BY TRENCHCOAT TARDIGRADE
A lithe figure darted through the trees, hands scrambling to place flowers in her whirling hair. The brambles had already snagged open all but the top two ties on her blouse, exposing her midriff to the cold drizzle falling from the leaves overhead. There wasn’t time to stop and cinch it back.
”Tish, tish, tish,” she cursed as the flowing shirt tails flapped into brush at every dodge and caused concern that she might arrive bare chested.
Smoke came into view above the treetops as she broke into the final clearing. The cooking pits were fired up before daybreak to roast the wildings from the previous day’s hunt, and the celebration would not be delayed for one tardy participant. She knew the sultry aroma would have already inundated the village hours earlier but living on the skirts kept her from waking to it. A small stand of trees was all that remained between her and her meal, her celebration, her fate. But she would have to beat the sun’s climb.
”I’m here,” she yelled out as she slowed from sprint to trot.
Four villagers crouched in front of the Grand Elder as he watched the staff’s shadow slowly vanish under the sun’s peak. The watching crowd gasped at the sight of the disheveled woman taking her place to crouch alongside her peers. Whispers hushed at the lone drum tone.
”Behold all who hear,” the Grand Elder boomed, “this day, of all days, shall go down in history, if the gods be desiring. For, this Day of Severance shall bring forth a new disciple to follow my path into the great beyond, and to rule over you justly, however they might deem that to be.” His tone became gentle. “It has been a great joy to watch you all thrive for these past 35 years, and I pray that whoever shall succeed me will bring about as much peace and prosperity as did I. The gods have been gracious to see me through six Days of Severance unscathed, but all things must end when they declare. Whether it be this day, or in five more years at our next celebration, or at some Day of Severance that we do not yet foresee, is for the gods alone to decide. Before me are five worthy heirs to my title, some more so than others.” His eyes hung on the bedraggled woman at the end of the line. “But the gods see what we do not. What is worthy to our eyes is often sacrilege to theirs. Now, rise, my disciples and feast, fight, and fornicate to your heart’s content. At the setting of the sun you will either take my mantle or die.”
The five led the crowd to the cooking pits and began shredding the roasted wildings into bowls for the community feast. Many villagers quenched the hunger that had built from hours of waiting in the pervasive scent. Others broke into groups and speculated about what the conclusion of the day might behold. And yet others imbibed Froth’s Nectar in expectation of the afternoon’s debauchery.
”Well, Elvandra, aren’t you a view,” a grizzled man told the unkempt woman as she dished handfuls of meat into the bowl. “I’d give two shirks that you should have just stayed back instead of displaying yourself like that.”
”Like what?” a scowl crossed her lips, spurring on a hearty chuckle from him.
”Like you couldn’t wait for Grand Elder to say a few words before you gave your goods.” The sight of her scowl darkening gave him concern. “Relax. No need to get your knicks twisted. Hell, take ‘em off if you wanna. It’s not like you’ll be keeping ‘em on much longer anyway.”
Just as she was about to erupt into a tirade the old man turned away, laughing to nobody.
Elvandra had mostly forgotten the mess she was before old Stanslaw arrived to ridicule her. Adding insult to injury, he strode to a neighboring pit and feasted on the contribution of one of her rivals, a sign of confidence to sway the gods. Scorned, she threw the remaining roast into her bowl and stormed to the nearest hut wash basin.
”May the gods grant me power not to smite people like Stanslaw, should I be chosen.”
By the time she had washed herself and fixed the lone remaining flower in her hair she was calming down. Her fingers began working the top two ties of her blouse when she stopped and shook her head.
”No, I must be presentable, but the gods know my run. It was their brambles that opened my shirt and it will remain as it is unless they tie it back themselves or finish the job.”
Nobody had seen much of Elvandra’s body since her childhood, bathing in the river with the other children. Her stomach was now toned from the years of gathering torch wood and hunting wildlife from her perch in the trees. She would not be ashamed to show that she was suited for life alone on the skirts, but she would be less hesitant about removing the hand of anybody that tried to glimpse more until the hour of destiny would arrive.
With her mind made up, Elvandra strode back out to rejoin the festivities. All around, villagers were embracing the quinquennial decadence. The one-on-one sexual encounters were beginning to take in extra participants as levels of inebriation gradually rose. Stroth and Krisa, two of the five candidates, had thrown off their garb in the center of town and were being serviced by an onslaught of random villagers while their hands and mouths ravished each other wherever they could reach.
”Hey, Elvandra, fancy granting a run at your gash before Grand Elder gives you a new one?”
She turned to see Braunch waving his half-hard cock at her. She offered a grin before strolling over and grasping his peg.
”You can fuck me when you grow a man’s cock worth being fucked.”
Braunch’s eyes began bugging out as she tightened her fist and began walking away, dragging him as she would a rat by the tail. His feet skittered while he struggled to find a way to get her to release him from her parade.
