The Sacrifice

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Another erotic story from the FLOGMASTER!

Copyright 1995-2009 by the Flogmaster. All Rights Reserved. Free distribution via electronic medium (i.e. the internet or electronic BBS) is permitted as long as the text is _not_ modified and this copyright is included, but _no_ other form of publication is allowed without written permission. This document _may_ contain explicit material of an ADULT nature. ***READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!*** Anything offensive is your own problem. This story is for **entertainment** purposes only, and it does _not_ necessarily represent the viewpoint of the author or the electronic source where this was obtained. All characters are *fictional* -- any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental.

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The Sacrifice
Part 1

(*****, M/F, Edgy, flogging, *DEATH*, sex)

An introspective tale about the ritual sacrifice of a woman. Warning: contains death and philosophy; not for the squeamish or stupid. (Approximately 8,508 words. Originally published 1996-02.)

Head Priest Damil smiled to himself as he awoke. Today was the last day of winter, and tonight there would be a grand celebration after the ceremony. As he dismissed the naked slut from his bed with a curse and a slap and dressed himself in the fine robes that befit his office, he wondered who it would be. He knew all of the wives of the Ten well, except for one: Mira had refused his every inference. Perhaps he could arrange that she be selected. The thought distressed him slightly, but it was only a pang of regret, of disappointment, like a hunter might feel at the sight of a magnificent antelope just before loosening his arrow. Yes, today would be a good day. It would be Mira, he would make certain of it.

* * * * *

The young woman rested the heavy jar beside the stream and casually removed her garment. Naked, she entered the knee-deep stream and began to wash herself under the small waterfall. Certain she was alone, she stood before the falls and spread her legs wide, letting the water splash against her naked sex. Leaning back her head and letting her long dark hair fall into the water behind her, she breathed deeply and sighed. Almost without realizing it her hand slipped between her legs and she began to caress herself, moaning at the delicious stimulation.

It was only some time later that she desisted, realizing that an extended period of time had passed, and she would be missed. She hurriedly dressed and filled the jar with fresh water, her face and skin still tingling from the cold bath as she reached the village.

"Mira! Where have you been!" came a loud voice from within the darkness of her husband's home. "I am waiting for my breakfast."

"It will be ready in a few moments, Rogal," said the girl obediently, bowing low near the entrance to their sleeping quarters. He growled and she relaxed as she heard him lie back upon the sleeping mat. At least he was too tired to beat her. If he had been more hungry she would have been uncomfortable at the ceremony tonight.

Thinking of the ceremony sent a chill through her spine. Once again, Mira wondered what it felt like, to be chosen and to endure the ultimate sacrifice. Her heart beat loudly between her breasts as she wondered if she might be chosen. It would be an honor, of course, and she could in no way refuse--to do so would be disgraceful--but the task would not be easy.

She finished building up the fire and began to heat some water in a large container. As it boiled, she took some of yesterday's bread and a bowl of fresh goat's milk to her husband, standing obediently near him with her head bowed, waiting for his next instruction.

When he had finished eating he smiled at her and she smiled back. "Go fetch me a good stick, woman," he said in an even tone. "I think you need a lesson."

Mira felt her heart drop at his words. So she was to be beaten after all. Well, such was life. She hurried outside and finding a tree broke off a stout branch and stripped it of its twigs. She saw one of the older village women watching her, clucking and shaking her head. Mira blushed as the woman scolded her. "Again, Mira? You ought to be ashamed of yourself. That husband of yours will wear himself out beating you and not have strength left for fighting!"

Back in the hut she took off her robe and knelt at Rogal's feet and pressed her face to the floor, thrusting her naked buttocks up toward him. He took the switch and began to beat her soundly, thrashing her buttocks and thighs with scores of thin welts. But after just a few minutes he stopped, biding Mira to get up.

"You are a good wife," he said gently. "I beat you no more today."

She nodded, relieved to get off with such a short whipping. "Thank you, Husband," she said and bowed and kissed his feet.

He smiled and took her in his arms and kissed her. "You are very beautiful when you are being whipped." She could feel him pressed against her, throbbing, and put her arms around him. In a minute he was inside her, his organ near splitting her apart with his wild, animal-like thrusts, and they moaned like one as their desire mounted.

Rogal's hands cupped his wife's buttocks as he pumped into her and when he squeezed tightly, feeling the thin stripes from the whipping pulsing against his palms, he could feel her body jerking with uncontrollable shudders as she struggled with the pain. Desire won out and with a passionate screech both went over the edge, convulsed violently, and then lay panting, exhausted and spent, bodies sore but broad smiles upon their faces.

"You are a good woman!" Rogal said after a while. Mira did not say anything, but lay her head upon his broad chest. Truly, she could not be any happier.

