Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
by Cheryl Pennington
Othar and Naofa descend into the depths of the caves to the Room of Knowledge. Noafa’s greatest hope lies within its walls, that there is an answer to why they have been plagued with nightmares, what is in store for their world and how they can keep love and light alive in the face of impending darkness…..
Splinters of bright morning light stung her tired eyes; and she shielded them until they readjusted to the harsh glare of daylight. She marveled that the males of this cave world were ever able to stand this coming and going between light and darkness, always having to find a balance and reposition to make the shift from black to blinding light. A faint smile tugged at her mouth as she thought to herself what irony lay in the idea. What a challenge, indeed, to shift between the Light and the Dark of Existence.
Othar appeared above the edge of rock outcropping and smiled a warm hello. Noafa returned her smile; but before she could thank the generous, gentle female who had helped her without asking questions or prodding, the robust companion of Carraig held up her hand and said, “It is a glorious mornin’, Miss Naofa, and I hope your belly has found calm.” The Sorceress nodded in affirmation, mildly embarrassed by her indiscretion.
“Even so, I have made you some chamomile tea, just to keep things settled”. She winked and gestured for the Sorceress to sit beside her near the smoldering embers of their fire and handed her a cup, fragrant steam rising from within it. It was strangely comforting to Naofa’s soul to be cared for. Normally it was she who was coming to the aid of others; and although she moved with great Love through her responsibilities, now it was she who was on the receiving end of compassion. Quietly she thanked Mor for this gift.
She tried to explain, but Othar touched her arm gently. “No matter, Miss. The place of dreams is a strange one. Here in the village, we feel that in one’s mind, travel between our world and the world of Eternity is but a thought. It can be beautiful, but there is always the chance of becoming lost on such a journey. I’m very glad you awoke from it. One does tend to fear being stuck in such a state..”
Othar looked thoughtfully at the burning embers and piles of ash which had formed around the smoldering fire as she poked the remaining wood to keep it alive. Naofa knew she must speak on behalf of the Realm, to bring the truth to all humans in whatever way she could.
“Othar, I understand how difficult it must be to keep the voice of Spirit alive within your heart when it can seem so far away. I am not certain what happened in our world to cause this veil between humans and spirit; but you must know and always remember, even if only in your soul, that it this a false representation-an illusion, if you will. If you could close your eyes and dream all of this away, all that would remain is the Truth. And the Truth is Love; and in that Love you are never alone.” She reached down to touch the soft, pudgy hand that still clutched her arm and gave it a squeeze. When Othar looked into Naofa’s eyes, the Sorceress could see the tears brimming over her lids, threatening to spill onto her pink cheeks. The expression on her face awakened the realization that the words the Sorceress had spoken to Carraig’s mate brought as much comfort to herself as she hoped they brought to her new friend.
Still.. she simply had to see those drawings. Othar must have understood her thoughts; for she wiped her eyes with the back of her free hand, smiled at Naofa, and rose to her feet. “I’ll find him for you now. He’ll likely be finishing up his mornin’ meal.” She wiped her hands on her tunic and shuffled away.
Naofa got to her feet and followed. “Wait, Othar, I’ll go with you.” She ducked back inside the cave to grab her bundle; and in doing so, she was reminded of the fruit that lay within, for it rolled heavily to one side. It was an amazing miracle, this fruit. She opened the leather flap to reveal its glistening, smooth skin, still without a blemish on its surface. “Not now”, she thought, “but as soon as I have seen the drawings…” Carefully, she reached beneath the precious cargo to withdraw a smaller pouch, the one filled with colored stones and the large, clear crystal. There was every chance she would need them in the caves.
Hurrying back to the ledge where Othar waited, she nodded and they climbed over the ledge and descended into the already bustling clearing. The females were busy cleaning, refilling water buckets from the nearby river, and spreading washed clothing to dry in the morning sun. Ah, yes! There was her tunic among the small, wide pieces that now rippled slightly in the morning breeze. She felt her face flush with a moment of embarrassment but there was no use in it so she let it go. The aroma of meats and roots on the air revealed they had already begun preparing the high sun meal; and the smell reminded her that she wanted no part of food for awhile. There was no obvious sign of the males, for they had already begun their descent into the inner caves to start another cycle of work.
