Category Archives: Magic

Little Beaver

[a short story in two parts, by Sha’Tara]

(This short story is a bit long for a blog post so I split it in 2 parts.  Hope you find it enjoyable, at least as much as I found writing it!  Remembrances? Oh the wonderful mysteries and mystical ways of the mind as it wanders ‘the star paths’.)

(and, for Roger of Woebegone but Hopeful, if you read this, note the colours of the flowers mentioned here and see if they remind you of someone! 🙂 )

“My son, it is time to tell you about your mother.”

The man and his young son were sitting on a log by the river, as the moon rose over snow-covered peaks. The water made a lapping sound and somewhere across the little river, in the bushes, an owl called. It was followed by the evening ritual song of the coyotes.

“You were just past three Summers when your mother left us. You hear many strange stories about her, but I must tell you what I know, so you will be less confused.

They say your mother was a great Shaman — she was. They say she was crazy: she was not. Many Summers ago, a party of hunters from another village came upon a young girl wandering alone in the mountains along the big River. She could not speak our tongue, and she was different than anyone they had ever seen. She had very large eyes the colour of water in ice. Her hair was like the water when a small breeze moves it, and it resembled the bark of the cedar in colour. They kept the girl through the hunt. In one moon cycle, the girl had learned to speak our tongue perfectly. When asked where she came from, she explained, “From a cave full of fire. I was in an egg which was shot out of the flame and when it stopped rolling, it opened and I do not know anything else. I remember a name which in your language sounds like ‘She-ya-neh’ but I do not know what it means.”

The hunters came to our small village with their captive. My father, the chief, had the women clean the girl and inspect her. He decided to buy her, if she displayed a healthy bleeding. There was much feasting at that time. The hunters stayed in our village, enjoying the food and the girls were happy. Some babies were made at that time, yes. I was very young then, too young yet to enjoy the girls, but I made friends with the strange slave girl. She did not speak much, so we just sat together, or swam in the river. She was very strong and fast, faster than any boy. She won all the foot races, and could climb trees as if she had a squirrel’s claws. She became fascinated with our canoes and soon could paddle away so fast, only the strongest hunters in the bigger canoes, could catch her. She was forbidden to use the canoes then.

At her bleeding, my father decided to buy her. Again, there was much feasting. Then he made a ceremony in which she was set free from bondage, and could become my wife. After two more Summers, we were finally married. It had been expected that she would be very fertile, and give me many healthy sons. However, no child could she grow. Years passed and the women began to shun my wife. She became a loner, mysterious, sometimes disappearing in the hills for an entire moon cycle.

During these years, she demonstrated the ability to heal broken bones and to prevent disease from spreading. She talked to the animals, and even the spirits of the plants and the land, obeyed her. Yes, she was a great Shaman, my wonderful and barren She-ya-neh. She never seemed to miss not having children. She was full of curiosity and everything to her was a wonder. She was, hmmm, very promiscuous also — well — she went with many men, and they told stories of her ways which were strange to us. I was not jealous of this. One could not get jealous of your mother, unless one were a woman. Many women in the village came to hate her popularity, her crazy, wild ways, and especially her freedom among the men.

Your mother’s physical strength was known across many valleys. How she shamed the men in their hunts, their sports, their fights! She could outrun any man, outsmart and outfight anyone. She had skills with her hands and feet we had never seen. She was as fast as the lightning: when she struck a blow, it was impossible to see where it came from.

During the high water season, when the canoe races are held, she would taunt the men to best her. She was not, by law, permitted to compete with the men. So she would sit quietly in her canoe, behind the starting line, wait until the men were into their race, then push her own canoe in the race, soon overtaking even the fastest one and always finishing first. How my own heart swelled with pride to see her win that way, yet how puzzled I was, that such a woman could not bear a child for her man, or for any man.

