Read an Excerpt
Cahokia City 1050 AD
"There is something we must discuss, Daughter."
Javion put down her sewing and went to join her father in his workshop. As the youngest daughter of the most respected flint knapper in Cahokia City, she was certain he planned to tell her of what a good match had been made for her. Perhaps he had arranged for her to marry Katier, the son of the great Master of Mound Builders. If so, she would be well respected within the city.
To her surprise, he indicated that she should follow him away from his workshop. As they crossed the vast grassy expanse, she realized they were heading for the home of The Sun, the spiritual leader of their people. Why does he choose to take me away from the workshop in order to talk?
"Have you made the match for my marriage?" Javion asked, once they were in the shadow of the tallest mound in the city.
Her father looked up toward the top of the mound as though hoping that The Sun would come down to help guide his words.
"I have been told The Sun is very old. He will soon die and a new Sun will take his place."
"The Sun cannot die, Father. Who will lead the people?"
"The oldest man child of The Sun, Rourk, will be the new Sun to rise in his fathers stead. He has been trained for this all of his life."
"Why do you tell me this, Father?"
"Rourk has come to me privately, as he has to eleven other families in the city. It is Rourks request that twelve virgins accompany his father to the next life. It is a high honor. In addition, his father has requested to be laid on a bed of shells, along with many arrowheads. Your fingers are nimble and you have learned my trade well. You will helpme fashion the arrowheads."
Javion stared at her father in disbelief. She had heard stories of virgins being sacrificed in order for The Sun to be satisfied in the next life, but she never thought it would happen to her. Her head pounded and her stomach roiled at the thought of dying for the spiritual leaders pleasure.
Last season one of Javions friends had given her virginity to the old leader. The entire city had celebratedall but Javion. She had cried bitter tears for her friend. Once Ciana had been taken to the top of the mound, she had never been seen again. The talk had been that Ciana had spent one night satisfying The Sun. With the dawning she had been passed among the priests until she was large with child. Ciana had died giving birth to the girl child. The priests had taken both Ciana and the child outside of the city to be eaten by the wild animals that roamed so freely in search of those foolish enough to be outside the stockade once the sun went down.
At least Javion would be spared a fate such as that of her friend. The thought of having to face the unwanted attentions of the priests, and having a child planted in her belly by one of the men who frightened her so much, would have been almost unbearable.
She would endure losing her virginity to the rising Sun, for Rourk had always frightened her more than any of the other priests. She wondered if it would be Rourk, or one of the others, who would wield the sacrificial knife that would tear her beating heart from her body. If the loss of her virginity resulted in a child, it too would die.
"You will be the primary sacrifice, Javion," her father said, jolting her mind back to the conversation her father had felt to be so important. "Your friends will be sacrificed in private, but on the twelfth day, you will give your life for all the people to see. Your name will be remembered for generations to come."
Javion nodded. Her father would expect her to be as excited as he was about this. She thought of running away, but knew there was nowhere to go. From the day that The Sun died she would have twelve days to contemplate her fate. During those twelve days, she would be tethered within the confines of the wooden circle. One by one her friends would be taken to the top of the mound. Once they were sacrificed, they would be brought back and prepared to be placed in the burial mound with The Sun. No one knew when The Sun would die, so from this time forward she would live each day as though it were her last. Once her friends began giving their lives to The Sun she would not have the freedom to contemplate her fate. As the last sacrifice, she would have to watch as her friends were taken from the people as living beings and returned as a sacrifice, the life taken from their bodies. The thought saddened her.