Sin of Godrey

Sin of Godrey

A Story by JPDonelan

Following a peculiar odor to a seaside town, a man seeks out its source.


Sour mint. A peculiar scent, one which cut through other odors. A scent made more bizarre in that but a single man could notice the odd odor with each nostril of air. A man drawn northward by the scent whose source and meaning few knew. A man dressed in thick, coarse, and forgettable clothes worn beneath a robe of the same material, all of which one could've sworn he had woven of his beard.


A man known as, Atwyrs.


The scent had brought him from several days south, a trip undertaken by booted foot. Hardly the worst of journeys, though an early chill had fallen over the region. At least the cold kept the air crisp and made following the odor easier.


The coarse-robed man stopped and sniffed the night air as he arrived at the southern entrance to what he believed to be his destination: a coastal town whose name went unknown, in a kingdom whose name held no immediate significance. A strong scent of salt and sea, carried in by the westward winds, joined the odor of mint in rushing up flared nostril. The smell had grown more pungent; he knew he neared the source. He pressed onward, boots clacking upon the cobbled road.


As he proceeded along the empty street, his eyes fell upon buildings lit by the moon, seated high and mighty overhead. The structures had timber-frame designs, though of multiple styles, many of which he couldn't recognize. But--based on the architectural designs, the salty air, and the cobbled streets--he could recognize the town benefited from an oceanic trade route. Though irrelevant to him, he still found amusement in the deductive observation.


After ten minutes, the road opened into the town center, a nexus fed by five thoroughfares. Atwyrs continued through the square, the scent's direction unchanged.


Beyond the square, the guiding aroma grew stronger while the road narrowed. This stretch of road, thicker than the one Atwyrs had entered the square upon, had wooden stalls lining the extended edges. He assumed these belonged to local merchants or the town for rental to foreigners. Either way, he didn't pause to examine the stalls and continued on his way.


As he trotted along, another moonlit sight came to his eyes, a sight which drove him to slow his pace. Headed in his direction, with torches alight, were two armed and armored guards; the first patrol he had witnessed since his arrival. He ignored them, in hopes he wouldn't draw their attention. With the scent growing stronger, he didn't wish to be delayed.


The guards slowed as they drew near and the man felt their eyes upon him, but he didn't return the gaze. For a moment, he thought he would pass unaccosted. But, the nearest guard thought otherwise.


"Hold," the guard said as he halted and stuck his torch toward Atwyrs, who complied with the demand.


The abrupt stop left the guard's companion to take two steps past them before she stopped and turned. An expression of mixed confusion and anger flashed across her features as she looked between the two with curiosity. The stop had come as a surprise to her, a surprise she would need to discuss with her fellow patroller.


"What are we doing out at this hour, stranger? Taverns are back the other way, and you don't stagger near enough to suggest such influence. No inns this far past the square, either." The patrolman looked the man up and down with a squint.


"Hmm. There are individuals, influenced by peculiar affliction, who often walk better reigned over by liquid spirit than they do the stone crown of sobriety. Less stagger and all. An uncommon occurrence, though one worthy of awareness," Atwyrs replied as he watched the other guard move to her compatriot's flank.


The guard who stopped him furrowed his brow, opened his mouth, hesitated, and then sighed.


"While...nice"--he shifted and tossed a momentary glance at his comrade--"what you have said in no way tells me what you are doing about this deep into the night."


"I am passing through. A direct path devours less time, reduces the length of road to be traveled."


The patrolwoman, no longer content in her observance, stepped again into sight.


"This late? Forgive me, but would rest not serve you best? Resume your travels in the morn well rested?" she asked.


"While true, I find myself less bothered under the night sky than by the stir mustered by the sun. Is this a problem?"


The guardswoman shook her head twice. "Certainly not. An odd practice, perhaps, but not illicit. Unless you are also engaged in acts you shouldn't be."


"Nay, I engage in no unjust acts." He looked between the two. "If there is no further problem, I would much like to continue on my way. Those I visit never have the decency of residing in convenient locale."


The guards exchanged a brief look before the guardswoman stepped forward. "Certainly, sir. Sorry to have bothered you. Never know the intentions of those who walk at night. Safe travels to you."