Although it seemed the same as any other morning, the villagers worked with lighter hearts, aware of the gift Naofa carried, and knowing their fondest desires were soon to be recognized. When the Sorceress spotted the herb baskets, she stepped over and plucked several sprigs of lavender and sage from their supply, tucking them into her tunic before following Othar up a short climb of steps that led them to the top of a low hill at the farthest end of the clearing.
“Yes, Miss,” came her reply, “but it is a separate cave that is home to the Sacred Word. The Cave of Knowledge has but a single visitor of a cycle, and it is Fhair, who keeps the word which he alone shares with the rest of us in the village. He rarely comes up except for meals, special ceremonies…and now for visitors.” She smiled warmly at Naofa and disappeared into the dark opening that was the cave entrance, passing through its low arch easily standing upright, whereas Naofa had to duck to avoid banging her head against the black rock. Once inside, the height of the cave was only slightly greater, although the Sorceress found it possible to stand to her full height. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, Othar stepped to the side and lifted a large piece of burning wood from somewhere on the cave wall. The flame from its end cast an eerie glow across the small female’s face but did wonders for Naofa’s struggling eyes. Othar held the torch in front of them to reveal a long, dark passageway; and a small light flickered off in the distance. Naofa surmised it was perhaps another of these torch fires. Othar’s voice became muffled in the closeness of the cave.
“We use the torches to keep the passages lit up. It don’t matter much to Fhair; but those who bring him his meals and come to find comfort in The Word need them to get around. The question of why exactly that Fhair did not need these “torches” begged to be asked, but Othar continued speaking and Naofa wanted to pay attention to what she had to say. “See? Just ahead-that light?” Naofa nodded that she did. “Well, that marks the first ladder down. There is more than that to climb down before we reach the room you want to see.”
For a moment Naofa felt a bit uneasy in the stomach again. She never ventured too far into Laoch’s caves, and those near the ocean were open and full of the sounds and life of the waters that surrounded them. This cave was beginning to close its arms around Naofa’s soul. Othar must have sensed her uneasiness; or perhaps she recalled her own need to adjust to the caves and quickly added,” No worries, Miss. It gets better. The walls will open up down below and the top goes higher. You can actually feel a breeze coming through from somewhere. We suppose maybe there is a small tunnel that leads out onto to the cliff by the river. It helps a lot with the breathing.” Othar touched Naofa on the arm and asked tentatively, “Are you okay to go down to the next cave?” Naofa felt foolish and silly. Where was her courage? She nodded more eagerly than her heart felt but urged her host onward. Trudging ahead and a few more steps took them to what appeared to be a solid wall of rock. Othar reached up and placed her torch in an empty holder on the wall, and Naofa could see a huge opening just a few steps beyond where they stood. Its black face seemed to jeer at her with a gaping mouth that seemed a vast chasm to her maladjusted vision; but she had faith in her new friend and nothing would stop her from getting to the Sacred Word!
In the dim light she saw a vine tethered to the far wall and traced its path across the floor of the cave to where it disappeared into the hole. Would they have to hang from that vine to descend to the lower caves-and how far down far was it? Othar crossed to the far side of the ominous hole and began to unroll something-it was a ladder that had been resting there, unseen in the dim light until her hands deftly lifted it into the light. Braided from thick vine, it seemed worthy enough, and this eased much of Naofa’s anxiety. How very clever, she thought.
Othar dropped the ladder into the darkness where it thudded as it hit the rock below, flooding Naofa’s mind with relief, realizing it was a short descent. Their end, secured beneath a heavy rock, seemed safe enough. Moving with a grace that defied her stocky build, Othar lifted her tunic and, grasping the sides of the ladder, descended into the darkness. For an endless moment Naofa waited in silence before she heard the sound of Othar’s feet shuffling on the stone floor below. “Wait a second, Miss Naofa!,” she called back up. More shuffling and waiting. Suddenly she saw a light shining up in her face. It was too bright and the Sorceress couldn’t see a thing in its blinding glow. “Please, Othar, could you lower the flame a bit? I can’t see to follow you.” More shuffling. “Sorry, Miss. Is that better?” The light softened to a dim illumination.
