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Sacrifice a short stor.., p.2
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       Sacrifice - A Short Story, p.2

           Kell Inkston
 
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“You both should shut up. This trip’s gonna be a hell of a lot harder if you’re both crying about this the whole time.”

  Amuu coughs and nods. Luua smiles crassly. “What’s the matter, Amuu. Aren’t you gonna smack him like you would in front of the other boys? Can you hit him now that your friends aren’t around to protect you?”

  Ruka grins as Amuu scratches his chin. “We… don’t need to make any problems. The mission’s too impor-”

  “Scared. Knew it.” She turns around to look to the waves, leaving a scowling Amuu, and a bemused Ruka, proudly flexing his compact musculature under his shabby, layered cloak.

  “S-sure, just turn around,” Amuu says, turning away as well and leaving Ruka to his beloved silence. He rowed on through the shallows, to the depths of the water while eating his lunch. Neither Luua nor Amuu were in much of a mood for another fight, and Ruka did not enjoy talking in general, so the trip became silent. The three sailed on the whole day and set up camp on a small island with colorful yellow and orange-leafed trees. Luua’s rope was transferred to Amuu’s waist to keep her nearby; it is dehumanizing, but at the end of the night, looking up to the stars, she decides that there’s no changing her fate— the only thing she can change is how she looks at her approaching demise. She decides that in the morning, she’ll do her best to be the tribute the village would expect her to be, silent and joyous for what she’s doing for all of them.

  III

  Luua is shoved awake by Amuu. “Hey, we have a visitor. Time to go.” She opens dreary eyes and looks up. Both Amuu and Ruka are eyeing across a shoal to a neighboring island. A pitch black figure is facing them in the steadily waking sun.

  “Who is it?”

  Ruka hums. “No idea, I’ve never seen a clan dress like that before; he might… do you think he’s a clanless?”

  The three exchange worried looks.

  “Clanless, like the ones from the stories?” Luua asks, now to her feet with Amuu, who’s already transferring her rope to the boat.

  “I’d hate to find out. Let’s go!” He says, tugging Luua into the vessel.

  “Agreed,” Ruka says, taking up the oar and pushing off shore. With a feral movement, the clanless man takes up his large shoal board and throws himself into the waves.

  “He’s following us,” Amuu says, reaching for his bow.

  “Shoot that creep, that’ll turn him around,” Ruka says.

  Amuu fires off a shot and directly hits the clanless man— but the man continues across, paddling to them with a crude oar.

  “Did you miss?” Ruka asks.

  “Of course not! He must have a shield or something!”

  “Well then keep shooting?”

  Amuu doesn’t stop to think on it. He fires arrow after arrow at the clanless man, hitting him almost every time, but not slowing him in the slightest.

  “Shit- he’s a beast!” Amuu says, peering across to the far-off figure.

  “Did you hurt him at all?” Ruka asks.

  “I don’t think so.”

  “Well shoot more!”

  “I don’t have any more arrows.”

  Ruka sighs. “In that case, help me paddle. We’ll tire him out!” Amuu joins Ruka by paddling with his hands.

  “What do you think he wants?” Luua asks, watching the dark figure across the waves with some strange fascination.

  “Probably wants to take our stuff,” Ruka says.

  “No, he’ll definitely eat us and bind with you,” Amuu says to Luua as he paddles as quickly as he can.

  “Really, you can’t believe all the stories. Clanless aren’t some monsters— they’re still people; he probably got separated or lost or something,” Ruka says.

  “No way, I hit that thing twelve times— each time it just flinched.”

  The two wayfarers paddle the boat along, and gradually the vision of the clanless man disappears into the mist. They paddle on madly for half an hour until an island comes into view. Luua gives a sigh of relief. “Well, nothing to worry about after all, I guess.”

  Amuu looks to Ruka. “I’m tired… but we shouldn’t camp for the night. Let’s keep going.”

  Ruka sighs. “Easy, coming from the guy that doesn’t row.”

  “Come on, man, it’s creepy. It might find us when we’re sleepi-”

  “He might find us when we’re sleeping- and that’s okay- if you really wanna sleep tonight, I’ll keep watch, and you’ll row tomorrow. Either that or you get to rowing now. Sound good?” Ruka asks this with a certain wryness about him.

  Amuu sighs and contemplates it, causing Luua and Ruka to exchange amused looks.

  “Too much for you, head hunter?” Luua asks, calling Amuu by his popular title in the village.

