Maiden Flight

Already so much wisdom in its eyes….what an honor to have shared its first voyage into adventure-its maiden flight. Continue reading Maiden Flight

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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

The Hatchlings/Forever Never

. Palabra stared, a cry frozen on her lips, in horrified awe as she peered into the depths, a place endlessly dark and vast in its emptiness. It was painfully cold within and yet she sensed a burning fire at its core. “Where is its gift?” thought Palabra, and leaned over to take a closer look. Continue reading The Hatchlings/Forever Never

The Homecoming/Forever Never

A tempting aroma wafted its way to her nostrils then, awakening ignored hunger pangs that suddenly rumbled like thunder in her stomach. Noafa clutched her abdomen, slightly embarrassed by its cries; but Carraig jumped at the chance to urge the village in the direction of the meal he knew was waiting.

Continue reading The Homecoming/Forever Never

A Time for Ceremony/The Sanctification/Forever Never

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Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion

by

Cheryl Pennington

all rights reserved

As we left the garden, preparations were beginning for ceremony.  It was time to call to Eternity to bless the new life that was born to Dohman’s first human couple, a life with great hope attached.  Through this child, the rift in the soul might be healed, ending the need for fear, the need for doubt, and the certainty of continued love within existence.  One by one, the Light Ones are called to The Garden; and they arrive, bearing gifts and hopeful for the events to come…..

The Sanctification

Entering the clearing that Eolas remembered as the living space of M’na and Fireann, he barely recognized it, so transformed it had become from the open, simple home he last saw.  The once overgrown patch of cleared woods where the males together built the couple’s dwelling had quickly evolved.   Their home was situated in the center; but now there stood several new structures around it. Along with the home of the Garden Family, their were dwellings for visitors also. The Hunter could smell freshly cut wood, telling him the newest addition had been recent. He could see that Fireann made improvements to their dwelling, adding windows through which long beams of light fell across the wood floor.  Eolas circled the structure, pausing to observe the way Fireann had strengthened it with support poles and sealed out the wind with dried grasses on top. He admired the way that the flowering vines of the surrounding forest had crept in to gently envelop the place, their blooms tumbling down the from the top, adding bursts of color everywhere they fell.  Their fragrant scent was taunting his senses.  It was most intoxicating.
Or perhaps it was the liquid that bubbled innocently in the stone container sitting over the fire pit that produced the headiness in the air around them.

The stone fire-pit that crackled in the center of the clearing sent flames licking the air and bringing to life a gooey concoction that bubbled within a small, stone bowl placed over it. This container was nothing like Eolas’ roughly hand chipped and beaten bowls, however.  Close inspection revealed that it had been worn completely smooth and there were intricate marks on the inside and around the top edge. The Hunter felt awed by its mystical quality; but something stronger stirred within the Warrior, Laoch, as he gazed at the vessel which seemed to call to him with a voice of recognition.

The perfectly scratched designs resonated within his soul.  Gazing at it in wonder, he instinctively reached down to touch the leather pouch that hung around his neck where he checked the contents.  Still there.  He was pleased he had made the trip without losing or damaging anything.  When the time was right, he would reveal his gift.

The ground was cleared to a soft circle of dirt surrounding the fire pit.  Within the circle were positioned large, flat rocks, carefully placed around it.  There were stones to each side of the steps leading into the dwelling; then the others were placed to the sides of these, equally distant.  Directly across from the entryway was a wide path that had been lined with small limbs and freshly picked flowers of all varieties from within the garden.  The fragrance coming from them was sweet and strong.  It was apparent now to both Warrior and Hunter that the headiness in the air was coming not just from the bubbling liquid, but from every corner of this place. Inside the stone bowl a thick, translucent liquid with a grayish hue bubbled away, while silvery wisps of vapor wafted up into the trees. This scent mingled with that of the flowers to create a tantalizing, dizzying feeling.

The flower lined path led out into the undergrowth; and where it ended lay the heart of Foirfeachta, a sacred place that had never been entered by any but the Garden couple and their Goddess mother. Ancient trees arched lovingly over the path, their branches reaching down to embrace the scene as though intending to be a part of this glorious celebration. Beyond the heart of the Garden lay the dark shade of the lush forest.

