Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
by Cheryl Pennington
copyright words and photos
Walking with Beasts
“How far is it to your lands?” queried Naofa. The males, who had been lost in their own thoughts, jumped at the sound of a voice coming from the mouth of the muscular, white cat.
Carraig slapped his palm against the side of his head and cursed himself for forgetting yet again. “I will never get used to a voice coming from an animal-especially one so…..” he lowered his voice and looked back over his shoulder at the white beast that sauntered casually behind them. …”so..f.frighteningly beastly.” His breath came in short gasps since they been walking since morning, only stopping briefly to gobble up the dried fish they brought along. He leaned in closer to Rith, as if anything could conceal his ramblings from the Sorceress turned beast. “And why did she have to bring the ‘other one‘? He nodded at the other beast keeping pace with them, although it spoke not a word. Neither male had decided if this was better or worse. At least the speaking reminded them there was a human within. Who could know what passed through the mind of her very large, very serious friend? Carraig continued his complaining. “As though she wasn’t enough, dropped to four legs with a mouthful of sharp teeth. I’m not sure I like the way she peers at me through those eyelashes..,” Carraig grumbled.
He was grumpy from hunger pangs that plagued his ample belly. Rith thrust a fat fist into his friend’s shoulder and berated him, “Why do you think she chose such a form? Has anything approached us or hindered our path? Besides,” he chided his hungry friend, “Who do you think does the hunting among these beasts if not the females?” Carraig did not appreciate the allusion to his current state of physical comfort or his friend’s sense of humor over it so he merely grunted and continued to huff his way along the grassy ground. It was Rith who turned back to answer the Sorceress, for that is how he would forever see her, in whatever form she took. There would be no replacing the sight of her transformation from the depths of the river bed into the willowy, dripping beauty that was Light and Magic in one being.
“Sorry about him,” he apologized, shrugging his stocky shoulders, and nodded in Carraig’s direction. “I told you he had a bottomless pit.” If a beast could smile, this one surely did as she looked up at her traveling companion with gray blue pools of wisdom and strength, yet saying nothing. “Uh, um…well, we have about half a cycle’s travel left. Look there, just as we get past this turn of trees, you’ll be able to see the hillside in the far distance…and the river runs through it there. It helps the journey to see the end,” he added shyly, averting his eyes. He couldn’t bear to to look into those endless pools for long without feeling captivated.
The white marvel slumped her shoulders and replied, “And sometimes it adds great weight to the load, depending on the journey….as well as the envisioned end.” Rith started to ask what she meant but the beast stalked away to a row of nearby bushes. Rith thought she must need to be alone for a bit. The yellow cat continued along behind them, gazing at him with glistening, golden eyes. Rith hoped Naofa wouldn’t be away too long, for he was not altogether certain that the yellow beast wouldn’t decide an afternoon snack was just what it needed after all this walking. ‘Humfph,’ he thought. ‘Then Carraig wouldn’t have to worry about his hunger pangs any longer.’
The idea made him chuckle out loud which urged the sinewy golden cat forward, stepping in beside Rith to nudge the chubby hand which hung freely at his side. Instead of jerking it away as common sense would dictate, he gave in to the urge to bury his fingers deep into the softness of its thick, muscular neck, something he felt he may never have another opportunity to do. This made him feel very powerful indeed. He walked on, step for step with the golden beast, his hand resting in the curve of its neck.
Carraig looked back long enough to see this sight and let loose a long, low lament, “Mor help us now….he thinks he can befriend the beasts.” ‘Perhaps I can’, thought Rith,smiling; and this notion caused him to stand a full inch taller and breathe more easily.
After awhile, the white cat returned to walk with them, falling in beside the yellow beast once more. Rith noticed her whiskers looked wet as with dew. But there was no dew with the sun so high in the sky. He held out his free hand and she stepped around to walk beside him, nuzzling her face in that hand to bask in the comfort of his fingers in her fur.
Carraig kept his eyes keenly trained on their destination as they came around the bend and he knew home was growing ever closer. Although it was still a good half cycle away he could already taste the stew his companion Othar Amh’ain, his Patient One, would have waiting for him. She could cook better than any of the other females, and he could eat more than any male in their village. He wasn’t greedy, no, just appreciative of the gifts of the world on which he lived. Onward the quartet trudged, keeping the line of hills in sight. Naofa wondered just what she would find there.
A Mother’s Desire
“Fireann, what do you think is happening with the others?” M’na looked up from her weaving to ask the question.
The male didn’t miss a beat of sharpening the stone for a new axe that was intended for his son. He was thoughtful for a moment before responding. “I know they are fulfilling their promises to Spirit and gathering our people together. I know Eagna and Eolas await the birth of their firstborn child with joy and eagerness; and I know that Naofa is watching the signs for the good of Domhan.”
Finally, he laid aside his tools and walked to where M’na sat weaving a new tunic for Amh’ain who had been growing as swiftly as the grasses. He placed his hands gently on her shoulders. “I think,” he whispered, “that my lovely M’na worries about all on Domhan when surely the Realm is watching each and every one. Why don’t you look..,” he began, but she interrupted impatiently.
“I’ve looked into the stone and seen each of our friends only in vague images, so they must be alright. I just feel as though something is stirring within the essence of my world that I cannot grasp. I suppose I must learn to let go..”
He bent to plant a kiss on the top of her head, smelling the sweetness of herbs in her hair and gently caressed it. She returned the touch, resting her hand upon his. No words were necessary. She could always count on her beloved Fireann to calm her Spirit and see the brightest spots in their life. She felt a sudden twinge within her belly. She caught her breath and held onto it. There! It came again. Looking up at Fireann, she pulled his hand down to rest beneath her own on the new life growing within and wondered. What will it be? Quickly she shifted her thoughts to something else. She would be thankful when this secrecy ended…..
Fireann knew it was too early for him to feel the unborn child’s movements, but he smiled and nodded. Anything for his beloved. His dream still weighed heavily on his mind. Suddenly he thought there might be a way to ease both of their longings…
To be continued…….
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