THE FINAL TRIBUTE
By Delia Lavender
(I do not own LOST, Jacob, Man In Black, Hurley, Locke, Dogen, Ben or any other character from the television series. I only write for my own amusement – not for profit).
He had signaled the Temple a week ago: "Send Tribute" spelled out in hieroglyphics, attached to the foot of a trained dove. This time he would accept his Tribute...all of it. This time he would indulge his hunger and, once again, the ancient wind chimes would ring out...
At least, that was what he hoped as he sat in his chair, rocking restlessly back and forth. He hoped the wind chimes would ring out...but maybe they had fallen to pieces, after all these centuries...
He had made them all himself, as his mother had taught him. After she had died, he could no longer abide their sweet, tinkling song. He had destroyed the ones marked "Mother" and "Brother" and had hidden the rest. Later, after the Temple had been built, he had given the best of them to the new Temple Leader who, he heard later,had treated them as sacred objects: storing them away in sealed metal boxes.
Would they still be intact? Could they still sing out their joyful notes to the Island wind?
He was so lost in speculation that he nearly missed the slight, grating noise. Alerted, he rose from his rocker and approached the stone block wall. The cover block masking the small, narrow passageway was pivoting slowly forward. Once, this low passageway had admitted workers to the secret chamber beneath the stature: but now it existed only to deliver the Temple's Tribute.
Jacob waited, eyes riveted on the widening darkness beyond the slab of gray block.
He needed this...he wanted this. It would be his final Tribute...a final gift to the dying Island Protector.
When the block had opened sufficiently, a woven basket emerged from the dimness, pushed forward by two girlish, slender hands. He knew that the cotton wrapped bundle was bread, and the earthenware flask, wine.
The passageway was very tight, so it took a few moments for the girl to crawl out.
He watched, curiosity and anticipation tightening his gut. He could feel his excitement building...
The girl's long tresses had fallen forward as she'd wiggled through the darkness of the passageway. She was half blind as she reached Jacob's chamber; so her first instinctive act, as she rose to her knees, was to toss her hair backwards, flinging the bronze-colored waves away from her face.
Jacob gasped. She was very beautiful. His Temple devotees had outdone themselves. Did they, also, sense his approaching death? Or was it the Island, offering him a farewell gift so lovely...
He moved into position. She spotted him and looked up, her pale, amber-gold eyes on his. She took her basket and held it up toward him.
"Your temple sends its Tribute, Great Jacob. May all be as you wish."
Such a silly ceremony. But she might be disappointed, if he didn't answer in kind.
"Come forward and be greeted, maiden. The Tribute is accepted by Jacob."
This response was not his typical one. For ages, his response had been: "Jacob accepts your bread and wine with gratitude, maiden. Go in peace."
Her eyes had widened. He recognized the 'I'm-in-deep-shit-now' quality of her expression. She stared at him, a little incredulously. Her honey-colored skin had paled...
But she would adjust - she was well trained. And he needed her so very much.
It had been hundreds of years, since he had fully accepted the Temple's Tribute. He could not, in good conscience, endanger the girls. He remembered Nephthys, and later Adrastia...torn apart by his Nemesis, the Black Smoke: the creature he had created out of the blood and soul of his own brother.
But recently the Black Smoke had created a human body, duplicating the physical being of one of his victims: John Locke. His Nemesis was now far away, undermining the character of Benjamin Linus and taking over leadership of Jacob's nomatic people.
Old Nemesis would not have time to kill this girl – assuming he was even aware of her. Jacob could keep her with him, almost to the end. When his death approached, he would send her away. He'd found a place for her to hide, before he'd summoned the Tribute.
