Now, at this time, I am urged to pick up the pieces of my humble story and try to present it again. If it touches even one heart, it will have been worthy of the work.
Why are we here? Where is Eternity? What is the plan? Is there even a purpose to all that we know of as a life? How do we win the struggle between Good and Evil? These very legitimate questions have plagued humankind ever it came into existence, erasing the knowing of the All That Is and propelling into the perceived journey “home”. What I have come to understand for myself may seem astounding to some, familiar to others and perhaps crazy to many. I only know I have found comfort in realizing the duality of our nature through seeing the ultimate way that everything is connected within the All That Is, and accepting that there must be an inevitable end to the illusion we like to call “life“. Still, there remain many unanswered questions, and I submit to you that this quest, this journey, the unanswered questions are indeed our reason for continuing the journey.
What of God, that elusive being known by many names and yet understood by so few? And what about the Creator’s grand ‘Plan’? What if there were no plan at all? What if existence was nothing more than an experiment-a grand dream, a hope that was born of a simple desire? What if all that truly exists is Love-an immeasurable, unconditional love that wants only to perpetuate Its own existence? Life thus was born of Love’s ultimate need to know itself and be loved in the way in which It was capable of loving, Its legacy continuing on in the human race as the created bear children whom they love unconditionally while basking in the glow of such love returned to those who created them, on and on with each new generation of Creators.
What if Eternity is not somewhere “up” or “out” there? I submit that it exists around and within us, but we have lost our memory of how to connect with it as we once did, our former clear, crisp perception now dulled to a faint whisper, too often dulled by the voice of fear and deception that plagues our fractured souls. This fracture was but a tiny crack as it was born; but soon fed by conscious thought, it grew into a gaping chasm that threatened to envelope the reason and hope of its host.
Good and Evil? What if this ancient struggle is not one that takes place in our outer world? What if there are no “good” or “bad” beings? I have come to accept the duality of my own nature, that within my soul lie the seeds of darkness that are eager to cloud my perceptions, to feed my fear of being without love, and to use that hunger to control my actions and reactions.
We spend so much of our lives running from our darkness, denying its existence and begging to be rescued by the Light, when all we need to do is to allow our inner Light to illuminate the dark recesses of our own souls, accept that we are not perfect within our human bodies, and know that in the eyes of The Creator we are perfect-now and always. Always, always, we are perfectly loved.
Will this knowledge repair humanity’s collectively diseased soul? Likely not. But would not the Unconditional Love of the Universe rejoice in the healing of even one soul? It takes but one flicker to light the darkness?
My work is not intended to refute, undermine or replace any religious doctrine. It is merely my own perception of Creation, my personal vision, as I weave my way along this path of illusion called life.
This chapter is the beginning of my book, but by no means the beginning of the story, for within infinity there is no beginning or end. This is but one legend as told from the perspective of its characters. I hope you find some bit of truth in the telling.
“Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” From A Course In Miracles.
The names of characters and places are derived mostly of Latin or Irish origination but all races came from one thought.
Forever Never/The Dawn of the Dream
by Cheryl Pennington
copyright words and images 2017
Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
The morning sun peeked relentlessly over the horizon as dawn approached and the world of Dohman blinked the night shadows from its heavy eyelids. A soft breeze skipped over the hillside with airy fingers that stirred the sea of grass and vine, beckoning all of life to join the illusion once more.Although light was still a shadowy thought away, the dark magic was already casting its spell over the waking life of the world, responding to the murmurs of that voice which had cast the cruel oblivion over it. Whispering, it seemed to call from within the morning mists; and in response to the powerful command from the ether, two of its most beloved stirred.
Their awakening was always the same. As her eyes fluttered open, the first breath of morning crossed her face, cool and fresh, and her confused mine groped for conscious thought. Lifting her face to the hint of sunrise, she blinked; and in that twinkling, she could recall everything. She understood all that had gone before and felt a flood of relief in the knowing. In that blinding moment of perception, the memory was so vivid, yet so mercurial. She let out a quiet gasp of comprehension as hope found her heart and anguish permeated her being, drawing the veil of darkness over her thoughts once more, obliterating her beautiful glimpse of truth. The gasp became a yawn as she opened her eyes to a new dawning of The Forgotten, denying the lucid moment the chance to become a memory in the dark recesses of her mind.
