More Than This!/ Forever Never

I wanted t share just a bit from the novel. For those of you who have followed my tale since its inception in 2012, this will not be unfamiliar. For those who have read recent excerpts, this will hopefully make sense. Anyone who is reading for the first time can get some background by visiting past posts under the Forever Never category.

In this segment, others are awakened to the call for returning the rightful keeper of Domhan to her place in their world. From every corner, they will rise and make the journey to the Black Mountains, a journey into the heart and mind of darkness, for every one has been touched in some way by its selfish hand…

 

More Than This!
From the Land of Caves
Against the sky he shook his fist.
“By Eternity’s Light, we are more than this!”

He was stout, though leaner than most in his village, and his triangular face was etched with lines too advanced for his time on Domhan. Life had heaped mighty heartache on him in life too soon, making him feel weighed down and clumsy. His steps were slower, his eyes dull, and rarely a smile found his lips. He who once kept the village alive with laughter had grown morose and introverted, leaving his friends to avoid him most of the time. What they didn’t know was that the heart of his exuberance had always been his companion-she was his life, his comfort, his Joy. Since that dark night of nights when ashes flew and flames streaked the skies, his reason for living vanished in the clutches of the fire breather while he gaped, horrified, as they disappeared over the mountains and into oblivion. He was left alone to care for their newborn treasure, and he a simple rock cutter.

Now he looked up from the mess on his bed where all that he owned lay in a disorganized heap. He needed a moment to steal a glance at the tiny girl standing in the entrance to his cave, her face a mixture of loving adoration and knowing sorrow. A gentle smile moved across his lips in spite of himself. The child was so beautiful, and the look in her eyes-the Joy of her-brought him both comfort and agony at once.

She clung tightly to the rotund female beside her, her pink fists tugging on the skirt she hid behind as she sucked a chubby thumb. He frowned and she pulled it from her mouth, remembering how it made him angry when she reverted to that infant comfort. None but he would dare chastise her or steal such a small comfort. The rest of the village pitied the poor girl, losing her mother so tragically. Of course she knew no difference, having been raised by his best friend’s dear Othar, a gift herself sent straight from heart of the Realm, to be certain. Not only did she care for his motherless child since she was but a suckling, but she was loving and kind to his most unruly, unkempt, haphazard, well-intentioned best friend Carraig. Carraig, who never got enough to eat, Carraig whose bodily noises rivaled a thunderstorm, Carraig who would die for the world he was born to serve. And he might well have already done that by going off with the heartbroken son of M’na. At first Rith was furious with Amhain for accepting Carraig’s offer, but he didn’t have the heart to deny the young male. Rith’s allegiance to the Light Ones of Domhan was still intact, although he had conflicting emotions towards the Gods and Goddesses who seemed to have deserted them so long ago.

“Do you really have to do this?” Othar’s soft voice squeaked, but the vastness of the cave carried her simple question circling round its corridors in a chorus. She held her breath, knowing full well it was a futile question. Of course he was going. Rith never did anything frivolously or without careful planning. It just seemed to be so sudden, his decision to head toward those cursed black mountains.

Rith put his hands on the bed and lowered his head, searching for the right words, but there were none that would ease the pain of truth.

“My Joy was ripped from my arms by that..” he began, but stopped when he saw the terrified but inquisitive look in his child’s eyes. Othar pried Agra’s hands loose from her skirt and shooed her down the steps.

“Go, play with the others now. We’ll be down in a little while.” The child obeyed, but not without several furtive glances back toward the dark figure shadowed by the firelight flickering from the cave entrance. She felt confused and unsettled in a way that she had only a vague memory of, like a long ago dream. Something felt wrong and her stomach rolled over.

“Hi Agra! We’re playing hoop ball. Want to play too?” One of the children in the village urged her from her discomforting thoughts, and Agra left her sorrows in the dirt as the tiny doll she had been clutching slipped through her fingers onto the ground. She was told that her first mother-the one who was taken away-made it for her on the day she was born. It was nothing you could play with really, but she liked the color of its skin, made from soft vine cloth; and it was comforting to keep it in her skirt pocket. Agra had no true memory of that mother but thought she must have been very special if her father could not forget about their life together. Still, it broke her heart that he could not find enough joy in just being with Agra, playing with her and seeing her. What she didn’t know was that he truly did see her and that the very Joy in her face was what kept him from allowing himself to be comforted by her presence. The girl hastily bent to pick up the tiny treasure and stuff it back into her pocket, where it belonged. It was the least she could do for her father. With one last look up at the cave she ran to join the other children.

“How can I explain what I sense, Othar? I never wanted Carraig to go with that sorrow crazed son of M’na. I thought the boy just needed to accept what Eternity had taken from him, although anyone could understand his bitterness. In one night he was completely abandoned but for a brother who was very likely eaten by a talking wolf.” Rith shook his head, still unable to grasp the story as it had been told. “Now, though, I am seeing through new eyes. I look at Agra and think Amhain’s parents must be so proud of him for being brave and for not giving up as I did. I always thought Carraig to be lazy of mind and weak of body, his thoughts always on food and sleep.” Rith looked sorrowfully at Carraig’s most beloved. “I’m sorry, Othar, I shouldn’t..”

She shook her head and waved her hand at Rith, unable to speak for the lump of sorrow stuck in her throat. Rith was right, of course. Carraig was lazy, though he always went into the mines with the others, always stayed from sunrise to sunset, and always returned to her for a hearty meal which he gratefully devoured. He was unruly, unkempt and sometimes unclean, but he loved her. And she loved him. He also loved his best friend Rith, almost as much as her she guessed. It was that love which sent him off with the first son of Domhan on a wild quest to find his mother. The boy was certain the mother of Domhan was still alive, for how could she not be? She was created as an immmortal, the Keeper of Inion’s world, and yet where had she gone? On the night of the Devastation, she disappeared without a trace and no word had been heard since. The boy insisted he could feel her and often heard her voice as he drifted out of morning’s slumber, but he had not seen her in all these years.

“I should have gone with them, Othar. He is doing this for me, you know.” He began stuffing things into a leather bag and Othar moved silently beside him, gently taking the things out and folding his clothes.

