Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
by Cheryl Pennington
copyright all content 2016
Left with devastation and fury, the Sorceress must face what has happened while the Warrior turns to his companion and their world gone ablaze with brutal destruction, a force that now heads for the heart of Domhan.
To the Garden
Naofa screamed into the void where Damanta had been only moments before, willing the horrid creature to return and finish their fight. She flung the sword a surprisingly far distance considering its weight and how weary she felt, then began pacing back and forth across the grass stained with the blood of cruel intention, mortified to think what would happen to the innocent, unknowing family in Foirfeachta. She brushed away wild strands of hair that fell over her face and felt something wet on her cheek. The Sorceress looked at her hands and gasped, horrified by the blood on them. She quickly scanned her body for wounds but there was nothing. The blood must have been the beast’s and the unnatural color smeared over her hands looked so foreign, so repulsive that she gagged involuntarily, her body trembling against her will. Naofa turned to Laoch with outstretched hands, but he was gone, of course returned to his beloved Ella. She prayed the Huntress was not stricken beyond saving. The crackling of the blazing dwellings drew her attention to the horror she had been able to put aside, but now she wondered what had become of Eolas. She dared not think of Eagna.
Naofa sank to her knees and wept bitterly before falling face down on the charred ground, the ashen grass crackling as she sank into it, broken. She began to rock back and forth as the pain, like an ocean wave, surged upward from her gut and pushed into her chest where it damned itself up; and as it swelled there her mind saw it all again as if a long past memory, although it was all borne in a single, seemingly endless night.
Again the Sorceress lived Eagna’s pain and joy in birth, felt her own sense of fulfillment and pleasure from helping her friends. And it was all for what? It was simply too maddening, ! She felt a hammering in her brain and, horrified, she realized it was her own fists slamming into her head over and over in an effort to drive out the visions. The wave in her chest grew to monstrous proportion as it pushed its way up into her throat where gentle weeping grew into loud sobs. It swelled up into her throat, the dark surge flooding her soul as madly as the raging sea. The Sorceress thrust her arms toward the black emptiness overhead and flung her head back, her face glowing in the light of friendship burning. Then the surge filled her mouth, bitter like bile and wild like the sea; and with no way to hold it back any longer, the pain escaped with a vengeance.
Laoch was holding Ella, looking at her wounds, when he heard the sound-a pitiful wail filled the air, low at first but building to such a peak it pierced his heart as it echoed across the meadow and into the forest, a cry that was answered by every creature within it. He peered through the shadows across the meadow, the smoke filling it quickly now, for any sign of an animal that could make such a sound. He saw no animal. Finally his eyes found a dark form, something hunched in the meadow, and he groaned when he recognized the familiar-the shadow shape of his most secret desire-expressing her painful, broken spirit to the Creators. Laoch wasn’t aware of shedding tears until he felt the wet warmth near his lips and, running his tongue over their dry, cracked surface, tasted salt, smoke and dirt. “Will this night never end?” He whispered into Ella’s hair as he stroked her head and cradled her there. His beloved heard the sound and felt its pain; and, although too weak to speak, she placed a hand on the Warrior’s chest just before her world went dark again.
Even with their weapons ready, Mn’a and Fireann felt helpless. It was the not knowing. They watched the vicious clouds of dark smoke rising in the distance, huge billows that blotted the stars. An acrid stench had come on the winds, finding its way into the Garden, its odor sickening their hearts and stomachs.
The Mothers were with them in Spirit, but their power within Domhan had grown weaker with increased human creation. Inion knew her children must have the will to survive and be strong against the darkness on their own. When would they remember and use their own power? If they didn’t they would always be lost, weak and controllable. Domhan’s Creator felt the pain and suffering and longed to stop the destruction that was being inflicted on its inhabitants, but how?
Mn’a grew impatient waiting for the unknown terror to come, her mind running wild with possibilities. She gathered her infant son with some of his things and told Amhain to follow her as she led them into the forest. She insisted Fireann stay behind, for she did not want anyone else to know where she was going with her sons. In spite of the changes on her world, it was still her world; and it was Mn’a who remembered her power, the power given her from the moment of her own creation. She berated herself for becoming too complacent in her lazy days of contentment. Now, faced with his dark agenda, M’na remembered her Mother’s words when she was deceived by Ar’tine. The Inner Garden would no longer be visible to them, nor could they linger there; but she would always be able to visit its perfection within her heart. When Bandia made this declaration, M’na thought it meant she could only envision it in her mind and feel it in her soul, as in meditation. Suddenly, in the face of possible destruction, clarity was upon her and Her mother’s words took on new meaning. As they tramped quickly through the underbrush M’na pictured the Inner Garden in her mind, visualizing it just as it was when first her mother had taken her there, as it had been when she asked for the gift of creation. She worked to see, smell and taste all as it had been, bringing it to life within her heart and soul once again. The smell of the blooms, the feel of the grass where she lay, the sweet taste of the sparkling stream waters and, more importantly, the perfect Peace she felt when she was safely in its bosom. As she focused on returning to the Garden, the whole of Domhan responded to its Keeper and her charges as they walked. The sharp brambles fell away, the underbrush parted and the wind kissed their faces, whispering of hope. Encouraged, M’na kept the vision in the forefront of her mind.