At the very same moment another was stirred by morning’s approach; and the callous hand of sorcery repeated its wicked performance. The smell of lavender on the early breezes nudged the sleeping male’s senses awake, urging him to feel her presence and embrace the moment.. With every sunrise and the brief union his soul was filled with peace, comfort and the kind of love only she could give him. As the earliest slivers of light struck the moldy ground beneath him, the weary Traveler summoned the familiar vision to his mind, thus weaving his own magic. How faintly the outline seemed this morning, even though he had traced it there with every rising sun since she disappeared from his world. Loveliness defined her as she moved through the recesses of his memory, a shadowy reminder of the innocent he used to be, of the trust he once knew, and the hope that now drove him onward. Yes…through the mists he could see long, dark curls of hair that seemed to have a life of their own when she moved. Her hand was delicate and soft as she touched his cheek and looked into his eyes with dark and tunnels of pure adoration.
The young male’s loving memory drew images of fragrant blossoms and joyful laughter. Their laughter. But now there was only he-alone with what was left of the perfect place he had known as home. Their most beloved Foirfeachta. Floating like a cloud in his mind drifted the faded image of a garden, hung low with vines and lush green foliage, where he had once known contentment; and completing this memory was her- the perfect form of femininity-and he trailing behind her, appreciating every thing about her-the color of her tunic, her head as she turned from him to wave at another! His eyes moved to the object of her gesture; and this was where his deepest pain began. He could only bear this part of the conjuring for an instant before dimming his mind to the memory. The pain cut like a dagger into his soul, threatening to tear him apart; but her presence found him again, hanging like damp air around his drowsy senses, calming him, urging him to keep hope alive.
“Hurry!” she whispered. “I wait..” She must be near! How could she not be when he could feel her and hear her very thoughts?
The young traveler struggled to create her face within his mind again as he fought the fog pulled her into the shadows. She looked so radiant as her lips parted to speak, to share a thought and a word of comfort. He could see her mouth form his name and waited hopefully to hear the music flow from within those red lips, his young heart beating wildly. But, as always, the fog faded to black nothingness that enveloped her face completely and smothering the sound that would have strengthened his lonely heart. In silence it cried. Then, creeping through the dark veil came the light, the harsh light that signaled a new morning. It was always the same. He marveled that he had never become accustomed to it nor been able to stop the painful, euphoric, devastating moment at the start of all his mornings, although he willed it so again and again.
The young Traveler lifted himself onto one elbow, gazing at his horse, now stirring in the morning light and thought, “Only Eternity knows what dreams such creatures have.” As he shielded his eyes from the glare of dawn he wondered how long it would be before the sun simply forgot to rise over their world, leaving them in darkness forever.
Snorting sounds as only a wild boar might make brought an end to the Traveler’s musing as, startled, he remembered his still sleeping companion. A few feet away lay the bulky form of the grumbling Cave Dweller who had now become his friend in these long days of searching. Disturbed by his own snoring, the stout one tossed on the bedroll where he lay and thrust his chubby fists into the air, swatting at the newly awakened gnats busily combing his bristly chin for abandoned crumbs.
The Traveler stifled a chuckle and reached for a nearby stone which he lightly tossed at his friend. It hit the restless male squarely on the chest before thudding to the ground where it rolled into a thicket of dry brush. The small giant jumped and yelped as he began swinging wildly at an unknown attacker, frightening away the gnats in a frenzied flurry. Now the Traveler was laughing heartily, finding relief from his sorrow, even if it had been at the expense of his riding companion.
“What, in the name of Mor, is so funny?” growled the Cave Dweller, rubbing his eyes and scratching at infinitesimal bites. His chubby hands were stained and his nails blackened from so long digging in the recesses of the caves. “Was that your idea of a ‘Good morning’? Rude…this is not how I am normally awakened. Now, my beloved Oth..”
The Traveler laughed harder now as he interrupted. “Ahhh…so it’s tenderness you prefer. I’m sorry my fat friend, but I have no desire to stir you with a morning kiss, such as your chosen one might. I can barely stand to sleep on the same hillside with you since you see fit to bathe only with the rise of a full moon.”
A loud grunt of indignation escaped the throat of the stout one, but he had no sharp retort for his tall friend while still in such a clouded state.
