Reaping The Whirlwind

“See,” Turuk told the gathered villagers. “See how the gods answer our needs.”

He turned on the tree stump and gestured towards the dark clouds sweeping down from the mountains. He knew it would not be long before the crops were being watered by the deluge. The size of the storm would only add to the reputation Turuk had built up over the years as the town shaman; a standing that had been damaged in the last few months due to the lack of rain.

“Soon, your crops will flourish once more,” Turuk continued to intone. “The sacrifices I made were needed. Without them there would be no rain.”

He let his gaze linger on some of those in the crowd who had called his predictions false. Heads dropped under the weight of his stare. He held the silence for a little longer, soaking up the power he commanded. Once more they were his.

“Now join me in offering thanks to Narak, for he commands the sky and it is only with his good grace that we now benefit.” Turuk threw his arms wide. “Oh, mighty Narak, God who offers us water with which to grow our crops. We give you thanks.” Turuk indicated to the sky. “We will never doubt you, and each season we will offer up one of our youngest to show our appreciation.”

He stole a glance at the people. There was no sign of dissent.

“Praise be to Narak,” the priest shouted.

“Narak!” the crowed replied.

“Praise be to Narak,” he called again.

“Narak!”

Turuk urged the people on once more. “Praise be to Narak.”

“Narak!”

The rain was still drenching the foothills. Turuk had no intention of standing in the middle of the town until it arrived.

“I must rest,” he told the throng. “Communing with the gods has drained me. Prepare your fields to be watered.”

He stepped down from the stump that had been his podium. The crowd parted as he moved through them. Those who had always been faithful to him fell to their knees. The doubters did not meet his gaze and he noted their names. Some had children who the gods would chose when the next sacrifice was needed.

Back in his hut, the wooden door bolted, Turuk lay on his pallet. On the other side of the fire pit was a pile of food; gifts the villagers offered as thanks to the gods. Some were burnt, others buried. The best he kept for himself. He considered it a fair payment for the work he did.

After a while he roused himself enough to dig out a pitcher of fermented apple juice then he settled in for an evening of drunken relaxation.

***

A crack, louder than the thunder that had disturbed him earlier, brought Turuk out of an alcohol filled dream. Hands grabbed at him and suddenly he was fully awake.

“What!” he cried out.

“You fool of a shaman,” a harsh voice resounded in his ear. “Get up and see what your killing has caused.”

It was dark in the hut, but light from torches outside offered up the silhouettes of a crowd spilling through his door. More hands dragged him from the bed and propelled him into the rain.

He was surrounded by a large group, over half the village he guessed. One of those who had roused him spat on the floor.

“Why have you angered the gods?”

Turuk recognised the man as Loba, one who had always been a sceptic.

“Come see and tells us what this latest message means,” Loba continued, giving Turuk a push.

The shaman was about to protest when he stopped himself; the anger of the crowd was obvious even through the downpour. Instead he let the group shove him towards the centre of the village, trying to count the collection of faces in the moments of clarity the lightening offered.

They came to a halt someway from the main square. Loba grabbed Turuk’s shoulder and forced him forward. People stepped aside.

“What do you have to say?” the large man demanded.

In front of them was only blackness. It took Turuk a moment to realise what he was looking at, then he saw it; a hole in the ground, larger than two huts. This was no man made crater. The walls were sheer; water cascaded over the edge in a continual stream. On the far side was what remained of a hut. Thatch still clung to one wall.

Turuk leaned forward in an effort to see the bottom of the hole, but found nothing but darkness.

“Do not look for any salvation down there,” Loba said. “This pit has been driven all the way to the underworld. Terros and his family have been sucked to their death.”

Turuk found his tongue. “This is not caused by me. They must have sinned.”

Loba turned to address the gathering. “The shaman claims that this has nothing to do with him, that those who have been taken deserved their punishment.” He stared at Turuk again. “If that is the case, can you say why Ajnel has also been killed? Was she not one of your most devout followers? Did she not pray to the gods every day?”

“I can … There is always a …” Words stuck in the priest’s throat.

“See, he has no answer. The gods have left him because of the slaughter he caused.” There were shouts of agreement from the crowd. “Now we must punish this man for what he has done.”

“Wait …” Turuk began, but the air was knocked out of his lungs as Loba shoved him forward.

He fell to the ground. The mud was slippery under his knees but he managed to grasp an exposed root. Then a boot struck him in the chest. Another landed near his groin and Turuk’s grip was lost. He slid over the edge and into the darkness.

—————

4 June 2010
A sinkhole 20 metres across and 30 metres deep swallowed a crossroads and three-storey high factory.

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