The air was thick with humidity, as it always was on Gerak. Satel Peul lifted his hand to shield the sunlight from blinding him as he navigated through the dense shrubbery of the forest. Gerak was by far the most primitive continent on Tayh, as the civilizations of people inhabiting it had not even properly caught up with the developments of the time. Satel had been visiting Gerak on command of the Intellects of Yave in order to gather further information on its people. Satel was studying to become an Intellect himself, and as a part of the process, travelling to Gerak was one of his first tasks on the road to becoming one.
A native of Gerak was there to greet Satel when he arrived on a beach of the continent, and to be his guide through the trees to the inner cities. He had been purposed to gather information on one sole city however: Salka. While the entirety of Gerak is said to be primitive, the cities retained some strange sense of beauty.
The native, which Satel decided to call Oog-Oog, continued to lead him through the forest. In his right hand was an oddly fashioned blade curved to look almost like a wave. Satel took note in his journal, then closed the pages and proceeded to follow Oog-Oog. Oog-Oog hacked away at stray branches and anything that blocked the path forward. The blade he had been holding made a certain whistling sound every time he raised the blade and struck down with it. Birds flew overhead, cawing, while other animals made a range of sounds from within the depths of the forest.
“Excuse me,” Satel quickened his pace and caught back up to Oog-Oog, “how much further until we arrive at Salka?”
Oog-Oog came to a halt, knocking Satel off balance. He turned his head and stared long and deep into Satel’s eyes. Satel was confused and scared at the same time, afraid of what the native might do. Oog-Oog began to speak in an incomprehensible dialect, then turned back around and continued on the path he was once walking. Satel, confused, and slightly irritated, followed after.
It wasn’t for another 30 minutes until Satel began to hear the distant resemblance of a thriving community. Without turning back to look at Satel, Oog-Oog spoke in his strange language again. Satel could only assume the man was saying they were due to arrive any moment now. Oog-Oog hacked through a few more feet of tree branches and overgrown underbrush, and then it was like a moment out of books Satel would read as a child. An opening was presented and the city of Salka seemed angelic almost. More of a relief actually, so that he could finally get out of the humidity of the forest.
The two descended a dirt path that led straight into the main square of the city. Everything was very primitive, as expected, and as documented from Intellects and others past. Satel, just as he had once done when he first saw Oog-Oog’s blade, pulled out his journal and began furiously taking notes of everything that they passed. The tools they were using, the form of trade they operated with, the social class that Satel try so hard to distinguish. They continued walking the path when Oog-Oog came to a halt, again, and broke from the path that led to the center of the city. Satel, not knowing anything about Gerak, reluctantly followed.
Oog-Oog was only making a quick purchase of a fruit that resembled an apple in its shape but looked to be a kiwi in its appearance. Whatever it was, Satel didn’t want to touch it, let alone eat it. The guide returned to the path and continued walking the same route as before. While Satel followed, he noticed that people who were scattered along the side of the path, people passing and all of those things of the sort, began to culminate behind himself and Oog-Oog. For a second, Satel believed they were following him, but as he wearily turned his head to watch the crowd massing behind him, a bell rang in the distance. The sound resonated from the center of the city, a place which Satel still hadn’t seen yet.
It appeared to him that there was some sort of event and everyone typically knew around what time of the day it began at. Perhaps the people of Garek are more aware of what time of the day it is without actually knowing, Satel thought to himself. He quickened his pace and tapped Oog-Oog on the shoulder. The man turned around and blankly stared Satel in the eyes as he continued to walk on the path.
“Uh, what is happening?” Satel asked, as he tried to do hand gestures to make the question more universally understandable.
Oog-Oog continued to blankly stare at Satel, then responded, in the language Satel still found somewhat strange, pointing towards the center of the town. He turned his head once more and didn’t look back or even react to the crowd that was now following.
They passed more and more people who joined the gathering behind them, abandoning posts, stalls, businesses. Satel took out his journal and attempted to write in it, however, the humidity was making it far more difficult than it typically was in wet weather. He added on to what he had previously observed of the Garekians: their keen sense of time, their economy and how it operated (or from how Satel assumed it did), the strange fruits he’d seen hanging from racks and sitting in baskets. There was only one other task once he’d studied and observed the religion of the people of Garek, and that was to map Salka as a city. By the time he was due to return to Yave, the Intellects were bound to understand more about the people of Garek. He got slightly excited over the potential praise his Superiors would give him upon his return.
Satel had finished writing everything else down he’d observed, and as he closed his journal, he, Oog-Oog and the crowd following and finally reached the center of the city. It wasn’t like your typical town center however. It bared the resemblance of an arena, or stadium, more than it did a place of meeting and prosperity. There were benches lining in a circle and descended deeper and deeper the closer and closer you wanted to get to the platform that appeared to be in the middle of it all. The platform, from afar, appeared to be stained with blood that had long dried. It’s no safe to assume, Satel thought to himself, and kept an open mind.
