“Yes, Mother,” answered Mac. “Ar’tine has not gone to Domhan since the night he toyed with M’na. Bandia can entertain him with a new project on one of their other worlds. Perhaps this would ease his impatience for As’me’s return.”
Mac consciously practiced Unconditional Love for his son in spite of all that had happened, and continued to happen; but he sensed somewhere within his core, at the place of Mac an Mor’s inception, that this was not going to ever be enough to light the god’s dark soul.
Mac sent both God and Goddess into the farthest realms to work on worlds yet in the early stages of their development. These worlds did not support living beings. Not yet. Physical creation was still too new, too experimental, to be spread quickly. Ar’tine’s talent for exquisite creation were not in question. His work with the rock and ore of Domhan Eile were impressive. Metals derived from the solid form of his world could be physically changed and formed into very useful items.
Mac began to question his own Wisdom in allowing Ar’tine to be involved in the creation of new tribes now living on Domhan. The dark one had filled them with wisdom in his own style of creation, teaching them as well the gifts of working with stone. But what if he had also filled them with those traits which were not so desirable? Mor’s son knew they must be careful and not move too swiftly. These physical beings needed time to develop spiritually before gaining too much power over creation. There was that thing again. Power. Why did it seem so negative? Mac, of course, knew the pitfalls of power as well as the consequences of its misuse. “It is my own fault he is so imbalanced,” Mac berated himself.
Every soul in the dwelling slept soundly and with no visions to molest their sleep. Laoch awoke feeling refreshed and was well pleased there had been no return of the dark form. He wondered if this was due to the miracle on the ledge, or if the fact that he clutched the white stone in his fist throughout the night had kept the nightmares-and the dark one-away. Perhaps it had been both; but it was of no consequence in the early light of morning, for he pushed the nightmare from his mind and arose with the first hint of light to go fishing. Now the air was filled with the smell of sizzling fish and simmering grass flower tea, nudging the others from their sleep. It would be a perfect start to their day.
Laoch wasn’t sure how much sleep Eolas and Eagna had, for he could hear them most of the night, moving and making soft noises together-happy noises. At one point he considered looking in on them, but was stopped by the new something that their sounds stirred within his own body. It was as if a fresh view of living had been touched in him after eating the strange fruit. He wondered if Naofa heard them as well, his hand still tingling from the feeling of hers upon it the night before, warm and enveloping as she comforted him through his awakening. His musings were interrupted by the sound of soft cursing from deep inside the cave; and he grinned to himself, knowing the cause for this small outburst. Naofa was at odds with the bats in his cave.
“I shall never be accustomed to them! Dark night’s creatures, darting across the top of my head without a sound. And they leave such a mess,” she stated as she ran her fingers through her long locks and tied them back with a length of twine. Seeing Laoch’s amusement in the face of her frustration, the Sorceress forgot her ranting, regained her composure and arranged her tunic nervously. She didn’t care to be a spectacle nor make a scene; and she couldn’t understand this sudden awkwardness that came over her while in his presence. “I don’t have these creatures in the sea caves at all; and if they are present, they do not show themselves to me. I rarely go deep inside the tunnels, so I am not affected by their…living habits.” Naofa shuddered involuntarily and laughed nervously as she breathed in the crisp, morning air and sat down. Knotting the twine around her hair with a final tug, she placed her hands on her knees, looked at the Warrior and took on a more somber tone, inquiring after Laoch’s sleep.
“Were there any visitors to your dreams last night?” He shook his head and held out his hand, still closed in a fist. Uncurling his fingers, he revealed the smooth white stone lying in the center, like a tiny perfect egg against the brown earth. “Did you hold it thusly all night?” Naofa asked, unable to hide her amazement. The Warrior nodded. He reached out his hand to return the treasure to its rightful owner; but the Sorceress shook her head a bit too vehemently, causing hair to slip from its binding and fall around her shoulders so that she had to stop and tie it again. Every move she made seemed to etch itself in the Warrior’s mind.
“No, no, there are others where that one came from,” she insisted. “This stone from our ceremony is my gift of peace and comfort to you. I am satisfied and very pleased that our efforts were successful. The true message is that anything is possible when summoning and trusting in the Light.”
“It was a dream, actually, but a dream such as yours; for it was driven by the thought of darkness.” Naofa hesitated, uncertain of how to share the details without alarming her friend. “The difference was that in my dream..there was a…creature,” she said deliberately and slowly so as not to ambush her friend’s new sense of peace. He merely nodded for her to continue. “I was in my home, and as though seeing through a window within my dream, I could view Foirfeachta, bathed in night and the sky littered with stars. As I gazed toward the blackness there came through the night sky a flaming arrow being delivered by a most fierce creature.”
