Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
copyright all content
by Cheryl Pennington 2016
As the Light Ones are left to sift through the ashes of devastation in the land of the Hunter, Domhan’s First Family steel themselves for whatever is coming, its Mother desperately trying to protect what she loves dearly….
This Dark Madness
Where are they?” demanded Fireann.
Mn’a shot him a look of tolerant admonition. “You know I am not going to tell you.” He bristled silently and she felt the pain of keeping this secret from her companion, knowing it was the only way. She would have enough trouble keeping her own mind away from the children, let alone worry about his thoughts. “All you need to know now, my love, is that they are safe.”
Fireann wanted to trust M’na; but recent events had left him impatient. He shot her a sideways glance and asked, “Can Amhain find his way out of this secret forest hiding place if we don’t come for them?” The words flew out even as he wanted to suck them back into his careless mouth. He loathed his moment of bitter jealousy when she gasped at the thought and turned her face from him; for how could she allow him to see her fear, to know the weight of uncertainty that enveloped her heart?
M’na quickly brushed creeping vines of horror from her mind, pushed her shoulders back and turned to look her beloved Fireann in the eye. “Of course we are going to return for them.” She spoke with all the conviction she could manage. They had to believe this or they were all lost. They were both growing impatient in the moments that seemed to stretch endless in waiting for what might change their lives forever.
Fireann leaned in and wrapped her in his arms, his strength allowing her to be vulnerable for a moment, as both of them found comfort in something familiar and warm. He pulled her close to him and covered her hot head in soft kisses, digging his fingers into her thick, damp locks.
“Mn’a, if anything should happen to separate us, I want you to know that I do not regret a moment I have lived on this world with you. Thank you for calling me to life with your desire.” Fireann felt the gentle jerking of her head as the tears fell freely, her fingers clutching at the hollows of his back as if to climb inside his chest-safe from the intrusion that they now faced. He choked back his own emotions in order to finish saying what was on his heart. “I can only ask that you forgive me for not finding a way to prevent this…this…attack upon our world. I, who was supposed to be your protector…”
M’na looked up into his face, seeing a soul so agonizingly vulnerable that she almost couldn’t bear it. She pulled back suddenly, pushing him away with both hands. She did not want to hear this. She tried to escape his embrace, but he pulled her closer; and she realized how very strong he really was. They needed those precious moments; and her head resting against his heartbeat was perfection for M’na, however soon it might end. Her mind continued its assualt and she shouted at it angrily.
‘Nothing will separate us!’ How could it? She couldn’t allow such thoughts to become rooted in her mind, and yet they fought against her will to stifle them. How could she live a single cycle, let alone an eternity, without Fireann? She had not even considered a life lived alone again, although she knew her companion was not immortal as she was. They always saw such a long path ahead, certain that they would endure together beyond the confines of human thought. She kissed his neck, his ear, his cheek and looked into his eyes, so full of regret, feeling new determination swelling within her breast. She would not give up on their world and neither could she allow her family to.
“When the sun rises on your face yet again, you will be sorry you had so little faith in the Light, Fireann.” He nodded and brushed the salty tears from her cheek as she whispered fervently, “We must keep our eyes on Eternity’s Light.” He wanted to believe her, and moreover, he wanted her to believe it herself.
“You are always right, Mn’a. My faith is not as strong as yours right now, but I promise it will be.” He forced an encouraging smile and kissed her nose, determined that she shouldn’t feel what he felt in the pit of his stomach…the trembling there….the trembling….the ground beneath them began to tremble and the skies rumbled angrily above their heads. Fireann looked over shoulder as the night came to life in a flash of lightening. No, not lightening at all, but a streak of yellow light that ripped a jagged tear across the darkness. The roaring grew louder and closer as they saw the distant trees of their forest glowing against the night, the flames blazing up into the blackness, gray smoke billowing skyward to obliterate the stars.
M’na was thankful that the children were safely hidden on the opposite side of the forest. She pulled herself together and they jumped to their feet, each taking up a weapon, as the world around them began to explode. The clearing came to life in a stampede of terrorized animals-birds seeking refuge in the trees around their home, rabbits and squirrels bursting from beneath the underbrush with nowhere to hide.
M’na cried out in agony, feeling every heartbeat of the creatures she knew as her first children. The ground quaked as the large creatures ran frantically from the safety of the forest, their hooves pounding the damp ground, driven from their burrows with no choice but to enter the open world of the humans who had lived peacefully with them for so long. M’na felt their confusion and terror alongside her own.
