Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
by Cheryl Pennington
As the Sorceress frantically works to warn her friend in the Garden of the vision she saw, the dark force continues its slow path to where M’na lies sleeping peacefully next to her companion, certain of the gift she will soon receive from her Mothers in Eternity. Little does she understand that gifts come in many packages, and not all are what they seem…….
The Lie that Shines
Trying his new voice, he called to the innocent. “M’na?” Too coarse. Soften it, he thought. Then again, this time with near perfection, he produced an impressive imitation of his beloved Bandia’s voice as he beckoned his prey to attention.
“Daughter M’na, come to me now in the Inner Garden. I am here as you desired it. I have heard your whispers.”
M’na stirred next to Fireann. The hand she had resting on his muscular arm fell to her chest. He did not move. Had she heard a voice? She opened her eyes briefly, but soon succumbed to the seduction of sleep again. Her lids felt heavy and she began to slowly close them; but the voice came again, this time more urgently-and she was certain that it was speaking to her.
“M’na! Awaken Daughter!” Was it a female voice? She thought it seemed so, but it seemed to come from so very far away. Rubbing her eyes, she thought it must be a dream. Forcing her clouded mind awake, she pushed herself up onto her elbows and tried to listen intently, at first only hearing the soft, rapid beat of her own heart. How she wanted to return to blissful sleep. Then it came! Only this time the voice spoke with more urgency, more command.
“My Daughter, you must rise from your sleep and come to me in the Inner Garden at once.” M’na’s heart fluttered frantically in her chest now; for in her mind there was no mistaking that it was the call of her Mother Bandia! What could be she want? Was she answering M’na’s prayers even before they made ceremony? The Daughter of Domhan pushed the hair back from her face as she tried to find reason in this strange moment. Perhaps the will to create was so strong in both females that the goddess could sense their desire without any ceremony.
Instead, she quickly and quietly climbed out of their bed and tiptoed to the doorway. Peering through the opening into the dark night she saw nothing but the soft glow of moonlight as it cast shadowy illumination across the clearing. In that moment the voice found her again, even more insistent than before. .
“Hurry, Daughter! I don’t know how long I can remain in this physical form. The veil grows heavier as I wait…” The voice echoed as it floated on the night breeze.
Somewhere deep within the core of M’na was a small voice that cried out for her to listen more carefully, to note that the voice was indeed very different from that of the Goddess she had come to know so well. But that other voice, the lonely one that lived in the dark crescent of her beautiful soul was more audible, drowning out the voice of reason. It was time to ask the Mother for another child! She wouldn’t have to wait another moment.
Becoming so excited about this prospect, she ceased wondering and leapt out into the night, nearly losing her footing as she landed on the soft earth. “Achh!” A tiny exclamation escaped her lips; but she froze and cupped her hand over her mouth. No need to wake Fireann. He and Amhain had spent a full day together, foraging and exploring. Amhain never seemed to get enough of the wild things on his world. She peered over her shoulder into the dwelling where her beloved lay. Fireann shifted and rolled over but did not awaken.
She never heard Naofa’s pleas for her to stop and listen as she watched-helpless-the innocent and trusting M’na make her way deeper into the forest. Noafa grasped at the vaporous mists, feeling if only she could touch her friend she could hold M’na back. It was all in vain as she flung her arms into the thin air before her. As her mind raced wildly, Noafa decided it was time to call upon Mother Bandia herself. She could do nothing to stop whatever might be happening in the Garden right now, but the Goddess may be able to. Perhaps she could move to save her Daughter from whatever fate this dark God had in mind. Who could know, even with his supposed transformation, what agenda he carried within his own soul.
Naofa quieted her mind and pushed her terrifying thoughts of the physical from her consciousness. It took so much effort to connect to Spirit when she was distracted. Breathing, chanting, she called upon the Feminine powers in the Eternal Realm. “Mothers, Bandia and Inion, in the name of all that is Light I summon you now. I need counsel, for the Keeper of our world is in true danger. I fear for her safety and for that of her family”…..again and again she chanted her request so that soon her words were as a song upon the night wind, wafting out of her doorway and up to the heavens. “In the name of Light, in the name of Mor…hear me…please.”
