Title: Yule Circle
Author: Vernon Bruce
Summary: Ignorance breeds fear, fear breeds 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 Yule, the festival that marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. At this time the sun god's power is at a low ebb and must be reestablished for the new year. The details vary from group to group but the essence remains the same. Rupert and Willow face the serpent of their own weakness and fear, there by seeing them for what they are.
Time: Yule 2001
Personal Observation: Yeash, do one little fic for Samhain and it just starts to grow. This is the second in what I'm calling my Sabbath series, for obvious reasons. A third and onwards depends on how long it takes people to get sick of the format and how much time I have. Hopefully intra tradition differences won't piss too many people off.
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 people's 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 all who keep the fire through this dark night. And a special mention for my Bata reader MeriBeth who did a bang up job as always.
"What was I supposed to do?" Willow whispered to Rupert who had pulled her into his kitchen.
"You could have just said you bloody well weren't interested!" whispered Rupert in reply.
"Oh right. Um... Buffy, I'm very flattered you want me to be your first woman and yes well I have dated girls in the past. I'm just not interested in you. Like, she just got dumped by Toney. I don't think she needs to be dumped by her best friend too."
"You're not thinking of...?" Rupert's voice held a real fear and his face looked hurt. Willow gazed into his eyes understanding his fears because she had them herself, but knowing a truth that she wished she could make him believe.
"Rupert, I have who I want, and what I want. You don't have to worry about any other person," she stressed the last word. "Buffy is hurt though, and all I could think of was to tell her I was dating someone from the lodge."
"It's true, as far as it goes."
"You betcha there mister, but then she insisted I bring her to a circle to meet them. I was really hoping Stan would say no when I called and asked him, but you know what he's like."
"Any friend of yours is a friend of mine." Rupert's eyes glanced to be sure the shutters were closed then he pulled Willow into his embrace and kissed her. "I love you, Willow Rosenberg. You have the largest heart I have ever encountered."
"And I love you, Rupert Giles. I wish we could just tell them."
"We could," observed Rupert but there was doubt in his voice.
"Oh like yea. I can just hear Xander wise cracking about my taste for verity and your age. Buffy would go ballistic, she acts like she owns you half the time."
"Since Riley joined the peace corps I have been the only stable male influence in her life."
Willow snuggled into his chest keeping an eye on the door. "True, Barry was a complete jerk and Frank, well he was more interested in Buffy's clothes than he was in her. Goddess it was weird watching the two of them primp for a date. I'll say this much, he had nice legs and those stilettos really set them off."
"Not my type. I like a man to be a man. Like you."
"What happened with Toney?" Rupert pulled Willow close and kissed the top of her head while keeping an ear open for Buffy's approach."
"Same as with Riley. He got tired of being told how to breath. She is so bossy."
"To say the..." The door creaked and the two lovers leapt apart and tried to look nonchalant.
"Hey guys, what's the what. I go to the bathroom and when I come out it's like the place is deserted?" Buffy stepped into the room.
"I was tidying up the kitchen and Willow came to keep me company." Rupert flushed and shifted nervously.
"Oh. So I'm going to meet Willow's mystery man. Or is it a..." continued Buffy who pulled a chair around and sat.
"It's a man," said Willow emphatically.
Buffy sighed and looked dejected. "It's so not fair that you already know him and I don't." She looked at Rupert.
"Yes... well... we had best be off. Stanley does not believe in Pagan standard time."
"What?" asked Buffy.
"Set your watch two hours slow." Willow led the way out of the kitchen.
Rupert stood between his Slayer and the woman he loved in the line waiting to enter the circle. The suburban basement was lit only by flickering candles and a circle of carpet, nine feet across, had been laid out on the floor. The furniture had been pushed against the walls to make room for the ritual and an alter stood in the circle's eastern quarter. An oddly shaped thing was under a black cloth in the middle of the circle. The Priest, a muscular man of middle years carrying a few extra pounds, stood before the alter. He was dressed in a white robe, like the rest of the lodge members, belted with a gold sash.
