Historical setting: 588 C.E. by the fire of Samhain
The moon has set and the pagan ritual goes on and on with incessant chanting, and calls from the druid and responses from his gathered. They all know the words to say. The druid’s movement is near dancing. A teller has tales steeped in tradition… and the seer is still attempting to locate the spirit of Anatase in the smoky thin place of this night. Maybe, in fact, I say this hopefully, the spirit of the child that Eve loved is elusive to searchers among the dead because she is still living.
No one is arguing aloud or brandishing a weapon just now, not even the count who still believes they have Anatase tucked away in their midst.
The count is bundled in his new silk cloak sleeping near the logs by the fire. Despite the apparent intensity of this ritual our band of men is dozing off, even snoring. It’s a three-day festival, and here we are drowsy on the first night.
Suddenly the Count is shouting out in his sleep in unintelligible glossolalia. He has a fever. The soothsayer hears it as message from another world. The druid reminds Daniel that we promised to send them a practitioner who is needed now.
We brought nothing of a healing potion for our fevered leader. We don’t even have any meal leftovers to share. All we have in each of our packs is a small wedge of cheese and a biscuit. We’ve come for a fight, and other than our swords and horses and the yellow banner we are completely at the mercy of our hosts.
Apparently, the village of this tribe isn’t far from our campsite. So throughout the night one or two of the Pagans at a time goes and comes with a warmer wrap, or a basket of apples to pass around among us all — hardly an act of war.
The druid sends one of the women back to bring Count Bertigan a cup of healing tea. She returns with a bowl still steaming in the crispy air. Bert wakes and receives the kindness of the cup from the old woman. But in all his confusion he thinks she is his mother and he is yet a needy child. All this is happening in the haze of fever and the smoke of ritual that seems to have pierced the warring dragon and twisted our leader’s angry courage into something conciliatory.