The Council Chambers

I stood in the council’s chamber, the hooded figures of the councilmen standing arrayed before me. Thirteen in all, an ominous sign. It was rare for the full council to be in session, but they were all here. They all stood solemnly as I was brought in, hands tied behind me. Fear coursed through me, why am I here? I noticed that there was a soft murmuring in the room, an unseen group watching from the darkness surrounding me, talking amongst themselves.

The Lead figure raised their slender hands, all went silent, and then they spoke. A soft pleasant voice, a woman I realized. Her voice had almost a sing-song quality to it. Her words although spoken softly carried. “You have been brought here because you have violated the Sacred Gardens,” she said. “The uninitiated are forbidden its pleasures.”

The room fell silent as the words reverberated around and finally died. She seemed to be waiting, they all seemed to be waiting.  When the silence became too much, I finally blurted out “I don’t know what you mean, I was only walking around the compound, when I was grabbed and forced in here!” Silence answered me, “I had been studying and my eyes ached from all the sacred text I needed to memorize I was just trying to clear my head! What have I done wrong?”

“Silence!” her words resounded like a thunderclap. “You entered the Scared Garden and ate of its fruit.” I stood there shaking “NO!” I yelled, “I did not eat anything I was simply walking to clear my head.” I was struck from behind by a club and knocked to my knees. The councilwoman voice now cold simply said “We are not here to debate this. Your punishment has already been decided.”

I was grabbed and pulled to my feet, escorted to another room with an altar in the middle. My blood went cold, “You can’t mean to do this, I did nothing I swear!” I was surrounded stripped bare and tied to the alter. “No!” I screamed, “NO, NO PLEASE!” But it fell on deaf ears, no one spoke I was surrounded.

Then the chant started, low at first and rising in tone, I could not make out the words. I did not recognize it from my studies. My terror was absolute, this alter was only used for one thing, something that hadn’t been practiced in a hundred years. “This can’t be real,” I sobbed over and over. The High Priestess was suddenly next to me, resplendent in her robes, ceremonial dagger in hand.

“Please, please your holiness forgive me,” I said still sobbing. The priestess ignored me, she raised the dagger in both hands and the chanting intensified. As I searched around the room looking trying to see any face that might help me. I saw her, standing off to the side. Her hood pushed back so I might recognize her. She made a point to show me the fruit in her hands, the cruel smile upon her lips. The Chanting reached a frenzy, the dagger dropped and darkness enveloped me…

***

I awoke, in a small room. My hands went to my chest. My hands were not my hands, gone were the pale well-manicured hands I had always known. In their place were dark, long-fingered gaunt fingers with half-inch talons. I stared at them numbly. “What happened to me?” My words shocked me, my voice was deeper, guttural. I looked around the room I found myself in, there was no source of light, but the light seemed to emanate in it. I saw no noticeable door or windows. I was laying on a cot along one side. I went to get up, it was then I noticed my feet, no they were not feet anymore. What had once been my foot was now a three-toed claw. Two toes going forwards one going back. My horror intensified “What’s going on? Where am I?” I said aloud in a voice that was not my own.

I rose and as I did so I became aware of them, my wings leathery and dark with a talon on the edge. “Oh, Goddess! What’s going on? This has to be a dream, it’s all some horrid dream.” As if to answer me one of the walls disappeared as if smoke. A single hooded figure stood before me where it had once been “The Goddess has little to do with this place.” They said, “Come along now, it’s been over a hundred years since this has happened and my master is not amused by the way mind your tail.” The figure turned and started to walk away. “Tail?” I whipped around catching a glimpse of a barbed spiked end of what he was talking about smashing into and destroying the cot. “COME!” I heard them shout, all I could do was follow.

We walked empty halls the same light that was in my room here, no source just everywhere. The hall was featureless black walls with no apparent seams or mortar. I stared at my hands as we walked in silence, they scared me, this all scared me what sort of dream am I in. Can I wake? The hallway opened up into a throne room. Upon it sat a man, cloaked in darkness, as if shadow itself clung to him. He looked up and smiled, but it did not touch his eyes, which smoldered a deep red as if embers.

My guide indicated I should wait and walked up to the edge of the throne. Whispered something and then left the room. I stood there, I could feel my wings flex and my tail twitches as I waited. “There once was an agreement between the Goddess and me,” the man began “A long time ago those who displeased her would be sent to me, with no chance of redemption. Through a ritual the was outlawed eventually by the Goddess herself.”

