Ercila found the old man on the hillside by his hut. The old man shook his head, not sure if the man called Bryantt would dare to enter the witches circle to search for the bones of the sacrificed lamb. He looked tired. The girl soothed him, prepared some rice and beans for him, and warmed his blanket over a chair by the fire before tucking him in for the night.
When she was sure the old man was soundly asleep, she snuck out of the house and into the cool dampness of the night to the witches’ fire. She took a deep breath and stepped into the circle. Static electricity enveloped her, a tingling sensation coursing up her legs and thighs, through her back bone, and to her jaw. She fought back the rising panic and moved steadily towards the center. With every step, the ring of fire rose higher around her.
At the center, she knelt. She picked through the silky soft gray ash, until she had removed every last bone, placing them in her backpack. She stood and slowly moved backward, retracing her steps to the edge of the circle. With each step, the flames ebbed and the tingling sensation began to subside.
Once outside the circle, she turned and ran down the steep hill to the raft. She undid the rope and jumped on, pushing off with a long pole, gliding across the quiet water to the other side.
From the dock, she could see the lights of the brothel twinkling in the distance. The sound of crickets filled the night air. The raft bumped against the dock gently with a hollow, wooden sound.
Carefully, quietly, she made her way to the village. She knew the secret tunnels. She went right to the ladder to the bakery and climbed it as quietly as possible. She paused to isten before slowly lifting the trap door. She lowered it gently back into place so as not to make a sound. In the dim light, she dug around until she found a flour sack. She let herself out the back door.
She tiptoed through the town and then broke into a run all the way to the abb
ey. When she tried the church door, it opened. Her heart raced. Candle light flickered and cast frightening shadows on the walls. She tiptoed up the aisle and carefully approached the altar.
She could feel the eyes of the man on the cross on her skin. She trembled, wondering if his God was truly stronger than that of the wizard. She set her backpack down and placed the flour sack next to it on the altar.
One by one, she removed the smooth bones from her pack and placed them into the sack of flour. She secured the sack with a bit of twine, tied it twice, and left it as a gift in the center of the altar.
With that, the girl left, taking the same circuitous route back to the island.