Sacred Sacrificial Pyramid
Antarctica, 2,000 B.C.
Chieftain of the village, Kel Moka, with his walking stick in hand, climbed the steps of one of the four Great Sacrificial Pyramids with care. He saw one of the gods waiting for him at the top, and he hurried his pace a little. It would not be good to keep the gods waiting.
Behind him, the Chosen Ones for the sacrifice followed. They were donned in their robes and head dressings, symbols of the gods fighting the deadly serpents designed and sewn into them. Only once every one hundred years these robes were worn, and were kept in excellent shape over the years until it was time to use them again. Feathers lined the tips of the sleeves, and the head dress, which made a rustling sound when the wearer moved. The feathers stayed clean and dry, as the robes were stored in a sacred spot in the village that only the Chieftain and a few others knew about.
The day was sweltering, stifling, and the robes were made of boar hide. Each person that scaled the steps of the Sacrificial Pyramid was sweating profusely, but the gods did not care for such small discomforts; the ceremony to the gods would still continue.
The sacrifices must be made, he thought, or else there will be no stopping the Serpent. Along with that was the fact that Kel Moka wanted to do everything in his power to please his gods while they were here, because they came only once every one hundred years. Other chieftains had risen and died before him, and none of them had been given a chance such as he had been given. To actually see the gods in all their power, all their might--that was something to be proud of, to lay at the feet of the Serpent, to tell stories for ages to come. Kel Moka would be the one Chieftain for the next hundred years who would lead his people to safety and survive the Serpent. After that, the gods would leave and another hundred years would pass, and another chieftain would have his chance to please the gods.
However, there was one small problem that Kel Moka did not count on when it came to the sacrifices.
His daughter, Luta, was dressed in one of the elegant sacrificial robes, her beauty and prowess radiating from her. Kel Moka could not have been more pleased and proud of her; she had been chosen the greatest place of honor in all glory, in all the history of the village. Never before had the gods chosen the blood lineage of the Chieftain, not even since the gods first came and showed them how to build the Pyramids. Though it pained Kel Moka to see her be part of the Nine, the gods revealed that it was her time. If the gods demanded it, then Kel Moka could only acquiesce. To defy the power of the gods was heresy; to allow the Serpent to wander around on the human plane was certain death.
Luta’s mate, Kontu, had already left for a hunt before she had been chosen. He would get the word later . . . only after the sacrifice. No doubt he would be enraged and upset, but with time and space Kel Moka was sure that his daughter’s once-future suitor would see reason, especially given the place of honor she had been given. To be chosen and taken by the gods for the sacrifice was to have a bountiful afterlife, and there would be stories told and songs sung.
There were nine of the Chosen Ones. Only after they had been set down on the slabs in the sacrificial chamber inside the Pyramid would the tribal festivities begin. Tonight there was going to be a grand celebration; this time of festivities that had been marked on the calendar could not be passed so casually. The bright orb in the sky was bright; the sky blue, and though the air was hot and humid, it was a perfect time for the sacrifices. Even Kel Moka could not resist the exciting fulfillment he felt when he pleased the gods. He had never seen one except in drawings and paintings.
They reached the top stair. Kel Moka held out his hand to the god waiting at the top, in hopes of him being able to touch the god and thus be graced with the god’s touch. But it did not reach out to him; he looked up and saw that it had its direction on the Nine behind him.
The nine Chosen Ones stopped their ascent and took to one knee, bowing their heads and not looking up. Kel Moka bowed as well; sneaking a glance up at the god before him. He took in all of the dressings it wore: the intricate pieces of armor and the spear it held in its left hand, the duel twin blades that were exposed on one gauntleted wrist. The mask gleamed in the sunlight, the god’s matted hair hanging down lazily, draping over its shoulders. A motion from the creature’s hand and Kel Moka rose, as did the Chosen Ones behind him. The god motioned for them to follow it, into a dark passageway that led away from the suffocating heat. They headed into the Pyramid’s cool interior, the chieftain having to blink several times until his eyes adjusted.
Inside it was an entirely different feeling; cool and dark, with the occasional torches hanging from the walls to light the way. The god guided them through hallways that Kel Moka had never seen before; walking around or up into the Great Sacrificial Pyramid was forbidden--it was considered desecration and was unlawful until the gods arrived. In Kel Moka’s lifetime, he knew this was his one and only chance to see and show the gods he had made the right preparations in accordance with their will, so that the Serpent may be defeated and the Balance restored. That was all that mattered, even if it meant that his only child be given away, as much as it broke his heart as a father. He had never seen the gods become angry, and had no desire to find out should he deny them Luta.
Looking up from his sandaled feet, he could see the occasional lighting from the torches play upon the creature’s mottled and armored back, then darkness again as he, the god, and the Chosen Ones traversed the gloomy corridors of the Sacrificial Pyramid and into the room that Kel Moka knew would be the last time he would ever see his daughter.