“They will fit better if you do it this way,” she urged. Rith stopped, looked at Carraig’s companion and felt a twinge of affection for her himself. She wasn’t his Joy, but she was a good companion and had been more than a mother to his daughter. It seemed tragic that she and Carraig had not had a child of their own since Creation was awakened for them all. A tuft of wiry hair sprung from her bun and he reached up to tuck it back in. She recoiled a bit, then smiled nervously, fixing it herself before returning to the packing.

“I..I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be bold. Othar, I want to thank you..” Rith began, but she turned quickly to face him and put a finger to her lips. She looked him straight in the eyes, her face soft and glowing in the firelight.

“I know the affection you feel for me as Carraig’s best friend, and as the mother to your Agra since Joy left us.” Her voiced choked and she lowered her head for a moment. She wiped an escaped tear and looked at Carraig’s friend again. “Joy was my best friend. No one knows the loss I feel every day in her being gone. But having Agra to care for has eased the loss I felt. Carraig has been like another father to her as well. She loves you both. I miss him every moment of every sunrise to sunset.” Othar smoothed her skirt and tucked the tunic in where it was puffing out over the edges. “I am not a pretty one, like some of the others, even Joy. My gifts are in what I can do for others. Having Carraig to love me for my stews and my ability to love him in spite of his imperfect ways has been a gift from the Realm.”

Rith touched her arm and she did not pull away. “Everyone can see your beauty, Othar. Your devotion to Carraig is as plain as daylight, and someone who will care for her best friend’s child as her own on top of that has more beauty than the brightest bloom in Foirfeachta.

“Oooh, have you been to Foirfeachta, Rith?” He shook his head and they both laughed.

“No, but to hear the Sorceress and Warrior describe it, I feel I have been there. You can see it in young Amhain’s eyes too..” His voice trailed off.

“Well, you best be getting on with it if you are to make the next valley by sunset,” the words spilled from Othar’s mouth as a directive. “Agra will be fine here. You just go and find Carraig.” She stopped, bowed her head and closed her eyes, fresh tears spilling over her cheeks. Othar reached over and grabbed Rith’s hand. “Who knows? Perhaps you will find Joy also.” She squeezed his hand then released it again.

Rith turned away abruptly and walked to the cave entrance. The wind slapped his face and he crossed his arms, rubbing them to warm his skin. In the pink and orange glow of a new sunrise he watched his daughter playing with the other children of his village, so carefree. Something in him stirred, fueling a resentment that had lain dormant for too long. Agra deserved her mother, her true mother. Othar deserved to have her happiness back. And Domhan needed its Mother more than anything else. If M’na returned to the Garden-or what might remain there-she could stop the cruel hand of darkness that stretched its gray fingers over their world.

Rith turned back to look at Othar who watched him intently. He nodded and faced the horizon once more. As the sun peered magnificently over the edge of the unknown, its glow illuminated his hardened face. He raised his hand to the new dawn, the dirt stains from hard work glaring at him in the morning light. He made a fist and thrust it towards the face of opportunity.

“I am Rith of the Caves! And I am more than this!”

to be continued…

Words and images copyright Cheryl KP 2019

 

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Paradise in Ashes/Forever Never/Book Bits..

Another bit of my work in progress….85C6D39E-ACF0-41C7-B6F6-0EC61DD17101

Words and images copyright CherylKP 2019

Paradise in Ashes
In the Mists of Dreams
M’na’s heart thudded inside her chest as she made her way through the forest. How could she have known Amhain would be deceived so cruelly and have his brother stolen from his arms? Her empty stomach jumped and rolled as though it might climb up her throat. She trembled as raw anger screamed louder than her fears, the culmination of all the horrors they had suffered in so short a time. She could not, would not, be defeated this way.

“A’rtine!” she called out hoarsely, the smoke and tears clogging her throat. The Mother of Domhan took a deep breath, the stark image of her infant son as a helpless captive of the Dark god looming in her mind. She steeled herslef to try again. Hot blood quickened her pulse, her breaths came in short gasps, and the fire in her soul fueled her resolve. She yelled again, this time sending her voice into the madness with a fury. “Artine, you damnable soul! Where are you, Ar’tine?” M’na knew he was responsible for the living nightmare they were in, that he beguiled her son and took her newborn child from the trusting child. How that poor boy must be suffering with guilt.

“You can’t worry about that now,” she mumbled to herself. M’na turned in circles, her mind racing as she scanned the smoke filled landscape for signs of life. She decided she would have to entice him out of his dark corner-but how? Though her mind was muddied with fear and her body wracked with pain, she knew her child’s life might depend on her outwitting the most shadowed soul in the Realm. M’na closed her eyes, took several slow, deep breaths and steadied her voice, focusing on sounding not just reasonable, but appealing.

“Artine, I..I know you are here. This is your handiwork, and I also know you would not want to miss a chance to..” She swallowed the bile working its way into her throat, along with any pride she had left. “You must be eager to see how successful your efforts were. I confess your creation reflects your supreme power.” M’na waited, hands pressed to her pounding temples, for any sign of his presence; but only the roaring fires that ravaged her homeland echoed back. Thunder rolled as wild jags of lightening cracked across the smoke filled skies. M’na was perched on the precipice of desperation, with her newborn child in danger and their perfect world crumbling around them.

“Why do you hide if you are not ashamed?” M’na tried a new tack with the vengeful son of Eternity. “Surely you aren’t afraid of a helpless female like me? Why do you hide in the shadows when you could torture me with your words?” M’na, always the clever one, kept the pretense up, driven by fear and necessity, taunting the dark one into the blazing light of his own making. Light was her only advantage, being the one place he was vulnerable.

“Son of Mac! I demand that you show yourself and answer to me!” She waited. A deathly silence descended like a blanket across the madness, enveloping her. She knew with every moment that passed her newborn could be taking his last breath and she grew impatient. Fear gave way to outrage as she bellowed, “Damn you, Ar’tine! What have you done with my SON?!”

Her world responded with awed silence, its Mother in peril, and waited for her next move. Her soft jaw went rigid, her arms hung limply at her sides, and her fists clenched and unclenched. She was finished being soft, easy, and loving. “Return him to me..now!.” She waited. Did she hear a muffled whimper? Oh, dear Mother, could that be Dochais? M’na’s heart caught in her throat, but now more ever she knew she had to be stronger than fear. She had to be stronger than the heart of darkness.

