Letting of Blood

“But mommy, it tastes bad.”

“Don’t worry, honey, you’ll get used to it.”

The mother lifted the small bowl to the son’s lips and tipped it back. The thick liquid poured in and he swallowed with a grimace. The father patted the son on his shoulder while the Father stood at the front of the congregation, continuing his message uninterrupted.

The son didn’t know it, but this would be the beginning of his life and the end of everything.

The family returned home under cover of night. Everyone from the congregation did. “Remember, don’t talk about it to anyone,” the mother told the son. “Even other people who were there.”

“I don’t know anyone there,” the son said. “We all wear masks.”

“It’s to keep us safe,” the mother said.

“And that’s why you can’t talk to anyone about it,” the father explained. “To keep us safe. You want to be safe, right?”


“Then never talk about it to anyone. Understand?”


“Good.” The father kissed the son on the forehead and tucked him into bed. It wasn’t long before he slid into an easy sleep, filled with dreams of flying and fun.

Jani Theosis went to school with the son. They played together every day. The son liked Jani and Jani liked the son and teachers looked at them and thought they saw the future.

“You want to come to my house tonight?” Jani asked the son.

“I haveta ask my parents,” the son said.

“Ok, but you wanna come, right?”


“Good. My mother’s making blood pie for desert.”

“Does it really have blood in it?”

“I don’t think so. I think it’s just cause of the color.”

“Ok,” the son said.

“You two, quiet down!” Matron Shia said. “You can’t hear the lessons if you’re talking.” Matron Shia indulged them to a point. As the two turned back toward the front of the class, she continued. “Now, as I was saying, the Ametat and Avetat were given to the Emperor by the sefrim…”

“The Theosis family?” the father asked. “I guess that’s fine.”

“Can we go now?” the son asked. “I want to go play with Jani.”

“I’ll take you,” the mother said. “Come on, it’s not far. We can walk.”

The two walked down the crowded streets of the city, grimly lit by dingy lights. The son held close to the mother as they walked, unwilling to look into the dead faces of the men and women who walked by.

“Some of them are slaves,” the father once told him. “They serve Lord Jerimiah, the Holder.”

“They’re scary,” the son said.

“Don’t be afraid of them,” the father said. “We are Amarr. We are better than them.”

“Ok,” the son said, but he was still afraid.

He didn’t look up until they got to Jani’s house.

“Does it really have blood in it?” the son asked as he looked down at the pie slice, its thick red filling oozing out the sides.

Rin Theosis, Jani’s mother, laughed. “Don’t be silly! What do we look like, Sani Sabik?” Argus Theosis, Jani’s father, glared at her for the words.

“What’s a Sani Sabik?” the son asked.

“N… nothing, forget I said it,” Jani’s mother said.

“Is it something bad?” the son wondered.

“They’re the Blood Raiders. Bad people,” Jani’s father said. “Terrible people. Jani’s mother just forgot herself, using that term for them.” Jani’s father continued to glare while her mother looked sheepish. “Eat your pie,” her father said.

“Mom, what’s a Sani Sabik?” the son asked.

The mother looked down at the son. “Where did you hear that?”

“Jani’s mother said it. Her father got angry when she did.”

“Oh, and what did her father say?”

“He said that they were bad people. Blood Raiders.”

“They’re people, just like you and me, honey,” the mother said. “Don’t worry about them.”


“But you shouldn’t be talking about them, ok?”

“Why not?”

“A lot of people around here don’t like them. Like your teachers. Understand?”

“Not really.”

The mother smiled. “You will one day, don’t worry.”

As they walked into the congregation the Father greeted them. “Welcome, children.”

“Thank you, Father,” the father said.

“Tonight we are performing the ritual,” the Father said, looking down at the son.

“He’s not ready yet,” the mother said. The son itched at his face under the mask.

“He is nearly ten,” the Father said. “He should not be coddled.”

“The Father is right,” the father said. “He needs to learn. The other children his age have learned. If he doesn’t learn now, he may never believe.”

The mother looked down at the son. She touched his shoulder and squeezed. He looked up at her and then she let go. “Alright, he can learn.”

“Good.” The Father took the son’s hand. “Come with me, my son. It is time for you to see the ritual firsthand.”

“Go with the Father,” the mother said.

The son looked back at her briefly as he was led away. But he couldn’t see her face behind her mask, so he turned back and kept walking.

A young woman was lying, naked and bound, on a raised table. The Father stood over her with a long knife. The woman was impassive, her eyes half-open and glazed. She did not struggle against her bonds.

The son’s eyes were focused on her. She was one of the slaves. The Father had brought him up onto the stage, along with several other children, and told them to sit quietly and watch.

“Father, thou who art in Heaven, we ask you to bless this offering. Bless this blood that we take and accept our prayers.” The Father took the knife and slid it quickly across the woman’s throat. There was a slight gasp of air from her, but nothing else. She didn’t even change expressions.

“With this blood of life, we ask that we be given the strength that it holds,” the Father said. “Give us its vitality and protect us from all harm. Bless us with long lives and strong bodies and steely minds.”

The Father dipped his fingers in the blood pooling and brought it up to his lips. “Now come, everyone, and take of the blood and make your sacrament with God! Offer your prayers to Him and affirm your servitude and He will grant you the strength to rise above the nonbelievers!”

