The Forest Through the Trees
Sonet pulled the Bernese and lynx boys behind her, one in each paw, as she nearly sprinted faster than either boy could manage to move without stumbling. Ariel followed as swiftly as she could, slightly relieved that the boys weighed the doe hybrid down enough for her to keep the pace. Sonnet slowed as they neared to the small group that continued to prepare the altar area, then to an abrupt stop as she reached the edge of the outer circle, sending the the two boys stumbling past her with the lack of warning.
Donovan fell to the ground as he stumbled past the young doe who instantly released her hold on his paw. Standing and brushing the dust from the fur of his exposed torso he looked at her to see a slightly dazed look on her face. “What is it Sonnet? What's wrong?” He started to turn in place as he looked for anything that might be out of the ordinary, not really sure what was ordinary for the situation.
Mark toppled forward when the doe stopped short, crashing to the ground rather unceremoniously. He turned to look at her, bewilderment in his eyes, uncertain why she had stopped so suddenly as they reached the edge of the outer circle.
Sonnet closed her eyes and lifted her snout into the air as she inhaled deeply. “Don’t you smell it? Holly flowers, there shouldn’t be any near here.” Her head snapped down lo look at Donovan, then a swift glance to Mark as she continued. “It’s a sign of luck and action. The Mother is with us this day.” She looked down as she realized the point where she stopped and giggled slightly as she traced her fingers through the air before she stepped forward as the Collie had finally made it to the point where the trio were. “Must not run in sacred spaces, it is rude and unsettling to the spirits. Come let us see Sister Sharleen and tell her of our plans”
Donovan looked at Mark as the deer stepped past them toward the Bengal tiger they had spoken to earlier in the day. “Um… What was that about?” he asked as the Bernese boy got to his footpaws once again.
Looking to the lynx, a smile in the Bernese eyes he said, “With Sonnet, it’s hard to say for sure. But off hand I’d say she’s right about the holly flowers, though in her mind it’s a blessing of what you two intend to do.”
“I’ll go with that, it’s all still fucking confusing to me,” Donovan said as he started to follow the doe into the preparations. “So... um... what was this for again? Some holiday or something?”
“Freyfaxi,” Mark responded, “or more commonly known as Lammas, festival of the first harvest, or harvest of wheat.” Standing and brushing the dust from himself he turned to look the lynx in the eyes. “One of the bigger celebrations of the year, it’s one reason her grandfather came to trade at this time of the year, more people to trade with.”
“That makes sense I guess,” the lynx said. “So it’s like a Thanksgiving or something?”
“It’s a celebration of the first fruits, given to the gods to thank them for the plentiful harvest to come.” Sonnet said softly as one ear pivoted in their direction. “Later in the year, at the end of harvest, before the trees and plants sleep for the winter, is Mabon, a celebration when the harvest has been gathered and to call blessing and protection from the winter's wrath.” She turned to look at Donovan as she asked, “Have you never celebrated the cycles of the year?”
“Yea, I guess we just have different names for things,” Donovan said as he tried to think through the calendar in his mind. “There’s New Years, Easter, I guess that would be the start of spring or something, but it seems closer to summer to me. Then the next big one is Thanksgiving, then Halloween and Christmas. Really most of it happens during the Holiday season from like September to New Years. I don’t think we ever sat down to celebrate the start of Harvest Season, but we’re not farmers so I don’t really think it stood out much.”
Donovan watched as the nearly irate look that he had seen so many times returned to her eyes as she stepped toward him. “The wheel of the year is the cycle of life, from birth to death and rebirth. For Yule, when the snows and winter wane, Imbole, the end of winter and season of life. Ostara, the center of spring when the Sun and moon rule the sky in harmony and equality. Beltane, the height of the heat and life, a celebration of fire and passion, to Midsummer when the sun gives way to the moon’s return and the days begin to withdraw and the nights grow. Lammas, the time of first fruits and harvest. Mabon, the end of the season of life and ushering in the time of sleep and death. Samhain when the veil is the thinnest and even the dead come to join the festivities. And back to Yule where life begins again.”