With those words, the guards moved past. Atwyrs, hesitant to continue on for fear they would turn and pursue him, waited. As the sound of their footsteps crept away, and the light of their torches beat a torpid retreat, the sound of their voices, even though hushed, carried on the night air.


"I don't trust him."


"From here on, you are forbidden from accosting any more travelers. Captain Gowsys asked I keep you in line. I have no intention--" Atwyrs could no longer hear the two as they moved out of earshot.


At the last vestige of torchlight, he resumed his pursuit at double pace.


The scent continued along the road north until it changed direction, headed down a street which twisted and turned away from the town's center. The further he followed the odor, the more spaced the adjacent structures became.


Atwyrs' pursuit came to a halt when the aroma retreated behind a gate flanked by low stone walls. A sign hung from the gatepost, the engraved lettering, visible in the moonlight, drew his eye. The words dragged a sigh from his lips.


"Of course. Where else would they lay but amongst nestlings?" With a shake of his head, he passed through the gate.


The sign had read: Hynfeir Orphanage.


A large building compared to those he passed en route to the property, the timber-framed orphanage sat recessed behind a sizable and well kept yard. Not an ounce of light peeked out from the windows and the front doors, heavy, dark wooden barriers, loomed in sight. The most important aspect, the scent which drew him to the dreary building, poured from every crack and loose fixture. The scent had grown so thick he could almost see it, like a localized fog.


Now, he needed to find a way inside. And then the source itself. He didn't have enough information to deduce who the source might be, but plenty for detestable guesswork. Speculation of the worst sort, near baseless and always in a negative direction focused upon the most cruel, unflattering, and malign possibilities. A form of conjecture, above all others, he would be punished for in his youth.


Instead of treading dreaded ground, he chose to tread the orphanage's perimeter in search of an unlocked entrance; in all likelihood, a window. As he walked, he sniffed the air in an attempt to determine the exact location of the source beyond the taunting walls.


Atwyrs passed shuttered window after shuttered window and found none unlocked. Even his effort to track by scent yielded no worthwhile results; the facility was too inundated with the odor. But, not one to give up, the man continued round.


Until his patience bore fruit.


A window at the building's corner, to the left of the ominous doors, jostled as he tested its lock, and then gave way. He had to be careful the shutters didn't slam into the interior walls and make a racket. Stirring the residents, children or not, would be problematic.


Once beyond the window, the man found himself in a dark room filled with chairs and long tables. A dining hall, or perhaps an education space like the one where he received rainy days lectures during his childhood. The most important element of the room did not go unnoticed in the course of his brief survey: save for himself, the chamber was devoid of life. Both a boon and a foreseen disappointment.


He wasted no time in the room and departed through the only door, where a wide hallway greeted him. Despite the open barricade, the guiding scent failed to change and remained a thick miasma; it provided no new direction. He hoped, for the sake of inconspicuousness, the odor would intensify the nearer he got to the source. The idea of barging into rooms in search carried no appeal to him.


With the door left open, he crept down the hall. A difficult task as his boots threatened to clack upon the floorboards should he let up his focus.


While he focused, Atwyrs could hear faint, relaxed breathing behind one of the doors. He sniffed the air and perked his ears as he drew closer. The mint odor hadn't grown or diminished. The sound, on the other hand, became a chorus of restful breaths. Beyond this door, he figured, must be the unfortunate souls sequestered in this place. With no reason to disturb them, he continued down the hall.


He emerged from the western wing of the orphanage without further distraction and entered the foyer. The set of ominous doors--whose dark faces now glowered at him, displeased by his intrusion--stood to his right. To his left, a set of stairs, old and dry, led to the second floor. The sight of those creaky steps made him cringe. As the scent had yet to alter, to point him in the right direction, he turned from the stairwell and pressed forward into the structure's eastern wing.


The eastern hall mirrored the western hall, both in simplicity and its lack of furnishings. Atwyrs continued his progression with greater ease, the care required for each step now ingrained in his muscles. Muscles that coursed with energy, surged with strength born of the nearness and power of the ever-present odor. The boons of his position had begun to stir, as they always did when near those stained by their actions. But, for now, only the tingling of muscle fibers accompanied him in his intrusion.