And then she was there.  Eolas felt her first, as something within his center stirred. Acknowledging this shift within his essence, he scanned the clearing quickly, searching every corner for the source of his excitement. At first he saw nothing and his heart began to sink a little, although he still did not comprehend why.   But she was there.  While his keen eye had been scanning the clearing, she had emerged from the dwelling, carrying a deep bowl piled high with fruits, berries and nuts, all gathered from the Garden for the ceremony.   There was more than enough for everyone.   Eagna moved deftly around the circle to a table they had formed of wood and stone and knelt to place the food on top of it. The Hunter admired the way she seemed to glide across the ground, so like the graceful birds over the river.

As Eagna worked silently, she felt a tugging from the center of her chest and looked up to see the two new arrivals now in their midst.  Caught off guard and reacting to her sense of excitement, she lost her step, nearly sending the efforts of her morning’s labors tumbling onto the ground.  Without error, she righted everything and skillfully balanced it all within the bowl once more. Calmly regaining her composure, she straightened her shoulders and turned to greet Eolas and Laoch, who were amused and trying to suppress laughter.  Instead, they hurried to her side, realizing she might need a hand, both eager to help this lovely new presence.

“Hello, friends, we have been expecting you,” Eagna said with a smile. The males exchanged questioning glances,  wondering how the others in this entourage had been advised of their arrival, what creatures brought the news of their coming.  In time, each would tell their stories of dreams and visions; but for now there were more pressing matters to  attend to.

Eagna extended her hand to the males.  Laoch unabashedly reached grasp it eagerly into his own large hand.  When he released his warrior’s hold on her, she then held it timidly out to Eolas who took it gently within his own. Her pulse quickening, she looked up into the eyes of the Hunter; and as she gazed into their brown depths, both felt a sense of comfort and familiarity that neither could understand.
“Hello again, my friend.” It was Eagna who spoke now. She smiled warmly at both males, but her eyes quickly returned to the figure of Eolas.

“Laoch and I are honored to be a part of this celebration,” stated the Hunter. Laoch wondered why the other male’s voice sounded different, silently noting the exchange of energy between his companion and this wise female.   Still, he thought nothing much of it and turned to the task of unceremoniously unloading his cumbersome bundles, striking up dust and debris in the process.  Stirred from their brief moment of connection, Eagna quickly withdrew her hand.

“Come, now, there is a place better suited for this,” stated Eolas as he led Laoch to a more private area for the two to stow their belongings.  Eagna, feeling not just a little flushed, returned her attention to the food preparations.

Noafa soon appeared from the deeply forested edge of the clearing, carrying more herbs which, after she had sorted, carefully placed within the bowl of simmering aromatic brew.  Her movements were precise and yet elegant; and Eagna continued to feel awed, if not a bit intimidated, when in her presence.  When the Sorceress finished, she left the circle and approached the others who were now busily tending to their own work. Eolas and Laoch having returned, stood up in their manner of respect.  Eagna stopped her own task and looked up.

Realizing she had likely come to retrieve the bundles they helped carry, Eolas quickly scooped them up and handed them to Naofa, aware of the contents that rolled around in one as he did so.  In the other..well, he could not be certain; but it felt as if something were moving within it, ever so slightly. Grasping both bundles firmly and giving Eolas a nod of thanks, Naofa took the things from him, turned on her heel and went back into the circle to the fire pit, not speaking, but pausing to wink quickly at Laoch. As they watched the Sorceress walk away, they became mesmerized; and for some reason they all felt compelled to stop what they were doing to observe her as she worked.

Naofa carefully untied the first bundle and let the cloth drop away from several colored stones.  From this short distance Eolas could see that they were not common stones.  One was translucent, another the color of ground moss.  Laoch was enthralled as well and saw that the third stone was the color of the cliffs where he lived. They watched as she carefully laid a wide circle around the fire pit with these stones.  Eagna admired the next stone, a smooth, flat one that was the color of her river waters, deep gray with flecks of blue. Another stone emerged as that of the sun rising in the morning, bright and flawless. The one which followed was as black as a night without stars, but the surface shone like moonlight on water. The next one was as red as the blood which coursed through every living being.  Each of the onlookers let go a tiny gasp when this one appeared in Naofa’s hands.  She continued placing them carefully to encircle the fire, moving with grace and efficiency. Next appeared a stone that was deep blue-green-as an ocean wave. The last stone was larger than the rest and had straight sides rather than smooth, rounded ones.  It was elongated, with sharp points on both ends, as noted in the calculating mind of the Warrior.  Eagna saw it as the still water that pooled near her home, where she could see her reflection in the moonlight as she bathed. It was so peaceful for her to imagine.  If Eolas could have seen that same vision, he would not have been able to focus on the image forming within his own mind-that of the the female’s eyes-glassy and clear. He imagined them a place where he might lose himself when she looked at him.

