The salt was gritty beneath Baron’s pawpads. It was a good feeling. A dry sort of dirty, clean and pure.
Salt for each of the paws. Just a dry rub against each of the pads, interpad fur dusted with coarse grains.
Water for the muzzle, dabbed at each of the whiskerpads, tickling its way through the fur. Another dab at chin and a fourth between the eyes. The water beaded for a moment atop his muzzle before soaking into the short fur there, cool.
Fire for the claws. Just a feathery brush of flame right across the tips, warmth spilling across fingers and toe as the bright flame flickered from the disturbance, casting crazing shadows throughout the otherwise dim room. Just the candle and what light made it through the curtains, despite the bright day beyond.
Incense for the tail. Something spicy and herbal. Something homemade rather than the cloying garbage that lined the shelves at hippie bookstores these days. Baron had made his own for years since the one consistent source for the incense he could stand had gone out of business. A waft of fragrant smoke through his brush to leave behind pleasant cleanliness.
“Stand,” Baron murmured.
Ian wobbled to his feet, knees popping. Baron met his sheepish smile with a happy grin.
“Welcome, now, spirits of earth and water, fire and air. Welcome spirits to guide us, spirits to light the way ahead of us.” Baron, having replaced the elements, now retrieved his small frame drum and, using the softer end of the mallet, began a slow rhythmic beat to keep up with his patter.
“Today is a new day, a new day begun. Today is a new day, a new day to explore. Today is a new day, a day for the searcher within to guide and find. Today is a new day, a day to become ever more whole.” The words rolled out of his muzzle with comfortable familiarity, and he felt the world around him dissolve into the background, a pot set to simmer while the rest of the ritual was brought to a boil.
“Today we ask the powers of the east, the spirits of air, to lend their knowledge, that we may be ever bolstered by greater understanding.” He turned away from the window to the right. “Today we ask the powers of the south, the spirits of fire, to lend their will, that we may be emboldened in our actions and all that we do.” Turn. “Today we ask the powers of the west, the spirits of water, to lend their emotions, that we may learn from our feelings.” One final turn. “Today, we ask the powers of the north, the spirits of earth, to lend their restraint, that we may not act beyond need and speak when silence is called for.”