Oog-Oog guided Satel further and further down, closer and closer to the platform stained in red. Since Satel was a foreigner, and in some sense a guest, to Salka, and Garek as a whole, he was going to receive the best accommodations, whether it pertained to room and board, food, front-row experiences to events and occasions of the sort.
They, at last, reached the row that was accessible to them that was as near to the front as it could be. There were three more empty rows ahead of them. Satel, curious and observatory, made a guess that it was reserved for the upper class of the city. Oog-Oog sat down and Satel followed shortly after. He observed the arena-like area, watching as people poured in from what seemed to be everywhere, quickly filling in the seats. A child, and his family, filed in and sat next to Satel. The child was evidently excited, speaking to his sister in the foreign language of the land. That was when he thought back on to the last moments before he set sail for Garek.
- - - -
“Do not interfere with anything they may do. If they murder their own for sport, simply observe and say nothing more,” stated Luzx Neville.
Luzx was the highest ranking one could reach when it came to being an Intellect, and there could only be six Luzxs at one moment. Below the Luzx was the Kesc, and if you were a Kesc wanting to become a Luzx, you simply had to wait until one passed of old age, tragedy, or any other unfortunate event that could have happened. However, that wait tended to be longer than most would expect, as becoming a Luzx is usually handed to the much younger Intellects who managed to reach the ranking of Kesc at an early age. Luzxs also had an expansive knowledge of the fine art of magic, therefore knew how to extend their life cycle. The average life cycle ranged from 120 years to 200 years.
- - - -
Satel observed the platform only feet away from him with more diligence, since he was much closer than before. As it turns out, it was stained in blood, and a thick coppery scent filled the air. He almost gagged the moment he noticed it, but prevented from doing so. No one else seemed to be bothered by the smell lingering in the air, besides him.
The stadium-like setup of the rows of seats seemed to completely fill up, followed by a few moments of silence. Satel felt that something important was due to happen, and opened his journal, prepared to take as many notes as possible. The silence was then replaced with a loud chant coming from the entire viewing audience. It repeated and repeated and repeated. The repeating of the chant began to make some words more understandable, and by the time Satel could comprehend the sounds they were making, it came out to be two mutterings, “Sfo, Telal!” He wrote down the chant, as so he would have in any situation and continued to observe.
The roaring repetition slowly died down, bringing the stadium/arena to a deafening silence. Near the base of the platform, which was elevated roughly 10 feet off the ground, an entrance swung open. There was still silence, and five men emerged. They all wore clothes that signified they were religious figures of some sort. The clothing had embroidered sigils and runes. Satel tried to get a quick sketch of the attire while watching them proceed up a small flight of stairs in order to reach the top of the platform.
Instead of a deafening silence, it seemed as though sound itself ceased to exist, and it left Satel irked. He had also observed that the door from which the five men emerged had remained opened, when another man emerged, carrying a rope in hand. He gave it a yank and pulled yet another man out into the sunlight. He was clearly ravaged and was stripped of all clothes. He was covered in dry blood, but it highlighted parts of his body that were extremely defined, far more defined than any man he’d seen in Salka so far. He was of a much larger stature and looked to possess more strength than the average man on Garek and Delsera. The man was practically dragged up the steps, as if he knew of the fate he was about to face, however, Satel still was unsure of what was going to become of this man.
One of the religious figures, while awaiting the man’s arrival at the top, pulled from one side of the platform what seemed to be a perfectly symmetric tree stump. The man placed it in the middle of the elevated platform and returned to where he once standing, alongside his, presumably, colleagues.
The gaoler and prisoner had then reached the top of the stairs by the time the robed man returned to his previous position. The gaoler pulled the naked, burly prisoner over to the tree stump and aggressively threw him on the top, chest facing the sky. Satel gasped, in realization as to what was going to happen next. Something deep inside him wanted to intervene, but Luzx Neville’s words echoed in his head just as he was about to get up from his seat. He also quickly began to write what was unfolding before his eyes.
Up on the platform, the gaoler untied the man’s hands, and surprisingly enough, he didn’t attempt to make a break for it. It was confusing, yet mesmerizing at the same time. It was as if the prisoner had just lied down, metaphorically, and given up. The gaoler stood before him, motionless awaiting for the next step in the process to go underway. A few seconds had passed before another one of the Robed Men broke from the line they had formed and drew a dagger from his sleeve. He held it in the air for a painstaking 30 seconds, as if expecting something to happen. He then handed the dagger to the gaoler and returned to his line of exclusivity. Satel was still enamored at how silent everything seemed to be. It was inhuman, impossible even.
The gaoler stared at the blade, examining it in the light of the sun, now sitting at its highest point in the sky. Satel had been writing faster than he ever had before, also trying to fit in drawings of everything he was seeing, such as the dagger, sigils on the Robed Men’s robes, descriptions to it all. It almost became too much to take in.
