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Today we are going to continue our discussion of the 13th century and courtly love, but we are going to go back in time a little bit to a person by the name of Guilhem in the 11th century, who was the seventh count of Poitiers and the ninth Duke of Aquitaine. He was the most powerful nobleman in Western Christendom and very influential in the development of this entire idea of courtly love which we are exploring.

He fought against the church doctrine that the fires of hell were stoked especially hot for adulterers. He apparently liked his ladies and he wrote love poems. He argued that love was an exultation, not an abasement of the soul. It was not a sordid sin but a divine mystery and the lady who offered that special gift was a goddess to be adored and worshiped.

He basically proclaimed that sexuality elevated the soul and what he was doing was bringing Tantric philosophy into the Western world. This is one of the first appearances of the sacredness of sexuality and it became a favorite theme of scholars, singers and poets.

Now remember this was during the time of the Crusades and the man of the house was gone. The ladies were lonely and they needed some way to spend their time so they wanted to hear love songs that were meaningful to them. And gradually a convention, or a script came into being, which was of a great lady who fell in love. She was loved by a romantic hero of the lower class and this romantic hero struggled to become worthy of her and win her love. In the end he did win her love. That story was repeated over and over and over in many variations through the centuries and it still is today.

It was a couple generations later, in the 12th century that the prerequisites of virtue and chastity were added to this mix. These songs and poems were acted out in the fashionable world of the nobility and they brought courtly love into existence.

It’s just like what happens today when Hollywood creates something and then the general population gets caught up in it and play make-believe acting it all out. That’s what was happening then. But it really caught on! Poets declared that elevating love to the immaculate plane of chastity cleansed their own souls of all carnality and left it free to soar, to lift them up high into the spirit realm.

This was different than the Arab world where a special place was created for women in the harem. But virtue and chastity became the European harem.

The basic story went like this. The heroine was a lady of high and noble birth who was married to a very powerful husband and somehow she was not satisfied. She was missing something in her life, and her lover, who was of a lower stature strove to become worthy of her and finally, at last succeeded in attracting her love. But it had to remain secret. It was a mystery that they both shared and set them apart from other people.

The interesting thing is the power that this theme had among the population because it is still popular today. But back then, the minstrels and the troubadours never sang of consummated love. They only sang of unconsummated love. The chaste love, the kiss, the embrace and modest contact with the nude lover was permitted, but not the final act of consummation.

These are such fascinating things that have metaphysical and Tantric implications. One thing is the love triangle. This is even such a powerful concept that the tarot card of the lovers has three people in it, not just one.

The man has to choose between the angel or the physical woman. There is something in this fantasy of courtly love that satisfied the needs of both the body and the spirit for generations. Even today the love triangle interferes with so many people’s experience of love.

Tantrism teaches about the power in the exchanges of sexual energies and not just about physical sex. An important part of it is talking about chastity, the embrace and the holding back. That’s how the energies develop and strengthen between two people, especially when it’s never allowed to be consummated.

Dion Fortune, the famed occultist, in England talked about the deliberate use of magic by building up those sexual tensions to an electrical point where they were almost unbearable and intolerable. Then they would use those magical energies in a conscious, deliberate way to work magic. This was not sex magic the way it’s commonly thought of. It was actually the tension that was created and not allowed to be consummated.

This tension of sexual energy that’s built up is actually what Tantric teachings are really all about. It is the sharing of these energies on the nonphysical planes, that actually develop the soul. They help to complete a person inside and they allow males and females to become more sexually balanced.

So this idea of courtly love went crazy within the nobility. This was the educated class. This was the higher class and they were tapping into this high form of tantrism even if it was not recognized as such.

But what was happening to the sexuality of the common folk? They were playing the same games, but they were a lot more undisciplined about it and sexuality ran rampant among the common folk. I mean they were just out there having random sex without knowing how powerful it was.

Sexuality was rampant among the entire population and the Church was having a very difficult time with it. It was happening in the monasteries and in the convents. It was happening to the nuns and to the priests and monks.

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“It wasn’t that bad was it?” He whispered to Becca.

