In the Land of Sorrows/Forever Never

‘Dear Mother, no,’ she prayed. The infant so close to missing life, so recently saved from death, and now cruelly returned to Eternity’s bosom? Naofa could wait no longer. She took a few tentative steps towards them and called gently to Eolas through the blinding sheets of the rain. Continue reading In the Land of Sorrows/Forever Never

Beg, Barter, Beat/Forever Never

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. Continue reading Beg, Barter, Beat/Forever Never

Terror in the Skies/Forever Never

Eagna gently moved his hand from her face and placed it on his daughter’s soft head. She looked serene in an unnatural way, drawing him into her soul as she gazed up into his eyes and answered. “This night I have looked death in the face and seen it surrender, returning our daughter to us. There is nothing I fear above this.” She smiled radiantly and broke his heart. Continue reading Terror in the Skies/Forever Never

Back to the Garden/Warrior and Huntress/Forever Never

Mna went straight to Ella, embracing her warmly, and kissed her gently on the cheek. When their bodies touched, the life within Ella leapt as if in greeting to the child Mna carried. A tiny gasp of understanding escaped Mna’s lips as she withdrew and looked into the eyes of their friend’s new companion. Within the dark depths of Ella’s gaze she recognized hesitation and realized this was still the mother’s secret. She smiled at Ella, but a furrow of question creased her soft brow. She turned to Laoch and reached up to give him a squeeze, always stunned by how broad his shoulders were, how strong his arms felt as he hugged her gently in return. Continue reading Back to the Garden/Warrior and Huntress/Forever Never

A Crowded House/Forever Never

“He is very fine, Mna,” whispered Eagna. “I hope I will be as blessed with such devotion and love with our child.” She stroked her stomach and then reached out to touch Mna’s rounded belly. At the same moment Mna moved to stroke her friend’s stomach; and when they touched one another simultaneously, the life within them kicked happily. They both laughed uncontrollably for a few seconds, giddy with the sensation. “Already they are friends,” smiled Mna. Continue reading A Crowded House/Forever Never

Naofa’s Reprieve/Forever Never

hibiscus aug 2015 025.NEF

Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion

Cheryl Pennington

copyright all content 2015

As the tribes of Jinetes and Espera revel in their union and all of Domhan awakens to the gift of Creation, the Sorceress awakens to the truth of her own desire, her sense of failure and the need for a new direction.  Heading to the home of her friend,  hungers for peaceful respite….

Naofa’s Reprieve
Naofa slept soundly, plagued by no dreams, no visions and no visitors, thanks to her Mothers’ watchful eye. By the time she awoke in the morning, the sun was rising high in the cloudless sky.  For a moment she was anxious about how much daylight had been lost to her while she slumbered; but comprehension was swift as the mists in her mind receded and she recalled the events that had brought her to be camping at the edge of a wood, facing a new dawn. The Sorceress heaved a labored sigh and drew her arm across her head, shielding her eyes from the cruel sun. The unsympathetic sun. (She smiled to think of her folly.) The warm sun. The gloriously rich and friendly sun. The sun that welcomed a new cycle, a new chance to live, and finally an end to loneliness for the humans she was bound to serve. She lowered her arm and opened her eyes to embrace such a sun. The Light reached into her soul, reigniting her resolve to continue on. What may have happened in the land of smoke and mystery the previous night was unknown to her-and she was glad of it. She would not allow her mind to drift toward thoughts of the tribes and there joining-of their ceremony-the first celebration she had not been able to facilitate. The glorious celebration that brought together eager companions, ready to add to the life and prosperity of their world,  must have been magnificent. Naofa pushed the images from her mind and could not, would not, allow her thoughts to return to the disturbing images of the strange beauty and the Warrior, could not let it even form his name, although she whispered prayers to the Eternal Realm for the happiness of all who lived-and loved-on Domhan.

Naofa sat up and grabbed at the wild strands of hair that fell willfully across her face and around her shoulders, gathering them on top of her head and twisting them into a knot there. She crossed her legs, resting her hands on her bare knees and closed her eyes, taking deep breaths-in, out, in, out-until she was floating in peaceful meditation.  There was no need to burn herbs in the open meadow, for the smell of fresh jasmine and evergreen was all around her, hanging on the breeze that drifted from the woods.  All of Domhan was buzzing, calling her to join their song of gratitude, which she did with a sincere heart.

