So apparently those that answered my Facebook question wanted to see the story of the troll before the dwarf. (I did have one vote for a gnome. Sorry Robin, no gnomes in this one.)
Read on for the story:
Kennet stretched his long, gangly arms over his head so the priests could bind him to the altar. The altar’s stone had been shifted to rest at an almost upright position, leaving him nearly standing after he’d been tied.
He’d been stripped of his clothing when he entered the chamber, and a cold draft blew through sending chills through his muscular body. Every troll from his clan with ranking gathered in the small room, and the slight breeze relieved the heat and humidity tainting the air with its pungent odor.
He sucked in a lungful of air and blew it out slowly. His nerves tingled and his hands trembled despite his efforts to calm them.
“Kennet, be still.” The priest cinched the ropes tighter.
He forced his body calm, but his mind raced. In just a few minutes, Kennet would cease to exist. His spirit would move on to the ancestors, a hero in his own way, and his body would be freed for use by another.
The priests finished lighting the candles along the walls. The burning oil masked the smell of sweat with a sweet, musty odor that made Kennet’s head swim.
Bekt, the high priest of Kennet’s clan, pushed a dwarf into the room. The shaggy outsider stared straight ahead, expressionless. Its nose twitched as it sampled the air, but it made no other attempts to move.
“Which hive did the dwarf come from?” Tenes, the clan elder, asked.
Bekt didn’t bother to turn toward him. “Sharlen. Does it matter?”
Tenes shrugged, but didn’t try to carry the conversation further.
“Kennet, are you ready?” Bekt turned, holding a long dagger with a wicked curve on the blade.
He nodded. Bekt guided the dwarf to face Kennet until they were inches apart.
“Blood of the enemy,” Bekt intoned. With a single, swift motion, he drew the blade across its neck. Blood sprayed out, coating him. Kennet tilted his head back, letting the dwarf’s blood caress his body as it flowed across his chest and down his legs.
“And of the sacrifice,” Bekt continued. Kennet closed his eyes. The blade slid across his chest, opening the skin enough to release his life-blood, but not enough to do any permanent damage. His body would be needed, after all.
Someone dragged the dead dwarf out of the room while two priests rushed to stack wood at Kennet’s feet. Bekt poured oil on the kindling and lit it from his candle. “Ker’Alek Sherket,” he chanted. “Ancestors guide us to do your will, teach us your wisdom, and return to us the one whom you have chosen to send.”
Smoke rose from the fire, surrounding Kennet. More than smoke though. It had substance. He could feel it gliding up his body, wrapping around his limbs, pulling at his bindings.
“Ker’Alek Sherket,” Bekt continued. “The vessel is prepared. Flesh of your flesh, descendant of your own blood. Return to us, chosen of the ancestors.”
Flames licked at Kennet’s feet, and his ecstasy wavered. As the fire grew, fear turned to panic. He tugged against the ropes binding his arms and feet. His teeth ground as he fought the pain. Everyone in the room stared at him, naked and strapped to the altar. A groan rumbled deep in his chest.
The smoke wrapped around him, gripping him like a viper trying to squeeze the life from him. Nostrils flared as his breath became ragged. He resisted opening his mouth as long as he could, but finally a scream ripped from his throat.
As his lips parted, the thick smoke darted down his throat. The scream choked off as his lungs filled. The room swam and Kennet prayed only that he might lose consciousness to be spared this torment.
The sound of the fire crackling melted away and the room dimmed. He closed his eyes. The pain was gone. The sweet smell of the burning oil filled his nostrils and he swooned.
Ker’Alek Sherket opened his eyes. Smoke filled the room, along with more observers than were necessary. He pulled his arms against the ropes, snapping them like rotted cords. The bindings on his legs gave way as easily.
He growled at the crowd, who shrank back. Good. They knew their place. “Everyone out. Now.”
As the rest of the trolls scampered out the door, he caught Bekt by the scruff of the neck. “I need my weapons. I presume they have been properly preserved. Then you will explain to me why I was summoned to return.”
Bekt nodded and Ker’Alek released him. He had no time for this priest, he had hunting to do.