Will Anomaler

The Cult of the Knife

Zagreus slowly walked to the altar, holding his finest work of art on his palm, a small dagger. Around him, hooded figures of various heights all dressed in their own blood-red cloak hummed a melody from ancient times. The underground chapel, cut from the living stone, crafted shadows that moved with the eerie flames of the torches.

The youth, wearing a similar red robe, took a glance at the weapon he held. It was the culmination of all his training as a smith. A polished handle made from old oak and wrapped in leather held a triangular blade, smelted from the finest spring steel. In the three sides of the weapon, Zagreus had scorched upon the steel a branching pattern similar to that of lighting striking the wooden handle. A bronze octagon acted as a crossguard, and in the pommel, he had placed a small sphere of the same metal.

He gazed nervously to his peers as he continued his slow march, to nearly everyone he knew in the small village he lived in. Men and women, citizens of the town and all older than himself, stared at the boy. They all held a bladed weapon in their hands. Someone held a long claymore, the hilt of the blade imitating the antlers of a moose. He caught a glimpse of what resembled a meat cleaver, the torch-light reflecting its wicked gleam. He even saw a bejeweled barber’s razor, the many rubies of the golden handle glittering.

Such was the way of the Cult of the Knife.

Zagreus eventually came upon the stone altar, a slab carved from the very rocky ground. On the other side, his father stood, his crimson hooded cloak barely hiding his white beard. He held on his hand a strange knife, more of a sharp needle than a real blade but equally —if not more so— deadly in the hands of a skilled person.

The boy’s father looked at the nervous youth, the elder’s gray eyes locking with Zagreus’ brown gaze. There was a sense of accomplishment in the older man’s eyes, a proud and comforting image of having brought his offspring to adulthood.

"I never thought this day would arrive, son" He whispered, his voice shaky with emotion and wearing a confident smile on his face. The boy gulped, nervous, and nodded to his father. After chuckling slightly at the boy’s nerves, the older man’s face became stoic, and his voice was loud and clear to all the members of the audience.

“Brothers and sisters. Today is the day where one of our own, and none other than my kin, exits the troubles of childhood and becomes an adult, a valued member of our community, and one of the keepers of the Bloody Truth. For as we all know, our secretive order values every new addition to our ranks, as it was spoken in the Text of Blades, Cut 1…”

Zagreus’s mind wandered away from his father’s speech. It was not his first time hearing the sermon he was giving to the rest. Although he had to admit that the creation myth he was preaching may have been interesting when he was a kid, the boy simply paid no mind. He already knew that, according to the religion, Ganivet the smith goddess had smelted the first knife from her own boiling blood and had used it to carve the world from the living Earth, the liquid pouring from his wounds becoming rivers, as well as other smaller fables explaining how the world worked.

But to him, his previously unwavering faith had begun to crumble. As he has grown, the evidence of a planet beyond that described by the stories had broken the fragile illusion he had believed in. The existence of a whole continent across a supposedly infinite ocean, the vastly proven evidence of evolution clashing from the supposed creation of humans from stone; and the arrival of the Internet had given him a wealth of knowledge that only served to disprove the myth his whole town believed in.

He once again looked at the crowd, now having fallen silent unless it was to recite some litany. Even as he was about to become one, Zagreus still failed to understand adults and their ability to believe in something they knew didn’t make sense. They had always told him he’d understand when he’s was older, despite age having the opposite effect on the youth. Cuts, some believers he knew were programmers who had the wealth of the human race at their disposal, he thought to himself. Why does everyone worship something so blindly?

“… and thus, our Lady has brought us here.” Zagreus’ father continued, the youth knowing the sermon was nearing its end. “It is time, for young Zagreus Dionis to let his work taste the blood of his maker, to fully embrace his destiny and join our order through this final test of resolve.“

“Zagreus!” He said to the boy. “Are you ready?”

“I’m ready to leave my childhood behind, father.” The youth answered, having rehearsed this very moment. He placed the blade of his hand against his palm, the sharp edge ready to cut through the skin.

“Are you ready to become an adult and join our community of truth?”

“I shall cherish my adulthood and keep the Bloody Truth.”

“If you are as you say, let your blade taste your blood!”

And with one swift motion, Zagreus slashed his hand, his dagger splattered with blood as it cut.

The youth did not notice anything at first. Maybe the acute pain of the cut numbed the senses of his wounded hand, or it might have been the disbelief of anything extraordinary happening on a slightly bloody ritual. However, shortly after his knife tasted blood, his hand began to feel slightly heavy. Zagreus was rather puzzled, but his doubts dissipated when he saw his blood disappearing into the knife’s blade, with more being consumed.

Upon this revelation the world seemed to darken as the boy’s head began to swim, seeing black at the edge of his vision as his blood was being drained. His legs began to shake and his arms tired like he was lifting the sky itself, but his eyes were focused on the knife on his hand. It feasted like a leech while his life slipped away towards the weapon.

The oak handle deformed, sprouting crimson branches onto the steel while dark roots dug into his arm. The hungry iron was no longer drinking from the wound but from the very flesh of his body. And Zagreus could only gaze as he was too weak to even move. And at last, at the moment he had begun to embrace death, a black shadow skirted over his body, a dark entity being swallowed by the weapon and disappearing in a flash of light.

The boy staggered onto the altar as if someone had kicked his stomach, his weapon clattering against the stone. The whole ordeal had lasted just over five seconds, but to Zagreus, it had been an eternity. He shakily looked at his hands and then at the dagger, seeing no trace of roots nor wounds, except for a straight scar on his palm.

«Hey boy.»

Zagreus gasped in surprise. Who had spoken? He looked at the red-robed figures around him, observing the youth with keen interest.

«Boy!»

Once again the voice spoke, but he couldn’t seem to place it. He wasn’t even sure he had even heard it, as if someone was directly sharing their thoughts with him. He looked at his father, who simply pointed at the dropped weapon. Zagreus looked at the fallen dagger with a mix of disbelief and astonishment. He didn’t know how, but he could feel a mocking aura emanating from the weapon.

«Thank our Lady you finally noticed. So, dear creator, what do you say about killing something?»

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