Poor child...she merely thought of herself as the Bread Delivery Girl...food for hungry old eyes. If only she could understand him, forgive him, love him - just a little. He looked her over avidly, hoping his expression wouldn't alarm her. The Tribute costume largely consisted of long, gauzy veils; the maidens always tucked them up around their waists, so they wouldn't be impeded as they crept through the long passageway. This new girl had released them just before emerging, so that now they pooled gracefully around her, their misty, translucent white concealing little of her flawless skin and almost nothing of her graceful, lithesome figure.
Her kohl-rimmed eyes were enormous. She had forgotten the required response to 'Your Tribute is accepted by Jacob'. Her lips trembled.
"Here...have some bread." she blurted.
Jacob almost chuckled but controlled the impulse, allowing himself only a smile.
He didn't want to alarm her. He didn't want her to think she'd done something wrong.
Who knew what she saw, when she looked into his face? She thought him a god...
Jacob very carefully, very slowly reached out for the basket. She placed it gently into his hands.
She turned her face slightly, glancing toward the open passageway. She reminded him of a mouse, about to scamper into its hole.
He shifted the basket into his left hand. Seizing the cover block with his right, he gave it a quick, hard shove. The cover block slammed shut.
She was trapped in his chamber with him. Startled, she emitted a tiny shriek. She lost her balance and fell to the side, her rump landing hard on the floor. She stared up at Jacob in disbelief.
"Don't worry," he said, as he turned back to her "I would never hurt you. I just need your...company, for a little while. Would you eat some bread and drink some wine with me? What is your name?"
"Tiffany...my...my name is Tiffany, Lord Jacob." she replied haltingly.
For a moment Jacob visualized a vulgar, glaringly lighted jewelry store window - but then he remembered the beautiful glass work of the 19th century artist, Louis Tiffany.
"Tiffany...what a beautiful name. Like a sun-filled window of stained glass...or...or a jewel. Please sit with me, Tiffany. Share my bread and wine. Comfort an old, old man. Let me show you my tapestries." he placed the basket down on the stone floor, a few yards away from her. Sitting down beside it, he patted the floor beside him.
She hesitated, but her training was apparently reestablishing itself. She scooted cautiously toward him, stopping half an arm's length away.
By all the dead gods...what a bottom. Firm and gently rounded. What a perfect, blossoming chest. What a slender waist...what fine hips. The veils had shifted, leaving her long, smooth legs completely bare...
This was agony...but it was also kind of fun.
He was going to die soon...but for now he felt the warm life, surging within his body.
He wanted to die happy...or at least sated.
His mother had said he was charming. She had run her fingers through his yellow hair...she said it was pretty...she said he was handsome...
Of course...that was after his brother had left them.
His brother...whom his mother had favored, but never bothered to name.
He knew perfectly well what his brother would do, were he left alone with a beautiful girl...
But he was not his brother...he was Jacob...he was not a monster...
He had scruples. He wouldn't just pick her up and haul her to his sleeping alcove - he wanted to talk to her, first. He wanted to win her trust.
His "Tapestry Tour" had gone well. Tiffany actually knew a little about weaving, and her questions had been intelligent.
The wine sampling had gone even better. Jacob had a lot of untested wine saved from previous Tributes. Some had turned to vinegar, but most had aged well. He and Tiffany had toasted the Temple and each other, several times.
So now here they were, lying together by the fire pit, barefoot and topless after an exciting game of strip backgammon.
She wasn't - thank the Elder Deities - excessively modest. The Temple, despite its size, was surprisingly short on privacy. Richard once mentioned that the Temple resembled "A vast stage...with very little room in the wings." Tiffany was used to dressing and undressing wherever she could.
He stole a glance at her. She was laughing. Her round, perfectly-proportioned breasts were flushed a delicate coppery-pink. It was warm by the fire pit. He had just told her the joke about the pyramid labor crew, the temple prostitutes and the fermented berry bush...
"Oh, that's too much! That one's funny! Have you heard the one about the traveling sphinx salesman and the daughter of the..."
"...Tiffany, do you want to to see my Taweret tattoo?"
"YOU have a tattoo, Lord Jacob?"
