He remembered hearing about some tribes where the old or the feeble would wander off into the ice and snow one night. Just say their goodbye's and leave, to be found days, weeks, maybe months later, dead. He was unfamiliar with snow, and when the storyteller had tried to describe it, he had just laughed. It never got cold enough for water to freeze. But regardless, that was not his tribe's way.
Namboo sat on the tree stump, the same stump his father had sat on, and his grandfather before that, a small groove having been formed where their collective backsides had rested, the blade in his hand. He ran his finger along the edge, feeling for any nicks. Finding one near the tip, he slide the rough stone along it, testing the edge again after every few strokes. Finally satisfied, he stood and looked at his father, who nodded approvingly. With a smile, he set the weapon on a taro leaf, which he folded over, enveloping the blade before tying it closed with a vine.
"Good," his father told him. He was proud of his son, who had been preparing for this night for nearly all his life, since he had been able to put one foot in front of the other. "Now we-"
"I know. Now that the blade is done it needs to be set above the fire, to chase any evil spirits away." Namboo knew how important this job, his job, was to the tribe, and knew he needed to take it just as seriously as his father had. It was a great responsibility, both for him to guide the, his people used the term "Savior," for, by sacrificing them as they did, they were saving the rest of the tribe. In reality though, his father had told him, what it ultimately came down to, it was the Guide's responsibility to make sure the Saviors did not suffer.
Taking the carefully wrapped blade, he walked toward the small hut he had prepared the day before, smoke billowing from the opening he had left in the roof, the flames inside rising nearly to his chest. He glanced over his shoulder, his father nodding again, before he set the package on the shelf he had constructed within the building. He reached into a pouch that hung about his waste, and saying a prayer to the Savior, he threw a few seed pods into the flames. 'To encourage growth in the afterlife' his father had said. It did not matter that those seeds were part of their already meager food supply, the Saviors needed to be honored, and it was his job to honor them.
Ignoring the heat, Namboo knelt and scooped up a handful of ashes, dumping them into a bowl of water he had prepared earlier, another prayer having ben said over it. He went back for more ash twice, stirring it with a small stick until the mixture was thick and smooth, like fresh honey. Using his hands, he spread the concoction over his face, then his arms, then his chest, painting himself a grayish white, the color supposed to make him look like a ghost, to give the Savior a friend in the afterlife, already standing by. Next he took a stick from the fire, and using the char from the blackened end to encircle his eyes, gave himself a skull like appearance.
Grabbing both the stick and the bowl of wet ash, he returned to where his father stood, who looked on approvingly.
"One more thing though," his father told him, taking the charred stick and using it to stir the paint like ash, darkening it. "Use this to create more shadows, like this" he said, and began to apply the darker color to Namboo's cheeks and nose. Holding his son out at arm's length, he smiled a toothy grin, the teeth yellow and crooked. "Perfect!"
His teeth equally as yellow, two of them almost black with decay, Namboo smiled too, glad to have his father's approval. Forgetting what he was doing, he ran down to the stream they were camped beside, ignoring the calls from his friends as he rushed by them. Kneeling over the water, he looked at his reflection, amazed at how much what little his father had done had transformed him. He vowed to remember the darker color, filing the knowledge with the rest of the rituals.
The rituals! He remembered, springing back to his feet and rushing by his same friends, who called to him again. "Busy, tonights my first night!" he called out over his shoulder. The sun had begun its slow decent into the distant trees, the broad leaves above already blocking out most of it's remaining light. "It's almost time, father!" he exclaimed.
"I know, you have done well, but there is still one last thing to do, you must prepare the Savior."
"Yes father, I know." Namboo said, the mood suddenly darkening. He placed his hand upon his father's forehead, and began reciting the final prayer for the Savior.