She just nodded at him and kissed him. There were some tears in her eyes. He hoped they were tears of happiness. “Everything is all right now though.” She brushed at her eyes.

Melanie gave them both a big hug and kiss and they watched the rest of the show together.

Kevin and Zee had put together a crazy puppet show complete with a small stage. The story was about two Apprentices that partnered up for the winter and fell in love. They proclaimed undying love for each other and then later wore black tunics and fought each other all the time in a bizarre twist on the Journeyman degree until angels came in airsleds and carried them away. The crowd thought it was funny. Tobal wondered where they got the ideas though and asked them as they came off the stage.

Zee joked, “Why from you and Becca of course. Good to see you’ve finally come to your senses.”

Both Kevin and Zee congratulated them and gave them hugs. It seemed that Zee and Kevin were really happy exploring their new relationship and staying warm as possible this winter.

It was Kevin that asked, “So are you two going to partner up for the rest of the winter?”

Becca glanced first at Tobal and then at Melanie. “We are both going to keep training newbies through the winter. Right?” She looked at Tobal expectantly and gave his arm a squeeze.

“Uh, that’s right,” he mumbled. “Got to keep training newbies. We can partner up as Journeymen.” He knew he had given the right answer as Becca brightened and smiled widely.

They turned their attention back to the stage as Sarah sang some beautiful Celtic music she had learned from her father. Her voice and the songs were haunting and left a hush over the crowd. Tobal looked and could see tears in the eyes of some of the listeners. There was definitely love and romance in the air.

Mike and Butch took the stage next and had everyone gasping and rolling on the floor at their stand up comic routine. They were natural clowns and comedians and loved to entertain people. They concluded their act to wild applause and a break for dinner. As people broke for dinner a line formed to congratulate Mike and Butch. It seemed they had really made a hit.

Sarah came over and they all gave her a big hug and told her how beautiful her songs were. The six of them left to get some food and drink. Later they met with others and headed back to watch more of the talent show. The remainder of the evening was a lot of fun even though Tobal didn’t know many of the performers. It was almost as fun watching the antics of the audience and chatting with friends.

Mike and Butch showed up after dinner in high spirits and were looking to have some fun with the girls. Their comedy routine had made them very popular and like celebrities they were surrounded with groupies. They were party animals and liked to play with the girls at circle where it was fun and light. There were lots of girls that liked fun too and Tobal guessed neither Mike nor Butch would be sleeping alone tonight.

Becca noticed his jet and amber necklace and asked about it. He suggested they go back to the teepee where they could talk. They helped each other undress and slid into the blankets to keep warm. It was about an hour later when Becca reminded him about the necklace.

Slowly he told her the story from the beginning and showed her the necklace, the hospital bands, the ceremonial dagger and the wand. She was quiet and didn’t say very much after that.

They made love once more and fell asleep. In the morning they both agreed the sweat hut sounded like a good idea. They laughed as they sat in the steam and told stories as the sweat ran off them. They dared each other to run outside and roll in the snow and run back in. To the amazement of several onlookers they were both crazy enough to do it although their hair was frozen all most immediately once they made it out side. Once was enough and the next trip was to get their clothes. It was refreshing and did put them in a good mood.

Becca made up her mind to take the stage at the talent show. She was a surprising gymnast and did some cart wheels, head stands and hand springs that showed just how good of shape she was really in. She topped it off with a back flip that brought cheers.

Then it was Tobal’s turn. In desperation Tobal painted his face and did a pantomime routine about claiming sanctuary, how bad the food and water were how it took his things and did the med exam. He pantomimed all of it down to taking a shower without clothing much to the hoots and laughter of the crowd after they finally realized what he was doing. The newbies especially thought it was funny and everyone had a good laugh out of it. Later people came up and said how they had enjoyed it.

Next on the stage were Nick and Tara. Tara had gotten Nick as drummer and did a strip dance for the entire group to enthusiastic applause.

Tobal and Becca talked with them after the show. Nick and Tara looked happy together. They had settled for the winter at her base camp and Nick had done lots of heavy work getting things ready for the winter. Tara boasted they even had enough firewood already cut to last through the winter. Nick had made stone axes for both of them and they had worked at it till it was all done.