"I got it on the mainland...sometimes I travel, you know."
"I haven't been there since I was six."
"Here...let me show you," and he took off his pants. As he slipped down the trousers, he kept his back carefully turned toward Tiffany, so as not to reveal too much. He liked her. He would not scare her - not again. He rolled modestly over onto his stomach.
"See? What do you think of that, Tiffany?"
"Wow...it IS Taweret...right on your ass! That's how she looked, before she was destroyed? And I see the ankh..."
"Do you notice the field of flowers? My mother said they were sacred flowers...they used to grow all around here."
"I've seen those flowers...they look like...yes, they are...they're purple pansies!"
"I remember them, from when I was a little girl. They were my grandmother's favorite..."
"Tiffany...may I remove your hip belt?"
"But my veils are attached, you see, so if you remove my belt I'll be...oh...uh...I'd forgotten why I'm here. Go ahead. You're not wearing anything, so I guess it's my turn."
He reached over and carefully removed her hip belt. Her remaining veils came away with it, and he saw her sweet curves and soft skin completely revealed in the golden firelight. He put one hand gently on her hip. She stiffened. He lowered his voice and looked directly into her golden eyes.
"Are you afraid, Tiffany?"
"Sort of...well...sure, just a...a little bit. But I've heard that you're kind..."
"I am, my dear. For you, I'm kind. Will you come to my bed? I will be gentle with you...I promise."
"First you must speak the words."
So Tiffany was a traditionalist. He felt slightly ridiculous, but he'd do it to please her.
"Fair virgin of the Temple...you have found favor with your lord. Yield unto him and bask in his love."
For a second...just a brief second...a spark of humor shone in her eyes. He thought she might giggle - but she didn't. She replied with the gravity Dogen's training demanded of her.
"God Jacob, lord and master...mighty in deeds and mighty in love...this virgin yields unto you. Please accept her, despite her unworthiness."
Jacob gave an almost audible sigh of relief. He was glad that was over. He picked up his new lover and carried her to his sleeping alcove, shouldering aside the tapestry curtain as he entered.
He was happy...finally...he was happier than he'd ever been before.
Tiffany was perfect - she was just what he needed. And she'd survived her initial "ordeal" extremely well...
"I've always wanted this, you know," she'd confessed afterward, her head resting against his chest "Even though I was scared, at first. All the girls dream about you. We all wondered what it would be like, to be chosen. Temple men aren't built nearly as well as you are...and they're kind of smelly..."
"Tiffany...how old are you?"
"I turned nineteen last summer. Why do you ask? Does it make a difference?"
"No. I just wondered if you're old enough to know your own mind..."
She raised her head, looking him straight in the eye. She appeared to be a little insulted.
"I certainly do 'know my own mind'. I don't care that you're older..."
"Honey...I'm older than anyone else on earth. You could be a hundred years old and too young for me..."
"I want to be here...so what difference does it make?"
He loved her...she was his.
The next day he took Tiffany outside, showing her his doves and demonstrating his mastery of hieroglyphics. He attached the message to the bird's foot.
"This way, your people won't worry about you. And maybe, in a couple of hours, you'll notice something special..."
"What?" she asked. Tiffany was holding the dove now, stroking its smooth, snowy back. The bird cooed contentedly.
"You'll see, toward nightfall. Toss the dove straight up into the air, the way I showed you. There...see...she's flying toward the Temple. After they read the message they'll send her back."
Later, as the sun was setting, Jacob took Tiffany out by the water's edge, turning her gently to face south, in the direction of the Temple.
"Listen...listen...do you hear it, Tiffany?"
The sound of wind chimes...
He had expected sensual satisfaction, maybe tenderness...but he had not expected to fall in love.
And he certainly hadn't expected his Temple Tribute to fall in love with him.
Yet he had - and she had - and they had.
But the days had passed, and he sensed...he knew...that his Nemesis would take the Temple.
