Sacrifices were becoming more costly.
Life was uncertain. It was a dangerous time. Storm, fire and vicious beasts were constant threats to the tribe. Appeasing the gods was the only means of securing safety.
"Is the knife sharp?" the witchdoctor asked. When the apprentice did not reply, he tested it himself. A trickle of blood along his thumb brought a satisfied grunt.
Nearby, a hunter stood uncertainly. It was the task of the hunters to find beasts not only for food but worthy of the altar. Prey had become scarce these past few weeks. Empty stomachs and withdrawal of divine favour had resulted.
Only the other day lightning had struck a tree, trapping the chieftan's daughter under falling debris. She had died before anyone could reach her. It was this tragedy that had convinced the chieftan to listen to the witchdoctor.
"Let me go!" The girl twisted against her bonds. "You'll bring war between our tribes." She fell silent as the witchdoctor approached.
"Is your tribe free of disaster?" His tones were calming, kindly.
She bowed her head in answer.
"I only want to protect my people. Hold yourself with pride, and when the time comes I'll make it quick."
"My people believe disaster is sent by the gods to strengthen us," she said with quiet defiance. "My death will only gain you a strong enemy."
He shook his head sadly and moved away. She would see, when the time came. It was his task to divert these dangers so they fell on others instead.