Genista blinked as she exited her back door. Cardus had removed a large section of the fencing between their back yards and placed the altars across the property lines. It appeared a little odd, and she noted that the section of fence was propped against his southern boundary. He stood, waiting, his face impassive, watching her – to see if she’d object?
Something about the space, the flow of energy on this special evening, had her remaining on the stoop and closing her eyes...and feeling the last hint of summer warmth in a breeze, then the air stilled and thrummed with the promise of a new year.
A saying goodbye to the last, and a welcome to the new.
Cardus’ energy was vital and masculine and pulled to all the feminine in her. She became aware of the soft, heavy robe she wore, her only garment. She recalled the kiss the night before, his lust that had sent heat through her body. The small and quiet moments they had shared.
Then another bounding energy swept towards her.
**I am here! Whin projected. And I have gifts!**
She laughed and her eyes opened and her cheeks flushed when she saw that Cardus still watched her. The FamDog sat beside him, two bundles of cloth before him tied with a string. Intriguing.
She moved toward them, carrying a basket containing items for the altars, and food to honor the Lady and Lord.
Cardus wore leathers – good furrabeast that might have been harvested at this time years ago – honoring the animals that fed and clothed him.
Walking slowly, she watched the sun set with red and pink and orange at the horizon. Twilight blue gave way to deep black in the sky, and the full twinmoons soared high and bright and silver. Stars twinkled like diamond spangles.
The altar for the dead was small, he’d put a silver wheel there to represent acquaintances lost in the past. The object would serve for both of them. Her steps hesitated as she saw the weathered sculpture of a family of three, and she knew that it was his family. She’d never asked, but now she knew he was the sole survivor of a small family.
Her Family was large for the nobility, and no unexpected or tragic deaths had touched it.
She had only one remembrance marker for the altar and it ripped the scar in her wide open. When she reached the wooden altar, she placed the small white stone image of a curled, sexless baby on the black cloth. Her womb felt empty and cold and her cheeks colder still as tears ran down her face and chilled in the evening.
Standing, head bowed, she wept as she’d wept the last two years when she’d done this, as she anticipated she’d always weep in the future.
Then warmth surrounded her. Cardus was close behind, then his body was touching, then his arms wrapped around her and drew her to him.
"I’m sorry for your loss," he said in a low, rough voice and she knew it wasn’t just a platitude, he meant it. Immediately after she’d lost her baby, there had been more pity than she could bear. Her pride had made her futilely grasp for outward status to set people at a distance.
"I’ve heard that nothing is as devastating as the loss of a child, and I wish you hadn’t had to experience that," he continued, rocking her gently in his arms.
They stayed together until she pulled a softleaf from her sleeve and wiped her eyes, blew her nose. Then he turned her to face him, his expression sympathetic and tender.
He said, "We have lost, yet we go on. The old year is passing, the new year rushing toward us. We bring memory tokens of our loss, food for our Lady and Lord and our dead, a scrip of that inside us we wish burned away." His voice was vibrant as he said the first words of the ceremony.
Reluctantly she drew away from him and stepped toward the altar. From her basket she withdrew her cauldron, her goblet, a statue of the Lady, a rose quartz candlestick. She put a small shell bowl on the altar and poured fragrant herbal water into it. Last, she stacked oat and apple cakes that she’d made a couple of days ago.
Cardus set her candlestick on one side of his Lord candlestick and her Lady figurine on the other side. Though they were of different materials, they all seemed to match and a small smile curved her lips.
He caught her gaze. "They look well together."
"Yes." His Lord candlestick was leafy and green and taller than her voluptuous Lady.
Hesitantly she placed her rolled up papyrus next to the cauldron and next to his. She wanted to vanquish grief and regret.
Whin stood and sniffed at the altar, sneezed. His tongue swiped out and caught a cake and he crunched it, bits falling from his muzzle.
