Continued from Part II.
The shepherd reached the holy cave. At the mouth he surveyed the harbour town below. The buildings burned. Soldiers marched through the streets. More black boats were sprouting from the steamship and heading for shore.
The shepherd’s heart beat heavily, his knees shook at the sight of his town in flames. Now was not the time for weakness. Grief could be given audience later. Now, revenge. The shepherd turned and walked into the cave.
His advance was arrested by a priestess. She was the last representative of a once-venerated order. Dressed in full robes to impress severity upon visitors, she blocked the shepherd’s path towards the hiding place of the idol of the goddess.
The shepherd requested to see the idol. The priestess refused. He told her what was happening. She refused. He described in detail, tears welling up in his eyes, the suffering inflicted upon their people. Still, she refused. The price was too great, she said. He protested still. If no atrocity could warrant the ceremony, what use was the idol? Again, she refused.
He said she should at least watch the end of the people she betrayed. She nodded solemnly, and walked to the mouth of the cave. She saw the town, saw the fires, heard the screams on the wind. Then she saw darkness as the shepherd smacked a rock upon her skull, caught her falling body, and laid her gently on the ground, whispering apologies and repentance.
To be continued…