“He is of no use to you, and not even a boy yet. He’s..he’s so small…” M’na cupped her hand over her mouth to stifle a sob. She wouldn’t weep before him, she couldn’t sound weak, and refused to beg, knowing he would only hunger for more pain. “What danger is an infant to you?” She lied, knowing more than anyone else how much power the infant was born with, knew the power he held within his soul, and understood the hope that the Realm had with his birth on Domhan.

She held back the tears, refusing to be vulnerable before the bitter god, unwilling to quench his thirst for suffering. M’na hung her head, the weight of fear and sorrow pressing down on her heart and soul, and wept silently. In those quiet moments she heard it, at first nothing but a soft rustling, like the gentle flutter of leaves blowing across a dirt path. She cocked her head to the side, straining to hear more, and wondered if she was losing her mind. Long moments slid by and she was about to call again when the sound returned, coming from somewhere above. She peered up into the darkness, mesmerized by the glowing embers that glimmered as they drifted slowly to the ground around her, the sound floating down with them. Something about it all made her stomach turn. M’na covered her eyes, shielding them from the ash and ember as she gazed up into the unknown.

There was something vaguely familiar about this place and this particular tree, although the entire forest was turning to ash so quickly she would have become easily lost. The tree, the seat of the hissing sound, seemed to be calling to her from some distant place. Its skin glistened in the light of the fires that blazed around them and M’na’s mind groped for the memory. Its bark was scorched and faded, with bits flaking off and striking her upturned face. She didn’t try to deflect them, feeling they were somehow purging her soul.

As she squinted into the dim, gray light she could make out a dark form that moved slowly down and around and down and around.. It shimmered in the pale light as it circled the tree trunk, winding closer and closer to the ground. The Mother of Domhan gasped as the dawning of what glistened in the darkness reached her numbed brain. She gaped in horror as the flame and fury of A’rtine’s madness was reflected back at her from the slick skin of the largest, darkest serpent she had ever seen. Nothing like it existed on Domhan, and she had seen every living creature that lived on her world. M’na stumbled back a few steps, her body subconsciously telling her to run while her mind forced her to stifle the scream that longed to escape from her lips. The serpent stretched downward, its body as long as the Tree of Creation was tall, and coiled around it so that the bare branches seemed like arms reaching to the heavens for salvation. M’na knew where they were now, but nothing in the place even remotely resembled her memory of the peaceful Garden where she first tasted the fruit of life, where her body had been awakened and she had returned so often for solace. What had happened to the beautiful tree that gave them all such precious gifts?

“What?” Hissed the glistening shadow, “No kisses to smother my face? Is your Mother’s love only for those who slid from within your womb?” A thick black knot unfurled from around the lowest branch of the tree and curled back towards M’na to rest on the end of the branch. The head of the serpent was magnificently, perfectly horrible, as only the god of darkness could have created. The head had two smaller knots on it that she prayed would not open, but it seemed her prayers were going up in flames along with her world. The serpent opened those knots to reveal eyes as black as a starless sky and yet they seemed to tug at her soul like grasping fingers. If only they would have remained so. When the serpent spoke again, its eyes glowed red like the heart of the flame, piercing her soul as though forged from its own fire. It’s slit of a mouth opened and a barbed gray tongue slid forward, nearly touching her face, flicking right in front of her eyes. M’na trembled, her body wanting to fail her.

“This is your world, Mother,” a small voice whispered. M’na averted her eyes to the ground where a single white bloom remained, partly covered in ash but brilliant as the moon in the sky. ‘He has no power here,’ the pure white blossom whispered as a burning ember singed its face, silencing her forever.

The serpent’s tongue made a clicking sound when it spoke, something which annoyed the Mother of Domhan, and was possibly the best thing for her in that moment.

“I..click…have decided…click…I rather like the reptiles of Inion’s creation..click, click.” The tongue instantly withdrew as did the voice of the serpent who continued to lie on the branch, staring at M’na with eyes gleeming. When the god spoke again, his voice boomed above the blaze and crashing destruction, filling the forest with his presence.

M’na trembled uncontrollably, her legs beginning to fail her, as bright red blood flowed in rivulets down the inside of her thighs. The childbirth, the flight into the forest to hide her children, battling the beast with Fireann…all would have buried a lesser human; but she had to finish this and show A’rtine he could not win. She wiped the blood from her thigh and held her hand out to the serpent as she struggled to regain control of her body and not lose her mind.

“Here! Is this what you want? I’ll give you a taste of my blood if it will appease your appetite.” Laughter rolled through the forest around her.

“Perhaps later,” the voice thundered. “But first, would you care for a piece of fruit?” A rustling movement from the branch returned M’na’s attention to the serpent. A thunderous thud filled the air as the back end of its body swatted a withered seed from the dying branch where it lay. The seed, so familiar and yet a mere ghost of what it once hosted, tumbled to the ground. The sound echoed through the trees and thundered in M’na’s head as it rolled over the ground and onto her foot. The weight of the small seed was so immense that she screamed in pain.

“Alas,” hissed the voice. “it would appear..click..that the fruit has all been picked from the tree. You creation lusting humans have sucked the very life from your willing host.” The serpent lifted its body and thumped the tree again, shaking the forest floor as debris fell like rain around them. M’na clung to sanity by a mere thread, her rage building inside.

“What have you done with Dochais? I told you long ago that I would never hate you, and I will never be as you are, no matter what you do to us or…take from me.”

“But you already are, my dear. You sought to kill my beloved As’me, even as you pretended to wish her to live again.”

His words struck M’na in the chest. “What are you talking about?”

“Oh, you didn’t know? That trio of Light pushers in the Realm-your god and goddesses-convinced her to sacrifice herself just to save your friends. Yes. Even as the unworthy female, Eagna, screamed to give my daughter new life as her own child, the soul of my As’me conspired with Inion to change the plan, to deceive me!! No longer will we have the reunion we had been promised, never will we be reunited. She was innocent. She longs to please those in the Realm and they are my enemy. There is no love for me there but from As’me. Now she has conspired with them and so has betrayed me as well. And you call them, ‘Mother’. If I suffer, then we all suffer, Mother of Domhan, for still I do not have the love of my creation-my own Daughter, As’me!” He cried out in desperation. He cried..

M’na sensed a shift in his energy, his essence softened slightly as he spoke painfully of the past. “If only you had remained as you did the day you shielded me from Inion on that night so long ago. Championing the dark god that Eternity forgot. If only you had kept your promise. If only Love were truly there for one such as me…”

M’na opened her mouth to speak, her true heart’s desire to console, plead, reassure, and love…anything to reach the dark reflection of Eternity; but A’rtine was mired in his misery.