The Traveler had been exaggerating about the bathing but couldn’t resist the urge to goad his touchy friend. In truth, he was hoping to ease a bit of the other one’s loneliness with his teasing. It had been for the sake of his own best friend back in the land of the caves that this one had agreed to be a part of the search. The two Cave Dwellers had been inseparable from the beginning; and the one who remained back in their homeland-well-it was pitiable what had become of his mind since the Devastation. His beloved companion had disappeared over a bleak horizon, leaving her grieving partner with a new infant to care for, armed only with a broken heart and a handful of charred rock.
The Cave Dweller didn’t find the Traveler’s morning humor entertaining and shot the him a glance of warning, advising his friend that his own foul mood would remain until he had been properly fed.
‘Fine, then’, thought the Traveler as he gathered his tools, leaving the other to do his morning business. There were certainly fish to be caught; so he grabbed his line and clicked his tongue at the white mare now standing patiently near the edge of the trees, waiting to be led down to the river. She approached her master gently, nudging his hand with her warm, wet nose, and gladly accepted the piece of fruit he held out to her.
Precious treasure, he thought, as he surrendered the sweet treat to his loyal four-legged friend. If his traveling companion had seen this, he would have lost his head-and his temper. Giving food to a beast when he was ‘starving’! The Traveler rolled his eyes to think of it. It was of no consequence anyway, for he fully intended to bring back a nice string of fish to hang over the fire. This would at least ease the hunger pains of his friend. Sadly, there was nothing he could do for the male’s aching soul. Not until they found her, he told himself. If only…
The mare licked his face, interrupting these deep thoughts as they carefully navigated the steep slope of the hill. Dry leaves crackled beneath his leather boots, and a crispness in the air stung his face. The very air of Dohman had changed since the Devastation. Of late he had heard tales of the cold, white ground that plagued the tribes in the mountains, forcing them down to the warmer, drier areas of his world. And those places were now drying to the point of certain death. But the cold mountain area was the direction in which he was headed now, and they were drawing ever closer. An imperceptible force compelled him to search for her there.
It was a risk, for there were certainly rumors of those who had gone in the direction of the white mountains-had gone but not returned. The few who managed to navigate the dense forest and straggled home told stories of low crawling creatures in those woods, things of nightmares. But what did they really know of nightmares, after all? The Mother of all nightmares had visited itself upon his world so long ago now it seemed as another life altogether. It had born the cloak of darkness which fathered his own Grand Nightmare, one that repeated itself for so many nights that he had lost count.
The weary Traveler had long given up hope of finding the helpless one. Surely he had been devoured. And still he could not speak of the one whose lifeless form that he alone, with only a child’s will, dragged to lie upon the glowing embers in his very first death ceremony. He never told anyone how he sat and watched until the last wisp of smoke and ash wafted upward into the blackest night he had ever known.
There was nothing to do for it now; and she had been found nowhere, although many had searched since that fateful night. He stood fast in the hope she was not destroyed. It was her promise he clung to, for if she could be saved, then so, too, could their world. She was, after all, its living force. If he did not free her soon, he feared Dohman would eventually die as would a mighty tree without sweet water and brilliant light. Already it was withering.
He ran his hand down the length of the mare’s mane, untangling long strands of matted, silky hair. She looked at him with one dark eye as if to say, “Thank you.” He could only think of this animal as his Savior.
“Solas, do you think we will find her today?” Every morning it was the same question, and The Traveler gazed at the animal as if she would finally answer him; but of course she would not. Her head hung low as she nibbled sweet blooms of what wildflowers sprouted from beneath the dead leaves and debris. She had her favorites, always the lavender ones. He sat down, leaning against the drying bark of an ancient river tree and let his line drift on the water’s surface. He cared not if he caught any fish for himself. In recent times he had grown away from the habit of eating meat, reverting to the old custom of consuming that which grew from the ground below or tree above. He wasn’t certain if it was because he felt lighter and more alive with this regimen or if it simply was a ritual to feel closer to them. He closed his eyes, trying to recall their last meal together and lost himself in memory.
The Traveler jumped, feeling a tug on his line, and looked into the water to see what kind of fish he had to bring back up the hill to his friend. The water was still. In that same instant he realized that he had fallen asleep and what startled him was not the tugging on his line at all. He had heard something. Without moving another muscle, he let the line drop to the ground, watching as it looped over a small knob of root. He cocked his head to one side and settled back against the tree, pretending to sleep once more. For long moments he sat there with the chilly wind rustling the dry leaves on the trees and making small ripples in the water.