A few more careful moves brought her to the floor of the cave and her feet found solid foundation again. It was not so bad, she thought; and as she looked around, Othar lifted the torch so that she could visualize her surroundings. The female had been honest about the size of the cave and this alone helped Naofa to breathe more easily. This cave appeared to be a semi-circular room.
“See, Miss? I told you it would be more comfortable down here. But the real wonder remains to be seen. The Room of Knowledge is a miracle place. You’ll see.” They walked along the wall, making their way to the far side where a new opening loomed, as the light from the torch danced across the dark rock, revealing flecks of light glinting from within it. They shown out like tiny golden stars. Naofa reached out to touch the lights and realized they were as solid as the rock, that they were indeed a part of the cave wall.
“Why, yes, Othar, I believe it is quite beautiful,” she murmured in answer.
They were plunged into darkness once more as they entered a long passageway and so lifted the torch higher. Noafa was enthralled by the dancing shadows it made on the tunnel walls. The passage got narrower as they went and Naofa anxiously wondered how far they had yet to go. She hadn’t realized how negatively this would affect her. Her mind wondered with awe that Fhair rarely came up out of the cave for she found the idea incomprehensible to imagine. She would have to ask him how he managed it so well.
As they walked, Othar chattered constantly, although Naofa would have been content to be left alone with her thoughts. She had been forcing the dream images from her mind ever since she awoke and now a part of her longed to revisit the nightmare, to try to understand its meaning. But it was not to be, for her guide was relentless in her quest to be cordial.
“Well, Miss, will you be alright by yourself with Fhair, then? He’s a good, kind fellow, most devoted in our village; although to tell you the truth, all the folk are kind and gentle in this place.” Othar wiped her hands nervously down her tunic, glancing at the ground. When she looked back up her eyes shone like stars in the glow of the torch, her words carefully chosen and spoken softly. “We are very happy with our place on Domhan, happy in what we do…if you know what I mean.” Naofa nodded and Othar continued nervously. “We could live our lives out to their ends in just this way, for we love one another..our males I mean to say. It’s just that, well, something inside of us is empty like a dug hole, a deep place needing to be filled. We see the animals grow in numbers, we watch the mothers care for the newly born to them, and we can see the love in it. Well, we grow tired of watching and greatly desire to increase our kin. And with the message of the prophecy, well, we are more than ready to be on with it!” Her voice rose, echoing through the semi dark passageway. She pressed her hand quickly to her mouth and gasped. Naofa smiled and Othar was relieved, lowering her voice again. “Not that I mean to sound impatient with you for not getting here sooner. No Ma’am. We’re just real glad that things are movin’ on, if you get my meaning.” She cleared her throat.
A long moment of silence passed before Naofa realized Othar had finally stopped talking. Her breaths were coming in short wisps, the rotund female winded from the descent and chatter. Naofa roused herself and gathered her own wandering thoughts together into a cohesive attempt to rally the female. “Othar, there is no need to apologize, really. I understand your eagerness to fulfill the prophecy and to bring new life to your village as well as long life to your tribe.” Othar stared at a glowing ball of light that bobbed up and down on the dark rock just beyond Naofa, embarrassed to look directly at the Sorceress in her moment of honesty. “All things had to be made right in due course for this to happen…surely the message of the prophecy must have spoken to you of the waiting..”
Othar interrupted. “Oh, yes, Miss, it showed many passing of the sun cycles before you-the Light Ones-would appear to bring the gift of increasing life to us. We’ve been markin’ off the passin’, we have. Yes, Ma’am.” She was very short of breath now, brought on by her constant chatter and the pace they had been keeping, worsened by the sudden thinning of the air in the passage that became impossibly narrower. Naofa could touch opposite walls at once if she tried to raise her arms even slightly from her sides. Wishing to dissuade her rising anxiety, she continued her questions.
“Not to worry Miss. We are near to the mouth of the Great Room. Fhair is waiting there. He knows you are comin’. He asked me to bring you right away when he came up for his meal.” Wonderful, thought Naofa, and hoped Othar would not expound on what exactly he had eaten. She was starting to feel queasy again from the thin air and tight, dark space that seemed to be tightening its grip.