* * * * *

Chief Korac sat in the overhang near the entrance to his home and ate his breakfast silently and watched the village slowly come to life. "It is a good village," he was thinking. "The people are healthy and strong and there are many babies. With Ragat's blessing we shall not suffer next winter." He thought of the ceremony to come and felt a slight worry. What if something should go wrong? But he dismissed this thought quickly, as it upset him, and he did not like to be upset. "Everything will go fine," he told himself with a growl. "Everything will go fine and Ragat will be pleased with our offering."

* * * * *

The girl walked over to the waterfall slowly, carefully, peering round as though she would be caught. She saw the footprints in the mud and placing her own foot in one of them frowned at how much smaller hers was than her sister's.

With another terrified glance around her, the girl slipped her robe off and climbed into the water. It was cold and instantly the girl felt prickles all over her skin. She plunged her whole body into the water quickly, to adjust herself to the coldness, and stood dripping and eying the waterfall.

Looking around her one more time, she stood in front of the falls and tried to let the water splash across her sex like she had seen her sister do. But her technique was not as good, and Pyre could not stimulate herself like Mira had. She forced her fingers between her legs and began to desperately, incompetently, massage herself, her breaths coming in short, panicked gasps and tears of astonishment and delight and shame coming into her eyes. She froze every moment or so and scanned the forest carefully, certain she should see someone coming, someone watching, but there was no one; it was still early yet.

* * * * *

The man watched the girl through narrowed eyes. His face was dark with anger but he did not show himself. He watched the girl as she bathed, oblivious to his presence. The girl was barely a woman, her breasts tiny mounds with peanut-sized nipples and no hair between her slim legs. Even her hips were still straight and she did not sway as she walked the way older girls did. But her face was pretty, the skin smooth and her smile bright and cheerful, and her body was lithe and fit and strong like that of a small monkey. She would soon make a good wife.

"Very soon," said the old man to himself. "Very soon."

* * * * *

The drums pounded loudly, incessantly, a dull throbbing that from a distance felt like the earth's heartbeat. All of the people were assembled at the center of the village, near Korac's hut. The chief slowly emerged, preceded by two tall warriors fully armed with bow and spears, faces painted white. The crowd gasped as the chief emerged, for he looked formidable, dressed in skin of a leopard and carrying a long knife in his hand arched above his head. His face, too, was painted, but in red, the color of blood, and several of the woman cried out in horror and fear.

Korac smiled and his white teeth gleamed out of the red mask of his face. He loved this spectacle, the willing adoration of his people, the obvious devotion and obedience they offered him. At a word from him a mother would give him her son to slaughter and eat, if he wished. At his command any one of the strong young men standing in a circle around the villagers would throw himself upon his spear and bleed to death on the dust at the chief's feet, a smile still upon the lad's face. Korac enjoyed being chief.

"Let us begin the ceremony!" he commanded, and with a wave of his arm, it began.

* * * * *

Pyre stood with her mother and her sisters in the hot noon sun, watching the chief emerge from his hut. His bloody face looked like he had just been eating, raw, from the belly of a living goat. His jaws still dripped with blood it seemed. "Perhaps it is the blood of an enemy," thought the girl with a shudder. "Perhaps he has killed the enemy himself, in his hut."

She watched as he announced the commencement of the ceremony. To Pyre's right were the Ten: the top warriors of the village, chosen for their fierceness and success in hunting and battle. They stood tall and proud and frightening, eyes black with ferocious glares and muscular arms folded in front of themselves, their massive chests gleaming with sweat and blood from fresh cuts. Their faces were painted white and they looked awful. Behind each man stood a woman dressed in a small shrift of white, her head bowed and arms behind her back. Pyre found Rogal, Mira's husband, and saw her sister standing patiently behind him.

"She looks so beautiful and strong," thought Pyre. "I truly wish I was as beautiful as she."

Suddenly the drums roared and the girl turned, startled, and saw that the High Priest was entering the circle. He walked very slowly, taking tiny steps, but it seemed natural for him, as though he was walking normally and the rest of the people walked far too fast. He was dressed in a long robe that dragged across the earth behind him. On his head was the skull of a boar, and he wore a long necklace of leopard teeth. In his hand was a long staff, the top fitted with the horn of an antelope, making the staff almost a spear, though it was far too short to be wielded successfully as such. He bowed low to the chief, and then to the people, and then moved to the very center of the circle and raised the staff high to the sky with both hands and began to chant.

Pyre did not understand what he said; no one did. They were not permitted to understand. Only the priests spoke the language of the gods. If _anyone_ could talk to the gods there would have been no need for priests. But Pyre knew that the Priest was pleading with the gods for guidance and mercy, and praying that the sacrifice would be met with pleasure and blessing, and that Ragat, the God of Harvest, would bring plenty of rain this season. She hoped that Ragat would be pleased, because she could remember a horrible time of death and pain and shadows and darkness when she was a child, a time of famine, when Ragat had been angry with the tribe and had refused to send rain for a very long time.

