Sacrifice - A Short Story, страница 1
By Kell Inkston
Copyright 2015 Kell Inkston
Luua of Toor is led into the elder’s musty tent by the strong hand of Amuu of Toor.
The elder turns to look at her with his wizened cold features and keen eyes. “Well, so today is your sixteenth birthday, is it not?”
Luua, beaming in joy, nods. “That’s right!” She says, brushing Amuu’s arm playfully.
The elder looks to Amuu. Their faces are stern. “You know what this means, don’t you?” the elder asks.
She nods again. “I am of age, and can be bound to a man!” she says, tears of joy descending across her face. “I know precisely who I want to be bound with!” She tightens her grip on Amuu’s arm, his grip tightening in turn.
The elder releases a longer sigh. “You do, do you?”
“Yes! Amuu here! Please, won’t you bind us… as soon as possible, preferably?”
The elder and Amuu share one last glance, this one of such profound bitterness that Luua squints an eye in curiosity. She parts her long, wavy bangs and folds them behind her cinnamon-colored ears. “Is something wrong?”
Amuu looks away. “You should tell her, elder. It is unkind to leave her waiting.”
The elder nods. “Sit down, Luua.” He motions to the other side of the small fire pit. She obliges and the elder begins. “Now, as you know, once a youth reaches sixteen, they are seen as an adult in our village- and that they are to maintain their purity to this point. You have done as such, yes?”
Luua nods energetically as she places her hands on her knees like she’s seen the huntsmen do. “Of course!”
“And so once… two pure youths become bound, their bondage is all the more beautiful, yes, but that… that is not what is fated for you.”
Luua’s grin dies to a smile. “What are you talking of, elder? Am I not of the age for binding?”
“You are, but that is not what is fated for you,” the elder says, his piercing gaze striking into her.
Luua looks over to Amuu, who looks away; she immediately looks back to the elder. “Then what is this about?”
“I did not want to kill your youthfulness so early, I wanted you to have good years growing up- but now you must take up your duty as… the tribute for our village.”
Luua freezes— the news does not quite get through to her; eyes wide with disbelief, she shakes her head. “No.”
“The mark on your cheek is of the shark, the tribute family. Every fifty years, we are to tribute one to The Great Face, lest all the fish swim away, and the hunt leaves us, and our children die early. Your father died in a fishing accident and your mother died as she was giving birth to you, so you are the only one that can take on this duty. I hope you understand, but you must die for us all.”
She’s silent as a starry night, and slowly the clouds blow over her face. A tear of grief streams down her face. “I knew it. I knew something would come between us right at the end… it really was too good to be true. Is there really no one else?”
The elder shakes his head. “No, it must be. I will give you tonight to grieve, but when the great light shines down to us tomorrow, you must be off with your wayfarers. I’ve chosen Amuu and Ruka for the task to make sure the sacrifice happens.”
Luua begins to tremble, as she has no one to grab onto. “You would make the man I love throw me to The Great Face?” She releases a sob. “There is nothing more painful.”
Amuu takes a deep breath and crosses his arms. “I-I’m sorry, but it must happen or everyone will die. You must make me happy and do your dut-”
“Of course it would make you happy! You don’t have to die!” She interrupts him quickly before she returns to her weeping. Amuu places his hand upon her shoulder for only a moment, and is shrugged off in the same second.
“You are… truly inconsolable, then,” Amuu says, turning from her.
The elder stares at her misery and shakes his head. “It has been like this ever since The Great Face had made its decree at the dawn of time: ‘In fifty great rings, I shall have my teeth lined with the blood bound by love, until all is quenched’. Those of your line must be made tribute every fifty years. It is simply the way it must be— forgive me for this. At least take refuge in the knowledge that you will be reunited with your father and mother soon. The next elder will decide which family shall be the next one of the tributes, as you are the last of your line. I’m sorry.”
