Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
by Cheryl Pennington
Dohman’s first child born in the physical arrives; the time for celebration is at hand. As the Warrior and Hunter arrive in Foirfeachta to join the ceremony, those in the Eternal Realm are preparing as well; but not all are in agreement about allowing the presence of the dark God at this momentous event. Even though he has proven himself affected by the Light of healing, if not completely reformed, there are signs of his restless ambivalence-the fires still smoulder within the shadows of his soul. Still….all are preparing to be a part of the blessing…
XXXIX Return to the Foirfeachta
It had been a long journey to the Garden from the land of Laoch. Eolas and Loach rose early, before the sun showed its light, to make the rest of the way. The pair had already become friendly, sharing stories of hunting and secrets of survival as well as a stretched tale or two regarding their strength and bravery. Laoch showed Eolas the cord around his neck with pride, twisted strips of hide strung with the teeth of a great cat which he had spent a full cycle in contest with.
Eolas was impressed by the tale of how they had stalked each another, both hunter and prey certain of their prowess and eventual victory. As Laoch described the mighty cat, the Hunter could see its yellow hair shining under the sun, could smell its sweat as they rolled upon the ground in battle, and could taste the pungent blood that Laoch took into his mouth when he consumed the beast’s heart. Yes, it was Laoch who came away the victor, taking down the beast in final light of the cycle. This hunt had served him well; for he was in need of skins, food and the tools which he made from the animal’s bones. It had been a blessed time for both of them, he assured Eolas. This warrior seemed to enjoy the victory of the hunt much more than Eolas did, and his story telling skills were amazing. Eolas understood that hunting-and the subsequent killing-was necessary of course; but taking a life never gave him any satisfaction. It was simply as things were meant to be-this cycle of living things. The Hunter always prayed for the Spirit of whatever he consumed to live on through himself and he supposed that Laoch, in his way, did the same.
As they completed another round of stories and were praising one another, something caught their eyes at the same moment; and they looked up to see the edges of a lush Garden not far ahead. Something had moved in the mid-day light, drawing their mutual attention; and they lifted their hands to their eyes, hoping to see more clearly. Yes, both decided at once, it was a human form standing near the edge of the trees; but it was not Dohman’s Mother nor her companion that now lifted a hand to shield eyes that gazed back at them.
Hunter and Warrior raised their arms in greeting at once, and the apparition waved back. They trotted the last bit of distance, and soon they could see that the strange figure waiting for them was a female. But this was not the Keeper of Dohman, nor was it the wise counselor whom Eolas met while making her own journey to the garden, much to his secret disappointment.
As they neared the stand of trees at the edge of Foirfeachta, they forgot themselves as they became overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. The Garden had a way of enveloping one, as if it had its own life; and it was a very welcome sight, familiar in ways they did not understand. Instantly there were cool breezes brushing their skin and the world seemed quieter somehow.
(All of Dohman was this way before HE was born, thought Inion)
The travelers knew nothing of what had passed before, but only that it was very good to be welcomed here agin, and by one so lovely. Truly this female was a beautiful creature, although very tall compared to the other females that Eolas had come to know. Her dark hair fell in a scattered, wavy fashion all about her shoulders which were covered in a kind of animal cloak. The leather skin was long and cinched at the waist with a strong cord of some type of vine he did not recognize. Where this cord hung down between her legs there were colorful pieces of stone attached. These, too, were like nothing he had seen before. They were sharp-edged and had brilliant color, so unlike the smooth, water-worn stones from the river and creek beds, with their dull brown and black tones.
Laoch noticed these things as well but gave only brief attention to them. He was more focused on the female’s actual body. She was tall, nearly as tall as Eolas; and her shoulders, though rounded by a gentle curve, were very wide. Her body was long from neck to waist with very muscular legs. This was a strong female. Both males sensed strong energy surrounding her and recognized that she was somehow different; and she, sensing it, quickly tried to cloak it.
Not too much too soon, she thought to herself.
Naofa was very discerning and immediately began sizing up the new arrivals. Musing to herself, she made note of the calmly reserved manner Eolas bore and realized that this must be the Counselor of whom her Mother had spoken. The top of his head looked as a great bird; and not until he was very close did she dismiss the idea that perhaps he was half bird-half human! The colors in the headdress he wore were magnificent… and they somehow seemed very familiar. She knew many birds in all colors; but there was something different about the color in these feathers..the way the wind caught them and moved them just so….YES! She recalled the vision of her Mother! These were the very same colors in the scales of the great fish Goddess from her dream.
She didn’t realize she had cocked her head thoughtfully to one side until Laoch spoke, “I am Laoch from the land of the Cliffs. You do not yet know me, but I have come for the same purpose of welcome as Eolas.” He placed a hand on the tanned shoulder of his traveling companion, who smiled in her direction.
