaining embers of their fire until he found what she wanted. As he cautiously passed the glowing stick to Naofa, Fireann was a little frightened of what she intended to do with it. Still, he reasoned, she had been the facilitator for their miracle this night, so he knew only complete faith in this new female-this Sorceress. She took the stick from his trembling hands and touched it to the living vine very near the child. She pressed the glowing ember into the pink red flesh. There was a foul stench as it was singed; but neither mother nor child felt any pain as the place she touched withered and blackened beneath the heat. She gently tugged to separate the pieces and gave a nod to Eagna. With a quick glance over her shoulder at M’na, Eagna brought the child to the basin of water and began to wash away the blood and debris from its skin. The newest arrival filled the room with angry cries of protest, but the sound was as music to the ears of everyone present.
In all the excitement no one had spoken of the child’s gender; but the evidence was boldly displayed as it wriggled and spread its limbs wildly in response to the cold water being poured over its delicate, new skin. It was a male. Eagna wondered if Fireann had taken notice and looked around for the new father.
Once more Fireann had left them to collect something from a storage box that rested in a far corner of their shelter. Eolas had helped him to create this box, and from it he retrieved the object of his search. When he rejoined the others, he was carrying a small cover made of soft fiber that Laoch had woven for the infant. The Warrior had described the way he made it from the strands of vine that clung to the river trees in his land. There in Foirfeachta, he and Laoch had soaked it in fragrant oils, then bleached it in the sunlight. Now it was ready for his son. His son. How the thought pleased Fireann now. He felt full and complete.
Eagna gently laid the crying infant atop the cloth, wrapped the ends tightly around its body for comfort, and nudged the bundled life towards Fireann. His face beamed with a joy he would never be able to move beyond.
M’na, having been washed with the help of Naofa, was refreshed now as she leaned forward, holding out her arms for her child. Filled with love and gratitude, her companion brought the whimpering infant to its new mother and laid him gently in her arms. The tiny human thrust its one free hand at the air, and M’na leaned in to take the tiny fingers between her lips to gently kiss them. It made smacking noises as it sucked at the air, still whimpering, until Eagna helped M’na to guide it to her breast where the business of feeding happily began. Fireann crawled into the bed and lay beside them, propped on one elbow as he observed this wonder of the natural world, now a part of their own. Assured that they were comfortable, Noafa motioned Eagna to step outside with her. They left the new family alone to bond and rest after the night’s ordeal.