Chapter III - Immolation

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Taka, Etu, and the rest of the humans made their way back down the rocky slope. What was once their beautiful grove was now a pile of smoldering debris. The ground beneath their feet was gray with ash. The only thing left was burnt branches and a pile of bright red and orange coals; where The Figure first placed the flame. Etu limped towards the coals, her skin still red and covered with yellow blisters. Cautiously she bent down to look at them, but the heat from the coals pained her skin and forced her to take a step back.

The rest gathered around the glowing coals and looked at them with the same uncertainty as the flame had once given them. Taka went to Etu’s side and looked at her torched skin. “If this is what the flame does on its own, imagine if it were harnessed,” he said. Etu smacked away his hand as he reached for her blistering skin. Taka looked shocked at her reaction. Etu threw him a disconcerting look. He was different, a new, one track mind. With a glassy look upon his face, Taka looked through everyone.

Taka’s heart grew heavy as he watched the smoldering embers slowly fade. He lifted a burnt branch, blackened from the flames touch. Dark debris fell from it has he picked it up and held it. With it, he did his best to scrape some of the coals away from the others. As the coals dragged along the ash-covered ground, a small trail of smoke followed. “It lives,” he responded.

With the grove’s forest now ashes, there was not much Taka could find that could reignite The Figure’s flame. He began to throw burnt branches onto the coals, but they only produced a faint smoke. Standing around the embers, the people watched as Taka ran back and forth to try and rekindle them. Only smoldering smoke rose from the charred sticks.  There was nothing to properly feed and reignite the flame.

In anger, Taka cried out to the since gone Figure. The gift that was given to him was quickly taken away.  The control he desired and hoped for faded while the smoke continued to rise. Taka frantically looked for any hope, but found none. Scouring the grove for an answer, his eyes met with Etu’s. The woman sat quietly, clutching her burnt arm as she shivered. Taka ran to her and took her arm.  He carefully examined her blistered skin once more. She grimaced as he pulled her arm away from her chest.

The Figure’s words now rang truer than ever. Man’s innocence was lost, its unknown now being made flesh. Etu’s screams pierced the ashes and turned every head to the pit of coals. Taka raised Etu from the ground, who continued to scream in painful agony as the blisters on her skin burst with puss and fluid. Taka turned to all the people, raising Etu’s arm.

“The flame was a gift, given to us to be used!” Taka began. “This tool was once unquenchable and wild. But it has chosen one of us as….a... sacrifice. As the sacrifice for knowledge! The wild flame can be made ours, if we are willing to give to it what it has asked.”

Most of the humans did not fully understand what Taka was saying. A sacrifice? What did it mean to sacrifice? The minds of the people had only begun to understand what the flame was and now it was making demands?

“Words have been given to me! The flame itself has given me a ritual necessary for this sacrifice to be given its proper outcome.” He threw Etu to her knees and continued to speak to the crowd forming before him. “Do we wish for such a wild gift to run free? Free to choose and take as it wishes?”

The crowd stirred as they began to understand.

“Can we sacrifice small to gain greatly? If we do not do as it has asked, it will take from us whatever it chooses, with no regard for those to which it was given! The world around us, the thoughts within us, are full of unknowns and we must do what we can to eliminate them.”

Cheerful agreement rang through the stirring crowd’s cries. They raised their fists and voices in confirmation.

“Etu has been chosen. Chosen as the surrogate to knowledge.”

Where there was once confusion in the crowd, was now full of compassionate agreement. Taka motioned to them to gather any charred branch or stick they could find. Placing them just beside the pit of coals they piled them as tightly as they could; an altar began to form.

The altar stood sturdy, as a beacon to the human’s fears. They shouted and gathered more from the ground, binding Etu’s arms and legs to her body. She screamed in immense pain as the burnt branches dug deeply into her wounds. No words were found in her mouth, only the cries of pain. The men and women grabbed her, screaming, placing her on upon the altar. From within the altar rose a large branch pointed crookedly towards the sky.

They ripped the clothes from her body and used them to bind her to the crooked branch. Etu’s tears flowed from her eyes as she sat bound and naked upon the burnt altar. Taka took a pointed rock from the ground, still warm from the flame’s kiss, and stood behind the altar.

“These words were given to me, by the flame itself,” he shouted raising the pointed stone into the air. “Warmth and light, made my own! Flame burn bright, make me whole!”

“Warmth and light, made my own! Flame burn bright, make me whole!” the crowd slowly began to chant with Taka. The volume and intensity grew with each passing. Taka shouted over the crowd as the chant continued. “We give this sacrifice to you, oh great flame.” Etu’s tearful cries pierced the echoing chant and Taka’s shout.  Take continued, “So that you may give yourself unto us! That we may be made whole, to use your powers as our own!” Taka placed the pointed stone on Etu’s throat.

“Make me whole!” Taka shouted the end of the chant with the crowd one last time, and ripped the stone across her throat. It cut imprecise and violently. The blood quickly flowed from her neck onto her naked body and onto the altar beneath her. Her cries were quickly replaced with gasps as she gagged on her own blood. The chants continued as Taka began to place coals onto the blood-soaked altar.  Taka gathered smouldering embers with a charred stick, and piled coal after coal onto the woman’s dying body. Her skin began to sizzle and smoke. The flame’s call began to whisper again. “Feed me. Feed me.”

The chants continued as Taka shoveled the coals onto her with his hand, faster and faster. The flame began to overtake her skin. It reignited itself within her very own flesh. The blood that soaked her skin did little to stop the flame’s consumption of Taka’s sacrifice. The flames rose quickly and violently as the coals continued to pile at her feet.

With the flame rising towards her skin, consuming her face, the chant turned to joyful cries as the flame claimed its sacrifice.

The flame’s call rang loudly now, but it came to Taka’s ear much differently.

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