The High Priest bowed his head as he completed his incantation, the last syllables of the spell drifting away on the wind as it swept through the roofless temple. For a moment, nothing happened. Just when Johnaan thought he might wake up from a terrible dream, the uplifted face of statue of the beloved Goddess Anthoaxa came alive. The normally static tattoos began to flow like water across the creamy-white marble skin as life entered the avatar. The head tilted forward and coal-black eyes opened to stare at his kneeling, manacled form.
When his eyes met hers, his blood chilled and the weight of the Universe fell on his shoulders. She entered his mind with the force of a tidal wave, crushing his consciousness and sweeping it into a forgotten corner of his mind, only to fill the void with glorious love for and absolute despair of the Goddess. He had never been under the gaze of the Goddess before and from what he heard from others, not only did you not want to be in her gaze, you were never the same once you were. Now he understood why. He was no longer a person of this world. Every fiber of his being, every thought and emotion was hers in the most absolute sense.
The mouth opened and a voice like an avalanche passed judgment on his trembling form. “You are now an Unliving. You are hereby banished; cast out to the Lifeless Void.”
As quickly as the avatar entered the statue and brought it to life, it left, sending the statue back to its stoic form. The tattoos once more fixed in place and the face lifted up to the heavens. Johnaan tried to will himself to move, to speak, but couldn’t break free from the prison in his mind the goddess locked him into. He was vaguely aware of the guard removing his bindings and lifting him to his feet. A canvas screen to his right was moved aside, revealing the majestic mountains leading to the Void. Once more, he tried to move his limbs but instead of obeying his commands, they carried his form toward the exit, compelled by the unseen power that kept him locked away within himself.
As he stepped out of the temple and into the sunlight, he remembered a chance encounter he had several months ago. He was drawing water from the well near the north gate when a blind beggar stumbled and fell a few feet away from him. He helped the beggar to his feet and obliged him a drink from his jug when asked. The beggar, in return, stared at him with milky eyes and told him that he would balance the scales between Heaven and Hell. Johnaan, thinking the beggar was crazy, smiled and thanked him for the thought and proceeded to gather his water jugs and carry them back to his hovel. After a dozen steps, he turned back toward the beggar but couldn’t find a trace of him.
The vision of that event dissolved back to the present. Was his crime of stealing bread to feed his starving children so horrific as to warrant banishment? People got lesser punishments for more serious crimes than his. Why was he being punished so harshly? As he struggled to comprehend what was happening as he walked down the Path of the Unforgiven, he pictured his children’s faces. Where were they? Who would care for them? Would they suffer for his crimes. too? He screamed in silent anguish as his legs kept their steady, unyielding march to the east.Inspired by https://plus.google.com/114801976262704454864/posts/bak4CYj4pfo