Just as he decided he had been mistaken and was about to take up his line, it came again. There! It was a very distinct crunching, and there was no mistaking that it was close-very close. Something was approaching him from behind. This time Solas heard it as well and lifted her white head to gaze over her shoulder into the stark gray stand of trees that surrounded them. She cast a watchful glance towards the Traveler but never flinched. As he reached for his dagger, the alert male heard approaching footsteps, now coming heavy and fast, closing in behind him. Waiting until the last possible moment to surprise whatever-or whoever-it was, he silently rolled out to confront his attacker.
Prepared to strike, but not prepared for the vision that met his gaze, he nearly cried out in horror as he saw the low, bent thing that scuffled towards him. The crouching form was cloaked in coarse, matted hair; while what skin appeared from beneath that was rough and leathery. Instinctively, The Traveler took a warrior’s stance, just as he had been taught, firmly planting his feet and mentally preparing to attack, if need be.
The gnarled creature froze in its tracks and lifted its head as far as it was able, for it seemed to have no neck. It was breathing heavily now; and although still a fair distance away, the crouching Traveler nearly choked from the smell of it. The odor was indescribably noxious; and he struggled with the urge to use his free arm to cover his nostrils. It shifted its weight upon its webbed feet. Was it even human? It pushed its shoulders back. The Traveler copied its movement. Taking a few clumsy steps closer, it now gazed at its prey directly, and The Traveler saw the dawn of comprehension rise within the caverns which were its eyes.
The morning sun suddenly rose above the edge of the forest, splintering white shards across its pupils. The misshapen thing seemed to shrink from the Light. It made a face then-whether grimace or grin was debatable-and the Traveler sensed that it knew who he was. Somehow it knew. Abruptly, it produced a guttural sound from its throat in a delighted sort of fashion, and turned as if to flee. It was then that the observant Traveler saw the sharp knife that hung from one clawed hand-a knife meant for his throat, no doubt! The creature began clawing its way up the hillside, but was slowed as it slipped on the rotting leaf and limb that covered the ground.
“Oh no you don’t!” shouted the angry Traveler as he took off behind it, not yet sure what he would do when he caught up. He was certain only that it must be stopped. The white mare stamped her legs excitedly; but her master motioned for her to stay where she was. He knew he could handle this one alone, although surely she had championed him in many a successful hunt. His mind raced as he bolted. Perhaps the loathsome creature was only a messenger; but he had no intention of allowing it to give fair warning to whatever awaited news of their journey.
With his long legs and agility, the young male easily overtook the pitiful beast and, holding his breath, he reached out to grab it by the shoulder. When he felt his fingers sink into its flesh, it was like digging into muck; and the stench smacked at his nostrils again. He overcame the urge to gag and yanked hard, trying to pull it back down the hillside. The creature was strong and put up a good struggle; but youth and fury won out as he gave a final tug, causing the writhing ball of hair and stink to fall to its knees and tumble backward down the hillside. He jumped sideways to avoid being pulled along with the rolling mass and followed to where it crumpled in a heap. As the would-be attacker tried to rise to its feet once more, the Traveler shoved it back to the wet ground. Working quickly, he planted one knee firmly on its chest and tried not to withdraw from the crunching, sucking sound he heard. With his free hand he gripped its leathery throat. It did have a neck of sorts after all!
As he worked to control the wriggling ugliness beneath him, the male also worked to keep his emotions in check. He simply needed answers, he told himself. Rage served no one in this place. He had labored so long now to keep his pain and fury locked away so that he could continue in a world devoid of all he had known as love. He felt he had become an expert at it, too, and was not about to allow a creature such as this one to interf…then something caught his eye.
The object was tied to a leather belt around the beast’s waist and fell limply onto the washed out leaves beside its struggling form. The once soft covering of the object was now coarse and worn. Solas, who could stay away no longer, saw it at the same moment. She whinnied. At first glance, the curious Traveler thought it must be a kill, some morsel the beast had plans to devour. Now, as he looked more closely, the axe of truth came down on his shell of tolerance, thus splintering all of his efforts at restraint onto the forest floor around them.
“WHERE did you get this?” he demanded, grabbing the once soft pouch up from the cold, hard ground and ripping it from the creature’s side. As he did, it made a rustling sound, a sound that echoed in his mind and awakened his soul’s memory for a searing moment. He shoved the toy down the neck of his tunic and turned his anger on the loathsome thing that struggled under his weight, trying to free itself. It clawed at his leathers with sharp talons. Solas was restless, rearing and stamping her legs near where the two wrestled.
