"Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin." The cathedral boomed responsive echoes."Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin!"
Thunderous and terrible, the Holy Vicar's words thrummed into the minds of every man standing at rapt attention. No one dared move or shift slightly or blink - the Holy Vicar, consumed by his religious fervour, was both harsh and exacting. "Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin!"
The gathered crowd of men received this sinister sermon. It was always this, always this repetition of doom and bloodshed. It bordered on otherworldly: dim candle lit hall quaking with the Holy Vicar's message, always about blood and forgiveness and one's necessity for the other's existence. Every week, stoic men gathered, soldiers and temple guards, unflinching beneath the Holy Vicar's relentless tirade.
"Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin! Without the shedding of blood there is NO FORGIVENESS OF SIN!" Those last words thudded home, churning within each listenere. This final refrain echoed, fragments rebounding high off of ancient stone arches.
The Holy Vicar blinked slowly, solemnly. Pages of the book before him whispered as he closed the massive tome and held it to his chest with withered hands. The men silently waited for the closing benediction. The Vicar stood, holding the book to his breast and glaring out over his followers. There was sin here: pulsing oozing black wickedness. There was purging in the days ahead. Yes, the vicar nodded to himself, there would be a cleansing for these faithless ones. He spoke one more word, his voice deep and gravelly.
In silence, the gathered men dispersed, holding their thoughts close. In many of the men, words still hung in their consciousness. shedding of blood. forgiveness. sin. They ran together in chaotic juxtaposition but they always landed on the Holy Vicar, the Bringer of God's Justice, the Administrator of Blessing.
Holy Vicar watched the men closely. They quivered under his rolling gaze, shaking with fear or love - or both. They were right to be gripped with fear. God's Appointed deserved the respect and cautious treatment that such emotion inspired.
The last man had left the cathedral. Holy Vicar moved with slow reverence, breathing a prayer and lighting incense burners. As the incense smouldered in the brass dishes and blue smoke curled heavenward, Holy Vicar knelt. In the hush, his whisper magnified hoarsely. "Almighty God, forgive me my many sins." The syllables lifted with the incense, filling the vaulted ceiling then fading. Deep quiet settled once more in the near empty chamber.
Holy Vicar raised his arms, the richly embroidered sleeves of his robes falling back to reveal criss-crossing scars. "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin." As the words passed out of his mouth, the bowed man dropped a scarred arm into the folds of his robe. He whispered again "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin." His hand emerged from within his robe clutching a dagger. He raised his arm once more, veins standing out thickly. This time, Holy Vicar shouted and brought the dagger in sweeping motion across the other arm. "WITHOUT THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS OF SINS!"
Shuddering with the pain and consumed with fervour, the Holy Vicar bowed low, blood pooling under his left palm, draining from a deep gash in his forearm. He whispered again, "Almighty God, forgive me my many sins." In the darkened room, the only sounds were the heavy breaths from the Holy Vicar and a steady drip drip drip of spilt blood.