Octavia looked at the blade in her hand. It was curved and nicked. Without a doubt, it was likely older than she was. The candlelight flicked off of its surface, making it look far more menacing that it had the right to look. Soon, she knew, its reflective surface would be slick with blood and lose its shine. She had seen it used so many times, had watched its work and transformation from afar, but she had never been this close. This was the first time it had come to her hand, and she knew that it was a turning point. It was also the only chance she would have to attempt to redeem her family’s reputation in the eyes of the gods. After this, there was nothing left to offer.
Normally her older brother, Octavian, was the one to hold it, to wield it, and to makes its work happen. But he was now gone, having joined their older siblings and their mother in the afterlife. As the oldest, the duty of it fell to her, or so she took on its responsibility. Likely, the ancestors would have something awful and ominous to say, if they could make their voice heard. Never, it all its existence, had the knife been used by a woman, but now there was no one else left. So it fell to Octavia, so she would continue the practice, even if it brought the wrath of the gods down on her. Still holding the knife in one hand, she carefully drew her veil down over her head, preparing for her task.
The lamb before her was calm, meek as if resolved to its fate. It was a good sign, Octavia thought, as they had always bleated and screamed at her brother. She approached it slowly, the knife lowered to her side and knelt down on the ground. The dirt and dead grass beneath her knees biting into the soft flesh. She gritted her teeth and bore the pain of an especially jagged rock. With one hand she ran her fingers through the lamb’s fine wool, and still, the creature did not make a sound, looking at her with its large eyes. They shared a moment, something soft as if the gods were speaking to her through the offering, urging her on to the act. In one quick movement, Octavia wrapped her free arm around the lamb’s back and drew it close to her, running the edge of the blade surely along its neck until she felt the warm splash of blood begin to trickle and course down her fingers and her arm. Even as it began to fade, the lamb was silent. Whether because it knew that she was offering it to the gods, or because it knew that Octavia would have faltered it if cried, she was uncertain. The lamb had been the best she could do, and she prayed that the gods would forgive her her inability to prepare and complete the ritual in its entirety. Holding the lamb and knife to her, she waited, the only sound her own breath, and the distant rolls of thunder.