As Atwyrs neared the end of the corridor, the need to climb the stairwell seemed unavoidable. And it would have been if a stronger vein of sour mint didn't strike his nose and force his head to snap toward the door on his left. He gave one, then two, and then three deep sniffs of the air around the door. Disbelief a replacement for dread. The scent remained pungent and, if not for the seriousness of his work, he would've smiled. Not out of delight or joy, but relief.


Pressing close to the door, ear against the warped and aged wood, he could hear breathing, faint and singular. Pleasant news for him, less so for the inhabitant.


Better news came in the form of the door's unlocked state, which yielded to the intruder's pressures. The barrier's hinges whined as if to sound an alarm; a futile effort, as the melody of slumber continued unabated. With the door opened just wide enough to facilitate his entry, the robed man peeked and, seeing neither light nor person, entered.


A dusty place, the chamber had room enough for a desk, tucked into the corner, a table near the center with a set of chairs, and a partition set some distance from the left wall. The sounds of a peaceful sleep, sounds which led the infiltrator to sneer, came from beyond the partition. The sharp aroma also gushed, in waves, from the other side.


Proximity to the source sent a jolt through him like lightning; his senses enlivened and his muscles tingled with vigor. Despite confidence in his present state versus that of the individual beyond the partition, he paused to concentrate. A lack of focus tended to invite misfortune.


Once fixated on his task, Atwyrs rounded the partition and set eyes upon the source of the sour mint smell that roused him from a comfortable rest. His eyes held no resentment as they locked on the unconscious figure, a man much younger than anticipated, with thin face, jutting jaw, and hair disheveled by nocturnal fit. Nor did they possess a hint of kindness or mercy. The orbs had become cold, focused, and faintly illuminant. The illumination, limited to the web of veins, held a steady blue-violet hue.


With the sleeping figure comfortable in his state, the robed man's left arm quivered as he tapped his middle and ring fingers against his palm beneath the long sleeve. He counted each tap, each completed motion, a habit developed to help determine the average required; his grandfather would be proud.


As he tapped, a cold tingle developed and began to spread down his forearm. At seventy-three taps, the tingle reached his wrist and he, with a practiced motion, swung his arm upward and pointed his two fingers at a ninety-degree angle from his palm. The limb remained in this position for ten seconds before it descended.


As the sleeve rushed back over the hand, the fingers straightened. At the same time, from the sleeve which bore nothing but the arm, came a metal rod two feet in length. Sharp, curved flanges ran the shaft's length, save for a small section used as a handle. The man made no effort to catch the rod as it slid from his sleeve to clatter against the wooden floor.


In response to the sudden disturbance, the dormant man's eyes shot open, and nothing more. Where one would've expected to jump, lurch upright, his body remained rigid, a state reminiscent of sleep paralysis. And the image before him, the darkened outline of a tall man with glowing eyes, a fearful hallucination.


The robed figure, seeing the man's eyes wide, stepped alongside the bed. In his left hand, he clutched the rod, and his right came to rest flat upon the bedridden man's throat. With a quick, rough cough, he spoke.


"Greeting's source of the emanation. I have come in fulfillment of duty." Atwyrs stared at the man's eyes, which remained locked upon him. Curiosity smothered by fear hid in those orbs. A terribly common sight.


The bedridden figure grunted and groaned, a vain effort to talk. His jaw would not budge to let even a breath sneak out.


"You are bound of my influence, a terrible thing to be. I shall relent, permit you your voice. But, under my terms still."


With these words, the robed man lifted his right hand and withdrew all his fingers towards his hand, save the index finger which remained extended. His finger tip pressed against the man's throat and stayed for five seconds. When the last second wound down, he crooked his finger into a hook and pulled slowly upward. After lifting his hand six inches, Atwyrs released his fingers and returned his hand to his side.


"You may speak. Start with your name."


With little apprehension, the bed-bound man opened his mouth. "Who are you and how did you get in? What do you think you're doing here? You had best leave now, or the guard will have you!" His mouth moved wide over and over as if to yell.


The man's eyes widened once more as the sound of his voice reached his ears. The words he sought to shout high and loud, to send echoing through the orphanage to draw to the conscious world all under its roof, rose nowhere near. Indeed, his words had come out a squeak, a murmur, a whisper. A chill ran through his body at the implication.


