The alarm clock had been ringing for almost a minute before Peter Hansen awoke from his deep sleep, and rolled over to shut it off. Peter had not slept well the night before because he was both excited, and scared to death at the same time. Peter had been alone for almost thirty years when he met Reverend Caroline Decker. He had grown so accustomed to being alone that he was actually no longer lonely. That is until he saw Caroline at his temple a year ago. Now, if he didn' t see her, or talk to her for several hours, he felt lonelier than he had ever felt in his entire life. He was hoping, however, to change all of that today at noon in Johnson's Mill Park. Peter Hansen had decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Caroline, and since he had just turned 54 years old, he wanted to start that new life as soon as possible.
It was a beautiful day for late August . The sun was radiant but not too overpowering, and there was hardly a cloud in the powder blue sky. As Caroline walked through the entrance to the park she saw Peter sitting on a bench adjacent to the lake. As she came closer she noticed a violinist and a cello player in the gazebo just off to the left.
" Odd ", she thought to herself, " I didn' t hear of any concerts in the park this weekend." As she looked at Peter sitting on the bench, she remembered back to last year when she sat quietly next to Peter on that same bench, and put her head on his shoulder, as he put his arm around her. The memory made her feel like a school girl in love, and gave her chills.
As Peter heard footsteps behind him, he turned, looked over his shoulder, and saw Caroline coming towards him. She was beautiful ! Caroline was wearing a light beige dress with brown designs that complimented her red hair perfectly. Peter stood up, smiled, and said pleasantly, but with a twinge of nervousnous : " My don't we look nice today ! " " Why thank you, Peter ! Do you like my new dress ? " she asked as she twirled around to show it off. " You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen Caroline Decker ! " Peter answered with a huge smile. Caroline blushed, and out of modesty changed the subject . " I was surprised that you asked me to the park for lunch, but I am so glad you did . It is such a lovely day ! " Caroline said with a warm smile.
Peter nervously asked Caroline to join him on the bench, and then motioned discreetly to the musicians to start playing. Caroline looked over at the gazebo, and said with excitement : " Oh, isn' t that wonderful ! " Peter smiled at her and replied : " I am glad you like it Caroline. " Peter then stood up, and looked deep into Caroline' s eyes. He reached out and held her hand, smiled a warm, but nervous smile, and started his much rehearsed speech. " Caroline, a year ago we sat on this same bench, and shared a wonderful moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. In the year since then I have grown to love you with all my heart, and soul. When I am with you I feel ten feet tall, and happier than I have ever been in my whole life ! And when you are away I miss you so terribly that it makes me ache inside ! " Peter then took a deep breath to calm himself down before continuing. " I think I knew from that first moment that I saw you in the temple that my heart belonged to you. " Peter then reached into his pocket, and with trembling hands, and pulled out the engagement ring. Peter then went down on one knee before asking the ultimate question . " Caroline, will you marry me, and share the rest of your life with me ? "
Caroline was pretty sure what was going to happen when Peter took her hand, but she tried hard not to show it. With every word that Peter spoke, however, she became more and more emotional. By the time Peter finished she was smiling, and crying at the same time. Caroline jumped up, put her arms around Peter and kissed him, before saying through trembling lips: " Yes Peter ! Of course Yes !! " Peter picked up Caroline, and twirled her around as he said : " Today you have made me the happiest man in all the nine worlds ! " Peter then sat Caroline back down, and placed the ring on her finger. As she watched Peter place the ring on the womans hand, the violinist could not hold back her emotions and tears began to course down her cheek. The cellist, who was her husband, gave her a surprised look, and then nodded his approval as they continued to play Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
