Jaguar Witch: Doorway of the Triquetra Free Snippet Journey to the Center
It was well into evening when they finally halted for the night. Mira actually felt somewhat better than she had earlier. Although she was far from mastering the old shaman’s technique, she had managed to help herself—enough so she didn’t feel as though she would drop dead of exhaustion, anyway.
The old shaman built a small fire and laid out dried meat, and nuts mixed with berries. The dried meat had a mixture of berries pounded into it as well. They ate, then turned in for the night, using the woolen blankets from the packs that Old Wolf had handed to them when they had first set out. Now she knew why his pack had been so much larger: he had known Lucius would join them. She eyed his pack. She had a feeling Lucius was not the only one who would join them.
Exhausted, she lay down and slept.
It wasn’t yet dawn when Old Wolf woke them again. He took them to a clearing where they set up a medicine wheel using stones for the north, south, east and west, then Old Wolf carefully chose a Mother Earth stone. Afterward, they did the ceremony for the greeting of the dawn.
When they returned to camp, they ate more dried meat and nuts mixed with fruit and set out upon the trail once more. There was dew on the ground and the leaves. The mist in the air left their clothes damp, and brushing up against the plants along the trail left them wet and chilled.
After three hours of hard trekking, straight into the heart of the mountains, the shaman indicated they were stop here for the rest of the day. He had them set up another medicine wheel, and they spent the rest of the day building a sweat lodge. At this point, Mira was becoming excited. She was going to get to take part in another ceremony.
But she could not have predicted what the old shaman had in mind for her. They had only just finished the sweat lodge ceremony when he had taken her into the woods. He’d had her set up another small medicine wheel, and had her lie down comfortably within it, far down the path, next to a beautiful pond of water. Birds sang. The smell of sap ran deep in the pine trees.
He took out a hand-held drum and began to give her a guided meditation, until she slipped deep into a trance. He guided her deeper, taking her down a round, spiral stairway, then deeper, down, down...down. He guided her past a room full of masks. Her attention was snagged by their beauty as she followed him down the marble hallway. She felt as if she were floating and, as she walked, her gown—a beautiful, sheer fabric—floated down around her feet with her motion.
He led her into a beautiful garden and had her lie down next to a pond, similar to the one she was lying next to now. There he guided her deeper into the heart of the jaguar. As he spoke, she felt herself sit up to face her jaguar. Mira touched foreheads with her as she had before. The jaguar turned all the way around. Mira knew that was a sign of a power animal, but she was still puzzled as to what this journey was about: and she knew it was not a good idea to go into a journey, any journey, without a clear sense of purpose.
The jaguar approached her. She placed her arms around the great cat, breathing in the scent of her. The jaguar pushed her head close to Mira’s face, breathing in her scent as well. Mira got a clear whiff of the jaguar’s breath, and the next thing she knew she had merged with the great cat, and they were one.
She was too amazed to feel shock; then the sense of amazement left her as primitive sensations took over.
She could smell the blood of the old shaman, and she growled deep inside her throat. Then the scent of a smaller animal caught her attention, and she took off after it—an uncanny sense telling her exactly where the small animal hid and somehow knowing the animal was a rabbit. She, or the great cat that was she, ran through the garden and out into the jungle. She felt the power of her muscles bunching beneath her, running faster, then faster still. She had never felt so powerful, so primal. She ran until she was heady with desire; the desire to chase her prey tearing through her senses.
She lost her prey, unskilled in her hunting practices as she was, and knew a great defeat, but she still had the desire to run and so run she did, for several more moments.
When she felt the shift in the drumming she turned and returned to the garden. She knew exactly where she was going. She took a cool drink from the pond and flopped down, stretching out, contented to lie there and just be. And as quickly as she had left, she woke, finding herself lying on the ground with the old man drumming.
She sat up, looking at the old shaman with a shock she couldn’t begin to put into words. “You did that on purpose,” she accused him.
He grinned at her.
“Why you crotchety old....” she sputtered. She would have gone on, but Lucius had shown up in time to hear her tirade and was looking at her as if she’d grown horns.
The old shaman continued to grin at her, unabashed.
She looked up at Lucius expectantly, like he should do something. When he didn’t, she glared at him
“What?” he asked stoically.
“He turned me into a jaguar,” she screeched, throwing her hands into the air with frustration. “Do something about it!”
Lucius actually grinned at her.
She sputtered at the sight of it, for once completely speechless.
“Relax Mira,” Lucius took her into his arms. “He didn’t turn you into a jaguar.” He chuckled.
The sound of it did nothing to sooth her quickly fraying temper. “Yes, he did,” she said, then pointed out, “I damn near killed a rabbit.” She was completely appalled now at the memory of it—her tearing through the jungle, each lunge bringing her closer to her prey—a blood thirst tearing through her veins. She shuddered.
Yanking away from Lucius, she turned on the old shaman. “Why if I had caught that rabbit, I would...I would...” She stopped as another thought occurred to her. “Do you realize I could smell your blood—what if I hadn’t been able to control my hunger?” she sputtered at him. “I could have killed you!Do you realize that?”
The old shaman’s grin widened.
He was maddening. She turned on Lucius, about to launch her tirade at him—when his next words stopped her cold.
