SONG OF THE TRICKSTER
He is the fox that stalks its prey on silent paws.
The weasel that sheds its summer coat for winter white.
He is the jackdaw that scolds in the treetops
And the snake that slithers through the grass.
No man shall see his true form.
No woman shall know his heart.
Honor him. Praise him.
And pray that your paths never cross.
familiar pre-dawn hush had settled over the forest. Although the sky
overhead had lightened to charcoal, the shaft of moonlight in which the
fox stood was as brilliant as ever. Rigat waited, sharing his vision
The fox’s brush lashed, and the
moonlight rippled like
someone drawing a finger across the still surface of a pool. As Rigat rose to his knees, the
shaft of moonlight split open. But instead of the
trunks of the pines, he found himself staring at the back of a man in a
thick brush moved, more lazily this time. The gap widened, as if two
unseen hands had grasped the edges of the white light and were slowly
pulling them apart.
There were dozens of people, he realized, gathered in
a circle. Peering between
their bodies, he spied a dark, gaping pit.
priest in a feathered cloak raised his staff. Although the man had to be
forty paces away, Rigat could clearly see the black markings zigzagging
down its sinuous length, the painted red eyes that stared skyward, even
the grain of the wood. His eyesight had always been keen, but this was impossible.
It took him a moment to realize that the staff looked like a giant adder.
As one, the
people began to chant. The language was unfamiliar, but Rigat was
certain the meaning of the words lay just beneath the surface of his
The chant grew
louder as the sky lightened. Perhaps it was some kind of prayer to welcome
the dawn. But the gaze of every person remained fixed on the pit as if
fascinated by whatever was happening in it.
see more, he pushed himself to his feet and took a cautious step forward.
A man’s head jerked towards him. He shouted
something unintelligible. The chanting faltered. More heads turned. People
gaped at him, some frozen in shock, others pointing, still others peering
uncertainly as if they could not quite make him out. Fingers flew
as they made signs across their chests, all the while jabbering in their
converged around a black-haired girl on the far side of the circle.
Another spun toward him, spear
upraised. Before Rigat could do more than open his mouth, the spear arced
his smoldering power. It penetrated flesh and muscle and bone. It warmed
his belly and stiffened his cock. It surged through his legs and down his
arms until his toes and fingertips tingled.
The spear slowed as if the air around it had grown
thick. Tiny details impressed themselves on Rigat's mind: the sweet-smoky
scent of the torches, a tiny scratch on the surface of the spear point,
the fox’s eyes – golden as honey.
the power, feeding on it and allowing it to feed on him. And all the
while, he watched the spear coming closer. Now ten paces
away. Now five. Only when he feared his body would burst with the power,
only when he could smell the metal, cold and bitter as a winter morning,
did he whisper, “Stop.”
The spear hung
in the air, the point a mere hand’s breadth from his chest. Rigat slowly
raised his hand and wrapped his fingers around the shaft. Only then did he
accept that it was real. Distantly, he heard shouts and screams, but when
he raised his head, the portal snapped shut.
His arm fell to
his side, suddenly heavy. The spear slipped from his grasp. Then his
shaking legs folded.
odor of male fox vied with something sweet – honeysuckle? But honeysuckle only bloomed in the summer.
The slide of a
wet tongue against his cheek startled him. Opening his eyes, he found his
vision mate staring down at him.
well, Rigat. I’m proud of you.>
A small part of
him registered happiness, but body, mind, and spirit were numb. Never
before had the use of his gift left him so drained.
get easier. In time. For now, just sleep.>
enough strength to ask, “Why did you show me that?”
will be time to talk later.>
fought the overwhelming lethargy. “When?”
But now you must sleep. Sleep and grow strong, my beautiful boy.>
Rigat succumbed to the soothing voice. As he drifted off, he smiled. My
beautiful boy. His mam used to call him that when he was little.