As the tribes of Jinetes and Espera prepare for the Joining, Naofa settles in for her first night with the gentle cave dwellers. But her sleep is anything but peaceful….
Mac wanted nothing more than his Twin’s happiness, so he was loathe to agree. “Indeed they seem able to understand the Word we left with them and remember their purpose. You have a magnificent Creation, dearest Inion.”
What he didn’t want to say but nevertheless weighed heavily upon his soul was the nagging knowledge that it is easy to walk in the Light when there is no threat of perceived separation and loss. Faith is more abundant when there is nothing to lose. He felt that once their children joined together, they would begin to see themselves reflected back in the eyes of their companions..and what then? Would they truly be able to join as one and feel complete? He hoped so. Amh’ain was still perfect in every perceptible way, but the young one had not suffered loss or injury in his short life. Mac pondered these questions in silence.
Bandia, who also watched with interest, had sincere hope in her soul for the humans of her Mother’s world. “I will stay close, my children, for you may need me soon,” she vowed softly.
“Aaahhhh, but what would be the fun in that…?” retorted Ar’tine, who had been watching things unfolding with more than his usual distracted interest. His hungry soul loved the whole joining experience, after all. How it exhilarated his senses! Perhaps now things would liven up a bit. The Horse riders of Jinetes were truly very strong; but of course none among them could ever match his own power. He was glad Laoch joined with their tribe, where the males displayed much greater virility than the pitiful little friends walked with until now…”You must show them what the worthy son of Mac en Mor is capable of..”
Mor was reveling in the new sensations on Inion’s world, feeling endless love for the Creators and for that which they had brought forth from themselves. Great Spirit continued to nurture a grain of hope that the Love of Eternity would transform the Dark One-and soon.
Naofa found it nearly impossible to fall asleep. Her blanket was comfortable enough, her hosts had given her every consideration, and they made a place for her in the coolest part of the cave, far from the sounds of their voices. They were too excited to sleep themselves and watched the moon rise high while talking over recent events. The Sorceress tired quickly after her indulgent meal but now could not find rest. Perhaps it was the meat she had eaten or maybe the foreign stone beneath her head. So long had it seemed since she lay beneath the moon near the ocean’s surf in her homeland. She felt a tightness in her chest and a sudden shortness of breath. Anxiety was working its way into her psyche and she sensed the folly in it. She would have none of it, so she pulled out an herb satchel filled with scented petals and tucked it beneath the blanket under her head.
Eventually she fell into a deep but listless sleep. Her peaceful rest was plagued by visions of short, round men sloshing through the water where she swam, plunging their fat, fleshy hands in and trying to capture her silvery, wet body. She flitted wildly trying to escape; but still they pulled her from the water, where she wriggled to free herself from their clumsy grip, desperately trying to keep her identity safe. She tossed about on her blanket like that fish in the creek water.
When the creek and grappling hands faded, Naofa found herself in the presence of her favorite companion, the magnificent golden cat. She sprinted beside the beast, her own white fur ruffling in the wind as they ran together, feelings of exhilaration and freedom soothing her anxious spirit. Suddenly, her companion ran ahead, disappearing beyond a thicket of tall trees that bordered a deep forest. She glanced around, confused, and realized she had again taken on human form. Without a thought she raced after her friend into the darkness, not knowing where the cat went or what was waiting within the shadows. Although she was moving swiftly forward, Naofa felt more like she was being pulled along by an invisible force rather than of her own accord. The low hanging branches and thick brambles easily made way for her, as if an invisible hand were clearing the path. She could just make out a dim light in the distance, faint but growing ever brighter as she moved steadily towards it. Somehow she knew it was her destination. Even as the light grew stronger, shadowy mists began swirling above the ground to rise like a veil before her eyes. The source of the mystery was close now, and in another instant she found herself standing in a large, grassy clearing, although she could not make out much detail because of the insistent fog; but her intuition told her she was now deep within the heart of the forest. The Sorceress began groping her way through the mists as she searched for a sign of her golden companion, while an overwhelming emptiness crept over her soul, whispering that she was about to lose something precious. Struggling to see through the gray mists, she began to make out shapes, although her mind still seemed cloudy and unclear. A soft breeze blew through the chilly veil, carrying a strange sound over the forest-a sound she recognized as the song of a bird. It was so soothing and all she wanted was to be to nearer to that beautiful sound, for it calmed her wild heart.
