Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
by Cheryl Pennington
2016 copyright all content
…..The wolf, infuriated by losing its prey on the path, dug and scrapped its way around the burning tree, rushing headlong into the clearing with teeth bared, saliva frothing through its clenched jaws, and careened to a halt, quickly scanning the clearing for the object of its desire, scarcely conscious of the wounds all over its body. Ash covered what fur that remained, most of it singed from the creature’s flesh, leaving raw bald areas in its place. The dark god had abandoned its host, leaving but a promise for the beast; and with the voice of Domhan’s mother no longer audible! Artine’s servant was free to enjoy what remained of the humans in the garden-and if need be to finish what Damanta had begun.
Amhain, paralyzed in the wake of destruction that had been their world as a single night imploded into a desolate black hole that held no promise of hope, was oblivious to the hungry interloper. The wolf, eyeing its prize, seized the chance to catch the innocent child unaware, and crept slowly around the charred ashes that were once the perfection of M’na’s life.
If not for his own bitter sobbing Amhain might have heard the low growl coming from the beast and surely it would have devoured him if not for the pain that caused it to yelp as it leapt toward its easy prey. The beast still attacked with agility and speed; and the confused, horrified look on Ahmain’s face merely mirrored the wolf’s own bewildered shock as it was struck midair in the side by a huge snorting, grunting creature kicking its tender, exposed meat with sharp, heavy hooves again and again, knocking the wind out of the wolf. With no fight left in it, the animal was flung onto the smoldering mound of ember and ash. All Amhain had seen was a white blur from a corner of his eye that stretched into a line drawn from his immediate vision to where the wolf struggled atop the debris of their life. As it wriggled and whined, trying to free itself from the scalding ash, Amhain tried to grasp the enormity of what had happened. His heart beat angrily against his small chest, yet he remained unmoved, positioned protectively in front of his father’s crumpled body, lying more still than any sleep the child had ever seen; and he spread his small arms out as though to keep Fireann from harm.
But the wolf was not rising from the smoking debris. Its lurching grew jerky and eventually stopped as it turned its face up to howl in protest at the heavens. The skies were returning its call with furious thunder claps as a heavy rain began to pummel its face and spread over the garden. Amhain couldn’t take his eyes off of the beast, for its final gyrations kicked up clouds of black ash that sent glowing embers upward, like red stars that filled the night sky. In another, more innocent moment, he would have thought this display to be grand indeed. . The brief instant of forgetful reverie left a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Amhain stepped closer to the beast and jumped instinctively when its hind leg began kicking again. Standing a good arm’s length away from the wolf, he could see why it hadn’t been able to pull itself from the smoking debris. To the child’s immediate horror and genuine relief he saw why the wolf hadn’t been able to free itself. The seriously burned and dying beast was impaled on a sharp piece of timber, all that remained of his Mother’s porch, now laid waste with the rest of his heart. Raindrops pelted the animal’s bloody fur and ran over its wounded body in pink rivers that flowed down onto the smoldering ruin, sending acrid steam wafting into Amhain’s nostrils. He drew his hand up over his nose to ward off the smell of death and doubled over in a fit of retching, although there was nothing in his small stomach to lose. There had been no meal for him since late morning.
Amhain had a wisdom in his soul that stretched beyond his youth. He was thankful that Great Spirit was weeping in Eternity; and his small fists, still clenched in bitter silent protest, fell open at last, as did his heart. His head fell to his chest, the tears of heaven soaking his dark curls into wet ringlets around his face. The brave son of M’na felt the world of Domhan looming suddenly large and unbearable around him ……