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The next few days are dedicated to preparing for the important ceremonies happening in the next few days.  An open area in the middle of the village is used for most of the ceremonies of the tribe as well festivals.  Simple decorations, some torches and flowers, pepper the area as the Joining begins just after sunset.

Arwyn steps up onto the stage in front of the couple now posed next to each other.  Immediately the many conversations and merriment died down to allow him to speak.

“My people,” he begins raising his hands to indicate the attendees, “we gather here to witness the joining of these two amantes.  They have both come to the decision to take on the risks of continuing our tribe with the next generation.  This is a celebration of their decision and sacrifice.”

He turns to Illy, standing just behind him, and receives a crimson decorative rope.  Turning back to the couple, he ties their outstretched hands together.  Arwyn gently rests the slack on the couple’s shoulders before continuing with the ceremony by facing the crowd.

“This tradition dates back to the beginning of our people, since the beginning of legends.  The risk is great from this practice and only those couple’s that come to a consensus, and of certain age, can partake in this sacred ritual.” Facing the couple again.

“Do you both agree to the risks, as well as the rewards, of this ceremony of your own free will?”

“Yes, Princeps!” They both yell at the same time, the crowd chuckles at the outburst which quickly dies down.

“Very well,” Arwyn says, “I deem you both suited for the responsibilities this ceremony grants.  You will now join for the first time while surrounded by your peers and family.” Then he leans in so only the couple can hear him.

“Don’t worry, there are no windows in the hut,” he whispers with a wink and smile.  He leans back again and address’ the crowd more so than the couple again.

“May Finis grant you a painless death.” Then finishes.

“Let the joining begin!” Celebration roars through the crowd as Illy leads Arani and Imanda off the stage and to a small hut not far from the merrymaking.  Removing the rope from them, she slowly closes and latches the door.  Arwyn lifts into a hard embrace after she finishes her obligation and spins her around to catcalls and jubilation from the crowd around them.

Having left his weapons in their home, Arwyn has a simple vest on with no undershirt, proudly displaying his tattoos and carvings.  Illy traces them with her fingers as she kisses him.

Finishing their embrace, Arwyn joins the other males in shouting encouragement to Arani through the closed door.  Before too long a loud, passionate, moan escapes the hut and the surrounding crowd celebrates even louder.  Music starts playing and couples start dancing.  Feet stomping the dirt and timed clapping punctuate the scene.  Food is passed around and laughing, talking, and general merriment is found throughout the square.

While Arwyn sits by the bonfire and watches Illy dance with the other females, he reminisces about their own Joining Ceremony.  Her smile reminding him of her soft giggle of ecstasy.  The way her skin pinks from effort conjuring images of her beautiful white skin glistening with sweat and flush with satisfaction.  The soft subtle curves her flimsy dress provides glimpses of as she dances reminding him of her feel.  Her skin softly sticking to his as they explore and enjoy each other’s bodies in the gentle glow of the candle light.

Illy wakes him from his memories as she sits in Arwyn’s lap.  Arwyn chats with the tribe members next to him as he gently plays with her hair.  Ale is passed around and Arwyn boisterously taps each mug passed in front of him with his mug.  Illy laughs and shakes her head at the playfulness.  Arwyn smiles at her obvious enjoyment and pulls her tighter to his chest.

A hush falls over the celebration as the latch on the hut starts to stir.  A simple string pulls the latch out of its hinge from the inside.  The two slowly, gently, exit and the males raise their mugs and shout loudly in triumph.  A mug of ale is shoved into Aranti’s hand and congratulations are slapped on this back.  Illy and some of the females guide a flushed and glowing Imanda to a separate building to get cleaned up as the party continues again.

Celebrations continue long into the night.


The next few days are used to prepare the Sanctuary for the Vinculum.  The candles are moved and replaced with new ones.  The altar is also moved so it’s closer to the center of the massive hall.  It’s a great undertaking, but one that is stemmed in history.

The Sanctuary was built for this reason.

