I strongly urge that you do not join the teller of this tale later, nor should you drink too deeply of what he is offering you…
Come in. Yes, the party is here in the Pub tonight. There will be rituals in the hills and the Wood later, but I advise you to avoid them. Join me here, at least for the time being. I can’t stay for the evening — there are things I must do elsewhere tonight, but that will be later on. Oh, forgive me — I’m sure you recognize Reynard, and there’s Reynard’s cousin Kit, and I saw several Jacks around earlier. I am . . . well, I have many names, but you can call me Jake. Yes — Jake will do for tonight.
You’re just in time. People are starting to arrive from the press barn — yes, we do it the old-fashioned way here, and everyone pitches in. Fortunately, it’s still warm enough to use the pumps outside to clean up. That’s what I like to see — people are tired but happy. Look, even McKenzie is smiling, and the Annies are positively glowing. After all, it’s the Wine Harvest, the Merry Moon, when Summer’s work is done and the bloody business of colder days has yet to start. So, no meat for tonight’s feast, but we have fresh bread and a rich vegetable stew and good cheeses to share.
Grab a glass or a tankard — we still have the last of the old vintage, and good ale and beer. Come over to the corner, where the Neverending Session has set up. The music will be a little different tonight, I think. I’ve brought a couple of friends who will be playing — yes, those fellows there. Ah, I see you recognize the piper. Fitting him for boots was a problem, and we had to cut a hole in his pants for his tail. Oh, yes, we had to put him into pants, else the evening would have gotten much too lively much too soon. He lacks restraint, and I thought it best to keep him indoors tonight, and to keep him playing — there will be enough madness in the wild places. At any rate, there will be some fine music tonight — my friends have been playing together for time out of mind. And there will be tales later — I know the storyteller of old, and he’s a rare one.
What? The Equinox? Oh, no — that’s only part of it. Yes, tonight is a night when we observe time in balance, but it’s more than just day and night — it’s one of the days we can look back and forward, like Janus the Two-Faced. It’s nothing so simple as ‘balance,’ at least as your thinking of it — it’s a complex and delicate thing, an equilibrium that is already out of place, that only holds its shape for an instant, part of the long interplay between day and night, dark and light, the eternal dance of the Kings as each in turn takes his place as Lord of the Wheel. It’s the ends of the circle that count, do you understand? Tonight is just a pause to take a breath and rejoice before the serious business starts again.
And it’s the midpoint of the Harvests, which I rule with my brothers. You hold a mug of my brother John’s bounty in your hand, and my brother Kern will come in his turn with the harvest of the woods, that can only be bought with blood. They offer sustenance, as do I — I stand between them and bring joy. Remember, the Harvests mark a time of sacrifice — we offer our lives, and I my beloved as well, and tonight we celebrate my gift. No, don’t regret it. Accept it gladly, as it was given, lest you belittle them and me — no one lives without the sacrifice of others. Acknowledge it, and treasure it, and give us your blessing.
Ah, I see them slipping out. I suspected they would — fox-haired Kit and his cat-eyed companion. Ha! You didn’t even know he’d come in, did you? They’re good at being unnoticed, the both of them — I’ve seen them slipping through the Wood like smoke, and not even the sharp-eyed ravens marked their passing. They’ll be coursing the woodland paths tonight, offering shelter. That Wood belongs to Kit, though I can’t guess how much of it he’s gifted to his friend — and don’t be fooled by that one — they are subtle and devious, both of them — and they understand that sacrifice must be willing. Kit has declared that tonight is not the night for bloodshed in his domain, and I have agreed, out of respect — he is my elder, after all. I daresay any bands of my celebrants who wander into the Wood will find themselves wandering out again in short order.
For the rest, you’d best stay in tonight. Stay close to the fire. See, the storyteller is here, so there will be tales told, strange and wondrous, and, if I know anything about this place, many healths pledged.
No — sadly, I have other tasks ahead of me, other places I must be, and I must say adieu. Tomorrow? No, I can’t promise that, but next year — next year for certain.
For tonight, be merry!