Let me now speak of a time, many summers past our wedding. One day, just before the long shadows, she came to the shore where I was preparing my canoe for the fishing, and took my arm. Her eyes spoke a powerful thought and her body gave off a strange, pleasant and irresistible scent. I tried to explain that I was very busy and we could do that later, at night, but she spoke again, from within her mind, and I went with her. We walked for a long time, through places I had never been, until we came to a clearing. In the middle, there was a small hut, large enough to accommodate two adult people. All around were flowers, and even on the roof: red and blue flowers. They gave off the same scent she did. It was like a drug to me. I reached for her, as you have seen the young men and women do, but she stopped me. She undressed me, then herself, and together, we rolled our bodies among the strange flowers. Soon, my head was buzzing like a nest of wild bees, and my heart sounded like our drums at the great feasts by the ocean. She then took my hands, and pushed me inside the hut. I felt as if I were inside one of those great black clouds that give off lighting and thunder.

At that time, we made you. When she was pregnant with you, she became more normal. She was careful for you, and after you were born, she was a perfect mother. She took you everywhere, and you always slept next to her. She gave you her milk freely and you never went hungry and seldom cried. All her energies were spent on you. No more sports or men or wanderings in the forests. She stayed near the village and attended to her duties as healer and midwife with great diligence. She began to be liked by some of the women again.

But one day, she disappeared. She left you in the care of her best friend, and just walked away. This was bad luck, because in the village were five strangers, hunters, who had heard the stories about her sexual prowess, and her fighting abilities were now a legend. These young hot-blooded fools decided to track your mother to see where she would go, and perhaps to beat her down and have their way with her.

They followed her until she came to the edge of a small lake. She made several signs in the water with her fingers, then stood facing the sun, not moving a muscle for a long time. It was as if she was asleep they said later. They approached stealthily, as trained hunters can do, two from one side, two from another and one from behind. When the one behind her was close enough to grab her, he stretched out his arm to put his hand around her throat. As he did so, she turned and let out a blood-curdling screech. Her right arm shot out and at the end, what seemed like huge talons, locked around the man’s neck and snapped it as if it was a dry twig. Still screeching, she unfolded huge wings and flew away to the west, over the trees.

[End of Part 1 of 2]

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Believe what you will but let me believe what I will

[pure off the cuff, spur of the moment fiction, by ~burning woman~ ]

“No, no!” I said. “Stop beating me up with it, I thought we had agreed we were not going to discuss this. I know what you believe and it doesn’t bother me, it’s your choice. By the same token, you know what I believe and it’s my choice.”

We were sitting at the table in the dining nook, me at the window facing west, he across from me. I had a glass of white wine, he his strong, dark beer. It was already late, of a Summer Sunday evening, and I just wanted to enjoy the darkening skies and the fading colour from the clouds hovering near the horizon.

This is how it started:

“I am going to watch for meteors,” I said. “Make a wish, you know?”

“That’s pure superstition,” he replied, looking up from his book and taking another sip of beer, “when are you going to give up that childish nonsense? It’s embarrassing.” He looked at me with his mouth turned down, making it obvious how displeased he was with me at that moment.

Only he wasn’t talking about my wishing upon a shooting star, he was talking about my belief in the spirit world and particularly in my insistence that I was fully aware of past and future lives.

We had agreed, before we decided to live together that our differences in those areas we would accept from each other and only broach the subject philosophically, in a “what if” sort of way. It wasn’t supposed to become another patriarchal relationship in which he, the man, decided the correct way we, meaning me, the woman, should believe, or think for that matter.

When it came to beliefs, as far as I was concerned, there never had been and never would be a “we” in the equation. I didn’t care what he believed or believed in. He was (still is!) handsome, kind in his own way, supportive most of the time, great in the sex department, an important aspect of the relationship to me, and I must admit that I loved him, well, sort of. Is it love when there is no passion in it, just an easy comfort?

But does that mean I have to give him my mind so he can fill it with his own ideas while excluding mine? Not on your life. I’m not made to take things that way; to be taken for granted, or thought of as the little trophy woman who bats her eyelashes and exclaims, ‘Oh, but you’re always so right, dear!’ No, he’s not right, not when his “right” needs to supersede, or cancel my “right” as it does when I express myself in what he calls a superstitious way.

This isn’t about who’s right, who’s not. This is about who is free, who is not. I didn’t sign up to have my ideas replaced by someone else’s. Not that I signed anything to get into this relationship mind, but you know what I mean.

So I countered: “When you buy a lotto ticket, what do you call that feeling it gives you? You don’t buy a ticket without some hope that you could win, even win the jackpot. What do you call that hope, if not a form of superstition? Logically it’s patently ridiculous for anyone to buy a lottery ticket because the odds are so against you. So in that moment you override your logical thinking and allow yourself a wild moment of magical thinking. You allow yourself to be pulled into that shameful realm of illogic.”

