Sacred Sacrificial Pyramid Grounds
Antarctica, 2,000 B.C.
Kontu awoke, and the first thing he noticed was that there was darkness all around him. He slowly breathed in and out, trying to steady himself. His mind was a whirl; random thoughts of his life flashed before him. Luta. The village. His parents. The Hunt.
The Gods. The Serpent.
It all suddenly came back to him. The Serpent and one of the Gods were battling each other . . . And then Kontu figured that he must have somehow fallen asleep or became unconscious. Although ‘unconscious’ was an alien word to his mind, the meaning was clear—he had lapsed out for some time, long enough for the two beings to finish whatever it was they were fighting over.
Kontu looked all around him, trying to get his bearings. Where was he? He knew that he was somewhere in the sacred grounds of the Great Pyramid, but beyond that, nothing. Looking up at the sky he saw darkness descending. It must have been for some time now that he had not been awake.
He started walking, still dazed and trying to figure what direction he should go in, when he caught something out of the corner of his eye.
Blood. Green blood.
Curiously, Kontu went and bent down next to it. He touched one of the splatter spots delicately. The blood was no thicker than his; it ran down his finger as he pointed upward. He rubbed it between two fingers, feeling the texture of it. It was still slightly warm. The trail led away from him and into the undergrowth. He decided to follow.
Steeling himself, Kontu walked along deeper into the jungle, following the twists and turns of the blood trail. He followed it for some time; it was easy to follow due to mysterious glow in the dark. He eventually came to a cave with hardly any plant life around it. It reached deep into the bowels of the earth.
There were many of these caves all around the valley; often, tribesmen on hunting parties would track prey into these caves, only to lose the Hunt due to the vastness of the underground tunnels.
The green blood led directly into the cave.
Kontu cursed, berating himself for not remembering to bring his spear. Without a weapon, he felt very vulnerable. He could probably go back and find it, but by then it would be much darker and very hard to see. He had been trained since he was a young boy old enough to walk to carry a spear, to not go around the jungle without a weapon. Now he felt like every eye in the jungle was on him, behind him, watching . . .
He whirled around, fear striking his heart like an arrow. He thought he heard a noise behind him. He scanned the trees; the bushes. Nothing.
Kontu turned back to the cave and took a few steps into the darkness. The blood trail led straight away, as if beckoning him.
Kontu followed it, never minding the jungle creeping in all around him outside the cave.
Suddenly he stopped.
A shadow played on the walls ahead of him, and it was coming his way. A hiss echoed out behind long, serrated edged teeth. Although it was dark, Kontu could see the teeth, flashing in the now moonlit sky. The teeth came forward a few more steps, opening wider to reveal another set of teeth, smaller than the outer pair . . .
Realizing what kind of creature the teeth belonged to, Kontu turned and ran, not turning back to see if the Serpent was giving chase. He dashed past ferns, low shrubbery, and hanging branches, jumped over dead tree trunks. His mind was a blur; the god that had saved him had killed the Serpent. Hadn’t it? But if not, then how could the creature kill even a god? He inwardly frowned. The gods were all-powerful; the Serpent was nothing but evil with teeth and a tail and claws. Stories had been told of how the creature took villagers in the middle of the night; about how searching parties had found the missing strung up to cavern walls or tree trunks, trapped in the Serpent’s cocooning, dead. More often than not there had been ragged holes in their chests, the insides brutally torn in an outward fashion, ribs bent outward. Kontu had heard all the stories and rumors of the Serpent and about its true evil when he was growing up; he just never actually believed them . . . Until now.
The newly-made alien Praetorian let the little pitiful human go; it needed to stay inside the safety of the cave and molt itself into the next cycle of its life. Soon, very soon, when the Hive grew into more numbers, the new Queen that the Praetorian would become would order her new warriors to ravage the village for hosts and kill any of the Hive’s enemies, such as the mighty Predator race. The one Queen mother that was inside the pyramid structure was chained and imprisoned; she could do nothing. But the Praetorian could feel and sense the calls and her love, and she had given consent for the Praetorian to start the hormonal and cocooning/molting process to start a new Hive outside the Pyramid. Soon, the Hive would grow.
The enemy that the Praetorian had fought recently now lay at its feet, comatose. The Praetorian had rendered its ability to fight any longer, although it was a formidable foe indeed. The comatose Predator would be the first host for the new Hive. The alien did not know how many of its foes there were, but the one at its feet was at least one less. The alien pre-Queen enveloped in on itself, in what it felt as a dark, safe spot in the cave, and began its molting cycle.
Kontu ran and ran until he burst out into a clearing, then he suddenly stopped. He gasped for air; the burning in his lungs was unbearable. He did not know if the Serpent was still behind him, but he had to rest for a little bit at least. Unlike some of the others he had gone Hunting with today, he was not in the best shape. And that, unfortunately, could be a costly mistake. A mistake that could have gotten him killed.