As she cradled this amazing crystal stone in her hands, Naofa whispered softly while she carried it to a place just in front of the fire pit  closest to the two stones standing in front of the family’s dwelling. Raising this stone high over her head in both hands, she lifted it to the sun.  The light struck its surface and was caught there within its mufti-faceted form for a brief instant before splintering out through the other side where it fell upon the soft dirt in ribbons of brilliant color.  The trio was amazed, for it mimicked the magnificent arches that hung across the skies after a rain.  Naofa held it high there for long moments while they enjoyed this dazzling display of light and color.

Its reflection must have filtered through the entrance to the dwelling; for Fireann and M’na soon appeared at the entrance, their new son cradled in the female’s arms. As they witnessed the light display, they were in wonder of this female who could produce the same magic that colored their skies.

Eagna looked away from the miracle of light for a moment to gaze at the little family across the clearing, and her heart became warmed by the Light of Eternity as she looked upon each face-Mother, Father and Son.  A brief smile touched the lips of the infant as he watched the form and light dancing in front of them.  The gentle smile faded as Naofa lowered her arms and brought the stone to rest upon a small altar just in front of the fire, midway between it and the two primary flat rocks. Eagna hadn’t noticed the little altar until now.  Its wood was twisted and curved, like entwined fingers and seemed perfectly made for this particular stone. Naofa seemed oblivious to the admirers and continued with her work, moving around the circle and, kneeling before each stone in turn, whispering words too low for any present to comprehend.

The spell broken,  they returned to their tasks. It was only Eagna who continued to watch, noting that each time Naofa touched a stone as she moved about the circle, the flames in the fire flared for a moment. She found it fascinating, the talents of this Sorceress.

The new family stepped out into the light of day, the infant crying until its Mother gave it the suckle it wanted. Fireann looked down at his son and smiled, slowly shaking his head.  He touched M’na’s cheek as he turned to make his way towards the newly arrived guests to welcome them once again to his home.  Seeing Fireann’s broad grin was welcome indeed to both travelers.
“Hello my friend!  We are full of joy for you and honored to be a part of this celebration of new life, this miracle for Dohman.” It was Eolas’ warm handshake that was extended first.

Laoch waited patiently and in turn gripped the hand of the first Father on their world as he added, “We will have much to teach this little one as he grows.  But for now….” He knew he should wait for the ceremony but was too eager to show his joy for Fireann’s gift of life.  The Warrior knelt by his bundle and withdrew an object from it. It appeared to be a measure of smooth wood with no splinters or rough edges. Firmly attached to one end was the dried, hollowed out shell of the small gourd which grew along the outer fringes of Foirfeachta. It, too, had been rubbed smooth. Fireann remembered giving some of these to Laoch before he left to return to his own lands.

As Laoch handed the object to Fireann, he added in his roughly gentle voice, “This is my gift to the child.  It is my hope that he be delighted and comforted by it.”   He gave it a quick shake and a soft rattling sound came from the gourd end. Laoch’s eyes twinkled as he added, “And you will always know when he is near.” He smiled at Fireann proudly and slid his fingers down to a large loop of thin leather attached to the other end.  He put several fingers through the hole, showing that the toy could be fastened about one’s arm or leg. How clever and how wonderful, thought Fireann, feeling a surge of overwhelming affection for his Warrior friend as he happily accepted the gift, placing a hand on Laoch’s shoulder.