“It’s not the same thing,” he replies. “I don’t believe in the lottery as if it was some spirit force, some divine being, an angel or the Great Pumpkin. It’s just a game.” He did enjoy mocking me with that reference to the Charlie Brown cartoon super being of Linus’ he called the Great Pumpkin.

“But it’s a game of chance!”

“So?”

“It’s a game of luck!”

“And?”

I could feel myself becoming frustrated and upset. “It’s superstition, honey. The other morning, when you came storming back in the apartment and said, ‘God, I went and locked my keys in the truck last night,’ were you subconsciously praying to some superbeing you say you do not believe in because you were in a tight spot, in a hurry and didn’t remember where you kept you spare set of keys? Instead of invoking some deity neither of us believes in you could have said, ‘Karin, do you know where my spare set of keys is?’ and I would have told you. I told you anyways but you didn’t ask me. You addressed the problem through a kind of superstition of your own which you justify with excuses and that hurts. Do you think I’m so stupid I don’t notice these things?

“It’s late, I’m going to bed and I’m sleeping in the spare room. We’re both working tomorrow, I’ve got a pile of reports to check over before my first class so I’ll be off early. I’ll eat on the way, you make your own breakfast, or not. Tomorrow evening I want you to apologize to me and reaffirm our agreement to enjoy each other and leave our beliefs as sacred and private to each other. If you cannot do that, and do it sincerely, I’ll be leaving by next weekend.”

“Where will you go?”

“That’s a really stupid question. Since we’ve been together I’ve been propositioned at least a dozen times, the last one was just a week ago. I travel light as you know and there are a lot of lonely beds out there whose sheets will eagerly part to let me slip in. Don’t self-blind Rico or think I need you because no one else will have me!”

I was getting angry and hated the feeling.

“You’ll miss me.”

“Of course I’ll miss you, you don’t have to state the obvious. But that too shall pass because I choose intellectual integrity over a great fuck.”

“Is that all I am to you, a great fuck?”

“That doesn’t please you?”

“Well, yeah, but isn’t there more for you?”

“Of course there is, or there could be but not when you try to emasculate my choices. My feelings for you cool very fast then.”

“So I’m wrong then?”

“I’m tired and I’m not going around this mulberry bush with you Rico. Good night.”

That was a year ago, probably why I remembered it today. He didn’t apologize, he said he couldn’t see that there was anything to apologize for so I left him that weekend, I could tell he was going to try to talk his way around the problem but I was having none of it. I’ve seen him a couple of times since; he bought me a drink the last time. How are you doing? Fine, you? Oh, OK, I’ve got a girlfriend, Nina, she’s Italian. Good for you. Our team lost again. Yeah, too bad. I had her change the drapes in the bedroom; they reminded me too much of us. Good idea, no point dwelling on the past. That was about it. I suppose it never was what you’d call a deep relationship, more of a convenience.

It’s not the way I prefer them but it’s the only way to keep my options open. I’m sort of living with a guy too but I saw no point in mentioning that, he’d already assume I was or he’d already know that through his male gossip circle. I know the pub where the circle meets and what is talked about there.

You know what? I need to find another direction for my life, I feel I’m on treadmill if not on a dead-end street. I don’t like myself much these days and I used to feel so sure and so proud of what I’d accomplished for myself. I feel that the more I insist on my independence, or perhaps the way I go about it, it’s making me increasingly self-centered and selfish. That never used to be me and I’m certainly not blaming the men in my life for this quandary of mine. If this was another girl’s story I’d end it with: “Get a life, woman!”

O Beauty, thou art Relentless

[a sensuous meditation from ~burning woman~ ]

I drop my hands slowly to my bare thighs and gently pass them over my skin. I realize, mind fully engaged, that both, my hands’ skin and my thighs’ skin is my skin. The pleasure that arises from the touch is my pleasure, not someone else’s hand-me-down. Mine. I pleasure myself thus, as my hands, of my own free will, continue to feel me, down to my knees, then around the back, over my round buttocks, up and around my slim waist, up more, to my armpits, hairless and lightly tanned. I continue to explore this marvel of my body, moving to my throat, down, extending my fingertips lightly between my breasts, then outwardly, cupping, then gently rubbing my nipples to make them stand out, throb, hunger for a baby’s lips, adding to the effect of this beauty that is all mine.