The Creators, deep within the Eternal Realm where they worked to prepare As’me for her incarnation, eventually heard the desperate cries for help; but that would come too late to intervene in this drama of deception. For even as Bandia made her way to Domhan, destiny was playing its role in the Garden.
(Mor did not intervene for he knew Ar’tine would not harm M’na-not now. Its Son and Daughters would need to learn to care for their Leanai more carefully, more attentively, for their children were becoming more independent and their Creators less observant.)
Turning in the direction it was coming from M’na was recognizing the path now and-yes- there it was! The arching vines that concealed the entrance so well were already slightly parted, as though someone had prepared the way for her. Of course. It must have been her Mother.
M’na stumbled in, thankful to be out of the dampness of the forest. It was always perfectly temperate in the garden of peace and comfort. The fragrance from its flowers instantly filled her senses, as did another, strange scent. Not being able to properly place it, M’na was hesitant for a moment; but the vapors calmed her fears as she felt a heady numbness invade her mind. It was not altogether unpleasant and helped to quell her momentary doubt.
She began to look around for Mother Bandia and opened her mouth to call out to the Goddess; but she heard a rustling behind her and turned to greet the goddess. Frozen now, her arms hung limply at her sides and her mouth dropped open in awe as she stared at the vision before her. What she now saw standing in the Garden was not the goddess Bandia at all. What was calling to her, what wanted her so urgently, she now recognized as the great, glistening, eight legged form of Inion.
The creature that was waiting impatiently for the confused female was the same brilliant spider that Inion became as her physical self during their celebration; but now she seemed cloaked in a grey mist. M’na blinked, for her eyes were so hazy and heavy with drowsiness. She tried to rub them clear but to no avail. Inion(It) shifted on Her legs, smiling down at her daughter. Was She smiling? That grin seemed more a gaping hole to some small, alarmed place within M’na’s being.
“Come closer, Daughter,” It whispered through the fog in her head. M’na saw that behind Inion was the Tree of Living Nectar, that very one from which Mother Bandia drew the sweet drops that produced the miracle of Amhain’s birth. She stepped nearer to the tree, not paying much attention to the thing calling itself Daughter of Mor. Curious, she reached out to touch the scarred place where the first cuts had been made. Although the skin of the tree was smooth, the place where the scar remained had grown over roughly, with little bubbles of clear hard knots, as did blood after one has been wounded. She tried to pry some off with her fingernail but found it immovable. The apparition spoke again, stirring M’na from her serious scrutiny of the tree.
“My Daughter, we have heard your heart’s cry for another child. All in the Eternal Realm have seen that your young son has been a blessing to Domhan; and the moment has arrived to add to this world’s life force. It is with love that I brought you here tonight.”(emphasis on the love) ‘Too much?’ wondered the dark God.
“This time you must collect the nectar,” offered the white, shining liar. “You have proven yourself worthy of this gift in the eyes of your Mothers; and it will now be your own gift to Fireann as you present him with the liquor of life on this very night. Then you will know again the ecstasy of Creation. You would like that,,(grinning again)…wouldn’t you?”
(And I would like it as well, thought the dark one, eager to share that particular sensation as it rippled throughout all of existence)
M’na would have sworn she saw Its mouth sneering rather than smiling, but then again…things were so fuzzy..
Ar’tine was struggling to keep his patience with M’na, beautiful though she was. He was now aware of Naofa’s discovery and knew that soon all of Eternity’s children would converge upon him to chastise his actions and spoil his plan. But no matter. The seed would be planted before they could arrive; and they would still have to give As’me the life that was promised. The life he waited for. And what greater life could his daughter have than to be here in the Garden? She deserved it. None would deny that. Once they realized that it had been his overpowering love for his Creation that drove him to these impetuous actions, all would be forgiven and he could share in her life. Ar’tine’s tree of delusions had many branches.
