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Archive for December, 2017

The Prince Of Swords

The Prince of Swords is related to other cards in the Tarot. He contains the essential elements of the Tarot Trump cards JUSTICE, DEATH, THE DEVIL and THE TOWER. The Prince is also related to the THREE of SWORDS, THREE of CUPS, FOUR of SWORDS, and FIVE of SWORDS.

His Element is AIR and mental energies. He is a very smart person that can’t find a socially acceptable way to use his talents and gifts. He seems to constantly be getting into trouble with the authorities. His efforts meet resistance and are blocked in all directions.

He is a very bitter person that doesn’t want anything to do with any one else. Retreating inside himself, he rejects others in bitterness and anger and wants to be alone with his pain. He has a terrible temper and reacts violently as he battles against the forces of society that would invade his privacy. He is a reactionary and is responsible for some of the public upheaval and revolutionary forces within society. His extreme views don’t make him a warm and fuzzy person to be around.

He can’t seem to advance in life despite all efforts. This often leads to depression, apathy and inactivity. He is extremely honest and won’t sell out to get ahead. As a result he won’t play the game and gets stuck where he is at. All in all he is a diamond in the rough and has many good qualities once you get to know him.

The Prince of Swords is a spiritual person and remains true to his inner conscience. He has been “born again” and identifies more with his immortal “soul ” than with his physical body. He has purified his inner nature until it is bright and shiny. He is more than a physical body. He has a very strong sense of self and knows who he is. His ego is very strong and stable.

He is also very aware of the physical life around him. He has a strong bond to plants and animals and has a cellular or organic type of awareness that allows him to instinctively understand these types of life. It is a constant struggle for him to maintain the essential elements of life, food, shelter, and clothing. These things are always a concern and never far from his thoughts. As a result life takes it’s toll from him and he often appears older than he really is.

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Evil can’t withstand the light and so much evil has been buried within the swamp that is Washington DC. It begins to appear that the swamp consists of about ten people within the FBI, DoJ, CIA and congress on both sides of the aisle. The thing is that these people have been identified within the investigations themselves and the only thing needed is finding the proof to cement the guilt. Day by day it is happening. It is known what happened, it just needs to be proved. Have you noticed there is not much leaking going on anymore anywhere? The leakers have been caught and strictly warned. They know their heads are on the line.

Mueller’s investigation has gone from trying to find proof of collusion with Russia to trying to find any dirt on anyone in the hopes of having bargaining chips to lessen the legal consequences that members of the swamp must now face. But the Trump administration won’t bargain! They’ve got the finest lawyers in the world and don’t need to bargain.

The swamp is in so far over their heads that they will never see daylight! Things have now reached the point where both Republicans and Democrats will move in unison to remove the corruption. The Main Street Media is beginning to open its eyes and purge its ranks as well. This will become clearly evident by the spring equinox!

Getting caught up in conflict is political suicide and opposition politics is doomed from the start. As we look back over the past year we can ask the question, “Has Trump been hurt by any of this?” The answer is a resounding “No!”

Have others been hurt over this past year? Only those that have deserved it, and this will continue until the last predator and swamp thing is exposed.

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The Queen Of Swords

The Queen of Swords is related to other cards in the Tarot. She contains the essential elements of JUSTICE, THE HANGED MAN, DEATH , THE DEVIL and THE TOWER.

The Queen is also related to the THREE of SWORDS, THREE of PENTACLES, FOUR of SWORDS, and FIVE of SWORDS. Her Element is AIR.

The Queen of Swords has learned not to take things too seriously and takes her life experiences and others with a grain of salt. As a result she is not hurt easily by the actions of others. She has built a protective boundary or reserve around herself that keeps others out. She can reach out to them when she wishes but they are held at a distance. She is strongly active on the astral planes and can perceive them without distortion.

The Queen can take a lot of public criticism and puts tremendous time and energy into public or social causes and is recognized as a social reformer. She has a strong awareness of the need to balance spiritual things and still live in a physical body. Physical needs must also be met in life. Spiritual goals must be realistic and attainable. She has a message and a mission of needed social change.

She is acutely aware of the “dark” side of her nature and has experienced much emotional pain in her life. Her acceptance of her dark side helps her to relate to others in a more humane way. She can empathize with others and feel their pain as well as her own emotional pain. This makes her a natural spokesperson for others.

