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Sacrifice a short stor.., p.4
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       Sacrifice - A Short Story, p.4

           Kell Inkston
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obviously not alive. She glances over to the clanless once more, who only gestures for her to go ahead and smell it. With another look of suspicion, she brings the peach to her face and sniffs it.


  He nods his head. “It’s?”

  “It smells good, but that’s a trick.”

  He scoffs. “Don’t trust me?”

  “Of course not!”

  He picks his own and raises his mask just high enough to show a thin, surprisingly-trim black beard. She sees him, definitely a man for certain rather than a beast, bite into his peach— a gush of juice flowing from the bite. He chews a moment and then swallows.

  “See? Mmmm!” He pulls his mask back down.

  Luua looks back to her peach, sighs, and bites into it. She flinches as the juices run over and drip down her chin. “Wh-what is this?!”

  “I call the fruit brojangalos— catchy, right? I call the taste fruitish.”

  She licks her lips and quickly devours the rest; she’s never tasted anything like it, certainly, because her village does not even have a word to describe things that are sweet— as they have nothing sweet on the island. “Brojangalos?” she repeats, “Good name, though I bet someone’s already discovered them… How did you find out about these?”

  The masked man reaches into his flowing hood and scratches the side of his neck. “Well, one day I wasn’t feeling so hot. So I decided I’d just eat me a whole bunch of fruit until I felt better,” he says, looking over to another clearing.

  Her gaze intensifies. “Yeah?”

  “Y-yeah! And so I went around eating fruit until I found brojangalos, morbolollies, and gobmobagobs,” he says, gesturing to some of the other trees with other peculiar fruits.

  Luua looks away in thought a moment. “Why were you having a bad day? If people eat that much fruit, they’d usually die— you must’ve been really worried about something.”

  The clanless looks up to the clouds. “I just… had a lot on my mind is all. But that’s beside it. I brought you here to show you that you don’t need The Great Face’s blessing. You can grow these with some fertile earth and some time.” He takes up her hands. “Let me show you how this is done, and you’ll be the one tribute in the history of Toor that gave something back to the people!”

  Luua’s face, almost sweetened, again becomes bitter. “Are you saying that all the other tributes have done nothing for them?”

  The clanless spots the indignant spark in her eyes. “… I’m not going to lie to you. All they did was feed an old lizard.”

  Luua takes a sharp breath. “And I’ll be the next! Give the people your fruitish poison if you like, I’ll do what’s right, and save my people!”

  The clanless pauses and his stature suddenly deflates. “I… I see. So your mind’s made up?”

  “Yes!” She tosses the peach aside.

  “You… you don’t want to stay with me?”

  “Of course not! As if I’d care about some old fart and his magical island! You’re washed up! If you knew what was good and right, you’d take me back to my wayfarers right now and have me…” she pulls in a labored breath as her eyes water, “… and have me sacrificed!”

  The clanless stares at her dully through his mask. Slowly, he bring himself to shake his head. “Please, you don’t know what you’re missing! Look!” From his great cloak he pulls a brown carving with holes in it and he blows into it.

  Luua flinches as a loud sound comes from the carving— and the birds, hidden just a moment earlier, reveal themselves and descend with all their feathers of many colors. A rainbow of avians surround the two and perch about on the peach, apple, and apricot trees.

  “Control… of the birds?” She asks outwardly in disbelief.

  The clanless reaches into his cloak. The sunlight shines through the hundreds of feathers in the clearing, filling all of Luua’s vision with light and beauty as far as she can perceive. From the clanless’ seemingly bottomless cloak, he takes out a carefully-woven bag of plant fibers and spills from it a river of glowing, golden grain. He scatters the grain outward, and the many birds gracefully float down from their trees in perfect trust. They perch onto the earth itself and peck up the grain as he continually scatters more around Luua.

  “Here, take this!” He pours some of the edible, gleaming treasure into her hands.

  “I-I don’t thi-”

  “Now just stay still,” he says, interrupting her as he molds her hands into an open container with her arms outstretched.

  A moment passes and a small bird perches upon her; it is green and yellow, with the tiniest, blackest eyes Luua’s seen in her whole life. It does not even flicker in caution, but instead sends its obsidian-colored beak into the pool of grain. Suddenly a tall, elegant, black and white bird perches on the other arm—and then a noisy, plump, blue and red bird.