The Priestess was a graceful woman of maybe twenty, with a slender athletic build and long golden blond hair. She stood beside the Priest before the alter mixing the contents of a small bowl. Her sash was Turquoise.
A third figure, a young woman with long red hair, stood with them holding several sheets of computer paper that had been stapled together. The Priest and Priestess glanced at the paper and murmured something to each other.
A slender athletic man wearing a jackal mask stood at the head of the line carrying a heavy wooden staff. His sash was black. The remainder of the congregation waited silently.
"What should I do?" whispered Buffy.
Rupert rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Look at the person to your right and do what they do. Most here have attended circle before, so it is a good rule of thumb for not making a fool of your self."
The three from the alter moved to the south eastern quadrant where an umbrella stand containing short shafts of wood had been left on the floor. The Priest nodded at the man in the jackal mask who thumped his staff on the floor three times calling for the congregation's attention. "Stand ready to enter the sacred realm between the worlds. Come forward freely and of your own accord, knowing that which you would be rid of and that which you would see grow." The masked man moved to stand beside the umbrella stand and motioned the first person into the ring.
"What shul..." began Buffy.
"Shhhh..." hissed Rupert.
The man in the mask lifted a small pointed wooden spear from the umbrella stand and placed it in the first parishioner's hand.
The Priest began to chant. "Khepera, Ra, Atum, Auf. Khepera, Ra, Atum, Auf." The congregation picked up the chant. Two ahead of Buffy in the line a dark haired plump woman, wearing a dark blue sash, accepted her spear and stepped into the circle. The Priest bowed to her and greeted her with a kiss. "Welcome Aset's daughter." he spoke.
She smiled and touched his cheek.
The man in front of Buffy, who wore a violet sash, moved to stand before the Priestess who dipped her finger into the bowl she'd been mixing and touched his brow saying. "Blessed be thee on this night of trial and triumph, son of Path."
Buffy moved in front of the Priest. He held a small copper bowl of oil in his left hand. He stared a Buffy and smiled warmly as he dipped his finger and brought the oil to her brow. "Blessed be thee on this night of Trial and Triumph."
Buffy moved on as Rupert moved before the Priestess. For the first time Buffy noticed that his sash was purple. The Priestess traced a pattern on his brow. "Blessed be thee on this night of trial and triumph, son of Thoth."
Willow moved before the Priest. Who anointed her brow. "Blessed be thee on this night of trial and triumph, daughter of Isis."
Buffy brought her hand to her brow. The oil was slightly warm and smelt of cinnamon and other things. Rupert nudged her and she moved to stand at a place on the circle's edge. She glanced over and saw Rupert shift his spear into his left hand and unobtrusively take Willow's hand in his own. Buffy's eyes grew wide and her thoughts raced but she kept still.
Willow watched as the last parishioner entered the circle. the man in the jackal mask took a position near the circle's east. The high Priest moved to the alter and picked up the crook and flail. Willow smiled, three months ago she had found it odd that they used these instead of Athame and Wand, now it came so naturally to her that she and Rupert were making a set of Egyptian tools themselves.
The Priest crossed the tools and paced the circle's outer edge speaking. "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."
Willow felt the energy tingle along her spine when he passed behind her. 'Ra is with him tonight.' She thought as the tingle changed to a warm, almost erotic, rush. She looked up at Rupert and he was smiling at her. Only a glint in his eye spoke to the power's effect on him and she wondered if they could sneak off after the ritual without Buffy finding out. Pleasant thoughts clouded her mind and she missed the fist two quarter calls. She brought her attention back to the circle and focused on the Priest.
He stood in the west of the circle holding 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 airy realm, oh citizens of Quebhsnuf 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 mystic tools.
Willow felt the air energy rush around the circle. Rupert's hand tingled in her own as the energy of intellect accepted them both as kindred spirits.
