Title: Dumb Supper
Author: Vernon Bruce
Summary: Ignorance breads fear, fear breads hate. I do this here for the list but more for my people on this holy day. This is a free ticket to one version of a traditional Pagan ritual for Samhain, the festival of the dead. The theme varies from group to group but the essence remains the same. Rupert and Willow receive a gift of wisdom from beyond the grave.
Disclaimer: The characters are the property of Joss Whendon Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Productions 18 Century Fox, WB Network, etc. The situation is mine, and I don't mean to infringe upon any copyrights.
Notes: Obviously the ritual elements have been abridged to aid the dramatic line. Also I have not touched at all on what goes on inside peoples heads to perform this rite. In other words, if you know enough to fill in the gaps you could have written it and probably safely use it. If you have to guess, don't even try. My social conscious is now assuaged.
Dedication. To Patric Little, priest of Anubus and dear friend. We will meat in the west in years to come, just don't drink all the bear before I get there. To my father, who's echoes I still hear and my mother, who learned in the end that we do not own those we love. Also to my Bata reader Who's still alive and did a bang up job as always.
Willow stood beside Rupert in a circle of ten people. Every one wore a white robe tied around the middle by a coloured sash. The suburban basement they occupied had had the furniture pushed against the walls to make room for the circle of carpet lain on the floor. Candles burn at the four quarters and three candles occupied the alter one green, one blue and one black. The alter itself stood at the east of the circle, while a pair of chairs, draped in black cloth so they resembled thrones, occupied its centre.
The priest lifted the crook and flail from the alter top. Willow had had just enough time to read up on Egyptian practice and she knew these served as athame and wand. The priest was a muscular man of average height carrying an extra few pounds and he wore a gold sash.
"By the power of the crook and flail I do here by lay these wards that none of ill or disruptive intent may enter within their confines." The priest spoke as he crossed the crook and flail and slowly paced the circle's outer edge.
Willow felt the energy tingle along her spine when he passed behind her.
'Oh goddess and I thought this was going to be some play acting and maybe a bake sale,' she thought. She reached out and took Rupert's hand. He turned his head and smiled at her. Excluding Rupert this was the first time in nearly a year she'd done magic with another person. Tara hadn't taken the break up well and cut all ties.
Since then she'd drifted. A casual date here, a flirtation there. Mostly with men, she'd discovered she liked the feel of a man's arms. And there was Rupert. He'd hired her, part time, for his shop and more often than not would work with her. She'd somehow started finding reasons to hug him. His arm's were strong, with a gentleness that appealed to her.
The priest moved to stand before the alter then began the charge for the elementals. Willow returned her thoughts to the present and listened. The principles were the same as the ones she was use to, but the directions had been altered to reflect the environment of the Nile valley.
The priest held the crook and flail crossed before his chest.
"By the flail that defends and the crook that guides. I invoke thee oh spirits of the fiery realm, oh citizens of Duamutef to hold this circle proof against all malignant influences and aid us in our rights this night." The priest thrust the crook and flail out before him, then pulled them apart, as if throwing open a door in the fabric of time and space. He bowed to the priestess who stood beside him and passed her the crook and flail.
Willow gasped as she felt the fire energy rush around the circle.
Rupert heard Willow gasp and squeezed her hand reassuringly, trying to give the little gesture everything in his heart.
'No use denying it old man. You are in love. Old fool. She's half your age and beautiful. She thinks of you like a father. Soon she will find a young person who suits her and then even the brief moments you steal in the shop will be gone. Gods, I hate my age.
The priestess had moved to face the south and repeating the priest's actions with the crook and flail said "By the flail that defends and the crook that guides. I invoke thee oh spirits of the watery realm, oh citizens of Imsety to hold this circle proof against all malignant influences, and aid us in our rights this night." She bowed and returned the crook and flail to the priest who moved to the eastern quarter.
Rupert felt her hand in his and only wished he could tell her everything in his heart.
When the final element was called the priest and priestess stood together before the alter.
The priest spoke. "Tonight we seek communion with those gone to the west before us. We seek the solace of knowing they are well, and the joy of their company. We come in love, but in so coming we must prepare the way and show homage to the nature of the dead. Thus it is that I will ring a bell. From the toling of that bell until it sounds again, all will be silent in this circle. The dead know our thoughts and can make their own heard, thus speak no word to shatter the spell of communion.
Well it is true that Samhain is a ritual of the Celts, we use its energies this night, for is not the Lug of the Celts the Horus of the Egyptians. The gods have many names and faces, but only a few essences. Let us begin. Join in the chant to make our lords and ladies welcome."
The priest started chanting "O-si-ris... O-si-ris." he made each syllable distinct and soon the men in the circle joined in. The priestess a plump, but attractive, dark haired woman began an other chant. "Isis... Aset... Isis...Aset..." The women in the circle joined in and Willow followed suit. As the chant built she felt her energies flow. The circle began to glow with green and blue light, a tingle ran up her spine and her mind focussed on the present. The basement vanished, becoming an ancient temple room full of the whisperings of long dead priests. Power built, flowing from everyone in the room, joining, mingling, reshaping the world into something magical.