Without blinking, Naofa looked from one to the other with confidence, and spoke plainly. “It is true we have not met before now, but I know you well through the words and stories of the Family in the Garden. Eagna has spoken very highly of you, Eolas.” The Sorceress gave a cursory nod in Eolas’ direction. Without realizing it, a grin invaded the face of the Hunter at the very sound of Eagna’s name. He quickly checked it, but it did not escape Naofa’s keen eye and sharp intuition. Curious though she thought it to be, she continued her welcome, “I am Naofa. I was sent by the Goddess Mother to help ensure the safe delivery of humanity’s child and to oversee the sanctification ceremony for this new life born to our World. There is much for all of us to concern ourselves with, but we will share these things soon enough.”
The Warrior was bold with no reserve-a simple and honest male. Shifting his bundles higher upon his shoulder, he asked the Sorceress, “Where do you come from, Naofa?. I live in the land of cliffs and sand that lie near the foot of the mountains which cradle Dohman’s sun. I have been here before to instruct Fireann in the ways of the hunt. I taught him the way of weapons and tools.” He was quite proud of all that had been accomplished on his visit with the Garden couple. He was not expecting the response he got from their hostess.
“Weapons?” queried Naofa, her voice taking on a sharp edge. Her easy stance became rigid as the slackness in her jaw disappeared, and her facial features becoming taut as she spoke. Both males noticed the sudden air of tension that suddenly hung between them, a chasm that was non existent only seconds before.
She eyed Laoch quickly from head to foot, noting the strength visible in his arms, legs and torso. What he lacked in stature he made up for in breadth. His face was painted with decorative lines and there were bands around his upper arms drawn on with the same color. His skin was very dark, as though he’d been hung over a fire just a bit too long. This last visualization, along with the look of sheer openness which defined his face caused Naofa to relax. It even amused her to think of him hanging over a fire pit. She stifled a laugh which further confused the new arrivals.
Undaunted and innocent, the Warrior felt compelled to answer her question about weapons. “Fireann will need these things for hunting the large beasts for food; and perhaps the winds will shift, bringing the cold nights to this place. Then will they need skin for covering their bodies against the winds. I came before, to show some of these ways of living to Fireann. He is a very fast learner.” He grinned, completely unaware of the suspicion he had aroused within the heart of the wary female.
“And Laoch is a very good teacher.” Eolas reached up to give his new friend a slap on the back to show his mark of approval; for he had seen the change in Naofa’s countenance and understood her feelings of concern. Eagna had spoken to him of the dark one during their time of counsel. She told him that each should be aware of the empty space they all had, along with the understanding of what havoc would be wrought by listening to the voices that called from within it.
Eolas had quickly grown to admire his companion, rough-hewn though he was, and had seen no trace of his slipping into any dark thoughts thus far. Already both males had forgotten Laoch’s original question; and Noafa was glad of it. She was not ready to answer questions about her life-or identity-for she knew the importance of her ambiguity this early in their relationship.
The Sorceress opened her arms wide and touched their shoulders, a radiant smile spreading across her angular face, “Well, then, our circle appears to be complete. Come, help me bring these things back to our new family where we can continue preparations for the ceremony.” Each one picked up a bundle to add to their own load of gifts and supplies as they made their way inward, to the heart of the Garden.
For Love of Ar’tine
“And what have you been doing all this time away, my beloved?” Ar’tine already knew where Bandia had been but waited patiently for her reply. He wanted her to say it.
The Goddess did not like feeling exposed or monitored and her reply was curt, “Not that I must answer to you, but I have been on Dohman, awaiting the human child’s birth. It has arrived fully healthy and hungry; and preparations are being made even now for its sanctification to Spirit. There will be such beauty there in the Garden, so much love,” she began, but thought better of expressing too much enthusiasm. For as much as she loved this dark God, she also knew another feeling in his presence. And fear had no place within Unconditional Love. She well understood Ar’tine’s limitations at this point. Understanding how precious was this event, how crucial her words might be, she continued speaking with feigned strength and control, trying to avoid the most obvious question. “Everyone has arrived to welcome the child, so it won’t be long now before Inion’s world is brought to balance. You’ll see.”
But Ar’tine could always be relied upon to state the obvious. “You have failed to provide one bit of important information Bandia. What is the child?”
“Why the child is perfect, so precious, so healthy, so..”
“NOT what I’m looking for dearest!” he tried to control his impatience. WHAT is its nat…,” he began, but she cut him off.