The wind chimes would be silenced, forever.
And what could he tell Tiffany? He'd expected she'd find safety in the hatch he'd stocked and repaired. He'd expected her home, the Temple, to still be there, when the Island conflict was resolved.
He had not expected his brother...his Nemesis...his murderer...to make such rapid inroads.
He had hoped that Benjamin Linus, the murderer's tool, might change his mind and relent.
But his hopes, weak though they were, had further dimmed.
There was no escaping Destiny.
Yet...how hard it was to die, when you loved someone...when you had someone to protect.
He had to talk to Tiffany, as soon as possible. He had to tell her the truth...
He told her about the Temple, first.
"My...my family...my friends..." she began to weep.
"I'm so sorry, Tiffany...I don't choose my visions..."
"...Can't you warn them?"
"No. If I did, how hard do you think they'd fight? Dogen is a good man. We can always hope..."
"...So many people..."
"...Maybe some of your people will survive. Maybe they'll join my brother."
"That's hardly any better!"
She wept against his shoulder. He drew her closer.
"I've a hatch prepared, Tiffany. If you go there, you'll survive the war...you'll survive the Temple...you'll survive everything - except the Island, itself..."
"...What have you seen? Will you die?"
"Then I'm not going anywhere."
"I don't want to survive you, Jacob."
"But the Island will likely survive. I can make you immortal..."
"...Not without you..."
"...Richard would care for you...or the next Island Protector..."
He could not give her the Gift – not without her consent. And she was not a Candidate: she was his woman.
"I'll stay with you, right to the end..."
"...No. I forbid it. You've no idea what my brother will do to you..."
"...I'm staying. You can't make me leave..."
"...Yes I can!" he shouted. Quickly he grabbed her shoulders, holding her away from him, forcing her to face him. He lowered his voice.
"Tiffany, listen to me. Don't cry. Fate is Fate...but not even I can see it all. The Island can be saved – my brother can be destroyed – but not by me."
"Then who? Who else but you..."
"The Candidate, Tiffany...the next Protector...not even I can predict who he - or she - will be."
The argument continued. In the end, of course, he won. There was no role for her, in the upcoming war...no way she could effect the outcome...no way she could alter Destiny. He resolutely packed her and her veils off to the hatch.
And then he left her there, returning to his rocking chair, to mourn and wait...
Ben said that it wasn't over...that the Island remained...and that was all that mattered...
But Hurley didn't believe it.
He didn't know how he'd go on, after he and his companions buried Jack.
They'd buried him next to Locke. Ben said a few words. Rose and Bernard cried.
But Hurley himselfhad cried the most.
A few days later he sent Ben away, to search for other survivors: the ones who'd lived through the earthquakes and landslides. Those who followed the Man In Black would be forgiven...
At least, that was what he'd instructed Ben to say.
Now he was alone, wandering the jungle, wondering what came next.
Sometimes he spotted a stray spirit, but they never talked to him; not even Michael would answer his anguished questions.
Where was Jacob? Where was Jack? What had become of Locke's soul?
When was the Island going to speak to him?
One day, near the ruined statue, Hurley saw something strange. The earthquake had torn asunder a huge section of rock, which had fallen, creating a large crater in the forest floor. As he approached, he thought he saw signs of cement and steel down in the hole...
What could it have been? Could there have been a hatch there, destroyed by the quake? Maybe so...but fortunately, it would have been empty...
He paused. He thought he heard a sound.
He couldn't quite catch it...strange, tinkling, delicate notes. Odd, but very pleasant. He turned around, instinctively following the sound through the jungle and down onto the beach.
Suddenly it was overwhelming, the sound. Loud, cheerful, melodious. Wind chimes...he was hearing wind chimes...dozens and dozens of them...
And there, on the shore near the water, he saw Jacob – looking much as he had before - embracing a bronze haired, white-veiled woman.