Naofa stopped talking for a moment to gaze at the markings on Laoch’s chest, something which did not escape the Warrior’s awareness. Trying to understand the awful vision that now stared back at her from that chest, she continued. “This creature set fire to all of Foirfeachta and its family. I heard them cry out in agony and felt their pain and suffering but was helpless to aid. It was a great leathery beast that breathed roaring fire and laughed in the wake of its destruction. So, you see, when I saw your new tattoo, well, I..I was concerned..”
Dawning crossed Laoch’s face as he comprehended the the fear that must have burdened the Sorceress’s heart before she knew the truth. This knowledge was painful; but he didn’t know what to say, how to help. He poked the fire, pushing the cooked fish to the side, and remained thoughtful for a moment before he spoke, revealing his own worst fear. “Tell me, Naofa, did you see the soul of this beast?” Before she could answer he asked another question, most certainly not one she had expected. He took a deep breath. “And did it have my face?”
Taken aback at the stark honesty of his question, she immediately sought to reassure him. “Laoch, no, this creature bore the markings of darkness, most certainly, but there was no resemblance to you, no thought of you at all within my dream. Still…understanding the dark force in Ar’tine as I have come to…and knowing that you are-connected-to him through creation, I wanted to come here-to help shield you-before he could find a way to use you.” Her voice became strong with deep conviction, “And it would seem I was wise in doing so.”
She reached out to touch Laoch’s shoulder, but he instinctively withdrew from her. It was not that he found her gesture offensive. In fact, it was quite the opposite; for her touch had now taken on a new dimension for him and he wasn’t at all certain what it meant.
Misreading this reaction as shame for being his Father’s pawn, Naofa was quick to offer consolation, “Laoch, you are protected by Light. If you are always intent on the work of Light, Ar’tine cannot invade your Essence. We will figure out this vision of the fire breathing creature-I promise.”
“Do you mean the one with the leathery wings and black heart?” came the gentle but anxious query from over Naofa’s shoulder. It was Eagna, animal hide in hand, brow furrowed in concern. She had been quietly storing their things when she overheard the discussion going on by the fire. Naofa and Loach exchanged surprised, knowing looks before turning their attention to Eagna.
Motioning for her friend to sit, Naofa poured her a cup freshly brewed tea and urged Eagna to explain the reason for her question. Eagna took a long sip of the tea. It tasted strong and helped to calm the rising dread that loomed over her soul. She would need courage to relive the dream she had been working so diligently to forget. Understanding her hesitation, Naofa urged her quietly, “Go slowly. Take as long as you need, Sister, Eagna and do not leave any details untold; for it is most important that we unravel the tangled threads of this mystery.” Naofa brushed a strand of hair from her face and waited. After a few moments she urged the other to speak, “Have you, too, see a vision of the beast who came to us?”
“And in my hands where once lay the treasure of my heart, there was nothing. Then the beast disappeared into the endless sky.” Eagna looked to Naofa hopefully; for she felt if anyone could understand these mysteries then surely it was she. She, who could see the world of Domhan from her Lake of Visions and bring the Light of Eternity into their midst with her ceremonies must certainly know what it all meant. And what they were to do about it.
Laoch watched this gesture and thought how beautiful she was, wondering why he hadn’t noticed it before. And why was he noticing it now? He rose to get bowls for their food and another cup for tea as Eolas surfaced from below the edge of the rock overhang. No one had noticed him slip down the steps and make his way to the river’s edge, bringing back fresh water . Seeing his dripping hair Eagna smiled, knowing he had taken a morning dip to rinse the dusty cave from his skin. She wiped her tear-stained face and rose to greet him. The Hunter put down the container and embraced his beloved as though they had been parted for longer than a trip to the water’s edge. Eagna did not want to leave his embrace but reluctantly returned to sit beside Naofa. Eolas was in a perfect mood, unmolested during his own night’s sleep.
Naofa was distracted and picked at her fish. After all, it wasn’t her favorite food since she felt so closely related to them these days. Instead she nibbled at the root vegetables and drank several cups of tea. She looked at Eolas and Eagna, feeling their contentment, and wanted to reassure them that all was as it should be in their world. Finally, she set her plate down and feigned the deep conviction her heart would not allow her to feel.
So it was that when the remains of the meal were cleared, Eagna produced the familiar lavender/sage bundles they had come to know as the call of meditation. Tossing them atop the smoldering fire, they held hands and sent up their song to the Eternal Realm.
After awhile the flames in the fire crackled, rising high above the ledge as the wind rushed wildly through the canyon below. In unison, as if answering a silent call, they opened their eyes to the morning, just in time to see the Great Vulture dip over the canyon, gliding along the rocks, dipping its wing as it passed the ledge. It circled the canyon and hung on the currents there for a few moments. With a golden eye steadily upon them, it flew in and rested on the stone outcropping near where they sat, its talons scattering the fish entrails discarded from Laoch’s work. The industrious bird hungrily consumed the remains in several bites. It lifted its wings and circled slowly before lifting itself once more from the ledge and diving toward the ground at full speed, darting up just before crashing onto the rocks below.