Severance was home late that evening. He hadn’t planned on it, but his parents needed their private time together. He remembered how the pain hit him when his own child was miscarried; that pain was minor compared to what his parents were feeling. They had their child for thirty-nine years before losing her.
All the emails and text messages he was receiving about the surprise telepathy lesson and exorcism were too much for him to believe, and that didn’t count the alien shoot-out in their skies which he saw from Tacoma, having been dragged out of the house by an excited young cousin. According to the news, most of the western half of the world saw it.
He was wiped out by the time he, Shara and Terry got home; tending to the family during their time of mourning had been draining. He had seen it happen with families of his patients; he had even slammed a few doors and shed a few tears for the patients he took to heart. Nothing had prepared him for a death in his own family or of someone so close to him.
When they arrived at the temple, they were greeted with hugs and tears. None of it seemed real until people saw Severance’s pale, tired face.
Terry was taken in hand by several of the women of the outer circle for tending and feeding, while Irra quietly updated Sev and Shara on their newest clan friend, Aaron Somers.
The men vaguely remembered Aaron from office parties at the architectural firm, and from hearing Karrin talk about her business partner. They knew who Aaron’s partner was, having met Michael at a couple of the parties.
They were a little surprised at Aaron’s unexpected inclusion into the ranks of magicians. Karrin had never said anything about his talents. Karrin’s own talents tended to be on an unconscious level, though, so it was possible she didn’t realize why she had chosen Aaron for a business partner.
While Shara stopped at home to check on Kissa and get into more comfortable clothes, Severance found Aaron was sleeping in Ninah’s basement apartment; Aaron was also drained, but for different reasons. His contact with real magics had knocked something loose in his head; he was beginning to become aware of his own talents, and was actively seeing the ley lines he had been working with unconsciously.
Irra told Sev he had sat Aaron down and dropped him into the deep end of Magic 501, completely skipping Magic 101.
Aaron then called home and told his partner Michael that he was staying in New Babylon for the night and he’d be home the next day. Michael called back a few hours later and tried to talk about the alien shoot-out, but Aaron was too tired for it to register.
“Que?” he mumbled the question in French. “Dites-moi plus tard.” and then set the phone down to curl up into the covers.
Severance checked in on him, took note of the swirling energies that were trying to synchronize, and let the man sleep.
He kept telling himself that the gods had their reasons. The entire universe seemed to be moving mountains to force certain people together. It seemed that the universe didn’t need Karrin in the same picture that he was being pulled into. Severance was a little pissed at the universe, at the moment.
Insisting that people never mind the light show, for the moment, he listened to the group’s stories about the exorcism, his ears practically straining to hear every detail, and then decided to sit privately with Ninah and Irra and go over the exorcism from the perspective of the magicians.
Why didn’t he think of using the salt’s signature? Everything had its own resonance frequency, even salt. He had taken enough science classes that he should have remembered that fact.
Listening to the others around the fire pit told him that they didn’t understand; they believed that the salt and the chanted incantation did the trick with the negative energy.
He also understood the new psi concepts that Evan taught them, and he wasn’t at all surprised at Rick’s sudden appearance at the temple and his commentary about aliens. With the fireworks high above, there was no doubt about the meaning of Rick’s words.
“No, down more,” Ninah told him when he tried sending a thought to her. She was fairly sure she caught something, but it was more of a shout from a distance.
“What do you mean, down more?” he asked, feeling the strain behind his eyes.
“Evan says we’re trying to talk up here,” she said, and then hummed in a high pitch. “We need to be down here.” She hummed in a low, quieter pitch.
Severance closed his eyes. He took a few breaths and centered himself. Instead of high and low pitches, Sev found himself equating it with a deep, bass drum and a slow, deep-sleep heart-beat.
*…hear me?* It was Ninah’s voice in his head. His eyes popped open in surprise.
“I heard that!” he confirmed.
“Tell me inside,” she said with a smile. She knew he could do it!
Severance brought up the low drum again.