Pyre glanced around and saw tight, tense faces everywhere, mothers clutching their babies fiercely and warriors with stern looks on their faces. Everyone hoped Ragat would be pleased with the sacrifice.

* * * * *

As Damil finished speaking he wanted to laugh out loud with delight. The sight of hundreds of cowering men, women, and children made him feel strong and noble. These people depended upon him. They respected him, almost worshipped him, as he was their link to the gods. They feared him, too, for his displeasure was the displeasure of the gods--it would not do to make him angry. Even Korac, the chief, knew not disobey the High Priest.

"We must now choose the sacrifice!" cried Damil in a loud and terrifying voice. "Ragat is pleased that we have gathered here today. He is eager to feel our pain. We must all sacrifice to him today--if we do not he has promised me that it will not rain until the youngest among us is as old as Pranil!" There was a gasp of horror as the priest pointed a gnarly finger at an ancient man seated in the shade of a tree near the outside of the circle. The old man was the eldest in the village, and though he was frail and useless, he was held in a position of respect and even awe by the villagers.

"We must now choose the sacrifice!" cried Damil again, and the village roared assent, terrified of displeasing their god. "Bring the women forward," he shouted, licking his lips and feeling a surge of desire between his legs as the wives of the Ten stepped obediently forward, their faces soft and quiet. Damil was glad he was covered by the robe as he approached the women, studying them. They were all beautiful--Ragat would have nothing less--but Damil's eyes fixed onto the lovely Mira almost immediately, and his loins ached with unsatisfied lust. She was the one he had wanted, had almost begged, but she would never comply. "So be it," he thought. "Ragat can have her, and I shall enjoy giving her to him."

Waving his hand, Damil urged one of the young acolytes that followed him to step forward. The boy approached, holding the struggling rooster, and gave him to the High Priest. Damil took the bird and held it up to the sky and muttered for few minutes. When he finished the ten wives of the Ten gathered in a tight circle around him. Drawing a long ivory knife from inside his robe, Damil carefully cut the strings that bound the bird's legs together and set the bird on the ground. Holding it in position, he carefully and deliberately cut out the rooster's eyes, ignoring its struggles and wild pecking.

As Damil leapt up and released the bird, no one saw him spill a tiny trail of seed behind him as he rushed out of the circle, brushing past a startled Mira. The circle closed behind him and the woman sat down, the bird in the center lurching wildly, almost mindlessly. The silence was awesome. Only the screeching of the bird could be heard. It approached several girls but strayed away, and finally slowed its movements and began pecking aimlessly in the dirt. The wives watched with breathless hope and fear. Slowly the bird began to wander closer and closer to Mira, and finally, it leapt into her lap and pecked at her wildly, as she screamed and struck at it in terror. There were cries from the crowd and the other wives and Damil felt a tremendous satisfaction. His plan had worked. It was to be Mira.

* * * * *

The sun felt hot but Mira stood silently and waited. This would soon be over and the celebration could begin. She could hardly wait for the feast, for Rogal had promised her a goat of her own. He had hinted that there was more that came with the present than a goat, and she had smiled to herself as she well knew how eager he became after an evening of feasting. He was a savage animal, almost tearing her in two with his lust, and though she feared him when he was that way, it also excited her to the point of frantic distraction. That was why she had felt the need to satisfy herself this morning at the falls. She knew that tonight Rogal would be lusty and she could hardly wait.

The sun was intense and the High Priest seemed to chant forever, and Mira ached for the cooling relief of the falls. Suddenly it was over, and Mira found herself forming a circle with the other wives around the High Priest as he prepared the chicken. This was not new to her--this was her fifth ceremony, so she was no longer frightened. Not like Pali, who's eyes were wide with fear; this was her first.

As Mira sat cross-legged in the dirt and watched the blind bird begin to flap about screaming in agony and terror, she did not feel anything inside. It was as though everything had stopped for a bit--she could feel nothing. She tried to glance at Rogal but he would not look at her. She wondered what he was thinking. She wondered how he would feel if she were chosen. She wondered how she herself would feel. She saw Pali's eyes go white with terror as the bird flapped dangerously close to her and wondered what it would be like to feel such fear. It had been a long time since Mira had felt afraid. She felt distant, disconnected, as though this was not happening to her but to someone she was watching.

Then the bird stepped towards her. Her heart thumped and Mira gasped and she felt the palms of her hands grow moist. "So this is it," she thought as the bird came closer and closer. It seemed to be marching straight toward her, though on a jerky, irregular, course. Mira felt her breathing grow weak and the sun felt very hot, oppressively hot. She could feel sweat tickling her skin all over her body.

