The troupe wasn't going inside that horrible opening in the rock face, if I had anything to say about it!
There was a temple priest at the mouth of it, selling so called admission to the holy presence within it.
When we understood the price, we decided it was beyond our meagre means to enter. The priest seemed open to negotiation, however.
"Sell me your youngest child" he said, "and I will ensure he is properly trained to provide temple services."
It seemed out of the question, that we should consider this. To me it was the same thing as slavery.
"No, that isn't exactly what I had in mind" I replied.
"But, I would propose something else, much more valuable to the priestly community if you take me to confer with your high priest" I suggested.
I moved closer to him, to determine if he understood what I was saying.
His eyes were a strange glazed over grey/white. He wore a hood over his head and his curly black hair strayed out from under it only a few inches. He would not return my gaze, but kept his face down in a subservient position
Finally, he spoke softly, "it is not for me to decide this, You must wait here until I return. It will take several hours. Please, make yourself comfortable here. It will be dark soon. You must light a fire here at the mouth or the beasts will come in the darkness. You will need to stand guard over your younger children. I cannot guarantee that you will be safe here during the night. Please will you reconsider coming inside? It will be better for your community, to give up a child to the priesthood, than to be eaten by wild beasts. Do you not agree?"
I could only stare at him in disbelief. This was the old familiar ruse, that required a firm response. I would not be intimidated by this scare tactic. However, I could not be rude to this priest, or all chances of a dialogue would disappear with him, when he returned to his holy sanctum.
"We will wait out the night outside, and take our chances with the beasts," I replied. Taking his hand, I pressed my signatory ring into it. "Take this to your highest priest, as a surety that I am serious with my intentions. I will expect an answer in the morning. We will be waiting here."
The young hooded priest's eyes flared briefly with a spark of purple, then subsided. He did not believe we could still be here in the morning. But he said nothing, bowed low to me, turned and retreated quickly into the darkened cave.
I turned to survey, our evening prospects. Already, I could see the advancing beasts, on the beach, crawling slowly out of the purple water.
Writing by Regina Stemberger