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     A great unrest was among the people, for the time of decision was again
at hand. The Elders voted upon the candidates and the sacrifice was affirmed
over the objections of Ryllik, the oldest.

     "It is wrong to capitulate thus," he argued.

     But  they  did  not  answer  him, and the young virgin was taken to the
grotto of smokes and fed the leaves of drowsiness.

     Ryllik watched with disapproval.

     "It should not be so," he stated. "It is wrong."

     "It has always been so," said the others, "in the spring of  the  year,
and  in the fall. It has always been so." And they cast worried glances down
the trail to where the sun was pouring morning upon the world.

     The god was already traveling through the great-leafed forest.

     "Let us go now," they said.

     "Did you ever think of staying? Of watching to see what the monster god
does?" asked Ryllik bitterly.

     "Enough of your blasphemies! Come along!"

     Ryllik followed them.

     "We grow fewer every year," he said. "One day we shall no  longer  have
any sacrifices left to offer."

     "Then that day we die," said the others.

     "So  why  prolong it?" he asked. "Let us fight them--now, before we are
no more!"

     But the others shook their heads, a summary of that resignation  Ryllik
had  watched  grow as the centuries passed. They all respected Ryllik's age,
but they did not approve of his thoughts. They cast one last look back, just
as the sun caught the clanking god  upon  his  gilt-caparisoned  mount,  his
death-lance  slung  at his side. Within the place where the smokes were born
the maiden thrashed her tail from side to side, rolling  wild  eyes  beneath
her youthful browplates. She sensed the divine presence and began to bellow.

     They turned away and lumbered across the plains.

     As  they  neared  the forest Ryllik paused and raised a scaly forelimb,
groping after a thought. Finally, he spoke.

     "I seem to  have  memory,"  said  he,  "of  a  time  when  things  were
different."


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     Last modified 10-7-98

Популярность: 17, Last-modified: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 16:02:56 GMT