I am not done exploring. My hands, of their own volition, move down, caressing, caressing, so gently, my fingers eagerly exploring between my legs which, as I stand on wet grass, spread out. I feel my heat there, my desire for that ‘more’ that drives ‘normal’ people to seek out another to complete the cycle.

But for me, the transgender, the androgynous, there is no need of another: I complete myself and with a loud moan of utter satisfaction, let myself fall to my knees in the grass, bending back to stare into an intense blue sky, my auburn, waist-length hair spread out under the back of my head, a living pillow of lavender scent. Up there stars without number play hide and seek and as they have all my life, invite me out to them to let them taste me.

An image of a nature creature appears in my mind, rolling over towards my knees spread in subconscious invitation. It murmurs, ‘Earth girl… earth girl… O Beauty, thou art, relentless.’ I lock the feeling in a smile so it can never be taken from me.

Dancing in Paris

[a poem by   ~burning woman~  ]

I’m dancing, really dancing
only I don’t quite dare know
who this girl is, dancing so freely,
with such uninhibited abandon.

Behind her looms that steely landmark,
the Eiffel tower.
She spins and laughs, closes her eyes,
it appears, disappears
now covered in lights,
now wreathed in fog:
the clouds seem to frown
and she shivers and trembles
thinking, “Such daring!” Is this me?

It’s her happiness, you see.
The mighty Olympians are confused.
Perhaps even angry
for they’d swore she would never
taste happiness in this life.
The man in whose arms she swims:
who is he? She can’t remember–
Is she dreaming again, lost again?

She doesn’t know what time this is.
How long has the Eiffel being?
This must be a recent time,
a modern time, so says her dress.
This time, this one time
it has to be real,
not just some pointless vision:
one more of countless.
This time she beat the odds–
she-did-it. I-did-it… me!

I’ve dreamed to be here,
to possess this experience.

But it was always just a dream,
one after the other:
dreams, I have survived on.
From dream to dream weaving
the plain web of my simple life
in my very own make-believe tower,
a prisoner of fate and of fear
until the day I die
to enter that final dream.

But here I am,
dancing in Paris.

No other city looks like this;
no other feels like this.
The world is my home town
but Paris, ah, Paris
is the front door to my heart
and it lies wide open!

Be angry, Olympians, hate me if you will,
it matters to me no longer:
your lying mirror lies on the floor
in a thousand shattered pieces!
If I die now, then I die.
You were powerless to deny me

this one moment when the taste of happiness
touched my lips.  I am laughing!

Looking for, Searching, Seeking, Questing

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ ]

When we go looking for something, either it’s something we want, need, or it could be something we misplaced, or lost. Either we find it, or we find a replacement and life goes on. Soon enough we forget we ever even went looking.

When we engage a search, whatever it is we may be searching for, there is the certainty that we will find something. Sometimes, that something will so surprise us it will eclipse whatever caused us to begin our search in the first place. Such a serendipitous happening we will tend to remember as some kind of magical intervention in our life.

Seeking is a deeper engagement, with the staunch and upholding hope, and faith, that whatever we are seeking for, we will find if we are diligent and do not get sidetracked to the point where we lose interest in the dream, for seeking must involve dreaming.

Questing is entirely different. Unlike looking for, searching, or seeking, questing does not entail fulfilment. A quest, by its very nature, can never be attained for it is a path; a way of life, not a goal to be reached. If it is completed; if the object of the quest is found, or reached, it wasn’t a quest but a seeking.

Deep down inside me, no matter where I’ve stood in my long years of turmoil trying to put “closed” to determining whether life is terminal or eternal, I worked out a philosophy that allowed me to know the answer to that vexing problem. It was quite simple, actually. All I had to do was find a life purpose that required eternity in order to make sense of it. To engage this purpose I had to completely switch my thinking regarding life. I needed to find that elusive “something” that even death could not put an end to. I didn’t want to cheat death, or conquer it, or end it, as in the John Donne’s cry, “Death, thou shalt die!”

