The Sin Eater

She carried her bloated form, leaning heavily on her staff. It had been almost a full day since she had left the previous settlement. A full day alone in the forest, winding along the tracks and pathways known to her people  and the other, less welcoming inhabitants of the forest. She skirted past the swamp, too heavy, too weak to defend herself should she encounter trouble.

The settlement of Tallebranch was due to be up ahead, it's semi-nomadic people following the traditional routes as the seasons passed; following their herds and the fruiting trees and bushes. It had been a full year since she had been to this place, a full year since the people had brought any sinners to the tent set aside for her.

Once ensconced in her tent, and once darkness had fallen, they would tread quietly to her place at the edge of the settlement, bringing their shame. Mothers bringing children, husbands bringing wives or ageing relatives, all trying to hide the theft of their loved ones.

This was her gift; to seek out those who were taking apotheosis for themselves, who had - to their shame - begun to display the blessings of the Morrighat without the touch of the Pinion Witches. To do so was to break The Bargain, to sin.

In that tent, they would bring her food and drink, sit with her and tell of their shame. She would eat and listen, patient and pitying. She would lay her mouth upon them and consume the stolen blessings. Returning them to full mortal form and allowing them to go back to their people with their shame washed away and their sins devoured. The people must be kept pure, the body and soul purged clean so that on the day apotheosis comes, they are unblemished and prepared.

But she, she would never see true apotheosis. Some time soon, at one of these settlements, she will have eaten her fill of the sins of her people and become touched by the Morrighat. Those stolen blessings manifesting and making her a daughter of the Great Queen.

So she trod on, the smoke from cooking fires touching her nostrils. Her heaving body calling out in pain. It may happen on this night, a mighty miracle in front of Her people, or in some dark and forgotten part of the forest between settlements, but soon, she could feel it. Soon her journey would come to an end.