“Good morning Sorceress!,” the cheerful voice of Fhair cut through the air as he made his way to where they entered his domain. He appeared to have been working not far from where they stood; and as Noafa’s eyes adjusted to the increased light in the massive cave, she could hardly believe what she saw. The detail, the extent of his work left her speechless. Turning away from the approaching male, her eyes followed the rocky path along the wall from the place where they entered, moving in the opposite direction of where Fhair had been working. Torches placed at equal intervals illuminated the walls, revealing long stretches of drawings that rose from the floor and climbed to the ceiling. It was obvious that every line had been etched into the dark stone carefully. How could he have done this alone? At the base of the rock wall was a wide ledge that sloped gently down to the edge of a lake that defined the floor of the cave. Its surface was crystal clear, and reflections of the drawings glinted in the dark areas of the pool. Within the torch lit areas, Naofa could easily see into the depths of the water where rock formations rose like trees from wherever the bottom might be. The glint of many crystals embedded within these formations swam beneath the surface like rainbow lights. These treasures were familiar to the Sorceress, abundant in the ocean caves of her homeland, and crucial to the balance of energy on their world. Similar formations hung from high overhead, reaching down like great fingers out of the darkness to dip stony fingers into the water’s surface.
The scene left her quite speechless so that the niceties of formal greeting failed her. Fortunately, Fhair was a keen intuitive. “Overwhelming, isn’t it? To see the creation and path of a tribe spread before you in writ on the stone?” Naofa pried her eyes from Creation’s miraculous work to speak to Fhair at last, watching as he made the last few steps to where she stood. She was curious that he slid his hand along the rock as he walked, clinging closely to the wall as he made his way to her. His step was confident, but there was something odd about the tilt of his head….
“Are you alright Naofa?” Othar jarred her from her musing, reminding her that a response was customary at this point. “Oh! Yes, of course, I am fine. And a good morning to you Fhair.” She held out her hand but he did not return the gesture. So odd. And she let her own fall to her side again. Othar did not seem to notice so Naofa continued. “To answer your question, yes, this is nothing short of a miracle! I have never seen anything so intricate, so detailed, so….” her voice trailed as her eyes returned to the journey that unfolded on the rock around the cave, seeing so much better now. From the floor to as high as her own hand could reach and beyond in some places, were drawings-the life and history of this gentle cavern tribe.
She could easily see the similarity between the drawings Rith scribbled in the dirt and these carefully etched images carved onto the rock wall. Slowly and deliberately she walked the circumference of the room, trying to commit every image to memory. She saw the creation of their tribe just as Rith and Carraig had described it.
There were figures beyond the creation place of their village, figures she recognized well-obviously the feathered plume of Eolas, the flowing hair of Eagna and the square, massive figure of Laoch-all kneeling around another group, again easily known to her as M’na, Fireann and the infant Amhain. The infant had tiny lines emerging from its head, reminding Naofa of the light of the sun as it streamed through a dark blue morning sky. Interesting. She felt curiously embarrassed by the tall form that held its arms to the skies, face upturned as curling smoke rose before it-before her. She hardly recognized herself standing before the fire, lifting prayers to the Realm after the birth of Mn’a’s son. This figure had a mystical, commanding feel to it which seemed distant to how she felt in that moment. She was not so special, after all. Was she?
Naofa moved along the mural, touching each figure, each scene, and saving it in her soul. She recognized the forms of the Creators-Mac, Inion, Bandia-and of course, the Dark God. Something about even thinking his real name made her flesh crawl. She wanted to love him, she did love him, as Great Spirit would have her do; but her physical senses felt nothing but revulsion when she thought of him, his selfish love as he stood over his own daughter, As’me, trying to join with her, to consume her…yet there was nothing in the drawings which spoke of that event. Naofa understood why. It was for the very same reason she had to push it from her own mind now. To think of it-to speak of it, gave it power and made it real once more. There would be too many questions from these innocents; and what would happen to that innocence to know such darkness exists? Let them hold their ignorant bliss awhile longer while the Realm concealed its mysteries. She was relieved to know that the Creators were being as compassionate from Eternity as the Light Ones were being on Domhan. For now at least.