Naofa moved toward the hazy shapes, the melodic song growing louder and more distinct with every step she took. Perhaps it wasn’t a bird after all. She felt she knew that sound and was certain she had heard the tones before. The memory was trying to surface, but there was something in the way. What was it? A voice deep within her soul soul urged her to call out-to answer this melody with her own song-and she thought she might! But as soon as she opened her mouth to call out, her voice became lodged firmly in her throat. Again and again she tried to make the sounds that her heart felt; but over and over there was only silence, leaving the song unanswered and her heart full of longing.
Then she heard a voice, singing the lovely notes that she felt within her own being. But who was singing them for her-and with such a lilting voice, a voice that fairly danced on the wind? She had to get nearer to the sound, she had to know who was speaking this strange, hypnotic language that somehow eluded her. What kind of Sorceress was she, then, if she could not sing a simple melody?
(Not so simple, came the thought of Mor)
Deeper into the woods she ventured, moving forward until she could see the shapes-shapes that now looked like human figures. She could make out the form of a male, the outline of the broad head, the slump of his shoulders-oh so familiar..the sight of the stranger’s form was somehow comforting…”Ah!” she gasped softly; for she realized the vision was the Warrior, Laoch. He was sitting beside a glowing fire, although her own hands felt clammy and her neck was hot. A clay instrument was pressed to his lips where he blew his warm breath into its body to create the sound, the lovely music which had captivated her soul and drawn her deeper into the forest. Somewhere in her Sorceress’s clear mind, she was suspicious of what she was seeing and feeling, but the vision was so moving that she allowed the music to wind its way within her heart, still longing to answer. Acceptance encouraged her as she opened her mouth to answer the song and the feeling. Yes, she heard the delicate, cooing cries that answered the soft notes of his instrument. But something was wrong. The song wasn’t her own at all, for that cursed voice remained lodged in her throat. Naofa, confounded and curious, peered through the swirling mists for a clearer view of the Warrior. He was still sitting by the fire; but now the other approached him-a female most certainly, although there was nothing familiar about this one! The soft curves of her body became clearer as the mists fell away. She was smaller and more delicate than Naofa, with dark skin and long, black locks of hair that fell over her bare shoulders and breasts. As the strange female strode confidently into the clearing, her silken hair danced against her body and played about her face. Naofa watched in silent admiration, as something awful made its way from the dark chink in her soul to take root in her heart. Her pulse quickened as the female moved to where Laoch sat playing his instrument-where he was calling, calling..to..to.. her! It had been this female who sang out in answer to his song-she who had sung Naofa’s answer. The voice she could not find, the song she longed to sing, now flowed from the lips of the strange, exotic and excruciatingly perfect vision of feminine strength. Naofa felt suddenly out of place, like she should turn and flee; but her feet were immovable, her eyes glued to the scene playing out before her.
The vision stood next to Laoch and he looked up, his gaze intent on her face. The light in the clearing became so bright around them that Naofa could scarcely keep her eyes open. But she had to see; so she shielded her eyes, squinting to protect them. She saw the perfect female kneel beside the Warrior and take the instrument from his hands, dropping it on the ground. Laoch’s eyes caressed her body gently as she leaned over him, her hair cascading around him like a cover, blanketing them both in silky blackness.