“The child is a strong beautiful male, just as is his father, M’na’s companion, Fireann. He will now grow in the glow of love with their protection and guidance.” She pretended to be ignorant of the god’s jealousy for the male of Dohman. Her intent did not go unnoticed, however.
Was this meant to be a threat? Ar’tine wondered. Surely not. How long now had he been proving he could be trusted, working with the others in Eternity to produce all they thought was necessary to return perfection to that which seemed perfect to him just as it had been created. It had not mattered, for if it kept him in good standing with Spiorad Mor, he would play along. Until such moment that something more promising presented itself. And if he had truly earned the allegiance of his new companion, Bandia, he would have an ally who would perhaps be his consort as well. Soon enough.
(Mor wondered why It didn’t just send this one back to where Mac had drawn him from. Its Son could create again. It was purely the Unconditional Love of all Its Creation that now protected the dark god. Or was it something more? Along with disappointment there also lay a grain of anticipation in Mor’s core. After the healing and acceptance from the others in the Realm, would Ar’tine remain true to his promise of reform-or would He eventually succumb to the creeping vines that still ensnared the core of his soul? Great Spirit understood that for Its son to be victorious over his own darkness he would have to do more than ignore the vines of deception; and he also knew it would be Ar’tine’s greatest challenge. M’or knew that deceiving those within the eternal realm would be the least of Its Dark Son’s trials.)
“They prepare for the sanctification even now,” the Goddess continued. “We won’t know how well our experiment has worked until the infant grows to the state of thought and reason. These things are as new to us here within the Realm as they are upon my Mother’s Creation. There is one certainty, however, and that is that he is surrounded by Love and Guidance. No harm will come to this One. He is the first.”
Ar’tine was absorbing it all, glad in the knowledge he had been a part of the greatness-included in the process. The unfortunate thing is that all was not for the sake of Love and Light in him. His had an ulterior motive, although he knew no name for this new vine of destruction. Now that the deed was done on Dohman, his thoughts were turning once more to his As’me. Where was she and when would Mor allow her to return to human form? He was lonely for his Creation. He sighed unconsciously.
Sensing his unrest and pain, Bandia reached out to this soul she had grown both fond of and deeply concerned for. Could he truly be transformed within? She held out hope. “Mac an Mor.” (This is how she addressed him, for it seemed to ease his fires) We shall all go to be with the Garden Family for the Sanctification ceremony. You will be joining us?”
His reply was distracted as he was immersed in his own thoughts, “I thought you said the veil had grown too heavy for those on Dohman to hear us any longer. How will they even perceive of our presence?”
It was then that the goddess, in another error in judgment-perhaps her greatest yet- chose to ease the pain of her own empty space by pleasing her beloved. “There is a way,” she began slowly…
Ar’tine, still not intrigued, interrupted, “But they are not sleeping. Visions and dreams will not be sufficient.” He knew all about the smoke and mirrors of their dream visits and viewed them as mildly useful, but nothing more.
Bandia hesitated only briefly, for if she had lingered over her thought longer, she would surely have changed her mind. But she did not. Her love for Ar’tine was greater than her fear for humankind. “I can help you to be there,” she blurted. “I move about my world at will; and I am with my children always, even though they can no longer see me in my true form. I can become one with the essence of other creatures on my world, join their Spirit for a time. In this way I can communicate with anyone who is in tune with Spirit.”
All too late the small, inner voice of her soul cried, “Yes, just as this Dark One does on his own world and was the very path by which he destroyed his own Creation!” Bandia held her breath, not certain of what would come next. Had she done what Love dictated by this gift?
Something then arose within the core of Ar’tine. Whether it was comfort, relief, the anticipation of hope, or the gnarled, dark vine rejuvenating itself within him would be argued eternally without complete resolution. And his response gave no incriminating evidence for either side.
“Well now, this is promising indeed. You are even more powerful than I realized my dear. I will be very pleased to join the celebration with the happy Family. Shall we..?”
Even as Inion heard this exchange, before she could protest her daughter’s intentions, both God and Goddess were making their way to Dohman. Never being able to join the physical beings on her world, and now being farther removed from her beloved children on Dohman, Inion called upon her Creator and her Twin to join with her in making their presence known and their desires understood on this most important occasion.
Mor also witnessed the scene between god and goddess, but sensed no malice within Ar’tine’s intent towards the inhabitants of Dohman. If so, It would have intervened. Instead Great Spirit chose to see Light as possibility for the darkness in Ar’tine. “Come my Leanai, may this be a time of great healing and reconciliation for all in the Eternal Realm as well as a blessing upon those to whom you have given life.”
to be continued….
Thank you for reading. If you have read this and other chapters, I hope you will leave me a comment, some feedback or thought. Thank you and may your life be filled with Unconditional Love.