He looked around, trying to catch his breath and get a location of where he was in the jungle. No familiar surroundings. He peered up into the night sky, seeing thousands of stars twinkle down at him in a blanket of purples and blacks. A few of the stars wavered in the sky. He frowned; the white lights that the Gods had made usually did not do that, especially on calm, cloudless nights like this one. The moon shone brightly on the clearing he was in; long blades of grass and brush reached up from the ground, competing with each other to be in the light.
Kontu looked to where the trees stopped their reach up into the sky, and suddenly realized it was smoke that was making the stars waver. That was the village; the ceremonies had begun! He had to tell the village about the Serpent! He raced ahead into the jungle on the other side of the clearing, still hoping that the Great Serpent had not followed him. His sandaled feet barely touched ground; he barely made a sound as he ran. When training for a Hunt, the best offense for catching your prey was to be as quiet as possible. This was taught early on when children were young enough to start walking; they would then adapt better to their weight as they grew in size for running.
Kontu dashed out of the jungle and, still running, came to the three guards that watched over the village entrance. Kontu knew who they were before he even stopped in front of them: Canria, Wer’op, and Drasna.
“Stop!” cried Canria. “Who are you?”
Gasping, the warrior raised a hand. “Kontu. I was with a hunting party at mid-day when I was sent out.”
Drasna looked behind Kontu. “And where is the rest of your group?” he asked curiously.
“Dead,” Kontu answered between breaths. “The Serpent or one of the Gods killed them. Only I was left alive.”
“The Serpent runs rampant throughout the land?” Wer’op cried.
“Yes,” Kontu said. “I saw it myself. One of the gods was battling it, and I awoke some time later to find that it had defeated the god. The Serpent had killed the god! I had never believed that the gods could be killed by the thing. But I saw it with my own two eyes!”
“And you actually got away, to come here and tell us about it?” That from Drasna.
Unconvinced, Wer’op said, “Maybe he killed everyone and blames it on the Serpent instead. Nothing can kill one of the Gods.”
Kontu whirled on the guard so fast it would have made any warrior proud at the movement. “I come to warn you that the Serpent has grown larger than any of the stories we were told; that it had killed one of the gods, and that it must be known all over the village! Any one of us could be next!”
“And where is your proof?” Wer’op asked, his eyes glaring in the pale moonlight, a silver glint to them.
Kontu looked at him, askance. He knew Wer’op was slightly jealous of Luta’s choosing over Kontu instead of him. Wer’op thought he was going to be the Chieftain’s daughter’s suitor; when it had been time for Luta to pick a suitor, Wer’op as well as many others who had lined up for the choosing did not know that her and Kontu had already been seeing one another for a few moon cycles beforehand. And that had been a little over a year ago.
Kontu gaped. “My tale is not good enough for you, Wer’op? I tell you, it’s true! Were I not out there today, I would be inside the village with everyone else and celebrating the coming of the Gods just as everyone else is.”
He had a thought. Perhaps changing tactics was necessary, especially in verbal battle. It was time to throw his weight around a little. He stood a little straighter and looked at the once-rival suitor a little harder. “You remember, I don’t need proof. I am Kontu, suitor of Luta, daughter of Chieftain Kel Moka. And I demand you not bar my way any longer.”
The two simply stared at one another, both of equal height and build. Moments passed, and it looked like the two of them were going to have a fight right there on the village entrance pathway.
Finally, Canria nodded and stepped in between, heading off any further confrontation. “I agree. I shall accompany you to the Chieftain.”
His words were like ice, the underlining tone having the final word.
Still having his spear out at an angle slightly blocking Kontu’s path, Wer’op looked towards the fellow hunter again, then after a moment removed his spear out of the way to allow Kontu to pass.
Muttering after Kontu was out of earshot, Wer’op said, “Wait until you hear what has become of your darling bride-to-be.”
Feeling a little better but nowhere near secure, Kontu nodded his thanks to Canria and followed the guard along a trail that led into the center of the village. Small huts and teepee-like buildings sat in a large circle, and in the middle of it sat the great fire in celebration of the gods’ coming to kill the Serpent. True, they had lost nine of their loved people, but the tribe would mourn them and continue on just as it always had in the generations past.
In the midst of the celebration, everyone had food and drink; everybody was merry and would soon be quite drunk as the night wore on. The Chieftain was seated on his throne above and away from the fire pit as everyone danced around it. Kontu was hesitant at approaching the head of the village, but he knew that it must be done and to let the people know.
Kel Moka saw Kontu and Canria, and when he did he smiled slightly. They approached him and bowed down, then got back up at his request. "What brings you here, Canria? You're supposed to be outside, guarding the village."
"Yes, Excellency, but Kontu has brought dire news of the Serpent and you must hear it, as well as the rest of the village."
Curiously Kel Moka turned to Kontu, awaiting what the warrior had to say.
