Irreconciled

They came with chains and horses, fire and steel. Their horses ran over us, their ululations deafened and frightened and panicked us, and we fled like rabbits before hounds, but where we ran, they galloped.

Where we hid, their arrows descended, and where we made a stand, they cut us down as weeds.

There was nothing to be done for it.

The Protector was not here, and our prayers echoed in the marble halls of his celestial palace, unheard.

What few of us managed to escape could only watch the fires, hear their taunts, witness their butchering of our dead, and cry futile tears of anger as we swallowed our screams and sobs to preserve our own lives.

Save one. She was off in the woods, alone, before a small fire, invoking things we’d accused her of consorting with, mating with, and making sacrifices of our livestock, and the unwanted born out of covenant, conceived in the darkness of disloyal, unholy lust that spread like a plague among us, to give the Other soldiers for his demonic army.

We’d done all we could to burn her, purge her from our midst, cleanse her, and turn her to the Protector, but she only pretended at piety, though she pretended well.

I alone saw her sacrificial fire, saw her arms raised with the writhing form in her hands, saw her sweaty skin shining with the amber glow of tallow candles, dancing as she summoned, eyes closed, lips fervently whispering vile promises of servitude.

I couldn’t turn away.

She fell to her knees, and put her arms into the flames up to her elbows.

The fire flared like a meteor striking the sun, and puffed and roiled over her bowed head, consuming what she had but moments ago placed inside of it.

Her arms came back unscathed.

One by one, the skins of our enemies dropped like sacks of muddy sand, the layers beneath exposed to the damage they inflicted in ways they’d not anticipated.

Their flayed forms issued terrified screams, and the remnants of our forces laid into them with renewed fervor, butchering them before they collapsed, offering no more resistance than spring lambs.

She sensed my eyes, and turned. Her own visage now filled me with revulsion, where before she’d stirred me against my will.

Within my mind, her voice was the raspy whisper of the serpent who’d made an enemy of his creator.

“The heavens are empty now.”

The stars flickered, their power waning, and a sudden downpour of cold rain and ice crystals coated all with a hoary frost that yet steamed from the heated residue of the flames it extinguished.

I looked at her again, and she nodded once, fading from view.

I felt the blade at my own heart, and closed my eyes, and followed her into the void.

 

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