Tinoka, student leader of the Hunt, led the oomans through the pyramid and into the Sacrificial Chamber. Tinoka was eager to let the Hunt begin, but he knew that the Clan must wait for a while longer . . . until the Hard Meat could be born. True, one egg had already been hatched and the larvae had found its way out of the structure, but that one was being hunted by Lar’miba, a fellow peer student. Lar’miba had been given a shoulder burner by their Clan Leader, Dunache--who had dropped off Tinoka’s small hunting party--and was now in pursuit. The ship would return after a few days’ hunting, and by then the Hard Meat would be nothing but skulls mounted upon all the students’ spear tips. Lar’miba could not have been given one of the burners that were kept in the sarcophagus directly below the Sacrificial Chamber; that would have been a faulty start to the Hunt, thus triggering the trap that was set in the chamber Tinoka was currently in, the Hard Meat eggs coming up on platforms on the end of the nine slabs, splaying loose their fleshy petals to let free the small larvae that would infect the first viable host it sensed. Judging from how long a time span it had been since Lar’miba had been sent to find it, the larvae must have reached full maturity now. Maybe Lar’miba would come back with a trophy, and he would be the first one anointed with the Hard Meat’s acidic blood out of eight young students here to Hunt. Tinoka was the leader of these students, and they were his responsibility. The humans simply served as a means to an end for the hunters.
His people, long ago, had found this backwater planet teeming with hunting opportunities. They had taught the oomans to build these complicated byvinx, or pyramids, and set them in accordance to the planet’s moonrises and sun cycles. These pyramids would fire themselves up every one hundred years when the correct number of moon and sun rises had passed enough times, and would automatically jump-start the Hard Meat queen mother--stored in the heart of the pyramid in a large chambered room--by shooting electrical currents through her restraints and body to get her started laying the eggs. The pyramids were set to change their structure internally every few minutes, but that was to add excitement to the Hunt. Transformation of walls and ceilings inside meant better places to Hunt the Hard Meat, as well as new hiding places for the Clan’s prey. The walls would shift and the ceilings would come down or go up, and stone slabs would converge or open to reveal new stairwells, slopes, and thus new pathways. The interior movements of the Pyramids were very intricate, and they all were set in accordance to the sun and moonrises with this planet. Other such Pyramids had been built on worlds that had far more gravity mass or even more dangerous prey than what consisted on this planet. Yes, the Yautja were indeed the Hunters of the universe, testing their mettle wherever they deemed fit for a Hunt, making their Clans and their race strong and teaching the young ones the lessons they needed to know.
He turned down a corridor and came to the Chamber, where already four of his Clan brothers stood, supervising over last-minute preparations. The Hard Meat Queen, below ground level of the pyramid, had been revived from her cold slumber days before, only to awaken and begin laying her precious eggs. By the time the hunters had arrived, the small larvae were fully unthawed from hibernation and ready to infect any potential host.
Tinoka saw Nidvin nod to him. He said, “The Hard Meat is alive and ready. We shall commence with the starting of the Hunt.”
Tinoka nodded and raised his staff, directing the Leader of the oomans to prepare for the sacrifice now. The tiny human motioned for his people to take their positions on the slabs. One by one they laid down, their feet at the end where the Hard Meat egg would rise up from below. The face-hugger, the first stage of the Hard Meat, would search out its host. Tinoka and the others left the room, along with the chief of the oomans. The doors would close when three others of the Clan would get the burners that were encased one level below. To survive the first of many Hunts against the Hard Meat, the first challenge was to test your weaponry and bravery. With the burners in place in the sarcophagus, victory was assured.
Behind the mask, Tinoka thought he could read despair and sorrow on the chieftain’s face, but he knew that the ooman was proud of his people for what they had to do for the Clan. Promptly, Tinoka put his hand on the ooman’s shoulder, the symbol of greeting and goodbye. Awkwardly, the chief tried to return the gesture, but was too short to reach Tinoka’s shoulder. Tinoka was not about to ally himself with the oomans; what hunter befriended its prey? The handshake was simply to try and cheer up the small ooman and move on out of the Chamber. The Yautja stepped aside and led the human back outside the pyramid, eager for the Hunt to begin.
Kel Moka slowly walked down the pyramid steps with two of his guards behind him who had waited outside the Chamber. His thoughts were alone as he went, and he didn’t raise question to the gods for their methods of the Sacrifice, nor with their battles with the great and deadly Serpent.
It was believed that every hundred years the Great Serpent would arise and roam free on this land, ravaging its people and wildlife. Where the Serpent came from, it mattered not. The gods, in turn, would then expect a sacrifice in order to defeat the Serpent. A sacrifice would ensure victory over the Serpent and banish it from this land for another hundred years. It would return again, though; it would always return. Evil never slept for long; there would always be evil in this land. That was the way of things, of the Balance. It was the way since the beginning of the tribe’s history. But there was also protection from above, so long as there was a sacrifice for the gods.
But giving up his daughter—that was something Kel Moka could not bear. Other tribal members’ children had been chosen before, he knew, long since in the past. Was this what they felt? Bitter, sad, and angry? He was torn between questioning the gods’ decision, and having to maintain his duty to the village by pleasing the gods while they were here.
No, he would stay strong. For his people. For the traditions and rituals that had been placed and practiced since time immemorial. For his daughter. If he started questioning the gods’ will, he would be desecrating and negating his daughter’s name, and leaving a stain on her sacrifice this day.
The gods had demanded it; their word was law, for she had proven herself fit in the Sacrificial Tournament for the Chosen Ones. Therefore, whoever was seen fit in the tournament, was fit for the sacrifice. There was no greater end than that, to meet the gods with a spear in hand, and the other holding the trophy after a great battle. That way lay the Path; it was the only way to reach the gods and save yourself from an eternity with the Serpent in the next world.
Kel Moka made the sign of the saving gods and wished his daughter a long and prosperous afterlife, despite the hurt he was feeling. Now it was time to celebrate the Nine and their sacrifices.