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The sun shone over a large crowd. They were gathered at the base of a rectangular pyramid, talking amongst themselves in the plaza. On the pyramid’s peak, there was an altar with a handsome man tied on top of it. He wore armor decorated with feathers, and his skin was painted with bright colors. Standing over him, there were five dark-skinned men, four of them holding down his limbs. The fifth man had a knife made of flint in his hands, and he was facing the crowd with his back to the sacrifice.

“Our once-great ruler was fooled, tricked by the foreign invaders, used until his death! The previous ruler succumbed to the disease and plague the foreign invaders have spread! The invaders have joined hands with our enemies, bribing them with wicked goods! Even now, they march towards our capital, their hearts filled with avarice and bloodlust! Last year, the once-great ruler accepted the foreign invaders into our capital as guests, and they massacred us during our ceremony! Even the women and children weren’t spared! They claim our sacrifices are evil and wicked, yet they laughed as they slaughtered us like sheep!”

The crowd at the bottom shouted and stomped their feet, the sounds they created like thunder booming from below. The knife-wielding priest waited with his arms raised, letting the fervor below build up. When the noise couldn’t grow any higher, the priest shouted, “Our spirits shall not be broken! The great god was angry last year, bringing us hardship, but he knew it would help us grow! We offer this sacrifice to appease him! May he bless us before our battle with the foreign invaders!”

The shouting and stomping calmed down, slowly decreasing in volume as the priest turned around and positioned himself next to the feathered man on the altar. His actions were slow and deliberate as he moved his right foot to the side, then his left, standing with his legs shoulder-width apart. The sounds from behind him rose up again, but instead of shouting, it was filled with a haunting melody as the crowd sang with deep voices as if honoring those who were slaughtered a year before. The priest raised his knife into the air with both hands, poising it above the sacrifice’s chest.

A few gruesome moments later, the priest gestured with his bloody knife. The four other men rolled the sacrifice down the steps of the pyramid where another group of people collected his body. The priest walked towards the edge of the steps and raised his arms. “The great god has accepted our offering!”

The crowd’s singing reverberated even louder, and the priest lowered his arms, the tension leaving his body. A small smile appeared on his face, and he exhaled through his nose, his gaze sweeping over the crowd underneath him. At the center of the crowd, near the base of the steps, there were a group of men. All of them were handsome with long hair, very similar to the man who had just been sacrificed. Their eyes burned with ambition, meeting the priest’s gaze. The priest grabbed a cloth off of his waist and wiped his hands on it, staining it with blood. With an underhand motion, he tossed the cloth off the pyramid towards the group of men. Their hands stretched up to grab it, a few even pushing the others away. Whoever caught the cloth would be the sacrifice for next year—a great honor. The cloth fluttered in the air and landed in the hands of an eager young man. Once the cloth was caught, the song of the crowd rose in pitch.

The priest took in another deep breath and exhaled. His work today was done. However, a discordant noise plucked at his ears, and a tiny furrow appeared on his brow. The song was supposed to be harmonious, but strange noises peppered the melody. All of a sudden, the singing stopped, and murmurs replaced it instead. The priest frowned. What was going on? A moment after that thought came to mind, a shadow fell over the priest’s head, and he turned around. Something was falling from the sky, something large. It was blue like a sapphire, and it shone like one too.

“Head Priest! What is that!?” The four men who had helped with the sacrifice at the top of the pyramid swarmed the priest, their faces filled with confusion and fear.

The priest stared up at the falling object and swallowed as cold sweat appeared on his brow. The object had wings and legs, and he swore he saw a pair of golden eyes. There was only one thing that came to mind: a god. The priest dropped to his knees while raising his arms up. “The great god has accepted our offerings! He’s personally descending!”

The four men dropped to their knees as well, and the crowd followed in their wake. No one said a word. Only the sound of whistling wind could be heard. Sweat rolled down the priest’s forehead and dripped down his nose, but he didn’t dare wipe it away. What was going on? How did this happen? He had performed thousands of sacrifices, perhaps even tens of thousands of sacrifices, but this was the first time a god actually descended! This wasn’t supposed to happen! It had never happened before, and it should never happen after, but it happened now! Sacrifices were given to the gods to give them strength in the other world. If a god came here, then what exactly did that mean? Sadly, there wasn’t anyone to answer the priest’s unasked questions. Even if he asked them out loud, there wouldn’t be anyone who could.

The god rolled around in the air, and its massive wings spread apart. The priest couldn’t help but swallow again. No one had ever seen a god before, so it made sense that the depictions were wrong, but in terms of description alone, the being in the air was definitely similar to the legends. The scaled god descended, ignoring the altar, and landed heavily on the ground where the tables with food were located. Under the silent crowd’s gaze, the god shrank, its scales disappearing, and transformed into a human with long hair, his appearance remarkably similar to the man who had just been sacrificed. Then, the god said something, but the head priest couldn’t understand the words that came out of his mouth. With a shrug, the god ignored the crowd and grabbed a piece of meat. Then he ate it.

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Virlyce

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