She is able to use her personal experiences as a catalyst to help others and influence society. She is extremely adaptable to new conditions and will try anything if it will further her personal cause. She is able to find a way around any obstacles to her plans and get the things she wants. Her pain fuels her cause. Perhaps she has lost a child in a car accident or been the victim of violence. Her strength gives others strength to cope with similar issues.

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Chapter 27

He had left her in the darkness to meditate. Now he was coming back with her torch and her black clothing. Gruffly he told her to put the 2nd degree clothing on. She turned her back and stripped. He was watching her naked body. The bruises were healing and he wanted her. Slowly she turned around and faced him. Her long red hair framed her breasts. She looked beautiful to him. He reached toward her and they clung together kissing as her body pressed against his. His lips seeking hers desperately as hers were seeking his. His hands were feeling her body and her scent was wonderful. They stopped and looked at each other.

“This isn’t in the script!” Tobal quipped.

She smiled and began putting on her 2nd degree clothing. Then they went together toward the main circle for the initiation. Things went well until Becca found herself surrounded by the six menacing darkly hooded figures she was told she needed to fight. Tobal thought he went crazy at times during battle but Becca was scary. With a scream of rage that shook him to his core he watched as she mowed the six figures down like so much grass. She was obviously an advanced martial artist with an axe to grind and she wasn’t holding anything back.

The first two got broken ribs before they knew what hit them. The first fell from a savage front kick that broke through his guard. In a smooth fluid motion a spinning side kick disabled the second. The third was reaching for her and got a dislocated shoulder as he was thrown into a fourth that wisely stayed on the ground. A spinning backfist was already on it’s way to number five and number six had his jaw broken with a deadly kick square to the face. It was all over in less than two minutes and the only sounds in the cavern were the moans of the injured.

Slowly sanity came back and Becca dropped on her knees to the floor sobbing hysterically. Tobal dropped down beside her and put his arms around her trying to comfort her. Then he gently helped her up and led her out of the circle and into a quiet corner where they just sat together in silence. He squeezed her hand as the medics took five of the six out of the cave to get medical attention. She started crying again and he didn’t know what else to do except hold her tightly against his chest. Gradually she relaxed and fell asleep in his arms.

The circle had been disrupted and several members milled around arguing with each other. Several red cloaked figured appeared and one approached them in the darkened corner. As the figure drew closer Tobal saw that it was Rafe. He put his finger to his lips for silence and indicated that Becca was sleeping. Rafe looked at her thoughtfully, nodded and turned back to the clustered group of medics. There was some kind of heated discussion in which Rafe was obviously taking part. Then several black hooded Journeymen were called into the group and preparations were made to recast the circle and begin Melanie’s initiation.

Becca slept through most of Melanie’s initiation but roused herself as six black hooded figures surrounded Melanie in the center of the circle. Tobal felt her stiffen and he gripped her in support. Glancing at him she relaxed a bit but was still focused intently on what was happening to Melanie. She watched as each figure stood impassively until Melanie tried attacking them. Melanie was fast and dodged several attacks and landed a few of her own but did no real damage. She was also taking a slow beating as one of the hooded figures landed a blow that knocked her to the ground.

Gradually Melanie realized that no one attacked her unless she attacked first. She also realized that only one figure would fight at a time. When she realized this she stopped fighting and just stood silently in the ring with her arms folded and her eyes glaring defiance.

As one the circle began to move and the drums sounded within the cavern and Melanie’s initiation was completed to the sound of cheers and welcome. Then the High Priest raised his hands for silence.

“There is unfinished business in this circle tonight.” He said. “There are two initiates and the second initiation must also be completed and the new initiate welcomed into our group.”

He motioned for Tobal and Becca to come forward.

Becca was hesitant and resisted but continued at Tobal’s reassurance. He took her hand and gently led her into the circle and stopped in front of the High Priest.

The High Priest continued. “ Becca, you were charged with the duty of defeating in combat six other Journeymen before you would be able to advance to the Master degree. The six that you fought tonight were supposed to be symbolic in nature but your victories have been real. You have completed the Journeyman degree but you can not advance into the Master degree until one year has passed. This is the minimum time requirement. All that remains is to give you the blessings of the God and Goddess and of this degree.”

Then raising his hands he turned to the circle and asked loudly. “Does anyone here dispute the claim that Becca has won her six victories and completed the work of this degree?”