“Thank you from myself and my son who has yet only the ability to cry out in anger and need.”  Fireann chuckled.  Laoch was filled with complete satisfaction, knowing his gift was well received.
Eagna was moved by this gesture of the Warrior’s heart and could not fathom his being anything other than greatness in flesh. She moved from where she had been working, nodded a good morning to Fireann and passed between him and Eolas as she returned to the dwelling to offer her assistance to M’na.  The new mother seemed never to be separated from her infant. As the males watched her walk away, it was Fireann who broke the silence. “Perhaps you will desire a companion someday in your land in the mountains, my friend,” he said, thoughtfully and in earnest.

Eolas was taken off guard as he struggled for a deflective response. “Today is about celebrating your companion and the gift you and M’na have brought into our world. There will be other moments to ponder such possibilities.” They both laughed nervously and Fireann offered to help Eolas ready his sleeping roll and supplies in the new shelter that had been prepared for this occasion.  Laoch grabbed his bundles and joined them, the three disappearing from the clearing.

“He feeds as though he has never suckled before,” noted Eagna.

“Or ever will again,” laughed M’na in return. “I would never deny him anything.  My love for my son surpasses any I have known in my life.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “It shames me to say that I love him more than my own Fireann, although I love my companion no less.”

Eagna, stepping into her role as counselor and friend, assured the new Mother, “It is a separate Love you know for that which is created from within yourself.  No greater love exists that I know of. It is the reason for any of our being. The Creator feels this love for each and every thing that is known, for it all came from The One. Do not condemn yourself for loving your son more than yourself.  He is you, brought forth in flesh so that you may know yourself completely. So, you see, it is impossible to love one thing or one being more than another in the thought of eternity.”

M’na absorbed these words before she spoke again. “Do you believe this miracle is possible, that what makes us forget that we are whole will become manifest in this tiny infant?”
Eagna thought carefully before she spoke again, for none knew the eventual outcome of this experiment or if it would continue on in other humans. Did she believe? She certainly did not know. What she was certain of was the power of that which had created all that she was aware of. And if anything was possible, that power could bring it into being. “If there is indeed a way to mend what was rent apart from the beginning, then we will only know as your son’s consciousness awakens. His soul was prepared carefully before being placed into this tiny body; but it will also be your responsibility to remind him of the truth you have accepted, even at those times when that truth seems fragile and distant to your own soul. Can you do this, Mother of Humankind?”

M’na looked into the sincerity of Eagna’s questioning eyes as her own dark eyes brimmed over with salty tears and proclaimed unwaveringly, “With every breath I have in me, I will aspire to bring wholeness to our being. I will never leave my son alone as long as I have the will and the life to be there for him. Harm can only reach him if I or Fireann be undone first.”

Eagna did not question the truth in her statements.  They had all lived long upon Dohman thus far, M’na the longest; and still she remained the vision of beauty and strength that she was from the time of her creation. Would she always be thus?  The female who admired her now wondered.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Naofa’s voice, filling the quiet forest with her call to the heavens.

“Spiorad Mor, thy gift is with us, thy Light is upon us as we gather here to celebrate Humanity’s child and anoint him with the blessings which you have Created.  Be with us in our celebration!”  The fire in the pit grew larger as she spoke; and within the flames, Eagna thought she could see flying creatures, like the winged shimmering creatures that hovered near the river’s edge. They hummed and buzzed as the call to Eternity left the Sorceress’s lips. Then, just as quickly as Eagna saw them, they disappeared as Naofa became silent and lowered her arms to her sides.  Smiling, she turned to the two women and motioned for them to move inside. It was nearing time for the ceremony to begin.

Just emerging from a cleansing swim in the cold waters of the creek, the males heard the cry of the Sorceress as it was lifted upwards and carried across the forest. Looking skyward, they saw flocks of colorful birds take wing as she spoke.  They were not certain what it was she had said, but the sound of her voice and the tone it carried seemed to beckon all to come.  Their time for sharing hunting stories and becoming more familiar had been jovial and lighthearted; but their mood became more subdued as they dried themselves and prepared to rejoin the others back at the clearing.
Inside the dwelling, the infant son of M’na and Fireann was given a gentle cleansing with water that had been taken from the spring which flowed at the center of the Inner Garden, where grew the tree with its gift of Creation. The spring’s source began at the base of that very tree from which the sweet nectar of fertility had been drawn, and from there made its way down the gentle slope throughout the rest of the garden. Naofa brought a light, soft cloth made of fibers that were strange to M’na and Eagna;, but neither questioned the Female of Mystery.  After the child was bathed, each one in turn kissed his brow and said her own silent blessing for his soul, his journey and his destiny.

