Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Spear of Longinus, Part Two

I walked back into the barracks where they’d taken Nioleg, the smell of burnt meat heavy in the air as soldiers crowd around him in the darkened, cramped quarters. I have to pull more than one man away from the huddle to retain order as I shout at them to allow me to see the soldier who defied a direct order.

The others soldiers, all olive-skinned locals that had been conscripted into the army, look at me and whisper amongst themselves in their own tongue. I pay it no mind and stand there, waiting for a chance to look at Nioleg myself.
I don’t have to wait long.
The bunk beds are roughly the height of a man, and the one they’d thrown him on was in the corner of the dim room. He’d shrouded himself in sheets which were stained crimson from the blood he’d allowed to dribble over himself. He was tucked up in the corner, twin red dots gazing at me, smoldering arcs of flame that were once eyes. I heard a sob, followed by another. Was he… was he crying?
“Nioleg?” I whispered, taking a step closer.
“No!” He thrust a handout, a pale arm marred only by blue veins and long nails on slender fingers. His skin was as pale as polished ivory now, where it had once been a deep and earthy brown; what could have done this?
“Nioleg, what has come over you?” I asked, forgetting for a moment that I’m his superior officer and he is my soldier. “First I know little about you, and then I find you breaking rank to taunt an enemy of the state. What is your problem man?”
“My problem?” Nioleg said, turning his hand over and over in the dim light, allowing a spider to play across his fingers. “My problems are many now, little one. Yours are going to be much more dire however, should you keep that spear of yours.”
“My spear?” I asked, thinking of the weapon resting against the entrance of the barracks. “What do you mean?”
“That man we executed, the Jew… he is no ordinary man. His blood has special properties, and taking it against his will carries a heavy burden. For me, I feasted on it while possessed by some spirit most unclean. For you, you’ve coated your blade in it. It’ll be both blessed and cursed, just like me.”
“And how are you blessed Nioleg?” I asked with a sigh.
It’s then I realize he’s standing behind me, his arms draped over my shoulders, hands interlocked as the spider spins a web over his long knuckled bony digits. I hdn’t even heard him move, but now I could feel his presence over me… not his body heat, but his eyes, roaming over the back of my head. His arms were so drawn, so pale. I could smell the metal coming from his bloodstains, along with a slightly pungent scent of a body past its prime.
I reach up to grab his hands, only to find him gone, the spider now resting on my forearm. I wave it away and look around the barracks until I spot Nioleg standing in the corner near the entrance to the baths. He looks… horrible.
Dressed now only in the bloodied sheets that we’d thrown over him, his near skeletal frame make his nose and chin just out from his face sharply, his lips pulled back into a feral grin as he watches me look him over. His member is shriveled, limp though bare of any and all hair. Come to think of it, I don’t see any hair on him at all. I look up at him, looking into his crimson eyes.
“What are you?” I asked, horrified beyond reason about what I was looking at.
“Forsaken, sir. I am forsaken.” He said, his voice light and crisp, almost musical. “I want your permission to leave the regiment sir. I cannot stand in the sunlight due to my crimes. I need to go out and seek atonement for my sins.”
“I’ll take a horse, pay for it of course, as well as your spear. I have a feeling that your spear won’t be able to curse me anymore than I already am.” He said, dropping the sheets hanging around him to the floor. “I’ll ride north, along the coast, and search for the mystics that live in the caves.”
“You know I have standing orders to have those men put to death, don’t you?” I said, regaining a semblance of how this conversation should be going.
Nioleg shrugs. “I’ll kill them after I seek solace from them then. Call it a long term reconnaissance mission if you will.”
“And if I don’t agree to this idea?” I asked, taking a step closer, fighting down the fear budding in the back of my mind.
“Then I’ll kill a guardsmen tonight to take a horse, steal your spear, and ride from Judea along the coast seeking the mystics on my own.” He replied, crimson eyes dancing over me.
I stare at him for a moment before nodding slowly. “Something has happened to you, something evil. It’s a good thing we put down that Jew if he had the ability to curse people like this. Take my spear, Longinus, from me and use it as you see fit.”
“I thank you sir,” He bows, slinking into the darkness of the baths.
I turn, throwing my cape over my shoulder as I stomp out of the barracks, where the men are standing, waiting. “Nobody is to enter the barracks for twenty-four hours. You are all on leave for three days, with pay. Come back sober and able to march, that’s all I ask.”
“But what about Nioleg?” One of the soldiers asked, pointing in the barracks entrance.

“He’s dead, I’m off to report his death myself. But first,” I said, turning to grab my spear from where it rested and move into the barracks, leaning it against a wall deeper within. “He was a thief and a vagrant, as well as a soldier who disobeyed orders. We will not mourn him.”

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