I sat upon a simple stone bench in the garden of change, watching as Death stepped in to close the distance; wrapping his arms about Life’s waist and gazing down lovingly into her eyes.
They were considered a precarious couple by some, but it was abundantly clear to me from where I sat; that anyone worth their salt would see it otherwise.
She reached up to kiss him passionately, and as true lovers lips met in ecstasy I was besotted by the scene that unfolded behind them.
A warm wind had blown its’ way in from the Northwest, enticing the trees into a mesmerising sway. A flurry of leaves were dislodged from the loftiest of branches, they glistened in the light with flaming brilliance as they rained down from the autumnal pillars; landing amidst the children that played beneath their eaves.
I felt a singular tear creep forth unto my left cheek as I turned back to the right. Serendipity danced gracefully up to me. She took my hands in hers and smiled from beneath a gorgeous expression that sat somewhere between adoration and concern.
‘It breaks my heart to see you like this…’ she soothed.
‘I pray so dearly that you don’t think I’d forgotten you..’
‘..That you don’t think anything less of us for.. what happened..’
She continued, biting her lip as she cast a brief glance at Love, who had joined her dear friend, to see me off.
Smiling at me warmly, Love answered the question before I had the chance to form any coherent response:
‘He doesn’t hold grudges hun. Faith and Courage taught him too well for that.’
I smiled sheepishly, embarrassed by their attentions. But I couldn’t keep from frowning before worry claimed my features, as I asked the question I couldn’t suppress any longer:
‘Is she okay?’ I asked quietly, looking them both in the eyes earnestly, one and then the other.
“Aw, sweetheart…’ Serendipity began to caution.
I rose to my feet as a look of resignation crossed my face. ‘I know, I know..’ I admitted, making a small dismissive gesture with my left hand.
I was distracted suddenly as I caught a glimpse of Time over their slender shoulders, standing someways behind with his hands nonchalantly resting in his pockets. He thew me a look that perplexed me to no end, but before I could open my mouth again, he grinned and winked – disappearing amidst the press of robed guardians that passed between us; singing haunting verses in ethereal voices as they made their way to their posts in the palace proper.
Frowning again I marched stately up to the threshold of The Collider, glaring out over the steps before me; trying to discern something coherent, tangible in the obscurity clouding the path ahead.
I smiled wryly, addressing the others aloud without turning to face them:
‘I guess there’s nothing for it but to do as I know I must.’
I knew that would make them proud, probably bring the goddesses to tears in their fragile state; I turned for their reassurances anyway.
The garden was empty of everything but the light of the waning sun.
Turning back once more I marveled at how the path before me shimmered in crystalline hues beneath the moonlight. I realised unconsciously that years must have passed.
‘I suppose the sentence didn’t include a deadline, where’s the harm in stalling?’
I looked up to bear witness, as a shooting star tore a blinding arc across the heavens and into eternity. My heart overflowed, I still loved Their ways so dearly, such unfathomable depth and complexity, subtle and elegant beyond measure.
I was snapped out of reverie by a strange sensation between my eyebrows, a vague memory from another place in light, of familiar lips planted upon my forehead in a kiss.
I struggled to keep myself from being overwhelmed, looking down past combat armour to the boots that wreathed my feet. I shut my eyes tightly and released the tension through gritted teeth in a hiss, before snapping my gaze back to level with the horizon. I glared into the ether as I stalked forward, taking my first steps forward across The Line.
The fateful words resounded in my head as I sallied forth:
’…Your soul to be riven asunder, imprisoned in mortal body; and your love, to share your fate.
You shall lead our battalions into the fray, when and wherever the need is most dire. You will stem the onset of darkness, and restore flagging hope and faith in our names. You will serve unconditionally for an indefinite term, until such time as we see fit to release you.
The goddesses Love and Serendipity have voted in favour of your punishment, sealing your fate. It may ease your dismay to know that they did so on the sole condition that your love would be granted peaceful and happy existences throughout her sentenced mortality, despite the fact that she was an accessory to your treason, and accountable in full. We are not entirely without mercy and so we have granted this request in respect for what you once meant to this house. However, you are expressly forbid from making contact with her in any way shape or form. She will not recognise you as you are, nor remember your lives here prior to this day. She will however, feel compelled by you inexorably even in her mortal frame, and as you well know; that will put her in very real danger. It is in her best interests that you serve this sentence to the letter, in as peaceable a fashion as you can manage.’
That was my punishment.
The details of my crime, so visceral until now, were suddenly unclear. I had once stood amongst these deities as an equal, my title had been Chivalry. For now (officially anyway, for I was exempt from the chain of command by ‘special condition’) it was Lieutenant. My name was irrelevant, and even now I couldn’t tell you what it had been. I owed everything to the goddess of Love, for it was her sister that I had damned with my actions. I knew now with a certainty that even these lingering details would soon be washed from my beleaguered mind.
A method of control. ‘A precaution for my own good’.
It didn’t matter.
Out of hope to preserve the safety of the one I love, and if it were possible, attainment of redemption;
I’ll serve this penitent tangent.