Later as Peter and Caroline walked hand in hand back to the rectory, they saw Hakon and Patty window shopping on the other side of the street. Hakon was holding Patty's hand as they crossed the street to talk to the Reverend and the Godi . Before the round of hello's could be finished Caroline held up her hand to show off her engagement ring to Patty. Patty screamed like a little school girl when she saw the ring. " Oh my Gods ! Oh my Gods, you are getting married ! " Patty shrieked as she threw her arms around Caroline . Hakon looked at Caroline and tried to keep a straight face as he asked : " Who are you getting married to Caroline ? " Peter acted nonchalant and replied : " To the most handsome man in the world ! " Patty then joined in on the joke and added : " You are marrying Brad Pitt !? "
As Peter and Caroline were being congratulated Ulf and Raven walked over to them and asked what all the commotion was about. Caroline showed the ring to Raven and the shrieks and hugs started all over again. Peter, Ulf, and Hakon stood off to the side and watched in amusement as the ladies talked of ideas for the wedding. They spoke for almost an hour before Patty said she was sorry, and told everyone that she felt a little tired and needed to lie down. Hakon apologized as well and started to walk her back to her house. Peter remembered how Hakon had taken it upon himself to help Patty after she was released from the hospital after Richie Benton's vicious attack on her. Her physical wounds had almost completely healed, but she was not as carefree as she had once been. She was afraid to be alone, afraid to be around strangers, and she was not sleeping well because she had recurring nightmares about that horrific attack . Patty could not get Richie's crazy eyes out of her thoughts, and it scared her to death. To compensate she leaned on Hakon physically, and emotionally, for support.
Peter thought that at first Hakon helped her because he felt sorry for her. He always loved the fact that Patty was so happy and outgoing, but the attack had placed limits on her ability to show this side of herself. Hakon started out just helping her to stand, or giving her a hand to get up the steps of the temple. After a while a spark of feelings grew into love between them, and even though they did not acknowledge it at first, they were seldom apart. "They made a strange couple", Peter thought. Hakon was 6 foot 2 inches tall, and 220 pounds of pure muscle, while Patty was almost a foot shorter, frail, and 120 pounds lighter. As Hakon had once himself said to Peter : " Love knows no boundaries. " As a couple Raven and Ulf, on the other hand, were the exact opposite of Hakon and Patty. They rough- housed with each other, and seemed to go from one argument to another. And yet when they weren' t fighting you could almost feel the love they felt for each other . Unlike Patty, who was frail and petite, Raven was a big girl who didn't take crap from anyone. Everyone agreed that they suited each other very well.
As Peter walked Caroline back to the rectory the adrenaline that had been keeping him going for the last few hours began to wane. When they reached the front door Caroline turned to Peter and was going to invite him in for a cup of coffee, but when she saw his bloodshot eyes she laughed and said : " You have had a busy day haven' t you Peter ? You look exhausted ! " Peter tried to perk up but answered reluctantly : " I didn't get much sleep last night, but I' m alright. " Caroline smiled a huge smile before scolding him : " You are not alright Peter ! Now give me a kiss and go home ! " Peter laughed before kissing her, and then slowly walked away. As Peter left he heard Caroline say : " Good night honey ! " Peter smiled and thought to himself : " It is good to be engaged ! " He turned, waved, and blew her a kiss before heading home.
Peter whistled to himself as he walked up the stairs of the temple for the weekly thursday ritual, and sumbel. Hakon met him at the front door, and said with a smile : " Pretty happy with yourself these days aren' t you Peter ? " Peter grinned before saying : " Yes I am Hakon... Yes I am ! " "You look fairly content too my friend ! " Peter said with a touch of sarcasm. Hakon looked at Peter and laughed as he answered : " Yes I am Peter.... Yes I am ! " As Raven and Ulf joined them in the foyer of the temple to greet the members as they entered, Raven turned to Ulf and whispered: " What are they smiling about ? " Ulf looked at both of the happy guys and just shrugged his shoulders.
Holding the rituals was such a joy these days. There were no demonstrators trying to drown out the temple - goers words, and no threats of violence, or law suits. They could simply sit in their circle of friends, and honor their Gods, heroes, martyrs, and ancestors in peace. Everyone was so relaxed during the rituals, and much more able to express themselves before the Gods than before. Even the usually volatile Raven was much less angry and at times made light of situations that would have driven her crazy just a short time ago. Peter felt a much stronger bond developing between the members than they ever had before. They were becoming of one mind, and Peter was so proud of them.
