The large stone disk with its intricate pattern etched into the surface was positioned perfectly atop the point of a massive boulder. The boulder was on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Waves stirred up by stormy gray skies and tempest winds smashed against the sides of the cliff.

A young woman knelt atop the disk. She had long black hair tightly braided behind her back, hazel eyes, and a tanned animal skin wrapped about her body.  A few black hairs came free with a gust. She wiped them away, then resumed securing the wrist of the older man splayed face up across the disk. The man was Zantuma Zokai, leader of the Tura tribe. He was in his late fifties, wore an animal skin loin cloth and had matted gray hair usually hidden beneath a large headdress, but that had fallen into the waters with the impact.

A large bloody gash was along his right temple where the woman connected with a stone. He had come at her behest, never suspecting her true intentions; such was the trust of a father.

The man groaned and weakly opened his eyes. He saw the woman kneeling over him.

“Aneran, what happened?” He tried to touch his head but couldn’t move his arm. He noticed the bindings and gazed back at the young woman in shock. “What is the meaning of this?”

“Forgive me, father,” she said, pausing in her labor. “But I can’t let his deception go unpunished.”

Chief Zantuma gave her a confused look. “Whose deception?”

“Asha. He has lied to me, to all of us. This was never about the future of our tribe or the Tura people. It was always about his selfish quest. He tricked me into sacrificing our people to learn about Thwas, and now he must pay.”

The chieftain grew alarmed. “You killed our people to unlock the sacred text? But there is nothing there except meaningless passages on the dead.”

Aneran nodded with tear-filled eyes. “I know that now and I will help those lost souls reach Wahisht. But first...” She pulled at the rope, causing Chief Zantuma to wince. “I must ensure Asha pays for his deceit.”

She collected a ceramic bowl lying nearby and began to draw out the activation symbols for the Rune of Retribution on the bare stomach of her father. Zantuma lifted up his head to watch, then started pulling at his restraints. “Don’t do this, daughter, nothing good can come from enacting that curse.”

“Asha will experience unending suffering at his own hands. And he will die by his own hands as well.”

“Yes, but you will endure insurmountable pain at the slightest touch. You will never know the closeness of another being, or affection, or love.”

Aneran spoke through clenched teeth. “If it also means to never again know heartache or betrayal, then it’s a small price to pay.”

Zantuma shook his head. “The price is far graver than you could ever imagine, and it will not disappear with Asha’s death. You will suffer for the remainder of your days.”

“So be it.” She set down the bowl and picked up a jagged dagger with the same markings as the disk etched into its blade.

The chieftain feverishly pulled at the bindings. “Please, daughter, don’t do this!”

Aneran locked onto his gaze. “I’m sorry, father, for not listening to you. I never should have accepted him into our tribe. But I promise to locate our people in Thwas and make it right. Look for them in Wahisht.” Then she clutched the dagger with both hands and drove it into the center of the rune on her father’s chest.

Zantuma screamed. He shook against the straps as Aneran pushed the dagger deeper and deeper. Suddenly, his mouth froze open in the scream. His body lurched slightly and then went still. His eyes stared up at the darkened sky but saw nothing.

Aneran continued to push the dagger further down until it pass through his back. Then she stood up and waited.  

Blood appeared at the edge of the chieftain’s body and slipped into the grooves in the stone. It flowed along the various pathways until filling in the design: two circles with a line running through them. Then the stone disk started to glow.

Aneran quickly descended the disk, off the boulder and down to the cliff as the light of the stone disk began to pulsate. She immediately felt a burning sensation along her right forearm. She clamped her left hand over it.

The light grew brighter, as did the pain in her arm. She sucked in her breath and dropped to her knees, pulling away the hand covering her right forearm to see a design matching the runes burning into her flesh.

Tears filled her eyes, not from pain or remorse, but from the pleasure in knowing somewhere Asha was expericing the same rune being carved into his skin. Someday, he would make a foolish mistake and kill someone and cause his end. The rune on Aneran’s arm would disappear, signaling the death of the person she once trusted with all her heart. On that day, she would mourn her father’s passing and all the lives she had taken under the delusion of love.

But until then, Aneran would scour all of Mahraspand in search of Thwas. She would help her people reach Wahisht. And if by some miracle, Asha survived, she would personally ensure he met the fate promised to him.

He had deceived her with sweet words of love and devotion. So now Aneran would become the embodiment of that deception: druj in the Tura language. She would use that moniker to destroy Asha and anyone else who tried to stop her from achieving retribution.

“By all of the souls in Thwas and Wahisht, I, Druj, swear it.”