[For the October 30th highlight, click here.]
Proverbial hell breaks loose on Halloween night, and the twists come wicked quick. We discover who murdered who, and who isn’t really dead (and has a surprising affiliation). Non-players appear at the manifestation ceremony and physically interfere, while others affect the outcome through more subtle manipulation. Like a trick-or-treater’s candy bag, this entire climactic chapter of Zelazny’s novel is stuffed with sinful delights. But the ultimate highlight comes from the great banefire the players gather round:
It goes all the way back into the misty vastness of our practices. Both sides require it, so in this sense it is a neutral instrument. After midnight, it comes to burn in more than one world, and we may add to it those things which enhance our personal strengths and serve our ends. It attracts otherworldly beings sympathetic to both sides, as well as neutral spirits who may be swayed by the course of the action. Voices and sights may pass through it, and it serves as a secondary, supportive point of manifestation to whatever the opening or closing object may be. Customarily, we all bring something to feed it, and it interacts with all of us throughout the ritual. I had urinated on one of our sticks, for example, several days earlier. There are times when players have been attacked by its flames; and I can recall an instance when one was defended by a sudden wall of fire it issued. It is also good for disposing of evidence. It comes in handy on particularly cold nights, too.
Hearkening back to the ancient roots of Halloween, this hilltop scene of blazing flame is perfectly bewitching in its atmosphere. Snuff’s description of the banefire also captures all the wittiness and occult complexity that has characterized the narrative all October long.