There was stunned silence around the circle and then some members started moving widdershins dragging others with them and soon the entire circle was spinning. The drums were beating and people were leaping and laughing, yelling and clapping in approval as the initiation concluded and the wildest party in Tobal’s memory began.

Later he moved over to where Becca and Melanie were talking together. Becca was smiling and he hoped she felt like she was among friends. He gave her a hug and a smile and she hugged him back and kissed him lightly on the lips.

“Thanks for helping me through the initiation.” She said.

His eyes twinkled. “Any time, it’s my duty.”

When Tobal woke the next morning both Melanie and Becca were gone. He had no idea where they had run off to and was slightly disappointed. If they wanted to go off by themselves it was completely up to them. Mumbling a bit to himself he left to go find Jake for some sparring practice. After watching Becca take out those six guys last night he felt he really had a few things to learn.

The End Of Volume I
*************************************************************************************************************

This concludes the first of a three part series. I hope you enjoyed it! Merry Christmas!

Anarchist Knight: Apprentice is the first story I ever tried to write. Unfortunately I was never able to successfully market it. Since writing it I have successfully translated nine books which have been modestly successful and all together I have sold around 2,000 copies of my translations but almost none of my fiction or non-fiction. If you would like me to finish this trilogy please let me know in as many ways as you can!

I’m hoping to get back to this project this coming year (2018) nearly 10 years after setting it aside. It depends upon the interest of readers like you! I have the notes for part 2, but nothing else. It remains a dream that is waiting for its time of fulfillment.

bright blessings,
joe

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There was a hollow sick feeling in the pit of his stomach and he felt like he was going to throw up. He was shaken to his very core by the news and his face turned a pasty gray. He looked for one of the medics to ask for more information and made a beeline in the dark to the nearest red cloaked figure he saw. The medic was busy putting some things in his pack. His back was to Tobal as he walked up.

“Excuse me.” He began. “I need some information.”

“ Rafe!” He shouted.

“Rafe, what about Becca?” He asked urgently. “Is she all right?”

Rafe turned a troubled gaze on him.

“Becca’s pretty bad. Near as we can figure four rogues jumped the two of them with clubs while they were climbing half way up the cliff on a ledge by the waterfall. Becca got taken by surprise at the top. They grabbed her and were holding her down and tearing her clothes off. She was fighting back when she was knocked unconscious. Melanie managed to slice one of them pretty bad with a blade before being pushed over the ledge. Becca was already unconscious when Melanie fell over the ledge. She wasn’t able to help Becca and prevent the beating. She really blames herself for that. She’s lucky she wasn’t hurt in the fall.”

Rafe continued. “ As soon as Becca was unconscious alarms went off on our air sleds and we responded immediately. The rogues left Becca with a couple cracked ribs and took off running when three medics came flying in on air sleds. Tobal, she was raped. ” He looked at Tobal before continuing.

“We felt she might have internal injuries and took her to the city for specialized medical attention. Melanie went along as a witness and to fill out the reports.”

That was all Rafe knew except they were both at sanctuary now and Becca was in stable condition.

“I don’t know who the rogues were. They don’t seem to be anyone that is a part of our camp. But they know about us, that’s for sure. They didn’t wear med-bracelets, so they didn’t show up on our screens.”

“They don’t wear med-bracelets?” Tobal said grimly. “That means they are General Grants’ men.”

“The air sleds showed up suddenly.” Tobal asked violently. “How did the rogues get away?”

“We don’t know yet. That’s our new camp remember.” Rafe continued. “As soon as Becca was knocked unconscious alarms went off on our air sleds. What I can’t believe is that rogues would be so close to our camp.”

“I know where they were climbing.” Tobal said suddenly. “If they were on the ledge they would have been trapped. The only way down was hand and foot holes and the only way up was through a rock chimney. They didn’t run away. The medics let them get away!”

He turned to Rafe in a rage. “The first medics there let them get away. They didn’t have time to climb the rock chimney or go down the cliff to the lake. How could they just vanish like that?”

Rafe turned white as understanding dawned. “It wasn’t our Medics. The rogues were teleported there and out again. They must have a teleporting station set up right there on that ledge. We’ve got to find it and destroy it.”

“What did these rogues look like? What kind of tunics did they wear?” Tobal asked savagely already knowing the answer. “They knew the girls were going to climb the cliff and waited for them on the ledge. The girls were deliberately ambushed!”

“’They were dressed as Journeymen in black tunics.” Rafe told him. “That’s all we know at this time. Ellen’s looking into it further and making a complaint to the City Council.”

