Melancholy hung in the air, giving the grief of those gathered a weight that could be breathed in, sitting heavy in the chest like a crushing stone. Their Chieftain had died in glorious battle, and the gathered mourners were howling their despair to the moon hanging full and low in the sky.
Torchlight bathed the deceased’s many wounds and countless scars in an orange glow. Even in death, his grim visage spoke of a life of hard-won victories and hardship. He’d carved a better life for his people from this land like a skilled butcher, and they had flourished under his command.
The first indication that something was amiss was the hissing. Then, slowly, murmurs rose from the back of the crowd like the rising tide, and the crowd parted in a reverent wave. Snakes, nearing too many to count, slithered between all those gathered to coil at the base of the dais where the Chieftain lay. Their eyes glittering in the low light, they stilled, and waited.
Following on their tails, a woman walked with an almost lyrical step, as though there was music only she could hear. Hips swaying, her dusky purple skin glistened with sweat, and the ornamentation of carved bones around her neck clattered softly as she moved. She studied the Chieftain’s body with keen eyes.
Then, a husky voice came from the depths of her hood; “Da whispas of da loa hold true: his spirit lingers here, waiting for a guide back ta his body.”
Shock reverberated through the crowd, followed closely by a sudden burst of hope. The shaman pulled her hood back, revealing a thick braid from the top of her head trailing down to her mid-back with the coloring of the azure waters of the sea. Her hands began to glow with the soft green of growing things in the spring, as though she wove the very magics of life to her will. It bathed the Chieftain in a pale light.
“I be havin’ a vision of da future, love,” she whispered softly, so only he could hear. “It not be ya time ta die yet!”