Every 6 years, when the world reaches its coldest, when the Emissaries watch with their everpresent eyes, The Dark comes.
It comes to remind us of our transgressions. Of our failure to meet the standards the Emissaries set for us, and to stay faithful to their teachings.
It is a day for us to pray for redemption.
The Dark refers to a ritual performed by some religious sects every six years, on the day that Arnathia's sole moon eclipses not one, but *both* stars at the same time. This happens when the two suns align with Arnathia and the moon passes between Arnathia and the suns. Because of the alignment of the suns, it is already a much cooler day than average (it is midwinter and the first day of the Arnathian year). But when the moon passes, everything gets colder and darker for a few minutes, as if the suns have been extinguished. Many see this as a good sign, that the world is resetting and a time of plenty is to come, and cold days of the Arnathian winter are soon to pass. Others, however, see it as a harbinger of doom, and a reason to repent. To date, there have been no accurate records of anything terrible happening, but it is not beyond some to use it as a tool for controlling their followers.
On the morning of The Dark, believers gather at a high point near them, often hilltops or mountain peaks, to kneel and pray. And for most, this is the extent of the practice, speding from sunrise to sunrise on the mountain praying. But for some of the more fanatical sects, there may be sacrifices involved. Some openly sacrifice animals to appease The Emissaries, while others are reported to go so far as to use human or humanoid sacrifice. These sects are secretive, and no one who has seen the rituals talks about them under penalty of death. The more gruesome examples of this ritual include the removal of bodily organs while the sacrifice still lives, and the anointing of believers with the still warm blood.
Components and tools
At the ritual site can usually be found a ring of rocks, as well as a small altar of some type, either ornate or simple as a flat outcropping of rock. This is where sacrifices and gifts are offered. In the less fanatical sects, any gifts laid upon the altar are distributed to local townsfolk and are prized for having been "blessed" in the ceremony. For the more intense ceremonies, special knives may be introduced to the ceremony for blood-letting or actual sacrifice. It is also reported, although unconfirmed, that a vat or cauldron may be taken to the site in which to boil the animal or individual after sacrifice.
Normally, there is a higher member of the sects clergy to observe and officiate the ceremony, with lesser sect members doing the work of receiving gifts, placing them on the altar, and doing the same for sacrificial entities. Only sect members are allowed to attend the ceremony, and there is always a contigent of guards working for the sect whose job it is to keep meddlers out.
The Dark is always observed on the first day of the year, every 6 years. Since it is based on the eclipse created by the moon and the Twin Suns, it is very regular and very predictable.
All Images created BY Kahuna the Elder, with source materials from Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash, Artbreeder and public domain sources.