If You’re Going to Get Started on New Things, the First Day of Spring is a Good Day to Start Thinking about them
“No, it’s not a hard ritual.”
“It would be even easier if there was a bridge.”
“Yeah, well.” Ron shrugged. “There’s not.”
Jed nodded and waded across the river with him, the water up almost to his neck at the deepest point. Yeah, Ron thought, he and Tanner needed to get started on building that bridge. He wasn’t even sure if Jed could swim. But not today.
“Right.” Jed sighed. He’d been sighing a lot the last two days. It wasn’t hard to guess why. Micha was in the house helping James prepare the last of the potions for the equinox ritual they were doing. It was a little more elaborate than usual, because it was the first time they’d done it on the west side of the river.
They’d done the first half of it, at sunrise, on the east side where their house was. But it was important especially in the next little while that they remind everyone of the forest’s unity. So they were doing the sundown ritual on the west side in Jay and Tanner’s garden.
“How are you feeling?” Ron asked him, as they got to the other bank.
“Fine. It’s just, uh. Weird, not to be with my family for the equinox, is all. We do a whole banquet usually.”
“Oh, you should have said,” Ron told him. “We could do a banquet if you want. I know it’d be a day late but would you be okay doing it tomorrow?”
“What, no, God,” Jed said, shaking his head. “No, no. You can’t just throw a whole banquet for me at the last minute, that’s so much work, that’s crazy.”
“It’s just a lot of cooking,” Ron said, waiting while Jed shook himself dry. He was naked today, because the ritual called for it. “We’ll invite the clan and everything. I’m not going to say it’s no big deal because it’s a big deal, but it’s supposed to be a big deal. An equinox matters.” And he didn’t want Jed to feel lonely.
“I…” Jed looked at the ground. He took a deep breath. “I’d like that, actually. Even if it was just a nice supper, it doesn’t have to be a whole party or anything.”
“Sure. I’ll see what I can do,” Ron promised, taking the box of offerings over to the circle Jay and Tanner were setting up. “Hey, we’re having a Green Clan equinox banquet tomorrow, you guys want to come?”
“Obviously,” Tanner said, holding Jay’s hand.
“Great. I’ll ask the centaurs too. And the faeries and goblins too.”
“Hey, I just said it doesn’t have to be a whole party!”
“Yeah,” Ron agreed. “I heard that part. But you didn’t say it couldn’t be a whole party, and a banquet should be for everyone.” He should probably let James know about this, but on the other hand, if he didn’t, James would spank him for it later.
“Whatever,” Jed muttered, kicking at some loose soil. “Thanks.” He sounded happy.
“How are things with you and Micha?” Jay asked, making Ron wince as he set up. “We saw you trapped in Charlie the other day.”
“Same as always,” Jed said, curt suddenly. “We got trapped in a plant. It was his fault. He’s a dumb loser and I hate him.”
“Oh.” Jay looked from him to Ron. “Sorry for asking.”
Well, they were talking about this now. “You and the dumb loser were awfully close this morning when I woke you up.” They’d had to be up before dawn for the ritual.
Jed’s scowl turned into a full-on glare now. “W-we were wrestling. He started it.”
“Yeah. I used to like wrestling too.” Owen had started a lot of wrestling matches with him when they’d been Jed’s age.
“Oh, whatever,” Jed said, throwing his hands up. “Like any of you can talk, you’re all doing horny stuff all day. So what if me and the loser did some horny stuff? We’re sleeping in the same bed, it was obviously going to happen. Stop acting like we’re boy…like we’re friends. It’s not a big deal, God.”
“Okay,” said Ron, smiling at him. “If you’re having trouble with him, just let me know. I know a lot about dealing with ornery witches.”
“He’s not ornery, he’s just stupid. You’re laying those plants out wrong, let me do it.”
Ron stepped back and let Jed do the organizing of the dried plants they were offering to the forest as part of the ritual, and by the time he was done, James was coming across the river with the potion he’d been making, Micha following him and Spike on Micha’s shoulder. Isaac was with them, also naked. “Hi,” he said to Ron, waving.
“Hi,” Ron said. “This is Jed, from the Green Witch Clan. And James’s cousin Jay and his partner Tanner. Guys, this is Isaac, from the mages’ academy.”
“Hey,” Isaac said to all three of them, very warmly. He seemed less stressed than last time Ron had seen him. “Sorry to intrude. I should have tried to actually think for two seconds and realize that today was important for you guys.”
“It’s important for everyone,” James assured Isaac. “Isaac is going to participate in the ritual. He’s also going to start coming twice a week for lessons.”
“Okay,” said Ron, who figured there was a longer conversation beyond that. But he’d have it with them later. The sun was going down. “I think everything is ready.”
“Oh my God who’s this?” Isaac asked, as Hunter came bounding over to see everyone. “Oh, he’s so pretty. Aren’t you pretty? You’re so good, aren’t you?”
“That’s our dog, Hunter,” Tanner told him, smiling. “He’s great, huh?”
“He’s the best. You’re the best, aren’t you, Hunter? Are you going to help with the ritual?”
“No,” James said, trying not to glare at Hunter. His presence here had made him warm up to Demon, at least.
“Not to distract from the adoration of the slobber prince,” Spike said, buzzing into the middle of the circle they’d made. “But it is a time sensitive ritual. Equinoxes aren’t known for their patience.”
“Right, right, sorry,” said Isaac, standing up and petting Hunter’s head. “You stay right here and don’t wreck stuff,” he told the dog. “Or the balance of the world will collapse and it’ll be our fault.”
“Maybe he should go inside?” Tanner asked Jay. “Just because you know, he likes to wreck stuff.”
“Oh, he’ll be fine,” Isaac promised. “He just wants to hang out.” Hunter tried to jump on him and Isaac’s demeanour changed, just for a second, becoming stern and serious. “No. Down. Sit.” He sounded a bit like James. He pointed at the ground and waited for Hunter to obey, and when he did, Isaac smiled, petting him again. “Good boy.”
Ron had taken his cage off this morning for ritual purposes and he couldn’t hide that that combination of sternness and praise accidentally spoke to parts of him that it shouldn’t. This was why he shouldn’t be allowed to get boners; he did it at stupid times.
“You should show me how to do that,” Micha muttered, glancing at Jed, who looked away.
“Okay,” James said, tapping the ground with his foot. His power suffused the area. “The forest would like to be blessed, so let’s get started. It’s not a hard ritual. Jay, please guide Tanner through his parts. Ron, if you could make sure Isaac knows what to do. Spike, I don’t imagine Jed and Micha will be lost, but if they are…”
“Got it,” Spike said, zipping between the two boys. “Let’s party.”
They did not party, but they did maintain the forest’s equilibrium, which made it very happy as the equinox transitioned into darkness. It liked them doing the ritual over here.
Spring was the season of beginnings. A lot of things seemed to be beginning for them, so Ron thought they were doing something right.