The congregation formed a line and began to walk up to the woman. The Father walked to the son and knelt beside him. “You first, my son.”

The son stood and walked over to the woman, who had ceased moving. Her eyes were empty. The son looked up at the Father.

“This is your first time receiving the sacrament directly,” the Father stated. “Dip your fingers into her blood.” The son didn’t move, so the Father gently took his hand and pushed it into the pool of blood. “Now, drink the blood from your fingers, like this.” The Father stuck his hand into his mouth. The son mimicked his move, licking the blood from his fingers.

He swallowed with a grimace. “I’ve tasted this before.”

“Yes,” the Father said. “You’ve taken the sacrament before, but never directly. Now, make your prayer to God and tell Him what you desire most.”

The son didn’t really desire anything. But he bowed his head and whispered a few meaningless words to make it look like he was praying. The Father nodded. “Go to your parents.”

The son looked out at the people lined up, in their robes and their masks. Finally, he spotted the two people that looked most like his parents and ran over to them.

The mother took him by the hand. “Are you alright?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“I’m ok.”

“Do you have any questions?” she asked.

“The girl,” he said, hesitantly. “Did it hurt?”

“It doesn’t matter,” the father said. “She lived only to serve.”

“They say Lord Jerimiah’s slaves have started to disappear,” Jani’s father said.

“Oh, he has so many, how would he even notice?” Jani’s mother answered. They were in the other room, talking while the son played with Jani.

“He didn’t notice,” Jani’s father said. “But his overseers did. It’s happening more and more. There were five missing just last week.”

“I bet they’re just escaping,” her mother answered. “What else could be happening?”

The son leaned in to Jani. “I know where the slaves are going,” he whispered.

“What? Where?” Jani whispered back.

“You have to promise not to tell.”

“I promise!”

He looked around then leaned in even closer, so his lips were right next to her ear. “The Sani Sabik are taking them.”

Matron Shia looked down at the son sternly. “Jani told me you said the slaves were taken by the Sani Sabik!” she said.

“I was just kidding around.”

She glared at him through narrow eyes. “Why would you say such a thing?”

“I dunno,” he shrugged. “I was just joking.”

“Where did you even learn about them?”

“I dunno,” he muttered. “Someone said something about them I guess.”

“You shouldn’t say such things!” the Matron said. “People do not like it when the Sani Sabik are mentioned. You will get people very worked up and that will be a very bad thing. Do you understand?” She grabbed his arm and squeezed it tight. “Do you?”

“Yes, Matron Shia!” he answered, wincing from her grasp.

She stared at him for a moment, before letting him go. “Good. Now, get to your seat. Classes will start soon.”

“You promised not to tell!” the son said.

“I didn’t tell her!” Jani objected.

“Then how did Matron Shia find out?” he asked.

“I dunno. Someone else must have told her!”

“But you’re the only one I told! Did you tell anyone about it?”

Jani looked away. “No, I didn’t.”

“You did too! I can tell!”

“Ok, I told my mom! But I didn’t think she’d tell Matron Shia about it!”

“You promised! You promised not to tell but you did and now I got in trouble!”

“I’m sorry! I won’t tell anyone else, I promise.”

“I’m never telling you anything again.”

“I’m sorry, really.”

The Father stood upon the stage, pointing at the congregation. “There has been a leak!” the Father said. “Someone has said too much and people have begun to ask questions!”

The congregation murmured nervously. “Luckily, God has delivered us a boon. For the inquisitor came directly to me. And I have disposed of her. Let us drink of her blood so that God’s gift to us shall not be wasted!”

The congregation lined up to walk to the stage and receive the sacrament. The son looked up at the woman on the stage. Her throat and wrists had been slit open and she no longer looked how she did when she was alive. But he recognized her.

“And let us pray to God that more questions are not asked! Let us pray that we can continue taking God’s sacrament here, in our homes! For if there are more like her, we shall all perish.”

The son reached his fingers up to the blood of Matron Shia and drank.

“Matron Shia disappeared!” Jani said.

“I know.”

“What do you think happened to her?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think the Sani Sabik took her?”

“What? Why would you think that?”

“I mean, if they took the slaves, then maybe they took her, because she was asking questions!”

“That’s stupid,” the son said. “I was just joking about that, I told you.”

“No you weren’t, you were serious!”

“No I wasn’t! I swear!”

“Why are you so worried? Do you think the Sani Sabik are gonna get you too?”

“No,” the son said. “I’m not.”

“Well, I’m going to tell someone.”

“Tell the Father what you told us,” the father said.

“I’m the one who started the rumors about the Sani Sabik taking the slaves,” the son said.

“I see,” the Father said. “Who did you tell about the Sani Sabik?”

“My friend, Jani,” he said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think she’d tell anyone. But she told her mother and now
she thinks that the Sani Sabik got Matron Shia too.”

The Father nodded. “I see. I see, that is troubling.” He turned to the son. “We will have to take care of this. Do you understand what that means?”

The son was trembling, but he nodded his head. “Yes, Father, I do.”

“So you will never do something so foolish again, will you?”

He shook his head. “No father, I will not.”

The Father nodded. “Be glad I am the Lord of this land, else we would all be doomed. But I can suppress the rumors. Tonight, we shall have three sacrifices. The sacrament will be glorious.”

The son wanted to cry. But he found he could not.

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