Suddenly the bird was there, in her lap, its sharp beak drawing blood as it pecked wildly at her feet and thighs. She stared in astonishment at the red stains slowly materializing on the white cloth of her robe and then something snapped and she began to scream and strike wildly at the bird, ignoring the sharp pricks of pain to her arms and hands. Hands pulled at her and she heard shouts and the sun disappeared as people swarmed over her. In seconds it was over, the bird gone, Mira lying naked on the dirt in front of the High Priest.

She lay without moving, face down, her heart thumping loudly, louder than the drums that roared nearby, and she faintly heard the High Priest chanting and talking in a language she did not understand. Her head swam. She could not believe this was happening. Certainly she had known it was a possibility. She had known that ever since she had first volunteered. But it wasn't until that moment, as she lay there breathing dust and grit, her body limp as though all her bones had been sucked out of her, that she realized for the first time that it was real, it was permanent, and there was no going back.

* * * * *

Part 2

(*****, M/F, Edgy, flogging, *DEATH*, sex)

An introspective tale about the ritual sacrifice of a woman. Warning: contains death and philosophy; not for the squeamish or stupid. (Approximately 8,508 words. Originally published 1996-02.)

When the chicken leaped into his wife's arms Rogal felt a twinge of horror go through his body. It was as though someone had slapped him. "It is Mira." He said the words to himself but they did not mean much. He wondered if he felt sad or afraid but he felt neither, or both. He loved Mira, or thought he did. She was beautiful. The idea that he would never again caress her smooth, satiny skin troubled him. He would never again suck those supple, delicious breasts with those sharp, pointy nipples. He would never again run his hands along her smooth belly or across her tender rump or spread those thighs wide and plunge his manhood into her feminine slit.

He thought of the beating he had given her this morning--how beautiful she had looked even as she had fetched him that stick, knowing exactly what it was to be used for. She had looked beautiful even as he had beat her, whipping her legs and buttocks thoroughly and delighting in the way the beating made her arch her back and thrust her backside toward him, as though she accepted her punishment and willing offered herself to him. The thought of this quickened his blood and he felt his member stiffen in anticipation. But there was to be no more whipping of Mira. She belonged to Ragat now.

Silently the thought came to his mind but he did not voice it. He wondered if he had chosen to whip her this morning because he feared it might have been his last chance.

But the High Priest was continuing the ceremony. Mira was dragged off to have her body painted and be bound to the sacrifice posts. Rogal stood at attention as Damil came to him and led him out to the center of the crowd. He praised the warrior's sacrifice citing him as an example to all. He asked Ragat to bless Rogal and honor him for his sacrifice. Then he ordered Rogal to choose a new wife.

The candidates lined up and as Rogal studied them he noticed with astonishment that Pyre, Mira's younger sister, was standing with the other volunteers. All the girls were naked, and most voluptuous. Pyre stood out she was so little like the others, but Rogal found himself fascinated by her. She stood tall and proud and smiled at him in almost an arrogant, taunting fashion when he looked at her. Though she had the least to offer as a wife she acted as though she had the most. "A lovely little wood-spirit," he thought. "She will grow into a fine woman. How delightful it would be to watch her grow up!"

It was then he knew he had made up his mind. She had her sister's eyes, and hopefully soon she would have her sister's body. The thought made him hungry just imagining Pyre fleshed out with Mira's plump breasts and round hips.

"I will take Pyre," he said quietly. There surprised gasps from the audience and not a few of the other girls looked sad and shocked. Several were quiet offended, flouncing away, and a couple were crying. He smiled at these and tried to make light of his choice, but Pyre raced to him and threw her arms around his neck and dangled there, almost several feet off the ground.

"Oh, thank you, Rogal! Thank you thank you thank you! You will not be disappointed in me. I will be a good wife to you. I will cook for you and tend the fields and I will make you happy late at night! You will see! I am young but I am willing. You will see!"

Rogal laughed gently and took the girl and set her on the ground and said, "Your first lesson as a wife is to learn to be quiet and speak only when I ask you a question!"

"Yes, Rogal!"

"Good. You will obey me promptly or I shall have to take a stick to your behind."

"Yes, Rogal! You may beat me every day, if you wish. I shan't mind, as long as it makes you happy."

"Well, you be a good wife and we shall see."

Pyre's eyes glowed even in the bright sunlight and she giggled happily. But she did not speak.

* * * * *

Damil took the whip off the wall and held in his hand. It was beautiful whip. It had been created long ago and used for generations. It was made from the dried skins of alligators, cut into long leg-length strips and fastened to the stout wooden handle. Each of the strips were about as wide as three fingers placed side by side, and in thickness each was half the thickness of a man's smallest finger. The broad strips of the whip were designed to inflict pain, not to cut, though the tips of each strip were weighted with a heavier piece of leather.

The whip had been cleaned and well-oiled and now it was ready to perform its sacred duty. The High Priest swung the whip against the wall and admired the loud cracking sound. It sent chills down his back and he smiled, imagining the whip striking the naked flesh of a certain woman. He was going to enjoy this.