Fireann grabbed her arm and they leapt to the safety of the porch, dodging horn and hoof as their predictable world turned inside out around them. Breathless, they stared in disbelief, confused and anxious for what might emerge next.
Had they had any clear vision of what they faced, had they known what had happened to their friends only moments before, they would have dashed into the forest to take refuge alongside their children. Their bravely innocent hearts knew nothing of destruction, so they stayed to protect what they had built, ready to face their uninvited visitor-and Terror was an ill behaved guest.
In the next instant everything stopped, as if frozen, as the world of Domhan inhaled, seemingly holding its collective breath in anticipation. As though muffled at first, the forest began to creak as its ancient trees were forced into subjugation. They tried to bar the path but there was no stopping the beast’s determination. As the world sped up madly once more, chaos returned as a monstrous clawed foot appeared, shadowing the clearing ominously and came down onto the fire in the pit, sending ash, log and ember in every direction. The animals climbed over one another confusedly, not knowing where to turn next, dashing back into the forest Wherever they could gain entry. The fire that blazed in the pit only moments before was instantly reduced to glowing embers that didn’t seem to faze the intruder, though they could hear the red hot coals singeing its leathered foot.
Mn’a pushed against the pain of loss, her soul hearing each and every cry of death, every stopped heartbeat and every energy that died leaving a scar upon her heart. She looked up at the thing that towered over the forest of trees that once encircled their home, now felled like mere twigs beneath its body and flaming as a monstrous campfire. Damanta snorted, sending its dank breath down over their heads, filling their nostrils with the putrid smell of devastation.
The Mother of Domhan gripped her weapon, heaving it to her shoulder the best that she could. How she was still standing after so recently giving birth was a miracle in itself, and Fireann worried that she might harm herself before she could strike the beast; but they couldn’t afford the luxury of worry. He drew his own weapon high and shouted into the face of darkness. Mn’a could hardly fathom everything that was happening. What could have created such a ghastly thing as this? Her soul knew, for the soul always knows the truth; but her hopeful heart never believed Ar’tine would be consumed by his own darkness. Now she was mortified thinking about what, in the name of Eternity, had happened to their friends? Just the thought drew anger from the depths of her being; and she screamed in the face of fury as she swung her weapon.
“What have you done to the others, Father of Darkness?! Why do you hide behind the guise of a hideous beast?”
‘And such a pitiable creature it is,’ she thought, ‘merely a slave to your bidding.’
“You fool!” She spat out at the beast, taking a few steps closer, unabashadly fearless. Damanta did not like this screaming human.
As’me felt the Essence of Mn’a and tried desperately to gain some control over the mind of the beast, but its power had become overwhelmingly strong. Mac was right. She had sacrificed her new life for nothing. All she could do now was try to confuse her Captor and cling to the memory of her purpose.
Damanta was full of desires, all of them angry, and her newest one was to crush the female before her so that she would stop screaming. There were already too many voices in its head; so the beast flexed its talons and pulled back, ready to strike..
“No!” hissed the vengeful Master. “You cannot destroy her like that. And this is not your decision. You are merely the weapon. There are more effective ways to punish her. The child..destroy their home! Now!” With no knowledge that the children had been moved, the dark God was certain he could break the mother of Domhan quickly and effectively.
As the infected thoughts of Ar’tine seared the tissue of its mind, the beast turned its rage onto the buildings around the clearing, sending them up in flames, each separately, making it more excruciating for its inhabitants. “No, no, no!!” M’na screamed in terror at the sight of her home being laid to waste so quickly and efficiently. Her heart raced, but her mind flew to her children, at once thankful that they were safe; but as soon as her thoughts went to them, so did that of her tormentor, now so close to her in Essence through Damanta.
“Ahhh…so.. hidden away, the little treasures?” Ar’tine whispered inside M’na’s head.
She ran at the beast, slicing a thick gash on top of a clawed foot. Once close, she saw clotting streams of blood oozing from another wound, still fresh. So..the others had been able to fight back. It rallied her spirit to think they may have survived the attack. The She beast screeched in pain, flinging her head upward and sending angry flames into the blackest night they had ever seen.