  All around her Luua could hear the celebration of the hundred birds, feel the small, twig-like talons of many sauntering across her outstretched limbs to achieve more of the grain gathered by their beloved caretaker.

  “They believe you’re just like me, you know,” the clanless says, “something about your smell, I bet— they can smell a good person.” She’s silent, and he goes on. “Luua, stay with me- live here and rest with me. I’ll keep you fed forever, I promise, and I’ll show you all the wondrous things I’ve learned. I know how to catch a fish without touching it, or spearing it; I know how to make friends with all sorts of beasts, and I’ve made things that you’ll never see in the village. Life would be easier here than in the village— and you and I, we can show them these secrets together! They’ll never have to make another tribute again! You’ll have saved them! So please, Luua, stay here, don’t go and throw yourself away. Stay here.”

  The birds finish the grain and flutter away, releasing Luua to place her arms to her sides. She takes a deep breath. “No.”

  The clanless freezes again. “No?”

  “That’s right,” Luua says, “If you care so much about the people, show them the fruit and the birds and all that yourself. As for me, I have a duty- do you know what that is?”

  The clanless turns away, his piercing gaze now tossed to the dirt. “I’d like to think I do.”

  “Well I have one. I can’t not be tribute to The Great Face. If I lived on, and missed the time for the tribute… I don’t know what would happen to the people. They’d… they could die.”

  “No, Luua! Y-”

  “And how do you know my name, anyway? You knew my favorite color too. You know where Toor is, don’t you? You’ve been,” she draws back. “You really have been watching me!”

  The clanless holds up his hands as if to stop her. “P-please, it’s not li-”

  “You’re so weird. This is downright crazy. You think you can charm me into staying here with your birds and shit, then move on me when it’s convenient for you?” She clenches her fists in fury, ready to send them at this man at the slightest notice.

  “No! I already told yo-”

  “And I don’t believe you!”

  “But you could guarantee their safety with these fruits!”

  She kicks him. “No! They’re just poison! Take me back to my wayfarers!” The birds fluff their feathers in their cozy nests.

  “Pl-please, don’t ma-”

  “Take me back to my wayfarers!” She stands against him in full opposition.

  He is motionless as he looks down at her narrow, angry features, but he sees in her eyes there is determination- that one human element that topples so many others. He takes a deep breath.

  “Okay,” he says, his tone defeated, “I’ll take you to The Great Face.”

  She squints an eye. “Why would I want that?”

  “Do you seriously think those two knuckleheads could win a real fight?”

  Luua grits her teeth. “Yeah, okay, you’re right. But why would you want escort me?”

  He chuckles grimly. “Oh, I guess to spend some last moments with the one I love most.”
  Her expression is a glued, skeptical scowl. “Weird… Yeah, fine. Not like I have a choice.”

  He brightens up. “B-but you do have a choice! You can stay h-”

  “I choose my duty. It is what my parents would want.”

  “I bet all that your parents would want would be to keep their little girl safe.”

  “Then you didn’t know my parents.”

  There’s a pause, and then he laughs. “… Yeah, I guess I didn’t. Fine.”

  She smirks. “Good. Now, wayfarer, let’s be on our way immediately.” Her posture is almost condescending over the feathered sentinel.

  He nods amiably. “Okay- just let me pack up a bit.”

  At that, the two ready themselves to take the final leg of the trip ahead of schedule. Luua spots a knife made of a very sharp, black, glinting glass, and takes it. As he takes up his supplies and shoves off his other vessel, a small, mossed fishing boat, he takes a look back to the island, and releases a single, confidant guffaw.

  Luua, watching him do this, frowns lightly and shakes her head- unsure just how to categorize this man. He opens up a small, woven piece of cloth that suddenly catches wind and begins to propel them forward through the aqua-marine shoals. She takes a bemused, relaxed position against the stern as the clanless operates a strange wooden mechanism at the back of the ship that, over time, she gathers is capable of steering the vessel somewhat.

  “You’re full of surprises, you know,” she says, adjusting her headdress to make herself look more 'sacrificy'.

  He nods. “And I have many more to show you, if you’d just st-”


  He sighs
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