Age of the Bitten Moon
I. Some Kind of Nature
Katéry let her body lull from side to side; her feet dragged across the boulder, through the shallow, frothing water and moss at the top of the precipice as she dangled. Her arms were cast high over her head and bound in endless curls of thin, scratchy rope. The fibers were pale and dry. Much earlier, she had struggled for hours, and those unforgiving, dry little fibers had rubbed her raw, burrowed into flesh and splintered off. For a while she thought her determination alone might wear away at the rope, but it was futile. Now she relaxed against its pull and let her arms hang limp, and something about the painkillers her body was producing made it seem almost fortunate. Her frightened frenzy had slowly ebbed into hazy delight as she vied with acceptance, fate.
She dangled against the whim of the great stone and wood pillars that extended up on the banks of the river falls and over the water. The rope was wound through a series of caverns in the surface of the stone. They undulated and mixed, moving together and apart again just like the waves at Katéry’s feet. All of the pillars were cut so, and the waves all culminated at the point where the rope left the pillars and connected to her.
“Child,” the Master of Ceremony said, shouting over the rapids, “do not close your eyes to the gods.”
The redhead wasn’t listening, and her thin lips were set in a grin that unsettled the Master slightly. He had seen many with a dull look of acceptance, some even with joy, but it seemed like she was not only in bliss but in it somewhere else. The Master was even more convinced now that the parasites had infested her brain, and he knew that the waterfall would carry them far away.
“Humanity cannot save you,” he said and lifted his left arm. It was bare save for five raised lumps underneath his skin. They sat like dull dorsal fins on his forearm in a star formation. He pumped his arm into the air.
“Back to the ocean! Back to the gods!”
The Master didn’t need to look at the man positioned to Katéry’s left. In one motion, the Giver lifted his longsword and cut the intricate, knotted tangle of rope that was wound around five stone spokes. It freed the redhead to the falls.
The Giver watched her bound feet expecting Katéry to stumble and lose her footing as her weight hit the slippery rock. The redhead landed on the rock gracefully despite the rope around her ankles, and in one deft motion she sprung back upwards and out toward the falls. The Master watched her open her eyes as soon as the blade hit stone and saw her disappear over the edge. A whipped tail of auburn hair covered in frothing white was the last image the Master ever saw of her.
He picked up the cistern, a flat silver jug that brought the river to his altar. He poured it across the dirt and dropped the cistern next to the puddle. The Giver stopped inspecting his blade to frown at the old man.
The Master barely rolled his eyes and turned.
“Nin,” he called over his shoulder, “wrap up the tools and bring them back.”
Nin’s frown deepened, and he looked out at the rocky ground made a mess by the Rebirthing. He didn’t need to hear what the Master had said to know. A marine blue cloth was laid out across a raised, carved rock that was part of the landscape. The alter was covered in metal amulets, artifacts and little containers of chemicals. Nin was pale and sullen-eyed. His wide, dark longsword made him look even thinner and paler, and he slung it into the scabbard on his back and walked over to the altar.
Unlike Master Gegled whose cloaks were made of leather and soft cotton dipped in fragrances and dyes, Nin wore only a pair of rough cloth pants with leather boots he had fashioned himself. He cast one last look over the falls and then stooped to grab metal dentist’s tools and bird beaks the Master had let fall onto the ground.
He meticulously arranged the beaks by size and species inside a leather pouch. The tools were wrapped in their own rolling fabric case. Each vial and talisman had its own place in the satchel. He was halfway through preparing it when a the sound of shifting earth echoed from the direction of the falls. Nin stopped to glance over his shoulder. Everything was as it had been. He froze to stare at the stone mechanism expecting nothing and everything simultaneously.
This chapter is too long for Ello, so read the rest of it on over at Tablo if you'd like: Age of the Bitten Moon on Tablo.
Tags: #bariswriting #prose