Chapter 99

Chapter 99

Imra, Daughter of the Lukra'Dotreka'Suma

As the festivities began, Imra found herself alone.

Even as the first night of the ritual was raised with cups of wine to the heavens, and the mood considered as success, none approached her. None of those who she had once called friend, enemy: not even family came closer than a passing glance. Truth be told, it was only Chief Vulre who stepped within ten paces of her, lips curled with a look of sheer disgust.

"What a god gives, is the god's to take back." Vulre had loudly claimed. "Even now, you are tribute. Your place among our people has ended."

With that, the Chief had walked back among the celebration, taking his place at the head of the table beside the altar. Expression once more settled among the laughter and merriment.

So it was, that Imra had remained in solitude. Just close enough to watch and listen, but far enough away to done just as instructed. Beside the altar, beneath the spinning light of the spirit that glided in a strange orbit: Imra waited for the Forest God's will to call upon her.

Waited, and waited... and waited.

It was almost as if the God had forgotten her. Surrounded by the tribe, its spirit of fire bellowed and jested while the wine was poured.

The early night passed into the late, and still it had not addressed her since, while the Elders and Chief brought forth questions for its divine mind to grace them with answers- one of the hooded figures instead came to her. With a strange scent of herbs and spice, the white hair was all Imra could make out from beneath the thick clothed hood, as they spoke aloud.

"You have failed as tribute." Came the whisper. "Exiled, now and forever."

"Please, Elder-" In that moment Imra tried to speak, but found she could not. A swirl of magic held her throat like a vice, and she saw the trail there upon their fingers. Single drops of gemstone red.

"The Chief has told you already, has he not? Do not leave the God's side. Your purpose is at an end." With that command, the invisible grip about her throat released, and the Elder stepped away, cloak merging into the shadows of the shrine until they entirely disappeared.

 

As the hours passed, like smoke to the wind, Imra watched as the others did much the same. The festival of the tribe was in full-swing, dancers and warriors performing showmanship and skill before the shrine, but Imra stayed put and watched until only Chief Vulre and herself remained of the original entourage. She watched as Vulre poured the sacred wine, bowing as the Forest God accepted the holy offering, and drank from the wooden bowl.

The Rite of Servant and Master: a tradition held since ancient times, passed down for hundreds of years- but the longer she watched the stranger it seemed. Like all meant to offer Tribute, Imra had been trained from a young age to know the spiritual ways of the tribe. She knew all the traditional forms, the routines necessary, and yet it took her full moments before she realized what had been amiss.

Chief Vulre did not drink from the bowl himself.

As the night stretched, Imra remained, even as the Great Forest Serpent curled upon itself, and the glowing orb of its Attendant seemed to dim. When the Chief stepped away, Imra watched as he bowed in perfect form facing the shrine- an immaculate motion of utmost respect. It wasn't until he passed her by with a harsh stare, that Imra realized the knife he had dropped before was once again at his belt.

"So we part, First offering." She heard him say, hand resting on the grip of the black-glass blade with a dangerous stance. "Enjoy this privilege while it lasts."