Eagna and Naofa pulled M’na’s long dark locks of hair into sections and lifted them above her shoulders, fastening them loosely. They then tucked in various fragrant flowers from the garden, the white ones being M’na’s own favorite. Their scent made her head swim a little, but it helped to calm any anxiety about the ceremony. She knew her legacy was Eternal; but in this new role she felt very small and insignificant. The magnitude of her gift and the mission at hand might have brought a sense of power and fullness to another, but in her space of loneliness she feared failure. If she didn’t protect her son, if he didn’t fulfill the plan, would Great Spirit be disappointed in her? Would her Mother take her from the Garden where she would never see Fireann or her infant again? Or would they simply call his young soul back into the eternal bosom?

Naofa sensed these fears rising within Eternity’s Daughter and knelt beside her, becoming gentle and serious when she spoke. “These fears inside of you come from the very place we are hoping to repair.  It creates seeds of fear which can only serve to diminish the gift of Light and Love which is your birthright.  Great Spirit asks no task of you, no homage to be made, no trial to be won to know Its Love. This gift is for all of Dohman, with the hope that the empty place within his new soul is so insignificant, so surrounded by Love, that it becomes as the sound of a whisper in a Thunderstorm. All you must do as his Mother is to give him your love, keep him safe, and see only the Light that exists within you both. This is what Spiorad Mor would have of all Its creations.  Until now it has been a struggle for them; and some have moved in the way of darkness as a result.  We must be ever mindful to know which voices are speaking to us.”

M’na asked in earnest, “But how will we know the difference?”

There was strength, comfort and certainty in Naofa’s voice when she answered, “That which comes from the Light will never cause you pain and will never urge you to bring pain upon another.”

M’na had never desired to cause pain for anyone. She had not even known pain until she gave birth, other than what she felt when she was careless in the forest or brushed her hand accidentally too near the fire.  The pain of birth had brought forth such glory in her child, she thought as she turned to gaze at him, lying so small atop their bed. He was so peaceful, delightfully holding his hands up in the light and smiling into the face of all that was to come. She felt comforted by Naofa’s words.

Eagna, who had silently been continuing to attend to M’na’s hair, touched her shoulder and added, “The most important thing to remember, to impart to your son, and to share with your companion, is that you are never EVER alone.  Even if you stand silent in a void of darkness and doubt, look for the Light. It is always with you, within you.  I do not know what lies in store for any of us; I only understand that this realm, our Existence, is the Creation of all who exist within it. It will be as we all are.  Do you understand this truth?”

M’na felt a warmth rush over her entire body, sending little chills to every part.  Her heart ached as tears rolled down her soft cheeks. Reaching for a hand from each of her wise counselors, she held them fast and knew the truth of their words.  In the presence of such strength and beauty how could she have had any doubts? How easy it is to be comforted when in the presence of great Love. The real test would be knowing comfort in the silence of physical separation. “Just wait and see…”, the very small voice in the void tried to call out. But for now she could hear nothing but the beating of her own joyful heart and the cooing sounds coming from her son. Before leaving the dwelling a soft skin was draped around her shoulders that fell around her knees. The infant was placed in her arms just before they stepped out and into the Circle of Sanctification, with Naofa leading Mother and Child and Eagna following behind.

Inion, watching from the realm, was filled with tremendous love for her daughters. They were a trinity of Strength, Love and Wisdom.
The males were standing near the edge of the dwelling as the  females emerged, with M’na holding the child of Unity lovingly in her arms.  The scent of the herbs that had been bubbling all morning hung heavily in the air; and everyone could now feel the effects of its aroma.  Naofa motioned M’na to sit on one of the flat stones that was placed near the doorway to their dwelling.  She directed Fireann to his place beside his companion. Going to her bundle, she withdrew a cord of leather from within it. Returning to where Fireann sat, she held the cord up for all to see that there was a stone dangling from the center. It was translucent brown with golden flecks that glimmered in the sunlight.  All present thought their first glimpse of this stone looked like the eye of the great cat.  Naofa turned to stand before Fireann, continuing to lift high the stone as she spoke.