Her body arched in agony and her hands wet with her sorrow, she utters her final words for the night. “I will accept this duty, but I will curse my mother and father once I meet them in spirit.” She was led back to her lonesome family tent, and was guarded the entire night by the man she, just this morning, loved more than anyone. She stares at the one thing she remembers from her father, a small, now broken fishing spear- hung up pathetically over the entrance of the tent. It's her last sight as she enters a restless sleep filled with cold, horrible dreams.
Hours later, the morning comes— and so does Amuu to fold up the opening to Luua’s tent. “Light’s up, it’s time to go,” he says in a blunt, emotionless tone. She scrunches into herself, raising a sigh from him. “Luua, I’m not happy about this either, but we both have jobs to do. I promise I’ll bind with you in the spirit, how’s that?”
“Could you really wait until you die?”
He smiles, “Yes.”
She turns to him and looks with eyes wide in hope. “Then, tribute yourself with me! Let’s go to the spirit together!”
Amuu flinches and takes a moment to respond. Her gaze bitters again. “I’m sorry. That’s… that’s a lot to ask,” he says.
“And I curse you too,” she responds.
He clenches his fists and opens the entry wider for her. “Get up, it’s time.”
“I wish it was you being made tribute instead.”
“Out, now.” He waits for her to get up for a moment and then pulls her up and out of the tent himself. Immediately she’s dressed by the women of the village to be the tribute, some of them in tears, and others just glad it’s not their daughter in her place. The feathers are lined into her hair, the paint is smeared across the entirety of her body, and the raiment cape is placed upon her. She is bright in colors of red and green, the traditional visuals for both life and death. Luua’s then led to the boat that will take her to the island of The Great Face. She spots Ruka, who gives a half-hearted wave to her with a smile that would say something along the lines of 'this is going to be the worst three days of my life.'
“Eh, hey, Luua,” Ruka says, holding down his tremors as Luua comes up to him.
“Shut up, Ru,” she says as she passes him by— he hates being called 'Ru'.
He nods and takes up his long paddle. “Fine.” Amuu pushes Luua into the boat, ties her ankle to it, and they shove off with a goodbye that no one would perceive as tearful. Most of the villagers seem to be almost happy that her death’s going to ensure more food for them; they all look awkward— as if they all know they should be feeling bad, but don’t. She just curls up miserably in the boat as they shove off. Amuu looks to Ruka.
“So we’re going west to the island; there’s enough food for us three on the way there and us two on the way back,” he starts as he leans back and watches Ruka row them through the wading waters, “so be good, Luua, and don’t try to run off- or I’ll bring you back every time.”
Luua scoffs. “Well I might as well just keep running away, maybe I’ll make you both starve.” She grins, and shoves her feet into Amuu’s side.
“As if I wanted to kill you, Luua,” he says, shoving her feet to the edge of the boat.
“Uh, same here.”
The two look at
“I have a job, you know- they needed able-bodied men to escort the sacrifice, and I was chosen; I didn’t ask to do it!” He shoves her back.
“Then I’m sure you must know how I’m feeling, considering you won’t even die with the girl you said you’d marry!”
Ruka sighs and Amuu clenches his fists. “You idiot!” Amuu yells, “There’s no damn purpose to killing two people! I can still live my life! I’m not going to let you keep me down!”
“Well good!” She snaps back, “I wouldn’t want you to inconvenience yourself!”
Amuu takes a deep breath. “I knew this is how you’d respond! Always yourself! Never the village! Don’t you care about anyone?!”
“Maybe if they cared about me, bastard!”
“Bitch!” Amuu spits.
“Non-committal coward!” Luua snaps.
“I’m committed to serving my village! Maybe you should try it sometime!”
She raises her hands. “ ‘Wow, please kill yourself! I love you but just die! It’s for the good of the village!’ Why don’t you bite me, Amuu! You piece of-” Luua stops and looks over with Amuu the second they hear the oar scrape violently against the boat’s rim. Ruka’s typical submissiveness has melted away to the mean, dark, brooding outcast- the only reason the elder picked him for the trip rather than a taller, more handsome lad.