I stopped asking “What is life?” and began asking, “What is my purpose within that which I call life?” I knew the first question could not be answered honestly though any number of guesses would fit the bill yet remain non-answers. But the second question brought it home to me. I made myself “life” and from that awareness I could but ask, “What is my purpose here?” I didn’t have to ask “Who am I” anymore because from here on I would be a different person moment after moment. What I believed today I might very well laugh at tomorrow. It no longer mattered “who” I was; it mattered what I was and what I would become as I travelled the omniverse and the cosmos.

I had passed the religious stage where some saviour divinity would determine my worth, or check my credentials at death’s door and give me a fail or pass. Childish and definitely superstitious. I had also passed the stage I describe as “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” – a common enough belief in today’s post-Christian world that would never keep my questing mind satisfied.

If I could find and define a purpose for myself that required an eternity to make sense of then I would have found the key to eternal life through self empowerment. That, however, had to remain securely beyond any fit accusation of hubris. Thus I had to reject the New Agey belief that “I am God” or that we are all gods. This is so obviously false, it’s laughable. Can I produce a miracle on demand? By miracle, I mean something that clearly defies all the laws and rules of nature as we understand them. Could I give an amputee a new arm, or leg? Could I bring someone who’d been in a coma for years back into the land of the normal living? Could I raise the dead? Make a blind person see? No. But neither can those who believe in Christ, for example, even though they have a scriptural promise that they would be able to do such things. I had to know that it was not a matter of being divine, or having faith in some divinity. It would have to be more!

This quest, or purpose as I call it, had to be totally reasonable, totally doable by absolutely anyone. It would have to be seen as relatively normal in an everyday kind of world. It would be a way of life that could be observed, even experienced by those “others” it touched yet would never call for hero worship, desire to be followed (as a guru or teacher for example) or freak anybody out by outlandish words or performance. It would remain non-threatening; it’s effectiveness hidden in simple self-effacing outworking. It wouldn’t ask, wouldn’t preach, wouldn’t proselytize and if some impressionable person became attracted to the one living this purpose, they would be told to seek their own way.

This purpose would not be the making of a path for others to follow upon. If, for some it had a way-shower quality, they would be reminded that it was based on self empowerment, never on believing or following. ‘If it seems good to you, emulate certainly, but do it of your own desires; of your own power; for your own reasons.’

No one could ever follow, buy or believe their way here. There is no path given to anyone that requires abdicating one’s own selfhood. Anything that makes such a claim is a deadly error, hence, in conclusion, all organized religions and their imitators, are deadly impositions upon this mind-darkened world.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou thinkst thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow
And soonest our best men with thee do go
Rest of their bones and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppies or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke. Why swellst thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die!
(John Donne)

A World’s Tale

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ ]

I’m going to tell a story and I want you to remember that it is a story. As far as anybody knows, it’s a fairy tale, or perhaps science fiction or fantasy. The point is, it isn’t supposed to be true at all, none of it.

That is called a disclaimer.

Once upon a time at the far edge of a galaxy far far away there was a small world no one paid any attention to. Although it was chock full of interesting life, no one in its neighbourhood cared about that. Better things to do, bigger fish to fry. The world carried on as worlds are wont to do when left to their own devices, and until they are interfered with. Which is predictably what happened.

Eventually, that small world was noticed by people aboard a passing space ship. They probed and finding it rather inviting they landed advance missions on it to have a look around. Probing and exploring, they discovered the world was rich in resources lacking on their mother ship and on their home world where such resources would be worth fortunes. With no one to challenge them they established bases from which to proceeded with exploitation.

Among the rich number of sentient life, they had hoped to find some life forms suitable to serve as slaves but after experimentation and trials, nothing. That wasn’t going to stop them however. They had the technology; they cloned suitable worker slaves by mixing local DNA with their own. They made themselves quasi-intelligent slaves and set them to work in mines, fields, construction, maintenance, bureaucratic support and entertainment. As the creatures increased in numbers the work of exploitation also increased and as to be expected, there developed major conflicts among the invaders as to who owned which parts of the planet and their rights to exploitation.