“Solas! Still!” he demanded, and the mare backed up a few paces. Returning his attention to his captive, he yelled at it again, “I’ll only ask you once more! How did you come to possess that which belonged to ME?!”
When the creature finally parted its slick lips to speak, The Traveler wished he hadn’t urged it to. The stench that rose from its mouth was as death itself-rotted and decaying; and every time it moved, its body revealed there had been no other forms of cleansing for it. Choking the urge to vomit, The Traveler felt the rage rising; and now he tightened his grip, not caring if he hurt the beast. Reason left him at the thought of the toy-the gift-the last thing he had tucked into the little one’s blanket that night. Solas tossed her head back and whinnied again. What was she on about?
“Solas! Be still! Now!” She quieted at her master’s command, but continued to circle the drama playing out upon the forest floor. The seething male turned his attention once more to the creature.
“WHERE did you get this? Who gave it to you?!” The beast in his clutches stopped fighting and grinned-a knowing, gleeful grin. It had finally gotten just what it wanted, after all-what it was sent for. Then the Traveler heard the voice, although he would swear it never came from the cracked, quivering lips of his captive.
“Go ahead… It will be easy now that you are a full-grown male.” It chided The Traveler. “You would be justified, of course, after all you have been through. No one would blame you for killing a vile creature such as this one. A dark and wasted thief!” As the young male listened to the words echoing in his mind, the creature struggled frantically to free itself. It seemed suddenly terror-stricken, fearing its fate was at hand.
‘What is happening?’, thought the confused Traveler. His white knuckled grip on the beast’s neck was unforgiving; and with a manic burst of energy he buried his knee deeper into the chest of his prisoner as he tried to shake off the feeling that he had been here before.
“I need to know, servant of darkness! How did you get your foul fingers on this?” He pulled the small bundle from his tunic and shook it in the face of the creature before shoving it back to safety. The beast swiped a gnarled hand at its tormentor’s face, but The Traveler dodged and pressed his dagger to its leathery throat. To his disgust, there oozed a sticky black fluid from where its tip pricked the creatures skin. Finally it decided to speak, urged by the Master to provoke its captor.
It ceased struggling, glared at the breathless male above it and spat out, “I took the toy off a soft, pink, wriggling human!” Seeing the uncontrollable look of pain cross its captor’s face encouraged the lowly beast. “Helpless it was. It screamed in terror just before I ate its flesh and tossed its bones to the flames!” It began to laugh wildly, a sound that taunted his soul; and its words taunted his ego, “You don’t have the stomach to kill anything-you’re just a child inside!” The black-hear-ted beast spat and snarled in the face of its own demise.
Rage filled his body as The Traveler began gripping the creature’s neck so tightly that no other words could escape its lips. Gasping for air, its tongue dangled down and flapped against its soot covered hair. The appendage bore no resemblance to a human tongue, the way it split into two parts near the end; and each seemed to have a life of its own, curling and lashing about like a young serpent. Then the voice invaded his head once more.
“Go ahead and kill it. It will do your soul good. A little revenge goes a long way…perhaps ease the fires of your sorrow. It will invigorate you, son of Perfection.”
Now he knew. This scenario was all too familiar. The Traveler had listened to the stories, he knew the way of manipulation. How the voice of darkness loved to torment the innocent within their minds. The dark God had been the last one to torment her.
He had heard the voice of Deception before-so long ago; but he would not listen to it now. Not again. It was not going to ruin his hope of finding her. He could not allow this darkness to invade his soul. He made a promise, and it was sacred. But neither would he crawl away and allow this horrid minion to serve its master by terrorizing any other with its cruel words.
He smiled down into the face of the creature as he whispered, “I forgive you, whatever you are. I know not where your master is, or what he uses to drive you towards your dark end; but I will not help you to reach your destination any faster.” The beast looked confused for an instant, followed by the terror of realization as the Traveler deftly drew his dagger across its thick, mossy tongue, slicing it cleanly and efficiently through. The facilitator of lies thumped to the ground as its owner howled in agony and anger; while the satisfied Traveler thought he heard small cries from those wriggling ends.