  “N-no! I’ll row tomorrow!” Amuu says, scowling obviously and to the pleasure of his two companions.

  Ruka grins. “Nice. Let’s go on until it gets dark so we’re sure we’ve lost him. He probably knows that we can’t go in another direction or we’ll risk getting lost. So we row till it’s dark, and I’ll keep watch, got it?”

  Amuu nods. “Alright, it’s a deal.”

  They row and paddle on through the misty waters for many hours, passing by way-points and island markers made of rocks and sticks— structures for the sole purpose of leading one toward The Great Face. Luua feels more and more on edge as the hours pass; she's certain she can see their shrouded hunter, entering and exiting the very edge of her vision. It is a fear— but it's a strange fear. She knows well she’s already bound to her death, and yet this figure could offer a different one—perhaps a better one, or a worse one; she wonders what the figure is like, and what led it to hunt her and her two wayfarers. Hours pass of musing in the mist, and the dreary great light above them bends over the horizon and shrouds their world in darkness. They stop at the nearest island they can find and by the time it’s pitch black out, they’ve landed and Luua is settled into her bed.

  Amuu is left restless and staring up at the stars. “What if he catches up with us?” he asks.

  Ruka sighs as he climbs into a nearby tree, his arms granting him just enough strength to pull himself up. “I’ll kill him. It’s really that simple.”

  “But what if he kills us? No one will know.”

  “Fishmen from our village get lost every year. Storms send them so far away that they couldn’t find their way back. People would just imagine we screwed up or something, I bet.” He relaxes into the leaves, folding a fishing spear in between his legs. “That’d be bad though- would be on our family’s heads instead of ours.”

  “Yeah…” Amuu turns to Luua. “Don’t worry… we’ll get you there.” His long, matured features curve into a smile as his bird tattoo waves on his cheek.

  Luua sighs. “Yes, thank you. I'm so relived that I won’t be eaten alive by some clanless freak— instead I’ll just get eaten by The Great Face.”

  Amuu scoffs. “Well your death will mean a lot for everyone- you’re a hero, you know.”

  She crosses her arms and looks away. “Sure.”

  “No, I mean it. All the villagers will-”

  “Night, Moo,” she says, turning away into her side. Ruka snickers from above.

  Amuu clenches his teeth. “Goodnight… Luuny!”

  Neither Luua nor Ruka laugh at that one, as the funniest thing about Amuu’s utterance was his attempt to somehow repay the damage caused by being called 'Moo', which they both find completely impossible.

  There are a couple of snickers back and forth from Luua below and Ruka above, much to the chagrin of Amuu; this lasts nearly five minutes before they truly settle down. Luua and Amuu enter deep dreams, and Ruka sprawls himself out into the branches, awaiting the arrival of the dark, clanless stalker. Though Amuu and Luua are in comfort, they both have that impending sense of being hunted— that something’s nearby and that it will find them.

  IV

  Luua wakes with a start to a viciously loud, deep crack.

  “-nuvabitch!” She hears from a voice soun
ding like Ruka’s. Her eyes open, and in the morning light, spy a great masked figure, staring down upon her as it holds an enormous branch over her body. In a flash, the clanless swings to the approaching Ruka, smacking him into the sand and heaving for another strike to Amuu, who was quick to get to his feet. Amuu and Ruka stand rigid and ready a few meters away as Luua, frozen in shock, just watches from her sleeping spot.

  “Get out of here you damn creep!” Amuu yells, glinting out his hunting knife with trained speed. The clanless does not answer, and instead stands at a loose corpse-like slouch. “Did you hear me?!” Amuu says, glancing over to Ruka, who has recovered his spear and has it ready to throw. Again, the clanless is silent, and neither of Luua’s wayfarers want to make the first move. With that aroused terror in her, she looks over the clanless man.

  A cloak of dark feathers, sticks, bark and cord spun together around a mystery of a physique- only its left hand is visible: muscular, scarred, aged both by years and by nature’s daily sting. Its strange mask is hewn from the saddened grey wood of a long-dead tree. Whatever the clanless is, it is formed like clay from the deepest heart of nature; an artist that only humors life in its cold, salted hands.

  “This is your only warning! You’ll be a feast for the fish!” Amuu says, spitting at the shrouded ghost of a man.

  The clanless reveals its right hand from its cloak, an arrow-filled armor of bark covers the entire arm.

  Ruka scoffs. “Well, you definitely hit him. Problem is all that wood he’s got tied on.”

  “Clanless scum,” Amuu says, readying for movement, “get out of here,
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