The Southern Isle
“The middle lands first took shape under the struggle between the Southern Wind, Duré, and the Groundmover, Corē. From the fierce force of a blow, one of Duré fingers was severed. As the severed finger hit the ground, from the mix of blood and earth, the creatures of the world took form. Creatures great and small struggled for subsistence under the great heavenly clash. Some like the great lizard beasts perished while others like the ancestors of humanity thrived.”
Ney Kiel stopped at the entrance of the altar room.
He handed the girl to the priest who had followed him from the entrance and bent down to remove his sandals. Once he had removed his sandals, Ney placed them neatly to the left of the entrance to the altar room. Ney turned to the priest carrying the girl and gestured him to return the girl. The priest deposited the girl into Ney Kiel’s arms and waited at the threshold. Ney walked into the altar room holding Navî Reed in his arms. Her head bobbing along as he walked.
The room was dark. A single solitary flame at the entrance above the double wooden doors flickered indistinctly. It was a room seldom used. In ages past, it was believed that a human sacrifice was needed to appease Duré during the Dark Night. The sacrifice would stop the Dark Night from spreading over the Southern Isle and allow its people peace for a decade. Ney thought about the many human lives lost on this altar. It was chiseled from a solid block of ivory colored marble. Images of the Four battling for control of the heavens danced across the base. It was called Duré’s Altar.
The warm waters of a hot springs which kept the temple warm all year long flowed river-like from the wall opposite to the entrance and surrounded the altar like a motte. Centuries of constant water flow had eroded the neatly constructed aqueducts that were supposed to guide the water in strict geometric congruence around the altar. The water now snaked from the wall to the altar much like a river and around the altar in a beach-like puddle spread further than it was ever intended to. The light of the burning torch danced across the water as Ney stepped into the puddle barefooted. He placed Navî on Duré’s Altar. Navî looked small on the altar it was clearly made for someone much older.
The priest waiting at the entrance walked into the room. He pulled a small towel from one of his pockets and handed Ney Kiel the towel. Afterward the priest exited the altar room as quietly as he entered. Ney walked to a bench pressed against one of the wall. He sat down and toweled his feet dry.
He stared at the girl as he thought about the implications of a human sacrifice now; at this junction between governmental systems. The practice had fallen into disfavor centuries before. It was barbaric. Duré did not respond to the sacrifices. The Dark Night came and went with or without the sacrifices. Main Encampment had spearheaded the effort to bring an end to the sacrifices. When the priests had threatened excommunication, Main Encampment rose up against the order. The mob stormed the temple and they burnt the Wind Speaker on Dure’s Altar. It was the last human sacrifice.
Ney placed the towel next to him and grabbed a blade from the folds of his robe. He thought about the sacrifice. The girl was already as good as dead. She would not survive the next two days with the fog. She was a leech on the system if she did survive. An anointed Templar. The Southerners would never accept a democracy. They were hard pressed to change their old ways. The Templar system was sacred.
If he could somehow connect the sacrifice with the sacred writings and the end of the Dark Night, then he could use the girl’s sacrifice to bring popular opinion in line with the rest of The Isles of Warm. The nation would be united in its front against the Templars.
“Carine,” Ney shouted towards the open door. He waited a few seconds in silence. After a moment, he heard Carine’s measured footsteps.
She appeared through the door and said, “yes, Wind Speaker?”
Ney said unequivocally, “prepare the girl for sacrifice.”
Ney studied Carine’s face. A shadow passed over it. He knew Carine would be close at hand. She was the second highest ranking member of the Cadmium Order.
“Is there is problem Seer of the Wind?” Ney used her full title on purpose. He wanted to remind her that she was an underling.
“It has been centuries since this order has carried out a human sacrifice. In fact, the practice fell out of favor for a much longer time in other parts of the nation,” Carine said calmly.
“Do you have a problem with my order?” Ney asked.
“No, but the people at the foot of this mountain might. I’ll make the arrangements. When do you want it done?” Carine waited for an answer.
Ney walked across the room to the threshold and bent down to grab his sandals. “Careful Sister Carine, you desecrate sacred floor,” he said slyly looking at her sandals, “I want the girl ready in the next two hours.” He stood up and motioned with his head towards the blade in his other hand, “I’m already ready.” Ney left the altar room.
Carine stood in the abhorrent room and walked towards the girl. She entered the sacred waters without taking off her sandals.
“Duré this child needs a swift wind to carry her home again. Send your healing wind, oh Strong One.” Carine murmured in prayer as she placed a hand on the child’s forehead.
The girl was emaciated. Her cheeks were sunken, her rib cage poked out through the broken rags she was wearing. Carine opened the girl’s eyelids and looked into Navî’s eyes.
Carine brought her face close to the girls face and whispered, “come back little Templar, come back.”
The light in the room flickered with a draft that ran through the corridor. Twice a day the draft flew through the corridors of the room. The priest had forgotten why or how it occurred but they could count on it like the rise and fall of the sun. She sighed heavily. She wrapped her fingers around a hidden lever on the base of the altar and pulled. A drawer appeared with several tools to wash the body. She placed a rag and a maædin blade on the altar next to Navî. Carine grabbed the knife and ripped through Navi’s clothes leaving her naked on the altar. She placed Navî’s hand on the edge of the altar and, without hesitation, brought the knife hard through it right into a slot in the altar.
Blood from Navî’s impaled hand puddled up and started rolling down the side of the altar.