How long she sat in meditation was uncertain.  The Sorceress only knew that when she opened her eyes again, the world looked very different from the one she tried to shut out with bitter tears the night before.  She slowly rose to her feet and gathered those few things that she called her own.  Plans change,  and her new plan was to journey to the home of Eagna and Eolas; and for the Sorceress, this was a most comforting thought.  Being in her friend’s company would do her weary soul immeasurable good as well ease the concern she felt for Eagna’s well being during the absence of the Hunter. It would be good to talk freely again, although she knew there need not even be words to pass between them,  so connected were they that thought alone seemed to pass for perfect communication very often.

Naofa closed her eyes, already basking in the warmth of the sun as it drifted through Eagna’s small window where they would sit drinking tea and nibbling dried fruits. A sigh akin to a sorrowful moan startled her and she wondered where it had come from, then laughed softly when she realized it was her own impatient voice,  expressing its desire to be on the move again.

(She was yet unaware of the others that also made their way to the land of the Hunter and Eagna-a happy family that was experiencing their first journey outside of the safety of their garden.  As with all events on Domhan, their progress and purpose was being etched upon the walls in the Cave of Knowledge and written on the scroll of the Word.)

It took the rest of daylight to reach her destination although she moved swiftly; and Naofa reached the edge of Eolas’ land as the sun fell behind the jagged mountains, their peaks like grinning teeth glinting against the twilight. Although still only a faint silhouette against the sunset sky, Eagna’s home in the distance was a comforting and familiar sight. A single light shone from the shadow building, blinking now and then as though winking at the Sorceress; and it felt as a soothing balm to her wounded Spirit. She could smell the fragrance of bubbling herbs, a small pot always simmering over her friend’s fire. The Sorceress could contain her joy no longer as a soft whistle flowed up from her throat and squeezed through her lips.  With sheer abandon she sprinted across the field that was all which remained to separate her from solace and repose.\

Eagna looked up from her stitching expectantly, a feeling of excitement rising in her soul, something which stirred from deep within. Was that a voice? Cocking her head to the side, she sat perfectly still, straining  to discover the source of the faint sound, but heard nothing save the buzz of night bugs and the call of the evening doves. After a moment she returned her attention to the tunic she was making for herself. The child was fast growing within her and she would soon outgrow the one she wore. She tugged at the leather, thinking that it was already becoming quite snug. She smiled to herself thinking how lovely this daugh..this child…would be. And oh how loved.

Her thoughts were disrupted again, her keen intuition awakened. The sound had returned, reaching her ears with certainty now.  Oddly, it sounded like a morning bird, sending up its first call to daylight; but she knew well it wasn’t daybreak-and this was no morning bird. Part of her felt delight in the sound; but the grappling fingers of darkness reached into her heart, trying to awaken fear.  Of course there was no need to fear and she turned away from it. Eagna arose from her stool and walked to the door, leaning against the cool wood and stared into the now darkened sky that spread like a blanket across the field.  She heard no strange noises, saw no impending danger, and so stepped onto the porch and drank in the cool air, heavy with the scent of honeysuckle and lavender.  Eagna’s face, turned to the heavens, admired the stars sprinkled across its face. The faint glow of fading sunlight lay across the field behind her home, casting eerie shadows that crept out from beneath the porch to slither across the grass.

Eagna caressed her belly tenderly as she turned to go back inside, but seeing a movement from the corner of her eye stopped her short. It was no more than a flash of light, a flicker, really. Perhaps it was merely the twinkling of the moon, so brilliantly bright, glimmering off a pool of water. She squinted, waiting for another glimmer, but there was nothing…Eagna held her breath. The moments seemed endless as she waited.  There!  She saw it again. It was a very definite flash of white, like a bird in flight, but so much larger. She leaned over the railing to watch it more closely, the flashes increasing-a flock of birds?   They were getting closer now; and Eagna was fascinated by the way the light seemed to come and go, darting from side to side, then up and down, in such a fluid movement. Suddenly she identified that movement.  It wasn’t an insect and it was no bird, or flock of birds.  No, it was more like that of a beast..oh my Gods! Her mind raced, telling her to get back inside; but she was stuck to the spot, her eyes trained on the rapidly approaching mystery that grew larger and brighter with every movement in her direction.  Suddenly the white light began to change as it moved, becoming a shape-a shape that leapt and raced directly towards her with increasing speed.  Although Eagna’s heart pounded like Eolas’ drum she stood transfixed, her fingers wrapped so tightly around the rail that her knuckles became as white as the form she watched. By the time it was close enough to identify, that indeed this was a beast, it was too late to dash inside and close the heavy door, bolting it behind her. Something within held her there, whispered there was nothing for her to fear, and she realized there was something distinctly familiar about this particular beast.  The new dawning drove fear back into the depths to make way for a bright anticipation. Could it be? Her heart soared at the thought!