There was a lump in his throat and a heavy feeling in his heart. He had left the girls at the lake alone and unprotected. Part of what happened to them was his fault. He had even suggested they go there in the first place. Tobal took up his pack and asked Rafe to give him a ride to sanctuary. The trip was a little over an hour with the air sled. The full moon made night travel fairly easy anyway. It was his first air sled ride but he was too emotional to enjoy it.

As they traveled he wondered about the rogues. Were they really acting under orders from General Grant and did they have the ability to teleport in and out at will? What was so important about the cave under the waterfall? They needed to really check it out before the enemy got to it and took everything. He told Rafe that they needed to check the cave out thoroughly and see what they could find. Rafe agreed and said he and Ellen would look into it immediately on his return. He dropped Tobal off at sanctuary and sped back toward the lake.

Tobal went inside and stopped at the door to let his eyes adjust to the dim light. Melanie saw him and came running with a glad cry.

“Tobal!” She threw her arms around him in a big hug. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

She led him over to the cot where Becca lay and he sank down on his knees by her bed. He reached out for her hands. She smiled weakly at him. Her face was horribly bruised and there was a look in her eyes he didn’t recognize. He didn’t’ know for sure if she really knew who he was. It was like she was looking through him. As he reached to move a strand of hair away from her eyes she flinched away from him.

“Becca, it’s me Tobal!” He implored but her uncomprehending eyes remained the same. She was in shock. Part of her soul was gone somewhere else and he didn’t know how to get it back. He stayed with her and Melanie stayed with her but she remained unreachable. In anguish he grabbed her hand and placed it over the scars on his face.

“Becca, it’s me, remember me! My face. Feel the scars, it’s me, remember!”

She slowly looked at him and tears began to form in her eyes.

“Tobal.”

She softly traced the scars with her fingers. “I’m sorry.” She whispered and her arm dropped back on the cot.

He pulled her hand toward him gripping it hard and trying to bring her nearer. Something broke inside his heart and he cried, violent spasms shaking his body.

“Becca, I love you, I love you. Come back to me.”

Her fingers tightened in his. “I love you too.” She whispered.

Two days passed and Becca seemed to improve but something was still wrong. The rape and beating was still fresh and her experience made her both fearful and angry. She wanted to withdraw at times into her own space and be alone and at times she pushed both Melanie and Tobal away. Other times she needed them close to her.

It was the afternoon on the third day that Llana showed up at sanctuary concerned about what had happened. When Tobal hadn’t showed up for their meeting she had gotten worried and gone looking for him. She checked at the new medic’s base and was told that he was here.

“You’ve got to get Crow.” Tobal told her. “Crow told me that he would be needing to do another soul retrieval. He is the one that is meant to help her.”

“Both Crow and I will help her together.” She told him softly.

A few hours later both Crow and Llana had finished the soul retrieval and done spiritual healing work on Becca. She was sleeping peacefully. Crow, Llana, Melanie and he could not talk openly about things at sanctuary because newbies were there and clansmen were also showing up to get the newbies. Crow and Llana left and said they would talk with him later. Before they left Tobal warned them that the General’s men were teleporting into areas without warning and attacking clansmen.

They stayed at Sanctuary as Becca gradually improved. Both Becca and Melanie were looking forward to their Journeyman initiation and joked about it. The bad food at sanctuary was finally too much and they decided to make a leisurely journey to the caverns.

It had been two weeks and was just before the new moon. Physically Becca was pretty much healed but there were still deep emotional scars that were raw. He could feel the scars keeping them apart. Becca and Melanie were to be initiated into the Journeyman degree. They both felt it would help them to turn their minds away from what had happened. They traveled together and reached the caverns late in the afternoon. As the girls were being prepared for the initiations he joined the tail end of the tournaments.

Since he was late he hadn’t been challenged and was given the opportunity to challenge someone. He didn’t care whether he won or lost, he just needed an outlet for the rage and energy that had been trapped inside him since Becca’s accident. It was making him crazy and he knew he had to get rid of it.

In a burst of anger he challenged the Ox. The Ox had been having it entirely too easy because of his natural strength and size. Nobody ever challenged him and he only challenged weaker and easier victims. He never really had to fight. Tobal needed to fight.