There were scenes showing their own roles to play in the life on Domhan. The drawings showed them rising from the dust and entering the caves, finding sustenance and rest before they began digging and collecting rock and stone from deep inside the caves. ‘Why the collecting?’, wondered Naofa absentmindedly as she let her fingers run across the bumpy surface, her skin tingling from the energy that lived within it.
“Please, do go and take care of your work. I will be fine here with Fhair.” But before Othar disappeared through the dark opening, Naofa made a final request of the best cook in the village. “Oh! Othar, could you make sure there is some fish with the evening’s meal? And maybe some boiled roots and fresh herbs?” She sincerely did not wish a repeat episode of the one she awakened to that morning.
Naofa nodded gratefully. “Oh, perhaps it would be good, but only if it isn’t more trouble for you,” Othar shook her head to imply that it would not and disappeared through the black hole that lead away from the Room of Knowledge.
‘Ah’, she thought to herself and breathed a sigh of relief. Now she could turn her attention to the story on the wall again. There was so much detail, every event she had known was drawn there. A sad drawing of M’na being led to the inner Garden by the fake Inion-Spider, its red eyes glowing, showed the Mother with a very realistic expression of fear, an expression that clearly told Naofa her friend must have been under a dark power to not have seen that this awful creature was an imposter. The eyes were so real, they seemed to glint tauntingly at the Sorceress. She blinked to make certain it was only a drawing and moved quickly from the scene.
He stepped closer and looked at that mysterious spot just over her shoulder and not directly at her. This was disconcerting although she ignored it still. “Why, I carve them, Sorceress,” he said. She bristled a bit at the title and she felt she had ignored it long enough.
“Oh, my, Fhair, you’ve hurt yourself..” she began, but he simply rubbed the injured spot clumsily with the other hand. “No worries, Miss. At the cycle’s end, I will wash my hands in the pool. It will heal the work wounds, you see.” He turned to the lake and took a few steps forward, motioning for Naofa to follow. A mere glimmer of light reflected off of the smooth surface where they stood, making vision difficult.
“May I use the torch light?” she asked. Fhair stepped instinctively to the nearest torch and, without looking, reached up and took it from its place in the rock and returned to Naofa, extending it over the pool so that she could see more clearly. Soft light spread over the crystalline surface, illuminating its depth. The formations rose proudly from the bottom, some breaking the surface like little mountains, while others were not so small. The Sorceress was mesmerized.
“Do you mean to say that if you dip your hand in that water, then your wounds will be healed?” He was not looking at her, but gazing across the room as if into space.
Finally Fhair broke her reverie. “You must understand, dear Naofa, that this is a gift from the Creators..for my sacrifice.” Fhair did not see the look of confusion cross the Sorceress’s face as he continued, “It was given that I should never be in a state of pain or ill of body…so that I might continue to record the prophecy.” Naofa sought to understand what Fhair was saying. Of course the Creators had power to make anything possible; and looking around the cave she saw it for the miraculous gift it was. Overwhelmed by so much mystery, she finally asked her new friend, “Fhair…tell me. How do you know what to draw? Where do the stories come from?” Again she was aware that he seemed distracted, looking at a spot over her shoulder instead of directly into her eyes. The dark fingers of doubt pricked into her mind. Did he have something to hide? This habit of his so drove her to distraction that in exasperation she finally gave in to her curiosity “Fhair! Are you listening to me? Why do you not look me in the eye?” She dropped his hand abruptly.
Taking a few steps back from her, he began to wring his hands and looked down. He seemed ashamed which only fueled the Sorceress’s rising doubt. Could he be controlled by Ar’tine somehow? It was awkwardly silent for a moment as Fhair desperately searched for his words. He did not want the Sorceress to feel pity for him.
‘The truth must be told,’ he admonished himself, and so he spoke. “Sorceress….I’m sorry. Naofa. Truth is…. I can’t look you in the eye.” She wanted to ask why not as he continued to look away and over her shoulder, when he spoke again, his voice at once trembling with emotion. “I can’t look you in the eye…be..because I can’t see your eyes. I can’t see anything.” He looked down towards his feet, fearful of her response. Now that the Sorceress knew his secret, she might think less of his gifts.
(The empty space awakened in all souls eventually.)
