As Foirfeachta settles into regular life once more, three of its Protectors make their way to visit the one who remains in the dark about recent events, the one who could be most affected by the tendrils of darkness that threatened to wrap themselves around the innocence of Domhan….
The Warrior rubbed his hands over his back as he gazed at the horizon. For several days he had been rising long before the sun showed its face, unable to stop the disturbing dreams he had been having and fearful of revisiting them should he return to sleep. He kept himself busy by cutting wood for fires and carving tools, more than he himself would need. Why he felt compelled to repeat these tasks again and again remained a mystery to Laoch. His own tools and weapons for hunting remained in good shape; and there was more than enough wood for cooking. As he surveyed the neatly stacked cache of new arrows, stone points and sharp daggers-dozens of them already-he was convinced they were somehow necessary. All that lifting and climbing, coupled with lack of rest, had taken its toll on his strength. Scrutinizing his hands he noticed new lines forming in the tough, brown leather that was his own skin. Without realizing it, Laoch let out a loud, heaving sigh. When it echoed back at him from across the cavernous cliffs, he jumped. Where had the strange voice come from? Quickly realizing it was he alone who had startled himself, he laughed out loud that he was capable of such a pitiful sound. As he stepped from within the shadows of his cave to peer over the ledge, he cut quite a figure against the stark blue sky that was the backdrop for his home.
“He could never betray his friends, no matter what lies within his soul,” thought Noafa as she watched him standing there. Starting out ahead of Eagna and Eolas, she hoped to have a few moments alone with the Warrior. She was amazed by such a mixture of strength and innocence within one so mighty. So, when Eagna and Eolas decided to rest awhile, Naofa pressed onward with the hope of having an opportunity to speak with Loach, searching his Essence for any sign of the darkness which may or may not have been seeded at the moment of his birth. All she knew of the Warrior was that he had been a friend to the Garden Family. When she spotted his form on the ledge, she raised her long arms over her head, hoping he would see her approaching.
From his perch the Warrior waved cheerfully in return and cupped his hands around his mouth. What came next was a call similar to the bay of the wolf. Then he quickly and efficiently scaled the rocky slope, sprinting to meet her halfway. Naofa suddenly felt the urge to run as well in perhaps the first carefree moment she had known in recent cycles. Tossing her long locks back over her shoulders, she began a trot that quickly became a full out run, spreading her arms to the winds as she flew. Something which had become withered inside of her since the moment she had was besieged by the weight of reality now began to unfurl itself, blossoming within her being once again. Naofa felt the strength of the sun leaching into her skin and the lightness of trust returning to her soul with every deep breath she took. Laughing, she slowed her steps once more, allowing the gift of release to roll over her spirit. Looking upward into the fleck-less blue sky, she spotted a Vulture gliding above her head. She was transfixed for a moment, watching as it spiraled down, down and riding the breezes until it was close enough for the Sorceress to see into its glassy eyes. It opened its beak and something fell from within it, slowly drifting downward.
“Why does it not get carried on the wind?”, Naofa wondered, amazed as it came straight down. With upturned chin she watched its descent; and when it finally reached her fingertips, she reached out to grasp the soft, white feather that seemed suspended before her. She knew the owner of this feather, but it was not the vulture; for this gift came from the dove. Quietly and gratefully she clutched it to her chest before carefully tucking it into her leather pouch. Within her heart, she heard her Mother’s words.
“It is wise to recognize the Light within Laoch’s soul. He was created in Love as were we all. But remember those things which are best not laid upon his heart that would burden his soul. We care as much for his well being as for those whose lives might be affected if our cautions are not understood. What he does not hear and know will not be present in his thoughts..”
Noafa nodded her head, eyes closed as she slowly walked. She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she did not hear the rustle of the grasses and walked head on into the Warrior!
“Sorceress! I think closed eyelids are best kept for sleeping or meditation,” he chuckled, as a wide, happy smile danced across his face. He reached muscled arms to steady her as she tried not to topple into the meadow grasses.
“Oh my, Laoch! I was indeed in meditation but only for a moment.” Why do I feel so flustered? Naofa thought as she recovered and hastily withdrew from his grip. “I’m quite stable now.” Her jerking movements seemed abrupt to the Warrior but when she quickly added, “Thank you, Laoch. And how are things in your world?” the thought escaped him.
Returning his welcoming smile, the Sorceress extended her hand to him. The eager male grasped her fingers a bit more firmly than she perhaps would have liked; but she allowed her hand to remain within his as they walked a few steps. Suddenly, he dropped her hand and, looking back over his shoulder, began to scan the meadow and beyond. “What is it, Laoch? Is there anything wrong?,” Naofa asked.
He turned to look back in the direction from where they had come and distractedly replied, “I was looking for the others.”
Naofa looked back now as well, wondering if their friends had caught up to the pair without her knowledge; but the tall grasses and distant mountains were all that met her gaze. She turned to Laoch to inquire who he was looking for; but before she could form the question on her lips, he blurted out, “There were more of you in my dream.”
A wave of nausea rose within Noafa’s empty stomach although she realized she had not even stopped to eat since leaving her friends that morning. Before she acknowledge this reaction as fear, Laoch asked cheerfully, “Would you like some breakfast? I’ve been fishing.” Smiling again, he glanced back at her over a broad shoulder and began to ascend a steep rock stairway, reaching back every few steps to make certain Naofa was still behind.
Laoch wondered that he never noticed her natural beauty before, admiring her tall form and the workmanship in her leather foot coverings, properly tanned and laced to the knees. The Warrior thought to himself how capable this female was-and she, with no mate to help her. He didn’t even question that his thoughts were somehow different this morning; for the very air he had been breathing had seemed somehow different.
“I would love to share a meal with you,” she answered after they reached the ledge above. “And I’ve brought some fruit…” she added as she began to set aside her bundles.
Eolas questioned the safety of sending Naofa into the land of the cliffs alone. He had hunted there many times with Laoch and knew of the fierce hunting cats that also lived there. There was always food for them, but something in their eyes told Eolas that should their supply ever dwindle, his own flesh would suffice as offering. Eagna quickly dismissed his concerns. “You must remember the great power she has at her disposal. She might just as easily walk as one of their own as to become their meal.”
It was true, thought Eolas, remembering their first encounter with the Sorceress, disguised as the white tiger so that she could accompany Eagna on her journey to the Garden undetected. It had been quite some time since Naofa took form as anything other than her human figure in the presence of her friends. He had honestly forgotten she carried the gift.
(No one saw her as she bathed at night in the cool salty waters of the ocean, dipping and diving deep beneath the surface, as one of the finned ones. It was her favorite transformation.)
“Well, I will be content to get to the cliffs before the sky turns orange. We don’t have that gift, and I am not fond of hunting in the dark,” Eolas declared. They grabbed the last of their bundles, kicked a mound of dirt upon the ashes of the night fire, and headed towards the home of their Warrior friend, Laoch…..
to be continued…..
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