The Ox was surprised and incredulous but also had a wide grin on his face as he contemplated the beating he was going to give Tobal. Lumbering to his feet he swaggered into the circle and nodded at the referee. Tobal was on fire and there was no strategy. He was just going to pound the Ox until the fight was over. It was going to be brutal but he was in much better shape and had learned of few tricks the past months. He had also been practicing daily. He had never seen the Ox bother with any type of training or exercise. The brute seemed to rely exclusively on his own natural ability and strength.

The Ox lunged and Tobal narrowly missed getting caught by those massive arms. As the Ox passed Tobal swung a viscous blow with an elbow that caught the Ox on the side of the head and dazed him. Tobal was not quick enough to take advantage and the Ox turned with a bellow of anger. It turned into a slug fest in which neither one tried to get away but simply stood braced and pounded on each other, trading blows without regard for the punishment they were taking.

Tobal had learned how to brace himself for blows and took several blows to the midsection without buckling. Llana’s training had given him vast endurance and it was the Ox who began to weaken under sustained blows to the head and midsection. He was used to fights that ended quickly and was getting tired. A wicked knee to the groin finally dropped the Ox to his knees and the fight was over. Tobal was battered and bloody but victorious and happy. He had won his second fight.

There was something especially sweet about this fight he thought as he limped out of the circle. He watched as Jake fought his match. There was no doubt about Jake getting better too. But it was not enough for him to win.

As he left the ring and sat down at the edge of the circle his mind again returned to the conversation with Becca that had left his head spinning. He had asked Becca for a better description of her attackers. They had been bearded and hard to describe but she had torn the leader’s tunic off in the struggle. She had seen clearly a tattoo on his chest above his heart. It was a round circle with a male and female holding hands inside the circle. It was the same tattoo he had seen on his uncle as a child.

After the tournaments he washed up and got prepared for Becca’s and Melanie’s initiations. Having two initiations made things go much longer since they each had to be done separately. Becca’s initiation was first and it was almost the last. Tobal was Becca’s guide. He had requested to be her guide and Ellen had approved. He wanted to be close by in case something happened.

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The King of Swords is related to other cards in the Tarot. He contains the essential elements of the Trump cards JUSTICE, DEATH, THE DEVIL and THE TOWER. The King is also related to the THREE of Wands, THREE of SWORDS, FOUR of SWORDS, and FIVE of SWORDS. His Element is AIR and the intellect.

He favors the reddish orange colors and is a champion of all living plant and animal life. He has tremendous magical power and uses it to help other life forms. He is a free and open communicator and has a good relationship with others. He is able to reach out easily and share with them. He is well liked because they can relate to him. People love his easy conversational style.

In spite of this society will not support him and tries to stop him any way it can. There is something about him that society feels is poisonous and must not be allowed to become too powerful. Perhaps it is his independence. The King of Swords has learned to be self-reliant and likes being alone against societal pressure. He is a non conformer. He takes a primitive delight in wearing bright colors and openly defying convention. His strong spiritual power allows him to get away with this. He has an affinity with silver and wears it when he can.

His outlook is very positive and he sees the best things in others as well as in himself. The powers of love and joy are very strong within him and his healing power can overcome all illness and adversity. He feels alive and vibrant and is in love with life.

He is very tough and has an armor that shields him from societal pressures to conform. He is a warrior and will not hesitate to go into battle astrally or physically if needed. He will do what needs to be done even if it is distasteful. If possible he avoids conflict because it is so draining on his vitality.

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Chapter 26

Llana looked at everyone in the firelight. “Are there anymore questions?”

“So I meet you here next month at the same time?” Tobal asked.

“Right.” She said. “ And I will give you the training you will need to train Becca and Melanie.”

That was the end of the meeting and they chatted the rest of the evening sharing what had been going on in each other’s lives. Llana was very concerned about the medics being kicked off the mountain and the decision to build a permanent base at the old original gathering spot. She urged everyone to be careful.

The lake was beautiful and they spent a lot of time skinny dipping in the cold waters of the lake and just lying on the beach in the sun watching the air transports bring workers and supplies to the gathering spot. With so much activity it seemed hard to believe there was any danger in the area.

Melanie seemed like a sister to him and he was deeply in love with Becca. She was hot and their love was passionate. The days passed and before he knew it he had to head back to the cavern for the new moon tournaments. He urged the girls to leave the lake and warned them not to get too close to the waterfall. Two people were a lot more vulnerable than three were and it might not be a good idea to stay in the area. The girls didn’t seem to take his concerns too seriously but suggested they might look up Nikki and see how she was doing with her last newbie. As Tobal left the girls told him they were planning on leaving the next day.