The mists began swirling again, making it harder to see; but Naofa struggled to push them back, needing to watch even as her thoughts urged her to turn away. The dark beauty straddled Laoch and lowered her body onto his, pushing him gently to the ground as she opened herself to him and accepted his body within her own. Naofa was experiencing such a personal moment-staring, unashamed, her mouth agape with a strange mix of horror and amazement!
The Sorceress’s heart felt as though it might explode inside her chest and suddenly she couldn’t breathe. She wanted only to turn and flee the scene, but she was transfixed-glued to the place of awful visions. The lovers were entwined as vines upon the earth and they moved rhythmically-rising and falling like the waves of her beloved ocean. Soft moans of pleasure filled the air, taunting her soul for she could sense their longing, their devotion and commitment in the endless moment. It was precious, tender and sacred. So, why did she want to run to them and tear them apart? Why did her soul feel abandoned, betrayed and anguished? Why...why feel anything at all?
Unable to stand the starkness of the scene any longer, Naofa forced her feet from their place of captivity and ran from the nightmare, back through the forest that was once again shrouded in foggy darkness. She ran wildly through the trees, their branches tearing at her hair, the ground sinking beneath her bare feet with every step, dragging her down and slowing her escape. Echoing over and over and trailing after her were the sounds of their joining, moans and whispers that she couldn’t get far enough from.
With a painful gag, the captive voice was freed from her throat and Naofa began to sob uncontrollably, crying out in despair as she ran. She felt strangely hurt; but greater than this was the confusion in her mind. Why should it matter to her? She was not promised to Laoch, nor he to her. No words of devotion had passed between them or even a whisper of any feeling they shared. Yet the bitter pain of seeing him with the dark beauty was sharp, sharp as the teeth of..of…she looked around in fear, for a new awareness awakened in her mind. ‘What is that sound?’ She shook her head to clear it but this was not imagination. There was definitely a new sound.
It was barely discernible at first but growing louder. Within moments the new sound echoed in her head, drowning out the moans of the lovers she left behind. ‘Well, that is some consolation’, she thought. But this new torment-a horrid laughter in the dark shadows-tortured her in a new way. She kept running from the sounds but could not get free of them. Pain seemed to be chasing her even as she sought to escape all that she had witnessed and suffered.
‘Remember who you ARE,’ whispered the small voice from within.
Suddenly, the Sorceress stopped and turned, pushing herself to her full height, determined to face her tormentor. ‘Of course’, she thought bitterly as she recognized the outline of its dark form. Naofa felt a manic laugh rising in her chest but forced composure squelched it before it escaped her lips. There, in the shadow of a gnarled, lifeless tree, stood the wolf, its red eyes glaring back at Naofa like burning embers-cruel embers that threatened to sear her soul! The visage bared its yellowed teeth and continued to laugh.
“Yes, this night he is lost to you, foolish Sorceress. With all of your gifts, you ignored your true power and let my Son slip through your slender fingers into the arms of a simple tribal human. Foolish female! Not even owning your own greatness.!” He hissed at her. “How perfectly powerful you would have been together….tsk, tsk.” The beast shook its head, flicking bits of dirt from the matted masses of black hair as it nonchalantly licked a furry paw.
Naofa was torn between anguish and rage at the arrogance of the wolf. She did not want to be afraid, to appear as a victim, and frantically searched the ground for something-anything, to hit it with. She could stand no more of his taunting. The animal continued its grooming, unconcerned and unsympathetic, all the while snickering to itself as its ugly head swung slowly back and forth. Her eyes fell to a broken branch, likely fallen from the very tree that protected her new torturer; and Naofa dove for it, hoping to end the madness. The limb was heavy, but anger fueled her strength. She was amazed at how easily she scooped it up with both arms, swinging it wildly in a blind fury; but she was too angry, and still too slow, for the creature dodged her attack, rearing back on its hind legs, lifting its heavy paw and flexing its sharp nails to slice through her delicate skin. Droplets of blood sprang forth on her arm like red dewdrops on a white rose and she fell, clutching the fresh wounds.