“No! I have been lied to enough! Now hear me, Daughter of Deception. I must forever live without my creation, without love. And now it is your turn to share my fate. The infant is gone. You will never see him again. And soon, I will be rid of your first born as well.”

M’na needed more time. She had to stall him and reach Amhain before A’rtine kept his vow.

Show no fear, M’na,’ her inner voice urged. ‘He mustn’t sense fear in you.’

“You are right, A’rtine. We all failed you. I failed in my promise to you, made so long ago now. But I never forgot it. All that has happened is my fault, and not anyone else. I thought I was helping, protecting Domhan, but I made a mistake. Just give Dochais to me and I will leave him with his Father. Then I will go with you. I will do all that I can to make this up to you. Together..we can bring As’me back.” Silence. Did that mean he was considering her offer? In her uncertainty she plodded onward, tangling the threads of deception like a noose around her own neck. “I want to see your world, what you created. A’rtine, I would do anything for..”

The serpent rose from its perch and struck at M’na viciously, its fangs slicing the air within a breath of her cheek, sending her stumbling back and onto the ground with a thud. She coughed through a cloud of black ash that rose around her face but never stopped glaring at her attacker who was now nose to nose with her. Anyone watching the scene would have thought them similar in ferocity. The serpent’s tongue flicked at its prey and M’na refused to flinch when it touched her skin.

“You would do anything to save your sons,” A’rtine hissed vehemently. “This is not about your love for me, M’na. No one in the Realm or on your world loves me.” The serpent’s eyes glowed like embers and flashed with every word its master spoke. If the god was as unlovable as he claimed, he did nothing in that moment to change the situation. “But I don’t need your love. I just need the power over you. I need to see you as empty as I am now.”

M’na’s right hand bled where it pressed into the jagged edge of a broken branch, a severed limb knocked brutally from the Tree of Creation by Damanta’s fury. Her fingers slowly wrapped around the rough wood, her grip so tight that her knuckles turned white. With eyes locked on those of the serpent, she rose slowly, moving only those muscles necessary, yet graceful as ever.

‘She is so lovely’, thought the Dark One, recalling how she tempted him from the first time he watched her through the glistening mists over his lake of sorrows on Domhan Eile. She once moved across her world with breathtaking grace, powerfully beautiful yet inexplicably delicate. The serpent’s body uncoiled from its perch and loosed its grip on the tree, never breaking eye contact with M’na, completely mesmerized by her gentle brown eyes.

The pitiable creature never saw the branch in her hand, never noticed the slight smirk playing at the corners of her mouth, and had no time to recoil as she effectively brought the limb forcefully down on its head. It fell to the ground hard, casting the Essence of Artine out of its body, leaving the god momentarily confused. M’na gasped, trying to catch her breath and recover. After a few seconds she heard a crackling sound, the air turn cold and wet, and she knew it was time to flee the Garden, hoping he would have no power over her once she left it behind. Her mind urged her onward as she struggled to find that familiar place of retreat when something flew over her head. M’na’s heart skipped several beats, fearing the worst.

“He has no power over you anywhere!” the agitated voice startled M’na. When she turned back for a quick look, a huge white owl dove at the serpent, her sharp talons flexed, and dug them into its eyes, putting out the flame of life within. M’na found the strength to keep running and did not look back again, knowing the goddess mother was with her. As she passed beneath the broken, fading arch that once marked the perfection of Creation’s Garden, her mother’s voice carried over the terrifying din of the forest. “Conceal yourself from him, daughter! While you still have time!”

Conceal myself? M’na’s mind raced with her feet, but her head was pounding each time a foot hit the ground. The sky above exploded with real thunder, heralding the storm of all storms. Streaks of wild lightening spat across the black canopy. With only her family in mind she raced towards an unknown end. All that existed in those moments were the sounds..the panting, the thumping of foot to ground, her heart beat, the heavy breaths..conceal myself.

“You cannot hide from me.” The voice seemed inside her head though she could feel hot breath on her neck as suddenly racing at her side was the wolf. It was the same wolf who had taken her child- it had to be! Where was Dochais now? The wolf had nothing in its mouth but a thick, red tongue.

M’na held out hope her infant was safe, while her thoughts turned to her firstborn son and beloved Fireann. She feared for her companion, for how could he hold off the fiery beast for so long by himself? Though she pulled a few paces ahead, the breath of the wolf was hot against her legs, its hunger enveloping her. It snarled and drooled, tempted by the smell of blood on her skin. Ahead of her on the path was a fallen tree, blazing from the kiss of the beast.

‘I can’t stop,’ she thought frantically. ‘Not now.’ A cold gust of air hit M’na in the face, her body vibrating with unexpected energy, the burst that she needed to push on. She leapt!

Her mind was clear and strong, her body suddenly without pain as she bounded over the blazing obstacle, as though borne on the wind. She heard a painful yelp as the wolf brazenly leapt into the wall of burning wood behind her, only to be slammed to the ground. Feeling victorious, M’na kept running, her body more agile, fresh hope rising from her heart. She blinked, unbelieving, as the clearing to their home came into plain view. The Mother of Domhan breathed more easily as she ran on, the wind whipping through her hair, her senses heightened. Suddenly she could see it all clearly-home, or what remained of home. Yes! There was someone there; but the beast was, thankfully, gone. She slowed as she drew closer, almost able to make out details in the failing light.

As she slowed to a halt, her head seemed to split in two. Then he was inside it, his mind mingled with hers. How could he molest her now, when she was so close to her joy? Cruelly, like a sharpened axe, his words sliced into her heart and echoed throughout the hallows of her soul.

“Finally returned to your beloved Fireann. Alas, my dear, he was not equally matched for a fight with my pet. Such a pity you will never lie with him again.” M’na’s heart crumbled in her chest as A’rtine taunted. “You know you cannot hide from me, any more than the moon can hide from the night.”

M’na forced herself to look at the clearing where there were not one, but two figures. Her soul wailed to see her beloved Fireann lying in the wet ashes-broken, blood stained and still as stone. His firstborn son knelt over him, gently stroking his Father’s hair and lovingly rubbing his lifeless chest. Young Amhain’s head was bent, his body shaking in the darkest of sorrows. The weight crushed M’na’s heart, stealing her breath, and the light was snuffed as she fell into the arms of darkness…

to be continued….