Diplomacy having failed, the aliens resorted to warring with each other. The cloned slaves were trained and armed to fight for their masters. Much bloodshed and destruction followed these internecine conflicts particularly in areas where weapons of mass destruction, chemical and nuclear, were used. The results of these conflicts would have been predictable but hubris and greed ruled the day. The world was rendered uninhabitable for the aliens and they left after removing as much of their technology as they could find. They had already learned to fear their cloned slaves.

The slaves, who were beginning to develop a greater sense of selfhood and independence had suffered many horrible deaths from the wars. The worst part was the mutations and the new diseases they were saddled with and prone to exhibit. Some mutations however proved successful. Powerful leaders of giant stature arose among the slave people and predictably the old enmity reasserted itself. Certain races claimed superiority and certain places for themselves and closed themselves away from others. The cloned females who had been designed as slaves of the males were enslaved within these new mutant societies although the constant border clashes and wars decimated so many males that in some areas the women were able to claim a share of equality, ownership and eventual leadership.

Climate change and diseases spread from proximity, caused a great die back among the slave races and as their numbers dwindled they moved away from each other in their quest for basic survival. For many years there was relative peace on the world as there were not enough survivors to launch any effective wars, nor could they imagine any need for such since there was more than enough space and food to accommodate all of them. They had stopped mining and collecting the “resources” they had been programmed to find having no more use for any of them. During those hunter-gatherer times as they are called, the masters were remembered as creator gods and any remembrance of their technology became the stuff of legends and tales of great magic.

The naturally imposed peace among the mutants wasn’t to last. The ancient hubris of the gods reasserted itself among certain groups of mutants. They also re-discovered some of their masters’ skills with metals and that turned to weaponry. That began an age of rampaging conquests that changed the face of the world forever.

That is where the tale ends for today.

“Does this world have a name?” asked a bright-eyed child.

“All worlds have names, child. This one, you give a name to.”

“How does the story really end?” asked another.

“That is up to you, isn’t it.” replied the story teller.

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff -Part I – Chapter 18

 I was going to reblog a couple of worthy posts I have read the last couple of days but, like rush hour traffic, it seems that blogs can only accommodate so much. So I’m being selfish and posting my own stuff today. I know there are some people reading this developing tale with interest and I don’t want to make them wait any longer than necessary. Enjoy this chapter. More to come!


The gold rings; Deanna spies on the Betrayers some more

A dark cloud soon rose again over Giles’ innocent hopes. Ian MacGruder called a general meeting after their noonday meal to discuss Nal and Lo’s upcoming wedding in Glowmere kirk. Then with a twinkle in his eye, he brought out two small blue linen pouches and gave them to Lo.

“Well open ‘em mon, open ‘em!”

The assembly cheered when they saw two smooth, plain, gleaming gold rings, a man’s and another so small it would fit a small girl’s finger. The rings fit perfectly and Nal wondered how they’d managed to get her size without her knowledge. She looked at Lo and he winked.

“Old trick Nal. I twisted a grass stem around your finger to size it while you were sleeping and gave the grass ring to Ian. We did the same for my finger, then in the following adventures I forgot all about the rings. Now Ian, what do we owe ye for such beautiful rings?”

“I fear the cost is quite high Lo. I demand the right to walk this lass down the aisle in exchange for the rings.”

“Oh Ian, you wonderful, wonderful man,” exclaimed Nal throwing her arms as far as they could reach around the large man’s midriff, “ye do me such an honour… such an honour…” and once again she found herself crying freely, unashamed, tears flowing from her eyes and running down her face. “Such friends, such good friends I have met here; I will be so loathe to leave.”

“Come lass, we won’t speak o’ leavin’ yet, one day havin’ enough trouble of its own. Now lydies o’ the house, this girl is in need of some sort of weddin’ accoutrements as I heard such called by an English gentleman when I was tradin’ in the south. No girl is so pretty that she can’t be made even prettier an’ a weddin’s the time for that. Jen ‘n I are agreed to  take care o’ the costs, so have at it lydies, have at it.”

Poor Giles was devastated on hearing about the wedding. Though he knew it had been mentioned before there was always the hope that Nal would choose him over Lo, him a property man and all. What did Lo have to offer her? But then, thinking of himself as of the truly noble sort, he squared his boyish shoulders and entered a realm of lofty thoughts befitting a true knight.

