“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” said Crow, remembering that his real purpose here was to write a story for The Pagan Press. “Just what is the meaning of this ritual anyway? As anyone knows, it’s not yet time for a proper Samhuinn ritual, so what’s going on?”
“Excuse me,” interrupted Dryadia, who noted with satisfaction that everyone immediately stopped what they were doing and turned to her, showing the proper respect due a full Druid. “While we’re at a stopping point, can’t we just lose the gossamer robes? I mean, sheesh, I hate to say it, but they’re awfully see-through, and, well, it’s just not very flattering attire on some of you others, I’m afraid.”
Lorraine stamped her foot at this, pouted, and finally couldn’t contain herself. “But the ritual specifically called for gossamer robes, and you know it wasn’t cheap buying nine of them, and besides that, I did offer all of you aprons like mine to wear over them if you were embarrassed.”
“True, but those do nothing to cover the back,” said Beith with a grimace as she quickly turned away from Alferian, who had bent over to tie his high-top Converse All-Stars.
“They don’t bother me at all,” said GreenDruid.
“well dearies,” said Carragh, who alone among them had not risen from her seat at the table, “i’ll admit that i might have been a little embarrassed at first, but i’d rather be embarrassed than look like a walking signboard wearing one of those aprons. honestly, lorraine, next you’ll have us all singing your little jingle that i heard on the radio this morning, how’s it go … ?
at lorraine’s b&b
you’ll sleep like a tree
safe from all mashers,
and in the morning, there’s rashers
“Well, I never …” gasped Lorraine, turning red. “Who appointed you jingle critic, and besides that, when are you going to learn to speak in capital letters?”
“Rashers? You have rashers?” said Beith. “How are you fixed for spuds?”
“Is that jingle really on the radio?” whispered Mike to Anonymoose. “She’s not a Bardic Pursuits Moderator, is she?”
“No,” said Anonymoose, “not yet anyway, but you never know what Kernos might do next. He gets some strange ideas sometimes.”
Just then Crow saw Kat Lady walking back into the room from the litter box down the hall. There was a long streamer trailing from her left hind foot, and at first the old reporter thought that it was toilet paper, but on second glance he saw that it was just her gossamer robe.
“Did I miss something?” she asked. “Hey, who are all these people?”
“In case you’ve all forgotten,” said Crow, “I did ask a question, but I’m not above repeating myself. What is going on here? What’s this ritual about?”
“Oh very well,” said Lorraine. “If the rest of you uninvited people must know, I have strange noises in my cellar – odd thumpings and bumpings in the middle of the night – and I haven’t been able to discover what’s causing it, and so I heard about this Seven Veils Ritual, and how it could, among other things, clear out odd thumpings and bumpings from a cellar. Well, I called for some help, and the people you see here were helping with the ritual, but then we had a little fire, and then somebody opened the window and you lot came in, and, well, you know the rest.”
“Odd thumpings and bumpings in the cellar?” said Daigh Cahan. “Are you sure it’s not just bloody rats? Big, nasty wharf rats? You know, the kind that’ll walk in like they own the place and gnaw on your toe while you’re sleeping. The kind that are so bold that they act like they own the place and might pull up a chair at the breakfast table. Big, stinking, disease-carrying, vicious things they are. Are you sure you don’t have a lot of huge, slobbering, mangy rats down there?”
Lorraine, near tears now, stammered “We d-d-d-do n-n-not have rats in this establishment!”
“She’s right,” said Kat Lady, an accomplished ratter in her younger days. “That was the first thing I thought so I checked. Not a sign of a rat or a mouse down there. I saw a few roaches, but they weren’t big enough to make the noises that Lorraine described.”
“Roaches?” said Lorraine. “No, you must be mistaken, I …”
“Lady, you don’t need a ritual, you need an exterminator,” said Daigh Cahan.
“burning leaves,” said Carragh, though nobody quite understood why.
“There’s nothing for it but to go down there and see for ourselves,” said Anonymoose. “But what about him?” he asked, looking back at the yew tree who still stood patiently outside the window. “We could use a man, er, tree like him.”
“Well, judging by the tracks in the yard, he already walked over here from the cemetery,” said Beith. “Why can’t he just come on inside?”
“He’s too big for that,” said Alferian. “And besides, in his present form he can only go where there’s dirt for his roots. Wait a minute, I have a spell that will extract his spirit into another form just long enough for him to come inside with us.”
After a flourish of Alferian's wand, the tree belched loudly and the next thing everyone knew, a small green dwarfish figure was standing in their midst.
“Hey you,” said Beith.
“Not you, yew,” said the dwarf. “And I haven’t got much time in this form, so let’s get on with it. Where are those cellar stairs?”
Crow was suddenly filled with dread. This story, which had started with such promise, was going down, both literally and figuratively. He wondered what would happen next …