It was cold—much colder than any winter night before. The shutters of every house were closed tight, some with tattered fabric shoved into the creases to block out the gale of wind and sleet. The streetlights had long since been stifled; the only light continuing to burn came from behind the stained glass windows of the church at the heart of the town. The streets were empty and calm but for the storm.
A lone figure walked down the street silently, clutching a long coat to their chest in a vain attempt to keep out the wind. A red inverted Ankh adorned the back of their hood, just barely visible in the shadows. The figure approached the church and searched for shelter within the doorframe. Weakly, they raised their hand and knocked twice on the door before slumping against it, pulling their coat uselessly closer to their shivering frame.
Only minutes later, the door was opened by Father Darren who, upon seeing the collapsed figure, called to the morgue doctor and the two pulled the figure into the church and onto one of the backrooms and onto a table generally used for attending the dead. The Father left to close the door and attend to his church, setting it for the mass in the morning. The morgue doctor removed the man's coat, surprised to see that the shirt underneath was stained red and stiff, and in many places stuck to the skin. He pressed his fingers to the man's neck and found a pulse almost immediately—one that seemed much too strong for someone so covered in what appeared to be blood. The doctor set about trying to find the wounds, gingerly pulling the cloth of the stranger's shirt away from his skin. His hands shook more and more fervently as he pulled the last piece of the cloth stuck to the man's skin. It was not out of fear of the man's wounds, as little would faze the doctor after many years of war and disease, but out of fear of the fact that the man had no wounds. "Who did you kill?" the doctor asked under his breath.
"Men who killed."
The voice startled the doctor, who pulled back rapidly as if the man on the table had attacked him. He looked fearfully at the man on the table, who stared back at him with a mixture of inquisition and regret.
"I apologize for startling you," he said, or rather, rasped out, his voice dry from cold and misuse. He sat up and cleared his throat. "Do you have any water?"
The doctor nodded and walked quickly out of the room, almost running into the Father on his way out. Father Darren entered the room, surprised to see the stranger, who had only moments ago been unconscious, was now walking around the room. The man was tall, though definitely not the tallest the Father had seen, and was well built. He was shaved bald, and there was something red tattooed to the back of his head, though the Father could not see what it was. The man looked at him with ice blue eyes and sat back down on the table, clutching the side of his head.
"Please tell the doctor that I had no intentions of frightening him," he rasped. The Father thought the voice didn't suit him—the voice seemed to belong to someone much older while the man seemed to be barely past his teens. That was not the only thing about him that seemed out of place.
"I do not believe it was you who frightened him, but what you have done." The Father took a chance and sat next to the man.
"They were awful, horrible men," the stranger said, quickly. "I know, to you, that likely does not rationalize my actions, but I do not believe any deity would look down upon me and say that I was wrong, or would forgive those men for their actions."
"What did they do that was so unforgivable?"
The man sighed through his nose, staring forwards. After several seconds, he said, "I do not feel comfortable speaking of such actions within such a hallowed place."
The doctor returned with a cup of water, which he placed next to the stranger before leaving quickly.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Yes, go on."
The man paused, taking several long drinks from his water before continuing. "Can you forgive me?"
"I cannot forgive you, that is God's business."
"I do not want God's forgiveness."
"It is not my business to forgive you for what you have done."
"It is not about what I have done. It is about what I will do, and I require your forgiveness."
The Father sighed. "I forgive you." He was mildly startled to see the stranger staring at him. "What are you going to do, Child?"
"I am going to kill another man. This man is a father to many, yet he himself has no spawn. He is kind and generous, caring, helpful, yet these are all masks. He is not but a criminal, one who vainly found salvation in religion and gloats about such success in feigning his innocence." He took another drink of water. "Can you guess who he is? I am sure you know him."
Father Darren stood quickly. "I am not part of that world anymore. I have sought forgiveness, true forgiveness, from God."
"God doesn't forgive everyone. Some don't deserve to be forgiven, and some deserve to be taken from this world earlier so their punishment will start before they can forget what they've done."
"I do not know what daemon has their hold on you, but I can tell you that no true god would ever give such a task to a follower."
"There are no daemons involved, and was not charged by any deity to follow such a quest. This is of my own will."
The Father tried to speak again, but he found his voice cut short. Warm liquid ran down his throat and chest, absorbing into the cloth of his robes. He fell to the floor, gasping uselessly and staring up at the stranger, an ornamental knife clutched in his hand.
The stranger crouched and placed his hand over his eyes. "Hush, hush, hush, Father. Do not fight."
The Father's gasping eventually stopped and he stilled, eyes wide and staring. The stranger dipped two fingers into the Father's blood and ran them over his eyes, closing them and leaving two vivid red lines across his face.
The stranger stood and grabbed his coat, redressing himself as he hurried out of the church. He was well outside of the town before he slowed his pace.