* * * * *

Mira lay face down, suspended off the ground. She lay spread-eagle, arms and legs pulled in different directions and bound by leather thongs to heavy stakes hammered into the ground. As she lay there in the hot sun she could feel the women painting her body to prepare her for the ceremony. The hands rubbed the white into her skin thoroughly, not even ignoring the sacred opening between her legs.

A few moments earlier she had been shaved completely, her beautiful long hair cut off her head, and the hair under her arms, between her legs, and on her legs all removed. Then they had painted her front and when she was completely white, unbound her and rebound her face down. She felt very naked and forlorn, and wondered why Ragat, the God of Harvest required this of her. But who was she to ask such questions? No, she would go to Ragat bravely, and as eagerly as she could.

Shortly she was released and stood nervously, her arms aching slightly from being stretched so tightly. She was covered with white from head to toe, even the soles of her feet. She followed the warriors and women who led her to the large X-shaped sacrifice posts across from the chief's hut, and allowed herself to be stretched and bound, this time upright and vertical. There she waited for the rest of the afternoon as the hot sun beat down upon her. She was terribly thirsty but she knew better than to ask for drink. It was not permitted.

One by one villagers came and said good-bye to her, thanking her for her sacrifice and leaving gifts at her feet. These gifts were items of food or crafts she was to take to Ragat when she met him. She was not allowed to speak to the villagers, but could only nod and stare.

It was late in the day and Mira hung on the posts half-asleep when she saw Tervek and Lirva watching her. Tervek was her father, and Lirva was her mother. Their faces were masks of politeness, though Mira saw that her mother's face bore marks of tears and her back and legs bore fresh stripes from a recent whipping. Mothers often did not take the Sacrifice as well as fathers, and it was the husband's duty to ensure that the wife cooperated with tradition.

Mira smiled bravely and nodded as her father praised his daughter and blessed her sacrifice. In a moment he was gone, and Mira felt rather sad. He would not cry for her she knew--it was not appropriate--but she wished he would show his pain.

Lirva stepped up to her daughter and kissed her cheek silently. Tears stung in her eyes as she whispered the rite of thanks and blessing and placed her gift of herbs on the pile at Mira's feet. "Rogal has taken your sister Pyre, too!" she hissed suddenly into Mira's startled ear. The girl stared at her mother in alarm, sad and frightened at first, and then she sighed and nodded.

"It is her choice," she whispered, scarcely daring to breath the sound. "Now go, mother, before you embarrass us both!" Lirva turned and went without another word, though her eyes stung with tears and her heart beat cruelly with the knowledge that someday she would be back here, making a sacrifice of another daughter. Mira watched her mother go and thought silently, "I guess her whipping wasn't thorough enough--she still rebels. Foolish woman. She will anger the gods. I hope father beats her tonight."

* * * * *

As the High Priest called for the candidates something inside Pyre seemed to leap into life. She had been watching Rogal, the tallest and strongest of the Ten, and she knew that she wanted him. She had once overheard her sister talking with one of the wives and telling her how fierce Rogal was during mating, and little Pyre longed for that fierceness. She had seen Rogal whip Mira several times and though the whipping was hard and long and she knew it hurt terribly, she had been jealous of her older, prettier sister for drawing the attentions of so powerful a man. It had been obvious, too, that the whipping had engaged the man, and that he had enjoyed punishing his wife.

With scarcely another thought Pyre slipped off her robe and ran naked to join the throng of women from which Rogal would have to choose. She ignored the cry of protest from her mother and she ignored the laughter of the other women who told her to return when she was a woman. She concentrated on making eye contact with Rogal, bewitching him with her smiles and licking her lips as she openly lusted after him. She knew her mother would beat her for acting this way, but she did not care. If Rogal would choose her, that was all that mattered.

She saw Rogal watching her closely, and she played to him, and her heart did not beat when she heard him say he wanted her. She ran to him happily and hugged him, and the moment the High Priest uttered the words that made them married, she led him eagerly to his hut. In the darkness she quickly helped him take off his wrap and then lay on the mat and waited for him.

He stared at her in astonishment and shook his head. "You are too eager, little one. It is too soon. You are too young."

"I am not!" she cried out fiercely. "I am a _woman_! It is tradition that you be with your new wife _before_ the ceremony. We do not have much time."

Rogal decided the impertinent little brat needed some lessons to help her learn her place, but now was not the time. Instead he complied with his duty as a husband and lowered himself onto her, feeling her hard body against his. She felt very different from Mira, so tight he was certain the experience had to be painful for her. He saw her crying, but she was smiling and when it was over she laid her head on his chest and wept and laughed and told him she loved him.

For her part, Pyre thought the experience very different from what she had expected. It was far more painful than she had thought it would be, but also far more fulfilling. Her experience at the waterfall that morning paled in comparison and she almost laughed out loud at her clumsy efforts in retrospect.

