Hi all. I am posting to my WP blog today because many of you that follow me have difficulty commenting or connecting with me over on Blogger. I am so grateful to all who have hung in there with me for over ten years since I started blogging on my tropicalaffair site.
Today’s post is presented as part of https://lindaghill.com/2022/10/21/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-oct-22-2022/ for Linda Hill and her #SoCS prompt. Today’s prompt is ‘bowl’. Any of you who follow Dan Antion over at https://nofacilities.com/2022/10/22/reading-and-writing-socs/#comment-286663 may have read his post today where he was kind enough to mention the book I have been working on for the past 10+ yrs. Working, raising kids and living life makes book writing a real challenge. I did most of the work during our ‘first retirement’ attempt in 2012 in the beach jungle town of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. There was true inspiration there. Fast forward to retirement number 2 almost two years ago now to Panama and I am finally nearing completion. Dan has been a true friend in helping me with this story, from reading book chapters to now being a Beta reader. I can never thank him enough for his valuable honest input and encouragement. So, today I want to share an excerpt from one of the chapters without giving away too much of the story. Anyone who has raised small children will appreciate the tension in this excerpt. If you like what you read please leave me a comment. I love hearing from you.
PS. If you can find the ‘bowl’ in the piece let me know in the comments. 🙂
ForeverNever/Dawn of the Dream
copyright 2022 Cheryl Pennington
“Saol, it’s time.” His hot breath tickled her ear and the agitation in his voice nudged her awake. Agean was kneeling beside her bed, his fingers squeezing the soft flesh of her forearm. “C’mon, now. Hurry so we don’t wake her.”
Saol looked at her mother, still sleeping soundly and gasped softly. Agean pressed his hand across her mouth just in time to stifle a squeal. Her heart thumped madly when she looked into his eyes. They begged her to be silent, to be brave… and to get moving! He nodded over her shoulder towards the window. Saol turned and saw a faint glow filtering through the trees but the sky above them was black as soot. She pulled his hand from her mouth and sighed softly. Dreaming. She’d only dreamed her Father was calling to her. Saol shook her head to clear away the haunting apparitions and pushed back the covers. She could see Agean was already dressed and ready to leave, and his things lay in a shadowy lump by the door.
“We have to hurry,” he mouthed. The boy leaned in so close that their noses bumped and they fought the urge to giggle, as children are wont to do. She nodded, swung her feet over the edge of the bed and leaned down for her leathers, but Agean had them in hand and began quietly slipping them onto her feet. He laced one and she worked with the other. He handed her the clothes from the end of the bed and stared at her expectantly but she scrunched up her nose, frowning. Agean shrugged and held up his hands, confused. The boy had seen his Na naked many times and this was no time to be shy. She stubbornly refused to remove her night shirt and motioned for him to turn around. He rolled his eyes and obliged, tiptoeing to the door where he kept his face to the wall and waited.
After she dressed, Saol looked around her safe haven, soaking up its warmth and comfort. Something gleamed in the darkness and she tiptoed to the tiny table where her few treasures lay beside a cold oil lamp. Among these was a tiny cloth doll on a leather cord, a gift from her father at the last celebration of her life. But what it rested in was the most treasured thing Saol now owned, although she never dared tell Mama Ella. She didn’t want to hurt her feelings. After a brief moment of indecision, she slipped the doll necklace over her head and tucked it inside her dress. She slowly ran her fingers over the inside of the bowl, lovingly tracing every dip and rise of the clay. Saol had no memory of her mother but she loved her just the same. Eagna died the night she was born and that made her mysteriously perfect in Saol’s heart. Her father never spoke of this but her Mama Ella told her how close they all were when they worked together for the good of Domhan. She took the bowl from the table and nestled it between the folds of her clothes in the bag. Naofa cared so much for Eagna and Saol realized just how special her gift had been. With a last look around she was ready.
She wanted to kiss Ella on the cheek but didn’t dare go near her bed. Instead she watched her sleep, wondering what her dreams might be. She softly whispered, “I love you and I promise to bring him back.” When the lump rose in her throat, the young girl turned and crept to the door where Agean waited. Hand in hand they slipped out into the chilly dawn of adventure. Saol shivered and put her arm around Agean’s shoulders protectively.
“I’m ok, Saol,” he whispered adamantly, pulling away. He wouldn’t admit he felt the chill for she might think him weak. Yet her warmth was comforting and he doubted he would have had the courage to go alone. He grabbed her hand and they slipped behind the hut to gather their pilfered goods, being careful not to rattle the wood in the bin or bump into the house. After they filled their bags and hung them across their backs, the children were ready to leave the village, laden like work horses. The bow and quiver slung across Agean’s back was half the size of his body. Only one challenge remained and they took a deep breath as they headed toward the path leading to freedom.
