Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
by Cheryl Pennington
As Eolas and Laoch make their way to the source of the endless smoke spirals, The Sorceress accompanies Eagna back to her home. They will find more than rest and comfort on the morrow as their circle grows to include more of Domhan’s living essence.
A Sorceress’s Tale
Ignoring Eolas’ advice to make the trip slowly, Eagna pushed steadily on toward their home, with the White Tiger keeping pace beside her, only stopping now and then to eat the food they brought along. Eagna’s hand remained buried in the white tufts of the tiger’s fur; and she felt her muscular body flex at the distant sound of howling. The recent memory of those wolves in the Cliff Dwelling were all too fresh for them; and Eagna’s sense of apprehension was matched by her friend’s resolve. The call was still quite distant, however, and now she could see the foothills that rose behind the home she shared with Eolas. In the fading daylight Eagna could just make out the tree lined path that seemed a warm welcome for the travelers. Giving the beast a quick pat on the head, she broke into a trot; and the tiger followed suit. Home!
The joy of the moment overtook them, and they broke into a full-out run, crashing through the tall grasses at amazing speed, even with the bundles Eagna carried. How she wanted some warm herb tea as she sat near her own fire; and then she would lie in the bed where their covers smelled of Eolas. She had been so intent on running, her thoughts flying as fast as her legs, that she hadn’t noticed the panting Tiger as it rose up from the ground and was now keeping pace with Eagna on long, slender legs. Naofa’s dark hair flew wildly behind her as she raced ahead and looked back over her shoulder at Eagna, laughing in an uninhabited way, so uncharacteristic for her. It felt delightful to be so carefree for this moment in time; and both females giggled as they ran, finally stopping, breathless, as they reached the dirt path that marked the final steps to Eagna’s home.
Their giggling ceased as they gasped for air and Eagna began to weep softly. Without a word, Naofa took her friend’s hand as they made the rest of the walk in silence, coming to stand at the foot of the steps which lead into the dwelling that Eagna knew as home. On the stoop was a box Eolas made for her in which to place fresh flowers every day, and beside this were rows of recently harvested herbs drying on top of a table. The night breeze brought the smell of the river, and with it was born the sense of Peace Eagna so needed. Still.. it was bittersweet without her mate; and the lonely female was relieved to have the Sorceress with her in that moment. Arriving alone would have certainly been more daunting in the face of all they had been through recently. She had never known vulnerability, having lived and walked alone since her birth on Domhan. To be certain she was comforted in the presence of Eolas but this feeling, this protective anxiety, was something new. Eagna felt embarrassed by this insecurity. She went in and began pulling out the herbs as Naofa worked to build a fire in the pit.
Naofa knew Eagna’s thoughts and went to her friend, reaching out to touch her belly. “You have great responsibility, so much more to protect now. This is nothing be ashamed of.” Eagna, always amazed by this talent of intuition within Naofa, asked the Sorceress, “How is it that you understand this feeling of mine when you are not yet a Creator-a Mother?”
Naofa turned away and busied herself with preparing the tea as she urged her friend to rest. “Sit. Tea will be made.” She smiled. “We are all Creators in this world, Eagna,” she began slowly. “At the moment of my birth, Mother Bandia sanctioned me to be a Protector of Domhan and all life upon it, most especially those who live in the Garden. That is why I have been given this gift. It is very powerful-and can be very dangerous if not used wisely. So you see, as each of you suffers or is challenged in any way, it is my heart and my Protector’s soul that suffers along with-and for-each and every one.” And suffer she had, wondering how she could bear it should their dreams become manifest.
The two of them sat sipping Chamomile tea and found rest after their journey. The Sorceress added a bit of extra herb-something special-to her friend’s cup, to help ensure a deep sleep after her long day. As they looked through the doorway into the cloudless night, each wondered what was happening elsewhere on Domhan. Eagna thought of Eolas sleeping somewhere beneath the same sky, while Naofa’s thoughts traveled to other realms, wondering if her Mother would be able to fulfill her promise of keeping Ar’tine at bay so that As’me’s soul would be safely delivered to a physical body once more. It just had to work out as planned.