"Why are you smiling, so?" asked Rogal. She blushed a looked away from him. "Let's do it again," she said.

* * * * *

The sun was setting and the huge bonfire was blazing at the center of the village. Half a dozen boars were being roasted on spits and the smell of cooking meat filled the air. The drums pounded mercilessly and already villagers were chanting and dancing. Everyone was preparing to enjoy the festivities of the evening.

Korac stood and raised his arm and instantly the village fell silent. "Begin the ceremony!" he commanded, and waved to Damil, the High Priest. Korac did not like Damil and resented relinquishing power to him, but could not reveal that fact. In truth he was afraid of the priest, though he could not reveal that either.

He watched silently as the man began the ceremony, beginning with chanting in that incomprehensible language only he knew. At the proper time he gave the signal and as the drums began to pound the woman was inverted and the long whipping began. Korac watched dispassionately as the woman was silent at first, then began to moan and cry out, and finally began to thrash and writhe under the brutal and incessant flogging. It went on for a very long time, and though Korac wanted to keep his distance and his dignity, he could not help but be fascinated by the proceedings, by the woman's struggles. He felt his body stirring to life despite his resolve and he wondered what the woman was thinking, if she was capable of thinking in such a state.

The bonfire went low and had to be refueled but still the woman struggled. She was so close to the fire her body gleamed with sweat and blood, and juices poured from the widely exposed slit between her legs. Her white paint was almost completely erased by the leather thongs striking her flesh. Three times she passed out and had to be revived but the fourth time she could not be revived and it was over, and Korac felt glad. Her body was thrown onto the bonfire and consumed as Damil sang the girl's praises and asked Ragat to accept the sacrifice with good will and blessings.

Korac saw Rogal and his new wife watching from the near side of the fire and he motioned the traditional sign of thanks for his warrior's sacrifice. The man smiled and taking his wife by the arm led her to the feasting tables where they began to eat the many fine foods set out for them, and they were slowly joined by the chief, the High Priest, the Ten, and finally the common villagers. The party lasted long into the night and it wasn't until the sky lightened with approaching morning that Korac retired to his hut and his wife and his lovers. He slept very little that night, as was the custom. He doubted that many of the men slept until dawn.

* * * * *

Damil thrust himself into the woman kneeling in front of him. She was sweating and weeping and her backside and legs were striped with scores of whip marks. The High Priest loved to finger and squeeze these welts as he coupled with her, doing it from behind so that she gained little pleasure from it, and whipping her as punishment for the act which he initiated, which, as he was a holy man, she was not permitted to enjoy.

As he pounded into her again and again, ignoring her cries of pain and moans of unsatisfied longing, he thought of the lovely Mira, and how she had looked in the firelight, hanging upside down from the posts as he had flogged her to death. He could still almost feel the whip in his hand, the taste of blood in his mouth, the throbbing lust between his legs that even now wasn't being satisfied. He could see the whip descending and watch the naked flesh redden and swell with puffy red weals. He thought back to how her flesh had quivered, and how she had struggled, jerking her body mindlessly, weeping as the pain continued to mount higher and higher. Damil thought about how her sex had looked, the lips raw and open and blistered by the whip, and how her body had convulsed under each stroke the way her body should have convulsed under him, and yet she would not yet. In his mind Damil whipped the girl still harder, and in reality he thrust himself so deeply into the girl beneath him she began to bleed and soon collapsed in a faint. He did not slow down, however, but pushed harder and harder and whipped Mira more and more until finally there was an agonizing climax, a slow, pulsing, almost oozing of relief, and Damil relaxed and fell exhausted upon the woman and slept.

* * * * *

Pyre shuddered as the whip fell. She stood next to Rogal, her husband and her lover. She could feel his strong thighs near her, his body as solid as a tree. She was frightened and somewhat sad, but at the same time she was happy. She could not watch her sister die and yet she could not avoid it. She watched with fascination as the whip caressed the flesh again and again, rising and falling, rising and falling, and she shivered. Someday that would be her fate. She had chosen it, just like her sister. Perhaps it would be her time in the fall, or perhaps next spring, or the spring after that. It did not matter. What mattered was now, and now she was with Rogal, and she loved him dearly.

She wondered what the whip felt like. Did it feel like a normal whipping? Or was it special, somehow sweeter or stronger, like the taste of honey after a long time going without. Pyre tried to catch her sister's face but Mira was facing the other direction, and all Pyre could see was her sister's buttocks trembling with each stroke of the whip.

Rogal felt the girl squeezing his arm. He touched her once, gently but firmly, reminding her that such behavior wasn't permitted in public. The girl did not speak but Rogal knew what she was thinking as they watched the whip come down again and again, ceaselessly. It was horrible and yet beautiful, wrenching and yet engaging. One wanted to turn away and watch at the same time. Rogal wondered if Mira had found what she sought.