“You will never speak of defiling innocence again!,” he hissed at the creature as he loosened his grip, lifted his knee, and watched it roll wildly upon the leaves, howling and clutching its face. But it didn’t bleed. Instead, a thick, tarry substance exuded from its mouth, dripping down its arms as it tried to seal the wound with its hands. The moaning beast jumped to its feet and began to stumble away.
“Let me help you along, then!” shouted The Traveler as he kicked the thing in its behind, sending it hurtling across the leaf strewn ground. Unable to contain herself any longer, Solas reared at the creature’s back, snorting and kicking up wet debris. The disgusted male didn’t try to stop her this time. Together they watched as the creature sloshed its way through a shallow part of the river to the other side and begin to scramble up the hill, presumably to return to the same dark hole it climbed out of. Or perhaps it would scurry straight back to its Master’s bosom. Should he follow? Never mind, thought The Traveler. The God of the Dark World was too wise to allow this one to lead him anywhere but into some sort of trap.
“Clever young male,” murmured the Dark One. “You bear a striking resemblance to another, if only in spirit. She knew how to fight as well. A pity you look so like HIM.” This was going to be a fun game, he mused.
The spent Traveler returned to his line, tugged and pulled it from the water, and was surprised to find a rather large silver fish nibbling at the end, as though waiting for him. At least he wouldn’t go back empty-handed. Blood dripped from his fingers, and he realized he must have cut himself in the struggle. Kneeling, he let his hands fall into the cold water. It stung. How cold it was indeed. How cold everything was turning. Would his own heart soon grow so chilly? Dark locks of hair fell across his face as he stared, trance like, into the water. It flowed through his bloodied fingers, washing away the traces of his sin. Surely what he had done was without love.
He let his head fall to his chest, suddenly overcome with exhaustion from the struggle. He felt overwhelming shame for his anger. Would she ever be able to forgive him for wanting to kill the dark creature? Surely she would have found a way to love it-but then where had that gotten her, after all? He did what had to be done and would do it again. This was what the Warrior taught him. How he wished he had the companionship of that strong friend now; but of course he had matters of his own to attend to.
And the Counselor bore his own sorrows in silence. He advised against them going alone, although he had seen the pair off with plenty of supplies and words of caution. The greatest of these were the gifts of the Spirit World he had shared with them, for his own dear companion would have had it no other way.
The Sorceress hadn’t been seen among the tribes in recent times. She retreated into her ocean caves following The Devastation; but The Traveler knew what her thought was. FIND HER.
He had not seen the Sorceress’s reflection in the blue stone he carried with him since he recovered it from the ruin. Only once had he seen a true vision in the pool of blue mystery. Perhaps he just didn’t try hard enough. It had been enough for him; and he had been certain it was the Sorceress who called to him from within the orb. It had to be she whose eyes stared out at him from behind the pale mists. Those gray eyes had pain, longing, and hope in them. He could not disappoint those eyes.
The tears he felt stinging his own eyes quickly dried as he renewed his resolve to complete this quest. It worried him that the connection between his world and that of the Dark One was suddenly so sharp. Was the creature itself a connection; or was he drawing closer to the source? He had been certain all those dark holes were closed off, along with their own close connection to the Realm. Time would tell, now that Time had found them. How things had sped up once the Keeper of Time had been appointed. Marking their lives in digits seemed to rob it of its beauty somehow. Ah, well…change had become inevitable.
“Do I have to come fish for breakfast myself , then?” It was the wide cave dweller who bellowed down from the top of the hill. Standing and wiping his wet hands on his tunic, The Traveler surmised his friend would’ve been at his side already if the fear of taking a tumble weren’t his largest concern. Obviously he hadn’t heard the struggle that played out below their camp. All the better, thought the weary male.
The Traveler lifted the prized fish high above his head and shouted. “On my way just now, friend! But do we have a fire stoked?” Silence. His traveling companion disappeared once again from view. He wondered if that meant yes or if the hungry male had forgotten their food would need to be cooked. Hanging their meager meal over his shoulder, he headed up the hill with Solas close behind. Reaching up to rub her neck, the Traveler could feel her large heart thumping wildly beneath his touch. “Easy, now. The danger is past.” She leaned into his hand and snorted softly.
As they sat beside the dwindling fire used to cook their fish, both males were silent for a long while. The Traveler assumed his friend was just enjoying his food too much to talk; but after a time, the wide one tossed his bowl aside, swiped his mouth with a dirty tunic sleeve, and let loose an angry air bubble.