Atwyrs did not react to the disobedient display. He expected the attempt and had seen many variations. Another tally to update at a later time.


"Do try again. Your name, odoriferous one," he said, and tapped the rod against the bed once.


The man swallowed, then complied. "Ohn-Ohnsybis."


Atwyrs nodded twice. The name held no importance to his task but made reference easier.


"Tell me, Ohnsybis, know you who I am? Why I am here?" the coarse-robed man asked.


"I haven't a damned clue," Ohnsybis replied as he turned his eyes from the inquirer, curious if anyone else loomed over him.


"No? Not even an inkling? Do you suffer from such a severe lack of self-awareness as to not know?"


Ohnsybis shifted his eyes back and forth as his sole response.


"Truly terrible. How little you must think of them." The figure tapped the rod against the floor twice.


"I have been drawn by the scent of sour mint. Two days I have traveled by foot, nary a moment to slumber. I have traced this scent to you, Ohnsybis. It leaks from you. It is indicative of your actions. Your misdeeds."


Ohnsybis' confusion grew at the man's words, in part because he couldn't make an ounce of sense of what he heard. The scent of sour mint? How could such an odor, which he had never once come across, pour from him? Never mind how such an odor could be so strong or carry so well in the wind as to draw a man from two whole days away. Such could only be described as lunacy.


"Are...are you one of those lost to The Fever? Oh sweet mercy, how have guards missed you? I swear I have not done whatever you claim I have. Let...let's just take this calm," Ohnsybis said as he forced a weak smile.


"You are one easily distracted by comforting delusions, I see. Perhaps an explanation would serve better here." Atwyrs tilted his head back and looked toward the ceiling. He tapped the rod against the floor boards once, twice, thrice, and so on. The cudgel came to a halt as he lowered his head.


"You...are a practitioner of acts most unconscionable. Through these acts, you have mired your soul and upon it brought damnation. In this instance, as ruled by The Hollow Justiciar."


"What...are you on about? You make no sense."


"Bluntly then. You have committed the Sin of Godrey. The scent of sour mint, tied as it is to the depths of your soul, proves such."


Ohnsybis looked at the man, confusion in his eyes. The words just grew stranger and stranger. Sin of Godrey? He had never heard of a such a thing, had no idea what it related to, or what the accusation meant for him. Regardless, he didn't like the situation, the ravings of this nocturnal visitor or his continued inability to move.


"Sin of Godrey? that? You continue to confuse and bewilder. Pick your teeth with silver feathers before you speak." Ohnsybis' brow knit what little his uncooperative muscles would permit. His visitor seemed determined to remove any doubt of his affliction, which troubled the bed stricken man for many reasons.


The expression caused Atwyrs to blink. A curious phrase, yet he understood the reference to feathers.


" pick...a derivation based on a species of bird considered sacred in these parts. A quaint statement, considering your misdeeds, one which further suggests your inability for personal reflection," the bearded man said before he tapped his rod against the floor two times.


"Hmm." He tilted his head, set his eyes on the ceiling and his lips curled into an inquisitive frown. "Idea."


That one word scared Ohnsybis, more than any of those prior. The fear shone in his eyes as his visitor lifted the metal rod.


"Open your mouth. Wide."


Ohnsybis hesitated. The rod, cruel to his eyes, could not have been brought up for a beneficial reason; the associated command only reinforced this. Thinking enough time had passed to have regained some modicum of control, he gave his body another try. A subtle try. A futile try. He had thought wrong--the muscles continued their inertia.


Dispirited, the bedridden man opened his mouth.


Atwyrs lowered the rod into the man's mouth, much as the seized figure feared. The truncheon stopped the moment the tip touched Ohnsybis' tongue. Then he spoke a simple command. "Bite down."


Ohnsybis bit down on the rod with reluctance; he didn't know of the sharp flanges, but the foreign object concerned him none the less. To his surprise"and his relief"the rod's owner released the object. He didn't know if this development, which stole from him his limited ability to speak, was a boon.


"Now, perhaps I have not explained sufficiently for you to pull from memory your misdeeds. The high dictate, the ruling from The Hollow Justiciar, states those below the mark are not to be marked," the bearded visitor said, eyes focused on the rod held in Ohnsybis' mouth. He expected to see the metal stick fall at any moment and readied himself to catch it.


