Excerpt: A Winter Knight’s Vigil ritual

WinterKnightsVigilCoverExcerpt:

The drumming began slowly, with Jack holding a heartbeat, the simple core beat that they could all return to, before Dawn added in the djembe and Wolf added in the higher-pitched doumbek. Everyone else added in rhythms with other djembes, bodhrans, frame drums, and after practicing several different rhythms, they began to hold a particular beat while Lynn began a droning, wordless chant.

Kenneth and Brandon began speaking words in a rhythmic voice to take them on a journey, their two voices weaving back and forth and overlapping.

“Imagine King Arthur, pulling the sword from the stone, standing in his power, becoming the king. When have you pulled a sword from the stone? When have you been powerful?  Or perhaps you still search for your gifts, for your strengths, for your deep magic. Journey now to that sacred place where your gifts reside, a sacred place, your sacred temple within … how do you journey to that place?”

Amber began to let her eyes drift closed at their words. She found herself moving through a forest, through the moonlight, deeper into the darkness to a stone circle.

“And here in this place is your gift, the gift you bring to the world. This is the well of your deep magic, this is the place where you can reach and touch your dream. This is the place where your power is. What does it look like? Or perhaps there is a sound, a scent. Will you reach for that deep magic? What is the dream you fear to give name to?”

Amber felt herself standing at that stone, pulling out her own sword, and then she stood before the anvil where the sword had been forged. She saw the hammer strokes, the sparks, and stared at the sword. What was her magic?

The obvious was food; cooking for people. Teaching, certainly. She loved lighting up that fire in a child’s mind, getting them excited about learning. Teaching, cooking … she had sometimes joked with Bronwyn she was the most nurturing, domestic feminist ever. Bronwyn was so bold, so strong, so sexually liberated. She admired that, wished she could be like that sometimes. Bronwyn was strong. She wasn’t strong.

Then again, as she imagined her sword, her power, she thought about the times she had stood up for someone. Even as a new teacher, she’d confronted parents engaging in abusive behavior. She wanted to be able to protect kids who needed help.

“When you are ready, take up your magic. Take up your own Excalibur.  Will you claim your destiny? Will you sing, will you move, will you breathe, will you dance? What is the song of your power? How does it move in your body? What is it to stand and be powerful?”

The drum beat had begun to pick up. Lynn had begun to play a shruti box which made a harmonic droning sound that Lynn began singing a counter-chant to. Others joined her in the wordless song, and the sound increased in intensity, slowly moving faster. As the rhythm picked up in speed, the drummers began to sway to the beat. Several of them set the instruments aside and began to dance, first just swaying, and then moving more energetically.

Amber rocked, still adding rhythm. It was getting hot. They danced and drummed and sang for long minutes, the sound intensity and energy slowly building as it got warmer and warmer in the room. She tugged off her sweater so she was just garbed in her cami-top and laid her bodhran to the side to dance near the fire. Others had done the same, she saw through half-lidded eyes.

Jack and Wolf’s hands were working furiously fast on their drums creating an overwhelming wall of sound. Most of the others had begun to dance. The music began to rise up into a peak, everyone dancing faster and faster. More sweaters came off; most of the men were bare-chested, some of the women too. The dancing began to reach a fevered pitch.

Eyes almost closed, Amber danced harder, stomping her feet, rocking back and forth, chanting the song that was escalating in intensity and volume, some of them adding harmonies and rhythmic nonsense-words. She was dizzy with the dancing, ready to sink to her knees so she wouldn’t fall.

She opened her eyes enough to look at the fire to let the flickering light take her beyond herself. Then she saw Tristan. Sweating, wearing just his kilt now, he was dancing wildly by the fire, snarling and chanting. He seemed like the Horned One the way he was framed by the firelight, the way his hips moved, the complete intensity with which he danced.

She was hoarse, panting, as the sound of the chant finally hit its peak and then began to fade into a drone, a tone. The complicated drumbeats fell away until it was as it began, just a heartbeat, just their voices, then just their panting breaths.

She stumbled and Tristan’s arm flung out to steady her.

Amber looked at him, both of them panting, and she couldn’t help but follow the sweat that trickled down his neck to his chest. She wanted him so badly in that moment, wanted him to crush her lips with his, wanted him to throw her over his shoulder or lay her down by the fire right there and take her hard. Wanted him to tell her he loved her, that he wanted to be with her forever. She wanted him to drive into her until he came inside her, roaring into her neck, kissing her over and over.  She looked up at him, trying to breathe, moving just the slightest bit closer as she fought down a moan, looking at his lips.

His chest rising and falling with his breath, Tristan’s eyebrows lifted and he gave her the strangest look.

Blinking dizzily, Amber pulled back from him, holding her arms around herself. He stared at her, and she pulled on her sweater, moving into the kitchen to check the ribs she was slow-cooking for dinner and the crock pots. Amber adjusted a few settings in the kitchen and then hauled on her coat, not even buttoning it before she was outside, hurrying out into the snowy woods.

 

A Winter Knight’s Vigil

Sexy, kilt-wearing Tristan has captured Amber’s attention on many occasions. But as members of the Kingsword coven, which has strict rules about intimate relationships inside the circle, dating him is out of the question. When the coven heads to a secluded woodland cabin to celebrate the Winter Solstice, Amber finds herself closer than ever to Tristan. As the Longest Night approaches and their group’s ritual workings intensify, the pair realizes that they can no longer hide from their feelings.

Just as King Arthur held vigil before being knighted, Tristan and Amber face their shadows—and the realization that one or both of them might have to leave the coven. Or can they be together without breaking their honor?

A Winter Knight’s Vigil
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