“You’re welcome,” stated The Traveler simply. He was about to make a new remark about his friend’s need for a good dip in the river when the other began to tug at his whiskers. After a time he started to speak slowly and carefully.
“You know I am here because of my good friend and my concern for his sanity. I fear if he does not find some way to close the door to the unfinished story of his beloved’s disappearance we may lose him as well. You know how most of us feel. Seeing her swept away like that..in the clutches…well…you know what everyone is saying. But none dares speak these awful truths to a grieving soul. I believe it is merely the shining face of his daughter which forms the shaky bridge still connecting him to the world of reason.”
He paused to look at the other, who now sat in silence, and thought how worn beyond his age The Traveler seemed. He knew this brave male’s grief was beyond his own comprehension. The Traveler smiled wanly at him and nodded, indicating that of course he understood. But there was something more the humble Cave Dweller wanted to discuss. And he had questions. So many questions, in these times. His great chest heaved before he continued to speak; and he nervously ground one toe into the moss-covered earth as he searched for the right words.
“It troubles my soul….how do you accept life each day when you suffered such a loss?” he finally tossed out across the brisk air. The Traveler considered how his gruff friend seemed now transformed into a great bleeding heart as he sat there with his head cocked to one side and his hands on his knees, rubbing them nervously over his leathers. The Cave Dweller continued thoughtfully, “My companion, my only love..if she were to no longer be there when I awakened with the sunrise…why I would want to sleep the endless sleep.” His eyes filled with great empathy as he shared his own deepest fears.
The Traveler set his bowl aside, brushed his hands on his leathers, and looked out across the field, its dewy face glistening in the mid morning light. It looked too lovely not to admire. His mother taught him well how to appreciate the gifts of their world-and their Creators. How very much she had taught him; and he knew he had so much more to learn. A deep sigh escaped his mouth as he looked back at the one who waited patiently for his answer. His voice was slow as he sought out the truth which surely lay within the sorrow that had enveloped his life.
“It is a reasonable question you ask, my friend. Many moments I felt I would fall into the well of madness for my loss and longing; but I was taught to understand that this would serve no purpose save to nourish and delight the one who feeds upon our misery. Perhaps it is for this reason alone that I do not sink into despair. I pray that you do not soon have to face the rising sun without your companion; but you must realize the time will come when one of you must move down the road to eternity while the other is left waving farewell.” He waited for the gentle Cave Dweller to digest this. His friend appeared to be in deep thought so The Traveler went on.
“This is my quest. My purpose. This change in the winds and the death that nips at our heels like a pack of wolves is rapidly closing in, even as we sit here musing. I must find her. NOW. Only the land of Foirfeachta seems to remain untouched by the changes; but I do not know how long that will continue. Only because it is the heart of our world does it know such protection. Each rising sun has brought the tribes nearer to our borders seeking warmth, solace, answers… the Counselor does his best to advise and encourage. As my protector, he was against this journey until the end; but even he knows this is the only way.”
The young male had been looking down at his hands as he spoke, nervously plucking at a bit of vine; but the sound of soft sobbing drew his attention once more to the other. Looking up, he saw the great squared shoulders of this gruff and grumbling Cave Dweller shaking as those of a child.
“Where did we go wrong, young one?” asked his friend, his voice choked with sorrow. The Traveler stifled a manic urge to laugh, for knew he was not so young anymore. In truth, he felt ever so much older than his cycles bore witness to. Now desperation filled his friend’s voice as the sobbing ceased and he pleaded with The Traveler, “Where did it all begin? We know our own history as it was written upon those now crumbled walls of truth. But from the beginning? In the time before time. Why are any of us here, if only to suffer and die? It seems we have lost our ear to Spirit, or has it turned a deaf ear to us?” He lowered his head once more.
The Traveler’s face was solemn as he stoked the fire with a broken branch and sat back upon the cold ground. He knew now was not the time to speak of his encounter with the lowly creature by the river. It was merely a nod, after all-a grim invitation from the Dark One; and how he loved his games. He would save that tale for when they began their journey up the white mountains.
As far as the question, that was another story altogether; and it was one the heartbroken Traveler felt lacking the true authority to tell. He had heard so much of it from the time he took his first breath; and it was, after all, his own history, often to his regret in these times. Taking a deep breath, he began the telling as he knew it. His memory was sharp though the detail might be lacking. Only Mor could fill in the missing parts. After all, it had been the desire of Great Spirit which started it all….