The sun rose over the African Savannah. The morning was already hot. The grass bent and twisted as it danced in the breeze. The cloudless sapphire sky stretched in every direction over top of the crowd. The villagers had gathered at their traditional meeting place, a large hut by the water. The lake was small, but it provided them with enough water between the rains, and attracted enough food for them to survive on.
"Today, we are here to discuss a problem." Kgosi raised his arms to quiet the crowd. All twenty villagers had arrived for the meeting. The chief eyed the room, asking for silence. "You all know what I am talking about."
"They took my baby," a woman sobbed. "My Kayin. . . They took her. She was only five."
Kgosi nodded. "We are here to put a stop to them. They can no longer have their way with us. They took our best warrior, Emeka, three days ago. Two others perished before that. While this would be tragic anywhere, in a village of our size, it is devastating, especially after our recent events. After consulting Imani, I have decided what we are to do."
Imani pushed through the crowd. She was an old woman, capable of seeing things no one else could. She was rumored to have danced with spirits and raced with the wind in her youth. There was no disease that could not be cured by her medicines. "I have spoken to the gods! There is evil in our tribe- and the attacks will not stop until the evil is purged from out lives."
"I do not believe it." Nnamdi rose from the back of the group to face Imani. "Our people are good. They do not mix themselves with evil spirits. You must be mistaken, Imani."
Imani's expression darkened. "I am not mistaken. The gods have spoken. What they speak is truth, and the truth can not be mistaken. They have given me instructions as to how to solve this problem. In this case, evil spirits are not the issue."
"Peace." Kgosi said. "We can not allow our tribe to be attacked. What did the gods say to do with the person?" His face darkened as Imani whispered into his ear. "It must be done, then."
Nnamdi locked eyes with Imani. "Tell us what is going to happen."
Imani met his gaze. "I can not."
"It is not time." Imani turned and left, leaving Nnamdi angered.
"This is the time. This must end. Do you know what they are doing to our people?" He screamed after her, but she did not even look over her shoulder. "Imani!"
Whispers laced the silence. Each member was asking the same questions.
Kgosi demanded silence once more. "The evil doer has already passed. However, we are not absolved of his mistakes. He took advantage of Kefilwe, then killed her and gave her body to the attackers. If only the fact that he was the first victim could save the rest of us."
"I never liked Tau. He was always watching with eyes that squinted." Zuri brushed her hair behind her ears. "His very gaze made me uncomfortable. I am not sorry to say I was almost glad when I had found out about his death. Poor Kefilwe. She was such a pretty girl."
Nnamdi shook his head. "We should have killed him. We should have killed him when we had the chance!"
"The lions have done it for us. But, the gods have said the lions will not leave us alone until we make atonement for the blood that has been spilt." Kgosi rubbed his forehead. "I am afraid there is only one way to end the attacks. When Imani returns, she will tell us what to do. Return to your homes. We will settle this when the sun goes down."
The villagers cast angry glances at Kgosi as they left, wishing he could reveal the truth to them. The price had to be severe. An eerie feeling of uncertainty settled over the group as they left the hut.
"I don't know what to expect." Zola said to her sister Themba. "Haven't enough of us died to satisfy the gods? What more of a price can we pay?"
"What ever it is, let's hope it's over quickly." Themba replied. "The gods need to take the lions away before anyone else gets hurt."
As the sun dipped lower in the sky, the people began to light fires in a vain attempt to protect themselves from the lions. They had been doing this for a week now, and had made it a habit to sleep in the meeting hut. The cautions they took had not helped very much. The lions still attacked, and the villagers still lived in fear.
"Two lions," Kgosi said as the villagers trickled into the hut. "Two strong, male lions have been feeding off of our people for the past two weeks, as you all know. Any attempt to kill the lions has ended in death. That is how Emeka was taken."
"When will you tell us what we must do?" Kayin's mother shouted. "Please."
Kgosi sighed. "We must wait for Imani."
"Why?" the woman demanded.
"She is our spiritual leader. No sacrifice can occur without her."
Out of the shadows, Imani appeared. "I find it odd that you would like to rush the process. It is the last few hours for someone among us. Wouldn't you want them to enjoy the rest of their life?"
The crowd seemed to gasp collectively. "The gods have picked someone to die?" Zola asked.
"They gave me a name, and told me not to reveal it. You all shall draw pebbles from a basket. If you draw the white pebble, you are the one they chose." Imani said.
"This is ridiculous!" Nnambi said, furiously pointing at Imani. "We can't lose another member! And this name, how will we know if it is really from the gods?"
"You aggravate me." Imani said, narrowing her eyes. "I shall carve it into the wall, and you will see when the pebble falls into that hand." She pulled a knife from her sleeve and began writing on the wall. When she was finished, she turned her back to what she had written, allowing no one to see.
"If the gods told you, what is the need for the pebbles?" Nnamdi challenged.
"To confirm it for all of you. Bother me one more time, Nnamdi, and I shall feed you to the lions myself!"
Nnamdi slunk back into the crowd, momentarily quiet.
Imandi pointed to a basket containing twenty pebbles. "Kgosi, if you would be so kind. Cover the basket so they can not see what rock they take. Do not look at your rock until everyone has taken one."
Kgosi covered the basket as Imani requested and carried it over to her. She reached in and took her rock. He called the villagers up one by one to select their rock. "Nnamdi . . . Zuri . . . Themba . . . Zola . . . Nia. . . Managua . . . Abeni . . ."
He reached in and wrapped his fingers around the last rock. After returning the basket to its original spot, he told the villagers to look at their rocks. The sighs of relief were drowned by a shriek.
"Me? Me? The gods chose me? Why? I have done nothing! I have done nothing wrong!" a panicked Nia gasped, throwing the stone away as if it were poisoned. "I can't be the chosen one! This is wrong!"
"It's always a pure, young virgin." Imani stepped away from the wall, revealing that the gods had indeed chosen Nia. "I thought you all would have realized that by now."
Kayode roared with anger. "We are going to be married in a month! This can not happen! Let her go!" He pulled Nia close, holding her with everything he had. Tears were streaming down her face. He kissed her hair and brushed away her tears, whispering that everything was going to be all right.
Kgosi asked Imani if there was any other way the gods would stop the lion attacks. She replied that there was not. "Please!" Nia begged. But, there was no other way.
"Be brave," Imani said, her eyes also filled with sadness. "You will only dishonor yourself if you fight."
Nia gave Kayode one last, long kiss before the ropes were tied around her wrists. Kayode tried to fight the men off of her, but they were too strong for him. They lead her outside of the hut and tied her up, leaving her for the lions.
Kayode cursed the gods. "What horrible monsters we serve, those that ask for human sacrifice when none of us were a part of what Tau did!"
The men who had carried Nia away held on to Kayode, stopping him from going after her and setting her free. The villagers in the hut fell silent. Some were crying, and some were still taking in the horror that had just unfolded.
The sound of Nia's screams chilled them to the bone. Her shrieks and pleas for mercy faded into silence when the growl of the lions began.
A/N: I'm not sure if I'm going to continue this as a story or leave it as a one shot. . . I do have an idea of where it could go, (it'll become a supernatural romance, and Kayode will become one of the main charecters) but, like I said, I don't know. leave your opinion in your review? And, please review, review emails make my day. Thank you!