The woman had long ago given up on fighting back. She let the man do what he did because it was easier that way. Less painful. It had been years since she had learned that lesson; she barely remembered her life before he had locked her away. Did the sun really shine brightly in an azure sky, or was that just a fancy she had invented? It didn’t matter. There was no light in her life, save the lantern the man brought with him.

The man rose from the bed, pulling on his pants. His desires were satisfied, at least for the moment. It was the few moments after he had been with the woman that he almost felt bad about what he did to her. Almost. He left the room before that feeling could become anything real. He took the lamp with him, plunging the room once more into darkness.

* * *

Three gods watched all of this, from whereever it is that gods watch things.

“This is an abomination,” said Justice. His mouth twisted sourly. His knuckles whitened as he gripped the hilt of Aeowar, his two-handed greatsword.

“You have my full agreement there.” Redemption was smaller than his brother, and not half as handsome, but he had the twinkle of new youth in his eye, and moved so lightly he seemed to float rather than walk.

“Justice and Redemption agree?” said Passion, her voice was the soft melody of chimes. “Is it the end of days already? If I had known, I’d have done my hair.”

Justice scowled. Her hair, of course, was perfect.

“The only question,” he said, “is which of you will intervene.”

The other two exchanged a glance. It was Passion who voiced their thought. “Shouldn’t that be you, brother? What happens here is hardly just, and you are, if you’ve forgotten, Justice. I believe it’s even written on that oversized knife you carry around with you.”

“My mandate is to Judge men’s actions, and see that they receive their due,” Justice said, as if explaining a simple fact to an especially dense child. “It’s not my place to stop them acting in the first place.”

“But it’s ours?” Redemption asked. “We somehow have a mandate more powerful than even that of the great and mighty Justice? I’ll remember that next time I’m arguing before you for a man’s soul.”

“You could redeem the man,” Passion pointed out. “Make him see the error of his ways. You’ve done as much before. Why not here?” Justice nodded sharply.

Redemption sighed. He’d long ago grown tired of the others not understanding how things worked. “It’s not that simple. They have to come seeking me. I can’t make anybody do anything. If I just snapped my fingers and made him free the woman, then where’s the redemption? Where’s the conscious choice to turn away from evil?”

“You, on the other hand,” he jabbed a finger at Passion, “are fueling everything he does. His heart overflows with desire. With passion. With lust. But not a shred of love or compassion for the woman.”

“Me?” Passion gasped. “You clearly don’t understand my mandate, brother. I’m the spice of life. The reason to get up in the morning. The butterflies you feel talking to the girl you love. The anger when she loves another. And yes, I’m the lust that drives that monster. But I am not the choices they make. I’m not the things they do. That’s the realm of free will and responsibility. Your mandates, not mine.”

Passion threw up her hands.

Justice’s scowl deepened.

Redemption shrugged.

And in the darkness, the woman began to weep.