After taking a nap before the ritual, Brian wakes with the resolve to tell Jordan that he loves her. Andre catches them when they start kissing and get a little too familiar.
“But you mean it, right?” she asked.
“Absolutely. Cross my heart and hope….”
Jordan put her hand over his mouth. “No. Don’t finish that. Me too,” she whispered. “I love you, too.” She headed out the door.
Andre held Brian back. “I know she’s a delicious taste sensation, but trust me on this. Do not make the mistake of taking that girl to bed too soon. You’re both too young for all that.”
Brain bridled slightly. “How soon did you make it with Louisa?”
“She wasn’t my first, okay? We didn’t know each other until a little over three years ago. Like Jordan’s parents, hers moved away. They came back when she turned fifteen. They knew she needed instruction that they couldn’t give her. But I made it with this other chick when I was about your age. Got her pregnant. Now, I’m twenty and have a four year old kid with a woman who will never be my wife. I understand the urges well. Louisa makes me crazy just by walking in the room. But I don’t do anything with her folks around. Understood?”
“Yes. You’re right, Andre. I wasn’t thinking. I just told her I loved her for the first time.”
“I can dig it, Brian. This whole thing could go pear shaped.” He nodded. “I’ve got your back, you know that, right?”
“Thanks, man. I appreciate it.” Brian paused as they went out the door. “If I die, who takes my place? Do you get another Dreamer? And what happens to Jordan?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“No. I guess I don’t.”
“You aren’t gonna die, Brian. You keep all thoughts like that out of your head. Because if you give into the doubt, this whole thing could blow up in our faces and Mr. D., he wins.”
They walked downstairs together. The others were already out the door. Only Louisa, Jordan, Brian and Andre were left. Louisa embraced Brian, hugging him tightly. She kissed both his cheeks before giving him a gentle kiss on the lips.
“You’re going to be fine,” she promised. “No worries allowed.”
“I’ll drive,” Andre offered.
Brian handed him the keys and hopped in the back seat with Jordan. As soon as they had their belts fastened, their lips met. They kissed the entire way to Chase’s house. Brian was very careful where he put his hands.
The swamp seemed darker than usual, more intimidating. Brian couldn’t suppress a shiver when he got out of the car. Jordan put her arms around him, hugging tight. She pulled him along, taking small steps, urging him forward. One hesitant step after another, he finally arrived at the house. Taking a deep breath, he walked up the stairs. His feet felt heavy, his body awkward and slow. Was it just fear, or was some outside force acting on him? He had no way of knowing. Dr. Meru hadn’t said anything about this.
Inside, he changed into his shorts. It felt weird wearing them without his underwear, but that contained synthetic fibers. A chilly wind blew through the house, scurrying up the leg of his loose pants. Brian shivered, but no one else seemed to notice. They met in Dora Finley’s kitchen and did a short cleansing. Just before they went outside, his mother wiped him down with warm blessed salt water, patting him dry with a soft linen towel.
Walking out the backdoor, barefoot and all but naked, was the most difficult thing he’d ever done. He was glad to reach the circle of trees where a merry bonfire blazed. Remembering the fire from last year, he shuddered, gazing deeply into the flames to see if anything lurked inside. Fortunately, no leering fire elementals danced within. It was nothing but his own wild and overactive imagination.
Everyone took their places. Jordan and the group of Casters surrounded a small table that held all their spell ingredients and tools. The others gathered around the clearing, picking up instruments. Brian would dance to their music. The bonfire took up a six foot diameter area in the middle of the clearing. The altar table was set up near the shed where Mr. Finley kept his workshop. There was a raked area around the fire, forming a circle.
Brian circled the fire, chanting as Dr. Meru had taught him. When he’d made the circuit three times, the music started. Saying a silent prayer, Brian began, his feet finding the right steps without his conscious effort. He felt the drums in his chest, the trill of the flutes rang in his ears. The musicians played and chanted as the others began the spell. Soon, the sounds blended into one, forming a droning backdrop to his movements.
Lost in the music, he continued his dance, repeating the pattern over and over, working up a sweat. He no longer felt the cold. With an uncomfortable lurch, his body traversed a different plane. This place was like nothing he’d seen before. Everything shimmered with every imaginable color. Birds sang, their trills lingering in the air in a multi-hued trail. There were no people, but animals gathered around, nudging him as they circled him. He saw creatures he didn’t recognize among the hundreds of beasts. He was starting to feel lost when two giant dogs burst into the circle, barking happily. Janus and Zofia circled him, yapping and licking him. Brian laughed at their antics.
“Is anyone here?” he called, but no one answered. “Hello? Peddler? We need you. We need your help against the Darkness. Can you help us?”
© 2017 Dellani Oakes