This is the last chapter I will post and it is a very short one!  Please feel free to comment … or if you have enjoyed or would like to know what happens next please purchase here.

3  CORRUPT

The sky was getting lighter through the thick cloud. Somehow the steam from the mountain did not look quite so threatening in daylight. Ishmillimech had watched the whole ceremony from the shelter of the tree. He so wanted to return to his bed but had not been given permission.

The embers in the fire had all but gone out and the morning had bought some relief from fear of the night. He sat on the only dry patch of ground, as the dew was heavier than usual, with his knees tucked to his chest. He had never seen his master so out of control as he was last night. This dedication had taken much longer than any other time, and it was the way in which the tall dark man had pounded the ground and flung himself into the wild dancing that had unsettled Ishmillimech the most. At each altar blessing, the dancing had been the most entertaining part of the whole ceremony for him to watch, but this time his stomach squirmed and his heart had beat too fast in fear.

‘Get up man. We return to the village to prepare the sacrifice.’

‘Yes master Bruja.’ Ishmillimech replied carefully.

‘What is it?’ Bruja questioned.

‘Are you not tired?’

‘Quite the contrary, Ishmillimech. I feel invigorated. Energised and rejuvenated.’ His thin lips spread, revealing his pointed blackened teeth. Bruja was tall and pale. He wore long black robes that dragged along the ground, soaking up the dew in his hem. From his neck dangled an ecliptic string of ornaments, teeth, and a hideous twisted claw. Ishmillimech had never seen such a sight.

Bruja’s own fingers were drawn to touch the claw, like a moth to a flame, as he stepped out ahead of Ishmillimech with an air of arrogance. He stroked the claw affectionately, walking down the well trodden path. His confidence was unmistaken, unlike Ishmillimech who slipped and floundered falling several times.

Bruja caressed the claw with his long fingers. ‘This is going to be the best one yet! There will be much to gain from this and much to receive. I have waited long for this moment. It is not every day that one of such importance is given. There will be rewards beyond that which I have known. We must get the people ready. Make them ready!’

Ishmillimech felt a shudder travel down his spine. He remembered the innocent beginnings of it all. Everything had changed since then; subtle changes had become downright, poke-you-in-the-eye changes. It had been just a bit of fun, the odd sheep, snatched and sacrificed, here or there. The feasting afterwards had always been what had drawn him. Now things had changed, sacrifices were made more often to aid all sorts of decisions and to all manner of objects, but Ishmillimech had been convinced of the power these acts of worship had given Bruja.

He knew deep down that he and the village were now caught firmly in Bruja’s grasp. The ceremony now no longer took place in secret; anyone opposed to the rituals was ridiculed, cast off and neglected, and became unable to survive in the village. Ishmillimech had been there at the first and knew that he would be there at the last. Every time he had said to himself it would be the last, but each festival night, he was drawn out and sucked in by the atmosphere. He held to the excuse that he had no control, that his master had commanded him to take part. But deep inside, his heart was as dead as Bruja’s; he would never want another to take his role in the upcoming events.

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