As far as Yendor could see, he was the only witness to the parade. The sun had come out and shone upon them in that way that looks like a blessing from above, streaks of sunbeams spotlighting the park. They had staves topped with crystals, some glowing, others plain. Their holy garments were trimmed with sigils of unknown meaning which gleamed in the light. The procession came complete with choreographed gestures and chanting in archaic languages. It was glorious. One man held a brass pole atop which flowed two banners hung from a crossbeam. One banner was a deep blue with a dragon etched in gold, the other was a brilliant orange with a tiger outlined in black embroidery. One kept time on a drum while another accompanied with a flute.
When they were done, the one in red, who had winked at Yendor, turned to him and gestured for him to join them. Yendor came out and walked to them as if in a trance. His very being felt like it was covered in pins, he tingled all over. His ears were hot. The sensation was similar to when he had met Danse.
“We don’t usually have an audience.” Said the man in red. “I’m Nicholas. These are my compatriots.”
“We shall have a feast, which is only symbolic, I’m afraid. And then we shall have another procession. Will you join us?” His smile was warm and genuine, and Yendor had not seen one in a long time. Even the Solstice folk had not seemed so welcoming.
“Aren’t you late?” Yendor asked.
“Not at all. The ancients kept a different calendar. We go by the old ways.” A table had been set up and the food was being laid out. It wasn’t a lot, but it was fancy. Cheeses, expensive meats, wine.
The conversation Yendor wanted to have was dangerous but what choice did he have. He had been taught his whole life not to talk about such things. He had nervously talked with Danse about these things, but that seemed almost a lark between friends. This felt official, but he had to do it. “You’re wizards.” He said.
Nicholas said nothing, but his smile did not falter.
“I am also. That is I want to be.” Yendor felt very hot. He voice trembled and he shook a bit.
“Are you now?” said the man in purple. Like Nicholas, he had a beard. They appeared to be of an age.
Suddenly Yendor felt like a child being questioned by an elder.
“Yendor, this is Konstantine.” said Nicholas. Konstantine did not have Nicholas’s smile.
Yendor remembered his actions at the detention camp. He looked around and came to his senses. He could probably take these old men if they gave him trouble.
“I am.” He said with confidence.
“You’re a wizard if I say you are.” said Konstantine sternly. Nicholas seemed to demure to him.
“When I was born, I was delivered by Gwenchlan. Who told my parents I was to be a wizard. Do you gainsay him?” Yendor said. He hadn’t meant to speak like that. He wasn’t sure where that came from. Had he ever even said the name aloud before?
“He has a tongue, this one.” said a woman wearing blue and silver. She didn’t sound critical, but amused.
A man wearing a claret color stepped in. “Where did you hear that name, whelp?” This one was hostile. Yendor knew how to respond to that.
“My master told me, as I was given up to him upon the news.” Yendor stood a little taller.
“Speak to us with respect, or not at all!” demanded the wine colored wizard, imperiously.
Yendor was ready with a retort, when Konstantine intervened. “That’s enough.” he said. “I’ve not heard the name Gwenchlan in an age. It is not well known. How did you find us, then young Yendor?”
Yendor calmed himself. He had had little interaction that wasn’t violent in some time. “I sought you out. I came from Elphendor here to dawn to the library to find clues. The song of the Goddess, told of the parade of the solstice. I reasoned that since these traditions were popular in ancient times but no more, that they were wizard traditions. It was coincidence that it took me so long to find the right clues that it was time for the solstice.”
“There’s no such thing as coincidence, boy.” said the woman in blue.
“He is a spy!” said the claret colored one. “We are found out! This foolish adherence to tradition has been our doom!”
“I’m not a spy. I am a wizard. I need training. My power is unmanageable.”
Nicholas laughed at that. “What power is that, young wizard?”
“He has no power.” Claret said.
“Be quiet, Ambrosius.” Said the woman in blue. “I am Sapphosia.” She said. She produced a red crystal from within her garments. The coven took a step back, seemingly anxious at seeing it. “would you hold this crystal? It is the root, the muladhara. It is the beginning.
“Fool! You act impetuously. We must fly before his sorcerers arrive to destroy us forever!”
Sapphosia rose to her full height, stretched out her arms and held her scepter topped with a matching blue crystal which was now glowing furiously. “I said quiet!” So brilliant was the glow that beyond it all seemed dark. All the coven bowed before her. After a moment all returned to normal. Yendor’s heart beat within his chest. What have I gotten into? he thought.
She turned to him, smiling, to calm him. “Will you take the stone?” she asked.
He took it from her.
“Can you light it?” She asked.
The crystal was the size of a pebble. Yendor closed his fist around it, unsure how to proceed. He opened his hand and held the crystal aloft. Nothing happened.
“You see, he is a fraud!” hissed Ambrosius. Everyone glared at him.
Yendor strained, but still nothing happened.
Ambrosius could hardly contain himself. He shook his head. Yendor could hear the winter birds chirp in the nearby trees as the seconds passed. Some of the wizards shifted the weight from one leg to another.
Finally, Ambrosius could take it no longer. “He is a nothing! He dooms us. Let us forget our task and tarry here no longer.” Ambrosius moved to snatch away the stone and as he did, Yendor’s temper flared. A bolt of lightning came down from the sky and lit the stone a blinding white. Ambrosius leapt back in the nick of time. “Sorcerer!” he said, pointing.
“You see, I have trouble controlling it.” said Yendor.
Another woman, wearing brilliant white with white shiny sigils trimming her garments came forward. “May I?” she asked. Yendor nodded. She took the stone, which shone still. “It is not hot.” she said. “Yendor, I am Hildegard. We are the Coven of the Sacred Deer. Perhaps we are all that is left of the wizards.” She gestured to the others. “You have met Nicholas, Ambrosius, the priestess, Sapphosia, and our leader Konstantine. In the orange is Brigitte, wearing yellow is Tertullian. That fellow clad in green is Isidore. In the black is Aphrahat. He looks gloomy, but his harp and his cooking will bring you warmth. In the indigo is Taliesin. Wearing forest green is Ygraine.”
“That is eleven.” Said Yendor. “I thought there was supposed to be twelve. Plus the devil of course for thirteen.”
“The Goddess is thirteen. It is the evil one who calls her the devil.” said Sapphosia.
“Perhaps you will be our twelfth.” Said Hildegard.