Forever Never/The Dream Begins
by Cheryl Pennington
copyright all content 2016
Well, my few friends who have followed this saga from the beginning, I thank you so much for reading, for your kind comments and helpful input. We have reached the final chapter; but I am afraid you will not be quite satisfied. Much like life, the road ahead is like a blank page, waiting to be written. I hope you will walk it with me.
A cascade of new questions arrived to plague her thoughts, questions she had managed to avoid until that moment. What had become of the family in Foirfeachta; and what horrors awaited the Hunter and Warrior in that once beloved garden? Already her heart missed Eolas and Laoch. Would Ella continue her role as surrogate Mother to Eagna’s daughter?
Life. Naofa felt suddenly weary of that life which was so rich and full only a short while ago. Her mind could not find the clarity she needed and her body was being affected as well. She felt more exhausted with every sunset since the attack, and her stomach rolled angrily with each new sunrise. No matter what she tried, she could not keep down what little food she could find. She decided that the attack-the loss-all that had happened was taking its toll on her body and spirit.
Yes, to see her little friends was just the thing she needed; and Naofa was looking forward to a measure of Othar’s wonderful tea…’That is..’ her mind taunted darkly, ‘if Othar is still alive and well in the village. If there is‘, it whispered, ‘in fact, still a village in the cliffs.’
These things kept her mind occupied so that she ignored the heaviness of the forest as she passed through, debris and dead limbs on every side and the rich, green canopy that once hung overhead now broken up into small clumps where an occasional green tree still stood tall and brave. She was more than grateful when she finally reached the other side. The wind struck her face and shoulders again; and she pulled the skin around her more tightly as she stepped into the clearing. Twilight shadows hid the ugly truth of what had crossed this meadow before her and she was frankly relieved. In the distant shadows of evening she could see flickering firelight, dancing like tiny light bugs across the gray and pink canvas of sunset. Already she felt better….
In a darker corner of Domhan a short, rotund female grunted as she squatted beside the meager fire she managed to build, having been unable to find much kindling and much of what she scraped up already turned to ash. She looked around at the gray stone surrounding her, its face glistening wet, and wondered that anything had ever been dry in such a place. Stirring the contents of a pot like one of her stews, she wrinkled her nose as the vapors drifted into her unwilling nostrils. The steam stung her eyes as she lifted a paddle full of long, dark, stringy leaves out of the steaming, pungent brew. She huffed in obvious disgust as she waddled precariously over the rocks with the herbal concoction to where the creature rested. Slowly, methodically, the female bent and lifted, applying each of her poultices to the battered, leather hide of the beast. It remained asleep as she did her work, although its head jerked now and then, its breathing raspy and labored. This female knew her herbs well; and she knew that the creature needed to be kept quiet for as long as possible. Even as It slept, the beast’s eyelids stayed slightly parted, its daunting yellow black eye staring blankly out at her. The female scuttled back to the fire and returned the paddle to the pot, dragging it through the contents again. More heady vapor filled the air, adding to the calming affect over her charge. It had the opposite effect on her other guest; and she fretted when a small bundle of fur lying in the crook of a rock wriggled in agitation.
“Oh no, we must be still. Let’s let sleeping beasts…. well…sleep.” But there was no use trying to reason with the unhappy guest and it began to grunt, soon working itself into a full wail. The female looked down and smiled as she began humming softly. She stepped over the angry bundle to get to a second fire with yet another container of boiling liquid. Her fleshy arms and legs were covered in tiny puncture wounds which she had been treating with a gentler potion. They only stung when she applied the poultice and the bleeding had stopped after the first treatments. The bundle screamed louder and she left the boiling pot to sit beside it.
“Easy now, little one. You’ll eat soon enough.” She leaned over to pick up the bundle, cradling it gently in her bulky embrace and bounced it gently up and down. She pulled back the edge of the fur blanket to peer into its scrunched up face. It was a lovely little creature, with dark hair and creamy white skin but for the teeth marks embedded in the back of its neck. How it wailed! She raised her knees and lay the struggling bundle on them so she could slide her tunic from her shoulder, exposing a very large, very pink breast. “Hush now, or you’ll wake the angry one.” She hummed again and pulled the little one to her breast where it had no trouble finding her nipple, latching on to suck greedily. “There, now, isn’t that better?” She stroked its downy hair and clutched the bundle tightly, hoping it didn’t feel the rapid pounding of her heart. Oblivious to the trepidation that lay just beneath the surface of her resolve, the infant simply made satisfied slurping noises.
“What are you doing?” asked the small, nearly inaudible voice. The gentle female looked up, realizing the words had come from the sleeping beast. She was surprised but not frightened; for she had seen the glint of light within the dark pupil of Its stone cold eye.
She smiled, her cheeks reddened by the glowing flames of the fire, now suddenly alive with warmth, and gently whispered. “I am caring for Damanta.” She gazed down at the infant lying in her arms, stroked his brow, and looked into the dead eye of the beast, focusing on the glint that flickered in the depths of the darkness there. “And I am caring for you.”
The female chuckled softly and winked at the light. She ran her chubby fingers across the infant’s cheeks and nose, and she bent to kiss his forehead. Then she looked back at the glint that blazed brightly for a moment against the darkness of its prison.
“But who are you?” the voice insisted.
Dochais whimpered as he suckled, drawing his tiny fist up to his tear stained cheek.
“I am Joy.” She beamed, her brilliant smile supporting the claim. Joy wiped the tears from the child’s cheek and he wrapped his hand around her chubby finger. Her voice was strong and certain as she looked into the eye of Damanta and spoke to the daughters of Ar’tine.
“And I am here to keep Hope alive upon Domhan.”
is merely the beginning.
Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream…
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream…
(Original Author Unknown)