Blue smoke bubbled out of the Elder Council house chimney to announce they had finally reached a decision.
Dashelle paced outside the lodge waiting on their official decree. He was scared. Scared they would find him at fault and he would be forced to leave the sept. Their superstitions could condemn him to a brutal death in the wilderness.
After his discovery, Omani warned him against reporting. Such a relic could only bring curses to the sept, she said. It was an abomination, an ancient contrivance that was forbidden. The Elders were divided over Dashelle’s claims that he found the relic accidentally. A faction believed the young man was in violation of sept laws regarding instruments of Former Man. They wanted to exile the blasphemer and destroy his wicked idol.
Obscured by overgrown scrub, Dashelle missed the relic at first. Hunting for small game to bring back to the sept, he tripped over the lip of the metal basin, rasping his shin against the jagged edge.
Omani pulled back the weeds, exposing the old sink, cutting her palm on the rusty rim. Neither of them knew what it was, or its purpose. All they knew was it was a banned relic, made from materials disallowed by the intercouncil synod.
They left it in the tall grass, and ran back to their village. Dashelle reported their discovery, while Omani hid. She would later claim she never went near the relic, that Dashelle alone was the one who touched it, defiling him. He didn’t blame the girl, she had more to lose than he. Such a mark against her could mean losing standing, and not being able to wed into a ranking family.
Dashelle was an orphan. His standing in the sept was never going to be more than hunter. He owned nothing he didn’t make myself. He could offer no dowry for a bride. Still he held out hope that the council would exonerate him.
Guards came for him at his hut, escorting him to the Council house. The Elder found Dashelle guilty of sacrilege for his contact with forbidden artifacts. Their justice was swift. He was to be staked on the savanna, no food, no water. The elements would mete out his punishment.
Pleading for mercy did nothing. He still refused to witness against Omani. He didn’t want her to suffer his same fate. Her family would not allow him to tell her good-bye, wanting to distance her from any association with a convicted heretic.
Omani’s punishment came later. The cut she received from the rusted basin became infected. Within a week tetanus had taken over her body, causing severe spasms and burning fever. She lost the ability to speak and eat. Disease raged in her body. Sepsis set in, spread to her caregivers, then to the rest of the sept.
Dashelle survived for four days on the savanna. His village, ravaged by the sickness, lasted only a week longer. They blamed Dashelle. Saying he cursed them in retribution against the Elders for their ruling. The last villagers came to the Elders, pleading they seek forgiveness from the spirits to save the village. The Elders refused, saying the curse on the village came because Dashelle had provoked the spirits with his heresy.
The sink stayed where it was abandoned in the high grass, unmoved by the misery and death surrounding it.