“Son of Eternity. Companion to Dohman’s first Daughter. Father of the Unity through Humankind. This stone is a gift from the eternal essence that moves within the all.  It is as the eye of the Great Cat who lives by its prowess and understanding of its place.  It will gift you with great strength, fortitude, and perseverance.  Just as the great cat stalks its prey with vigilance, patience and tenacity; so should you move through this life.  Dohman honors your journey with this gift. Wear it in the knowledge that the strength of the Great Cat Spirit goes with you.”
Naofa then leaned and fastened the cord around Fireann’s neck. The stone hung against his fair skin and glimmered in the sunlight which was now making its way to the far side of the Garden. Here in Foirfeachta, the sun rose over the trees and fell behind the distant mountains. M’na reached out a free hand to grasp that of Fireann, squeezing it gently. When he looked up in gratitude at the Sorceress, she saw the great solemnity with which he accepted this gift.  She touched the stone one last time. It seemed to glow for the instant that her finger lingered there before she stood and turned to the two males left standing on the fringes of the circle.

Sensing what was to come, they moved closer to the fire pit as Naofa motioned them to sit, one on either side of the fire, flanking the family.
Each carried with them a bundle and an instrument of sound, made by their own hands from the natural gifts of their homeland.  Eagna, now understanding where her place was to be, went over and seated herself upon the large, flat rock that was closest to Eolas. She, too, had a bundle she held close to her side.  (Wisdom and Knowledge, good partners for this ceremony.) Their eyes met for an instant as she took her position. Something stirred within each of them, although neither could discern whether it was the headiness of the scent-filled air or something entirely different. Both pushed these feelings aside and focused on the ceremony, for they knew this was not the moment for them.
When everyone was in place, Naofa turned from the family and stepped closer to the fire pit. Next to it were placed a group of small, wooden cups. Fireann was instructed to make these and had done his job well, smoothing the insides and carving the symbols just as Naofa had asked him to do. The markings were different on each one, revealing the gifts of Spirit that its contents would hold for the one who took it within. She picked each one up in turn, dipping its edge in the syrupy liquid that simmered over the fire, partially filling each and then setting them aside.  She turned to face the stone where Eolas sat, quietly awaiting her next move.

Although everyone present knew they would be participants, nothing had been revealed of their role prior to the present moment. It was understood that Spirit was guiding this ceremony just as it guided all things in existence.  When Naofa spoke his name, Eolas knew at once what was in his heart and what he would share.
“Eolas, come and greet the gift of Eternity, alive in the miracle child of M’na and Fireann.”

Before Eolas went to the family, Naofa handed him one of the cups and waited for him to drink. The draft was strong with herbs and mildly bitter; but he downed all that was in the cup before turning to face the new family. They looked positively frightened and radiant at once.  He couldn’t contain his smile of appreciation for all they had agreed to carry on their shoulders.  When he began to speak, all became still. He spread his arms wide as the words flowed from the Hunter’s heart. Continue reading “A Time for Ceremony/The Sanctification/Forever Never”

Night of Transformation…..the Miracle Child Comes

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Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion

When we left the Garden of Foirfeachta, the little group there had just settled in to sleep for the night;, but as the full moon bathes the clearing in silvery light, their world is about to change….

Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion

by Cheryl Pennington

all artistic and copyright reserved

XXXII Night of Transformation
   As all else on the world of Dohman lay sleeping, the still blanket of darkness over the garden of Foirfeachta was suddenly ripped open by an agonizing scream. Everyone  became instantly alert, rubbing their eyes and starting from their places of rest.  But where did the sound come from?  Before they had recovered from the shock of the rude awakening, another scream shattered the dark silence. This one left no doubt in anyone’s mind.  It was M’na.   Wild thoughts filled everyone’s minds at once; and although the sound had come from her own throat, it took the female who now sat upright clutching her belly a moment to realize that it was she herself who had screamed.  How long she had lain there next to Fireann drifting in and out of sleep she was not certain; but eventually she began to have the same aching pain below that she had felt in the early morning.  She hoped that once again it would subside; but this time it continued-and worsened.  The first few spasms came at great length from one another;  but now they came frequently, one upon another, until finally it was as one great, long cramping that gripped her entire lower body.  Long into the night had she lain there, trying to ignore it as it  worsened. It  felt as though something were wound tightly around her belly, and growing tighter all the time. Her mind darted to the serpents she had seen wrapping themselves around their wriggling meals.  How she felt for those poor creatures at this moment!  Her mind grasped for something safe to cling to.

