He excused himself from Ellen and was thinking about what she had said when he suddenly remembered the attack on his camp and the mysterious mass grave at the abandoned gathering spot. He wanted to ask Rafe about these things. Unfortunately Rafe was involved in Melanie's initiation as a guard. Tobal also wanted to share his secret camp location with Rafe so he could find it.
As Melanie's initiation began, Tobal found himself casting furtive glances toward the red haired girl. She was talking rapidly and excitedly to an Apprentice that was sitting next to her. He recognized the gray robed figure as the instructor that brought her into circle last time. He suddenly realized Becca was going to be soloing this month along with Melanie.
His feelings of responsibility toward Melanie were stronger than his curiousity and he felt himself drawn back into Melanie's initiation ceremony as the drums started beating in deep rhythm. He was drawn into the dance with the other circle members.
Disoriented, she stood hoodwinked and tied before the central fire. Her tunic had been cut a little too high and he caught glimpses of her pubic hair in the firelight. It seemed that some dancers jostled her too roughly but she stood proudly through it all as the power grew within the circle. Tobal could feel the power growing and soon sensed the presence of the Lord and Lady. He saw them with his inner eye. It seemed they were not as happy as before and the energy had an angry tinge to it that had not been there during his initiation.
He was happy for Melanie and gave her a big hug at the end of the ceremony. She was now wearing the gray trousers and there were tears of happiness in her eyes.
"Thank you Tobal", she whispered as she clung to him. "This is sanctuary and the safest place I have ever been in my life. I'm among friends I can trust in a place where I belong and you are my closest and dearest friend."
She pulled him close and kissed him deeply, her lips crushing his in a fierce embrace.
The party was getting into full swing when some raucus voices called Tobal over in their direction. Tobal saw his friends drinking home brewed beer out of leather drinking jacks and hurried over to help drink it up. This evening was in Melanie's honor and he made introductions. It was Melanie that made the greatest hit by passing out honeycomb and honey to people greedy for the unaccustomed sweets. The drums beat again and the party shifted into high gear with people dancing just for the pleasure of dancing.
Rafe came over in his new black outfit. They exchanged stories and caught each other up on what had been going on. Rafe was concerned about Tobal's camp being destroyed and mentioned there had been other camps that had been destroyed in that general area. He had never heard about the abandoned camp with its mass grave site and found the story interesting, especially the part about the air sleds that came and buzzed them without waving back. He considered going there and checking it out himself.
Rafe also brought him up to date on circle and clan politics.