Just as the beast was fully discernible and reached leaping distance of the porch, it stood up on its hind legs; and in that moment Eagna’s heart leapt for joy, knowing now with certainty she would no longer be alone.

Blessed Mother! It really was Naofa! Eagna’s heart wept as her soul sang. Oh the comfort in seeing a friend again. It had seemed so long since she heard another human voice. She watched in familiar amazement as the miracle of transformation was complete, the Sorceress becoming human in the blink of an eye, her clawed feet elongating into pink flesh, the white fur falling away from her tall, curved figure.  Naofa reached the porch in long strides, leaping over the steps, tossing her bundles hastily aside and unabashedly embracing Eagna. They stood, hugging, feeling comforted in each other’s arms for a few moments.  Naofa’s shoulders shook as she wept with relief and Eagna felt warm tears falling on her shoulder; but she, herself, was too happy to weep. Once they parted, Naofa wiped her face, grabbed her things, and followed her friend inside.

Naofa dropped her belongings on a corner chair and  sat on the floor before the fire, its glow lighting her skin, bringing back the image of the white tiger.  Eagna brought her a cup of chamomile tea, laced with a bit of special herb, noticing how tired the Sorceress looked. Naofa inhaled the steaming brew, sensing its call to peaceful rest and sipped, thoughtfully silent for a long while. Neither female had uttered a word since she arrived, but as Naofa relaxed, the lock on the clasp of her heart fell open. There was no one else on Domhan she would have bared her soul to but this friend, she who could see into her very essence at any moment.  Without reserve the Sorceress recounted the events that had occurred since they parted in the land of Laoch’s caves.  Eagna sat quietly beside her on a low stool, her face in her hands, mesmerized by the telling, trying to envision the gentle folk of the cliffs and their life there. She gasped when the Sorceress related the horror of being pulled into Ar’tine’s dark world, standing naked before his jeering countenance, and was pulled to sorrow by the visions that Naofa had experienced, awakening emotions which caused her true heartbreak.  Naofa spoke without emotion, her eyes fixed on the red embers of the fire; and when she finished her tale, Eagna put her hand gently on her friend’s back.  Naofa sat quietly, pulling her knees tightly to her chest, her arms clutching them, her chin resting on her hands as she continued gazing into the firelight as though there were answers there-or perhaps redemption. There always seemed to be a comfort in letting one’s mind drift with the dancing colors of a fire…

Eagna finally broke the spell of hypnotic comfort, compelling the Sorceress to return to herself. “Sister Naofa,” she whispered, “It is a wonder to me that you are able to do all that you do and remain so strong, so immovable and yet so…loving.” Naofa turned her head in amazement, taken a aback by her friend’s words. She had hoped for forgiveness for own her poor judgment, but she had not expected such a generous assessment of herself. Her quizzical expression was met by a tender smile from Eagna and more words of comfort. “Do you not see that it is always your unselfish love which drives you to near madness over those you care for? There is no fault in that.” Eagna brushed an unruly lock of hair from Naofa’s face, tucking it behind her ear as she continued, “Even in your haste-that urge which rises above your sense of reason-you harbor no thought for your own safety.  Your fierce devotion drives you fearlessly into whatever danger may lie ahead. That is a true act of Love.”

Naofa’s heart longed to bask in the glow of forgiveness but her own dark place would not allow it. Burying her face in her knees, she clasped her hands over her head, overcome by doubt, pain and loneliness. The tears flowed quietly but freely as Eagna ran her fingers through her friend’s tangled hair. When there were no more tears to shed, Naofa softly whispered the words that had been crying out in her mind ever since her Mother left her in the woods.  “It was my own selfish desire which lead me to nearly destroy the happiness of the very one I..I..” She looked at Eagna, her eyes glistening and red.  “Do I really love him, Sister? What is this kind of love which can cause destruction and pain, and why has it been brought upon us? What have we done by awakening our desire to create life within our world?” She instantly felt remorse for her words in the face of Eagna’s precious condition. (the dark space grows deeper) She added quickly, “Of course, Eagna, I don’t mean to…”

Eagna placed a finger over her lips. “Stop hurting yourself. It does none in the Realm or on Domhan any good for you to suffer this way.” She paused, gathering her thoughts and searching for the words to ease her friend’s pain. “That which is but a thought can be changed.  And once changed, the original thought must be forgiven. Then it no longer exists. Yet, know this, my friend. Whatever you do and whatever the choices you make while in this dream, you must remember that your Creators are always with you. They may not always be able to come to you as Mother Bandia did; for truly the veil grows heavier with the cycles that pass and new life increases upon our world. This is going to be our greatest challenge. We must remember our eternal home and teach those who are coming to join us. This is our quest, our gift and our curse. I do not claim to understand the physical state of love which flows between us as humans, so fresh and new; but I am certain in my understanding of the Unconditional Love of our Creators. You are always understood, always loved and never cast out. I am coming to understand that in this physical form, the best we can do is to love ourselves without judgment. We come from Spirit and are at one with the Essence of Eternity. It is in loving ourselves that we receive the perfect gift of love from Eternity.”