Still slightly winded, Kontu took a deep breath. Without preamble, he started. "My hunting party and I were out near the Sacred Pyramid when we were attacked by the Serpent. Fortunately, one of the gods appeared, and it was only by his grace was I allowed to live. Only I survived and woke back up to see the god’s blood trail, leading away from me. I followed it and found the Serpent, hidden in one of the caves at the edge of the valley. It is more dangerous than any story that has ever been told; it is changing and I think that it may be too late when we finally get word around of the demon."
Kel Moka turned back to Canria and said, "Is this true?"
"So he says," the guard said. "He told me all of it before coming here. I, for one, believe him, Chieftain."
Kel Moka looked out upon the ceremony taking place, and he knew that it would only cause a panic if he announced about the Serpent now. Everyone knew the Serpent had come, but as to what its shape was, nobody had a clue besides the ritual drawings that had been drawn on the inside of the Pyramid.
He sat back down in his chair that sat in front of a totem pole, one depicting of the gods and the Serpent battling each other.
"Did you actually see the body of the god? Or was it just his blood trail?”
“No, Chieftain, I did not see the god himself. Just his blood trail.” Kontu reaffirmed himself. “But, I tell you, never has it been known that the Serpent can defeat a god! I thought that was impossible? Could the stories be wrong?”
Kel Moka eyed his daughter’s suitor, not with contempt but with curiosity. Clearly, some of the things Kontu had seen had suddenly been challenged against everything he was told as a young one. As chieftain of the village, Kel Moka knew some things that Kontu did not, some of which he had been trying to keep to himself for the past years. Only now it looked like some of those secrets may have come to light, and at an unfortunate time.
“I think we should wait to tell everyone and send out a small search party to see where the creature is located. Hopefully the gods will have killed it before we get there, but it is possible that they might not have killed it yet."
Kontu looked around for the first time since standing before Kel Moka, and discovered that Luta was not with him. At all ceremonies she was placed at his side and had a seat of her own. But now there was no Luta; the second throne chair was empty. Her mother had died when she came into the world, so ever since Luta’s birth it had been just her and her father.
"Where is she?" he suddenly asked. "Where is Luta?"
Kel Moka looked to Canria, but the guard just shook his head very slightly, his eyes saying that Kontu had not yet been informed of his beloved’s having been chosen, and her fate.
The chief sighed. "She was one of the nine in the sacrificing inside the Pyramid today," he said. "Her death was honorable, and there was no greater end than that, Kontu. Even you know that there is no better end. You think I do not mourn for my own daughter? To fall short of the gods' calling is banishment and unlawful. She did her duty, as she was one of the nine in the tournament earlier today. The gods could not accept failure simply because she had a husband-to-be waiting for her. The gods had chosen her long before my time, and you know that."
Kontu's face went from normal color to a deep red. A deep anger rested in his soul and was feeding off of what the Chief was saying. The light of the fire made his face look more red and angered. But all the same Kontu knew that his love was dead, and that it was the gods' fault. Absently he grabbed at the small charm around his neck, given to him by Luta as a symbol of their love and as a recognition to anyone else that he had been chosen to be with someone. He fingered it and grabbed it fully into his fist and clenched it.
His face must have given away some hint of his inner anger and thoughts. Kel Moka stepped down from the throne and gently put a hand on Kontu’s shoulder. "I am deeply sorry, Kontu. You know the price of the sacrifice when it happens, and that the gods come only a few hundred moon and sun cycles. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to please them, and it is our turn this time to make sure they kill the Serpent. Now is not the time to begrudge against them; they are all-powerful and who knows what they would do to our people who would go against them. It is not our place to make enemies this time in our lives."
"I don't care now!" Kontu cried. "She's dead, and even you should mourn for her. One of the gods was already taken down by the Serpent, and now the creature may be even more powerful since I last saw it!"
Canria tried to comfort his fellow man and laid a hand on Kontu's shoulder.
Kontu immediately shrugged it off and said, "I warn you, Kel Moka, there will be a terrible price to pay for her death, you will see, and the Serpent will come to this village if you do not warn everybody. The hunting party that you want sent out—they're already dead. You're just wasting lives here that can be used to other purposes. Let the gods have their hunt for the Serpent; we're just here for amusement." He backed away from the throne, and Canria. Tears streamed down his eyes now, tears for the deaths of the other sacrifices, but mainly for Luta, his bride-to-be, the love of his life. Just before he had left on the Hunt, he had made a promise to her. A promise that they would always be together, no matter where or what happened.
"You will see," he continued. "The Serpent will come and ravage this land with no mercy, if you do not tell everyone." He pointed to the fire and everyone who was dancing and celebrating around it. “You keep our peoples’ death a secret. That is on you. I won’t be a part of it!”
He turned and retreated into the darkness, away from the firelight and the celebration. No one saw him for the rest of the night.