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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Dark · #2197271
What Must Be Done

Sacred Rite

It was a darkly lit room. Cold and damp from the water seeping through the cobbled floor and walls. It was a circular room with a stone table in the middle and four high backed chairs carved out of bedrock. Leading into this chamber were four cobbled hallways. This chamber was empty all but two days of the year. Today was one of those two days. On this night the darkness was broken only by the flickering of a few candles around the room. Soft chanting began and a faint light began to creep toward the center room from the hallways. Soon there were four figures cloaked in black, their faces hidden standing around the table. This was a place of anonymity, even they did not know who the others in the room were.

"Pray, be seated. We now call this council to order," one of the figures said.

All the figures took a seat in one of the stone chairs. Once seated they lit a candle in front of each seat. The light shone through a hole displaying a number.

"Let us go in order. One, please give the name of your nomination"

The person in seat one spoke in a deep commanding voice.

"I nominate Sara the cobbler's daughter. She is nearly upon her eighteenth summer and has yet to marry."

"She is still very pretty and may still find a suitor," chimed in the voice sitting at the number three.

"Silence, we will debate after nominations," said the first hooded figure. "Two?"

"I nominate Elizabeth the elder dairy maid, she has never wed and may still prove valuable in this cause"


"I wish to nominate Sue the stable owner. Her betrothed died near four winters ago and she has yet to wed."

"I nominate Bree the Constable's daughter. She is very young and may appease The Giver."

"Are you mad," shouted One.

"She is but twelve summers not even old enough for breeding," said Three.

"If we give the youngest, we may receive more in harvest," said Four.

"We need not give that young, Sara is of age and still unsullied."

"But Sara is still able to bear children, Sue has three summers on her and will likely never wed."

"Sue is too old to appease The Giver," said One.

"Agreed," said Four.

"Elizabeth then," asked Two.

"Elizabeth is but a summer less than Sue,' stated Four.

"Let us retire to our antechambers to deliberate."

They all rose from the table and silently glided back down the hallway they came from. The room went quiet, the only noise the faint flutter sound of a candle's flame. Several hours passed before one by one the four cloaked figures shuffled back into their seats.

"Do we all agree that Sue and Elizabeth are not suitable for dedication," asked Four.

"Agreed," nodded One.

"Agreed," said Two.

"Agreed," said Three.

"Stricken," Said Four.

"Let us cast on Bree," said Four.

"Nay, she is too young," said One with no hesitation.

"Nay," said Two.

"Nay," echoed Three.

"This leaves Sara to be our dedication to The Giver."

There was a moment of silence and all the figures nodded their head.

"The dedication will be on the solstice at sunrise."

All the figures nodded their agreement.

"The decision has been made and the motion set forth by this council"

The robed figures rose from their seats.

"Blessed be the Dedication, blessed be The Giver."

"Blessed be the Giver," they all chorused.

All four figures bowed. Each picked up a bell-shaped object on a stick and used them to snuff out their corresponding candle.

"We now adjourn this council until next solstice."

The four figures turned quietly and glided back into their antechamber, the flickering of each of their lights growing dimmer until they faded from sight. The room was quite once more. Somewhere from beneath the chamber a great cackling laugh echoed forth, chilling the air and taking the light of the remaining candles with it.

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