  The child! Something must be wrong. What had she done wrong?  She felt so much pain.  Her logical mind sought the answer.  M’na had eaten foods that did not agree with her now and then, causing a similar feeling; but this, this was nearly unbearable. Feeling the next wave of pain roll over her, she screamed again in terror and anguish.  Fireann was no longer groggy as he stared into the face of agony beside him.  Terror gripped his insides at the sound of his companion’s cries.  He had no idea what to do to help his beloved. She was sitting up, stroking her body as though to soothe the child, and she began rocking back and forth as she sobbed.  He reached out to soothe her, touching her body where their child lay, and recoiled slightly at the feel of her skin, so taut and hot.  She cried out in pain again, this time pleading for the life of her child. “Mother, pleease.…sa…save my chiiild!”

  Now it was Eagna who hurried in to kneel next to M’na. Although no one had yet experienced the birth of a human child, she had keenly observed the animals in her land as they gave birth so that she could help the daughter of Eternity when her time came to deliver their miracle; but when is one ever completely prepared for the unknown?  She knew she had been created for such things; and without hesitation,  the Female of Wisdom knelt next to a trembling M’na, who frantically rocked back and forth on her bed, moaning and continuing to clutch her unborn child and feeling as though someone were putting the coals of their fire to her lower body. She only wanted to sleep; and she fought the urge to relieve herself right upon her place of rest. M’na tried to rise to her feet, and Eagna pushed her gently, but firmly, back down onto the bed.

  Fireann climbed around his suffering companion to join Eagna where they now both knelt in service to the mother of his child. His mind was also grappling with wild questions.  Why was this female holding his beloved down?  Why did she not allow her to rise?  Perhaps if she could just walk, he thought.. But in his own wisdom he kept silent, for surely Eagna knew more than he did.  It was why she had come, after all.

 Just beyond the doorway, under the moonlit sky, a different miracle was unfolding.  The muscular white tiger awoke at the first sounds of M’na’s cries, then yawned and stretched as she gazed up at the fullness of the glowing moon. The beast got quietly to her feet and sauntered towards the doorway that led into the shelter.  As she climbed the steps, there came a soft growling from her throat.  Although the sounds were low, the tiger’s presence soon became obvious to M’na and Fireann who felt a new wave of fear rising in their chests.  Both looked to the Eagna for comfort;  but their guest watched the beast as though transfixed.  She gazed directly into the watery gray eyes of the big cat even as it ascended the steps; and her chin dropped open in awed wonder as she watched the transformation which began to take place there in the light of the full moon that filtered through the opening where she now stood.

   M’na screamed again;  but neither Eagna nor Fireann, who was only now fully aware of the spectacle taking place in the doorway to his shelter, could take their eyes off of the great cat who was rising upon her hind legs.  Soft ripples slid down her body as her chest began to elongate and her front paws lengthened, melting into long, slender arms.  The massive white, furry chest began to shrink, then briefly to blanket full, shapely breasts before the hair fell away to reveal smooth, human skin.  The thick tuft of white beard on the tigress’s face withdrew into a gentle curving chin as furry cheeks flattened to sharp, high cheekbones with a full blush of pink upon them. The female’s skin glistened as though covered in dew.  Great lengths of black locks fell around the gentle curve of her shoulders; and as she strode into the shelter, the tiger’s legs evaporated into long, muscular, but very feminine legs. As they stretched across the floor, her clawed paws transformed into gentle, sloping feet that gingerly stepped toward the astounded trio where she stopped and looked upon the suffering M’na.

  M’na, who had momentarily been lost in horrified wonder, was now abruptly molested by another searing pain.  She gazed upward, transfixed, at the only thing which remained of the white tiger that had been-those watery, deep gray eyes that looked lovingly and comfortingly into her own.

