Hoist That Rag

“New life!” came the call throughout “God’s Hammer,” from starboard to port, from aft to fore. It echoed through the corridors and ricocheted off the trophy skulls that decorated them. The men and women who crewed “God’s Hammer” sharpened their knives and painted their bodies in preparation.

“New life! Hoist the rag! Hoist the rag! New life!”

The ceremony was an auspicious one, for it was a member of the Captain’s harem who had given birth, and so then did this child bear the blue paint of “Captain’s Heir.” The Captain cradled the baby girl throughout the ceremony, surrounded by his favorite male and female concubines. Only when his joy became too great did he leave his throne on the bridge, and dance around the glowing engine core with the rest of the crew.

And if any of the crew were concerned with the existence of a new mouth and a new belly, they found their minds changed by the obvious joy in the Captain, brought on by his new heir.

All save one.

The first mate, whose purchase on the Captain’s throne was now lost due to this new heir, brandished his knife with a heavy fist and a bloody eye. He screamed with rage as he charged the Captain and his daughter, with intent to end them both.

And he clean would have, but for the eyes of the crew, who saw this. And but for the hands of the crew, who caught his arms and held him fast. And but for the hearts of the crew, each one of which still kept beat in the Captain’s palm.

The slave who was to be sacrificed was led by its neck back to the bowels of the ship, for the first mate was now lain upon the table in his stead. The chaplain, girded with the remnant of sacrifices past, called out to the gods, offering this old life so that a new life may prosper.

The heir was bathed in the blood of the first mate, which mixed with the blue paint to turn a royal purple. His body was deftly segmented by the chaplain, and each of the crew came toward the still-warm meat and sliced off a piece with their recently sharpened knives. Each piece was swallowed, and so then did crew become stronger.

The heir was wiped down, and the gore-encrusted rag was displayed proudly on the hull of the ship, proclaiming to all of the new life upon “God’s Hammer.”

And other ships did look upon the banner with awe and with envy. “New life,” they whispered. “New life.”

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