A year ago everyone left after the rituals because they feared leaving alone, and generally left as a group. Now, however, they stayed around afterwards and socialized, sometimes for several hours before leaving. On this particular night Brian Kingman, who was one of the newer members, mentioned to Peter that a new family had moved into Johnson's Mill named Wollfmen, and Brian told Peter that their three children were all heathens. Brian added with a smile that the oldest, James, had approached him about the possibility of joining the kindred, and attending the rituals. Peter' s first question was a simple one : " Are they all of legal age Brian ? " Peter asked. Brian nodded and then replied : " Yes ! I believe James is 22, Dag is 21, and Lisa is 18. " Peter shook his head thoughtfully before saying : " Well as long as they are all of legal age they will not need their parents permission, so invite them to a meet and greet next thursday after the ritual. " " Sounds good ! " Brian replied. " They have cool nicknames too Peter ! " Brian added. " Really ! " Peter asked. Brian laughed as he said : " James is called Wolf, Dag is called Dragon, and Lisa is called Serpent. " Peter laughed as he said : " Well, Raven will definitely love that ! "
On Friday morning Peter was awakened from his sleep by someone who was ringing his doorbell. After pulling on a robe, he staggered to the front door and opened it. He was greeted by a radiant Caroline Decker who put her hands on her hips and gave him a little angry look : " Peter ! " she said loudly, " We have so much to do today How can you still be in your pajamas ?! " Groggily Peter asked : " What do we have to do Caroline ? " Caroline pushed past Peter, turned and replied : " What do we have to do ! " We have to find a hall, decide who to invite, pick out invitations, taste wedding cakes, pick out a menu for the reception, choose a florist, pick out my wedding dress,... and your tuxedo, choose a minister, decide where we are going to be married, get our blood tests, and decide where we are going on our honeymoon, and book that as well ! " And I think that we need to get started as soon as possible, don't you Peter ? " she added.
Peter just stood there for a moment in his pajamas with his mouth wide open in a state of shock. He looked at Caroline closely as if he was seeing her for the first time, and thought to himself : " Who is this woman ! And what has she done with my fiance' ! " Peter then asked in a sheepish voice : " Do I have time for a cup of coffee ? " Caroline ignored his discomfort and said : " Get dressed quickly, and I will buy you a cup in town. " As Peter was buttoning his shirt he looked in the mirror, and said quietly to himself : " Is this what marriage is like ?! "
As Peter drove Caroline to the fourth hall that morning, she was still going on and on about everything they needed to do. She kept reminding him that it was his idea to get married in just one month, and that of course meant everything had to be rushed. Peter occassionally was able to get in a, " Yes, dear ", but generally he just listened. He had begun to realize that the wedding had little or nothing to do with him, but was strictly the domain of the bride. As they pulled into the parking lot of the Luxury Inn, in Berkeley, Caroline's eyes lit up. " This place looks very nice Peter ! " she said with wide eyes. Peter took her pause as his cue to add : " Yes, very nice. " Caroline had called the Luxury Inn the day before, and found out from the superviser that there had been a cancellation for the first week of October on the 7th. It would mean moving the wedding up by a week, but that didn' t bother Caroline as long as she had a nice hall to have the reception in. It just meant she was going to have to work a little harder to get everything ready.
