On occasions, she found the taste of blood remorseful.
Remorseful? She once asked herself. How can I find such sadness in what gives us all life? Especially me.
Her life as priestess and soothsayer for her tribe was far from the dismal world of remorse. She lived in luxury. She was carried every where and her feet touched nothing but the sacred grounds surrounding the Red Altar, which was stained red from the sacrifice of so many tribesmen and women of a century past. She was always given the most succulent fruit of the trees and the tenderest meats of the hunters' kill. A myriad of men and women of her choosing satisfied her body’s desires. And she was always respected and feared.
So, why did she find these sacrifices of flesh and blood sad? She never questioned the need to protect her people from the spirits' foul tempers and jealous ways. Many children had died from the hot, shaking fevers when the sacrifice was unsatisfactory. Women came home with little or no meat when the Chosen One had not been of the right season; and the warring tribes of the seas claimed the lives of many more men when the Red Altar was void of warm red liquid.
Sacrifice meant life to her tribe. And the wise woman of the tribe understood sacrifice. She had inherited her holy order at an age when most children dream with complete abandon and yet, she watched in horror, as her mother became the sacrifice at the Red Altar that initiated her as priestess and vessel of the spirits. She choked back tears as the elderly women of her tribe raised the wooden bowl filled with her mother's blood to her lips to drink. She knew sacrifice as she watched her acolytes discard her mother's lifeless body over the cliff onto the heavily forested floor below. She was orphaned and ordained in one day. She knew sacrifice.
And she knew the sadness that seemed to stir the blood she tasted on her tongue with each sacrifice. She saw eyes filled with fear and duty suddenly stop moving as the heartbeat pulsed out of the body in rivers of red into that same wooden bowl. The remorse that overpowered the thick heat and saltiness of the Chosen One's blood. How she wished she was removed from her own body then. Let the spirits use her to enjoy this sport. She longed for the blissful ignorance of trances and possession. But no, she was acutely aware at each season's gift.
And there was remorse.