 

A Flake/#SoCs

Okay, I’m saying it for you. That’s what many of you will say when you read my post, but I don’t even care. If being a flake means I have faith in something outside of myself that keeps me going in a world gone mad around me then I’d rather be a flake doing life. (Wait, that sounds kind of like a favorite song….) maybe later.

Anyway, according to my favorite customer at the bar and doorscursion expert Dan , the Friday prompt for Linda Hill’s  #SoCS event is to open any book and, with eyes closed, point to a section on the page and write about the word, sentence or paragraph. It so happens that the book sitting beside my bed is one I have been working at reading for weeks now. I say “working at” because these days reading books seems nearly impossible. Between real time work, trying to write my own book, do some creative projects, spend time with hubby and get out to see the natural world and be rejuvenated, I hardly have enough moments to sit and read more than a few pages. I am slowly working my way through Inkheart as well. I love the movie so I suppose knowing the end keeps me from plodding forward more quickly.

Back to the point. I am not a particularly religious person in my later years although I am deeply spiritual in that I am confident that there is a guiding force in my life and there are things that we do not fully understand nor even often consider as real possibilities because our practical brains cannot pick them apart, categorize and file them away as proven facts. Those are the things that intrigue me most. If I had my life to do over again I would have gone into Science just to study Quantum Physics. Or become a photo journalist. 😏

What is the point?, you are saying. I ask for guidance in all things that I do-for Spirit, God, The Universe, to manifest itself for me in ways that give me tangible evidence that we do not walk alone here. This evidence is not for me, but for sharing. In the words of Fox Mulder, “I want to believe!” And,  more than he, I really do.

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This is a good book, by the way. And so true. Many of us feel we are doing a great job in life, just letting things roll, going with the flow, saying “it is what it is” (I hate that one) when we are really just stuffing things into a big old suitcase with aging rusty latches that someday will give out from the enormity of what is inside,  swelling until it must be recognized. Many things should be shared, gotten off of one’s chest and ironed out, even though it might be uncomfortable or even painful. I was raised in a home where conflict was taboo, so learning to have a civil disagreement was challenging. An all out argument used to cripple me. Now I understand that true change and growth never occurs without some discomfort. Sometimes a lot of it.

Again, the point. As I opened the book, I closed my eyes, asking for guidance to find just the right phrase or thought to include in this post. As I scrolled the page my finger dragged a bit and I passed the spot, but scrolled back up where it dragged again.

When I opened my eyes, this was the paragraph. I ain’t lyin’..

So how do I get to this point,” you may ask, “willing to BE, first?” Processing negative feelings throught the Script is the perfect place to start. As you process your feelings you are BE-ing. It will be of great benefit for you to work throught the hostilities and frustrations you may have so you can finally arrive at the place of ‘live and let live’…of BE-ing, enjoying the peace of now.

This is my goal, even before this book or this passage. To live in the now moment, for it is the only one which truly exists. The past is but a blip in our brains and the future is   a mere possibility.

Here is another of my recent moments of requesting presence to be made known. When we took our day trip to Sawnee Mountain Preserve, there is a statue of the purported Sawnee himself at the entrance to the park. The plackard board states that no true image of the indigenous man known as Sawnee exists, so they did an imagined rendition. I took several photos of the statue, my heart and soul asking if the true spirit of the man known as Sawnee or anyone else wanted to be recognized while I was there, to please feel free. This was my photo. I love orbs! I get them a lot. Sometimes they even show up in photos later, after I have already edited and saved them .

 

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Okay, go ahead and call me a flake. But I am a happy flake, a contended and loving flake. I wish the rest of the world would join me in the hope of flakiness.

PS. I never got a green orb before. Green is a healing color. I love this one.

Okay, so now that the song is stuck in my head I am sharing it with you. Please feel free to keep it playing in your heads all day too. Happy Free 48! More to come on that later!

And. Speaking of “points”, have any of you ever seen the production The Point? It is a marvelous work about acceptance and the importance of being different. Check it out! I saw it as a play in high school but they made a movie of it too.

 

 

 

 

Emerald Waves and Crystal Caves/Forever Never

Okay, for those of you who know me, you know I have been working on a book for awhile now.  I am in the process of reworking it and this is a recent chapter.  The entire original book can be found in chapters on my other blog Tropicalaffair.me.  Just type in Forever Never in the search bar for the posts if you are interested.

Meanwhile, if you have time, I would appreciate a quick read of this chapter, which is actually the second in the reworking.  Let me know what you think.  The first chapter is also on Tropical Affair and is called The Traveler.

I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day.

 

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Emerald Waves and Crystal Caves

“We’re getting close.  The wind carries strange smells,” Guia observed, the matter-of-factness in his voice disguising the questions in his mind. The Guide for this tribe of horsemen known as the Jinetes never allowed fear to invade his thoughts. He thought it neither practical nor wise, although in recent days it was becoming more difficult to stave it off.

The Warrior riding beside him reined his horse and cocked his head, listening.  “Do you hear that?  The sound like thunder…it is just as Eolas described it to me. The voice of the sea.” Loach took a deep breath, filling his lungs, the smell of salt heavy on the chilly morning breeze. He nodded. “Yes, we are nearly there now.  Let’s just hope we were led to the right place.  The great sea borders much of Domhan and we have little time to spare. This needs to be Athas  Anam.”

Loach looked nervously over his shoulder, knowing the rest of the tribe had become restless as they passed through the desolate lands that lay between their home and the promise of salvation for it. He had listened to their grumbling and whispers for days.

“There should be a valley just over that rise,” he continued. “We will make camp there and tend to the horses before beginning any search.” He nodded his head and clicked his horse onward, summoning the others to follow. “Good news, my friends!” He called back over his shoulder. “We have nearly finished our journey!”  Then he murmured to himself. “Now the quest begins.”

