Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
by Cheryl Pennington
with Ar’tine’s defenses down, M’na has a tiny window of opportunity, but what can she say to change the course of their fate?
Mn’a opened her mouth to speak, her hope to console(cajole), to plead and reassure, anything to reach that dark reflection of Eternity’s original thought that still lived somewhere in the soul of Ar’tine; but he was too immersed in the seductive depths of his dark misery.
“No!” he spat at her before the words reached her lips. “I have heard more than enough from you. Now you will listen to me, daughter of deception. I accept that I must exist without my creation, without the only one who will ever love me.” The clicking disappeared as Ar’tine gave up any connection to the creature he was using as a vessel in the physcial world. “But no longer will I exist alone in my pain, for you will join me in its bosom. Your infant son is gone and you will never see him again. And very soon, I will be rid of his troublesome brother as well. No remnant shall remain of your union with the weak male you called ‘Beloved’.”
Anger, love, and determination joined together to strangle the fear that crippled M’na, knowing she must stall Ar’tine. She had to reach Amhain before the god discoverd him, before anything happened to another of her loved ones. With remarkable courage and inexplicable strength, M’na pushed against the hot earth and got herself to her feet. Her thoughts raced and her tongue struggled to keep pace.
“You are right, Ar’tine. We all failed you. I failed in my promise to you. This was an error made by me alone and not anyone else. You are punishing the others without reason. To show you my sorrow.. I..I will go with you now…take me to Domhan Eile. I will do all that I can to make this up to you. You can show me your world. I would do anything…”
The serpent struck at M’na in fury, coming within a breath of her cheek. She jumped, falling to the ground again but landing in a thicket of soft grass. “Help me, please!” she cried in pain. Somewhere in the distance she heard the owl’s screech, but Ar’tine heard nothing save the angry voice in his soul.
“You would do anything, say anything, to save your son. This is not about your love for me, Mn’a. No one loves me.” If indeed he was unlovable, he did nothing in that moment to try to improve things. Mn’a winced at the sharp pain peircing her hand and looked down, realizing it had been resting on the sharp point of a broken branch that had fallen from the dying Tree of Creation. She looked back into the serpent’s eyes and slowly, deliberately rose to her feet, never breaking eye contact.
‘She is so lovely,’ thought the dark god.
Ar’tine found M’na excruciatingly tempting from the first moment he saw her walk on Inion’s world, and he was still mesmerized by her supple curves, her sultry movement. The serpent slid across the limb and began winding its way down the trunk of the tree, sending debris to the ground as it curled around and down, never taking his eyes from hers; although if it had, it might have noticed the branch in her hand and might not have confused the regretful smirk tugging at the corners of her mouth for a gentle smile. Ar’tine might have realized that he was not truly in control of the future. The serpent didn’t flinch as M’na swiftly and efficiently brought the heavy limb from behind to land squarely on the head of the unfortunate creature he possessed. The serpent plummeted the rest of the way down the tree’s trunk to the ground with a heavy thump and went limp, but was it dead? And what would become of the dark god using it?
Mn’a gasped and let the branch drop to the ground, but refused to let go of the only weapon she had. She panted, tiny squeals of anquish trying to escape her throat as she waited for the serpent to rise again. The Mother of Domhan had never killed any living thing and it tore at her heart. The hairs on her arm rose to attention when the crackling began, joined by prickly bumps marching across her skin as the air turned cold and damp around her, so suddenly gray and heavy she could hardly breathe. Understanding loomed and she turned, knowing she must flee her beloved Garden before it was too late.
‘Ar’tine has no power over me outside of this place,’ she thought, knowing this portal to the Realm was their connection.
“He has no power over you here either!” rose the enraged, insistent voice from out of the haze.
M’na looked up in astonishment just as the white owl came down upon the fully recovered and very much alive serpent rearing itself for a new strike. With talons bared, the owl sliced at its eyes over and over, relentlessly inflicting wounds. M’na took her chance and ran to the entrance, not looking back; but just as she passed through the arch she heard her Mother’s command, “Conceal yourself from him! Now!”
Conceal myself? Mn’a’s mind raced, her aching head throbbing in excruciating waves. The sky above was exploding with thunder again-real thunder. Streaks of wild lightening spat across the black canopy above her. Thinking of only her family, M’na darted through the arch and into the dense forest-running, panting, thinking, running…conceal myself?
to be continued…..