Nick flushed at the praise but there was a quiet glow of acceptance in knowing he had earned it. Tobal realized Nick had matured a lot in just the few months since he had worked with him and known him. Sometimes relationships did that to a person. Nick had shown his stone axes at the talent show earlier.

The celebration was not all fun and games though. The Ox showed up for the Yule party, he had two chevrons and was boasting about beating Rafe, which almost got him into a fight there. Rafe was well liked and no one likes a bully, especially one that rubs things in. After a bit he stuck with some of the rowdier Journeymen and concentrated on getting drunk.

Drunken Journeymen brought their own share of problems into the camp. That week the entire camp went through the emergency beer supply and ran out. Tobal thought that might be one of the reasons people started the cold journeys back to their own base camps by the end of the fourth day.

Nikki was planning to try for another newbie. She was determined to at least try training in the winter time and see if it suited her or not. She really didn’t look forward to spending the entire winter partnering with anyone and was trying to avoid it if she could. She liked both training and the solitude of being alone at times.

She already had two chevrons and was tied with Becca and Melanie. Having a little fun at the parties once a month was just fine for her. She wanted to be a citizen and didn’t want to waste precious months and years camping out in the woods like Wayne and Char. Tobal had noticed Nikki really seemed to not like Wayne and Char for some reason and couldn’t figure out why.

Melanie and Becca were competitive enough that they hated the thought of Nikki advancing ahead of them and someone needed to train this month’s newbies. All three girls tried talking him into going to sanctuary with them but he really felt like he needed a break. There had been too much happening and he needed some time to sort things out, especially about Becca and himself.

Late January was bitter with sub-zero temperatures. There were several cases of frostbite that needed tending at the gathering spot and the medics made a point to question everyone if they needed to be treated. Frostbite if not treated could lead to infection and the loss of a limb.

Sarah proclaimed her newbie, Ben as ready to solo. There were two others willing to solo and the elders grudgingly gave their approval after issuing strict warnings about the dangers of these extreme temperatures. Each soloist had two weeks supply of food they had prepared ahead of time and warm clothing. They felt they were ready.

Four more people had gone. They just packed up and headed west toward the coast. The medics kept track of them until they were out of range. The winter months were the ones when they lost the most people even though it was the most dangerous time of year for travel.

That month not many showed up at circle. Zee and Kevin continued staying together and didn’t show up at circle. Neither did Wayne or his soloed student. Tobal suspected they were waiting out the winter together. Char and her partner didn’t come either and it was probably because of the bitter cold this time of year. Tara and Nick were not there either. Those were just clansmen Tobal had hoped to see but didn’t.

Mike and Butch showed up in high spirits and looking to have some fun with the girls like last month. They were hoping for a little casual sex with no strings attached. Just something to release the tension of cabin fever that started to grow this time of year. Last months’ week long celebration had given the two eternal optimists much encouragement and they hoped to push their luck again. The trouble was no matter how much they tried none of the girls seemed interested.

Crow was back and talking with the others when Tobal got there. They all looked as he came over. Becca slipped into his arms and gave him a passionate kiss.

“Everyone knows,” she whispered in his ear.

“Knows what?” He said with a grin. Teasing one of her stray hairs back in place.

“About the rogues, your parents, Crow’s parents, Sarah’s parents, the massacre and the possible attack on the village.”

“What!” His smile vanished.

“I told Melanie and Nikki,” she confessed. “On the way to sanctuary last month. It seemed important. They are both very concerned. But Crow has been telling everyone else since he came in this morning. He’s getting a group together to go to the village to ensure its protection.”

He turned to listen to the rest of the group. Anne, Derdre, Seth and Sarah were all going to visit the village. Sarah was hoping to meet Howling Wolf and ask about her mother. Anne, Derdre and Seth had just come from soloing and didn’t feel like training any newbies in the extreme cold. They needed a little social time after an entire month of being alone.

The village was within the area the medics monitored and it wouldn’t be as if they had left the area. They had heard stories of the rogues and believed Crow when he said it wasn’t the villagers causing the attacks.

Crow looked at Tobal, “Grandfather says it is good if I bring as many others as I can. He says it will help ensure the safety of the village. He says you can come if you want.”

