The punishment for questioning traditions may be to enact them.
From the mountain ledge, Vierlia watched clouds kissing the horizon, enjoying one last view of Ayna’s realm.
Shifting position, metal scraped against her bloody ankle. Vierlia gasped. She kept forgetting. Well, no need to remember much longer.
Her sister was the romantic, reciting fire-stories of Mareilai giving herself to Ayna. For honor. For her people. “Take my heart, winged god, that I be one with you!”
But Vierlia read the old texts. She criticized clerics, debated interpretations. Not “virgin” but “childless woman.”
Always blowing into the wind.
When they needed another sacred feather, naturally they chose her.
If Ayna didn’t arrive soon, something else might eat her. Spoil the sacrifice.
The azure condor landed, throwing up dust with wings like sails.
Vierlia begged Ayna, prayed for mercy, bargained.
The bird stared, uncomprehending.
It looked the part, but that was no god. Vierlia hurled rocks, shouted. It retreated.
Vierlia would warn them. Milking her own blood, she wrote. “No more sacrifices. Not Ayna. Hungry beast.”
There would be new fire-stories, new traditions. That was worth dying for.
“Take my heart, beast.”
First, it took her arm.
Blood splattered across her message. The clerics, returning for the feather, read: “More sacrifices. Ayna hungry.”