Satel watched as the man wielding the dagger began to slowly drag his tongue along the blade, with an expression as though he were enjoying it. Then, without warning or any signification, the gaoler, quicker and swifter than Satel had seen any man swing a sword, lifted the dagger and plunged it deep into the sternum of the prisoner.
Satel quickly looked away, as he was rather faint when it came to freshly drawn blood. The prisoner violently jolted as the dagger dug deep into his chest, but nothing more or nothing less. Satel expected more from a man who was about to be killed with a dagger buried in his chest.
The gaoler released his grip on the hilt of the blade, then took his hands and pried open the prisoner’s chest, with clear force, the prisoner’s ribcage presumably giving resistance. Even from where Satel was sitting, the cracking and crunching of the ribs was audible and horrifying. While it was a struggle, Satel had managed to write down the process up until the point of the prying open of the chest. He realized he needed to muscle through the rest of it, all in the name of the Yaven Archive.
The now-executioner dug his right hand into the prisoner’s chest and moved it around, making its way through a mess of flesh and broken ribs. He appeared to get a hold of something, as the upper muscles of his forearm clenched, then he proceeded to give a few tugs over and over again. Blood had been sloshing all over the gaoler and spraying from places not visible to some audience members, such as he. The man gave another good tug and whatever he was pulling on was now free.
Satel was on the urge of throwing up at this point, not only because of the blood, but because of the fact that the man had taken someone else’s life so easily and carelessly. He resisted doing so, something that took all his might, and continued to observe while meticulously taking notes.
The gaoler removed his hand from the chest of the now-deceased prisoner and raised it to the sky, revealing it was a heart. The typical god sacrifice performed by most primitive beings at one point or another. The rest of Tayh may have been advanced for its time, but Garek was one of the 3 continents that was isolated from the outside world and never properly developed.
There was still silence, so Satel looked around to make sure that he hadn’t just gone death and people were actually making noise. Yet, to his surprise, there was still no movement from the crowd, including Oog-Oog. Time seemed to excel, as it felt like Satel had been sitting there for hours, when in reality it had only been 10 minutes since the commencement of the ritual. Then, just as everything was quiet, time seemed to stand still. There was no movement from Oog-Oog or the child next to Satel, the Robed Men or even the gaoler. The sky began to grow dark, and that’s when things started to change.
Oog-Oog shifted in his seat uncomfortably, the child scooted closer to his mother, wrapping his arms around her, the gaoler lowered his hand from the sky, looking at the gathering clouds in confusion, the Robed Men were calmly conversating amongst one another. This was clearly something that never happened, and Satel made sure to take note of it, but this particular instance in extensive detail.
The Robed Man who’d provided the dagger broke from his formation and looked to the crowd, addressing them in the unknown language. He then walked to the gaoler and took the heart from the man, now holding it to the sky, just as the gaoler had once done. The people of Salka looked around in confusion, chattering amongst each other, presumably trying to figure out what was going on. The Robed Man brought his hand from the sky, blood now staining his sleeve, and examined the heart as though there was something wrong with it.
Satel continued taking notes when the Robed Man lifted his hand, with the heart as well, to the sky once more, as a second try. Satel lifted his eyes from the journal, and that’s when it happened. A great rumbling could be heard, resonating in the distance, but from inside the arena/stadium, the sound seemed to come from the sky. That was impossible, since Satel could physically feel the ground rumbling. He looked up in the sky, just as everyone else present did.
In the clouds, a faint light could be seen, brewing and stirring. At first, it appeared that the clouds were just swirling and beginning to clear, that the light was the sun at it’s peak height in the sky. But the light continued to grow and the clouds continued stirring. The Robed Man lowered his hand from the sky and looked to his colleagues in confusion. Satel, however, was still watching the light grow brighter and brighter. Then, as though time had slowed down once again, the light seemingly burst from pressure and zapped down, striking the Robed Man holding the prisoner’s heart.
Upon further inspection, Satel realized the man was unscathed, and that the lightning had struck the heart instead. The expression on the Robed Man’s face said it all, as he slowly turned from looking at the other Robed Men and down at the heart in his hand. It began to beat. Slowly, as though it were a dying heart in its last moments, but the beat grew stronger and stronger. He flung the heart down at the floor, but by then it was too late.
The prisoner, that everyone had assumed was dead, rose from the symmetric tree trunk, and stood before everyone, his heart beating on the ground. The gaping hole in his chest was gruesome to look at, as a few of his innards spilled out, pieces of rib falling to the ground and clattering. He menacingly turned his head to face the Robed Man.
The man who had walked up on to the platform so confident and eloquently was now quivering in fear and disbelief. He dropped to his knees and assumed the worshipping position. The gaoler followed suite, then the rest of the Robed Men, and then the rest of the onlookers.