“You see all souls are to be weighed when they pass on, but this ritual denies that and curses them to my plane. It was abused by her followers and eventually, she decreed it heresy.”  I didn’t understand but continued to listen. “What happened to you hasn’t been done in a thousand years. You were cast into hell and cursed into the form of a demon.” He said it all casually. My mind raced “No, NO this can’t be…” I cried. “How could they do this to me?”

I realized this man was no man but the God of darkness the opposite of the Goddess “Am I cursed to serve you?” I felt anger welling in me “I’m I forever cursed to this form?” The Lord of the Dark silently regarded me for a moment. “Now, now the Goddess and I are not opposites, we do not fight an eternal war. That nonsense is the construct of the church. We each have a role and we play it to keep balance.” I felt he was mocking me, but he did not smile his red gaze did not flinch or flicker.

“Now the Goddess is quite upset at being denied your soul, she had plans to make you her High Priestess.” My anger dissipated in shock “Me the High Priestess, but I was merely an acolyte. That makes no sense.” He did smile now “The will of the Goddess rarely does.” He was mocking me and her. “Now she is very upset, and she wants a reckoning. The current High Priestess was informed you were to succeed her and instead of following the Goddess edict she cast you here.”

“Why would she do that?” I asked. His smile widened “Plenty of reasons, humans have so many vices pick one. Arrogance, vanity, pride, power you all always want power.” The embers in his eyes seemed to burn brighter. “However, as I said the Goddess wants a reckoning, and I was told very plainly by my wonderful wife to send you my newly created fiend to dole it out.” My confusion at the entirety of that statement left me dumbfounded “You and the Goddess are married?” I said dumbly. He ignored the comment and sat there patiently as my mind caught up “You want me to dole out what?” his smile disappeared and his eyes flamed brightly “We,” he emphasized “want you to slaughter everyone in that temple, every man, woman, and child. Raze it to the ground,” he finished.

I remembered her smile then, the fruit in her hands. The council members already having judged me with no mind to listen. The High Priestess apparent betrayal of the Goddess. My anger seethed, it enveloped me, coursed through me. I could make them all pay, I could destroy them all, with this cursed form. I could… The little girl who brings my food came to mind. A sweet innocent soul, who always has a smile. The old man who works in the kitchen always makes me something if I missed supper.

Countless other faces filled my mind and my vision, my anger faded. “I… I can’t do that. There may be some who I want to see suffer, but there are too many innocent people in the temple. Honest people who have done no wrong.” He sat in silence looking at me with his glowing eyes. “You will not be given this opportunity again.” He stated “I will not do it,” I said, “I may be cursed, but I will not damn them.”

He sat for a long moment in silence finally he smiled and said “You were right, she’s perfect.” A figure in a shimmering gown came from behind the throne “I know” she said to him and turning to me continued “I am so happy you passed” My hands were suddenly my own, as were my feet. My wings and tail were gone. I stood as myself. “What is going on?” I asked through the confusion. The Goddess smiled and said, “You passed a trial and will now hear my voice in life just as you hear it now, you will be my vessel upon the earth and let my will be known to all.” I wanted to respond but I was suddenly tired and darkness swept over me.

***

The light filtering in through the curtains woke me. I was lying in a room I did not recognize. “Ah your awake, you passed,” said the High Priestess she was sitting at the foot of the bed. “Your Holiness.” I started, but she shushed me. “Not anymore, I can no longer hear her. You are the High Priestess now. Her last words to me were to let me know you’d wake today.” She smiled “now let us get you ready.” I must have looked bewildered because she laughed and said “We must show you to the temple, let them rejoice in a new beginning.”

She helped me rise, and wash. Combed out my hair, and helped me slip in the robes of my new station. She started to guide me to a balcony that overlooked the temple yard. I could hear the crowd before I could see it. I balked “What do I do, what do I say?” She smiled and said to me “She will let you know she will guide you, trust in her and she trusted you.” I walked out onto the balcony to the cheers of the temple and her voice came to me. Soothing and calm and I addressed the temple, no longer an acolyte, now the High Priestess.

~WRPM©
@TheRavingsofaMadman
@Madman_Ravings

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