Rupert felt Willow squeeze his hand. Just being like this, hand in hand, knowing she had chosen him. Jenny's Calender's spirit had guided them together last Samhain and she had been so right. He loved Willow and only wished he could shout it from the rooftops. He gave her hand a little squeeze, hoping the gesture could give her a glimpse into his heart.
The Priestess had moved to face the north 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 earthy realm, oh citizens of Hapi, to hold this circle proof against all malignant influences, and aid us in our rights this night." She bowed and passed the crook and flail to the Priest who returned them to the alter. The red-haired woman knelt just in front of the cloth shrouded lump in the circle and held the papers up where the Priest and Priestess could easily see them.
The Priest and Priestess turned to face the congregation.
"Tonight is the night of trial and triumph. In the dawn of time Atum rose from the folds of Nun and having no place to stand called forth Ben Ben, the first land." Began the Priest.
"And standing on Ben Ben he did bring forth Shu and Tefnut, his first children, and from these three did all things come." Continued the Priestess.
The Priest picked up the story. "But nothing can come from nothing and thus Atum to bring forth creation had to instill it with his own power, thus he descended and became Ra. Ra who is Khepera, youthful and strong, in the morning."
The Priestess spoke. "Ra who is Ra, a man full come into his vigor and strength, at the noon."
The Priest continued. "Ra who is Atum, aged and weary, in the Eve."
The Priestess. "Ra who is Auf, lord of the Nile that crosses the lands of the dead, at night."
Willow looked at Rupert. She'd hadn't been born when he was young and she knew he wouldn't stay forty five for ever. She tried to picture him older. His hair fully gray, his skin wrinkled. A little smile touched her lips. It didn't matter, it was the fire that burned inside him she loved. The mind that could challenge hers. His heart that in its quiet way loved with a devotion that could move mountains. Mostly she knew that she was chief among the things he did love. She only wished she could tell the world and set his fears to rest.
The Priest picked up the narrative. "Thus we come to the trial. For in the land of the dead there exist vicious serpents. The mightiest and most dangerous of these is Apophis. Ra when the year is young and his vigor great has no trouble vanquishing this beast, but as the year ages so does he. Fortunately at these times he is not alone."
The Priestess continued. "Ra's daughter through many mothers Bast joins him in his trials. The lady of all cat kind, the goddess of dance and grace, the healer of hearts and minds journeys with her great ancestor on the Mesektet barge through the twelve provinces of the night and aids him in defeating the evil Apophis who waits before the gates of dawn."
The Priest picked up some bayberry incenses sitting in a copper bole on the alter and through it onto the burner. A cloud of sharp smelling smoke lifted into the air. "Thus this night we call great Ra and Lady Bast and offer our Yule fires as places of refuge and sources of strength for them in this time of trial.
Closing his eyes the Priest inhaled.
Buffy watched and felt a tremor run up her spine. She'd been around Willow and Giles when they did magic but this was different. She looked at Giles and it was like she saw him for the first time. The candle light hid the lines that age had granted him and softened his features. She saw him as once he must have been. 'God he is gorgeous. I mean... Oh god Buffy how could you miss it?' She thought. Her eyes strayed to where his hand still gripped Willow's and she looked into Willow's face. Willow smiled and the glow that came from her was more than the candle light could account for. 'She... he... Oh God, gotta think. Can't start screaming in front of all these people. They have to be crazy. Ewww. Though he is kinda sexy in an over the hill way. Buffy!'
The Priest faced the east and raised his hands palms open above his head. "Great Ra, father of all. He who is Khepera in the morning, Ra at the noon, Atum at evening, and Auf through the night. He who lives for millions of millions of years. He who is the source of all energy. I invoke thee here to our circle on this thy night of trial and triumph and offer myself as vessel unto thee. Hail and Welcome." The Priest lowered his arms and turned to face the Priestess.
The Priestess said "Welcome great father." she bowed her head.
Ra reached out and cupped the young woman's cheek.