M’na, in her drugged and weakened state, struggled as she tried to free a sharp twig from a nearby tree. Impatiently Inion-in-Guise nudged the branch, helping her to break it loose. Stumbling back to the Tree of Creation, aiming for a point just next to the first wound, and thrust the sharp wood into the soft, smooth bark. Did she hear a soft scream somewhere? Immediately it began to ooze thick, amber sweetness, the effects of which she was recalling with new vigor. Inion/It pointed to a low branch that hung heavy with large, fuzzy leaves. Again it confused M’na that Inion hadn’t simply given her what she needed. She missed her Mother’s touch of tenderness. And she noticed something else about the creature.
The spider’s gaze only moments before had seemed full of the Light of Eternity, shining brilliantly across the Garden..Then It blinked. M’na blinked. Was that the red glow of firelight in Inion’s eyes? She blinked again. No. Only white glimmer, but with a small fleck of slate in the center. So interesting…her mind trailed after this morsel.
“Careful, my dear, you don’t want to waste it, now.” Looking back at the place where she wounded the tree, M’na placed the leaf where it bled honey colored liquid from its life giving vein. Once she had collected more than a few drops, she pushed away from the trunk to steady herself. She felt so dizzy…
“But, Mother, we planned to commune with you tomorrow night..” she began. She was going to reveal the plan of both women to request the gift of creation within themselves; but Inion-It was interrupted her.
“Your Mothers know your heart’s desires before you even ask. We have seen the miracle in your son and hope perhaps now..a daughter will be as fortuitous a gift to humankind. And of course the kinship for you as a female will be great.” It smiled again. Again she wasn’t sure if it was a smile or a sneer. What was it about the way the shining apparition spoke that made her uneasy?
“Go quickly now and wake your companion. Why wait any longer when you hold so much Love (and power) right there in your hand? The night is still upon you and there is time. But hurry. This is Eternity’s desire.”
M’na had no strength left to argue. She looked at the glistening, dewy nectar in the leaf she was holding, then back at the wound she had created in the tree. The low-hanging fruits seemed darker and more luxurious than they had before. Curious, she thought. When Mother Bandia gathered the nectar, the spot from where she had drawn the fluid immediately closed over, sealed with a few crystalline drops. Now the sap continued to ooze from the opening, dripping profusely down the bark of the tree. M’na thought for an instant that it looked like it was weeping…
“Thank you Mother Inion, we are so grateful for this blessing,” she began. But Ar’tine sensed her passion rising; and he was not without his own selfish desires, and so bade her to linger no more.
“Yes, I understand. Go quickly, before the night passes. I am with you, Daughter,” It said, trying to restore some semblance of Motherly tenderness to its voice. (We are ALL with you, It thought.) M’na hurried back to the clearing, and this time the brambles didn’t bother to hinder her progress. What use would it have been to try to delay her now? The Daughter of Domhan was on the path to Create and they were but a mere part of her Creation, after all.
The hungry female never looked back as she left the Inner Garden. She never saw the enormous shining creature take Its last lusty breaths of Domhan’s sweet air as It drew in upon Its own glistening white bod; and she never heard the squishing sound as it pulled its eight legs towards its center before curling itself completely into a white strand that slid across the grasses of her sanctuary.
Once through the arches the strand spread, growing grayer as it retraced M’na’s steps down the dirt path; and by the time it re-entered the clearing, it had once more become the dark form of chaos that first entered the atmosphere of their peaceful world-a chaos lit by the faint glow of red light.
M’na quietly slipped back inside the dwelling, fearful that the pounding of her heart was so loud it would surely awaken her young son, sleeping soundly in his bed. She tiptoed to his doorway and watched him there for a moment, his chest rising and falling rhythmically. She lowered the cloth over his doorway so that his view to her own bed would be blocked. Walking to where Fireann lay, she gently sat down beside him, her senses fully restored and completely certain that what she had seen was no less than a divine vision. All questions that tried to invade her thoughts before had vanished. She convinced herself that what she now held in her hand was truly a gift from the Eternal Realm. Forgotten were the inconsistencies she had sensed, gone was the apprehension that gnawed at her conscience. She touched his shoulder.
M’na awoke to the light of dawn filled with new hope and satisfaction…and a deep aching in her head, although she couldn’t understand why.