“You have been in contact with your Grandfather about this?”

Crow nodded, “We are only planning on staying there for a month and then coming back. The main point is to show there is good will between the village and us and that we are in contact with each other when we need to be.

Grandfather thinks the city needs to know this. We will all be leaving in the morning.”

Tobal couldn’t think of anything useful to say. “Can you talk to Ellen before you go?”

“Sure,” Crow replied. “Things will be fine.”

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Sleep Walker

Deeply dreaming she wanders
Without fear,
A radiant joy suffuses
Her tender cheeks.

The moonlight wraps around
Her slender limbs,
Ecstatic, enraptured, she smiles
As she looks down at you.

You call to her, she comes,
Then watch her fade away,
As she lies down at your feet,
Prepared to die.

-Mia Holm
translated by Joe Bandel

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We all know the feeling of working hard all day and not getting anything done. At least it seems that way. We don’t need to keep spinning our wheels through ineffective actions. Study the experts and champions to find out how they do it. This is the research part of any goal. Before you can do it your way you need to understand how other people have done it in other ways.

Nature in the evolutionary process explores all possible options. There are no good and evil choices in nature. Everything is explored and success is rewarded. Failure to thrive leads to stunted and abnormal living situations.

We can apply this to our own lives as well. Are we enjoying a rich and rewarding lifestyle that we are comfortable with? Or do we live in stunted and abnormal living situations that are slowly choking our spirit and will to live?

For thousands of years the “Collective Soul” of the human race has worked for the good of the entire human race. This meant holding some people back until the rest of us could catch up. Society and culture had the final word on how far a person could go in life.

With the Internet things have changed. The human race has gone global! For the first time ever you don’t need to have the support of local community to become successful. You can gather the support you need from the far corners of the earth and you can support others as well. We can’t even begin to comprehend just what this means.

There is a level playing field now and everyone has the same chance to make their mark in the world. Politics and social institutions still exist but as dinosaurs that are fast on their way to extinction. People will loose interest in them as they increasingly prove incapable of coping with today’s social problems.

Self-sufficiency and survivalism on an individual basis are going to replace wasteful government handouts. Family is going to take care of family. Local community is going to take care of local community. The solutions to humanities problems are going to appear at the grass roots level or not at all. Those waiting for government bailouts are going to be hurting. The policeman is never there when you need him, but he is there to fill out the paperwork after the fact.

Survivalism doesn’t mean being able to live off the land. It means being secure in your ability to feed and clothe your family and keep a roof over their heads in the winter. It means having a job that is not going away to China or Mexico. It means being able to find a different job if your current one does. Survivalism means physically doing whatever it takes to survive.

This is a time to put down roots so you can be strong and support others when they need you. Keeping yourself strong allows you to be there for others. This is not selfishness. It is staying alive!

Cautiously explore every opportunity that comes your way and test it for response. Putting effort out and not getting anything back is a waste of time and energy. Study the results you do get and refine the process to get even better results.

Long term goals might not bring in immediate money but they should bring in something. My long-term goals are to make a living as a writer. I’m not making much money now and I’m not trying to. My focus is on getting readers. If I was not getting readers I would not continue producing this material.

Success grows out of success not out of failure. Each small success leads to deeper understanding and insight into what changes need to be done next. Everyone has an area in life that is working for them. Expand that area to include others and see what happens. Make your physical actions count!

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We’ve talked about the Shadow and the Collective but what role do the ego, anima and animus play in human lives? If the Shadow and Collective are secondary personalities that need to be integrated what are the ego, anima and animus?

The normal ego is the bridge and mediator between the Shadow and the Collective when they are integrated. The Anima or Animus represent the opposite sex aspect of our own souls.

Males have a feminine aspect that is not developed and females have a male aspect that is not developed. We need to have a balance of male and female for our egos to develop whole and healthy. We need to be balanced to be a true partner to someone else.

We might say the Shadow represents everything we are not. This includes the things we dislike and fear. That is why the Shadow is seen as evil and Satanic. We project fears and distortions onto it.