He knew in his mind that this was not so, but his heart was saddened that he could not gaze at her lovely face and know the gift of sight that the others knew. He could sense the great sorrow in her hesitation and felt the shift in her energy; so he reached out to comfort her in her awkwardness and rising guilt, which brought his heart to right again.
“No need to be sorrowful or concerned, Naofa, for I have always been this way. And what was never known is not so easily missed. When the Creators drew me from the earth, they did not light my eyes, for then I would have been too greatly distracted by the physical world; and that which is the Mysterious would have remained hidden. I have the gift of vision into the Eternal Realm. I am ever ready to hear the words of the Creators and share them…here.” He swept his arm over the room. “In this way I am very blessed. What distances me from the physical world has brought the presence of Spirit closer still.”
Naofa felt a surge of shame for her irritation. How could she not have known? As a healer herself, she should have sensed it; but she was so preoccupied with the drawings, the damned physical proof. Quietly she laid both hands on his thick, strong shoulders. “Well, Fhair, I am now looking directly into your beautiful eyes, eyes that see what none of us can; and I want you to know that they are quite beautiful and full of the Love of Eternity. I can see it now. I just wasn’t looking closely enough. Can you forgive me?”
“Dear Fhair, you can see into the Eyes of Eternity. No greater gift could be desired.”
Standing once more, she straightened her tunics, cleared her throat, and returned her attention to the drawings. It was so easy to spot Eolas with his colorful plumed headdress and Laoch, ever at his side. She saw them etched on a section of the wall where there were many other males, all tall and erect, with some sitting high on the backs of strange animals. These did not look like the wild beasts she knew or the deer that were hunted for food. They were muscular and well built, making it easy for humans to straddle them. “How amazing!” she murmured. Behind these figures were what looked like very large, domed structures. It was there that she found the source of the smoke spirals, just as Eolas and Laoch had done. It was not merely a single source, but many!
“May I ask another question, Fhair? How do you see these visions? When something new needs to be drawn, does the voice of Mother Inion speak to you?”
“When it is time to add another part of our story to the wall of Life, one of the Creators speaks to me in a dream. I never know which it will be although it is usually our Father, Mac. He seems to have the strongest connection to me.”
Naofa nodded but realized the folly in this and responded, “And he tells you what to draw?”
Fhair shook his head. “No, no. He tells me it is time; and when I awaken I come to the lake and look into its face. It is within the water that I see what to draw.”
Naofa was growing more confused and wanted to clarify the seeming contradiction. “So….when Mac speaks to you, you come to the Lake; and then at those times your eyes can see images in the water?”
Again Fhair shook his head. “No. I don’t see.. with these.” He touched his eyes. “I see…in here.” This time he touched his head. “But it only happens if I am here at the lake of miracles.”
Things were finally beginning to make sense to the Sorceress. “So that is why you can never leave but for short periods. You are afraid that you..” and they finished the sentence together, “will miss something.” He nodded emphatically. It was all so clear to her now, and she felt great empathy for this precious soul, so diligent, so dedicated to keeping the Word alive for his people. Another thought overwhelmed her, taking her breath away with its dawning. With these visions so clearly seen in the pool of miracles, every session for Fhair would be like regaining sight and then losing it again once the vision was gone. He returns to blindness anew with each visit. It must be so heartbreaking, thought the Sorceress.
So easily had she been able to enjoy her own gifts of beautiful transformation, to flow between the world of human and of animal since the time of her birth. Had she begun to take it for granted? The thought of never swimming with the ocean creatures again, able to run with the great yellow cat, or soar with the white headed king of the skies would be an end to a part of her very being. Then yet, the thought of being confined to her dark waters as one of those creatures, never to stand among the grasses or sit at a table with her companions again was just as overwhelmingly sad. Either life seemed a prison to her, so long had she been able to move gracefully between the forms she loved.
She looked up at the scene unfolding before her. There were the same males from before, along with their animals; but in this drawing there were females as well. They were paired, with each male having a companion at his side. Her eyes moved wildly over the group, her heart beginning to race as she thought once more of her dream. She had pushed it out of her mind until this moment where it forced its way through the protective barrier she had managed to build.
“Fhair, this part here.” She pointed to the image that caused her pain, instantly feeling foolish because he could not see. “It appears there are two tribes that are joining. Is this taking place now?” she inquired.