* * * * *

It wasn't until the drums began to hammer into life that Mira suddenly knew it was real. A chill passed through her body and she almost cried out in terror as the warriors approached her. She did not resist as they released her wrists and ankles. In an eyeblink the world turned upside down. Mira felt her ankles being strapped into place. She felt her arms being pulled out. The drums seemed very loud, very near.

Suddenly in the midst of everything--the flickering light of the bonfire echoing off the glistening bodies of dancers, the heady smell of rich meat sizzling over countless fires, the weird, distorted images of the villagers, the people Mira had known as children, now swaying eerily and chanting as Damil, the High Priest, approached, the long fingers of the deadly whip dripping from his hand, so innocent and ordinary--suddenly in the midst of everything, everything so strangely false and empty and pretend--Mira knew it was real, that this was the end, that she had experienced her last drink of cool water down her parched throat, watched her last sunrise this morning, ran barefoot through the forest for the last time, eaten her last piece of roast pig, and would make love to her husband no more.

She was not afraid. In fact, she was content. She relaxed at this thought, this thought that the end was near. It was pleasant, in a way, to know that soon she would be joined with Ragat, and she would never again need to worry about whether she had made Rogal's dinner correctly, never again be concerned about the weather or the fields. Peace would come to her soon, and Mira found she was excited, almost eager for the rest to come.

The she felt something cold touch the inside of her thigh and felt her heart grow cold in fear. The drums beat faster now as the whip gently caressed her legs. Mira felt split, lying stretched out upside down the way she was, and she knew that after the shaving and painting that no detail about her body lay hidden. She was exposed and vulnerable.

The first stroke did not alarm her. It came down quickly and hard, with a loud snapping sound that bothered the crowd much more than it did her. For Mira it was almost a reward, something she had been waiting for for what seemed a very a long time. She accepted the blow willingly, silently, and though the stinging lashes left the flesh of her buttocks burning in a dozen places, she did not flinch when the whip was raised. She saw its shadow in the flickering light and watched it fall impassionately, as though it was someone else receiving its livid caress. Again and again the whip fell, and soon Mira's buttocks and legs were striped with scores of pulsing, blazing lines of fire. She did not move or resist.

Damil moved to her front now, and began whipping her legs and belly. It felt good to Mira, a balance to the pain behind her. Sweat dripped off her skin, now, sizzling as it touched the blistered marks and welts that covered her flesh. She moaned lightly as the High Priest struck her across both breasts. Again and again he struck her, and Mira began to wiggle slightly and moan in spite of herself. Tears poured from her eyes and she clenched her teeth tightly, grinding them together. The whip blistered her breasts and several stray thongs struck her across the face, leaving searing marks of raised flesh.

How long this lasted Mira would never know. It seemed to last a fortnight, long and slow, every fiery stroke etched in her mind for all eternity, how it felt, where it landed, and her unconscious gasps of pain. Pain was all she knew now, her body racked with it, tense and throbbing, her heart pounding in her skull as though trying to escape, everything around her red and bloody and filled with pain. Even the light of the fire burned her eyes, seemed to pulse and stab her eyes with needles, and she could no longer weep but only convulse helplessly.

She awoke to cool dampness across her face, her body burning with fire, her throat so dry she could barely breathe. But the water was gone and distantly she felt the whip striking fire across her rump once more and inside she almost sighed, as it was just and fit and fair. She deserved no water, no relief. She was nothing but Ragat's concubine, to sleep with him for one painful night, her agony his pleasure, her sacrificial blood his delight.

But still she did not struggle.

That only came later, after Damil had struck every part of her body several times, except for one sacred area. It was when he brought the whip down across the spread lips between her legs that she awoke fully to the pain. The cry of anguish that escaped her lips sounded like it came from far away, and it wasn't until much later that she realized the screaming she heard came from her own mouth.

As the pain came again and again, rising quickly like the moon at night, Mira flailed and tugged at her bounds, she shook violently and was delighted to find that the sacrifice posts were extremely secure and did not move a breath. The pain was astonishing, amazing, far more thorough than any pain she had ever felt. It seemed to consume her, to ignite something deep within and like an enraged animal she roared and snarled and spat and kicked and shrieked but still the pain came, stronger, faster, and intense. Red filled the sky and suddenly Mira saw everything spinning and then it was quiet.

Coldness touched her awake, a coldness so fierce it was painful, and she gasped and pulled away in alarm as the wetness was pulled away from her raw and tender breasts, the flesh peeling back in tatters as though it had been cooked and seared.

Painfully awake now, every pore of her body throbbing and screaming in agony, Mira shuddered and convulsed, her body reacting wildly without her control. As the whip struck her again and again there was nothing she could do but flail and hiss. She felt like she would burst at any moment. She felt like she could not contain any more. She did not know what she was being filled with, but she knew she was full. But still the whip descended and the emotions mounted and Mira knew she was going to die. It had to happen soon. She could not bear this any more. It was too much. Her body seemed to belong to someone else but she still felt it. She watched herself dispassionately and yet she still felt every stroke of the whip, every tender lash.