Donovan stood in silence as he was schooled by the younger doe in what must have felt natural to her. The look in her eye changed from near anger to pity as she went through the times of year and must have seen that he really had no idea what she was talking about. “I… I’m sorry. It’s just that we never celebrated most of those things. Most of the year is always spent in school. We would wait for Thanksgiving and Winter break. My dad would sometimes tell me about how my grandpa would get out of school during the harvest and work for the season every time I wanted a day off.” he pause to try and figure out how to explain his life to her as he glanced over at Mark who had the same look of pity in his eyes.
“Unlike the holidays that you and your family celebrate Donovan, most of which are tied to religious happenings, pagan festivals are celebrations of the things that are given by the earth mother for us to receive and give thanks for. The changing of the seasons, the bringing of life, a chance to commune with those who have passed through the veil before us. All these things and much more are cause to celebrate and rejoice, to give thanks to the one that sustains us and nurtures us above all others. To many it may seem odd, or even foolish, but we celebrate the seasons for the things that each bring, spring brings new life to the world, trees, flowers, much of the food that we eat springs forth. Summer is a time of growth and change, of striving to be better than what we are. The fall brings the harvest, the bounty of the earth to sustain us through the coming winter. A time of toil and labor that strengthens us. The winter is a time of rest and renewal of the spirit and when the opportunity to commune with our ancestors comes, hopeful that we can gain from the wisdom and knowledge they have left behind. The holidays, as you would call them or Sabbats as we name them are celebrations of those gifts of the earth to us, and reaffirmations of our promise to her as shepherds of the earth. Though I’m sure Sonnet will tell you that most of us fall very short in keeping those promises, and she is right, we do. I doubt that she will ever truly understand the reasons that we have become what we have in her eyes, forgetful, lazy, and uncaring.”
“Well, like I said, it kind of makes sense when I think about it,” Donovan said as Mark finished his speech. “We just never did anything like that. Look, Mark, I already know I am walking into a lot of new things with Sonnet. And I’m sure I will come to understand in time. It’s not like I am going to magically know things when I grew up in a completely different way of thinking. And it’s going to be up to Sonnet and I to work through these things… unless you are planning on following us back out into the mountains to try and bail me out every time we don’t know how to explain things to each other.”
“Sorry, I wouldn’t do that even if I had nothing better to do with my life. You’ve got a handle on things, and I’m sure Sonnet will keep you from getting yourself eaten by the wildlife. So I‘ll just shut up and let you two have at it,” the Bernese boy said in an even tone.
“Look, Mark, I didn’t mean to sound like an ass or anything. And I do appreciate what you are doing for us.” Donovan started to say as Sonnet grabbed him by the paw.
“You two can talk about it later, we have things to prepare for,” the doe/husky pulled him slightly toward a small gathering of people. “Sister Sharleen, merry meet,” She said as she took a slight bow of her head as she waited to be recognized by the elder tiger.
The Bengal tiger turned slightly as she returned the slight nod. “Sister Sonnet, and young Donovan, if I remember correctly. You’ve come back quickly, Might I take that as you have found someone to give their consent?”
Looking at the tiger, Donovan said, “Yes, ma’am. And to be honest the one we found is a bit of a surprise to me.” He turned and pointed to the Bernese boy and his wife as they walked up to join the group.
With a smile on her face Sharleen said, “Brother Mark, merry meet. What brings you to us now? Are you the one that will be giving Sonnet consent to handfast?”
“Merry met Sister Sharleen, yes I am here to give consent for Sonnet to be mated to this young man, it is her wish and I will not stand in her way,” Mark responded giving the lynx a slight nod of approval.
“Well, this is good news,” The tiger said with a smile. “We can set a small handfasting toward the end of the ceremonies. I am assuming that you have never done this before, Donovan. I recommend Mark go over the basics of the ceremony with you and perhaps a quick walk though of how it is done. He is well practiced from both being in them and performing them.”
The lynx sighed as he resolved to be stuck with the boy who he had clashed with on so many occasions in the short time they had known each other. “Well, I said I wanted to do this right for Sonnet, and if it means listening to him talk at me more, so be it.” he tilted his head toward Mark as he spoke.
The tiger turned to Ariel as she said, “Why don’t you take Sonet and help her get ready.”