***

“You must finish your work first,” Naofa admonished.  The absolute authority in her voice did not betray the tenderness in her heart; but a keen eye would easily see the gleam of adoration she felt for the child who wriggled on his stool by the table. Her love for him was immeasurable and generous, although she had no intention of allowing him to escape the task of sorting and bundling herbs.  They were necessary for her teas and ceremony. This had become his primary morning chore, one that he routinely performed without complaint. Naofa was ready to guide her son in accepting the gifts that were his birthright, those powers she herself had been blessed with.  So much had been revealed to her about this power since she retreated to the caves of her homeland, forced into seclusion in the wake of upheaval on their world. They had all been thrust into forward motion since the Devastation, and she had borne her journey alone, devoting every spare moment to understanding the strange and frightening truths her soul had been secreting. 

“Not so tightly, son, you want to lay them close together but not twist or bind them.  They won’t crack if you take your time to do it right.” Naofa raised an eyebrow and tilted her chin up in the way she always did when he was trying her resolve.  The impatient child saw an angry ocean swell in her gray eyes whenever she was agitated, and thus he never liked to agitate her. Naofa had to control what she revealed to her son, with so much for his young mind to grasp.  Uncertainty and doubt often invaded her thoughts; and time was robbing him of the carefree life she would have envisioned for them both. There was no way to know when he would begin to ask questions, meet other humans-families-but not like them, and certainly not like the first family of their world, once so perfect and happy… Agean knew nothing of Forfeichta; and the Sorceress thought him spared to not know such loss as they had suffered.

 

It had been she who presided over the Circle of Light that helped to ease the pain of the first Mother of Domhan when she bore a son, not once, but on two occasions.  How sharp the contrast had been as she found herself suddenly carrying and delivering her own miracle child but born into such a different and desolate world. She carried her secret utterly alone, retreating into the sea caves to bear the burden without aid or comfort from the same friends she had so recently stood beside in battle.  How could she have called upon them, how could she have faced them without answers, without explanation, without…honor?  Here now was her own precious treasure, who from the moment he slipped from within her body, clung tightly to her and suckled at her breast with such vigor that all pain and loneliness melted into a mother’s love.  How quickly he had grown and learned to imitate her manner, so eager to be her student; however,  in recent times the young child seemed ever eager to be out of her sight. Naofa well understood his desire to explore the beaches, the hills and caves that surrounded them, running free from her watchful gaze.  He had come by his independence honestly; and how quickly she learned that the hardest part of being his mother was denying him the things which he desired the most.  She could not deny his cleverness.  In just six revolutions of the star legend across the sky he had learned to count, to make drawings of the plants and animals that he saw, and to brew simple teas just the way his mother instructed.  Naofa thought how proud Eagna would have been of him and how happy for her friend’s blessing. She wondered about Saol and her father and how they were faring without…

“Please, Na, I want to collect seaweed for the meal before the sun bakes it into the sand!”  Jostled from her bittersweet reverie, Naofa turned her attention back to the clever child who plotted an early release from his task.  

Gazing through the open window as he worked quickly,  Agean imagined himself expertly scaling the steep, grassy hillside to the crest where he would stand victorious over a rich green valley filled with magical treasures.  Or maybe he would venture into the dense woods that lined the hilltop as far as the eye could see in the other direction.  Both tempting adventures were strictly forbidden; but the child felt his will was strong enough to convince his mother to relent on this day.  It would be the very day he showed Na how brave, how strong, how smart he was.  If he had truly been as wise as he imagined, he would have realized the Sorceress would never be influenced by a deception, albeit she was duly amused by his cunning. Sadly, that trait would serve him well in certain situations that she would not allow herself to acknowledge yet. 

“The sooner you finish binding those herbs, the sooner you will be out in the fresh air with the sand beneath your impatient feet.”  Naofa saw the longing in his eyes and smiled, giving him a quick wink in spite of the noncommital answer she gave.  That meant she wasn’t agitated.  His heart beat happily and his fingers worked faster than ever-but carefully.

***

With their camp nearly made, the horses grazed contentedly on the green hillside of a lush, beautiful valley, Laoch allowed himself to draw in deep, long breaths of fresh, salt air.  The damp breezes brushed over his parched skin, stinging it in places where there were fresh cuts.  They had come so far, trudging through many barren, charred and rocky lands as they made their way to the promise of miracles, of aid and what he hoped would be salvation for his Warrior’s soul. 

“We are ready to begin the search when you give the word.”  Guia handed Laoch a strip of dried meat, precious last bits of their store; but the latter pushed his friend’s hand back, shaking his head. He nodded in the direction of the Huntsmen who were busily putting up poles and stretching skins across them, making fires in a circle around their camp, and gathering any edibles they could find growing along the hillside. 

“Give them my measure.  They will need it. We should take a well deserved rest.  At sunrise we will pair off and begin the search.” Laoch held his breath, waiting for the inevitable question, the one Guia hadn’t asked yet and for which he was not even sure he had an answer.  Their eyes locked and in them Guia saw the Warrior’s unspoken request-

‘Not now.  I am too weary.’ The Guide for the tribe of Jinetes touched his friend’s shoulder and forced the dried sustenance into his hand.  

“What good will you be to any of us if you lose your strength? Eat.”  Guia’s word was final as he held his hands up, turned and went back to work with the others.  

The smokey meat was chewy but tasted good to the Warrior. He savored it as he sat on the hillside watching a line of ants trudging over the terrain with loads of debris on their backs.  His eyes followed the tiny line to a small mound with a hole on top and absentmindedly observed them filing down into it. He felt a sudden burning and looked down to find small bodies covering his legs, where bright red whelps began to rise.  He swiped the attackers, brushing them from his burning skin.  A sudden rage filled his chest and he jumped to his feet.   He strode quickly to the mound, raised his leg and brought the heavy foot of destiny down upon it and kicked until their work was but dust, watching the ants scatter in confusion.  

“Welcome to my world, red demons,” he hissed.  In his usual way, he felt instant remorse for his temper and surveyed the tiny devastation he caused.  Oddly enough the ants quickly recovered and had already started rebuilding that mound, grain by grain.  Some carried the dead while others worked on.  All things seemed perpetual. Was this the way Artine felt about his own actions? 

“No!” he grunted angrily.  Artine felt nothing, cared for nothing and deserved nothing.  Laoch had convinced himself long ago that the dark God was at the heart of all things gone wrong on Domhan and vowed he would not rest until Artine was made sorry for it.  He tramped down the hillside, his legs on fire, and ignored the small voice of doubt that questioned whether such a thing were even possible. 

