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Sacrifice a short stor.., p.7
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       Sacrifice - A Short Story, p.7

           Kell Inkston
 
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  Chapter 7

  The opening leads to a sheer, mossy cliff, dropping off into a luminescent pool that hums in the shaded clearing. There’s something stirring below.

  “I’m… wow, I’m surprised you’re here… this is great,” Amuu says, raising his foot from the edge of the cliff.

  “L-Luua!” A voice cries from the side of the drop.

  Luua shifts her eyes about the cliff. “Ruka? Is that you?”

  “This bastard tried to sacrifice me!” Ruka yells from the other side of the cliff.

  Amuu scoffs. “Sorry about that.” he reaches down, grabs a hold of Ruka, and after a moment of difficulty, pulls him back to his feet. “I just thought, well, since we lost you we might as well do the next best thing.”

  “You…” Ruka pants for breath, “You bastard! You told me… we were going to wait for them!”

  “Don’t be a dumbass, man. How could we have expected that the clanless would actually bring her here?”

  Ruka lays himself down as he recovers. “And so you just lied to me and kicked me off to tribute me… You’re a real ass, Amuu.”

  “I did what I had to. Someone from our village has to die- but it looks like the clanless is on our side.” Amuu turns back to the clanless and Luua. “So what’s the matter, man? Didn’t get it through that thick head of yours that she was the tribute until after you kidnapped her? Thought you’d turn around and beg for forgiveness?”

  The clanless shakes his head wildly, his dark feathers bristling along his cloak. “No. Honestly I think this is all a waste of time, so I thought I’d come and put an end to it.”

  Ruka gets to his feet, grasps his spear, and chuckles alongside Amuu, who readies his bow.

  “You got peppy quick,” Luua says.

  “You think we’re going to let you taint the tribute?” Ruka asks. “Though Amuu just tried to kill me, you’re here now— that really does change it. So just how are you going to ‘put an end to it’?” Ruka lightly brushes the sailfish tattoo across his cheek and enters a fighting stance.

  The clanless, usually of a slouched, feral composure, straightens to his full height. “I’ll ruin the tribute- I’ll take the girl’s place!”

  The three youths freeze in shock. Of all the things to come out of this maniac’s mouth, this is easily the worst. Amuu bristles. “Y-you… no! You’re not from our clan, idiot!” The two wayfarers block the way to the cliff.

  Luua takes a sharp breath. “No! Dumbass! You don't need to protect me!” She reaches to grasp his cloak, but he shakes his head.

  “That’s where you’re wrong.” He reaches up for the mask, and pulls it up just enough to reveal a very, very faded shark tattoo— but it just couldn’t be. “I’m Cuuo of Toor, the father of Luua of Toor! I’ll take her place, and none of you can stop me!”

  The three peer at what is apparently a tattoo, but is so faded, it could practically be a birthmark. “Lies!” Amuu shouts.

  The clanless turns around. “How else would I have known all that about you, Luua?”

  She hisses as she draws away from him. “You’re… no, you just painted it on. You’re not my father, liar!”

  “It’s real, Luua! Trust me! And if you can’t trust that, watch me die for you and prove that I’m your fa-”

  An arrow flies into his chest. Cuuo regains himself as Amuu draws a heroic breath. “If you’re her father, then you know the punishment for attempting to taint the sacrifice!”

  Cuuo laughs. “Ohhhh~ death? Scary. Bring it on, hotshot.”

  Amuu draws another arrow as Cuuo starts forward with careful, readied steps.

  “You boys really are too into this whole ‘sacrifice’ thing. If I weren’t about to die, I’d talk to your parents. Amuu, that you, kid? You always were a brat.”

  “Shut up, clanless! You’ve been spying on the village to trick us into letting you sacrifice yourself! This has been your plan all along!” Amuu shouts, loosing another arrow into Cuuo.

  Again he barely flinches as the arrow enters him. “Not really, but if me dying is the only thing that’ll get it through you dumb kid’s heads, then sure. Luua’s not your disposable nobody, she has a right to make her own decisions and that’s-” Cuuo stops his monologue upon feeling real pain.

  His side suddenly feels incredibly warm. He looks to his side and sees one of his peeling knifes in his side, shoved in by Luua. “You idiot,” she says, breathing heavily as Ruka rushes forward with his spear ready. “Dying is my decision!... but not before I get rid of you, clanless deceiver!”

  Ruka thrusts at the clanless with his spear, and the clanless grasps it with a scarce dodge as he leaps back.

