To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on the first Monday of every month. At the end of the month, I’ll take the story down and post another.
This month’s free story is called “Sacrifice to the Kitayu” and it can be found in Children of the Stone Gods, a collection of science fantasy, planetary romance and sword and planet stories. As for why I chose it, I realised that in four years of First Monday Free Fiction, I had never posted a story from that particular collection before, so time to rectify that.
So accompany the beautiful Hafzira, as she becomes a…
Sacrifice to the Kitayu
It was near the time of returning and the people of Volitan were preparing this solar cycle’s sacrifice.
Like every cycle, the sacrifice was chosen from the daughters of Volitan. One lunar cycle before the returning, all women of the colony who were of childbearing age and not yet mated were called together in the Great Hall to select this cycle’s sacrifice.
Many came willingly, for it was considered a great honour to be chosen as an offering to the Kitayu on their annual return. After all, only the best and brightest, the purest and the most beautiful of all the daughters of Volitan were considered worthy of becoming an offering of peace and tribute to the Kitayu.
Others had to be forced. They were pulled out of the cellars and closets and outhouses where they’d been hiding and led into the Great Hall in restraints. Some girls also tried to escape the selection by getting mated very quickly.
Still, in the end they all came, willingly or not. All the unmated women and girls of childbearing age of the whole colony gathered together in one place, so that the sacrifice could be chosen.
The selection process was rigorous. First, all of the young women were subjected to a thorough physical examination to determine whether they were healthy and thus fit to be sacrificed. The girls’ virginity was also inspected to prove that the chosen sacrifice was pure and worthy.
Girls found impure escaped the selection process and were led away from the Great Hall in shackles, lest they contaminate its sacred atmosphere with their impurity. They were taken to the gaol and eventually condemned to lifelong servitude in the houses of lust for daring to defy Volitan’s customs and laws.
Next, those girls found to be healthy and pure enough were subjected to a battery of scans, puzzles and tests to determine the quality of their intellects and their very minds. Great machines bestowed by the Kitayu themselves compiled results and evaluated the tests and in the end, an algorithm honed by centuries of experience selected this cycle’s sacrifice, the best and noblest and worthiest young woman Volitan had to offer.
In the end, the great machine spat out a single name, the name of the chosen maiden, printed on a sealed piece of paper. The seal could only be broken by the Pontifex of Volitan, governor and high priest combined into one.
Before the name was read out, all doors of the Great Hall were locked and barred. For in the past, it had sometimes happened that the chosen maiden attempted to escape and had to be chased down. So trusted guards were placed at all exits, making sure that the chosen one could not slip away.
A hush fell over the assembled women and girls, as the Pontifex stepped onto the stage, attired in his splendid red robes of office, to break the seal and read out the name of the chosen one. And many a young woman breathed out a clandestine sigh of relief, when the name was read out and it was not her own. Though a handful of girls — those who had volunteered for the honour — could barely hide their disappointment.
Though everybody present agreed that the great computers had chosen wisely, for this cycle’s sacrifice, the beautiful Hafzira, was a most worthy tribute. Tall and statuesque, intelligent and of sterling character, with red hair, gilded skin and brilliant green eyes — yes, none could imagine a more worthy candidate than Hafzira. And if Hafzira herself had harboured a smattering of hope in her well-formed bosom that she might be spared and another chosen, then she hid it well. As a true daughter of Volitan, she knew where her duty lay.
This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in Children of the Stone Gods. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.