He was looking forward to his first regular meeting as a Journeyman. He found himself in the area a day early and thought he would check the camp out a little more. He was surprised to find several Journeymen already there. They welcomed him warmly.

Unlike circle which was abandoned each month there was always someone at this camp guarding it, hanging around in the caverns, socializing, sparring or doing some type of assigned duty. It was mainly a hangout since the task of Journeyman was to be victorious is six tournament fights. They had a lot of time on their hands.

Staying in the camp was a way to socialize, work out and practice. There was also a hot springs to soak in and that was a luxury for sore and aching muscles. The tournaments were always scheduled early in the day and the initiations were scheduled closer to midnight. That was why Tobal had seen no tournaments on the day of his initiation. One of the caverns had been set aside as a fighting arena. It had soft powdered sand on the floor like beach sand.

There were a few medics wearing red tunics that acted as judges or referees as well as emergency medics in case something went wrong. They took care of the many minor injuries that were common during these fights.

As the newbie of the group it didn’t take long for Tobal to realize how it worked. The referee laid out the ground rules of which there were basically none. Anyone could challenge anyone to a fight. A person could not be challenged any more than one time in a day. However, a person could challenge as many people as they wanted to. It was set up in this way so if a person got beaten badly they would not have to fight again that night. But if they won and felt like it they could challenge someone else.

The fight lasted until one or the other was forced out of the fifteen-foot circle that was marked in the sand or until one of the combatants couldn’t continue.

The oldest members by seniority got the first challenge and the youngest ones got the last challenges if they hadn’t already been challenged. Generally the older members took advantage of the inexperienced members by challenging them.

The first challenge was an old veteran that was burly and bearded. He was not well liked it seemed. He challenged Joy. It was easy to see why the grizzly had chosen Joy. He was almost twice Joy’s size. He clearly expected the match to be over quickly. Joy surprised him by being a lot faster, more elusive and more aggressive than Tobal had realized.

The brute simply couldn’t make contact with Joy and three times went sprawling as Joy tripped him during a rush but he always managed to fall within the rope circle and got back to his feet quickly. Every now and then a wild swing would connect and Joy would stagger. She simply was too light to do much damage to him. Tobal could see she was tiring and wasn’t surprised when a wild arm knocked her to the floor. The brute then sat on her and held her motionless until the referee called time and declared the brute to be the winner.

Joy really had trouble with this degree because of her small size and young age. So far she had only won three fights. The good news was that she was getting much better at fighting and she was also getting larger and stronger as she grew older. She was learning about fighting the hard way, by loosing. Most of the older Journeymen had already challenged Joy and won. They couldn’t challenge her again. That meant gradually Joy was being more evenly matched as she grew in skill. The burly veteran she had just fought was undoubtedly one of the few older ones that hadn’t yet been able to challenge her. The entire thing made Tobal feel slightly sick.

Next up was Ox. Ox smiled maliciously as he challenged Tobal.

“You don’t have a knife to save you this time.” He sneered.

Tobal felt a weak sick feeling in his stomach and realized he was probably in for quite a beating. Ox still held a grudge against Tobal from that time in sanctuary when they had argued over Melanie. Tobal had only saved himself from a beating by instinctively pulling a knife and threatening the Ox with it. This time though no weapons were allowed. It was simply hand to hand warfare with no rules.

Tobal assumed a boxer’s stance and tried a few jabs to no effect. Cautiously they circled the ring looking for an opening. Then the Ox put down his head and charged straight at Tobal. He tried moving out of the way but was caught by a huge hairy arm that turned him around. Next a hammer exploded in the pit of his stomach and solar plexus doubling him up. He felt the bile rise in his throat as all the fight ran out of him. He lay in agony on the cave floor gasping for breath curled up in the fetal position trying to protect his stomach from further damage. Dimly he heard the referee call out time. Tobal had just lost his first match in less than two minutes. His eyes were stinging with tears.

Tobal was surprised when Joy re-challenged the brute from the first fight. It was easy to see there was no such thing as fairness in these matches. Anybody was fair game and the smaller and weaker got picked on more often than the bigger and stronger ones. If you were big and powerful things generally went your way. It didn’t seem right but life was unfair at times and the strong often did win. It was brutal survival of the fittest in it’s most primitive form and wasn’t very pretty.