”Grand Elder,” her head bowed as she approached with her taunt in tow, “might I request that you make it known that any man that desires my purity have a cock big enough to not cramp my hand trying to hold it.”
Elvandra released her grip at the chuckle of the Grand Elder and Braunch dropped to the dirt in agony. She bent and placed a quick kiss on Braunch’s cheek before twirling to find entertainment of her liking.
Her ears caught the victor’s shout from behind the huts, sparking a sprint to see the action. Determined to claim a spot in the game, her hands deftly unsheathed the daggers flapping against her hips and loosed one after the other at the stump that came into view as she rounded the corner.
”Struck,” she laughed as the handles of two of the three daggers already impaled in the top of the target splintered.
The small gathering turned to see Elvandra slow to a trot.
”Damn it, you weren’t wagered.” The owner of the ruined blades fussed.
”Lucky for you,” Elvandra winked, “but I’ll play. What’s the in?”
“Ten shirks.” A voice from the spectators chimed.
”The good it’ll do me,” the upset participant grumbled. “Aint got more blades and can’t play with the one.”
”Well take your pot and get out the way. I’ll put twenty ‘gainst ten ‘til I’m beat or bored.”
The crowd stirred as they tried to negotiate who would be first to accept Elvandra’s challenge.
Time and again the pile of shirks grew as she landed blade after blade closer to the center of the stump than each challenger. With each win the competition waited longer before someone would step up and cast down their lot. Elvandra was well known to be an expert at the game of blades, but to deny a Day of Severance candidate any whim would not be favored by the gods.
When the gleam across the shirks began to dull in the setting sunlight Elvandra announced that she would relinquish the game to the others and that the final victor would claim her spoils if she should not claim the title of Grand Elder. It would be known shortly.
She sheathed her blades for what might be her final stroll through the village. She took care to step over the spilled tankards and around the writhing orgy. Not for the first time, Elvandra questioned her choice to not know the rapturous touch of another. She craved to know the feel of lips, hands, cocks, and cunts, but that would go unsated. That, she had done in offering to the gods.
She never was able to determine if they would view it as a gift and weigh it in her favor on that night, or as a slight, that she did not embrace the yearnings that womanhood was granted. Elvandra’s eyes pulled from the spectacle to see the shrinking sliver of sunlight. Soon, she would know.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
The drum resounded over the screams of orgasm and heaves of drunkenness. The time had come.
As bodies untangled throughout the village center and others stumbled from the trees, the Grand Elder lit two torches in front of his hut. Rowdy chatter softened to silence as each of the candidates took their places. The Grand Elder watched the final glints of sunlight vanish before beginning.
”Before us are five candidates, each of age and willing to accept that which the gods choose for them. As is always, should my revered blade not sever their soul from their skin, it will be my final breath that pays their due. It will be my hut that houses them. It will be each of you that serves them as you now serve me.”
”Stand Krisa and claim your fate.”
The woman at the far end of the line stood and stretched out her arms.
”My fate I claim as the gods will it.”
She spoke the ritual reply without the slightest hesitation before lifting her head and closing her eyes. The Grand Elder approached and cut away her tunic, exposing her naked body for all to see.
”As the gods gave you, the gods now see.”
He gripped the haft of the gilded dagger tightly in both hands and plunged it between her breasts before tearing it upward, carving a trench to her throat.
”Gods, if she be of your choosing, grant her my blade so that she might mark me as I have done her.”
Blood gurgled out of her mouth before she collapsed to the dirt and struggled to attempt her final few wheezing breaths. The Grand Elder stepped to the next candidate.
”Stand Frint and claim your fate.”
The ritual continued as Frint joined Krisa before Stroth and then Alterion fell as their own bloody heaps. The Grand Elder stepped in front of the final candidate.
”Stand Elvandra and claim your fate.”
With a deep breath Elvandra rose to her feet and offered her acceptance. She found irony that though she had been the most disheveled at the opening ceremony, the Grand Elder had more work to disrobe her than any of the others. Finally, villagers like Braunch could replace their imaginations with the view of her blemished nudity.
The dagger plunged into her chest, driving out a scream. She was not able to follow tradition and restrain it. She reached to seize the Grand Elder’s hands but gripped the open wound where the blade no longer was.
”Gods, if she be of your choosing, grant her my blade so that she might mark me as I have done her.”
Elvandra reached for him as blood seeped from the corners of her mouth. The tears blinded her, but she knew it was his cloak that she grasped as her hands slid it from his shoulders. She fell forward, cheek resting against his chest. A strained breath escaped her lips as her vision cleared enough to see the scar marking his own Day of Severance before she fell across the corpses of the four other candidates.
”And so it is chosen. The gods have graced me with five more years. You may all return to that with which you find pleasures.”