‘I shall become a knight and I shall go with her as her champion, though never mine yet always in my sight. I shall give myself to the worship of her and save her from her enemies, that I shall and my eternally broken heart shall be the token of my love for her.’

He went about his chores imagining scenes of mortal combat where he charged into the fray on a big white war horse, slashed through the enemy as blow after blow fell upon his helmet, his armour, his shield. He saw himself fighting and holding off the evil knight who had unhorsed her and would have taken her, and giving him the mortal blow. Bending down, he grabbed her and swung her across the war horse in front of his saddle, once more slashing his way through the press of men at arms and screaming wounded horses, his sword awash with the blood of the enemy…

The chores were completed in record time but his daydream, that was just beginning.

The next day, Nal having been measured for her wedding ‘accoutrements’ and having had quite enough of the fussing and comments on her diminutive size, her unusual tone and satiny smoothness of skin, her straight black hair and almond eyes, it was decided by MacGruder that he, his woman Jen, their grown daughter Genti, Nal, and Lo would walk down to Glowmere, visit with the priest and arrange for the time of the wedding ceremony and settle the costs.

“I thought o’ invitin’ the priest to the cottage to perform the ceremony but then I thought better of it. We’ll have the proper ceremony the Church demands, aye, but we’ll return here to our own an’ then we’ll have our ceremony as performed by our ancestors. We are goin’ t’ have a full pagan weddin’ ceremony right here with our own daughter priestess o’ the clans presidin’ an we don’t want any meddlin’ crow from the Church in it. The walk back from the Glowmere ceremony ‘ll do us all good, put some appetite in us by t’gods! What do ye all say to that?”

Lo spoke first,

“I like the idea immensely.”

Nal added,

“Yes that is a famous idea. Let us be pagan; let us experience the wild abandon of the old traditions!”

They set out from the cottage with a proper retinue of
“arms-men.” These consisted of the shepherds, Giles whom wild horses could not have kept out of this, Lil’ Cos and the the head man Cedric – all of whom were readily available as the sheep were safely in their pens and the two pit bulls on duty.

Guy was chosen to remain at the cottage to finish some needed chores, help the women in whatever they needed done in preparations for the coming ceremony and to pacify the nervous pit bulls who had been smelling the presence of both wolf and werewolf.

As they were crossing the lower field taking the usual shortcut to the village road, Deanna emerged from the woods, properly dressed though flushed with excitement and her hair in a toss of wild disarray.

She and Nal threw themselves in each others’ arms, kissed shamelessly under the intrigued but approving gaze of MacGruder and his male armed retinue and Deanna said,

“If I may join in? Wolf and I got your message Lo. Wolf will escort us as well, just in case, but we’re quite certain there is no danger. We tracked a couple of poachers yesterday but took care of putting the fear of Satan in them. We left them alive, they were not the murderous or raping kind, just beggar thieves, but they won’t be seen in these parts ever again, and the stories they tell will ensure none should venture this way at least for the duration of winter. In case anyone wonders, we did hunt down some hares to give them so they wouldn’t starve in the woods.”

“Well done Deanna,” replied MacGruder with a raised fist for emphasis. “On we go then.” With Giles close by and nurturing a pain-filled jealousy, Ian took Nal’s hand and led her over the ladder built into the fence and down the path to the village. Holding back, Lo and Deanna engaged a long and serious talk using strictly the inner language.

‘I taught wolf to speak the human tongue Lo. At first he could only do it in his werewolf form but now he can manage it any time. Very difficult for him but a very effective tool for deception. He can also project severe abdominal pain to an enemy without being seen so when the enemy is doubled over, he can pounce on him. We tried it on the poachers and yes, it works. My own power of projection has grown too. With one hand in Wolf’s mane I can project a force that can topple over a cliff if I so desired. We tested that effect far from here in a wilderness where the collapse would not cause hardship to those we stand guard for. I can collapse defences, walls, buildings and also set fires from at least a quarter mile distance. I could demonstrate when we reach the village if you want to see.’

‘Oh, no thank you Deanna, that won’t be necessary, I believe you.’

He wondered how far she’d gone from human now that she saw nothing amiss about setting some house on fire or destroying fortifications “as a demonstration” just when their group was entering the village.