“Yes, Sister Sharleen, I’d be happy to,” the collie said turning to the doe.husky, “come on Sonnet, let’s get you ready for your handfasting.”
A smile crossed the doe’s muzzle as she said, “Come lets bath in the river.” Then she took the collie by the paw and pulled her away.
Donovan sighed again as she looked at Mark and said, “I guess over by the teepee is as good of a place as any. I found some rocks to sit on, or the grass is soft there.”
(¯`•._.••¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*•~-.,-(_Going for a Swim_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*•~-.¸••._.•´¯)
Ariel giggled slightly at the younger girl’s excitement as she was pulled to the wider part of the river, where several pups swam and played in varying stages of undress. Sonnet let go of her paw as she splashed into the cold water. Ariel stopped at the shore line and stripped off her jeans, t-shirt, and undergarments, laying them on a dry rock nearby. She followed the deer into the meandering water. As she made it chest deep in the cold mountain river she found Sonnet relaxed and floating on the surface, her thick fur weighted with water, and matted close to her young frame. The sight revealed the hybrid’s young developing body in a way she had not seen in the two days since the fourteen year old came out of the forest with the lynx. The fur hugged close to her developing curves and widening hips as the collie noted a slight trail of blood from the deer’s nethers. The collie girl moved closer as the doe relaxed, absorbing the tranquility of the small area away from the other swimmers.
“Sonnet,” Ariel placed a paw on the girls shoulder, causing her to jump slightly. “We need to talk.”
Turning and letting her legs drop into the water, Sonnet looked at the collie with curiosity in her eyes. “Why are you filled with concern and worry?”
“Sonnet…” Ariel paused as she tried to think of how to ask the question on her mind without upsetting the younger girl. “Did Donovan… do anything, or touch you in ways that you didn’t like?”
Sonnet closed her eyes and rolled her head back into the water as she smiled, “What we did was amazing, like nothing I’ve ever felt before. The way his trembling paws moved across my body, the feel of him entering me, of us becoming one for that moment...” the young hybrid let out a soft growl of pleasure as she reminisced of the past night alone with the feline boy.
“You… you mated with him?” the concern was evident in the older girls voice.
“Yes,” Sonnet replied as she ran her paws across her belly. “It… it was so frightening and amazing at the same time. The pain only lasted a moment, and the feel of him filling me as I sat down on him.” She visibly shuddered as she hugged herself.
Ariel’s concern turned to fear as she formed the next question. “Did… Did Dawn use any protection?” She struggled for a better way to ask the sheltered girl as she saw the look of confusion on the doe’s face. “Did he put anything on his… thing... before you put it inside you?”
Sonnet tilted her head as she looked at the collie. “Why… why do you all worry about the gift of life. Why do you look at it as something that you need to be protected from?”
Caught off guard by the doe’s questions and wording Ariel sat silent for a moment. “The gift of life, of a child is a very serious thing Sonnet. Are… are you certain that you’re ready to take on the task of raising a young one?”
Sonnet swam back from the collie for a moment as she started to speak. “I have raised orphaned young when hunters would take the lives of their family. I have nursed and cared for all or the mother’s creatures my entire life. If the Mother sees fit to bless me with a cub of my own I will care for it, and bring it up to know her ways as I do, to care for the things you have forgotten. I will teach them to heal the lands as my grandfather taught me. This is the way of life, why do you fear it, hide from it, and even fend it off with all your strength? You ask if I am ready, yet know little of how I have lived. You may not be ready with your new ways of your disconnected world. I am willing to accept anything the Mother blesses me with.”
Dumbfounded by the younger girls assertion of her abilities and willingness to take on whatever was given to her, Ariel floated silently for a moment. The collie looked at the younger girl who suddenly showed years of experience and knowledge of things that she knew she didn’t have. The realization that she had just done the same thing that Mark had been harping on Donovan made her understand the feeling that the lynx must have every time his ideals clashed with how the doe’s world worked. She contemplated the challenge the younger girl pointed out with raising a cub in the limitations of the modern world with the inevitability of the situation arising with her marriage to Mark. “I’m sorry Sonnet. I really have no place to question your abilities to live the way you do. I know I could not live like that myself, even with Mark’s help.”