Fhair knew nothing but honesty and wanted to share what he knew with the Sorceress, for she was a noble female. He knew it in his soul. “I never know, Miss. Naofa. All visions are things which have gone before, which may be happening as we speak, or may be known in the cycles to come. But all are mysteries to me. I am but the Keeper of the Word. I cannot interpret that which is not clearly stated, such as our instructions were. Here.”
He moved down the line of the wall slightly, standing before a completely different type of image. Naofa could see where he had begun to draw figures representing both tribes. There appeared to be much going on, animals with riders pulling boxes of stones, while others tended great fires. Naofa was very curious. “Fhair, do these images represent things which are planned by the Creators, for the future of Domhan? What are they making?” Now she could make out in the corner of the scene various stacks of tools, or perhaps-yes-surely they were weapons! But these were unlike any she had ever seen.
Fhair was thoughtful before he spoke. “Well, that part isn’t clear to me yet. There are still things which are happening in the land of the Jinetes. That’s their name, you see. And the females are from Espera. They were always meant to join but it could not take place until the Light Ones arrived, to sanctify and counsel their union.”
Naofa felt lightheaded and sat down quickly near the wall. Perhaps she should have tried a bit of morning meal after all. Fhair, sensing her body movement, was quickly next to her. “Are you alright? Can I get you some water?” Before she could answer he retrieved a small cup from near where he worked and, going to the pool, dipped it into the clear water and hurried back to the Sorceress with it. She hesitated. Was she supposed to drink from this blessed lake? “Go on, drink it, Naofa. All miracles are available to Eternity’s Children.” He smiled and his face seemed to glow. She sipped the cool, clear water. Instantly her head was cooled and her insides warmed. It was the sweetest water she had ever tasted.
The male took a deep breath and let out a heavy sigh. “I do not wish them to become visions in the pool, Miss Naofa, for they are horrible indeed. All things which become manifest in the pool have come to be known upon our world. Truly, if these things come to be known, then our world is doomed.” Sensing she was not going to accept this as sufficient, he continued cautiously, not wanting to alarm her over events which may not come to pass. And he had such a muddy perception of the dreams, not like the clarity that came with the messages from his Creators. Still, she was a Light One. She needed to know…
Slowly he related the things which he remembered. It wasn’t really difficult, for he had had these dreams over and over for many cycles now. Not every night but enough so that he felt sick when he talked of them. Even as the words left his mouth, he regretted their release; for perhaps that is where the birth of the inevitable truly lay. In the knowing.
“In my dream, I am standing on a grassy hillside. I can tell that it is night and the sky is full of little lights. The night air feels good, and I am so thankful that my eyes are open to the wonders of Domhan. I can see a female, walking down the other side of the hill. She and her companion live in a little dwelling there. They await a great miracle and I can see she is round in the belly.. It must be a child. They look very happy. As I turn away, I can see a great distance across the land to a place that is lush, green and filled with many flowers. There is nothing which does not grow there. The animals walk alongside the Keepers of this place. I know in my heart that this is the Garden Family and, she who resides there, is the Mother of Domhan. Her hair flows dark like night against her pale skin. She, too, is great in the belly, awaiting the birth of a child. The one at her side now stands nearly as tall as her shoulders and glows with life. Her companion walks behind them, almost in shadow. I feel great peace and joy with this vision. Suddenly it all fades into darkness and I hear screaming. There are veils of mist surrounding me and I am blinded once more. I hear the screaming but it is from opposite directions. I try to push back the mists and reach the screams but I am frozen. Finally they recede and I can see the family, holding up a child in great awe. It is a male child. There are more screams as I turn to see the other female clutching her own belly. Suddenly it is all overshadowed by a great gash in the night sky. The darkness is being torn open by a red flash of light as the most awful roaring reaches my ears. Every one of us cries out in anguish. The Mother of Domhan clutches her new child to her chest as her companion shields the other. I see the red light is a flame and with it comes a creature as nothing I have ever known. All is happening in the distance, and so far away that I cannot make out what it is. I only know that next..” He stopped. He put his head in his hands and began to weep. Between sobs, he continued, “Next, I see the Garden completely alight with flame. I try to scream for help but my voice is as dead as my eyes are now.”