The Collective represents the astral memory traces of the way things have always been. It represents what we call our destiny or pathway in life. In reality there is only the present moment and the collective only suggests what might happen if we continue our present course of action.

The anima or animus respectively represents those things we wish we were but feel we aren’t. The opposite sex aspect is what we find missing in ourselves.

The Shadow and Collective as secondary personalities are both alien entities to our normal ego. We don’t miss them because we don’t consider them a part of us.

Astral energy is generated at the cellular level by our physical bodies. It can be either male or female depending on our own gender. A male physical cell can not generate female astral energy because it does not have an XX Chromosome. A female physical cell can not generate male astral energy because it does not have an XY Chromosome. This is basic biology.

The needed opposite sex energy has to come from an opposite sex partner in some manner. This is the spark between people in love relationships that attracts them together and allows their souls to grow as their energy combines. This might also be the spark that brings friends together.

Relationships can be romantic, sexual, or platonic. There are many types of male/female energy that can be shared. There are many types of love. male/female energy can even be transmitted through internet lines as many are finding out. This male/female energy can be spiritual, mental, emotional, sexual or physical. All types of energy need to be explored and it is unlikely that one person can supply them all.

Through the development of the relationship male/female energy is shared and the part of us that is missing becomes developed. We become able to find in ourselves what we were looking for in others. At that point of wholeness and completeness the spark dies and the relationship moves on either to explore new energies or it dies and you move on to find a new partner. Once we find in ourselves what we were looking for we no longer need the other person in the same way. The relationship changes and the feelings change as well. The other person is not longer special in the same way.

We may have become balanced in that energy but our unbalanced energies will act to destroy the relationship. Our partner doesn’t have the required energies this time.

This is why love sparks in relationships and then later dies in some relationships. That energy was used to create astral bodies complete with psychic sensory abilities created out of a particular type of energy. The energy of love creates a healthy human ego in both people in one of the 118 possible elements. Good work! There are only 117 levels left to develop.

In actual practice and in tradition we seem to have seven great loves and not 118. We each have a soul mate partner to develop the seven chakra centers. When all seven astral bodies have been developed our ego is balanced and complete. This is the lessor work. When we are done our ego is strong enough to integrate the Collective and the Shadow. Only after all those things are done can we be healthy enough and balanced enough to find our true mate, our equal. We find them not out of need but because we are healthy enough and ready to be an equal partner in all ways.

Relationships and love do make the world go round.

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The Queen of Wands is related to other cards in the Tarot. She contains the essential elements of THE MAGICIAN, THE HIEROPHANT, STRENGTH, THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE, and JUSTICE.

The Queen is related to the ACE of Wands, ACE of SWORDS, TWO of Wands, TWO of SWORDS, THREE of Wands, and THREE of SWORDS. Her Element is Fire. She controls the magnetic forces of attraction and repulsion. She has the ability to withstand great conflict and stand firm in her convictions. She has a very spiritual tolerance of others and of life’s difficulties. You will like her or you will hate her. There is no middle ground for the Queen of Wands. You probably know someone like her.

This lady has a strong connection to plant and animal life. She gets illuminations while working in the garden or with her many pets. A natural healer, she is able to listen and give wise counsel. Talking with her helps others to sort things that are emotionally painful and gain objectivity. She does this through the ability to distance herself from emotional pain. She can rise above the raw passions and emotions and not be pulled under by them.

She has strong bones and teeth and will rarely need to see the dentist. An eternal student, she is constantly getting rid of old outmoded ideas and replacing them with newer more successful ideas and beliefs. She can easily change her mind and learn from her mistakes letting old behaviors and experiences fall away. Her mind is filled with happy colorful ideas and thoughts and she brings energy into the room when she enters.

In love she is all or nothing and has the tendency of becoming obsessed with her partner and forgetting about other things. In love and romance the sparks really fly.

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Chapter 19

Tobal glanced over the fire and noticed the girls had left. He saw them by the food table and he went to refill his tankard with hot grog. He wondered what he was going to tell them when he ran into them again. He felt like avoiding them.

Then his mind turned to the strange greeting they had given him when he had sat with them. What had been going on? What had prompted both of them to kiss him that way? He was even more interested in his own reaction to Becca when she kissed him. He knew he had done or said something wrong and didn’t know what it was. He hadn’t meant to hurt her.