Willow sighed as she watched the Priestess lift her eyes to stare at the Priest. 'Stan always hits it with Ra, of course their both father archetype, like father like son, I guess.' She looked at Rupert. 'Do I want a father or a lover. What is he to me. He's so much older but...' She remembered the night before. It had started as a simple back rub but then the warmth of his strong hands needing her flesh. The feel of his body touching hers. She felt a tremor run through her. 'I don't need no stinking daddy. If I'm looking for a father I am one sick girl!' She smiled.
The Priestess held her arms out from her sides and spoke. "Great Bast I do invoke thee and offer myself as vessel unto thee. Be with us graceful leaping lady. Goddess of all cat kind. Healer, dancer, maiden, mother. Shining soft footed one come be with us on this your night of Trial and Triumph. Hail and Welcome."
"You may now sit," said the Priest and the congregation settled onto the cushions set on the floor.
Rupert gazed at the Priestess who seemed to glow. Her motions became like liquid silver flowing. She unconsciously settled her shoulders and Rupert almost groaned with the sensuality of the motion. 'Gods and Goddesses all, man. Bad enough you're with one woman half your age.' He looked at Willow and a warmth welled up in his heart. 'No, old man, not half your age. You're with a woman who can challenge you and who you love. It wouldn't matter if she were fifty and you twenty, you'd love her. I only hope I am enough. Bad enough having to worry that some younger man might take her but having to worry about women as well. How can I give her everything she wants when I can't be both for her?' Rupert's brow furrowed. At that moment Willow looked up and their eyes met. In those jade pools he saw his answers. They spoke more loudly than her words could ever do. "You are enough, I love you." Rupert smiled and returned his attention to the Priest and Priestess.
The Priest had taken a staff from beside the alter and leaned heavily upon it. A red gold cloak with a hood had been taken from beneath the alter and draped over him hiding his face. Between the stooped posture and a quality in his voice he gave the illusion of great age. "I am Ra who it Atum. I am the sun but I am aged. The western horizon beckons but will I rise again?"
The Priestess moved to his side and took his arm as if helping an elder to walk. "I am Bast, come great ancestor let me aid you on this night of darkness."
"Your aid is welcome but so is that of others. Head me my tears, Mortal children of my creation, this night I need thy strength. You each hold a weapon. As the Duat hours pass I call on thee to charge it. Choose that which has hindered thee, that which has kept thee from Joy and contentment and let it enter into the spear you hold. Let these things that have so wounded thee become a spear against Apophis, a force against its evil. Let them flow into the spear and when the time is right strike with them, leaving them in the serpent that they might burn and die with the rising sun."
Slowly the Priestess escorted the Priest to the north of the circle.
"I am Auf, Pray Khepera will rise again!" called the Priest. He began to chant as he slowly walked around the circle. "Khepera, Ra, Atum, Auf."
The Priestess walked just behind him chanting slowly and steadily. "Bast, Bast."
Willow sat holding the spear in both hands. In her mind she saw her doubt and fear as slimy liquid shades of red and gray. They flowed towards the wooden shaft, entering it. Leaving her. Her heart cleared and she felt peace fill her. The Priesthood chanting soothed her even as it drew power to the circle and she let the magic take her.
"What am I suppose to do?" hissed Buffy. She felt angry and hurt. How could Willow be with Giles. The betrayal. It was worse than when she'd taken up with the wimp bitch. Giles was ancient and he was hers. 'Eww not like that...' she corrected herself but she felt a little pang deep inside still the same.
"Picture the thing you want to get rid of as a colour and see it flow out of you into the spear," whispered Giles.
'What do I need to be rid of? I don't have any problems except everyone around me's a jerk.' thought Buffy.
The Ra chant stopped and Buffy opened her eyes. The Priest stood in front of her and he brought his face to within inches of hers.
"Such a scowl. So much red in your aura. This is not the place for your battle rage, daughter of Horus. Release it and see clearly that there is more to be seen." Straightening the Priest restarted his chant and continued around the circle.