The priestess raised a hand. The chants halted, she smiled and kissed the priest. Willow sighed they'd introduced themselves as husband and wife as well as working partners. The way their energies flowed seamlessly together spoke to both their power and the love that allowed them to share so completely. She looked at Rupert and sighed, wishing and wondering if it could have been.
The priestess began the invocations.
"I invoke thee Isis, Aset, Goddess of all sorceries, wife of Osiris, mother of Horus and Bast. Daughter of Nut and Geb. Teacher, healer, she who gathered the scattered bits of her husband and breathed new life into them."
Willow focussed on the woman. A blue glow began to build around her and flickers of light formed a crown in the shape of a thrown upon her head.
"I invoke the Aset and offer myself as vessel unto thee. Come be with us on this night. Hail and welcome." The priestess finished and the group echoed "Hail and welcome."
Willow blinked and her breathing quickened. It was like having double vision. She could see the priestess standing there but she could also see a beautiful slender woman with long ebony hair. The slender woman brought her gaze to bear on Willow and smiled. It was like a hug that drove away all loneliness. Isis spoke and the voice was not that of the priestess. It was softer, richer, vibrating with life. "Daughter." was all she said to Willow, but it was enough.
The priest knelt before the priestess and said "Greetings gentle Isis."
Isis smiled. "Rise vessel of my husband and call him hither."
"The priest stood then picking up the crook and flail held them crossed over his chest.
Rupert listened. This was a magic not found in old books. The ritual was written only a month before but based on principles and roots that reached to the dawn of time. This was magic as a living breathing thing. A science reclaimed from a dark age and given new life by people such as the ones he now watched. The priest crossed the crook and flail over his chest and spoke.
"I invoke thee lord Osiris. Fallen and risen, cycle eternal. Green god, growing god, fallen god, dead god, resurrected by Isis's hand. I call thee son of Nuit, son of Geb, husband of Isis, father of Horus, Bast and Anubis.
"I invoke thee to this our circle, he who all of us will stand before. Lord of the west, pharo of those gone before, I invoke thee and offer myself as vessel unto thee. Be with us this night. Hail and welcome.
Everyone in the room echoed "Hail and welcome."
Rupert blinked. A glowing figure had superimposed itself over the priest. A tall crown rose from its head and its body was swathed in mummy wrappings, while the skin at face and hands was a vibrant living green.
The priestess knelt. "Greetings lord Osiris."
Osiris reached down and helped her to stand. "In love met, in love joined." he said and the voice was not that of the priest. He then moved to Rupert. "Greetings son of Thoth, be welcome in our circle."
Willow shuddered as Osiris moved in front of Rupert. She couldn't understand a word that was said but it didn't matter. There was a beauty in the being that struck her.
The priest returned to the alter and the priestess picked up a challis holding water. The priest held the crook and flail over the challis and said.
"The crook and flail are the power to act."
The priestess replied. "The challis the wisdom to act wisely."
Together "So by the union of these Devine principles let this water be blessed and made holy and pure. So mote it be!"
The congregation echoed "So mote it be."
"One more we need upon this night," said Osiris.
"Call thy son, my sister's son," answered Isis.
"He who would stand as vessel for Anubis step forward."
A young man, with a slender but athletic body, moved before the alter.
"You may begin," said Isis.
The young man closed his eyes and put his hands out from his sides before speaking. "I invoke thee Anubis, guide to those gone before, god of those gone before. Jester, wanderer who searched out the scattered parts of his father. Son of Osiris, son of Nephthys. God of travel, come be with us on this night. I offer myself as vessel onto thee. Hail and welcome."
Again everyone echoed "Hail and Welcome."
The high priest picked up a jackal mask from the alter and placed it on the younger man.
'Like they need that,' thought Willow. She could plainly see the ebony head of a jackal encompassing the young man. He turned and faced her and she could swear the jackal head smiled and winked.
"We are prepared," said the priest. "All take your seats. Remember from bell chime to bell chime all must be silent. Share freely the offering and think only of the beloved dead. Not that is evil my enter here, unless invited, so fear nothing save that which you have brought with you."
The priest sat upon one of the chairs in the middle, the priestess beside him. He closed his eyes and she placed her hand upon the back of his.
Willow settled onto the cushion set on the floor. Three bowls sat before her. One contained half a pomegranate the other two were empty, as if she was going to share food with a friend.
She glanced at Rupert. He sat with his eyes closed, for all outward appearances meditating. She saw a tremor in his energy that put a lie to his apparent peace. Willow knew that for him this night was bitter sweet and her heart ached for his pain.
Rupert opened his eyes and watched as the priest sounded the bell. The Priest then sat breathing deeply. The circle was charged. The air crackled with energy. The bands of green and blue focussed on the priest, then it happened. The silence was broken by a gasp of in taken breath and Osiris glowed. A figure, human like but insubstantial, lifted from the priest's body. Anubis took it by the hand and led it to a seat in front of one of the congregation. Another figure lifted from the priest and was led to yet another seat. Rupert closed his eyes and thought of her. He'd missed her, he wanted so to apologise, to find absolution.