Instead of scolding the dog, Cardus flung back his head and laughed. Genista laughed, too. Cardus caught her fingers and lifted them to his lips, brushed a kiss on her fingertips, nodded to the small cairn of stones marking the north elemental point. "Shall we cast the circle?"
Hand in hand they crossed to the north and continued to each compass point, calling the Elemental energies to guard the circle and contribute to it. As they chanted the circle closed the atmosphere was imbued with power. Inside the circle became a mystical, sacred space where they were linked to the Lady and Lord, where psi Flair could affect their lives. Every moment she was aware of Cardus’ hand holding hers, of the energy they called cycling between them, closely connecting them.
Her breath and Cardus’ whispered out at the same time. She turned back toward the altar and stumbled over Whin.
Cardus steadied her and they both looked down at the FamDog.
Genista cleared her throat as she spoke to their companion. "It’s unusual for Fams to be part of a such a small circle."
Whin looked aside, whined a bit. **Never been with people in circle. Like the feeling. Stay?**
"Of course you can stay," Genista said, just as Cardus said, "Sure."
Standing and wagging his tail, Whin lolled his tongue in a doggie smile. **Thanks.** He did a long stretch, popping joints. **Feels very good.**
Dog following, they walked to the altar. Cardus looked down at her and said softly, "I accept the godhood of the Lord within myself," he rumbled and she grew hotter at the sound of his low voice, with more. He lit his candle, took her hands again and she accepted the jolt of attraction that melded into a bond between them.
His gaze caught hers and heat radiated from their hands throughout her body. "I cherish the Lady within you."
She breathed unsteadily, felt a sifting of feminine power shiver through her, from the earth, the moons, the stars, settling into her blood. "I accept the goddesshood of the Lady within myself." Her voice sounded rich and sultry to her own ears, and a flush tinted Cardus' cheeks. She squeezed his hands. "I cherish the Lord within you." Then she lit her candle and they sang the Blessing Chant, welcoming the power of the deities into their circle.
They took turns with the rest of the general ritual, singing songs that had been passed down through their culture for centuries. Genista felt both herself, and Other, and that Other was so much more than she, wise and knowing that this was a reverence for the dead...but underneath it all, joyous. That Other knew the mysteries of life and death.
And for a brief while, Genista sensed such knowledge and was comforted, her heavy grief was gone. She moved slowly, deliberately, and when she glanced at Cardus there was Another below his skin, occasionally looking out of his eyes, a man of wisdom and wildness. Warrior. Lover.
He grasped her hands once more and they seemed even harder with callouses. His voice was richer, deeper.
"We honor the dead," he said. "Those who have passed to the Wheel of Stars."
"We honor the dead," she repeated, "Those who have passed to the Wheel of Stars." She was so mesmerized by the flicker of candlelight in Cardus’ gaze, the feel of the soft and warm breeze swirling around her, that she didn’t look to her token. True surcease.
"And we celebrate Samhain, the new year," Cardus said, continued,
"As the Twinmoons cycle,
As the seasons change and
Life itself cycles,
We honor the dead and the past
And embrace life and the future."
He reached out to his piece of papyrus and flicked it into the cauldron where it flamed and vanished in smoke. She did the same.
Then they reached for each other’s hands. She knew the next words, the old words, but felt them shiny with newness.
"By the arcs and cycles of the twinmoons
By the dance of the sun through the sky and the seasons
By the circle of life and the circle of stars
I will live, love, die, and live again.
I will live, meet, remember, embrace love and life again."
It felt like a promise to this man.
Whin howled and that enriched the ceremony, enriched the night. Then she looked at Whin and said the words again with Cardus.
They held his large goblet between them. He drank first, then she. She fed him an oak cake and he did the same. They allowed Whin to dip his tongue into the wine, eat another cake.
In a daze, Genista thanked the deities, felt the Other rise away, and opened the circle with Cardus.
Cold air rushed in and the stars themselves seemed to frost.