Forever Never/The Dawn of Illusion
by Cheryl Pennington
copyright all content 2016
As Ella lies wounded, the Hunter disappearing into the flames of what was once his his world, the Warrior and Sorceress face the seed of Darkness that is Ar’tine’s creation….
Warrior and Sorceress
Damanta was toying with Naofa, maneuvering from side to side and spitting out ribbons of liquid fire just to watch her jump; teasing her relentlessly so that the Sorceress couldn’t get in a good position to strike again. The weapon she wielded was getting heavier with every moment she held onto it. Relief and concern flooded her body when Laoch ran up beside her, ready with his own weapon. In that moment the Sorceress decided if her physical strength was failing her then perhaps it was time to use the tools she knew best. What she lacked in brute strength, she knew was made up for in other ways. Naofa let the sword rest against her leg as she dug inside her tunic pocket to retrieve the crystal she always carried with her. It’s energy, drawn from Light itself, had always provided strength, protection, vitality. And now, she thought as it glowed orange in the glimmer of Damanta’s flames, it had returned Life. The Sorceress tightened her grip on the treasure, silently whispering words of gratitude and appreciation for its gifts and pleading for it to keep on giving… knowing she would need all it had to offer now-and more. With a quick glance at Laoch, hoping he would understand what she was doing, Naofa began to dance with the beast. She mimicked its movements, slowly swinging the sword back and forth, pulling Damanta into her own essence, as the glimmer of the sword hypnotized, rendering it helpless to pull its gaze from glow of death glinting off of the weapon. Naofa forced herself to look into the eyes of Domhan’s unwelcome guest, knowing it was necessary, for she was looking for something very particular within those depths of abysmal darkness. For what seemed eternal moments she could not find anything, the glints of green and gray covering her soul like a mossy blanket, suffocating her own sense of light until she felt she must pull back lest she be drawn in and drown in the dark river of sorrows that were the soul of the creature. And then…
There it was! The Light flickered from deep within as a flame at the bottom of a deep well. It was As’me. This was the moment and miracle Naofa needed. Holding the crystal high, she slowly moved closer until she stood a breath away from Damanta’s face, so close that her nose burned from the stench of burning ash and she felt the tremble of the beast’s pulse. If only she could distract the black soul long enough for As’me to show herself…
Naofa spoke to it then, her voice rising louder and louder, to be heard above the sound of the beast’s heavy breathing. “Why do you stop now? Are you tired? We are not tired. We do not feel hate the way your father does. We are love. He has lied to you. There is no strength in power that comes from the soul of darkness.” Naofa could feel As’me struggling for control, so close and yet…
Damanta glared at Naofa with treacherous intent, even as she seemed calmer. Laoch moved closer to them-slowly, carefully. Naofa’s lips could almost touch its sharp, ridged jaw and her eyes burned from the sulfurous smoke that curled from Damanta’s nostrils, wafting around her face. She took a deep breath and forced herself into fierceness, snarling at the creature so determined to deconstruct their lives.
“You are not so mighty! Not so fierce! I have walked as a beast more fearless than you-fearless and honorable. You have no real power here on our world.” Until that moment she had been feigning arrogance, anger and reproach; but with each word that slipped through her lips, her confidence grew stronger, her heart more sure of its purpose. And the beast of Ar’tine realized what it was truly facing.