‘Cause and effect, Deanna: can you see how such activities would turn the whole village against us? That we would be immediately blamed for the events and labelled sorcerers?’

‘It would? Ah, yes, of course I suppose it would. What about Nal? Has she demonstrated new powers to use against our enemies?’

‘Nal has been busy in many ways. She has taught some swordsmanship to our armed guard here and I’ve done some sparring with the staffs with her myself. She is greatly improving but remembering her full Alaya self is taking its toll. She still gets tired easily, requiring almost five or six hours of sleep every night. She is still much too human but growing and remembering. How long can you remain shape-shifted into the she-wolf before you can no longer change back, or is there a limit?’

‘I think there might be a limit unless I develop some other method of shape-shifting. It was very difficult to leave this time and putting clothes on, why I could hardly remember how to do it. All I remembered was Nal insisting I do it, so I did. At first I was almost blind and when I tried to stand, I fell against wolf to gain my balance. Walking on two legs is so irritatingly clumsy and energy consuming! Good thing I did not know about any of what I do now when I was growing up in Torglynn or I would have gone insane with longing and frustration.’

‘Critical point, can you use your combined Human, Elven, Alaya powers when you are shape-shifted into the she-wolf? Can you be the powerful wizard in any shape, or state of mind, Deanna?’

‘I know I can project the tear-up and fire energy, using my nose and ears to focus and I can sense unusual forces from great distances. I have been guardedly following the movements of our enemies to the south in, what did you call that land?’

‘I figured you meant the land of France.’

‘Yes, that land beyond a narrow sea? They’ve been involved in wars and there has been problems between the sorcerers, they ended up on opposite sides and there’s a stalemate in a main battle involving a large castle. There were canons brought to bear but your Tel’Madan wizard knows how to muzzle them and cause them to explode when fired. If we could be there now, we would take them individually and destroy them!’

‘Beware, Deanna. It’s a trick. They know someone’s been tracking them and this is a very complex but obvious trap. They want whomever to fall for their apparent disunity. That would never happen, particularly knowing of the rise of one or more Alaya in the world. They’re baiting while recouping their energies and planning.

‘Good that you tracked them in your she-wolf form rather than your human one. If they can sense that, they will be confused and wary. Any confusion will weaken them, not knowing what to expect. They must be aware now that their long years of unopposed evil are ending and they are going to have to fight to hold on to their power. They don’t have any problem sending hundreds of thousands to their death in their endlessly manufactured power wars but it’s been a long time since they had to personally fight against an enemy.

‘Long ago they killed nine of us, including their own wives because these refused to join in their evil deeds and plans for this world. After that, except for my rather pathetic ventures and overtures to them they’ve had no one of consequence to worry about. That is all about to change.’

Deanna continued with the inner language conversation,

‘But since you and Nal are mates from before, why go through this human wedding ceremony? I don’t see a point to it.’

‘There are good reasons. One is to defuse some of the suspicions that may arise from the local representatives of the Church. They are sure to sense that not everything is as it seems with us. We do this also for the people, to let them know that we are with them, though we be different. The other is to demonstrate to Nal’s previous close male friends and hopefuls that she is indeed in a marriage relationship, thus preventing at least some heartbreaks and possible hotheaded challenges.

‘But the greatest reason is, I sense an alignment taking place, an ordained shuffling of forces, a great alliance never before seen to bring men, women, Elves, Alaya, Alay and the wolf clans together to destroy a great evil. We have more, much more to organize and bring about before we engage the final part of our mutual quest, but the pieces are coming together. Soon the board will be set and the game will begin in earnest.’

‘Will we have to cross that sea to challenge the sorcerers, or will they come to us on this land?’

‘We must find a way to bring them here and ensnare them. They have built too much of a force on the mainland; too many blinded and willing to die for them. We neither can take so many on, nor do we want this to turn into a long drawn-out bloodbath. We don’t want a war so we must endeavour to keep the numbers small on both sides and settle it quickly, ideally in a day or two. We will guardedly thought-touch them and dare them to meet us in the wilds to the south of here.’

Thus they exchanged information and finally reached the outskirts of Glowmere. They were challenged by a rag-tag but suspicious retinue of a dozen guards. Ian and his lady greeted them loudly and being recognized as neighbours and allies, they and their following were allowed to enter the fortified town.