The Ritual Death

Dem walked beside Egfor, feeling the worry through their rings. Did Egfor lie, and he could die tonight? Dem mentally shook his head. No, if he had to bet it was because he was going to face his greatest fears. No one liked to meet those. He said he would die and be reborn, but it was not actual death.

When they got to the clearing, Dem could barely make out the remains of fires past. Now he knew where he came to have his rituals. Dem had followed Egfor a few times when he woke from nightmares in the middle of the night and was distressed. He feared Egfor would harm himself, or worse. But he never followed him here. The clearing was Egfor’s private place, and he respected that. Tonight he had been invited.

He returned Egfor’s kiss with equal passion. Dem had learned early on in the wearing of their rings how to block some of his emotions. Fear was one, and he blocked that now. Worry was not one, and he was sure his face expressed the concern as well. So when the second kiss came, he tried but could not stop the worry from being there for Egfor to see and feel.

Dem moved to lean against a tree, wrapping his right arm around it. He wasn’t sure if he was using the tree for support or to keep him from interfering with the ritual. He clamped his jaw tight, Egfor warned him not to interrupt or speak, just as he had warned Egfor the same when he took him to watch the sword dancing. Instead, he would remain quiet and watch anchored to the tree.

He watched as Egfor drummed in the six directions and settled into what seemed like a trance to Dem. Then, a pure white stag with eyes like starlight entered the glad. Dem knew this was Egfor’s Grandfather. Dem had met him once. His Grandfather, long dead, came to the mortal world in the shape of a stag. But then Dem wondered when the stag became a hunter carrying a spear.

Egfor turned and snarled at the hunter. The hunter drove the spear into Egfor. A direct hit, but no blood came; Dem shook his head. How could this be? He watched as, over and over, the hunter scored hits, none glancing blows but ones that pierced through the skin and should have blood spraying out as many were mortal wounds. Had it not been for the tree and his firm grip on it and the fact he had locked his jaw, he would have charged the hunter.

In the final blow, which looked like a heart shot, the hunter let go of the spear and melted into Egfor. The hunter then moved close and kissed Egfor. After several moments Egfor thanked his Grandfather, and the hunter went to the woods, disappearing into the night. Dem watched Egfor sitting there and understood he was contemplating what the hunter must have told him.

Egfor dug his hands into the dirt; something Dem had seen him do before, and stood up. He shook himself like a dog coming out of the lake, and Dem nearly laughed. Then he came striding toward him, and Dem opened his arms to him.

“Let’s go for a little swim, love….”