Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Spear of Longinus

Standing by as they nail him to the cross, I wonder what exactly he did to deserve such treatment; I mean, I know he was a dissident, but to earn such a tortuous death is beyond comprehension. Still, it’s not like we don’t put people up on the cross often enough. To his sides is a pair of thieves that were found guilty of their crimes, though they’re going to hang for a lot longer than he is.

Orders from above say we need to put this Yeshua guy out of his misery, and ours, as soon as we can. That is, after the crowd sees what happens to people who defy our rule of the land.
Looking over the barren landscape, I shoulder my spear and whip my cape to the side. The heat is unbearable this time of year, and my armor isn’t making it any more comfortable. Behind me several other soldiers fidget with their getups, attempting to get a breeze to flow over them by pulling their cloaks back. One soldier, a lowly Hebrew that signed on with us when we first moved in to occupy the territory, is standing still however. He’s watching as they drive the nails into this Jew-King’s wrists and ankles, tying him up on the cross so that he won’t fall.
I’ve never liked this soldier; he goes by the name of Nioleg, a phrase I’m not familiar with in any of the languages I speak. He has waxy skin which sweats constantly, and dark brown eyes like bottomless wells of darkness. He grips a sword in on hand, already drawn, and his shield in another, the brilliant crest of the Emperor gleaming in the brilliant sunlight of the day.
My attention is drawn away from Nioleg to the wails of Yeshua’s disciples and friends. They’ve come to watch their master be killed for his crimes, which I suppose in a way is noble. He’s hanging by his limbs from the cross now, blood seeping from his brow from the crown of thorns someone had rammed onto his head. He has whip marks lashed across his sides, along with cuts and scrapes from dragging the cross to the hill all by himself. More than one person scored a hit with a rock as he passed, and he sports numerous bruises and injuries just from the trip up to his place of death.
Ah, the Vizier is stepping up to address the masses. I give a hand signal for everyone to stand at attention, and glare at Nioleg as he seems steadfast in his desire to keep his sword out. He catches my eye and seems to consider me for a moment, before sheathing his sword in one fluid movement.
“Good,” I mutter before turning back to face the Vizier.
A thin man, he wears white and gold robes with a seal of the Empire emblazoned across his chest. Beneath his robes I can see he’s wearing a simple tunic of white linen, tied off at the waist by a yellow belt. He scans the crying crowd with a gimlet eye before he unfurls a scroll, and begins reading off the charges.
I just retreat into my own thoughts as the charges grow in number, scanning the crowd for someone, anyone, that can take my mind off of this nonsense. There are women with scarves over their heads, and men and merchants standing silently by. Towards the back of the crowd I see three Rabbis, watching on with more interest than I can muster. They must be here to see if Yeshua will fess up to being the pretender he is.
I scoff at that idea; even if he renounced his ways now, we’d still execute him; he’s already up on the cross! He’ll bleed out over the next few days while he dies of thirst, being tanned to a crispy leather hide by the hot desert sun. Yes, nothing he can say or do will change his fate now.
The Vizier finishes his diatribe, rolling up the scroll and fastening the buckle around it to make certain that it doesn’t flap open, before tucking it into his sash. He looks over at me and my regiment and waves at me, motioning me to come closer. I blink, not really knowing what to do; this is highly irregular to say the least, but who am I to complain? I readjust my spear over my shoulder and march up to the Vizier, clacking my heels together as I stop three feet from him.
The Vizier turns to the crowd. “This is Captain Pugna of his Emperor’s army!” He calls out over the hundred or so people gathered to watch the three souls slowly die on the cross. “He will see to it that none of you will try and rescue your precious Messiah.”
Even I shudder at the sneer in his voice before steeling myself as he turns to look at me. He takes a step closer. “Stab him in the side, between the ribs. I want him dead by dawn.”