Tobal in spite of himself became more curious about Becca and watched her as he sipped the hot grog. It pleased him that both Melanie and Becca had completed their own base camps and were training some newbies during the winter months. They were both obviously very talented and competent in the art of survival.
Zee and Kevin came up to the beer barrel where he was standing and sipping his

“You’ve got to try this grog.” He told them. “It’s Dirk’s special recipe!”

Dirk laughed and handed them a small bowl to sample.

“That is pretty good,” Kevin remarked. “I think I will try some instead of beer.”

“Me too,” Zee laughed.

“You guys seem like you are having a good time.” Tobal grinned. “How about
some Yule Tide Carols?”

“You know any?” Kevin challenged.

“How about O’ Christmas Tree?”

They laughed and burst into a rousing chorus of “Oh, Christmas tree” that Dirk and Tobal joined in with. Soon the idea caught on and later even the drums kept time to timeless Christmas classics that dated from old eon Christianity as well as modern Yule songs. The ancient Christian tradition of Christmas was not completely forgotten and the Lord and Lady celebrated the birth of the Christ spirit within each person’s heart as well. It was a curious mixture of old and new that stirred memories of the past and brought hope for the future.

Tobal mingled and mixed with people he only knew by sight introducing himself and getting to know them. Later he accidentally intruded on an amorous couple as he was searching for a warm spot to sleep for the night and stumbled out in embarrassment.

It made him wonder if he was ready for a romantic relationship with anyone. The events of the past year had been so intense he had always pushed the thought away without carefully examining it. Now in the dead of winter with romantic couples all around it was rubbed in his face. He was thinking about it as he finally fell asleep.

Each night was a drum circle and dancing that went well into the morning hours and it was a luxury to sleep in and have nothing pressing to do except play games with friends. The late mornings and early afternoons were spent just doing camp cores and making everything ready for the evening’s entertainment.

The second day was bright and cold. This day was spent mainly in honor of the soloists that would be leaving in the morning and missing the rest of the celebration. There were talent shows with singing and juggling acts and other interesting demonstrations. These took place in one of the heated permanent log buildings.

Everyone was expected to participate and share some skill or talent. Tobal enjoyed watching the talents of others but dreaded his turn. He didn’t know what he was going to do and didn’t feel he was that good at anything. Luckily those going to solo went first and it would take a day before it got to him.

Crow dazzled everyone with magic tricks and sleight of hand that had the audience laughing and left them wondering how he did it. Especially his final disappearing act when he simply was not there anymore leaving only some smoke. Tobal wondered if he had really disappeared but then later wondered if he had really been there at all.

Perhaps he had done his entire act while his physical body lay asleep in one of the nearby teepees doing that bi-location thing.

Anne was a palm reader and kept the crowd entertained as she did private readings for anyone brave enough to hear their future. She had a corner set up with a table in the beer brewery where it was warm and quiet. There was a long line waiting to see her. He noticed Melanie, Becca, and Nikki were all waiting in line together laughing and chatting.

Seth surprised everyone by reciting long poems from memory and putting a lot of feeling into it. It seemed he had a photographic memory and could remember every word he ever read. He chose Edgar Allen Poe’s classic, “The Raven”, and “The Face on the Bar Room Floor” by D’Arcy. Tobal cheered and yelled with the rest of them. Seth really was good! Tobal was really impressed since he had trouble remembering anything at all.

When Derdre’s turn came Tobal felt himself wondering what she would do. He was really amazed when she was an artist and willing to make caricature drawings of anyone. He couldn’t resist and waited in line with a piece of paper and pencil for her to make a quick caricature sketch of himself. He was delighted with the result and couldn’t wait to show some of his friends later that evening. He never did get his own palm read. Maybe he could do that later.

Misty as HighPriestess led a very special meditation and ritual for the Yule celebration and the blessings of the Lord and Lady. Tobal was wearing his mother’s jade and amber necklace and his father’s dagger. He carried the hospital bracelets with him in his medicine bag that he carried about his neck and the wand strapped to his left leg above his boot. He was wearing these things during the ritual.