“He didn’t turn you into a jaguar, Mira, you did.” He watched her. Something in the intensity of his gaze made her wary—throwing her off balance.
Finally, his words slowly began to sink in. “Wha-at?” she sputtered. “What do you—mean?” She stopped, a shiver snaking its way up her spine. She had—turned into a jaguar. She had done it, not the old shaman. She had turned, oh my Goddess. She had turned. And she was never going to feel safe again. She turned to Lucius as if in slow motion. She grabbed his arm to steady herself, and he guided her down to sit in the grass, where he put his arms around her. “I think I need to talk to Micah,” she told him, her face pale.
Lucius nodded, and Old Wolf left them alone to go look for Micah.
Micah was quick to gather her into her arms as soon as he had arrived and taken one look at her face. He took her for a walk to give her some privacy. She was crying by the time they were alone. “I almost tore a bunny to pieces,” she sobbed. “Well, actually, I was a long way from catching it, but the point is I would have torn a bunny to pieces if I had been able to get my teeth...” She stopped, suddenly realizing what she had been about to say, and how it made her feel to say it.
The blood lust still ran through her veins.
Micah laughed gently, and pulled her into his embrace.
“How can I ever feel safe again?” she bawled into his shirt.
“You won’t hurt anyone, Mira, if that’s what you’re thinking. And it’s better for you that your jaguar has come to you so soon.”
She peered up at him; she didn’t understand what he’d meant by the second part of that—so she went after the first. “How can you possibly know that?” She sniffed. “How does anyone know that I won’t hurt anyone? You don’t know the power that the smell of the old man’s blood had on me!” She stared up at him. He had gone still. Wide-eyed, she finally realized. “You do know!”
“Yes, Mira,” he said quietly—too quietly.
“It doesn’t go away,” she said in shock. She knew by the expression on his face it was true.
“It is why our people used to stick to their own kind. Being with a human mate could be maddening.”
“What keeps the big cats from attacking their owners when people are foolish enough to raise them?”
Micah chuckled. “It’s a little different. One, they’re raised by them and don’t see their owners as prey. They’re used to their scent. And two, we have a lot more—how shall I say—powerful emotions pulsing through us, because we are like humans and cat, rolled into one. I don’t want to say cursed, because we’re not, not by a long shot. It’s not a curse, but a power, an amazing, unbelievable power; and in the wrong hands it could create the worst kind of monster—for humans.” He shook his head at the look in her eyes. “But that rarely happens, Mira.”
She swallowed, hard. “How do I know I can trust myself?” she whispered.
He cuddled her close. “You will know—with time—what I already know. It is always terrifying at first, wondering what you’re capable of, but the old shaman never questioned, did he? He didn’t take us with him because he knew.” He cupped her face in his hands. “And you know too, deep in your heart. You know you value life, or you wouldn’t be this upset about that bunny.” He grinned.
She playfully bopped him on the chest. “It’s not funny, Micah. I smelled the old man’s blood. I don’t know what I would do if I had gone after him. Why didn’t he warn me of what was about to happen? Why didn’t you?”
He smiled. “I would have if I had any idea you would change. You were just supposed to greet your jaguar a few more times—not change.”
“Oh!” She flushed. “Then, why did I...?”
Micah shrugged. “You were ready.”
Mira hugged him close to her. The thought of what she could have done terrified her. Old Wolf had realized she might change and seemed unconcerned by it. She didn’t know why he had such faith in her, but she decided to trust his instincts. If he could stay with her, drum her to the jaguar and risk his own life to show her the way—she could do no less. She would have at least that much faith in herself.
She leaned back. “Did our people...”She searched for the right words. “Did they always have this power, this ability to shape-shift? Or did they have to acquire it?”
“They were only given the key to their power when the elders knew they were ready to handle it. Otherwise, in the hands of wayward teens...” He let his meaning sink in.
Mira nodded. She snuggled closer to him. After a time he made them a bed of leaves on the ground and hugged her close to him. Her primal instincts were still calling to her, and his answered in kind. They stayed in the woods like that for a few more hours and made love. Their lovemaking was sweeter when combined with the primitive powers of the jaguar that were so close to their blood.
When they rejoined the group later that evening, the old shaman brought her a necklace. It was a beautiful carving of a jaguar.
“Wear it,” he told her. “It will bring you the comfort and protection of your power animal. Always call upon her in time of need.”
Mira was touched by his gesture. She murmured prayers as he took some sage and smudged her. It helped to calm the rapid, tattered tempo of her heart. He told her it was time to put on the amulet, and she did as he directed. She pulled it over her head and let it dangle between her breasts, beneath her shirt. She would wear it near her heart. She felt a measure of peace and comfort wash over her. She closed her eyes and saw her jaguar, and she knew that the power of the jaguar lived in her blood.
It was high noon the next day when they halted at a clearing. The morning sun had dried their clothes, and Mira actually felt comfortable. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t happy to see what stood in that clearing. There, in the center, stood a full-sized, log home. There was smoke curling up from the chimney in a warm and inviting way that had Mira hoping the old shaman intended them to go inside. She had an overwhelming urge to go in and lie down on a bed, no matter who was there.
The three made their way to the door. It opened before they had reached it, and there stood Roman.