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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #2316681
The priestesses of Saolré guard the gates of life and death. Cara asks something taboo.
"Is it such a big thing I ask?" Questioned Cara. "What is so wrong with wishing someone back from the dead?"

High priestess Meavagh had been arguing with this girl too long. "Defying the order of Saolré is not something to be done lightly," Meavagh said. "To disobey our goddess is to invite the unnatural into the world."

All the other priestesses looked on quietly. It was an unspoken rule that the High priestess was the mouth piece of their deity.

Cara gestured to the fallen warrior she had dragged to their mounds in the highlands. "My brother died defending our land from invaders," she said. "He is the only family I have left in this world. I've lost my mother, father and all my other kin to this bloody war. There is no one left to help me tend our farm, if I am left alone, I will die."

"Then that is the will of Saolré," Meavagh said. "Leave now and make peace with the gods."

It was too much for Orla. She couldn't watch a young woman close to her own age march off to her certain demise. She tugged on the linen sleeve of the High Priestess' robe. "Our goddess has made exceptions before," Orla whispered. "She is a deity that sustains life. Would it really be Her will to let a young life be cut short through our inaction?"

Meavagh twisted her torso around to scowl at Orla. "Fine," she said. "We will perform the ritual. Know this though, I will not have you question the goddess' ways again, Orla."

Cara had begun walking away.

"Wait," Meavagh said. "We have decided to intervene. Bring the boy's body to the altar. As the sun reaches its zenith, we will entreat the goddess to return him to the living."

Cara was assisted by a couple of priestesses in placing her brother's body on the stone slab in the middle of the sacred circle. As she did so, Cara felt a mixture of hope for the future and reverence for this special place.

"Please say the name of the soul to be restored," Meavagh prompted.

"Aidan," Cara said. "Aidan MacRonan."

The High Priestess raised her arms so her palms faced the sun, Meavagh began the ritual. "Saolré hear our plea," she annunciated. The other priestesses echoed the words.

"We ask that Aidan return to the world of the living," Meavagh said. "So that Cara's life may not be cut short. Saolré hear our plea." Again and again the words "Saolré hear our plea," were chanted.

The sun had begun to descend from its apex. Cara had begun to think all her efforts were futile. Suddenly, Aiden's chest heaved and his eyes opened.

Cara ran to the altar and embraced her brother. "Aiden!" She shouted. "Praise be to the gods. You are back. Thank you, priestesses."

Some days later, the barley was ready to be harvested. Cara and Aiden stood in the field using their sickles to cut down sheaves of grain. They needed to gather and thresh it before winter came.

"I am so glad Sailré sent you back to me," Cara said. "This task would've been impossible without your help."

Cara was bent over as she tried to cut some more stems. She felt the sharp, burning pain as her brother's sickle penetrated her heart. She fell, darkening the soil with her blood.

Aiden regarded his sister's corpse. There wasn't a hint of remorse in his eyes. "Soalré demands balance," he said. "A soul given means a soul taken."

Word count:591
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