His eyes were closed and he was imagining sitting on the floor of the secret cave beneath the waterfall. He was sitting in front of the central fire and had a heavy fur robe draped over his shoulders so he was warm and comfortable even outside in the dark.

He had been practicing the meditation Crow had taught him and the impressions were becoming extremely vivid when his right arm was jostled and he opened his eyes in annoyance and looked up.

A man was sitting cross legged grinning at him. The man reached over and placed his hand on the dagger before Tobal could react.

“Hi son,” he said. “Your mom and I have been waiting a long time to get this chance to sit and talk.”

“Yes we have,” a rich melodious voice joined in from the left. “I see you have found some of the things we left for you.” She leaned forward and touched the necklace and he felt energy like electricity flow through it and fill him.

As his father touched the dagger and his mother touched the necklace they both seemed to take on a more solid appearance. They also seemed to have more strength and energy.

They were both sitting cross legged on the ground in front of him. His father was on his right side and his mother on his left. They were dressed in the red robes of Master. Tobal drank in the sight of them, faces he had not seen since he was two years old.

He wanted to burn this moment into his memory for eternity and always remember his parents as he was seeing them now. His mother wore her hair long and in braids. She had beautiful lips and gray eyes that twinkled at him. He saw the rise and fall of her breasts through an opening in her robe. He reached out to her and she held him tightly against her. His eyes burned and he blinked back tears.

“Are you really alive?” He blinked hardly daring to hope.

He turned to his father and gripped his hand firmly. His father had long dark curly hair and a thick beard with strong muscular arms and shoulders. Suddenly he was in his father’s arms being crushed in a loving bear hug. He felt his father’s hands on his shoulders gently pushing him away and back down on his cushion.

His father and mother looked at each other and then back at him. There was love in their eyes and humor too. They got up and stood in front of him. Suddenly they seemed taller and more powerful as the room radiated like the sun and his eyes squinted against the brightness. Their robes dropped and they stood as High Priest and High Priestess before him in nude splendor holding hands like the figures in the gold medallion.

“We are the Lord and Lady of the Oak.” They said and seemed to swirl and move like heat waves until they turned two dimensional and receded back into the life sized images painted on the cave wall above the altar. “You have our blessings always. We will talk more later.”

Tobal felt a snapping sound at the base of his neck and suddenly found himself no longer in the secret cave but in the circle at the Yule celebration ritual. Misty and the High Priest were standing in front of him with their arms extended in blessing.

Above the central fire he could see the smiling faces of his father and mother. He was elated and shaken by what had happened and wanted to talk with someone about it. Crow was probably getting ready to leave. Maybe he could find Ellen and ask her. She was supposed to know about talking to the Lord and Lady.

He noticed Angel taking part in the ritual as helper and wondered if she was going to be taking Misty’s place soon. He found an excuse to talk with her and found out she was training but it would be several months until she was ready to take Misty’s place. Serving on the ritual team was not a mandatory part of being a Master.

Only those that felt called to serve on the ritual team did so. Since all ritual positions of all three degrees were voluntary there was quite a change in the number of qualified people. She had seen Ellen around but didn’t know where she was. Tobal thanked her and moved on.

He suddenly remembered Crow would be leaving soon and he needed to give him his present. Crow was chatting with some of the others as Tobal pulled him aside and gave him his gift and wished him well on his solo.

Tobal had finished his little carvings and it was time to give them to his friends as Christmas presents. He had carefully polished them and laced them on rawhide thongs to wear around the neck like amulets. As he gave them away he loved the looks of surprise and pleasure that lit his friends faces as they accepted the gift.

He found each of his friends and pulled them aside for a minute to quietly give them their gift. He gave Rafe the fox, Melanie got a loon, Sarah got a beaver, Ellen got an eagle and Crow got a wolf. He had made an owl for Nick but Nick was with Tara and he didn’t have anything for her.

As everyone was showing each other their gifts he noticed Becca sitting by herself and looking a little lost and lonely. Summoning up his courage he went over to where she was sitting. He looked down into her troubled green eyes and felt himself being helplessly pulled into them. Tearing his gaze away, he averted his eyes and held out the owl to her.