That was the thought and hope she carried with her into sleep that night, with her head upon her hands, right there at the table in front of the open window. She never saw the dove that landed on the sill nor did she hear as it cooed softly into her dreams.
Neither did Eagna, who had grown drowsy and slipped quietly from the table and into her bed, burying her face in the tunic Eolas left, and drawing in the sweet smell of him.
It was the next morning, as Naofa lifted her head from the table, stiff and aching from being in the same position all night, that she saw the feather. A single white gift from her Mother who remained close as she slept. She snatched it away from the clutches of the morning breeze and began to clear away the cups from their tea. Eagna was still fast asleep and Naofa decided to let her rest. If none in their circle of friends had experienced any nightmares or visions she would know peace in this morning.
Naofa felt the need to stretch, so she stepped out into the misty morning, her eyes tracing the hill down to the lazy slip of the river that flowed near the dwelling. A swim would be glorious! She stepped off the porch and onto the dewy grass, drinking in the cool freshness of it.
It was just a short hike down the slope to the water’s edge where the river made its turn and ran through the land; and there the low hanging branches gave the scene a sense of serenity and solitude. Humming softly to herself, Naofa slipped her tunic from her shoulders and let it drop to the ground, stepping out of it and moving nearer to the water’s edge where she watched silver fish glide through the crystal flow with no particular sense of purpose. How she longed for just a brief taste of that freedom.
Certainly Eagna would be sleeping well into the rest of the morning. With the males most likely nearing their destination, Naofa felt completely at ease stepping gingerly into the drink and over the slippery rocks, and she slid down, letting her shoulders fall beneath the luscious wetness of the moving water. She allowed her the full length of her naked body to sink into the soft mud as her feet floated just above the surface. ‘How truly glorious is this life,’ she thought. The feel of the slick fish slipping around her body, weaving in and out of her long legs was as a call to her body, beckoning the Sorceress into union with those silver beings.
For one such as she, this moment of release into transformation was as akin to the joining of Creation and inspired a moment of pure ecstasy. Once begun she was entranced by the process and watched her feet as they began to shimmer and blend a single wispy tail. She flipped the ends where her toes once were, sending a small spray of water into the air. Her legs grew together; and where once pink skin stretched across them, now were iridescent scales, as the silvery transformation continued up her body until it reached her chest. She tried out the tail with a playful splash. Delight! This was peace, she decided, as she leaned her head back into the last hints of her human body began to turn silvery green as the smoothness of her skin gave way to tiny rows of scales. Gills formed where her breasts had been. With a single blink, her sea gray eyes became black orbs embedded in a smooth head of shimmering light and color. Ecstasy!
Naofa sank into the water and followed her companions, playfully threading her body in and out of the currents. What a true gift shape shifting was for her. She drifted lazily downstream, not thinking of anything but the light patterns that danced above her head, created by the sun upon the water’s surface, and lost track of how long she had been in the water or how far she had drifted.
Suddenly, the water around her became turbulent, churning up bubbles and sending her companions in every direction. Before the Sorceress could regain her senses, something heavy was thrust into the water. Dear Mothers! They were hands! They were now near her body, grappling at her slick skin as she floundered and swatted with her tail, trying to avoid their clutches. She could hear muffled voices, full of excitement, as again and again the lumpy hands plunged in after her.
Knowing she had to escape, but afraid to change form in the open before whoever-or-whatever-was hovering above the water, she lashed at the hands with her spiny tail. A still muffled voice cried out in pain above, but it only seemed to incite the interloper to greater resolve, its hands coming at her again. What could she do? There seemed no way to get around it. A muffled cry of victory floated over her head as she saw a silver finned friend lifted from the water near her. Her body now thrashing wildly in the water, she had already begun the transformation, her tail sending white ribbons of foam into the air above the river’s surface. She fervently hoped her efforts would create a distraction as she rose from beneath the water, a great fish leading the way for the soft curves of her very female body. She only hoped she could gain control of her newly formed legs and remain on her feet in all the chaos. Gasping for air and trying to keep her balance in the river’s current, the Sorceress looked around through watery vision, trying to gauge her surroundings. Her eyes still could not focus but there was a voice now-directly in front of her; but when it spoke again, the very male voice seemed to come from the ground below.