When the clerk opened the door to the hall Caroline fell in love with it at once. It was a large hall, which looked as though it had been recently renovated, and was lavishly decorated in what looked like a Victorian style. Peter, who was beginning to feel like Caroline' s chauffeur, and becoming a little bored in the process, actually perked up a little when he saw how nice the hall was. He glanced over at Caroline, nodded, and said : " I love it ! How about you ? " Caroline hugged Peter and replied : " Yes, this is it. This hall is perfect ! " Peter exhaled and said to himself : " Well, that is one thing checked off of our list ! " Caroline looked at Peter thoughtfully, and then added : " Oh my, that reminds me, we have to find a band for the reception ! " Peter shook his head, took a deep breath, and thought : " Well, add one more thing to our list ! "
Next on their itinerary was the jewelers to pick out their wedding bands. Once again Peter just sat back like a spectator, and watched as Caroline looked at two or three dozen wedding bands. Peter had to admit though that she had good taste because the wedding rings she picked out were very nice. Next up were the wedding invitations which also held little interest for Peter, who once again he deferred to Caroline to make the decision. Peter was starving by 2 O' clock when they reached the bakery to taste wedding cakes. Caroline had said that to really judge the flavor of the cake, filling and icing, they had to be a little hungry, and so they had skipped lunch. As the little plates were placed in front of him Peter ate every crumb, and even used his finger to get the last bit of icing off of the plates, to Caroline' s embarrassment. They finally decided on a white cake with lemon filling, and a cream icing that wasn' t very sweet.
Caroline, as they were driving away from the bakery, asked : " Peter, do you think we still have time to go to the florists today ? " Peter gave her a look that made her change her mind, and she said instead : " Well, maybe that was enough for one day. Why don' t we go and have an early dinner back in Johnson's Mill ? " Peter was starving and quickly said eagerly : " Yes ! " Caroline giggled a little, and then added to Peter's dismay : " The florist is open on sundays anyway so we can go tommorrow. " Inside Peter's mind he screamed : " No !! "
The ritual ran longer than usual on Thursday night because at the beginning of every month the kindred held a special ritual for the innocent victims of violent crimes. Peter had started this ritual in honor of Richie Benton's first victim, Diane De Carlo, and every month thereafter the kindred honored an innocent victim of violent crimes from their area, or from a national, or international tragedy. Unfortunately there always seemed to be plenty of victims to honor. The list was very long tonight because of a mass murderer who took the life of over 70 victims in Norway.
James, Dag, and Lisa sat quietly and patiently at the back of the temple, on the visitors benches, until they were finished. James and Dag were fairly calm, but Lisa could not believe that she was actually sitting in a Pagan temple watching an actual ritual ! She had performed many rituals with her brothers in the woods behind their house, but it was nothing like this. This was special ! This was real !! This was incredible !!!
As the ritual ended Peter asked the Wollfmen's to join them for a meet and greet in the circle of friends. Fran Denton, and Joanne Lindeman acted as hosts, and put out snacks and soft drinks, as the three sat down and joined them . Peter gave the floor to Brian Kingman to introduce the Wollfmen's because he was the one who knew them best. Brian stood up and said in a proud voice : " I would like to introduce to all of you three new members for your consideration. First James Wollfmen, also known as Wolf, Dag Wollfmen, or Dragon as he is called, and Lisa Wollfmen, who also goes by the name of Serpent. Lets give them all a warm welcome ! " After a rousing wave of applause, Brian sat down, and Peter introduced himself. " Welcome to the Johnson' s Mill Kindred my friends . My name is Peter Hansen and I am the Godi of the Temple of the Triad. We are all very happy that you have decided to join us here tonight, and hopefully you will want to stay and become members for years to come. " Peter said happily. Raven then moved foward, and said in her best friendly voice : " And my name is Raven, and I am the Godia here at the temple, and I too welcome you three to our humble place of worship." Raven then looked over at Peter before saying : " Before you are officially accepted as trial members we need to ask you a few questions first..... If you don' t mind ? " James, who was the oldest, and seemed to be the spokesman of the family, thanked Peter and Raven for this opportunity, and added that they did not mind answering a few questions at all. Peter then added : " If you are accepted as new members, after a one year trial period you will be made permanent members of our kindred and temple."
The question and answer period went on for well over an hour. Some members, like Peter and Raven, wanted to know about their background, and their attitude towards Christians, and other faiths. Peter made a point of telling the Wollfmens the entire story of what had happened over the last year. He wanted to make sure they understood that it had been a hard road to get to where they were now, and that it was important not to do anything to jeopardize what they had worked so hard to accomplish. Raven asked what their relationship was to the Triad of Gods that they most honored at the temple. John Svensen was particularly interested in why they had chosen a Heathen religion over one of the Five Faith religions. When they each in turn answered that it had been the old Gods who had called to them, and that the God of the Christians had never spoken to them, everyone clapped politely. The answers that the kindred members received were perfectly acceptable, and after some of the members started to ask about their hobbies and what sports teams they liked, Peter and Raven realized it was time to wrap up the meet and greet.