***

“Here, Na, all finished!”  Naofa turned and nearly knocked Agean over, not realizing he had come upon her so closely.  Beaming, he held up the finished bundles of herbs.  The pungent scent of lavender wafted into her nostrils, filling her heart with an aching joy that nearly took her breath away.  It was always unexpected and always had the same effect. Composing herself, the Sorceress took the bowl from her son’s small hands, her fingers brushing across the rough surface and caressing the imprints of she who crafted it.  How small the finger marks were, how like their creator.  The same lump was making its way from her gut to her throat in that familiar way, but reprieve came in the form of an impatient child. 

“Can I go out now?  Please, Na, I’m going to miss the great white fish and the seagulls; and the best shells are just being washed up. Na…..”

Naofa put the bowl of herbs aside and placed a hand gently over Agean’s mouth as she ran her free hand through his dark curls.  “If you will be silent for a moment little one, we will get you ready to go out.” Her thoughts retraced the short story of his life as she pulled him to her.

Hopeful that her being with child was a miracle from Eternity, she ignored her fears of mystical meddling; and the Sorceress would have been more certain of such a miracle had it not been for the dream…..if not for her visions and the cruel hand of Artine in their lives.   She could have found solace and comfort in that bright hope.  But from the moment Agean arrived, his tiny head was covered in thick, black curls and his skin turned dark as soon as he spent time in the sun.  Naofa’s worst fears simmered beneath the surface of her consciousness but the possibility was too big, too unbelievable to accept; so she pushed it down again and again with her fading hope. It was only the gray blue eyes looking back at her every day that marked him as her own.  Time would reveal what other parts of her were born with him.  

Agean pulled away from her grasp and began gathering things for his adventure-a leather pouch for collecting treasures, his favorite stick for digging and poking, the small leather shoes that he had helped his mother to make.  In mere moments he was standing in the doorway, the midday sun gleaming across the smooth stones that led to their little home. The filtered light created a halo of color around his head and the vision seemed a premonition. The room suddenly swelled and shrank at the same time and Naofa felt she was falling into an abyss. Once again, it was the child who pulled her back to herself.

“Now I’m ready, Na! I promise to be safe and come back before the sun falls into the sea.” The child ran over to give his mother a quick hug, but she grabbed him by the shoulder before he could dash away. She took a meager selection of fruits from the window and lay them on a piece of cloth, adding a handful of nuts from a bowl on the table.  She wrapped them gently and tied the bundle with vine.  Naofa grabbed a flask from the wall and filled it from the bucket of fresh water, plugging the opening with a perfectly carved bit of driftwood.  She slung the pouch over his shoulder and secured it in place, then handed him the snack.  

“Now you are ready.” He grinned up at the towering form of Love above him and squeezed her legs. In the next instant he was beyond the door and out of sight. 

“Before the sun falls…,” she called after the shadow child. 

Agean was content for a time to run along the shore where he collected prime seaweed for his mother’s fish stew and then on to his favorite pastime… searching for treasures-those things he alone coveted.  The tiny curled shells that he strung on vines and gave to Na hung in every corner of their tiny home.  The sand crawlers with their shell homes on their backs delighted the child; and he giggled as he scrambled along behind them, kicking up the sand as he went and squealing with delight when they narrowly escaped his clutches, disappearing into their hidey holes. Now and then he came across the grand treasure, that spiny pink wonder, almost as large as his head; and when he held it close to his face, Agean could hear the ocean waves rolling from within its smooth interior.  He had often asked Na what miracle this was that a shell could hold the whole of the sea within.  She always put her hand on his head, smiled and stared into the distance before giving her answer, and it was always the same. 

“The shell does not hold the sea in its walls, my son.  It holds her within its heart.  For all of its life it has listened to her song, felt her caress and known her beauty.  What you hear is the shell’s sweet memory, and she shares it with you so that you can understand the wonders of her Mistress.  Close your eyes as you listen and you will understand her enormity.”

Despite his best efforts and highest hopes, the child found no such treasure on this day. He stopped, stuffed a few grainy shells inside his pouch and looked at the sun above, now nearly straight over his head.  Feeling the pull of its limits on his adventure he turned his eyes to the rocky Cliffs that led to a different adventure.  Emerald colored grass began where they ended, like a cooling beacon they called to his soul.  Higher up he tried to count the trees that dotted the horizon but there were too many.  How he longed to wander those mysterious woods, but his Mother’s warnings always kept him firmly attached to the shore.

“If you stay near the ocean and in the light of day, no harm will find you. There is no telling what lurks in the shadows of those woods now that our world has been touched by a darkness that refuses to share existence with the Light of Eternity.” Agean was not sure what she meant exactly, but her reverence and serious tone had kept him from disobeying…until now.

***

Silently he slipped up beside their home and dropped his collection of seaweed into the wooden bucket next to the door, then Agean tiptoed beyond range of the window that faced the shoreline, his heart racing with fear and excitement. As soon as he rounded the bend that obscured his mother’s view, the small child began his climb.  

Scaling the shore rocks was easy. He had done it many times, imagining that when he reached the soft, green grasses he would continue upward. This time there was no pretense. He was going to the top; but he didn’t anticipate the slippery slope of his choice, both physically and mentally, until his small hands and feet groped for a solid hold on the green rock that kept him from the beginning of his victory run. Every time he reached for a solid grip, the green moss betrayed him, causing him to slip and suffer scratches to his arms and legs.  Again and again he tried, even once falling back to the rocky crop below him, new terror threatening his resolve.  Still, he took a few deep breaths, wiggled his fingers and toes and looked up into the bright light that now stared back at him from its prime position.  He would not be stopped when he was so close.  With new determination he found cracks in the rocky slope that somehow seemed to have opened up while he rested; and with a strength beyond his young age he advanced upward with lightening speed until his hands grasped the cool, gloriously strange feeling tufts of grass he had coveted from below. With a final grunt and push with his feet, Agean flung himself up and over the edge of the cliff and rolled in the blanket of green happiness. He pressed his cheeks into the prickly comfort of freedom to stifle his giggles, still uncertain how far from his mother’s keen ears he might be.