“What in the name of Mor is that?” the voice barked. There was not much compassion in the tone of this voice; and Naofa grabbed wildly at the wet strands of hair that hung across her eyes. She concentrated on clearing her vision so that she could see more than dull, blurry outlines. She had never needed to transform so quickly before; and when she peered at her reflection in the current, the face staring back at her was normal but for the eyes-large, black orbs that frightened even the Sorceress! She jumped, blinked and was relieved to see the gray pools of familiarity gazing back at her once more.
No wonder these beings stood before her with mouths agape and eyes bugging from their sockets. There she stood, shaking, naked and dripping wet before these-whoever-they-were that were just as quickly regaining their own composure and closing in on her where she stood, knee-deep in the shallow water of the riverbed. They most certainly appeared to be males. One seemed to hardly notice the slippery silver fish he still clutched in one hand even though it continued to thrash about in its futile attempt to escape. Noafa saw this one had a length of braided vine slung over his shoulder with more than a few small animals strung along it, their dead eyes staring unblinking, at the Sorceress.
Suddenly overcome with righteous indignation for herself and her fellow creatures, she demanded, “Put it back! Now! Before it suffocates!” She felt flustered and vulnerable inside; but Her voice was so commanding that the one holding the fish immediately tossed it back into the water and watched helplessly as it swam happily away.
“Why did you do that?!” exclaimed the first grabbing, stubby-handed one to the other. “Because she told me to, that’s why,” the second one replied, sounding as though he thought it a senseless question. The questioner spread his short arms out in exasperated frustration. “That was food, and now…”
“Wait!” Naofa, recovering her dignity, quickly cut him off with her own questions, “Why in the name of all that is Light do you need more food? Look at what hangs from his shoulder. Are there more of you here?” she asked, looking around tentatively. By this time she noticed them sizing her form up and down and, feeling exposed, she reached for a nearby limb, pulling its leafy body in front of her own. Neither male seemed to be moved by this gesture but only continued to argue with one another.
“She’s right you know. We have plenty to eat and this is Domhan. We never go hungry. Oh, yeah, that’s right. You’re always hungry.” The first one looked hurt which was comical considering his great wide body and previous state of aggravation.
“I can’t help it if I need more sustenance. It’s from all the work I have to do because you are so lazy. Besides, we need gifts to take to the Light Ones, don’t we?” The smaller one began to berate again, visibly impatient with his chubby friend.
“And you don’t think in all their Wisdom and time on this world that perhaps they have learned how to hunt and fish for themselves?” Shaking his head and pointing an accusatory finger in Naofa’s direction he continued, “Besides, do you realize who this is?”
She shivered nervously in the water, wanting desperately to run back upstream to collect her clothing and feel less exposed. “This is the Sorceress, the one who is in our world to keep order, to protect it against Darkness.” His hand took on more of a position of presentation at this point and Naofa felt a brief moment of relief. And brief it was as it dawned on her that no one was supposed to know about her magic save for those in the Garden. Who told them, and where had they come from?
She was about to ask them these questions when a crashing through the underbrush brought a very excited and worried Eagna, carrying the Sorceress’s cast off tunic. While sidestepping and surveying the males cautiously, she edged around them to help her friend out of the water and shielded Naofa with her body while she quickly dressed herself. Twisting her hair atop her head in a final gesture of composure, Naofa stepped from behind her friend to address the one who apparently knew no end to his hunger. It was hard to tell them apart, for both were short of stature, not greatly taller than young Amhain, but clearly they were adult males. Both wore roughly hewn clothing and had hair the color of dirt that looked as though it might have been in dire need of washing. Their skin, however, was very pale, as though they scarcely were exposed to bright sunlight; and it appeared clean enough. She took a breath and tried once more to get the answer she sought.
to be continued……
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