Illy supervises the preparations as Arwyn helps the other men work.  The hall is just about finished when Arlan rushes in.


“What is it Arlan?” Arwyn asks as he comes closer to his friend.  Arlan is out of breath but he fights through the lack of air in his lungs to give his report.

“The… Scouts… Report!” He points in the direction he came from and Arwyn immediately takes off running; Arlan following closely behind.

At the village entrance a small crowd of villagers have started to gather, surrounding the scout that came urgently running into the village from his post.  Arwyn makes his way through the crowd and the scout salutes when he sees him.

“Report,” Arwyn demands.  The scout nods his head.

“I’ve been posted on the furthest ring, the one closest to the edge of the barrier,” He starts.  “The past few days have been uneventful, but this past day there has been signs of activity on the other side of the barrier.”

“How many are there?” Arwyn inquires sternly.  Illy makes her way through the crowd and stand behind Arwyn as the scout finishes his report.  The scout looks confused at first, but simply shakes his head.

“That’s the thing, Princeps, there are no soldiers.  In fact, I’m not even sure there were soldiers to begin with.” Arwyn stares at the scout, his eyes sparking softly indicating his irritation.

“Then, what evidence do you have of this activity you mention?” He growls.  The scout shrinks slightly.

“Footprints,” he whispers, barely audible.  Arwyn shares a knowing glance with Illy before regarding the scout again.

“Show me,” Arwyn demands a little softer now.  The scout nods his head in agreement.

Illy steps up to Arwyn and hands him his swords, which she helps strap to his back.

“You always know exactly what I need,” Arwyn chides with a smirk.  Refusing to look him in the face, Illy continues working the straps around his body.  She places a hand on his chest as she finishes.

“This could be it,” Illy whispers so only the two of them can hear.  Arwyn’s smirk falters slightly but doesn’t fall.

“It could be nothing.  I’ll be back in plenty time to finish the hall for the Vinculum.”  He kisses her forehead and then vanishes into the fog with the scout and Arlan.

“I hope so.”


It takes several hours for Arwyn, Arlan, and the scout to make it to the edge of the barrier.  The fog ends abruptly at the edge of the forest, like an invisible wall prevents it from moving further.  Arwyn lands at the edge of the barrier after jumping from a nearby tree branch.  Arlan stays on the branch as he surveys the area for any threats.  The scout lands next to Arwyn and points to the ground just outside.


Arwyn crouches down to examine the indentions on the ground.  There are hundreds of them.  Some of them lead into the forest, but a majority of them seem to be just randomly walking around.  Arlan walks up next to him as he ponders the strange findings in front of him.

“What’s the point of wandering around like that?”

“I think it’s to try and confuse us,” Arwyn answers slowly as he continues searching the area.

“What I’m most confused about is how they managed to get this many soldiers to wander around without our scouts noticing,” Arwyn wonders out loud.  Arlan scans the area again.

“I doubt their good enough to completely disappear from our scouts, but the evidence is everywhere,” Arlan says absentmindedly.  Arwyn’s ears perk a little at the statement.

“I bet that’s it.” Arlan looks at Arwyn, confused.

“They must have a mage with them,” Arwyn ponders. “It’s the only way they could walk around invisible.”

Arlan’s face brightens in realization.

“That makes sense, but that’s a lot of soldiers to cast a spell on.  Maybe they have more than one?”

Arwyn thinks about it and nods his head agreement.

“That must be it,” Arwyn says as he stands up and turns to the scout. “I want the scouts doubled on the barrier.  Make sure they realize that the soldiers could be invisible.”

Princeps, that will leave the inner circle under manned,” Arlan informs him.  Arwyn thinks for a second.

“So be it.  I doubt they can make it that far and I feel that this is the biggest trouble spot.” Arwyn turns back to the scout.

“Remember that invisibility has a time limit and that the mage cannot make themselves invisible.  Keep your eyes open for signs and report immediately when you find them.” The scout saluted as Arwyn and Arlan head back to the village.


