That's progress, isn't it?
When they had finally made their way out of the city, Abernathy slowed his pace and shook his head, with tears streaming down his face.
“I don’t understand,” Adam said.
“It has always been like this,” Abernathy replied. “Always when you tell the people that God’s judgement is near, that his wrath is upon them, they will try to bribe Him. They will bring of their ‘offerings’, thinking that the more they bring, the more God will listen. But they ignore the finer points of the law - the ones that say to bring the best into His storehouses, bring of your first fruits and not of your leftovers. To them, anything they bring to God is good enough, because they put themselves first. The point of their worship is themselves, not God. God has no place in their hearts.”
Adam looked backwards the the gates that were now closed to him. He wondered if he would ever find his place back in the city he had called home once more. The walls of the Capital stood tall and forbidding, the thick gates seemed to say that he could never return. In the distance, the towers of the Castle stood high above all else, the flag of the Kingdom waving in the soft breeze.
“And how is this different, Abernathy? How is this different from the ways that we seek to please God in order to bring about blessings to ourselves and the kingdom?” Adam asked in a soft voice. “How is this different from me trying to be the penance, trying to take on the weight of the world, when I don’t know who God is and I’m not sure if I’ve ever known?” There was anguish in his voice that started even Adam himself - he had never thought himself so passionate or so burdened.
“Tell me, Adam son of Capital, why you do this? Why have you taken upon yourself this Penance and the Blood Sacrifice? Why do you volunteer yourself to be the Sin Eater for the Kingdom?”
Adam opened his mouth a few times, trying to get the words out, but failing. It seemed as if all the glib answers that often appeared in his brain had slunk away and were now cowering under the light that the priest was shining into him in quest of the truth.
“I - I do not know,” he said humbly. “It felt right - it felt as if it was what I was meant to do. It felt as if God were approving of my sacrifice.”
“Why did it feel that way?”
Adam searched deeper into his heart. “Because I understood then that the people needed it. That for the sake of the people, someone had to complete the Berith Melach, and if the law required the firstborn, then I would be the one who would have to fulfil the law.”
“Did you think of yourself and what you would gain?” the priest pressed again.
Adam shook his head slowly. “I - I thought first of all that I would lose. I thought about how I would lose my kingdom, the kingship my father had bestowed on me - that the Council of Peers had gifted to me. I have to admit, I almost refused. I wanted to refuse. I was too selfish - how could you take my kingdom from me just after you had given it to me?”
Adam had stopped walking. He stared into the distance as he talked, dimly aware of Abernathy by his side. “Why would a good and loving God give me everything I had ever dreamed of only to strip it away within the month? What was the point of that? What was the point of serving a God who would simply punish you for the sake of other people?” He turned to the priest with fire in his eyes. “And that was it, Abernathy, for the sake of the people. That was my turning point. To be able to rule well, to be fit to be called the King of the Kingdom, I would have to sacrifice it all for the sake of the people.” He fell silent, his shoulders slumped, his head bent low.
“So you said yes.” The priest’s voice was low, as if he were sharing a secret. “And that what makes your sacrifice acceptable, Adam son of the Capital. Because you think first of God, and the fulfilment of the law, you weigh the cost to yourself and the gains to your people and you do not consider yourself - but you have faith. Faith that what you do will be for the good of the Kingdom.”
“Is it not wrong to be so selfish as to think of the cost and all I have lost?” Adam asked with tears in his eyes.
Abernathy held him in a tight embrace as he sobbed. “No. It is only human. God didn’t say that we can’t grieve over what we lose. He just says that we need set aside that grief and trust Him.”
The two men walked along the road in silence. As they travelled, Adam drank in everything that he could: the sound of the birds chirping, the shade of the trees as they covered their path, the crunch of leaves and twigs under their feet, the rustle of the animals that scurried away around them, the breeze that caressed them so gently.
“I feel as if this is the last time I will see these things again,” Adam remarked.
Abernathy chuckled. “How morbid you are, my son. It’s not as if the Holy City does not have foliage and animals, you know.”
“I know - but these are the trees and the animals of my city and my childhood. It would just somehow be different, as I am growing different.”
AND I DON'T KNOW WHY ABERNATHY. It was some random name from another random story which got stuck in my head. I need new names. :(