'Ok mister I'm the big bright magic guy, fine!' Buffy pictured her anger as a red light filling her and started stuffing it into the toy spear she held.
Rupert saw his doubts and fears flow into the spear. What people would say how, he could protect his love, the price society might demand, these all flowed into the shaft of wood. He sat between the two people he loved most in the world.
Buffy was his daughter, no matter the ties of blood or name and Willow his... 'Wife,' he thought and knew that it was true. In every meaningful sense of the word they had crossed the boundary between dating and that deeper commitment that is a marriage. All that remained was to formalize it. He felt fear rise at the thought and he pushed it into the spear. He became aware of something that dangled pinned to the inside of his sleeve. He had only half thought to bring it into play this night but now. 'Maybe.' he thought.
"He comes. The gates of day are near but the serpent awaits." The Priest's voice boomed through the circle and all eyes opened. The Priest and Priestess stood in the north east of the circle and each had dawned a cloak of midnight black and wore a cat mask.
With a great roar the cloaked object in the circle's centre rose. The material was thrown back. For a second, in the half light, it looked like a huge cobra, then it became plain that it was a man wearing a paper mache costume. "Auf no new day shall be thine. Khepera falls this night." bellowed the man in the snake costume.
"Fall, Apophis." Ra moved to grapple the beast.
Buffy watched the show. The stick in her hands was hot to the touch but she felt oddly cleansed. She looked at Rupert and Willow. Once more their hands were clasped. 'They do have a lot in common. Maybe I can't make everything happen the way I want it to. It is trading up from the Wimp Bitch and well. Oh nice move."
In the circle's centre Bast closed on the serpent that held Ra pinned and kicked it, caving in the paper-mashay. Apophis reared up, releasing Ra who drove his fist into one of the serpent's eye.
Bellowing the man in the costume pulled loose a slip knot in the cord that secured it about his head and threw the costume into the air, them leapt to stand by the alter.
"Strike now oh tears of Ra. Let thy pain and disappointment be as spears against my foe. Let all that had bound you bind the evil serpent. Know you give to him all that is your pain. Strike!" called the Priest.
"With a almost banshee like howl the lodge members rushed forward driving their small spears into the paper-mache costume.
Buffy watched as the group attacked the artificial snake. There was something almost feral as if in the people's minds the snake was the source of their woes and pains. Buffy rushed forward and joined the group. She drove her spear home then again, a strange elation took her. It was so similar to what she felt when slaying it was almost scary.
'I understand. These people don't get to slay. They have to keep it bottled up. This lets it out.' she thought and she smiled to see Willow violently drive the wooden shaft into the model screaming with out a shred of self consciousness.
One by one the wooden spears snapped off in the snake. Many parishioners beat at the thing with fists and feet when their spears broke releasing every shred of rage and frustration within them. Finally the last person returned to their cushion, leaving a tattered pile of mutilated paper and broken sticks in the middle of the circle.
"Apophis is fallen, Hail Khepera." cried the man in the jackal mask.
"Apophis is fallen, Hail Khepera." echoed the group.
The Priestess started chanting the words. "Apophis is fallen, Hail Khepera." Soon the lodge joined in. When the chant was going well. The Priestess moved to the Priest and lifted the black cloak from his shoulders and pulling a bright yellow cloak from under the alter draped him in it before leading him to stand before the alter in the east.
"Hail Khepera!" shouted the Priest.
The congregation echoed him then fell silent.
"We have bound the serpent with darkness, now is the time of light. Anubis as though art the guide and messenger I call thee to thine duty," said Khepera who stood proud and erect before the alter.
"Great ancestor," agreed the man in the jackal mask. He picked up a golden coloured paper disk and started around the circle pausing at each person to pass them a small piece of paper and a felt tip marker.
"Now my power will increase through to the summer solstice. Now is the time for growth. Each of thee mark upon these papers that which you would have increase. Know that as my power grows so shall the thing you here set down." The Priest smiled benignly as he spoke.