Sonnet Looked the collie in the eyes with the most serious expression Ariel had seen on the small girl as she said, “You won’t talk about this with him. He does not need to know. I don’t want him to try and interfere in what the Mother has given me, as I have stayed out of what he continues to do with what the Mother has given him.”
Not sure exactly what the girl ment with the obvious threat, Ariel nodded in acceptance to the conditions of what had passed between them.
Donovan dropped to the grass and leaned against a tree close to the tent that he and Sonnet shared last night. He watched as the dog boy sat a short distance away facing him. “Okay, we’ve already gotten past the lecture portion I hope. So whats next?”
“It’s simple,” Mark said as he leaned back on his elbows, “Knowing Sonnet I bet when she thinks handfasting she thinks of a cord type ceremony. What that entails is a simple cord or ribbon is used to tie your paws together, symbolizing the bond as the priestess with pronounce you handfasted, or married if you prefer. Here they are legally the same thing.”
“Wait,” the lynx looked at Mark for a moment before he continued, “What about vows and shit.. I mean stuff?”
“Calm Down, it’s done basically the same way, “Mark offered as he raised his paws as if trying to calm a large animal. “The Priestess with go through those as the cord is wrapped, all you have to do is the basic ‘I do’, and the ceremony goes on as long as no one objects before you get that far.”
Donovan raised an eyebrow as Mark finished explaining. “And you’re not going to step in and say how stupid it is for you people so young to get handfasted?”
“Look Donovan,” Mark leaned back on his elbows again, stretching his legs out to get comfortable. “I was only eight years old the first time I got handfasted.”
Wide eyed Donovan could only manage to say, “You’re shitting me.” after a moment, letting the idea sink in and his mind work on it a bit he started again. “How does that work? It can’t be like a legal wedding or anything. I mean you were eight, how old was she?”
“She and I were the same age, and we had been friends since we were three years old. And no, for us it wasn’t a full marriage, but more like going steady. We both were becoming… curious about sex and both of our parents thought it better to be committed to someone for a year and a day than to have us sneaking around and having sex whoever came along.”
“So let me get this straight.” Donovan leaned forward and rested his elbows on his thighs. “At eight you parents and those of your friend thought it was a good idea for you two to… FUCK IT! I’m not even going to try and understand. Let’s just worry about the mess I am getting myself into and we can cover your problems some other time, when I am not already lost in the sauce with everything happening around me.”
“Good,” Mark said with a slight sigh of relief, “I didn’t really want to get into that stuff now anyway.” Looking as the lynx as he rubbed his temples he added, “before you get bent at what I’m about to say Donovan, let me first say that it’s obvious that your intentions for joining with Sonnet started out differently than what they are now. Your Christian background and upbringing weighed heavy on your decision, but anyone that looks can tell that there is something far stronger between the two of you than the guilt you first felt when you and she became physically involved. I’m just glad that you looked deeper than that, for both of your sakes.”
“Guilt really has nothing to do with it.” Donovan dropped back against the tree as he spoke. “I made the choice to stay with her before anything happened. Honestly, I can’t really think of anything else right now. I left home looking for something that I was missing, and I think I found her. Or she found me, I’m not really sure which way it really happened any more. We were both alone, me by choice and her not so much. But, now we have eachother. Even if we are from radically different ways of life, I can’t see moving on with my original plans to just hike across the country, I feel like no matter where I go my mind and heart will still be here. It’s really the first time I haven’t felt like I didn’t belong, even when everything I look at and hear, especially from you tells me exactly that. It’s… Like I am being called to stay with her.”
“Donovan, I’ve been telling you that you don’t belong because at the time you didn’t. You let your own narrow mindedness get in the way of letting your heart tell you what was right. I’m not getting in your ass about it; it’s just the fact of the matter. I hoped all along that by pushing you, giving you a target to lash out at you would maybe begin to look at more than just what you had been trained to see. You did exactly that, you tried to see things more from Sonnets point of view and realize it or not, it opened your eyes to the possibility that had been staring you in the face all along,” Mark said, as a slight grin crept across his muzzle.