When Damil missed one, she scarcely noticed, until she saw that she was writhing and reacting as though he had struck her, but he stood breathing heavily as he paused for breath. It was then Mira felt the swelling between her legs and suddenly she knew what she was filled with, what she had not been able to identify. It burst upon like the sun at dawn and suddenly everything was clear, different in the light, but easily seen. She rocked her body with passion and welcomed the whip as it came back down, eager for its cruel massage, and then with a scream that echoed around the village for an eternity, she felt her body flooded with the most incredible pleasure she had ever felt or imagined. It made her times with Rogal seem like child's play, mere dreams to her reality. And when her mind disappeared into darkness she distantly felt herself overflowing with pure liquid joy, her passion too much for her to contain, and she thought even the whip sounded different as it splattered across her, wet with her body's juices and sweat.

She awoke with a smile of contentment, her aching body bringing her great satisfaction. She had never felt so much unrepressed joy in all her life. It was as though every experience she had ever felt were compressed into a single instant, and that instant was the eternal _now_, and it would never grow old or die, and she could stay here as long as she liked.

Mira laughed in delight at her discovery. She smiled as she saw that Damil was panting, his body drenched with sweat and his arm aching, his face twisted in frustration at this girl that did not seem to want to quit. He did not stop, however, but continued the sacrifice. This was what he contributed--his energy, his passion. When everyone else went to dance and eat and later to sleep with their wives Damil would lay exhausted and spent, unable to function like a man. And Mira laughed at him as she saw this truth.

Like a dream she saw Rogal and her sister, Pyre, watching the whipping but they were not watching, but kissing, but then she saw that they were not kissing, but mating, right there in the light of the bonfire, at the feet of the crowd, but Mira only laughed as she saw this, because she saw that her sister only pretended, did not really understand about love and life but only wanted to, and like the honest fool she was had convinced Rogal of her legitimacy, and as soon as Mira was gone both would regret their haste and realize their folly, but then it would be too late.

Mira saw her parents through the blood-red haze of pain and smoke and she laughed at them, too, for they stood silent and still, watching with eyes open but minds closed, as they refused to accept or understand the reality around them.

Mira was laughing uncontrollably now, giggling at Damil's puffed up fierceness as though the whipping would make him a man. She shamelessly mocked the idle chief who sat lazily and pretended indifference when his body quite obviously showed otherwise. What a fool! Mira traveled around the crowd and laughed at everyone, laughed at the faces of friends and not-such-friends, laughed at their silliness and incompetence, laughed at their futile minds and pointless struggles. She saw them as they really were, wretched souls whose lives held no meaning for themselves but only promise, promise which they wasted and abandoned and spat into a pit, and then wondered why they felt so miserable.

It was with tears Mira that laughed, for the purpose of the whipping was clear to her now, and she felt she understood everything. She understood why it was Damil who whipped her and she who received the whipping. She understood why Rogal watched silently and had never said a word in protest of her selection as the sacrifice. She understood why the chief did not dare speak out against Damil and she understood for the first time what Damil had meant when he has asked her to join him in his chambers for a special offering to the gods. She also understood why she had refused, and what that meant now.

So it was with tears that Mira laughed as she was whipped. The drums roared and wood was thrown on the bonfire so it flared so hot it singed the crowd and everyone had to step back. Mira felt its heat and welcomed it, relishing its purifying power. She wished it would consume her, swallow her whole. She felt small and large at the same time. She felt like she could swallow and be swallowed, devour and be devoured, and she laughed at such nonsense. "I could get up from these posts and eat the entire village in one gulp," she thought, and it did not occur to her that this was not possible.

Instead she lay quietly, relaxed, almost sleeping, as the whip still descended and Damil still panted and the chief sat idly and pretended to look bored and Rogal and Pyre pretended they felt guilty but inside they really were but didn't know it yet and Lirva watched and acted like she was struggling to be distraught because that's what one expects of mothers and her husband Tervek stood beside her and pretended he felt no pain and scolded her for crying or speaking and Tervek smiled at the other men because it made him feel like a man, but of course the only man in the village on that day was the lovely Mira, an innocent and naive woman who gave up everything for something she already had but didn't know it, whose body lay charred and forever silent in the center of a bonfire around which danced lunatics and drudges who were completely ignorant of the Truth they'd brought forth at such a high price, and thus, as happens so often in this world, let it burn away untold.

* * * * *

*** AUTHOR'S NOTE ***
Rather than bore you to death with requests for you comments and opinions, I just have one question: do you find the philosophical/reflective sections a) interesting, b) arousing, c) boring? Please let me know!

Frank
(The Flogmaster)
***

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