  Amuu aims another shot as the clanless and Ruka enter a struggle over the spear that, even with his injuries, the clanless is winning. Luua watches as in awe as the clanless shakes off Ruka and tosses the spear over Amuu into the great deep. Amuu flies another arrow into the clanless as Ruka draws his knife and leaps in for round two. The clanless lifts his cloak in a rare movement, revealing his bloodied body, and tosses another pile of powder at Ruka, stunning him long enough to grab hold of the boy and put his arm into a lock. As yet another arrow marks into Cuuo’s flesh, he shoves Ruka’s face into a nearby tree, knocking him out.

  Looming over Ruka, Cuuo pulls out the knife in his side and Amuu rushes forward into action.

  “Don’t you dare, you scum!” Amuu draws his own knife and vaults for the clanless, who turns with a readied grip on the knife. He tosses it and with a spin meets the blade right into Amuu’s heel, sending the young man falling right into the clanless’ lifting knee. Luua watches as Amuu, too falls aside in defeat, though perfectly alive.

  “Alright,” the clanless turns for the cliff, the Great Face waiting just below. “Time to end this.” He starts for the cliff just as another arrow flies into him, this time shot by Luua— she took the moment to grab Amuu’s bow. The clanless falls over. “W-wait, Luua. It’s me… papa! Let me do what I’ve come here for! Don’t throw your life away for nothing.”

  She loads another arrow to her string. “You’re… you’re not my father. He would have come home!”

  The clanless pulls himself up weakly to a knee. “No… your father got lost, a long, long time, and by the time he found the town again, by the time he found you again, you were already on your way to becoming a young lady… your daddy couldn’t stop them from making one of us the tribute, so he decided to wait. He waited for years and years, for this moment. Now all three of you can go home and live on pointless lives, waiting for the next time you have to throw someone away for no reason. Your daddy don’t care if it stops or not, he just doesn’t want his little girl to get hurt. Somehow, I thought my gift would remind you,” He grins. “Guess I put too much faith in sentiment.”

  Luua reaches up to her headdress and pulls down the crude wicker arrow— except it’s not an arrow, she realizes, there’s a set of grooves on the tip- a fishing spear. Clear now, very clear now, she recalls the image of a wonderful man giving her an oversized spear to keep safe for him while he tried a new one out on a fishing trip from which he never returned.

  She drops the bow. “D-daddy?” But he’s already to his feet, rushing for the cliff. She, however, is not filled with arrows and bleeding to death; she sprints forward to the cliff, passes him, and just barely passes his grip.

  Ruka, regaining himself, spits up a cough of blood as he can barely see the outlines. “Luua, don’t let him jump in! He’ll ruin everything!”

  She’s at the step, but she feels a strong impact put her to the ground— Cuuo, her father, threw something at her. No matter. She’s up to her feet just as she hears him right behind her; she jumps, leaping off the cliff and over the great darkness within the water at the bottom of the cliff—and then, she’s grasped.

  Cuuo has her in his arms as the two fall together; he leapt too. “If only to keep ya’ company,” he says, his bloody mouth smiling as he hugs his daughter for the first time in twelve years.

>   “LUUA!” Ruka shouts, helpless to stop what’s happening in front of him.

  She doesn’t know what to say, or think, or do, but she grasps back and holds her father close. They embrace into the jaws of The Great Face, rising out to accept the offering. The teeth clamp shut, and the sacrifice is made. This time, the first and last time ever, The Great Face lingers- its eel-like head basking in the sunlight for only a moment of consideration.

  Ruka rolls onto his knees pathetically. “It was… Luua, why did it have to-”

  “I am, finally, sated,” The Great Face speaks. “I shall take no more sacrifices. Truly, if you had delivered these two first, it would have been more than enough.”

  Ruka crawls to the cliff. “What?! What do you mean?”

  The Great Face sighs, a billow of mist spewing out. “Truly, this is blood bound by love; one gave their life for the other, and yet they died together. Far better than dying due to tradition, or dying due to threats. A matter of fact, this must be the first time your village has sacrificed to me properly. Well done, wayfarer. Now go home and rejoice, for your hunt will return, the fish will emerge from the depths, and your children shall no longer die,” at that, The Great Face lowers itself into the depths of the pool, and soon after, its intimidating shadow disappears as well.

  Ruka is dumbfounded. It takes him a few minutes, but he finally gets up, steps over to Amuu, and takes him back. When they return, they tell the story, just as they listen
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