“I have no fucking clue what I am going to do, or how I am going to tell my parents.” The lynx pulled the small flip phone from his pocket and saw there were still no bars on the small screen. “I think it would give my old man a heart attack, if he knew I was giving up on something else and going to stay with a fourteen year old girl out in the wilderness. I’m not sure what my mom will do, but I’m sure she wouldn’t be happy about it either.” He switched off the phone and tossed it to the Bernese boy as he said, “This isn’t really going to be any use to me for a while, maybe you should keep it so it might at least be charged when I do get close enough to civilization to use it again. Just keep it turned off, my dad said he had tracking on it, even though I got it with my money. I think he’s full of shit, but no use chancing it.”
“Then I take it you plan to handle the parents by dropping off the grid for a while?” Mark asked as the grin on his face grew wider.
“Dad’s already pissed that I got the emancipation and my trust fund out of his paws,” Donovan said as he shrugged. “And I told them I would not always be in cell range, so it’s not like I am doing anything I didn’t warn them about first. The only thing I’m worried about is my sisters, I know that Katie looks up to me, and I don’t need to be any more of a bad influence for her than I already am in dad’s eyes.” He stretched his legs out as crossed his arms behind his head. “Besides, a little relief from the world might just be what I need. Just look how it has worked for Sonnet.” As he saw the doe hybrid and collie returning from the river, fur weighed down with water, Ariel with her cloths draped over one arm.
The wet doe/husky girl stepped between the two boys as she started to vigorously shake the water from her thick fur, causing them to scream in surprise as Ariel laughed at them with a playful grin on her muzzle. Sonet dropped to her knees facing Donovan as she said, “We need to find four cords, silk or cotton,” before she jumped back to her hooves and ducked into the teepee.
Donovan looked at the canine couple with the same confused look he often had. “Four cords? Okay I am lost again you said a cord or ribbon.”
Mark shrugged and smiled. “Just go with it, the man is never really in charge of the wedding, even when it is a surprise she doesn’t know about.”
Donovan shook his head as Sonnet emerged from the tent in the cotton robe she was given. She swiftly grabbed Donovan by the paw and pulled him to his feet as she moved toward the collection of traders and crafters.
Mark looked up at Ariel with a smile. “We have a deserted Teepee for at least a few moments,” he said with a wink at his unclothed wife.
“You dirty pervert,” She said with a mischievous smile. She glanced over her shoulder as she added, “let’s make it quick.” Then ducked into the open tent.
(¯`•._.••¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*•~-.,-(_Affirmation and Binding_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*•~-.¸••._.•´¯)
The Bengal tiger stood before the gathering of robed individuals. In a clear voice to be heard by all she said, “This evening we have a very special treat. One that we have not had for some time. A traditional four cord handfasting to join two young people. Many of you are new to our gathering or have come from far away and may not know of Sister Sonnet. She was raised by her grandfather in a fully traditional Druidic lifestyle. She lives with nature and apart from our modern trappings. Some of you may remember her grandfather, who came and traded for supplies during many of our gathering. His soul has been blessed and he has passed through the veil. Now Sonnet has come to us with a mate to be joined.” She waved her paw to one side as she summoned the couple to join her before the group. “With our young sister Sonnet I must ask, is there any that stand to render consent and their blessing in this union?”
Mark Moved to the front of the gathering as he spoke up, “I, Mark Jameson, family friend and trusted overseer, give my blessing and consent in what the Earthmother has brought for our sister.”
“Thank you brother Mark, and blessed be,” Sharleen said as she pressed her paws together. She then turned to the young lynx and doe. “Dawn and Sonnet, know now before you go further, that since your lives have crossed in this life you have formed eternal and sacred bonds. As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real the ideals that, to you, give meaning to this ceremony and to the institution of marriage. With full awareness, knowing that within this circle you are not only declaring your intent to be handfasted before your friends and family, but speak that intent also to your creative higher powers. The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union and will cross the years and lives of each soul’s growth. Do you still seek to enter this ceremony?”
In unison the two answered, “Yes.”
