The Feast of the Gods
"Isha! Isha, can you hear me?" asked a voice.
I felt someone shake my shoulder and my eyes fluttered open. I was inside the compound, lying on a bunk with a thin blanket covering me. I felt unbelievably well rested and I no longer felt pain in my back. Xeenan and Za'Becc was kneeling beside me and they sighed with relief.
"Thank Paya you're awake. Are you alright?" questioned Becky.
"Yeah...yeah, I'm alright," I answered. The memory of what happened in the Infirmary came back as I sat up, "how did I get here?"
"Non too gently," said Xeenan, "two guards opened the door and threw you inside. You've been asleep since yesterday afternoon."
I was shocked, that sleeping drug really knocked me out. Although I was a little miffed that she had slipped me the drug. I scratched my shoulder and found blue flakes under my finger nails. Looking over my shoulder I saw my back was still covered in blue and began to peel the poultice off.
"How come you guys are the only ones in here?" I asked.
"Because Xeenan defied the guard's commands when he was trying to get his sister and I assisted you in rescuing her. We've been here for a day without food or water," Za'Becc paused, "Isha, what happened to you and why are you covered in that healing poultice?"
I chuckled, "It's a really interesting story..."
I told them everything that happened.
"Are you sure Elder Nadar–ian'ah said she was a slave?" Xeenan questioned urgently when I finished.
I nodded, "Those weren’t her exact words, but I’m sure she was implying it."
Becky stared at Xeenan, "You were right, the rumours are true.”
"What rumours?" I asked.
Xeenan sighed, "About two centuries ago, the previous High Elder had a personal slave. She was a small child and it was rumoured that the High Elder took pity on her and raised her as his own. An action like that is strongly forbidden and although the stories circulated, no one questioned or opposed our most highly ranked warrior. Later, when she proved to be a strong warrior, the rumours weren't taken seriously and it was assumed that she was one of the High Elder's sucklings. "
"Has Nadar–ian'ah ever helped any other slave than me?" I asked.
"Well, I know she doesn’t treat the slaves as badly as the other Elders, but I've never heard of her helping them," answered Becky.
I did not know whether to feel grateful or suspicious. Becky sat back on her heels and shook her oval head.
"I don't like it Isha. I don't like the idea of you singing at the feast."
I snorted, "I don’t want to sing either, but what choice do I have?" I looked at my friend, “you don’t have a choice with your dancing."
A nervous click came from her throat, "I know."
Xeenan sat beside her and put his big hand on her right shoulder, squeezing it gently. Becky stole a quick look into Xeenan's eyes, then turned away.
"What will you be doing in the feast Xeenan?" I questioned.
He took his hand off the tall female's shoulder, "Serving food and drinks to the Elders and guests. I hope no one there recognises me. Last year, a male who was part of my old hunting group was invited and a fight almost broke between us."
I nodded and reached over my other shoulder, trying to get the rest of the poultice off.
"Here, I'll help," said Becky as she came up and sat behind me. She peeled off the rest of the dry paste and traced her finger over a deep scar.
"You're wounds are completely healed, but you'll carry these scars for the rest of your life," Becky said.
I arched my back and rotated my shoulders, "Well, I'll give Nadar–ian'ah an eleven out of ten for her healing abilities."
None of us talked to each other until the rest of the slaves came into the compound. The children screeched in happiness and dogpiled me, relieved that I was awake and well. They all asked rapid questions about what happened to me and as soon as everyone calmed down, I told them my adventure with the Elders. The adults were not too happy about my position and some of them offered their help, even though they probably did not know how to help me. I thanked them all and told them I would alright on my own. With only two days left until the feast, my words of reassurance did not get rid of their nervousness. Or mine for that matter.
The two days went by quickly. By order of the High Elder, all slaves who were involved with the entertainment were not allowed to do strenuous work and were given better food to eat. By “better” we got the scraps from the kitchen served to us as a chunky soup or a loaf. Becky, myself and the other performers were affected by the order, but we hardly ate any of the food. We gave most of it to the children, because they needed the nourishment more than the adults. The day before the feast all the slaves were taken out of the citadel to a nearby river, where we could wash. The males bathed down the river while the females bathed farther up. I felt really self-conscious, standing stark naked in cold water with the guards watching us along the forest edge. But, I suppose I was not the only one feeling violated. Dunking myself neck deep in the water I used sand and mud for soap to scrub off a week’s worth of dirt and sweat. I then took a hand full of sand, poured it into my mouth and sucked a mouthful of water. While I carefully sloshed the sandy water over my filmy teeth and I washed my hair twice with mud.
On the morning of the feast I was given an outfit that signified me as an entertainer. The top was made out if silver and gold scale-mail and the ankle length loincloth that hung low around my hips was dark navy. The front and back of the cloth was decorated in silver scroll work and outlined with shiny discs that were no bigger than a quarter. On my upper arms I wore thick scale-mail cuffs that matched my top and on my feet I wore thin, black sandals. My hair was plaited into six braids and held together with gold rings, making it look like I had dreadlocks. I was not comfortable with how much skin I was exposing, although it was noticeably cooler than my old clothes. Becky and the other female dancers wore the same outfit as me, except they had numerous silver and bone ornaments woven into their locks. Each dancer carried a shimmering, diaphanous cloth, which was outlined with strings of tiny bells.