'For what?' asked a voice he thought he would never hear again. He opened his eyes and saw only an insubstantial mist. He closed them and there she was.
'Jenny,' he thought.
'Yes. I heard you call. Both of you actually.'
'I've missed you. I... I am sorry.'
'Rupert you are a silly man. It was Angelus, not you. I can't even really blame Angel.'
'But if I hadn't...'
'Loved me. Do you think life is worth living with out taking that risk?'
'I... I guess not.'
'Oh Rupert. I wish you really believed that.'
'Stop being so English. Look at her.'
Almost reluctantly Rupert turned his head and opened his eyes. Willow sat beside him, eyes closed, a expression of peace on her face. She was so lovely it made his heart ache.
'She won't wait forever you know. One-day she'll find someone less appropriate and you'll spend the rest of your life kicking yourself.'
Rupert closed his eyes and focussed his inner sight on Jenny. 'She's so young."
'Does that matter to them. Look.' Jenny gestured towards the couple on the thrones. He now appeared as a broad shouldered rugged man with crow's feet and gray at the temples, wearing a Greek toga and a steal crown bedecked with jules. She was a maid, barely past her teens, with dark hair, a pretty face and slender body. Baskets of fruit were about her feet and a garland of wild flowers sat in her hair.
'Hades and Persephone.' As Rupert watched the older god smiled at his young bride and she smiled back at him. There was a depth of emotion in those gazes that put a lie to every grey hair and winkle.
'Surprised? Meny names for a few forces, you know that Rupert. So does the priest, we perceive them as we need to. For you though you need to learn love is a power greater than any other. The dead know.'
'Life is for the living. We had our time and maybe in some future life again, though with my perspective I can tell you she has tended to win any competition between us in the past.' Jenny smiled. "You need to think and I have another stop to make.'
She vanished. Rupert opened his eyes, the circle was filled with glowing bits of mists. Picking up the pomegranate he tore off several seeds dropping them into the bowl farthest from him then sampled a few himself as he considered his guest's words.
'You heard," Jenny's voice came through to Willow's mind. Willow gazed with eyes closed and saw her old teacher. 'He... he really cares about me? I mean, I know he cares but...'
'Willow, you have to stop listening to your parents. I'd also suggest you stop trying to shock them. You are good enough! You deserve to be loved and you don't have to collapse into the relationship, or settle for second rate.'
"Why hasn't he...'
'Men like Rupert are afraid to make the first move. He's a wonderful lover, and a wonderful man, but he is afraid to be rejected. You'll learn why as the years pass.'
'The years. Our ages.'
'Willow, if you haven't figured it out yet. You're an immortal sole in a physical body. You'll find a common ground. Besides, Rupert is pretty lively for his age.'Jenny winked and Willow blushed. 'Be good to him. You'll find the rewards well worth any effort.'
'Why do this? I thought you loved him?'
'Because I love him. Life is for the living. I am a shade and will soon return to the land of the dead. You, both of you have life. Live it, cherish it, squeeze all the love and warmth and happiness you can out of it. That is what you get to keep, to bring with you at the end. I have to go.'
Rupert felt something cold touch his hand. He closed his eyes and Jenny was there, standing between him and Willow. Very deliberately she guided their hands together. The hands touched and clasped. Jenny smiled and Rupert felt ice cup his cheek, but the physical sensation of cold was nothing compared to the emotional warmth. Find joy.
Anubis appeared behind Jenny and releasing Rupert and Willow she took his hand. The jackal grinned and nodded at them, then led Jenny back to the priest.
Rupert opened his eyes. The priest sat in his chair but his robe was sweat drenched and he was breathing hard. The Anubis priest moved to each person sitting and escorted the mist before them back to the thrones. One of the shades refused to return but the priestess rased her hand and a shaft of blue light encompassed the shade. It descended into the priest.
Finally the last shade was gone. The priest sat in the chair. A shudder ran through him and there was a shift in the circle's nature. The energy from earlier was gone but there was now a feeling like a door had been closed. A passage sealed.
The priestess lay her hands on her husband and concentration creased her brow. He smiled weekly at her and nodded. Picking up the bell at his side he rang it then stood.
Thanking the gods, dismissing the elements and opening the circle took only minutes. Then the priest and priestess led them all up the stares to the living room, dining room of a well appointed middle class house.
Rupert hadn't released Willow's hand since Jenny and put them together and he led her to a quiet corner.
Willow cut him off by kissing him and pressing her body against his. "Life is for the living, Rupert."
"You might spend years alone after I..."
"And I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Are we going to try?"
Rupert looked into her eyes. "I... I am in love with you. I want to try."
"Me to, I mean, in love with you and like good."
Rupert pulled her close and they kissed again then just held each other close. There was a life time to explore before them.
Next: Yule Circle
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