“The Goddess demands a sacrifice.”
Adwin turned to his mentor. “What goddess do you speak of Sabiti?”
Sabiti smiled, his crooked teeth turning what was supposed to be a comforting gesture into something more sinister. “I’ve wasted my life in the pursuit of lies.”
“Lies?” Adwin’s eyes widened in disbelief. “You have instructed me most of my adult life in The Way, what lies have you pursued?”
Sabiti sighed. “All of it. My eyes have been opened to the one true way.”
Adwin rushed to Sabiti’s side. “To what, Eminence?”
Sabiti picked up an incense burner, formed in the shape of a dragon. “It’s like this statue. It was made for a purpose.” Sabiti sniffed the pungent aroma permeating from the dragon’s mouth. “The statue doesn’t know it’s purpose, It just knows what it needs to do.”
“But, Eminence, an inanimate object cannot comprehend anything, it lacks a soul.”
“And I have given my soul to the Goddess willingly.”
“It isn’t blasphemy if I no longer believe.”
“But, Sabiti, you’ve overseen the The Way for the last ten years.”
“A fresh poison each week. I’ve drunk the poisonous lies for the last time.”
Adwin regarded his mentor for a moment. “It’s that woman, isn’t it?”
“Osun?” Sabiti was lost in thought. “She’s the sunlight.” Suddenly, Sabiti’s face fell, reflecting a sadness. “I only wish I’d worshiped her sooner.”
“You’ve obviously fallen ill. This ‘Osun’ woman is confusing you.”
“We were all born sick,” Sabiti placed his hand gently on Adwin’s elbow. “I’ve never felt more clear… more…” Sabiti trailed off unable to finish the sentence. “I’ll ask the Goddess to guide you.”
“I’ll thank you not to offer your heresy.” Adwin jerked his arm from Sabiti’s grip. “In turn, I shall pray for your forgiveness.”
Sabiti turned away from Adwin. “You may continue to worship like a dog at this shrine of lies.” Sabiti stormed out of the room leaving Adwin speechless.
* * *
“Mistress, I’ve failed you.”
Osun leaned forward and Sabiti breathed her in. Each breath filled him with a vitality he hadn’t knows in decades. “It’s the madness of sand.”
“Masters and kings reign over sand.” Osun’s eyes darkened. Sabiti was filled with an impending doom. “My sand,” she concluded.
“I give myself to you, Mistress.”
Osun stood and ran her long fingernail along Sabiti’s jaw. “No, my pet, I have other plans for you.” She drew Sabiti into her bosom. “There is no sweeter innocence than your sin.”
Sabiti wailed and sobbed as Osun caressed him in her embrace. Her stone colored hair covered him as he continued to shudder. “With your help, Sabiti, we shall retake my kingdom from Kanoni and her pets.”
* * *
Optimus stood over Octavius’s prone form. Although Octavius was still, Optimus saw sand blow away as Octavius still breathed. “What have you divined my friend?” he asked as he knelt over Octavius. He placed a hand on Octavius’s head and closed his eyes. He saw the same scene Octavius saw, but he saw it from a different vantage point. He saw Kanoni and Oya locked in battle, but from his perspective, he saw a woman with hair the color of stone. Vortices of whirling sand rose and threatened to consume the battle between Kanoni and Oya. Optimus sensed a darkness from the woman.
In his vision, the woman turned her attention to Optimus. He tried to look away, but he was powerless to affect any movement. The woman’s lips moved and Optimus heard her voice as a whisper in his ear. “This battle between smoke and brass is insignificant, for sand shall cleanse all. Join me, Optimus. Join me and be cleansed.”
Optimus felt himself drawn towards her. He tried to resist, but once again, he was powerless.
“Optimus! Wake up!”
Optimus’s eyes opened and he felt Octavius shaking him from some unearthly slumber. He stared at Octavius, but the only action he was capable of was to repeat the last thing the woman whispered to him: “Mistress Osun shall return this world to the sand from which it was birthed.”
* * *
Ekon woke in a cold sweat. The falling rain and sweat made him shudder as he recalled his dream. He sat upright and witnessed the massive boat they had constructed. The days flowed swiftly into weeks and those weeks stretched on like the endless ocean. He saw Nichelle rubbing a stone against a sharp corner of a manger, ready to be placed aboard. He admired her zeal. While he couldn’t understand her single-mindedness, he could appreciate it.
Nichelle looked up from her work as Leal brought her something to drink. Ekon simple opened his mouth and caught the rain as it fell. The fact they constructed this monstrosity was a tribute to his years as a woodworker, but the rain had never stopped. The rumors and rumblings of the people made their way to even this isolated place, he thought.
Leal and Nichelle walked to where Ekon sat. “You don’t look well,” Nichelle declared.
“I’m disturbed by a dream I just had.”
Leal leaned in and he scratched his thinning hair. “Tell us, Ekon the Builder.”
Ekon told the duo of his dream. He told them of Kanoni, Oya, Osun and the woman with hair of gold. As the tale unfolded, Nichelle and Leal recognized his description of the golden-haired woman. Ekon finished recalling his dreams and finished with one last precautionary sentence: “I fear for the world, the rising ocean is but an inconvenience to the war to come.”
Next: Faith in Smoke