*I heard it* he said, forcing his mind to speak as though he were having a quiet conversation with her. Ninah clapped and gave a squee. She reached over, took his face, and gave him a loud kiss on the mouth. Irra chuckled and went to find a drum, taking Terry with him.
Terry wasn’t in the head-space for learning, so they would get him up to speed later.
“Yay.. !.... Ooops, sorry,” she said, reddening at her spur-of-the-moment action.
For the first time in a week, Severance laughed. It felt strange; his heart was empty from crying over his sister, and being with his group was helping the healing process. “It’s okay,” he assured her. “We’re a close group, kissing is allowed.”
Shara smiled his usual quiet smile, not in the least disturbed. He was watching the sky from Sev’s thighs; the ships didn’t return, but there were the odd light-shows now and again, almost like small meteors burning up in the atmosphere.
He had already worked with Irra on the telepathy while Severance had looked in on Aaron, and found that the ‘level’ of inner hearing and speaking did help his mind to tune out the aural dissonance that the non-speakers were giving off unconsciously. He would need to try meditating from that inner level, and see what difference it made in the meditations.
The town’s people were yelling over fences at each other, running up and down the street, and jamming phone lines. Quite a few of them ran into the temple yard where the main group danced and congregated, and the field behind the store where campers were having quiet time, and looked into the sky as they asked questions.
Nearby dancers and campers spread their hands in ignorance when questioned. Those with active totems and those who were far-sensors knew that whatever was happening was supposed to happen and that they were not in any danger at the moment, so they relaxed and continued with their dancing and socializing.
Deputy Kyle Andrews came out to question the group about the incident high above. No one knew any more than he did. And no, they hadn’t seen the sheriff.
As usual, Kyle was irritated that the sheriff wasn’t around when he was needed. He had yet to figure out how Rick Myles got the job to begin with, since he had no residency in the town prior to showing up out of the blue with the twins in tow.
The deputy had made a few phone calls, spoken with the town elders and Mayor Stansfield, and found nothing except statements of recommendation. The recs led him to offices with initials instead of names, and were better left untouched. Having discovered the same tangled webs when he tried to dig into Irra and Terry’s background, Kyle decided to sit back and watch. Why would the government plant agents in New Babylon? All they had in town was a lot of rain. And he hadn’t noticed the men concentrating on anyone in particular.
Severance and Shara reclined on the ground, backs against a large log, watching their clan-mate. The familiar scent and feel of Shara leaning against him was helping Severance to begin his own healing.
Terry had told them after the funeral that he was going to propose to Karrin. Sev and Karrin’s parents had cried when they found out, and informed Terry that he was welcome in the family as a son, and the life-partner of their daughter. Terry and Karrin had been a couple for six years, and the parents knew him to be good for their daughter.
Following an inner urging, Severance untangled himself from Shara and called the group together. Drums quieted and people approached as, at Sev’s bidding, Shara, Terry, Irra, and Ninah gathered at Severance’s side, facing the larger group as one clan.
“There is no end,” he told the group when he had their attention. He took a breath, forcing himself to believe it. “Death is nothing more than transformation from one state to another.” The group murmured their agreement.
“Reach out and feel her. Karrin is still with us.” The agreement was louder.
“Dance for Karrin tonight. Dance with her. Welcome her into your beds tonight. Any child conceived during this moon cycle will have a piece of her spirit.”
There was a shout of promise, and a tear rolled down Severance’s face to soak the trimmed hair at his upper lip.
“After Karrin’s funeral, Terry told us he was going to propose.” A sob hit the air. “Thierry Senecal, son of Taranis, son of fire itself, step before us.”
Terry lifted his head, not knowing what Severance had in mind, and stepped forward. Severance leaned over and whispered to Ninah. Startled, she gave a nod and stepped to Terry’s side.
“Terry, as your goddess is the Morrigan— all praise to the Dark One —I ask that she stand by you at this time, should it please Her to do so.” Someone with a bodhran drummed out a dedication to the Dark Lady of war and life.