Illy was not happy that Arwyn was late getting back from the barrier, but since he worked double to get the Ceremony Hall finished she has decided to forgive him, mostly.  The ceremony takes place in darkness, candles being the only light in the room.  The young girl lies on the altar robed in a simple white robe.  Her eyes are completely covered by clean rag, tied in the back, and her feet and hands are tied together with cloth.  She fights her restraints and groans in irritation.

Females are blinded by cloth from birth.  Their first time seeing anything is after the Vinculum.  Because of the ravenous hunger that plagues them, they are also restrained using strong and sturdy cloth.  The cloth is made of wool in order to avoid injuries as they thrash and fight their restraints.

“We will now begin the Vinculum Ceremony,” Arwyn announces standing at the head of the Altar.  The young girl’s head snaps to his voice, her mouth snapping at him.  Illy places a hand on her shoulder and the girl slowly calms mildly.

Arwyn motions to the three boys to move forward.  The first one climbs onto the altar and straddles the girl.  She stills at the movement.  Arwyn looks at the child and gently strokes her hair.  The young boy gets on all fours as his face hovers inches from the girl’s.  Arwyn lifts the boy’s face to his and looks him in the eyes.

“This creature beneath you is precious.” The boy nods his head and Arwyn releases him.  He slowly slides his hands across the rag on her eyes and unties the knot.  Holding each end in his hands, Arwyn confirms everyone is ready.

He removes the rag.

The girl thrashes for a second before locking eyes with the boy’s eyes.  Electricity seems to crackle between them for several moments.  Scrapping and scratching slides into the room from the catacombs as the Inanimalia start encircling the young ones.  They don’t attack and are unusually calm as they watch the ceremony from the shadows.

The boy’s body suddenly snaps rigid as his eyes roll into the back of his and his mouth opens in a silent moan.  Phosphorescent essence starts to pool in his rolled back eyes and mouth and slowly starts to weep toward the eager girl.  The girl groans loudly as the essence touches her lips and she sucks the life elixir down her gullet greedily.

The Inanimalia start to groan and sway, but never advance.

 “You have to fight the pull, Puer Bellator,” Illy guides from the sideline.  Though the young boy doesn’t seem to hear her, the essence dripping from his face slowly and even starts to reverse.  The girl groans in frustration at the development and tries to draw more strength from her insides.

Having been born without a soul, the girl desperately tries to fill the empty space with the young boy’s life force.  The gaping void where her soul should be starts to pull stronger as, the usually invisible, black smoky tentacles snake from her mouth and eyes wrapping themselves around the glowing spirit trying to pull it from the boy.

“Now the Ritual truly begins,” Arwyn whispers still holding the rag at the ready for an emergency.

The light from the candles vanishes as a fierce wind swirls around the hall.  The tentacles seem to have a mind of their own as they sneak and writhe around the pure white essence of life.  The glowing spirit shines an eerie bluish light on the faces of everyone in the hall.  The girls face is ashen and her eyes black as ink.  Her face seems to crack and grow black veins from the tentacles.  The boy’s face is locked in an open scream as his spirit continues to be drawn from his body.

The boy’s life starts to slip from his body as the black smoke grips and pulls harder.  He forces his consciousness to pull back and the two start a fatal tug of war.  One wishes to consume the other’s life and the other desperately tries to prevent it.  The strain from concentration is etched on his brow, but the life slowly starts to slip from his grasp.

As the minutes pass it becomes clear the boy is going to lose.

“That’s enough,” Arwyn cries suddenly as he makes a move to cover the girl’s eyes with the rag.  All of a sudden, a powerful snap resounded through the hall from the boys insides and the fierce wind disappears instantly.  The glowing spirit, which was fighting for control just a moment ago, abruptly stops fighting and disappears into the smoky tentacles.  The boy collapses off the altar onto the floor with a sickening thud.  His eyes are bleeding from being rolled to the back of his head and his mouth is open in a frozen scream.  Though he is breathing shallowly, everyone in the hall knows he is dead.