Fireann moved in quickly, seizing the moment of its vulnerability, aiming for Damanta’s glistening throat. He saw oozing crimson holes there already and hoped more damage had been done to the beast than to his friends. He plunged the sword into the tough skin, but it solid hit bone and lodged there. Fireann tugged and turned but the blade was firmly planted, and every move sent searing pain into Damanta’s head. She looked down into Fireann’s eyes with cold hatred. He fought the urge to return the emotion, and fought harder still, not to give in to the rising fear in his chest. Instead of diving into emotion’s dark abyss with her, he clung to his lifeline of Light, for the sake of M’na’s hope in all that was good. He spoke to the soul of the beast, for he knew she must have one.
“I refuse to hate you, for you are but a slave to the Torturer! But I will kill you if I have to and send you back to your Father’s bosom!” He shouted, staring into the gray-green murky depths of the eye that glared at him with malicious intent as he twisted the sword, still trying to free it from her flesh, tearing it with every move.
“But will you die for your family, foolish and weak male?” hissed Ar’tine.
His voice was speaking to the Father of Foirfeachta from the mind of the beast now. The words floated from within the shadows of Damanta’s eyes.
“We both know the Mother of Domhan cannot be killed,” the Dark One continued, “but I can make sure she lives in pain for all of eternity. It is only fair. You all betrayed me! And she-the worst of all. After promising to love me even in the face of my..shortcomings. You all conspired to keep my daughter from me!” Damanta screamed in pain.
M’na immediately felt the full impact of what was happening, awareness suddenly dawning in her soul. Perhaps it was the reawakened connection upon visiting the Garden of Life that she once again felt the cord to her mother vibrating…so strongly now; and she heard Bandia’s voice as clearly as she heard the roar of the beast.
“As’me was born within the beast this night. The desire to save her Father from his darkness drove her to it, but she struggles within its body. If you kill Damanta, you will take life from As’me yet again. You have done well, Daughter. Your power lies within your world. You are the creators here. Do what you must, but remember the Light of Unconditional Love lives in all things.”
Mn’a knew she had to be strong even in the face of madness. It was her birth promise to her Mother, after all. She felt suddenly weak, her body spent from delivering Dochais; and she crumpled to the ground, her heart appealing to the Light she knew existed within Ar’tine, somewhere.
“Hear me now Ar’tine!”, she cried. “I promised to love all that you are, even in your darkness. But I did not promise to put you before all the others that I love. Can you not see the great sacrifice which was made this night in the very name of love for you?”
Silence was all that returned. Anger welled up within M’na’s soul, the first vine of darkness which caught her listening, and she responded to its voice.
“Indeed you are the selfish, empty soul that Mother Inion said you were. I was wrong to trust you!” The beast stood still, breathing heavily, feeling the weight of its wounds as blood gushed from the open gashes across its body. Fireann stopped twisting, uncertain if he should go to his companion, and M’na took advantage of the momentary calm. “Can you not see that your servant grows weary? Shall we finish her off then? At least then we could free As’me from your control once more!”
M’na stood shakily, raised her sword again and lunged at the beast; but she was slow in her weakness. Damanta moved quickly, causing her to fall and roll dangerously close to its talons. The beast flexed its claws, ready to rip her flesh; but Fireann darted over and grabbed her ankle, dragging her clear of its strike.
Ar’tine found his voice again. “You would threaten my Daughter, you ungrateful bitch?! I heard your pleas in the night. I saw to it that you were blessed with yet another life within. And this is your gratitude!?”
M’na’s thoughts flew to her own children, frantic for their safety, but was instantly sorry she had allowed this weakness. She tried to push the thought from her mind but it was done.
“And your weakness matches my own, Mother of Deception. Let’s see what happens when you are deprived of the love of your own creations. Where have they gone to, now? Ahhh…how fitting… within the Secret Garden. I do believe I remember the way!”
M’na clutched her temples in desperation, willing it all to be yet another nightmare; but Ar’tine’s voice hissed, relentlessly.
“Daughter, finish your game here. I believe the Mother of Domhan needs your personal attention. I’ll be going for a walk in the forest now. I’m desiring a little game of Hide and Seek.”
M’na gasped, her screams lodged in her throat, as horror and rage found her heart. Fireann braced himself for a new attack, knowing M’na could no longer fight and that Damanta was merely catching her breath. He looked at his beloved, anguished by her pain.