The Sorceress saw pure hatred swell in its eyes as it slowly raised its head, the crushing jaws opening as Damanta’s tongue slid out and curled around Naofa’s waist so quickly she had no time to react. She gasped in horror, trying to pry herself from its grip, but it wound around her torso in a grip so tight she could scarcely breath. It was no use struggling; for with every move she made the scratchy horror gripped her more tightly. She couldn’t bear to feel the thing against her skin-so cold, so wet and pulsating, one side slipping between her legs as the other half flicked around her neck, tightening and closing off her airway. Naofa’s eyes bulged in terror, knowing it meant to squeeze the life out of her in one final crushing pulse. She gasped for breath and forced herself to look into its pupils, glistening like empty, black holes. Naofa closed her own eyes to the ugliness of her fate and prayed for salvation-or death. Laoch knew this may be his only opportunity to strike and raised his weapon against the darkness, swinging it in large round circles, just as Guia had taught them-building pressure, speed and force. He could hear the whistling sound it made in the night air. Naofa’s eyes rolled back in her head, her face swollen red and shining in the firelight as the Warrior brought the round, spiked head down with a deep thud against the beast’s only soft spot of flesh-a pulsing, yellowish area near just below the crown of its spiny head and above the ear. Through the dull haze of suffocation Naofa heard the ripping of Damanta’s flesh when Laoch’s mace (is that what they had called it?) pierced Damanta’s hide. The She Beast shrieked in fury and pain as blood gushed from the holes that dotted its neck, and released its grip on Naofa who fell to the ground, gasping for air and clutching her neck. The Sorceress wasted no tears in that moment but pushed herself first to her knees and then to her feet to dodge Damanta’s heavy, barbed tail as it swung menacingly from side to side, thankful that the treacherous appendage holding her hostage had retreated back into its cavernous mouth.
Damanta jerked her head around and turned to her attacker, eyeing the Warrior with fury, ready to finish him and his mate. As she spat fire in Laoch’s direction, she slapped her tail across the burning meadow, striking Ella where she lay, wounded and weak. The blow lifted her from the ground and sent her sliding across the grass into the shadows at the forest’s edge. Laoch bellowed in anger, pain searing his heart; but he couldn’t see a clear path around the beast who now focused solely on the Warrior. She glared at the foolhardy male, sizing him up before striking him down; but she saw something strange in the light that flickered across his body-there were familiar eyes looking back at her from the Warrior’s chest! Damanta snorted thoughtfully and leaned in closer, puffing heat and ash through the air as it tried to comprehend. Something so familiar, so mesmerizing about the image. The beast snorted and looked at Laoch as if searching for an answer; but the Warrior had no intention of talking, instead lifting the offending weapon again and circling it over his head while he howled at the night. From deep within Damanta’s chest came a low rumbling as she slowly and deliberately raised her head. The wind whined as she drew in breath, preparing to strike. Naofa braced herself, fearing what was to come, having seen what she did to Eolas’ home with a single breath and knowing this horrid child of Ar’tine could singe the Warrior to char before finishing her and Ella off with her claws and creeping tongue.
The truth is Damanta would have done just that, with great pleasure, if not for the voice that thundered inside her head yet again. No this was not the small, irritating voice. The voice commanding her attention was that of her master, of he whom she was sworn to listen to-and obey.
“No! Not my son. He has a purpose here. Every human shall be dealt with eventually, but we have lingered long enough. Leave these unworthy beings to deal with their burdens, my daughter. We have more important debts to settle-in the heart of Domhan, where live the holy betrayers. Come, Damanta-As’me, Domhan’s Mother needs some attention.”
The beast wanted to ignore its Creator’s voice, so strong was its own will to finish the fight, to destroy the brazen, foolish humans who dared to anger it; but its Master had spoken; and throughout the night, As’me struggled from within its black soul to reach her Father, a father she knew loved her above all else. Barely audible over the burning carnage, her voice cried incessantly for mercy inside Damanta’s mind. Both of the voices affected the beast, but in that moment it would be obedient to its Creator. Both the soul and the mind residing within its body longed to rebel against Ar’tine, but for very different reasons.
Damanta turned from Laoch, swinging her tail around to knock him from his feet but he deftly jumped to avoid it and rolled away. With dark rivulets still streaming down its neck, the beast stood to full height and spread its wings. They made a hideous crackling sound as they opened across the meadow, casting it in the shadow of total darkness. Then Damanta pulled her wounded body from the ground, leaving billows of smoke and debris in her wake as she rose into the moonlight, and headed for the heart of their world…..
to be continued…..
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