No one who was born with a soul can live without one.

Arwyn slowly places the rag back on the young girl’s eyes as she calms from her meal.  Illy turns her head and grimaces as Arwyn gently picks the boy off the ground and reverantly places him on a pre-prepared table for this potential outcome.  The young girl’s mother silently cries on her husband’s shoulder.  Arwyn passes by Illy and places a reassuring hand on her arm on his way back to the head of the altar.

He takes cleansing breath.


The second boy hesitates for a second before climbing into the same position as the first boy took.  He swallows down some saliva as he prepares for his contest.  Arwyn grabs the boy’s chin and raises his face to face him, just as he did with the first boy.

“This creature beneath you is precious.” The boy nods his head and looks down again.  The two lock eyes quickly after Arwyn removes the rag.  Having had tasted the essence of a young one, the pull from the girl attacks ravenously.  The boy’s spirit is instantly pooled and slowly leeks from his orifices.  He is caught off guard at first but quickly regains his composure and starts to fight for control.  The fierce wind whips violently through hall again.

The smoke twines its way through the spirit and tries to draw the essence into it like it did before.  The boy pulls stronger and starts to gain more control as he pull his essence back into his body.  The tentacles seem to grow angry as they snap and pull at the spirit gradually slips from its grasp.

“You have to find a balance,” Illy tells the boy softly so not to make him lose his concentration.  The boy loosens his pull and the tentacles pull a little more spirit.  He adjusts his strength again and the essence stops from moving either way.  A stalemate starts briefly before the tentacles strengthen and start pulling again.

The young strengthens his pull again and the spirit stops again.  Again the smoke tries to pull harder, but this time the spirit doesn’t move.  The boy gradually adjusts his pull as the smoke changes its strength.  He easily gains the advantage and is able to grasp the minute changes as they happen.  The smoke and essence remain in a stalemate for what feels like a lifetime, but it’s a mere few seconds.

The rafters shake and creak from the force of the explosion that the now merged black smoke and white essence creates.  The bluish light from the boy’s spirit is gone, along with the black tentacles.  The only light from a scarce few candles that managed to withstand the energy release.

Candles are lit again and, as the light hits them, the children are collapsed onto each other.  The spectators stand over them for a moment, the girl’s mother smiling softly in relief.  Illy reaches down and gently strokes the little girl’s hair as she sleeps.

The girl stirs slightly as she slowly opens her eyes.  She looks around the hall, confused, for a moment and then gingerly tries to sit up.

“Easy, Little One,” Illy comforts as she coaxes her back down.  The boy stirs and starts to get up as well, but lays back down in exhaustion.  The little girl’s eyes start to fear those around her, obviously confused and scared by the happenings.  Illy strokes the girl’s cheek as she explains to her that there is nothing to fear.

“This young boy bravely offered himself as a sacrifice to you.  You have nothing to fear ever again.  Though the hunger you feel will never go away, you will learn to live with it.  The boy next to you will provide the substance you need to keep it at bay.”

The girl looked at the boy lying next to her and tries to reach her hand to touch him.  She can’t do it, she’s too weak.  She tries to speak, but nothing but grunts and groans come out.

“Do not worry,” Arwyn tells her, wrapping his arms around Illy, “Your parents behind you will teach you all you need to know about our ways.  They will also give you an education.” He smiles at her brightly.

“I’m sure you’ll be talking my ear off in no time at all.” He motions for the girl’s parents to step up.  They introduce themselves to their daughter for the first time since she was born.  She cries as her mother picks her up and cradles her in her arms.  The father rubs the little girls back reassuringly.

Arwyn steps up to the young boy as he lies on the altar, exhausted.

“You have been given a great responsibility, Puer Bellator,” Arwyn tells him.  The boy nods his head slightly.

“Take it seriously and train hard in order to protect her.”

“Yes, Princeps,” the young boy whispers.



Submitted: April 06, 2018

© Copyright 2023 Casey Ford. All rights reserved.


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