“Ohhhh…dear…Mother….”, she moaned, weakened by burning pain, falling helpless to the damp ground. With a look of disgust, the wolf grunted, disappointed by her lack of prowess. How it relished the thought of a real confrontation with one so “special”. The beast knew it could finish her off in that moment and with nothing more pressing to do, the wolf backed up, readying himself for a final pounce, claws glinting in the moonlight as Naofa whimpered where she lay in a heap, not really caring what happened. Suddenly, there came a crashing sound from the edge of the forest. Naofa peered through the tangles of her hair to see the lovers sprint into the clearing. She opened her mouth to cry out but her voice had abandoned her completely and she watched as they flew across the field, Laoch raising his hunting stone high over his head, the dark skinned beauty right behind him, her own weapon in hand.
The wolf did not hear the crashing, but it saw the hope born in Naofa’s eyes. He turned with only a moment to recognize his attackers, only briefly aware of the sense of betrayal that surged within his own dark soul; for the Warrior was already plunging his stone into its heaving side, twisting it until red life flowed from the wounds and the wolf slumped to the ground in a gray-black heap. Laoch looked first to his companion to be certain of her safety. He then turned to tend to Naofa; but there was only an indentation on the grass and a few spots of blood where she had lain. The Sorceress had risen to her feet and resumed her desperate flight, leaving the horror behind.
How could this be? Was this truly a dream? It was more than her heart and soul could take, no more could she withstand. She wept bitterly as she ran, pulling at her hair which seemed an enemy now, trying to blind her as she made her escape. Finally, she stumbled into the clearing, catching her foot in a rabbit hole that sent her flying to the ground in a heap, gasping for a fresh breath of air. She did not know if the lovers were following her, did not know if the wolf were truly dead, or if she would ever be able to breathe normally again. She groaned and clutched at the gashes in her flesh, trying to calm herself. After a few moments of rolling in the grasses like a wild thing, she grew very still, lying on her side, a blissful numbness coming over her.. A soft, furry nudge against her back urged her to look up. There stood the Golden Tiger, gazing down at her as though it had never left her side or given her chase to venture into the forest. The gentle beast licked the blood from her skin and spoke to her, its voice familiar and as a balm to her wounds, both inside and out.
“In the dream walk called life, there are paths that cross and there are choices to be made. No certain path is perfect; however, a single direction can bring perfection to the all while another path may feel as perfection to the one. It will always be your choice which path you desire, and you will never be punished for the choosing. With your gift of power comes the burden of great accountability. In the walk ahead you will be required to make great sacrifices as well. Remember this when the desires of your heart and flesh move to betray your purpose. Always know you are loved, Naofa. No human can give you what must come from within.”
The words washed over the Sorceress like a cool breeze. She felt suddenly exhausted and rolled onto her back in the soft cool grass of the night. She closed her eyes, forgetting the Warrior Laoch, his doings in the woods, and the beast that wanted to rip into her flesh, now lifeless and still. She suffered no more visions during her rest; and when she next opened her eyes, it was Othar who spoke to her.
“Miss, are you alright?” The female’s face floated over Naofa like a strange bubble. “You slept rough last night. We heard you cryin’ and thrashin’ about, but didn’t want to disturb you.” Naofa tried to focus on the her face as it bobbed up and down on the ocean of morning light and to comprehend her words; but the ocean rolling in her gut demanded her attention more than Othar. Try as she might, she could not rise above the waves and all she could manage was to turn over on her bedroll and wretch, emptying her stomach of the animal flesh she had eaten the night before. Through her glazed eyes she could see that her arms were perfectly smooth, white and unmarked; but confusion would have to wait.
Wiping her mouth with her tunic sleeve, she moaned, “A curse upon me for eating that which I know is not my fare.” She lay back on the cold stone and closed her eyes to the swimming. She would clean up her disgrace later, but in that moment all she wanted was to erase the images of the dream from her mind.
to be continued……