The tunnels seemed to go on forever. At the end of the last one I was hurled out and I drifted into the darkness. Everything around me was alive, the currents, the plants and the silent shapes that slid past me and nuzzled me. Slowly I started to sink and came to rest among the water plants. I lay there for a long time, my face buried in the soft, velvety mud.
Slowly the water began to retreat, and my back was exposed to the warm morning air.
I heard sounds. Then something grabbed me by the back of my tunic and tried to lift me. I raised my arm behind my back and tried to slap whatever it was away, but it kept tugging at my cloths. "All right, all right", I tried to say as I got up on my hands and knees, but I just spit out a mouthful of foul-tasting mud instead. The next moment my body was racked with coughs, a mixture of mud, water, tears and snot streaming from my eyes and nostrils.
Eventually I sat up and wiped my eyes. Through my swollen eyelids I saw an old woman bent over me. When my eyes met hers she began to chuckle, and I began to laugh as well. That set off a bout of coughing even worse than the first one. Blood started to stream out of my nose and mouth, and I watched the earth beneath me turn red. I collapsed, the damp soil warm against my face.
I looked on as the old woman crouched in front of me. With her grubby fingers she started to burrow into the blood-soaked earth. She brought up a handful of red dust and held out her hand to show it to me. She then spit into the handful of earth and covered it with her other hand. When she opened her hands again the dirt was gone, and she was holding a smooth, blood-red stone.
"Sacrifice", she said. She looked me in the eyes and began to chuckle again.
"Yes", I said, "sacrifice." It seemed to make sense.
She reached out her hand and helped me up, and we started to walk along the shore. It was a bright and beautiful day. Seagulls were flying overhead, and I in the distance I could see seals' heads bobbing on the water's surface. There were no shadows, and I could see no sun.
"Where are we?" I asked the old woman.
"Blessings on you, walker between the worlds."
"Thank you." We walked on.
We came to a heap of bloodstained clothes that had apparently been washed ashore. My companion looked at it and sighed. "Anger, fear and pain", she said. "That's all that's left." She turned to me and opened her hand, the blood-red stone still in it. Our eyes met. Reaching out, she placed the stone in my hand and folded my fingers over it.
I had fallen, and was laying on my side in the brook. Something round and smooth was in my hand, though I couldn't remember what it was or how I got hold of it. I tried to get up. A man I didn't recognise was moving his horse towards the water, his sword drawn. Kneeling by my side was another man, a knife in his hand, his eyes focussed on the rider.
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