A procession whispered their messages into the youth’s ear, lips pressed to the skin and the hushed breaths tickling eardrum hairs and sending a hundred communique shudders across his spine. Scripture could not be taken where he was going.
On the looted smock he wore a man great and shirtless stepped forth with a brush red from a dish of vermilion. He daubed a spot where the youth’s heart should be and then led him by the hands as if for a tender dance out to the middle of the village clearing, barefoot in the ankle-deep snow where his wrists were bound behind his back to the rough stake stabbed upright in the earth.
Requests for healthy children and pregnant bellies and an abundant millet harvest and for the people in the towns to grow fat and slow and to wander solitary out in the woods to ease the hunt and for indentured souls to wage spiritual warfare against their enemies.
“Take our words to the buried god.” The last whisper he would receive. The warrior kissed the youth’s forehead and envied his coming immortality. He stepped back six paces and readied his three javelins to commence the boy’s departure.