Look, I’m not even going to apologise this time. Yes, it is late, and yes, I am an evil liar who is going to hell, because, AGAIN, this is NOT the final part of the story. I know, I know, I’ve been promising it since the very first part, but … Ahh, what can I say? I’m enjoying writing this story and more stuff just keeps emerging from the old noggin’.
So, to avoid lying to you all again, I shan’t even promise that this is the second last portion. I will simply hope that you enjoy it, and stick around long enough to see what happens!
Once again, it ties into a Be Kind ReWrite Inspiration Monday prompt: Stronger than fate.
Read the beginning of the story here.
Quick summary: Sleet returned from his Cave Trial to the Colori people, but lied about the deity who saved him. He claimed Caccia, the Goddess of the Hunt, had led him out, when it was actually the Faith God, Fidukko. By lying, Sleet would be able to remain with his beloved Shaana, instead of leading the solitary life of a Priest. However, the current Colori Priest, Pakrai, seems to know the truth.
“He had betrayed a God and lied to his Tribe. And looking into the Priest’s cold, milky eyes, Sleet was sure that he wasn’t the only one who knew.”
Colours in the Cave
On the first day that he ventured out into the land with the other hunters, Sleet feared he would not return. If Fidukko wished to punish him for his betrayal, it would be only too easy to do so during the hunt—an enraged animal, a poorly-aimed arrow; the slightest thing could be manipulated by the Faith God to end Sleet’s traitorous existence.
But nothing happened. Sleet returned to his Tribe with a young deer spanning his shoulders, feeling strong and proud. Were it not for Pakrai’s constant attention, the young man could almost allow himself to believe that it had been the burnt orange guidance of Caccia that had saved him.
However, Pakrai would not let him forget. The horrid white orbs of his eyes, almost as vivid as Fidukko’s own thread, followed Sleet around the camp with the intimidating assuredness of an unblinded man. And yet, in the seven months that followed Sleet’s return, the old Priest said not a word to him, or to anyone else in the Tribe. He simply emerged from his temple whenever the hunters returned from the land, filling Sleet’s slumber with nightmares of a God’s wrath and milky, unseeing eyes.
Despite the guilt and unending fear that consumed the young man, it was with great relief that he awoke on the day of Shaana’s sixteenth birthday. Finally, she would be recognised as a woman, and together they could begin the life that had spurred Sleet’s decision on his own trial day.
The sky was still dark, though a wash of purple was growing on the horizon. Sleet waited patiently as Shaana’s family farewelled her, whispering proud and hopeful words, and then he took her hand and walked her through the entry of their camp and out of earshot of the watchmen. She squeezed his hand then, sensing that he wanted to come further, but knowing that her trial would not allow it.
“I’ll be fine,” she assured him, trying to sooth his unvoiced concerns. Her eyes glowed with determination, and Sleet found himself smiling.
“Of course you will.”
She pulled him close and kissed him, just once, on the cheek. “I’ll see you tonight. I love you, Sleet.” Then she disappeared through the trees and clinging vines, under the watchful gaze of the pink, rising sun.
Sleet returned to the camp. He was not asked to hunt—family members and companions of a youth on their Cave journey were often exempt from their daily activities, so that they may pray for their loved one’s safety.
Sleet tried to pray, but found he could not. He suspected that his prayers may only serve to anger Fidukko, and he did not wish to draw attention to Shaana’s feeble fate, awaiting the mercy of the Gods.
In a terrifying moment, he considered the possibility of the Faith God leading Shaana out, inducting her as a Colori Priestess and thus achieving the same purpose as if Sleet had accepted his destiny. She could be taken from him by any number of deities—Felikae the Trickster, if he took her for his own; Ridgullo, the God of Brotherhood, if he sent her on a goodwill mission to a neighbouring tribe; or Caccia herself, who decreed that her huntresses scar their breasts and live a life of strength and manhood.
Sleet sat alone in the tribe, trembling with each new and returning dread. Such was his confusion that he did not notice how long Shaana was taking until the moon was high in the sky, and the Colori people began murmuring amongst themselves.
He turned eagerly at the soft, feminine voice, but was met with the blank, saddened eyes of Shaana’s mother. “Sleet,” she repeated. Her voice was barely a whisper, a breath of air that seemed to take all of her strength. She lowered herself to sit beside him. “We were talking with our Chief, about … about Shaana, and …”
Sleet winced at the uncertainty in her voice. With a desperate hand, he held her tight and drew her closer to him. “Please, just tell me.”
She looked mournfully skyward to the thick rain clouds that were forming, smudged black across the heavens. A single water drop was rolling down the tired woman’s face; Sleet did not know if it were a tear or a dot of rain, but found he could not look away from it. “We were discussing whether or not to send a party out,” she sobbed, “in case she was injured on her way to or from the Cave … B-but Pakrai joined us, and said … Oh, Sleet, she’s gone. The G-gods have claimed her!”
End of Part Three.
- Love The Bad Guy