   Eagna would long recall that these eyes were steely and gentle at the same time. Jolted from her shock by M’na’s new cries, the kneeling female quietly arose and hurried to the shelter where she had been sleeping only moments before.  Glancing around, she pulled the leather blanket from her own bed and, quickly returning to the others, threw it about the shoulders of the exposed  female.

  The fully transformed figure of Naofa grasped the edges of the skin with her newly formed fingers and drew the length of it around her naked body.  Eagna knew of Naofa’s existence but never imagined she had been traveling with Dohman’s Sacred Sorceress. She had so many questions and she saw them all etched in the wonder on Fireann’s face as he gawked at the newly transformed human standing beside him..

  There was no time for such things now, for M’na was writhing upon the bed and beginning to thrash about as all attention became focused on her suffering. She suddenly felt abandoned, alone, and somehow being punished by some unknown terror.  Her weakened mind raced with strange ideas.  How unfair!  She thought Mor loved Its creations, forgave them, and eased their suffering. What was this thing that was happening to her now? And why?

  Instinctively, Eagna and Fireann made an opening between them as Naofa knelt beside M’na, placing her hands on the young female’s shoulders. This mere touch brought instant relief to the searing fire in her back and lower body.  When she began to speak, the voice of Naofa filled the room as wind in the trees, soothing them all while commanding the hysterical mother.

  “M’na, you must be still.  This is your time of birthing Dohman’s miracle into our world.  I have come to ensure its safe arrival.  I was called to care for and protect you during its passage.” Her words, although spoken as encouragement, had a distinct air of authority in them; and none dared protest. Even with some relief and Naofa’s words of support,  M’na continued to thrash about on her bed.

  Clearly now Fireann was in pain along with her as he shifted on his knees uneasily, pleading with their new guest.  “Please, if you can do it, let me take this pain for her.  I don’t know what to do now. I feel so helpless. Why does she not calm? Surely something is gone wrong with the child!”

  Naofa took Fireann’s hands and led him to sit behind M’na’s head.  Then she guided them gently to rest on his companion’s temples, no small task as she writhed in pain.   Still, the Sorceress forced him to hold them firmly in place,  with her own hands covering his as she looked deeply into Fireann’s eyes. He felt pulled into those oceans of gray, like being drawn under a wave, unable to do anything but succumb to its power.

“Now you can share her experience and so ease her fears,” the Sorceress whispered.

  Suddenly he felt a searing in his gut and bands of heat rolled around his waist as fiery coals crawled across his lower back.  The pain was frightening, and his own fear was matched by that of his beloved.  He instinctively jerked his hands to remove them; but then his eyes fell upon those of M’na.  He saw great dark circles full of helpless confusion as she tried to stay afloat in her sea of pain. Instantly he found the surface once more.  Naofa pressed her hands on his gently, nodding at him, for she knew he was beginning to understand.  Relaxing his body, he pressed his own hands firmly against M’na’s temples and leaned close to her, as he gazed into those pleading eyes. Yes, blue sky was what she needed now and would be what she saw in the face that hovered over her own.  Blue skies, with no pain…

  “I am with you in all things,” he assured her.  “I will not leave your side.  We are all here to help you. Our child is coming!”  A gentle smile found its way to his lips, and between spasms M’na nodded and gave her own weak smile in return.  With Fireann working to distract his companion,  Naofa returned to kneel beside the bed next to Eagna and placed her hands a short distance above M’na’s twisting body.   She began rubbing them together slowly, steadily, as the others waited breathlessly for the next miracle to unfold.  Suddenly, a spark flashed between her palms, followed by a tiny orb of light.  As she slowly pulled her hands apart, the tiny orb grew wider as she stretched it into a thin line that measured the distance between them.  She leaned in toward the band of light and blew into it gently.  It began to swirl as it spun itself into a ball of sparkling energy, flickering and dancing above the struggling M’na. Naofa continued to guide the ball so that it hovered directly above M’na’s belly as she instructed the female,  “Turn your eyes to the light, Daughter, and you will no longer feel the pain within your body. Think of only this Light, for it represents Eternity, which is with you-and in you-now.  This will make your experience more bearable until the child is with us.”