"The wallowing scent, which drew me and fills this place, reveals your engagement in...congress with those below the mark. Thus. Marking. Them."


A moment of silence followed these words, from both of the men. Atwyrs shifted his eyes to watch the indisposed man's gaunt face. If the man understood his words, their implication, he would respond. Ohnsybis, did as expected.


Most of the words meant little to him, but the context of certain words made all the pieces fall into place. He now understood the accusation, the charge, and the realization shone in the expression around his eyes. They had softened, and the eyes widened. His mind, unaffected by the malaise of his body, darted. What did this man know behind his facade of inane blather and incoherent claims? Were any of them true?


He didn't want to know, but he needed to know. Yet, he could not know. For when he attempted to ask, to seek recourse for his mind's anguish, all he could muster were feeble grunts and garbled noises. The rod had become a bane.


"Ah, your reactions tell me you understand at last. This is good. I shall grant an opportunity, one I grant to all those I visit. I implore you, attain yourself an ounce of peace and confess to me your misdeeds." The man gripped the rod and pulled the cold metal from Ohnsybis' mouth.


With his mouth free and without pause, Ohnsybis began to sputter questions.


"What do you know? Did someone set you up to this? Did my aunt ask you to do this? Her paranoia finally set her off and you as her stooge? What does she think she knows?" His eyes narrowed.


"Tell her I have done nothing! Nothing I say!"


Atwyrs responded with an incredulous look from behind half-closed eyes. He knew better than to listen to the howls of a sinner, more so those who have done their damnedest to avoid recognition of their befoulments.


He sighed and brought the rod back over Ohnsybis' mouth. "Open."


"Listen to me! I ha--" The figure brought the rod down mid plea.


"Bite. Down."


The rod pressed down and brought pain until Ohnsybis complied. His eyes darted from the metal stick to the man and back in a panic. The robed man seemed annoyed, angrier than before. What this meant for him, too dreadful to consider.


"Even in confession, you profess ignorance. Unsurprising. I know not who this 'aunt' of yours is, nor do your howls disprove you a sinner." Atwyrs looked down into Ohnsybis' eyes, which gazed up at him wide and fearful.


"You had asked who I am. Since you have confirmed what I already knew, as unintentional as the act may have been, I shall tell you as reward. My actual name is irrelevant to both my purpose here and to you. My title, on the other hand, is most pertinent. I am The Purge of the Sin of Godrey. Absorb this as you will." The self-proclaimed Purge rapped his fingers against the rod.


Ohnsybis blinked at the statement and cringed as the vibrations resonated through his teeth. With squinted eyes, he gazed up at the figure's illuminated spheres and considered the connotation. When words sank in, and the correlation between them and The Purge's earlier statements emerged, his squint turned into a pitiful look of shock and dismay. Absorbed the meaning he did, much to his displeasure.


"A good look for you, as it is for all your brood. You have likely noticed your inability to move anything more than the region around your eyes, your lips, your tongue, and your jaw. The reason: I have rendered you as helpless as those who have turned your eye, and spurred your lowly blood." The Purge frowned and shook his head.


"There is no undoing the damage you have wrought. How they mend and the lasting effects are too varied in possibility, and so tied to the strength of the individual and their surroundings to properly deduce. They, unlike you, have the benefit of time; a corrector of deviation and mender of all things." He tightened his grip on the rod. "May mercy inhabit your vacancy."


In a single motion, Atwyrs twisted to his right and forced his left hand forward towards Ohnsybis' chin. With a loud pop, followed by a pained, howling gargle, the bed-bound man's jaw came unhinged and several teeth broke. The rod, now free, swung upward into proper position for what followed.


Viciousness followed.


The flanged rod rose high like the moon above and descended in heavy blow after heavy blow. A chorus of sounds, of breaking bones, snapping limbs, stifled cries, and rent flesh rose into the air. An altogether unpleasant song, one Atwyrs never enjoyed.


The beating continued until the scent of sour mint lingered no longer.


