Forever Never/The Dawn of the Dream
Forever Never/The Dawn of the Dream
by Cheryl Pennington
copyright words and images 217
The Traveler/The Journey
the story continues…..
Amhain was jarred from his early reverie by sounds not unlike the rutting of hogs and he was at once alert, hopeful for something more hearty to fill their bellies for the day’s ride. When he identified the noise as snoring, he remembered the other-his traveling companion who continued to sleep a mere few feet away. Both amused and often annoyed with the temperamental Cave Dweller that had never left his side in so many moons, Amhain now considered Carraig a friend and someone whom he could count on. Granted, he could be counted on to grumble, lag behind and eat the last morsel of food in their often empty bags; but he could wrestle a wild hog if need be and carry any load their horses could. Amhain grinned at the lumpy figure of friendship who, bothered now by his own snoring, fidgeted on the bedroll where he lay and swung his fleshy fists against the air at the hungry gnats foraging for fallen crumbs in his stiff beard.
The Traveler stifled a laugh as he reached for a small stone and lobbed it gingerly at Carraig, the weapon hitting his target squarely on the chest before rolling to the ground and into a thicket of dry brush. The other flinched and patted his chest. Amhain smiled to himself at the perfection of his aim. Laoch always told him that his aim was as true as any in the Tribe of Jinetes. The memory furrowed his brow as his smile faded, his mind wondering where the Warrior was in that moment. They had begun their quests simultaneously but moved in different directions, so long ago it seemed; and in all the time that had passed, Amhain had heard no word from his family friend. He had heard no word from any of the Light Ones, only the tales that were carried from tribe to tribe. What he heard had only burdened his heart. Still, he knew every one of them sought the same thing, sought the return of Domhan’s first Keeper. Absentmindedly he grabbed another stone and tossed it, this time grazing Carraig’s cheek before rolling away, miraculously coming to rest beside the first stone. The small giant jumped and screeched, swinging wildly at his attacker, his hands scattering the gnats in a frenzied flurry. Unable to contain himself now, Amhain laughed out loud, finding relief from his sorrow, even if it had been at the expense of his friend.
“What, in the name of Mor, is so funny?” growled Carraig, rubbing his eyes and scratching at the rapidly rising infinitesimal bites that appeared on the patches of his rough skin that were still visible. His large hands were stained and his fingernails nails blackened from so long digging in the recesses of the caves of his homeland. “Was that your idea of a greeting?” He huffed and sat up as straight as his girth would allow, heaving his disgust in Amhain’s direction. “How unfriendly!…this is not how a soul should be roused from a brutal night on a hard, cold ground with little but morsels in his belly to keep him warm. Why, my beloved Oth..”
Amhain guffawed at the thought of waking Carraig with a gentle nudge and soft whispers. “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 each full moon. The rest of us know such a ritual quite more often.”
Carraig grunted indifferently, but had no sharp retort for his young friend while still in such a clouded morning frame of mind.
Admittedly, Amhain had exaggerated about his companion’s bathing, but he couldn’t resist the urge to goad his sensitive friend. The truth of it was that he hoped to ease a bit of Carraig’s own loneliness with his joking. If not for the sake of his own best friend still grieving behind in the land of the caves, Carraig would have been the last human to have come on such a journey, leaving behind the only soul who he felt truly understood and loved him. He loved his Othar beyond explanation; but he and Rith were inseparable friends from the moment they came into being and it was pitiable what had become of his friend’s mind since the Devastation, watching as his own beloved disappeared over a bleak horizon, leaving her grieving partner with a new infant to care for, armed only with a broken heart and land full of charred rock.
No, Carraig didn’t find the Traveler’s morning humor entertaining, and shot the him a glance of warning that told Amhain that his foul mood would continue until he had been properly fed.
‘Fine, then’, thought the Traveler as he gathered his things, leaving the other to do his morning business. There were surely fish to be caught in the riverbed below, so he grabbed his line and clicked his tongue. The white mare stood patiently near the edge of the trees, awaiting the next leg of their journey; and as Amhain approached her, she snorted softly, nudging her master’s hand with a warm, wet nose, gladly accepting the piece of fruit he offered.
“Precious treasure,” he thought, and surrendered the sweet treat to his loyal four-legged friend. If Carraig had seen this, he would have lost his head-along with his temper, for giving food to a beast when he was ‘starving’-the worst offense possible! Amhain rolled his eyes to think of the scene but knew it was of no consequence, for he fully intended to bring back a nice string of fish to hang over the fire. This would at least ease the hunger pangs of his friend. “Sadly,” he whispered into the mare’s ear, “There is nothing to be done for his aching soul. Not until we find her, ”
The mare licked his face as Amhain grabbed the leather lead and began the descent to the river, carefully navigating the steep slope of the hill. Dead leaves crackled beneath his leather shoes, the crisp air stinging his cheeks. Sparse slivers of light fell across the slope, and what light there was afforded no warmth from the sun rising quickly into the sky above the dark woods. He knew they needed to be on their way as soon as possible. His mind always ticked-calculating, discerning and considering the changes, the speeding up of life since the marking of time began in their world. The very air of Dohman had grown bitter since that fateful night. 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 their 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 most certainly headed, and they were drawing ever closer. An imperceptible force compelled him to search for her there. There were deep caves in those mountains, like dark lands within the land itself. Only a place like that could afford refuge for the abominable darkness that had stolen his life, his heart.
It was a risk, for there certainly were rumors of those who had gone in the direction of the white mountains-had gone but not returned. The brave few who courageously dared enter the dense forest had eventually turned back, straggling home with awful stories of low crawling creatures in those woods, things that caused nightmares. Amhain laughed out loud to think of their nightmares. What did they know of true nightmares, after all? The Mother of all nightmares had visited itself upon his world what seemed so long ago that it was as in another lifetime. Such a twisted event had born the cloak of darkness which fathered his own Grand Nightmare, the one that repeated itself again and again, for so many nights that he had lost count.
to be continued……