Bodelia waved her hand and the orb faded and changed. Before them, the image of Alhanassa floated into focus. Concentrating on her thoughts she sat on the edge of the throne, fingers tapping. Her mind was made up. With renewed resolution she stood and faced the god who knelt before her. Defiance gave his beautiful features a hard look, his mouth twisted into a sneer. The stormy blue of his eyes held hers. Bodelia’s anger pushed the forgiveness out of her heart.
“Bren’has for your betrayal I banish you to Alhanassa, you will live an immortal life with no godly powers.” Tears filled her eyes at her own harshness but she refused to let them fall and continued with her punishment. “Your home will be to the north, where the land breaks and the heart of Alhanassa bleeds into the ocean. Though the volcanic island will be hot, your flesh will never again feel the warmth of a woman’s touch. Go from my sight I cannot stand the treachery you have brought to the immortals.” In an instant Bren’has vanished, without the chance to defend his actions or to negotiate the punishment. It was done, her word was final. Locking her love for Bren’has away deep in her heart, she went on with the trial.
The orb once again faded and changed. Filling with smoke and ash before clearing and leaving an image of a small island that looked like a crescent moon. The live volcano at the centre of the black rock spewed molten lava into the sea. It did indeed look like blood oozed from the island. A swirl of smoke took their viewpoint to a small stream, the hot water bubbled as it made its way towards the black, sandy beach. There, on the bank, his hands balled into tight fists, his face red with anger, Bren’has paced. He lifted his hand as if to use magic but nothing happened. He tried again and again to no avail, each failed attempt adding to his rage. Falling to his knees he lifted his head towards the heavens and let out an ungodly roar.
A cry of despair from Imbhane filled Bodelia’s ears. There was no reason to prolong the anguish this was causing and with another wave of her hand the orb vanished. Imbhane’s trembling form bowed before her and Bodelia’s heart softened. “How could you Imbhane? I loved him. You could have had any god you wanted, why mine?” Pulling herself together she stepped forward until she could touch her sister. “Rise Goddess Imbhane and take your punishment for your infidelity.”
“Please show clemency, my sister, I can not help whom my heart aches for, I knew it was wrong but could not help myself, please Bodelia, show me mercy.” Sad grey eyes lifted and Bodelia had no choice but to feel Imbhane’s remorse. “I promised to do your will with the children of Alhanassa; I will work hard and prove my love and loyalty to you. Please Bodelia, I beg of you.” She remained on her knees, her head bowed in defeat.
“The council has agreed your stewardship of a portion of Alhanassii magic, that of the coldest of cycles.” Bodelia paused, her heart still ached; however, feeling justified, she continued with her judgement. “But as punishment, you will dwell, not here in the immortal realm but on the moon of your name, a cold place where gods may only appear in astral form. Do your duty well and maybe my heart will find your forgiveness. Play your part Imbhane and redeem yourself in my eyes.”
“But no god…?”
“NO!” The goddess’s voice reverberated between the pillars. “Without a man. Your punishment is final.”
“Please, Bodelia.” A warm voice came from the council and a figure stepped forward. “Will you banish our sister for eternity?”
“No, Lithna, like you she has a stewardship, her only punishment is to serve that stewardship with a cold bed!” She lifted her hand to banish Imbhane to the lonely moon that would be her home. The quiet voice of the Lesser Goddess pierced her heart and faltered her actions.
“I have no need for another god. I will love no one else. Your sentence could never punish me as much as my own guilt.”
“Would you feel such a guilt if I had not caught you?” Calming her own feelings, Bodelia reached for her sisters. Guilt and sorrow were present; there was no denying Imbhane’s heart.
“It was as if I had no knowledge of your love for Bren’has, not until you faced us. Then my mind cleared.” The Immortal Council began to whisper amongst themselves. A ripple in the air, an outward sign that all may not have been as it seemed. “I am guilty of the acts you witnessed but if I had known…remembered.” Imbhane sighed, her shoulders slumping.
“Are you suggesting dark magic, sister?” Lithna placed a hand on Imbhane’s shoulder, keeping her gaze fixed on Bodelia. “Could you not detect it?”
“No, I could sense no magic in what I witnessed.”
“Magic was in play, sister.” Ostar stood on the left of Imbhane, like Lithna she placed a hand on her shoulder and faced The Most High Goddess. “The magic used was not of our kind, it was not used for the good of others and to do no harm. It was a selfish magic, one to deceive and cause pain.”
Many moments of silence passed as Bodelia looked between the sisters. “Why did I not sense it?” The show of solidarity towards their sister lifted her spirits. Bodelia came forward and ran the back of her hand over the soft skin of Imbhane’s cheek. There, deep within her mind Bodelia sensed it. Dark and corrupt, like a tiny seed waiting for substance to bring it to life. Lifting Imbhane’s chin with her finger, she smiled warmly. “Do you know you were deceived?”
“I do now.” Her lower lip trembled.
“Somehow Bren’has deceived us all. But I will not have his corruption spread through the council. His darkness will not taint the immortals. Your banishment will serve to keep that seed of darkness from growing. Do you understand sister?”
“Could placing Bren’has amongst the mortals disturb the equilibrium and give him power if they choose to sully their magic with his darkness?” Rubbing comforting circles into Imbhane’s shoulders, Lithna spoke of her concerns. “Would it not be better to banish him to one of the three moons?”
“Your wisdom is always sound, Lithna. And, you are right. Placing him there could upset the equilibrium of our world,” Bodelia looked over The Immortal Council and sensed their intrigue at this predicament. “Would it not bring balance to Alhanassa?”
Ostar smiled, joy flowed through her in the form of a green glow. “As we are there to balance the cycle of life and death, Bren’has’ presence in Alhanassa brings a balance to the magic; good and evil, light and dark. As the mortals learn and progress, embracing their power will bring them opportunities to be selfless and pure as well as selfish and unjust.”
“This is not a part he would gladly take but a fitting punishment for one who would bring darkness to our realm.” Thinking of all the beauty of the world they had created, she let the experience pass through her thoughts. Elation and unity seeped into her heart and cloaked the pain of betrayal. She would focus on watching over her children; what better way was there to mend a broken heart?
Quiet mumbles from the council gently floated on the light breeze, their understanding reaching the far corners of the temple. The bliss it caused was intoxicating, their approval resonating through her whole being. The air once again was pure, bringing promise and beckoning her to bring peace to The Immortals.
“When the sun rises on Alhanassa, we will reconvene and set in motion our plan. I see no reason to wait; now, more than ever, I wish to see the mortals thrive.”