Tobal tasted blood in his mouth as he sat watching Joy. She handled herself remarkably well this time and it was easy to see she had more stamina than the brute. She found an opening and finished the match by landing a kick solidly in the groin of the brute to the applause of the watching crowd. It was then that Tobal realized he had to be really careful. He had to learn a heck of a lot more about fighting than he knew right now. He also realized Joy was right in fighting after her first defeat. It was the only chance she really had to move ahead and it didn’t cost her anything.

He looked over the unchallenged members of the group carefully. Being a looser he had the opportunity to challenge and in a spark of anger challenged one of the remaining members that hadn’t fought yet. In a burst of fury and lightning movements he had tripped and thrown the person out of the ring over the rope. The referee called the match and Tobal was the winner. In a flash of sportsmanship he went over and helped the other person back to his feet and they started talking together.

“Man, what got into you?” The other person said. “You were like a demon or something. I never even had a chance. It was all over before I knew what was happening.”

“That’s how my fight with Ox went.” He laughed. “I never saw it coming either.”

His name was Jake and soon he and Tobal were hanging out together sparring and learning everything they could from any of the others that were willing to spend some time training with them. Tobal really sucked at fighting and it was good to team up with someone willing to work hard with him. They spent most of the next two weeks sparring every day for hours. They mercilessly drove themselves to the point of exhaustion. It seemed to Tobal that he was always stiff and bruised but when circle finally came he was ready for it and felt that he needed a little break.

While the tournaments were brutal, the initiations were beautiful in their own way. Tobal watched in fascination as the circle was cast widdershins and the pentagram was drawn upside down. He realized the ritual was almost the same as the one used in the Apprentice degree except reversed and backward. As the power was raised, it felt different and had a harder edge to it.

The primal earth energy of the Journeyman degree was much different than the spiritual light energy of the Apprentice degree. It was more visceral and seemed more magickal. The images of the Lord and Lady seemed more real and it was as if they were really there in the circle. He heard their voices urging him to get up and fight after the Ox had slammed him to the ground but had not been able to get back up.

Watching the initiations he saw them beside the candidates after they had given up fighting the six dark hooded figures. His parents kneeled beside the candidate as the circle began to move widdershins and the High Priest and High Priestess bestowed their blessings upon the initiate. Then it seemed as if they merged and flowed into the candidate and disappeared.

Later he asked Ellen about these things and she was interested in what he saw. Apparently he was able to see things even the High Priest and High Priestess had trouble seeing or feeling. More correctly he was seeing and hearing what a High Priest or High Priestess was supposed to be able to see and hear. She was excited about his natural talent and he spoke about some of the exercises and meditations that Crow and Llana had taught him. He didn’t mention his belief that the Lord and Lady were his parents. That would be too much.

There was no requirement for him to go to circle but he always felt it was very important to show up and see how his Apprentice friends were doing and celebrate with them as they trained and soloed their own trainees. Melanie and Becca would be getting their sixth chevrons and he didn’t want to miss that. He was also looking forward to some quiet time with Becca.

He arrived just in time to change into his black robe and take part in the initiation ceremony as a guard. He didn’t have time to look for Becca or talk with any of his friends and none of them showed up during the day to chat. It was mid July and hot. Becca and Melanie usually looked him up at least once during the day and he had a nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach that something was wrong.

He tried not to worry as he and Joy made sure the candidates were properly welcomed into the clan and later prepared for their initiation.

This time he was the one that cut the gray robe and shortened it to become a tunic. He remembered his own Clansman initiation and felt satisfaction as he cut away the fabric of the tunic. It was the first time he had cut a tunic and it was kind of ragged in spots and high. He might have cut the tunic a little short but she was good looking and had nice legs. The shortened tunic looked good on her.

There were eight candidates and later the new clansmen were taken to the sweat lodge for purification and left to meditate. It was a long day and the eight initiations seemed to drag on forever.

After the last initiate was gone he headed toward the circle and noticed that both Melanie’s and Becca’s students had returned from their solos. They were hanging out by the beer barrel but he still didn’t see Melanie or Becca. He walked over to congratulate both of them on their solos and asked where the girls were. The look on both of their faces told him immediately that something was wrong. They were surprised he hadn’t heard. Yesterday rogues had attacked both Melanie and Becca. Becca had been raped and badly beaten. Medics had taken her to sanctuary. Melanie had gone with her to make sure she was all right.

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