At the end of the meeting Peter told the Wollfmens that the kindred members would vote next week on their membership, and that he would personally notify them as to the results. Peter and Raven thanked them for coming, and wished everyone a good night before locking the temple, and leaving themselves. As Peter was walking down the steps, Raven turned to him and asked : " They seem alright don' t they ? " Peter shrugged his shoulders before replying : " Yes, they seem as though they will make nice additions to our kindred, but only time will tell my friend. " Good night Raven ! " Peter added. " Good night, Peter ! " Raven responded as they went in opposite directions.
Peter set his alarm to wake him an hour earlier that next morning, and quickly made himself a cup of coffee. Caroline had already warned him the night before that they had another busy day ahead of them. As Peter dressed he kept telling himself that it was less than a month until the wedding. He had waited 30 years to spend the rest of his life with the right woman, so he decided he could wait one more month. Then he whispered to his reflection : " Yeah, but the next 30 days will be like Hermod' s ride to Niflheim ! " Peter then looked out of his window before saying to himself : " At least Hermod got to ride Sleipnir, all I have is a Chevy ! "
Caroline was 15 minutes early, something she had never done before he proposed, and was just as excited as she had been the weekend before. She talked non - stop about the wedding all the way over to Peggy Thompson' s house. Peggy was coming along today because they were picking out the wedding dress, the maid of honors dress, and Peter's tuxedo. As they drove over to the bridal shop Peter was glad that Peggy was with them because she was acting as a buffer between himself and Caroline. Though the occassional high squealing laughter bothered his ears from time to time, at least he didn't have to sit there saying " Yes dear " and " Sounds good " , every couple of minutes.
Peter sat out in the showroom while Caroline tried on her gowns, his mind flashing back to a year ago when Detectives Steele and Moore were interrogating him over the murder of a young woman he had never even met. " How things have changed since then, " he thought to himself. " Last year I thought it possible I might spend the rest of my life in prison for a crime I did not commit, and a year later I am getting married to a wonderful and beautiful woman. " He smiled as he thought : " Life is very strange indeed ! "
Peter had already seen several of the dresses that Caroline modeled for him, so he knew the routine pretty well. First Peggy would open the curtain, and introduce the bride, and then Peter was expected to look astonished, and say how beautiful she looked in the dress. Peter took a deep breath as Peggy made the announcement, and decided he would do his best to look excited. Then Caroline walked out from behind the curtain wearing a tight fitting wedding dress. One that did not have a long train, or frilly stuff all over it. Peter stood up, and said in a clear and honest voice : " In that dress you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen ! " Peggy and Caroline were very surprised by Peter's reaction. They both had noticed that Peter was getting bored, and were shocked by his sudden interest. Caroline asked : " Do you really like it ? " Peter answered with a big smile : ' Yes ! Very much so ! " Caroline who liked the way the dress showed off her figure, turned to Peggy and said : " Yes, I think this is the one ! " Peggy looked at Peter's face, and laughed before saying : " Oh Yeah ! That's the one ! "
Picking out the tuxedo was much easier ! On the way over to the tailor shop a much more interested Peter, discussed with Caroline which tuxedo would go best with the wedding dress, and they decided a traditional black tux would be best. While Peter was paying for the tux he overheard Peggy ask Caroline about going to look at the Maid of Honor's dress later in Berkeley. Peter turned around and gave them both a blank stare, which made both women laugh. Caroline giggled as she said ; " Don't worry Peter we won't drag you there as well ! We girls will take care of that. " Peter breathed a sigh of relief, and then finished paying the tailor.
Next : Chapter 4 : A Battle in the temple ?!