FFfAW: The Ritual

This post if for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (FFfAW) Challenge, run by Priceless Joy. This week’s picture was provided by Dawn M. Miller. The challenge is that you write a story of 75-175 words inspired by the photo prompt below. I hope you all like it.

Photo Prompt: © Dawn M. Miller
Photo Prompt: © Dawn M. Miller

Genre: Historical – Neolithic Britain

He led the procession in the pre-dawn haze as a drum sounded a heartbeat. They gathered to appease the gods. Long winters and wet summers produced poor harvests and starvation. The toll had been high. Rites had begun at sunset, potent food and drink consumed beneath the full moon. Conclusion would be reached with the dawn.

As king, his role was vital.

His chant began at the water’s edge, as the sun broached the horizon. The more names spoken before the whole orb appeared, the more gods appeased:

“Dyēus, Sky Father;
Plethwih, Lady of Broad Lands.”

He spread his arms in supplication as offerings were tossed into the water.

“Perkwunos, Lord of Thunder -”

The blade sliding deep into his back caused him to scream, even through the drugged haze – halting his chant. He forced himself to continue.

“Welnos, Protector of Crops…”

The rope settled around his neck and pulled tight. He choked the final words.

“Accept… sacrifice.”

The head-blow toppled him into the water. As the sun lifted fully into view the gods claimed their prize.

Word Count: 175

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I apologise for the darkness of this one but as soon as I saw the pond picture this story came into my head. I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with bog bodies. I imagine my ancient king became one of them.

Tollund man – a bog body discovered in Denmark in 1950. Picture from Wikimedia

The names of the gods are those projected by Proto-Indo-European, a linguistic reconstruction of a period of which little is known. Both the language and the religion are things I’ve researched on and off over the years for my Wildwood stories. I watched a documentary recently (unfortunately I can’t remember which one) that suggested the sacrificed men may well have been ancient kings – the greatest sacrifice they could offer their gods when they truly needed appeasing.

32 thoughts on “FFfAW: The Ritual

  1. Very powerful. It pulled me into the story at the very beginning all the way to the end. Excellent story writing! I wonder how old the bog body was when they found him in 1950. Did it say how long he might have been there?

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    1. They think Tollund Man was early Iron Age (300-400BC) but the oldest one found is from the Mesolithic, about 8000BC. There have been nearly 2000 of them found. Its possible that not all were sacrificed but a large number show signs that they were – especially the 3-fold death of stabbing, hanging and bludgeoning. Tollund man actually has the rope still around his neck, though its not really visible in the picture I used. 🙂

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      1. That is so sad that they sacrificed people. It just seems so barbaric and simple minded (to us in today’s time). I’m surprised he was that old because his face doesn’t look that old. I know the bog mummifies them but still. He looks like someone would look like today.

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      2. It is sad, by modern standards. I hoped to capture with my story that it’s possible that the victims weren’t always entirely unwilling. After all, they were going to be with their gods.
        Tollund Man is a particularly well preserved body. I actually saw him in the museum in Denmark when I visited there nearly 20 years ago. That was probably the beginning of my fascination. 🙂


      3. I would imagine that it would ignite my fascination too. I figured that the people being sacrificed were willing because it was the ultimate thing they could do (at that time) for the good of all – and like you said, be with their god.

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  2. That’s a fantastic first line, I love ‘a drum sounded a heartbeat.’ It’s a period I know very little about, but you transported me there. Excellent job!

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  3. I wasn’t expecting that! It makes a change for the king to end us as the sacrifice. I hope they at least get some better harvests out of it 🙂

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    1. Thank you! Me too – I read a lot of random articles online and watch every documentary going! From a storyteller’s perspective I love that there is so much we don’t know. 🙂

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  4. Immediately knew how this one would end. But was spellbound! I was there! I first thought you had created a language, but excellent research. Love this story. Very well plotted and written.

    By the way, this blog visited me and commented on several of my new posts. I think you might like its format: 100 words or less stories at which you excel. It is http://thedrabble.wordpress.com
    If you know of it already, forgive my ignorance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! This is a time period that I love writing in so I’m happy you like it. 🙂 I have come across The Drabbler before and have thought about submitting a story. Thanks for thinking about me.
      By the way, I’ve tried visiting your blog a few times recently but keep getting a ‘this page does not exist,’ message…


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