Short Story
                            So Honored
                                           By Jerome Brooke


   “Make ready, sister,” I told the woman.

   I left my hut, and gazed up at the moon high in the night sky.  The women of
the Sisterhood had gathered.  They wore the red robes of the goddess of the
hunt.

   They gathered round me.  I raised my hand in blessing to the young
women.  One of the women was bound in silken cords.  Her arms were held by
two of her sisters.

   “Not me,” the woman cried. “You promised!”

   I slapped her to silence this display.

   “Now is the time,” I ordered.  I led the procession of women down the
hillside, towards the shore.  The air was filled with the scent of the massive
cedars of the hills.

   We reached the shore in an hour, and stopped near the waves breaking on
the rocks.  The air was chill.  I pulled my robe close.  Under the stars in the
clear sky, we walked to the edge of the sea.  The rocks along the strand
loomed like lurking creatures from the abyss.  The twin moons stared down –
the eyes of the Immortal One, the goddess.

   I raised my hand.  The acolytes behind me stopped.  I gestured to the sand
at my feet.  They brought the bound girl forward and cast her at my feet.  She
was sobbing softly, her eyes wild.  

   I intoned the words of the chant –

   “Lady of the moon,
   Goddess of war and victory,
   Bring us triumph,
   Scatter the craven tribe of the hills…”

   My acolytes gave the refrain –

   “Come, seek the warm blood…”

   I gestured once more, and two of the women raised the Honored One up.  I
cut through the cords binding her, letting them fall to the ground.  Another
acolyte pulled down her robe, letting it fall to the sand.

   The sky was lit by a flash of lightning, followed by a peal of thunder.  My
robe was stirred by the mounting gale.  Drops of rain struck my face.  I drew
near the girl.  I raised the dagger.

   “No!  I love you!  No!” the girl screamed.

   I traced a shallow line on the torso of the girl, from her neck slowly down to
her dark triangle.  A few drops of blood fell to the sand – sustenance to the
Moon Goddess.

   “Come, Lady of Victory!”  I called.  The girl screamed.  I pulled her head
back by her hair.  I raised the golden blade, cutting off the scream with a deep
slash to her throat.  Her blood spurted out.  The acolytes bent her body down
and forward.  One of them caught the warm blood in a bowl of gold.  When the
flow ceased, the women passed the bowl from one to another.  They each
sipped from the basin.

   As I watched them greedily gulp down the blood, I wondered which of the
acolytes would be next.  They were all fair, but I must single one out to be
honored at the midsummer solstice.

   We returned to my hut.  I led the Sisters in a hymn of thanksgiving.  I bid
them goodnight.  Three of the women remained after the others departed.  
One of them walked up to me and touched my arm.  Her robe was stained by
the blood of the Honored One.

   “My Lord, we would like to stay with you,” she said, with a hopeful smile.

   “Come, my sister.  I am tired,” I replied.  My decision on the next woman to
be honored was always difficult.

                                                                                   
                                                                                   The End
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.