Then Fhair grabbed his throat, as if strangling himself. He wished he could stop the flow of terror coming from his mouth now. “I turn to see the other, the one who is also with child, fall to the ground in agony. The beast turns its attention to her and begins to glide across the night sky straight for them.” Now Naofa’s heart felt as though it would beat its way up her throat the same way of the meat that morning. She placed her hand upon her chest and whispered to the Eternal Mothers to give her strength to understand this dream.
“What happens next, Fhair?” she whispered fervently. He shook his head, wiping away the tears from his sightless eyes.
“I don’t know for it is there that I awaken each night. There is no more.” Naofa grabbed his arm in a tight grip. “I have to know more.” She was angry and anxious, but feeling him withdraw from her touch, she tried to calm herself. Her own tears began to flow as her sense of helplessness and sorrow overtook her sensibilities. “Fhair,” she tried to explain. “I cannot help my friends, or anyone on this world, unless I know what I am up against. I don’t know what this dark purpose is or why it appears only in dreams. But I have to find a way to stop it.” She put her own head in her hands and pulled her knees up to her face, breathing in and out, slowly.
Composing himself, Fhair placed a hand on her shoulder. “Perhaps it is not for you to stop it. Perhaps it is why we are all here. To prepare ourselves to overcome it, to protect the Garden Family. The Creators said we could always call upon the Eternal Realm in times of need. They will be there for us.”
Naofa understood what he was trying to say but she also knew her own truth. “Yes, Fhair, but this is our world. We are the Creators here. We have to find a way to protect and save the innocent. We are the bringers of Light and as such are responsible for keeping that Light alive on Domhan. Do you understand?” He nodded his assent, but within he wasn’t so certain he understood any of it.
As they sat there in the dim light Naofa realized she had no idea how long they had been talking. The shadows in the cave contorted and danced upon the face of the floor and walls as the torch lights flickered. Suddenly she caught the glint of a light in the corner of her eye. Did her eyes deceive her? She turned her head to look in the direction of what she had seen and waited. Yes! There it was again. Getting to her feet, Naofa felt her way along the wall to the place where she thought she saw it. Fhair followed.
There in front of her was an altar, with a hollow recess in the otherwise flat surface. The altar was amazing enough; but it was the wall backdrop that took her breath away. Imbedded in the rock as though perfectly placed was every crystal and stone she knew to be of the earth of Domhan. Each just as she had discovered, all different colors, every treasure imbued with their own unique powers. The torch light played across their faces, causing the colors to reflect and wash over the floor of the cave. A brilliant display of color in this otherwise dark and dismal place. It was the first delightful thing she had seen in many cycles. Instinctively her hand found its way to the pouch that lay against her skin beneath her tunic. Knowing her companion could not see her, she freely lifted her covers over her head so that she could access the stones in the pouch. She knew what was needed. Rummaging through the stones, she finally located the largest one, the one that was clear as the Holy pool of water-and nearly as powerful. It was the crystal she had found in the heart of her ocean caves. She held it lovingly in her hand, caressing the smooth surface and sharp edges of the long crystal, now with but a few chips of wear here and there. It had been used in many ceremonies, but always she renewed its energy in the Light of the Eternal Sun and kept it safely in her leather pouch with its brothers and sisters. As she looked up at Fhair, she could see the question in his mind written in the wrinkles upon his brow. She took his hand and, holding the crystal in her open hand, she guided his fingers to touch its surface. He ran them lightly over the slick stone, feeling every edge, corner and etched spot. His face grew radiant with light and a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. It was a little like watching a new dawn awaken upon the world. He nodded as though in agreement, but to what Naofa was not certain.
Then she felt it. The crystal had become slightly warmer while lying in her open palm. Was it her own heat? No, the stone was warm and becoming warmer still. It also had a slight vibration emanating from within. Fhair placed his hands beneath hers and pushed it towards the water. Dawning, like a flash of storm sky, struck her consciousness. Of course! She gently lowered the crystal into the water, trying not to touch the liquid with her own hands. But it was no use. The moment her slender fingers came near its surface, tiny beads of the liquid began to trickle up her fingers, clinging there for an instant before falling back into the hollow of the rock. In that instant she saw the face of her Mothers and heard their voices.