M’na sensed Ar’tine’s retreat, her mind questioning. Could he really go to the children in the Inner Garden, even as she held it secreted within her heart? There was no way to know; and it wasn’t a chance she could afford to take. She looked pleadingly at Fireann who stood beneath certain death, staring it defiantly in the eye, and wondered how she could leave him this way. In a Mother’s desperation and hope, she called out to her son, focusing her intent on their souls’ connectedness.
“Amhaaaaaain!!! He’s comiiiing…….!” Her mind visualized her children there, cradled in the crook of that mighty tree, and she sent all the love she had from within her trembling body. Damanta swiped at her with a taloned foot, but M’na rolled away, just missing its razor sharp intent, instead landing in the embers of what remained of their fire. She squealed and jumped as the hot coals singed her bare legs; but she could afford no misery, for the beast was coming again and she braced herself to dodge its deadly claws. How could she help her children this way?
Fireann knew he had to do something or they would all perish. All that he ever loved, gone up in smoke and flame. The forest around them was blazing, its magnificent creatures dead or gone. He took a long, appreciative look at Mn’a, then shouted over the deafening sounds of destruction that threatened to engulf them.
“M’na! You must go to them! Now! I will hold the beast as long as I can! Know that I love you!” Their eyes locked and he nodded. The mother of Domhan felt her heart crumbling as she realized he meant to die for her and for their children. Until now there had been no human death on their world. How could she stop any of this? She longed to protest, to stay and fight with him, but his resolute expression left no room for argument. He mouthed a kiss, tried to look confident, and gave her a gentle smile before turning to train his eyes solely upon the creature from the dark abyss.
M’na got to her feet and stood in the clearing a few moments more, watching in awed horror as her companion ran around to the back of Damanta and leapt up onto the beast’s tail, driving his sword into its scaly spines. There was a loud scraping sound, like metal to stone; and with a flick of that tail, Damanta tossed him back to the hard ground. How could he ever defeat such a thing? Mn’a screamed. The beast turned to her and suddenly coming at her was a slithering black ugliness that grew from its mouth that tried to curl itself around her leg. M’na was frozen in a new state of horror.
Foirfeachta’s Father knew deep within that this was his moment of truth. He cried to Spirit, “Mor, by all that is Light, give me strength to save my family! They do not deserve this fate!”
As it was focused on M’na, Fireann ran up the beast’s spiny tail again, then leapt onto its back, ignoring the excruciatging pain of ripped flesh as his legs raked over the scales, cold and deadly as sharpened stone. He landed near the middle of Damanta’s back, and clung to the knotty spines as she became aware of his presence there. Her tongue retracted mercifully into her mouth as her attention was drawn from M’na. Damanta raised her head, trying to turn and see what new intrusion was being inflicted on her, and Fireann saw a glint of white between the rows of ridged scales just behind her jaw-a white spot that pulsed with the heartbeat of darkness. He prayed for his aim to be better than it had ever been and he shouted into the beast’s ear hole, “Know me, beast! I am the father of this world! And you will return to your own dark cradle without victory!”
Damanta hissed and flinched, causing Fireann to slip and fall, his sword thudding to the ground below. He clung precariously to a spiney knob, the beast’s scales slicing into his thighs. Fireann grunted and pulled himself back up, but kept to his knees, scaling Damanata’s back quickly and efficiently. When he reached the precious point of her pulse again, his body covered in his own blood, he had no weapon but his bare hands. Screaming into her ear, he dug his fingers into the slick, white flesh as she writhed with new pain. Fireann clung to her back with his thighs skewered onto her scales and dug deeper, deeper, until the leathered hide burst open to the flow of a crimson river of hot blood. Damanta flailed angrily, her wild screeching now louder than the forest ablaze, and she sent reckless flames across the ground with abandon.
Mn’a looked on, horrified, as Fireann clung to the raging creature. What else could she do to save him and still save their treasures? This would be her only chance. She ignored the pain and overwhelming exhaustion which tried to overcome her as she ran from the horror and into the forest. Before she was completely embraced by the smokey darkness, she took a final look over her shoulder. In the pale moonlight with the glow of yellow death to silhouette him, she watched Fireann pulling strings of silvery flesh manically from the beast’s neck and kicking her body as he shouted to the skies, “Are you ready for me Mothers?! Make ready my bed, for tonight I sleep with you in Eternity!”
To be continued……
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