“He’s sleeping,” Agean whispered into her ear. His breath stirred the silken strands of hair around her face, tickling her cheek. She dared not move for fear of waking Fiel, the hunter who was the flame keeper. Each night a different Jinetes kept the flame alive, and so kept Juntos alive. The fire that blazed in the center of the village had been burning long before the Joining, ever since the females of Espera were created. Before the Jinetes became keepers the women of Espera tended the flame, sharing the sacred charge among themselves. The fire of life had been one of the Realm’s first gifts to them and they revered it. Fiel’s senses were sharp, making their exit more difficult.
The children waited anxiously in the shadows until Agean got an idea. He crouched on the ground, soundlessly searching until he spotted the perfect stone. He picked it up and and waited. The Jinetes taught him that patience always gave the warrior an advantage. He counted to ten before raising his arm and flinging the stone as hard as he could. It was a perfect toss, landing beside the fence where the horses were tied for the night. He was relieved he hadn’t hit one in the head for he only wanted to wake them, giving Fiel a reason to leave his place too near the path.
The stone hit with a thud and one of the horses whinnied and reared, stirring the others. Soon they were all excited, fearing a predator. Fiel jumped but didn’t panic. This happened all the time. Serpents and night stalkers were a horse’s worst enemy, causing panic in the group as they all tried to escape. He pulled out his knife and sprinted to the animals, never looking across the clearing to where the children hunkered in the dusty light of an imminent daybreak.
The hunter checked every horse, patting them and searching the area for unwanted guests. He was so preoccupied with his work that he didn’t see the children scurry past the fire pit. Their silhouettes fell on the soft earth before the flame that pointed its orange finger at them accusingly. He might never have looked in their direction if Saol hadn’t stepped in a rut, twisting her foot. She slapped her hand to her mouth to stifle the cry of pain and Agean yanked her from the path into the trees. Once safely hidden, she rubbed her ankle and was relieved she could still move it. Agean looked at her anxiously, but when she stood on her foot there was no pain. Their eyes shone in the dark with questions they dared not ask aloud.
‘Do you think he heard?’‘Is he coming?’‘Is this the end of our journey before it even began?’
The woods were silent but for the sound of their hearts drumming in their ears. They waited until the biting bugs began making a morning meal of their skin before nodding, both ready to bolt. It was now or never and they were ready to run. Saol took one step forward but Agean grabbed her arm, pulling her back. He’d seen a moving shadow on the path and his senses told him to stay put. In the next moment they spotted Fiel walking toward the gate.
The Keeper was annoyed that he had to go all this way for nothing. Birds often screeched when they were flushed out by the night hunters. Still, the cry sounded strange and it was his task to keep the village safe while the others slept. As he walked past their hiding place he lifted his bow and nocked an arrow, practicing his aim. Suddenly he turned to face the woods, pointing the arrow directly at the terrified runaways.
Had he seen them? Saol squeezed Agean’s hand and they held their breath, not moving a muscle. His young heart sank at the thought of being discovered, of being denied his chance to help his mother and father… or worse yet, being shot a second time! Saol’s heart was heavy, imagining the moment she would stand before Mama Ella and have to explain her deception without having found her father.
Fiel saw nothing in the dark woods but shadows and heard nothing more than the wind in the trees and the occasional call of the night owl. He lowered his bow and continued on to the gates where he made sure they were latched and nothing was out of order. The horizon glowed pink and orange and the hunter knew it wouldn’t be long before the noisy women would be crowding his space to begin their work. He ran all the way back to his bed and, with a last look at the quiet horses, pulled the blanket over his head. The morning air was chilly, an unpleasant condition that was getting worse with every rising sun.
Saol tugged Agean along, more determined than ever to get away from the village. When they reached the gates of Juntos they felt terribly small beneath the towering posts. They looked longingly to the other side where the mysterious world loomed before them, silently speaking its truth.
‘You two will be on your own out here,’ it warned. ‘Are you sure you don’t want to climb back in your beds and wait for the warm breakfast you could have with your friends and family when the sun smiles?”
Agean tightened the strap on his shoulder and grabbed Saol’s hand. “Let’s go before anyone else wakes up.”
The devoted girl had no choice but to follow the son of the Light Ones to the end and what lay between. Her hand was warm in his as they squeezed between the gate’s wooden slats. As if to applaud their decision, Grandfather Sun blinked over the horizon, splintering golden light over the damp grass. They looked at each other and smiled, all fear fading in the light of hope they shared.