Willow accepted the bit of paper knowing already what she wanted. She poised the maker and wrote. Rupert and I in love and trust. She closed her eyes and began focusing her power towards the goal.
Rupert accepted the bit of paper knowing already what he wanted. He poised the maker and wrote. Willow and I in love and trust. He closed his eyes and began focusing his power towards the goal.
Buffy accepted the paper and stared at it. 'I thought I knew what to write. Willow said it was like a wish and I really want someone but..." Buffy stared at the blank paper then slowly brought the felt tip to its surface. "Understanding." she wrote and hoped it was clear enough.
Several minutes passed before Anubis collected the papers placing each into the gold coloured paper disk which he passed to Khepera.
"All here written shall know increase and bear fruit. Blessings on us all. Apophis is fallen, Khepera is reborn!"
"Rise Khepera bringing light to the skies," called the Priestess.
Thanking the gods, dismissing the elements and opening the circle took only minutes. Then the Priest took the hand of the dark haired woman he'd kissed when she entered the circle and led them all up the stares to the living room, dining room of a well appointed middle class house.
Willow held Rupert's hand and they approached Buffy who stood talking to the Anubis priest. He'd removed his mask revealing that he was a handsome man, somewhere in his early twenties.
"Buff, we... well err... um..." Began Willow who then looked at Rupert beseechingly.
"I believe what Willow is trying to say is well, yes..." Rupert fumbled with his glasses and reached for a handkerchief. Finding that his robe lacked a breast pocket he settled for cleaning them with the end of his sash.
"So, Will, you were going to introduce me to your new boyfriend," said Buffy.
"Well err that is well ummm," Willow looked sheepish.
Buffy smiled. "He's cute, in a kinda forty something way. And I hear he's really smart but could use some lessons in the cool department."
"Buffy!" gasped Rupert.
Buffy grabbed both her dearest friends and pulled them into a three way hug. "I love you guys. Be happy. And, Will, I think I'm sticking with the Y. Peter here just broke up with his girlfriend."
The Anubis Priest smiled as Buffy broke the hug and moved back to his side.
"Everyone it's time," called Stan.
"What's happening?" asked Buffy. She once more stood with Willow and Rupert as the Priesthood stood by the house's back door and motioned all to follow them out.
"The end of the ritual." Rupert led them into the large back yard.
A steal tray had been set up in the middle of the yard and the tattered remains of the Apophis serpent costume and spears sat upon it.
The Priestess of Bast carried a candle lantern.
"Apophis must fall that Khepera may rise bringing light to the skies," called the Ra priest as he lit a taper from the candle lantern and set the end against the piled scrap. It kindled and roared into flame, sending black smoke into the lighting sky.
"All that bound the beast is destroyed. Be free of it and the pain it brought," ordered the Priestess.
"Neat," commented Buffy.
"How do you want to tell Xander?" asked Willow.
"Perhaps we could explain it to him when he asks about the ring," said Rupert.
At that moment the sun crested the horizon and the Ra priest lifted the gold disk full of wishes.
"As was promised shall be done. Increase these things with the strengthening sun." Taking another taper he lit the disk and it flamed up. He dropped it into a mettle bucket filled with scraps of paper and wood shavings. It caught and heat shimmered into the morning air as it burnt.
"What ring?" demanded Willow.
Rupert smiled and reaching into the sleeve of his robe, unclipped a safety pin, and extracted a small diamond band. "The one I wasn't sure I would have the courage to ask you to wear, so I kept secret."
Willow's jaw fell open.
Rupert dropped to one knee. "Willow Rosenberg will you be my wife."
Willow just stood open mouthed.
"Go on, take it," urged Buffy.
"A er ii oo uu." Willow made vowel sounds as she slowly lifted her left hand and held it out to Rupert. He slipped the ring into place then standing took her in his arms and kissed her thoroughly. The congregation cheered and clapped and Buffy smiled along with the rest of the group. Yule's magic of renewal had done its work.
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