Agean finally stopped rolling and lay on his back, watching the fluff of white clouds floating overhead.  He loved to do this on the beach too.  His Na taught him to find the images of things in his world there.  He saw fishes, shells, seaweed and all manner of creature.  As he watched the clouds, they rolled, forming into a creature he had never before. It had four legs and big ears and seemed to sprint across the blue background so easily.  Suddenly, a flash of lightening cracked across the blue, its light piercing the image as those its eyes were on fire!  Agean gasped and sat up, rubbing his eyes.  When he dared to look up again, the creature was dissolving onto the gray landscape of the sky. Rain was coming.  Agean jumped up and began to climb the hill, fearful that his dream would be drowned by an afternoon shower. But he kept the vision of the creature in his mind for it seemed so quick and strong. Na spoke of such a creature although she was not eager to have Agean be near one.  To the child it had become just another of her tales of dread to keep him out of the woods, for that is where they lived-and their hunger was strong.

The climb seemed short with such enthusiasm racing through his veins; and Agean quickly found himself standing on the summit of his once small world.  For a moment he looked out across the vast sea, its arms reaching out to him, whispering his name.  The salty air whipped through his dark hair and stung the new scratches on his skin. He winced, then knelt to pull some aromatic wildflowers from the ground to lay across the wounds, confident that Na would help him to clean them when he returned home. 

He turned to look down into the valley before venturing into his cherished woods.  The sight that met his eyes caused him to drop to his knees in awe-there were other humans there! He quickly counted at least fifteen before giving up. They moved around too much.  Agean let his hand fall from his mouth where he had unconsciously slapped it to stifle a cry.  All these humans were males like himself.  There was none who looked like Na.  Was this why she kept them from him?  Did she know they were here?  They all had dark hair just like him and yet they were different.  Their skin was so dark and their clothing seemed strange. What did they have smeared on their faces? It was so hard to see and he just needed to get closer.  

Stealthily, the child took a few tentative steps down the hillside that was farthest from the Warriors of Jinetes, being careful not to slip, all the while scanning faces and trying to absorb what he was seeing.  There were glorious four legged animals with them-so tall and beautiful! As he watched, several of the males climbed onto the backs of the animals and rode them into the woods on the other side of the valley. Rode them! Agean didn’t know what he would say to these humans once he reached them. He only knew he had to be there with them.  Then his eyes became focused on one particular male in the group.  He was more muscular than the others, his hair dark and the set of his jaw rigid.  His broad shoulders seemed like boulders and he wore a cord around his neck.  Even from such a distance Agean saw there were two stones hanging from the cord, one white and one dark.  He knew who this male was!  His mother spoke to him of the Light Ones that had been her companions so long ago, who stood beside her during the Devastation and that she hoped were well in the dark days that followed.  She spoke so lovingly of them all, especially of those who had made the great journey.  When she spoke of the Warrior, her eyes glazed over and her voice was hushed, reverent.  This must be him-Laoch!! Agean had to meet him, had to touch him, had to bring him home to his Na. Perhaps then her melancholy would disappear forever.  

The child began making his way down the slope, his heart pounding faster, his mind envisioning the speed of the creature in the sky; and he broke into a trot.  He gained speed as he descended, feeling the power surge within him like a fire, felt the earth and grass being thrown up beneath his feet. He wanted to wave but his arms felt frozen.  He opened his mouth to shout out in greeting but his voice froze in his throat. Instead he heard a howling, as though it were right in his head. The Warrior and his companions looked up to see him running down the hillside and into their camp. They pointed toward Agean excitedly, but the terror in their faces was the last thing he expected to see.

***

Laoch heard it first.  The howl of the young wolf as it bounded down the hillside was fierce, crazed and unbridled, although still immature.  He quickly scanned the horizon of the cliff for its family.  The Warrior knew no young one would be left alone to hunt during the day like this.  

“Wolf cub! The elders will be behind it soon!” shouted one of the others, as they drew their arrows and swiftly loaded their bows. Laoch saw something flapping out behind the wolf cub as it approached and he sensed this was no ordinary cub.  His heart skipped several beats in anticipation as everything around him seemed to slow down. He heard the muffled words of the others as though from far away. His mind retraced the steps of a white tiger with willowy legs and gray eyes…..

“Draw on it before it reaches us! We can deal with the elders after the sun sets.”  He saw them take aim; but even as his heart spoke to him of truth, even as his lips tried to form the words ‘Stop!’,  and even as he raised his arms in protest, Laoch saw several arrows fly over the meadow toward the charging cub.  He watched in amazed horror as a single arrow pierced its side. The animal was now close enough for the Warrior to see into its eyes-its very blue eyes, eyes filled with fear and disappointment.  The cub rolled the rest of the way into the valley near one of the fires and writhed in pain, its fierce howl fading to a whimper.  Half a dozen warriors, including Laoch, ran to its side.

“Don’t touch it!  Who let loose that arrow?! Did you not see it is a mere cub?” 

“Where there is a cub there will be a family,” stated Guaia, matter-of-factly. “We need to eat, not be eaten.”  

“By Mor, what is happening?!” exclaimed the warrior standing nearest the cub. 

Laoch hurried to where he stood beside the limp form in the grass.  Amazed tinged terror gripped him to see there was no wolf cub there at all, but merely a small child. He was bleeding profusely from his side where a well aimed arrow was deeply embedded. Laoch rushed to the child and knelt beside him, fear of the worst consuming his thoughts. With a lump in his throat, the Warrior gently lifted the child’s head and leaned over his face.  He seemed so small in  Laoch’s arms, his breaths coming in short gasps and whimpers. Agean looked up at the Warrior with admiration and whispered, “Na told me….” before passing out completely.

The Warrior pulled his tie from the tunic he wore and quickly bound the wound around the arrow before lifting the child gently and began the climb uphill, calling back over his shoulder, “Do not follow me now. I know where this child belongs and we may be closer to our destination than we knew.  But this does nothing to help our quest!”  As he climbed, Laoch noticed the fragments of plant fiber clinging to the child’s skin over his fresh cuts.  This only served to confirm his suspicions.  So many questions raced through his mind as he climbed the formidable hill to the answers.  He began praying as he climbed, to a force he feared had abandoned them all. Agean blinked when the salty wet tears hit his eyelids, but he was too weak to open his eyes or to hear the prayer of the Warrior as they climbed together.  

“Mor, do not forsake this child or the female who bore him.  For in her lies our truest hope of finding your daughter, the Mother of Domhan.  He is surely most precious to her….and to me.” Laoch had so many questions, but in those moments his mind knew only that the child must be saved. 

 

to be continued……

copyright words and images

Cheryl K P. 2018