Towards noon all the slaves were separated into small groups and put into cells. I was with Becky and twelve other females and three children. As we waited for our turn to go out I fidgeted with the hair elastic around my wrist. My friend was shifting uncomfortably from side to side. Watching her caused butterflies to form in my stomach. She looked up from her feet and gave me a nervous smile.
"You scared Isha?" she asked.
"Shit yeah. You?"
Becky looked at her feet again, "I'm terrified."
I smiled and patted her huge back, "You remember the song I taught you?"
Za'Becc smiled and nodded. She spoke the words to the song, "Chin up, chin up, everybody loves a happy face. Wear it, share it, it'll brighten up the darkest place..."
"That's it, keep that song running through your mind."
She nodded and looked to her feet again, rubbing her hands in a circular motion. Suddenly the door swished open and seven guards roughly ushered us through the Great Hall. The three children and I were separated from the dancers and guided into the kitchens. I was ordered to carry a gold tray full of fruit that was sprinkled with a sweet seasoning and bring it to the Feasting Chamber, while the children held large pitchers full of a strange smelling beverage. I could not see Becky or any of the dancers as we came to the chamber door, so I assumed they were already inside. I could hear muffled laughter, the clanging of metal and a strong rhythm of drumming. Even though it was hot in the Great Hall, my skin was covered in goosebumps. The three children whimpered and huddled around my bare legs.
"It's okay little ones, it'll be alright." I said, trying to hide my own jitteriness.
The door swung open and I forced myself to step inside. It's okay Dakota I thought to myself, you can do it, you can get through this. I saw all twelve dancers on the right side of the room, moving their bodies the way a belly dancer would in time with the beat of the drummers, with their cloths jingling the air. Behind the dancers numerous skin drums of every size and shape were set up in a circle. Two male Predators and a one female continually pounded massive drums with thick wooden sticks. Ten guards and two slave masters walked slowly around the room with whips in their hands, carefully watching the slaves. In the middle of the chamber was a long table with fifty, richly dressed Yautja sitting around it on thick pillows. The Elders were gathered at the far end of the table, with the High Elder sitting at the head. Roasted, half eaten animals covered the top of the table, as well as trays of fruit and vegetables and goblets full of what had to be alcohol. The guests of the feast laughed heartily amongst themselves as they drank and ate. Adult and children slaves ran busily about, serving the fifty guests and Elders on demand. I saw Xeenan at the far side of the room carrying a large platter of sliced meat. He nearly fell on his face when one of the Predator guests purposefully stuck his hand out. Xeenan glared at the guest before walking away. I gave a disgusted look and stepped farther into the chamber with my tray. A male Yautja wearing silver rings in his hair and dressed in silver engraved armour noticed me and stood up on his cushion.
"High Elder, what is the meaning of this?!" he bellowed.
The drumming stopped, the dancing stopped, practically everything stopped and the room was deathly quiet. I saw all eyes upon me and I felt my face grow hot. I forced myself to stand tall, despite feeling my arms and knees shake.
"Why is this...thing, this...ooman here? Are you trying to disgrace us in front of the gods!" the silver haired one asked.
The High Elder stood up from his seat. I noticed he was wearing gold armour, with many red symbols carved into the metal. He moved his flowing gold cloak away from his feet and spoke to the entire table.
"I suppose I do owe an explanation. As you all see we do have a ooman in our midst. She was accidentally transported from her planet to ours, unarmed and alone. Since there was no way for her to get back to her home world, she is now serving as a slave. This ooman has proven to be a strong worker and has earned quite a reputation amongst slaves."
Whispers circulated around the table.
"Also!" Everyone fell silent. "She has displayed something truly amazing to me and the other Elders. Something that we Yautja can never do. Which is why the ooman will be the main entertainment for the feast."
The chamber exploded with laughter. My face grew hotter and I shivered. I felt a touch on my shoulder and I saw Becky.
"Chin up, chin up, everybody loves a happy face. Wear it, share it, it'll brighten up the darkest place," she whispered in my ear.
I could not help but smile back.
The laughing subsided and the ring haired Predator spoke again.
"Be serious High Elder, how can this inferior creature be the main entertainment?"
I glanced at the Elder and he nodded towards me.
"See for yourself, or should I say listen. Go on ooman, show us what you can do."
All eyes were on me again and my stomach went cold. Becky squeezed my shoulder in reassurance and I gave her my tray of fruit. Stepping up to the head of the table I looked at my audience. Some of the Predators snickered and whispered to each other. I gulped, took a deep breath, removed my mask and translator and sang as loud as I could.
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch, like me...I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now, I see..."
The last note echoed through the whole chamber. I suppressed a laugh when I saw how idiotic the Predators appeared with their mouths and eyes wide open. The High Elder on the other hand was still standing with his muscular arms crossed over his barrel chest, grinning like there was no tomorrow. Quickly, I held the translator to my ear as the Elder spoke.
"Any more questions?"
The Yautja with the silver rings bowed his head, "Please accept my apology High Elder. It was wrong of me to have doubted you."
The elderly Predator nodded in satisfaction and sat back down on his cushion.
"You are forgiven my fellow warrior. It was natural for you to doubt," the Elder looked at me, "Please continue ooman. Sing in praise to the gods."
I closed my eyes and felt my stomach tighten. I decided to focus my attention on the slaves instead of the Elders. This performance was going to be for them. I kept my eyes closed as I began my next song.