Chapter 19

Page 1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ 4 ¦ 5 ¦ 6 ¦ 7 ¦ 8 ¦ 9 ¦ 10 ¦ 11 ¦ 12 ¦ 13 ¦ 14 ¦ 15 ¦ 16 ¦ 17 ¦ 18

In the middle of the Royal Commons stood a huge pile of wood, easily the height of several men. The wood had been collected during the past year from the Commons itself in preparation for the opening MidSummer ceremonies. Athar dismounted and moved like a ghost to the small hill of trunks, boughs and branches. He was dressed in his usual black and his white hair flowed behind him from under his black pointed hat as his equally white beard trailed like tendrils of smoke.

The King's Advisor raised his hands to the sky and implored the gods in a strong, clear voice. Those in the Commons responded as the litany required. When they completed the verbal exchanges, Athar spoke a Word and the wooden mound erupted into a bonfire.

The crowd cheered but then quickly fell silent as ten witches appeared, seemingly from out of the flames. They were an equal number of white and black robes who had travelled to the capital to take part in the celebration. Some had family here while others simply came to enjoy their respite from the isolation of the Towers.

Each of the ten witches took a burning branch from the bonfire and danced through a ritual that depicted the passing of winter to spring and finally to this, the high point of summer. When their retelling reached the aspect of summer, the witches lowered their cowls and discarded their robes. Dressed in tunics with wildflowers in their hair, they were masterful with the branches and moved with fluidity and grace. Through their dancing and chants, the witches wove a magic that encompassed the entire crowd, allowing each person to further understand the reasons surrounding the celebration of this great event and helping them to share in the communal bond with nature.

At the completion of the ritual, Athar led the crowd through a prayer of thanksgiving and then deferred to the King. Since the Valdhon incident, Nherycyn had taken more interest in governing his own kingdom. He had become infuriated that someone had the audacity to disgrace and frame the royal family. Worse, he was now convinced that Rhenycyn was not yet competent enough to take over the burden of ruling.

Previous Page    Next Page