With the deed done, The Purge turned away and lifted his arm. The rod, once released from his grasp, slid into his sleeve and vanished. His eyes had hardened and lost their glow. Limbs, once bolstered by the odor's presence, drew toward lethargy. The time had come to vacate the orphanage and, with luck, rest.


Escape came easy, as he traced his steps back and slipped once more through the window. Atwyrs found even closing the shutters to be less obnoxious than opening them had been. With a deep breath, he walked across the yard and through the gate.


And came to a halt with a sniff. The sour mint scent had once more taken up residence within his nasal cavity. Though faint, the odor again came from the north.


With a sigh, he pursued the scent out of the town.




The orphanage matron found Ohnsybis' broken form the next morning when he failed to help with breakfast. Upon this discovery, she sent the eldest of her charges to fetch the guards before she ushered the rest out of the building. The charge returned with three members of the guard, including a captain the matron knew quite well.


"Inside. Door on the left at the end of the right hall; Ohnsybis' room." The matron gestured to the entrance as the guards walked up. The three went inside, while the eldest charge came up to her.


"Are you alright, Miss Owry? What happened to Ohnsybis?" the young lady asked, an expression of concern on her features.


"I am fine, Seyr. Ohnsybis...Ohnsybis." Owry, her eyes puffy, drew a deep breath and exhaled. "Ohnsybis has passed and gone to join his parents."


Seyr's eyes went wide, and she embraced the matron. "I'm sorry, Miss Owry. I will do what I can to help."


"Thank you, dear. For now, can you see to the young ones? I don't wish them too bothered. I will take care of matters with the guard." She gave Seyr a squeeze before separating.


The young lady smiled and crossed the yard to where the younger child played, unaware of the situation inside.


Several minutes after Seyr crossed the yard, the guard captain, a man with haggard eyes, and one of his subordinates emerged from the orphanage. While he approached the matron, his compatriot returned to the street.


"Salutations, Miss Owry," the captain said.


"Greetings, Captain Gowsys. Thank you for your quick response. Quite an unpleasant sight." Owry looked down in an attempt to hide her puffy eyes.


"Indeed. Terribly sorry for the loss of your nephew. Not a fate I would hope on any."


"Thank you, captain. Things will be difficult, but at least I can rely on Seyr for assistance." She looked toward the eldest of her charges, who now entertained three of the younger children, as she spoke.


"Seyr's a good lass. Sure she'll help as long as she can, as long as she's allowed." Captain Gowsys looked down and kicked the dirt.


He turned his face back to the older woman and spoke again, "Callous as this may sound, it looks like I won't need to keep looking into your suspicions. Lad's gone. Digging now would only taint the memory. Sorry I couldn't pull through for you on the matter. In time, anyway."


"It is alright, captain. I know you tried." Owry turned her eyes to the orphanage. "Now I need see to his arrangements; have him laid with his folks I think. Hard to believe my brother's line ends like this."


"Well, Ohlmyrk will help with the arrangements. Should be on his way by now to collect the remains." Captain Gowsys turned his body toward the gate. "I've got to get going. Have some questions for the night patrols. I'll stop by in the evening to check on you and the wee ones. Stay strong, Miss Owry."


"Strong is the only way I can stay, captain. Thank you."

© 2017 JPDonelan

Author's Note

Any and all feedback is appreciated. Questions are welcome and encouraged.

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Very well written. At first glance, the length was daunting. However, I am pleased to say that I enjoyed every bit of it. The unfolding mystery of who Atwyrs is and why the sour mint is so important was well paced and gripping. The world you created seemed complete and unique, lending to the notion there may be more stories and even a Tolkinesque universe, of which this is only a small part. I can't offer many improvements. The one thing I noticed was there were random quotation marks dispersed throughout the tale. Also, I never quite understood what the Sin of Godrey is. All in all, this was a mighty fine story. Your working vocabulary seemed quite large, with miasma and other such words. Well done, and keep writing.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 Year Ago

Thank you for your kind words, Luther. I am glad you enjoyed it. Will say I am happy to hear that I .. read more

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Added on January 14, 2017
Last Updated on June 25, 2017
Tags: Fiction, Fantasy, Punishment, High Fantasy




Currently working on a larger project that has put the editing of the follow-up to "Tome of Reality" on hiatus. My stories tend to reach toward five thousand words, which can be made to look longer.. more..