• Brent Streeter

The Offering

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

The autumn wind blew through the empty village before me, sweeping with them leaves of crimson and orange. In the fields beyond, its villagers worked tirelessly on the harvest. I made my way through the village, arriving at its green. Around me were signs of some sort of harvest festival in preparation, at its center stood a large wagon.

I entered the small inn beside the green and paid for a room, asking the owner what the village was preparing for. She told me that they were preparing for a traditional festival that had been carried down for generations, one that kept the village safe through the winter, why it had been originally conceived she could not remember, nobody could. I decided that I would stay and help out where I could, a much-needed break from my travels.

The following day, I spent my time aiding the village where I could, using my magic here and there to make things easier for them. By the end of the second day of my stay, the harvest had been gathered and the majority of it piled onto the wagon. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked what the purpose of the wagon was. A couple of youths told me that it was the offering that was to be taken away, but I could tell they were unhappy about the situation. Asking around, I discovered that although the harvest was completed, its yield had not been enough for the offering and the village’s survival through the winter. Protests had risen, but the elders had the final say, and that was for the festivities to continue as intended.

Not wishing to intervene but seeing it my duty to aid those in need, I went to the elders. I stated that I had seen the aftermath of many villages faced with similar choices, those that looked to shed the yoke of tradition survived and grew stronger, those that did not, were now nothing more than the hollow husks of a harvest long past.

The elders held strong to their beliefs, saying to forfeit the tradition that had kept the village safe was folly, and they would survive... Somehow. Angered by the elders’ lack of foresight and stubbornness, I left them and returned to the inn.

While taking my evening meal, some youths approached me. They offered to buy me an ale and passed the time with conversation. It helped keep the foreboding shadow that loomed over the village at bay. As the table’s candle was reaching the end of its wick, and the shadows began to press in around us, the conversation took a turn. It became apparent that those before me shared my views on the current situation. They asked me if there was anything that could be done to make the elders see reason. I jested that the easiest way would be to remove the core of the issue altogether, if there was only one source of food then the elders would have no choice but to submit. My jest was met with silent stares, emphasized by the gathering shadows that had invaded as the dwindling candle sputtered to an end.

I felt that I had overstepped, so I gave a swift apology and excused myself from the table. I returned to my room and found sleep to be elusive, as I lay awake staring up at the dark recesses amongst the rafters. I was annoyed by my failure to convince the elders to see reason.

Screams and shouts roused me from my fitful sleep. The village was under attack, was my first thought as I saw an orange glow emanating from outside. Wasting no time, I rushed out of the inn. The scene that greeted me was born from pure panic. The village was alive with activity, people ran back and forth from the village well with pails of water. I caught a villager on his way back from the well and demanded to know what was happening. The villager said bitterly that the granary was burning down. I released the villager, who raced off towards the orange glow.

Following the villager, I was soon faced with the raging inferno that the granary had become. Villagers battled desperately against the roaring flames, but it was a losing fight. If the fire could not be contained, it would spread. I had to act. Pushing forward through the throng, I shouted for all to get back. I pulled out my water-skin. Taking a drop of water from it, and made an intricate pattern in the air before shouting “Aqua.”

A wall of water erupted from the earth, creating a ring around the burning building. The villagers stopped and stared in awe and wonder at the spectacle. I brought my hands together and the ring of water collapsed inward, dousing the building’s flames.

The panic was over, but the village had lost its food stores for the winter.

Morning came, bringing with it a somber tone. The village gathered to find out what the elders would do. A villager demanded to know what was to be done about the food, many murmured in agreement. The elders fearing a riot said that tradition would need to be broken.

Once the gathering had dispersed, I was called to the elders. They thanked me. I said no thanks were needed. I returned to my room in good humor, the loss of the granary was unfortunate, but the wagon’s food was ample. In the end, the village would survive. Seeing as the festivities were canceled, I decided to leave the next morning.

For the second time, I was awoken in the night by screams, this time accompanied by tremors and the sound of buildings being destroyed. I rushed out of the inn just as an enraged roar echoed through the night and a boulder crashed into the inn, showering me in splintered wood. The town was alive with activity as people dodged collapsing buildings. Children cried for their mothers, while every able-bodied man was called to muster a defense against the fast-approaching silhouette of a giant.

One of the elders collided with me and fell to the floor. His terror-stricken face stared up at me. He clutched feebly at my cloak and shrieked, “The village is doomed! It was supposed to be a tale… a myth! You have to help us!”

I grabbed him and said, “Pull yourself together and evacuate your people.” I turned my gaze towards the towering monstrosity as it came ever closer. I pulled out a black opal and some dust and said, “I will handle the giant.”

I waited for the giant to be in range and released the spell. It halted in its rage and looked down at the gaping hole in its chest, growing bigger with every second. Bits of flesh turning to dust and ash. It fell to its knees, shaking the ground with such force that a building collapsed nearest it into a pile of debris and dust. Within moments, the giant was nothing more than ash carried away on autumn winds. I wiped the perspiration from my brow, muttering, “I really need to find a party.”