Naofa’s body relaxed into weary submission beneath her friend’s touch, the sound of her voice. Night had closed in around them as they sat together, and Eagna was  feeling very tired. She took the empty cup from Naofa, stood and bid her friend goodnight, more than ready for peaceful sleep, the first night she would not be alone in many cycles.  Both females were silent as Naofa purged the dark debris from her conscience and Eagna closed the door, washed her face, and lay down on her bed.  She looked at the Sorceress, her lanky body now stretched prostrate on the floor in front of the flickering fire.
“Others are looking to us for guidance, my friend. If all we ever show them is perfection, how will they know how to accept their own imperfection? It will be how we deal with our own human nature that will be the telling of the story for them.”  Eagna rolled over and looked through the window at the moon. It still glowed full and bright but was no longer red and hungry.  She smiled to think of Eolas sharing this moment with her, wherever he was.

“And do get up off the floor and into the bed, Sister. You are no longer the great white cat who sleeps in the woods.”  Her broke, revealing her teasing tone.  Naofa was cheered in spite of her serious mood. She did as she was told, rising to wash the journey from her skin, slipping off her tunic, and lay upon the bed. All too soon she drifted off into a deep, but peaceful sleep; and when she awoke the sun was striking the floor next to her bed in bright shards.  Throwing her legs over the bed’s edge, she stepped lightly into its glow, her toes curling over the smooth, warm surface of the wood. The smell of bubbling grains and fresh tea crept into her nostrils; and her stomach grumbled, reminding her that her last meal was long behind her.

“Do I have time for a dip in the creek before we eat, Eagna?” Her friend turned from the cooking and smiled at her.

“You look rested. I would say yes but for when last you wandered off into the creek…” She laughed out loud remembering the look of her drenched, naked friend as she shivered before the little cave dwellers. Naofa flushed for a moment then tossed her head back and laughed too. It felt so wonderful to laugh. “Okay,” she said. “The swim can wait.”

Eagna nodded.  “There, by the table, is a fresh bowl of water that you can wash up with. I heard your stomach begging for food even as you slept.”

Naofa was too hungry to be embarrassed by this and nodded eagerly as she began to clean up. When she finished, Eagna was just placing the food on the table. It had been so dark, and she was so distraught the night before, that  Naofa scarcely looked at her friend fully.  Now she was amazed to see how Eagna’s belly had increased in size. The early morning light complimented the lovely glow on her face as well.   This brought Naofa a great deal of joy. They ate, sharing stories and insights, and deftly avoiding the previous night’s topic.

Eagna eventually spoke of Eolas, her eyes misting over with loneliness. They had proven a perfect match and connected on a very deep level. Naofa wondered if this sort of connection would ever be in her future. She quickly replaced this thought with another. A brilliant idea that could perhaps help to ease her friend’s loneliness.

“Eagna, do you feel up to a bit of a journey?” A look of mild apprehension crossed the other’s face, but Naofa assured her, “Oh, not a long one to be certain. But I thought perhaps a visit to your own homeland might do your heart good. And your unborn child would be introduced to its Mother’s place of birth.”

New excitement shone in Eagna’s eyes at the thought. How she missed her waters, her lands, the mystical lake of her visions. Even in the arms of Eolas there was a sense of loneliness for the place of her birth. She hesitated only a moment before replying enthusiastically, “Oh, my yes! I hadn’t thought of it. I would never go alone. But with you, with company, it would truly be possible-wouldn’t it?” Naofa nodded emphatically as they made plans to leave the very next morning. This would be a cycle for preparation and resting.

And that dip in the water, thought Naofa…

Continue reading “Naofa’s Reprieve/Forever Never”

The Land of Jinetes/Forever Never

Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion by Cheryl Pennington copyright 2015 Into Jinetes A Warrior’s Welcome As Naofa, Rith and Carraig prepared to leave Eagna to make their way into the rocky land of caves, so Eolas and Laoch were readying … Continue reading The Land of Jinetes/Forever Never

Under the Blood Moon

Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion by Cheryl Pennington copyright words and photography Under the Blood Moon The Living Scrolls The new moon was blood-red. Eagna gazed at it from her window in amazement. Whenever the crimson wonder rose on Domhan, … Continue reading Under the Blood Moon