A dark cloak was whipped around Ninah’s shoulders and head, hiding her face. Although the nearby streetlights and the bon fire had kept the field fairly lit, a blackness that had nothing to do with the hood of the robe crossed Ninah’s vision. She stood still and drew a breath. Now what?
The clan’s foster, Thayer, fell to his knees just behind Severance’s right side, his head dipped in respect, as gasp broke from Terry, causing him to lean forward for a moment, hands on his knees while he caught his breath. Something had taken hold of him, thrusting him into sacred space.
The drums beat for him.
Severance closed his eyes, reaching in to find that familiar essence of his sister. Although missing from the world, she was still part of his heart and memories. When he could smell her and hear her voice, he tossed the pulsing cord to Ninah, knowing she’d sense it and catch it. She did.
“Thierry Senecal, do you love Karrin?” Severance asked.
“I do so love her!” Terry cried out to the winds, his voice hoarse and hard.
The drums beat.
“Do you honor Karrin?”
“I do so honor her!”
The drums beat.
“Will you live for Karrin?”
“Forever will I live for her!”
The drums beat.
“And should the Morrigan decrees that another enters your life?”
There was quiet in the field.
“Then I shall love for her,” he whispered in anguish.
The drums beat loud and hard.
“What say the Morrigan?”
All eyes turned to the cloaked Ninah. She took a step forward, turned to face Terry, and put her hand on his heaving, sweat-dampened chest. She could feel the pulsing cord of Karrin’s life force that Severance had thrown to her. She reached out from within, found Terry’s life cord, found it accepting, and released Karrin into Terry’s care.
Terry cried out and fell to his knees when the familiar presence was thrust upon him. Karrin’s scent, her very essence, filled his mind and soul, over-whelming him.
“Thierry Senecal, I declare you bound to Karrin Cooper until you are both ready for release.” Ninah held her right hand over the top of his bowed head as she spoke the words. She didn’t know where they came from, but they reverberated deep within, ringing their Truth.
Terry lifted his head; his back arched, his thick auburn hair brushing the ground behind him, and howled to the stars.
“Let all present bear witness!”
“We do so bear witness!” the entire group shouted. The drums beat hard enough to force a rumble from the ground.
“May all the gods, known and unknown, bear witness!”
“Seen and heard!” the group shouted. They stomped and howled to the drums until Severance waved them to quiet. Windows in nearby homes flickered with light as curtains were pulled aside by people checking on the racket and ‘war drums’ of the heathens in the field.
“From this point forward, I declare Thierry Senecal to be husband and consort of Karrin Cooper, beloved friend and sister of us all,” Severance told them. “Terry, keep her close to you, let her know she is safe; when you are both ready, set her free to find life again. You found each other in many lifetimes, you will do so again.
“Let it be known, Terry is now brother in truth to me, and one with my family!”
The drums were off again and people began whooping and hollering in celebration.
Terry lurched to his feet, swaying in his shock. Ninah stepped up to him, touched his wet cheeks, and pressed her lips to his. His face disappeared into the hood of her cloak to meet with his goddess. Ninah felt another presence come forward for a moment to accept his kiss. The Presence was then gone. From the look on Terry’s wet, shocked face, he felt it, too.
Severance caught Terry to him, holding him hard as they cried together. He lifted Terry’s head, wiped at the tears on his face, and kissed him. The two broad-shouldered men looked at each other, sniffed, and laughed.
Terry stepped away, accepted affection from Shara and Irra, touched Ninah’s cheek, swept their little brother up for a hug, and leaped into the fray around the bonfire.
Ninah wiped her own cheeks, sniffling, before sitting on the ground by the large log. Severance and Shara joined her on the ground, and Shara leaned back against Severance’s chest.
Severance reached out and put an arm around Ninah’s shoulder, bringing her in. She snuggled against his free shoulder, wrapping the cloak over her legs. She tried to give it back its owner, but was told it had been gifted to her.
Irra watched her as she pulled the cloak tightly around her body. The shiver she tried to hide wasn’t from the damp chill that was setting in.