“Here,” he said gruffly. Then he turned around and walked away, his face contorting with the conflicting emotions he was feeling. Mostly he felt glad and happy. It was like he had finally lain to rest a demon that had been tormenting his inner soul.

He noticed Becca seemed strangely happy and had gone over to share her gift with the others and was chatting gaily. It was good to be with friends, he thought as he made his way to the beer barrel for another tankard and some light conversation with Anne, Derdre and Seth before they left.

This was the first time he was able to really catch up with what was going on in the lives of other clansmen and he took advantage of it as much as he could. The first one he really had a chance to chat with was Wayne. He seemed to have gotten over his breakup with Char and was very protective of his newbie.

Tobal noticed wryly that Wayne’s newbie was a cute brunette with an impish smile and a little girl look that made her appear more helpless than she really was. She had already soloed so he knew she was able to take care of herself. He didn’t understand why she chose to act like she couldn’t. She was very clingy with Wayne and it seemed she was going to wait out at least a few of the coldest months with him before trying to train on her own.

Wayne seemed to be taking it all in stride and was very comfortable with the situation but Tobal noticed that Char kept glancing over at her and didn’t seem too happy about the arrangement. He could feel the tension in the air and mentally reaffirmed something Rafe had told him about not getting into romantic relationships with newbies.

It seemed like it only led to problems and often the newbie didn’t have the skills to just up and leave on their own. Rafe had always told him to get the solos out of the way first and watching this thing between Wayne and Char, he found that he had to agree.

He spoke with some of the others he didn’t know very well and then went over to the drum circle and sat near the fire feeling the beat of the drums against his body. It was restful and he had many things on his mind. He didn’t really feel like dancing. Much later he decided it was time for sleep and headed for bed.

He cleared a spot for sleeping in one of the teepees and spread some furs on the floor. He put more wood on the fire in the center and pulled his clothes off. He was sliding in between his blankets when the door flap on the teepee opened with a gust of cold air and in the fire light he saw Becca slip in through the door and reclose it.

She turned toward him and in a husky voice asked, “Can I sleep here tonight?”

Wordlessly he sat up and took her pack setting it down to one side. He helped her out of her furs and she slid under the blankets with him feeling warm and smooth against his body. Their hands stroked and explored each other gently and then with more urgency. She moaned and gasped at his touch. His body thrilled at her touch. Soundlessly their lips merged and later their bodies joined in an explosion of uncontrolled passion.

Tobal woke up to the crackle of the flames in the fire. Becca’s arm was across his chest and she was cuddled up against him. He moved a little and she smiled but didn’t wake up. He spent the next hour laying there looking at her face lying next to him. He didn’t want to wake her up. He just wanted to remember forever.

Morning came and the flames died down to the point it was getting cold in the teepee when Becca finally woke up. Seeing she was awake he took advantage and slipped out of the blankets to stir up the fire and put more wood on it.

Any other sleepers had already left for breakfast and they had the teepee to themselves. He was aware of her green eyes watching his naked body as he moved about the cold room and dived back under the blankets. She moved away from him.

“You’re cold,” she whispered. Her eyes laughing.

“Then warm me up,” he challenged and she did. They missed breakfast, but hunger pangs forced them out for lunch.

The third day of the Yule festival was Sunny and bitter cold. But Tobal hardly noticed as he and Becca grabbed some food and headed over to watch the talent show. Melanie gave an impressive knife throwing exhibition that drew applause from the crowd and also a growing respect as she hit several thrown targets while they were still in the air. As she left the stage she saw them at the back of the room and moved toward them smiling.

“It’s about time the two of you storm clouds got together,” she teased. “Now maybe the rest of us can have some fun without getting rained on.”

“Storm clouds?” Tobal asked puzzled.

“Don’t give me any of that crap,” she put her hands on her hips. “I’ve not only had to listen to you, but I’ve had to listen to her,” and she pointed at Becca who was smiling. “When ever the two of you are within six feet of each other there is so much static electricity in the air that it makes my hair stand up and anyone else’s that’s was around you. The whole camp has been making bets on when the two of you would finally get together.”

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