With a smile she turned to the gathering and said, “In many cultures it is believed that the soul shares characteristics with all things divine. It is this belief which assigned the four cardinal directions; East, South, West and North. It is according to this belief that we align ourselves with these elements. Each of these blessings from the four cardinal directions emphasizes those things which will help this couple build a happy and successful union. Let us join and invoke the elements as we call the corners.” As she invited the gathering to join in the ceremony several disrobed while others remained clothed. the group as a whole turned to face the east as they chanted in unison, "Hail to the Guardians of the Watchtower to the East, Graceful Sylphs of Air, I summon stir and call you forth to witness this rite and guard this circle as we journey between the worlds." Many traced through the air with small double edged knives. Donovan watched as Sonnet did the same tracing the symbol with her paw. The group then turned to face the south and chanted, "Hail to the Guardians of the Watchtower to the South, Passionate Salamanders of Fire, I summon, stir and call you forth to witness this rite and to guard this circle as we journey between the worlds." The repeated for the West and north, "Hail to the Guardians of the Watchtower to the West, Playful Undines of Water, I summon, stir and call you forth to witness this rite and to guard this circle as we journey between the worlds. Hail to the Guardians of the Watchtower of the North, Strong Gnomes of Earth, I summon, stir and call you forth to witness this rite and to guard this circle as we journey between the worlds."
The tigress then turned back to the young couple, “Dawn and Sonet, I bid you look into each other’s eyes.” The two turned and looked at one another as instructed. “Will you honor and respect one another, and seek to never break that honor?” As she finished the two confirmed as a single silk cord was draped over their joined paws. “And so the first binding is made. Will you share each other's pain and seek to ease it?” The couple’s confirmation was followed by a second cord. “And so the second binding is made. Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?” They confirmed as the third cord was laid on their paws. “And so the third binding is made. Will you share each other’s laughter, and look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?” They confirmed again as the final cord was placed. “And the final binding has been made.” As she finished the priestess tied the four cords loosely around their paws. “Dawn and Sonnet, as your paws are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust. Above you are the stars and below you is the Earth. Like the stars your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.”
She then turned to the gathering and said, “These two are now bound as one, joined in the spirit. This is a sacred occasion and cause for celebration as we give thanks for the first fruits of the year.”
As the priestess spoke Soneet stood to her tippy toes and kissed the lynx on the nose. “And now we are joined, one soul before the Mother.” then turned and pulled him with their bound paws into the gathering to let the traditional ceremony and festivities continue.
As the night progressed the gathering slowly dwindled as the participants returned to their lives for the remainder of the week. It was not long before Donovan had lost sight of the Bernese boy and his wife as he and Sonnet danced and mingled. It was as if a small portion of the world had somehow changed as complete strangers congratulated him and passed on small gifts and well wishes. As Sonnet and Donovan returned to where their tent had been they found that the supplies they had acquired over the two days were loaded into a small wooden cart with a small note attached.
Your grandfather traded me this cart several years ago. I now gift it to you as you and Dawn venture in to your life together. May the Mother bless you in the years to come.
“Wow,” Donovan said, “This is more than I expected. People must have really liked your grandfather.”
Sonnet placed the group of four tied cords into the cart with the rest of their supplies as she said, “Come Dawn, Let’s get some sleep. We have a two day trip back to the grove.
Donovan smiled as he watched the doe remove the robe she had obviously remained in for him and duck into the canvas tent. As he started to enter himself he felt a paw on his shoulder. When he turned he saw the old polar bear from the other day. “Yes,” he asked as he looked into the bears eyes.
With a mild smile the bear said, “We have spent years protecting Sonnet and her entire family. They have lived the way they do for generations and Sonnet is the last. We will continue to do that for her, and now for you. But is it also up to you to look after her and help her understand some of the things she has been shielded from. Until Sonnet’s mother was… In the past they had always come down as a family, even ventured into Winter Creek to trade. You might be what she needs to be able to take those steps again. But be careful in what you show her. She is as fragile as she is strong in what she believes. Take care of her, she is now part of you, regardless of your beliefs.”
Donovan nodded as he said, “I will do my best to do what is right for both of us. And thank you for everything you’ve done.” As he turned he thought about what he had planned and turned back. “Sir, could I ask you to get some children’s books? She asked me to teach her to read.”
The Bear smiled as he said, “Sure thing, I will have them for you at least by the next festival if you can make it down for it.”
“Thank you,” the lynx said as he ducked into the tent and out of sight.