My eyes widen at that. While again not unheard of, we rarely hasten the deaths of those set to this punishment. The whole idea is that they suffer for their crimes in the hopes of deterring others from doing so. I clear my throat and look at the Vizier, eyes imploring him to allow me to speak.
He nods, and I ask the questions that have been burning in my mind. “Why, sir, do you want me to hasten the criminals death? My men will watch over him and prevent anyone from rescuing him, and even if they did he’ll be a cripple for the rest of his days, surely that’s enough?”
The Vizier seems to contemplate my question, bobbing his head from side to side before answering. “I want him dead by dawn not because I’m afraid someone will try and break him free. I want him dead because that is what I’ve been told by the authorities to ensure. One good stab with that spear of yours should do it, so long as you can manage to slip it between the ribs.”
“Oh, have no fear sir, I’ve had many a battle with this weapon,” I said, patting the haft of the spear. “I know how to use it. I was just curious as to why he needs to die so soon.”
“Because that is the will of the Lord of the land,” the Vizier said, his tone making it clear he would brook no further argument. “Now get ready and stab him on my mark.”
“Yes sir,” I said, walking up to where I’m standing just under Yeshua’s cross. The man looks unconscious, with blood freely dribbling down his arms and dripping from his legs. His beard is matted with blood and his bronze skin is cut and bruised more than I’d originally seen. I ready my spear, the gleaming iron point some twelve inches long and bladed on both sides. The crowd’s mumbling have risen to cries of outrage as the Vizier holds up his hands to settle them.
“The criminal Yeshua will be given a pardon in the only way possible for a man who has committed his crimes,” the Vizier said, arms raised to quiet the crowd. “A quick death. Soldier! When you are ready!”
I take that as my queue and thrust up with my spear, throwing my weight into it. The blade sinks into his side, causing him to bellow out in agony as blood spurts from the wound, raining down on my like drizzle before a storm. I shift the blade stuck within him back and forth, tearing the wound open a bit more, before pulling it out and standing there, haft of my spear on the ground, blood staining my weapon like a thick molasses.
Suddenly a cold wind blows over the hill, kicking up sand and gravel as we all try to shield our eyes. The wind is cold enough to chill the sweat on my neck, and howls like the crazed sirens of old; a lone man begins laughing, a deep belly laugh that makes me shudder just hearing it. Looking over to my soldiers, I see Nioleg laughing to himself, drawing stares from the crowd and the other soldiers.
“Yes! You have seen the fruits of your work Yeshua, and now you have paid the price!” The soldier bellowed, pushing through the ranks to march up to me and the bleeding prisoner. I stand there staring at him before snapping back to attention. “Back to your post soldier!”
“In a minute whelp, I wish to enjoy this while I can,” Nioleg replies, walking up to stand beneath the dribbling wound from Yeshua’s side, opening his mouth to catch some of the blood as it drained out of him. “Mhmmm… yes, bleed for my Yeshua! Bleed like you made me bleed as I tumbled down the cliffs, suffer like you made me suffer within the swine.”
“Nioleg, back to your post!” I shouted, the Vizier finally catching on that something is amiss as he turns to regard what is happening.
Nioleg turns and faces me, this time with eyes as black as coal, blue veins radiating out from his eyes and cracked, parched lips smacking together as he spoke. “Do not presume to tell me what to do heathen! Now that you have spilled the blood of the savior, you and your weapon are cursed! Every three years it will change hands, each time with the owner meeting a grizzly fate. You will soon believe doubter, you will soon believe.”
And with that Nioleg collapsed on the ground, blood on his face and lips as he lay in the desert sun, unconscious. I would have taken that moment to kick him awake, but his skin began to blister and sizzle. Panicking, I pulled off my cloak and threw it over him, covering him up in a vain attempt to keep him from baking in the sun. I wave over a few soldiers, ordering them to take him, wrapped as best they could, to the barracks. The Vizier looks at me as I turn back to him, the crowd murmuring amongst themselves as my soldiers move to force them to dissipate.
“What was that?” The Vizier asked angrily.
“I don’t know sir,” I replied honestly. “I don’t know…”

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