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It's dark - the only light peeking through the heavy blackness of the jungle is cast by ten or twenty torches, clutched in the near-invisible hands of the villagers. Every man, woman, and child in the village has clustered around one smallish, dumpy hut. The chief, with his wicked-looking barbed spear in hand, stands in front of the gathered tribe, his arms out as if he is protecting them from something terrible.

Suddenly a voice rings out - a bark, perhaps a name, from somewhere in the crowd. The chief motions for silence, but other voices repeat the call until the entire village is shouting, including its leader. The tumult rises to a fevered pitch as two long, battered hands part the well-cultivated vines serving as the hut's door. After a moment's hesitation a woman steps out.

She is bowed and broken, her skin covered with the marks of her abuse. Her once-long locks have been shorn from her head and have not yet begun to grow anew. From her shoulder blades hang two twisted lumps of flesh and feather. She raises her black, sunken eyes, still holding the faintest glimmer of dignity, to the crowd and says nothing.

"<Beast,>" the chief growls (and his prisoner's smashed wings flicker with a hint of irritation, the precursor to a mannerism), "<the day of your execution has arrived.>" The villagers begin to whoop and whistle once more, and the woman opens her mouth to say something - apparently thinking better of it, she simply steps, elegant in her agony, out of the hut and into the slavering horde. Rough hands grab at her named body, adding yet more rents to her flesh. Eventually she is dragged to a small hillock in the center of the town. A ring of torches crowns the mound of dirt, illuminating scattered bones.

The roaring crowd surrounds the woman and the hill, their torches now extinguished, the circle of remaining light revealing the gory spectacle around the victim. The chief steps up, in utter silence, and speaks just loud enough to be heard over the din:

"<You are no better than the dirt underneath our feet, animal. You have consorted with demo - >"

The woman opens her mouth and a snarling roar pours out, echoing off tree trunks and huts, entirely incongruous with her wretched body.

"<I have a name!>" She raises her arms in the air. Her adversaries step backwards as one. There is a great creaking cacophony as the trees around the village rip themselves out of the ground. The woman smirks imperiously at the villagers' fright with a remaining scrap of strength, her voice rolling out again, not as loud but still rich and full: "<I am Ayapana. I advise that you remember this.>"

There is a moment of eerie silence at her words before the crowd scatters screaming into the trees. Some of the people topple onto the ground, haunted by the memories of their worst pains. Others are taken by Ayapana's plants and silently ended. Only the chief remains standing. His eyes go wide in terror as four vines curl lazily down from the canopy, slipping around his wrists and ankles like a lover's caress. They slowly, gently, tenderly tug him apart. A triumphant smile unfurls itself on Ayapana's lips.

She kneels and rests her forehead on the ground, all the fight gone out of her with her last enemy's death. Her lips move in a noiseless prayer. She stands again afterwards, bowing in each direction. The trunks of the trees seem to bend in graceful acknowledgement. Then the victor casts her eyes downwards to the refuse of the previously slain. Many of the bones are clearly oddly-shaped, with elongated skulls, or sharp spurs of bone, or heavy-set jaws. The hill's earth is soft, so she scoops out small graves with her hands and places the remains inside. After the graves are filled, she touches her forehead to each in turn, then stands.

The sunlight is beginning to peek through the leaves. Ayapana takes her first step towards home.

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