“Mother, look! What is that?” It was Ah’main who spotted the entrance, the beautiful vines of fragrant white blooms, just as she had recalled them. It seemed so out of place now with such dense forest around it.
“Wonderful, son. Your father would be so proud of you.” She grabbed his head and planted a fierce kiss on top of the dark curls. There was no time to explain her plan to her son, even if she had one. She knew only to get them inside-to safety. What she hoped to be true would remain to be seen. It was the only way she could think of to protect her greatest joy.
“I don’t want to stay here, Mother,” Amhain argued. He wanted to help with the fight. “I am half grown to my Father’s height now,” he insisted. “And he needs me. You need me. Don’t you?” He looked so earnest, so determined, and it broke her heart to deny him. There had not been many moments of denial for Amhain since he arrived.
M’na looked into the still childlike face of her son with a Mother’s love and knowing. “You have a greater responsibility now, Amhain. Your brother needs you to protect him. If you are fighting with us, he will be alone and helpless. Can you be his protector now, in my place?” She smiled that smile that seared his soul.
Amhain looked down at the sleeping infant and his heart melted with love for Dochais. How different things were going than what he had planned. Was there world really in danger? Would he ever be able to show his brother how to hunt and fish, how to make a fire or help him to build a good home? It had to be so, they had to be victorious tonight. With strengthened resolve the young child willingly accepted his role and took the supplies his Mother carried, following her closely through the arching trees. Once they stepped within, he couldn’t believe his eyes, his mouth agape in wonder and awe.
“What is this place, Mother?” He vaguely recalled a story about a garden, but could this be it? He had come to think it a tale, a Mother’s night time story to lull him to sleep. He wanted to ask her more questions, but Amhain knew she must get back to Fireann and help him.
“This is the heart of our world Amhain; but like our own heart, it beats delicately and must be protected.” She led him across the soft grasses, searching for a place she recalled, ignoring the guilt trying to invade her soul. She knew it was the only way. At last she spotted the friend she sought and brought them to an enormous tree with a deep hollow, its entrance hidden by thick vines and blooms. She quickly lined the inside floor with soft grasses, then made sure they were sheltered safely inside. “Dochais has eaten recently, and will be still for awhile, at least long enough for us to deal with this..situation..and then I will come for you-both. Do NOT leave this spot unless your Father or I come for you. Do you understand?” His face looked so small and pale within the dark shadow of the tree. When he nodded understanding his curls bobbed around his precious face. “If Dochais gets impatient, remember what I showed you. There are fresh blooms just within your reach. A touch of nectar on your finger will calm him for awhile. But wait until it is absolutely necessary.”
Of course the child remembered. He knew what eternal meant. And he knew his father was strong. It would not be long before this danger was gone and they would get back to the business of life. He watched his mother’s figure as she moved gracefully, even in her haste, down the path and past the flowering bushes towards the arching trees, fully confident that she would soon return. He backed into the hollow and hunkered down in the cool, dark embrace of the tree. The infant whimpered in its sleep and Amhain hugged it close to his chest, feeling his own heartbeat against its skin. Dochais grew still and quiet, comforted by his brother’s pulse. “I will always protect you, brother,” he whispered.
Mn’a couldn’t help it. She just had to look. It had been so central to their existence and might well have been the catalyst for what they now faced. Quickly her eyes scanned the perimeter of the Garden…searching, searching…until. Was that it? She stepped away from the path to the spot where once the beautiful tree of Creation had flourished, but long gone was the fragrance, the blooms withered, and no fruit hung from its low, gentle branches. She touched the faded, dry bark, its surface now prickly and sharp. From within, her Mother’s voice reminded her, “It still lives Daughter, but its life is deeply rooted within humanity now.” She turned quickly away from her memories and hurried back out to the forest. Now came the true test. Clearing from her mind all visions of the Garden, all memories of her moments there, she quickened her pace, her feet hurrying over the path back to where Fireann waited. The Mother of Domhan stopped only once, turning back to steal a final look; but when she glanced back at the safety of Domhan’s womb where she had left the children, it was no longer there. Her plan had worked! It was a small victory, but it rallied her spirit. She whispered to her world then, beseeching Domhan to take tender care of her joy.
to be continued……..