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Topic Subject:THE DUTY - An Easter Story - Story Thread
Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-14-03 15:09 EST (US)         
A STRONGHOLD HEAVEN STORY

"THE DUTY"
A SHORT STORY OF EASTER
WRITTEN BY: Civis Romanus


Please do not post in this thread. To contact the author please click on the following link to this story's COMMENT THREAD.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 04-14-2003 @ 03:24 PM).]

AuthorReplies:
Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-14-03 15:39 EST (US)     1 / 9       
JERUSALEM - 33 AD.

The strange instrument cried its melancholy tune to an audience in the small room consisting only of the tall man with jade green eyes who plucked its strings. A "lute" he called the instrument, something from "the east" he brought with him from travels in lands covered by desert and spotted here and there by an infrequent oasis.

His name this day is Gaius Accipiter. It has been and will be different on other days past, present and future, but here in the city of Jerusalem, in the Roman province of Judea, his name is Gaius Accipiter. His 6 foot, 4 inch frame took the measure of the chair on which he sat. The crudely constructed chair did its task with only minimal squeaks and woody groans. He sat facing an opening in the room that looked eastward and vented the heat the afternoon sun of Judea built within the walls of the inn. Here Gaius awaited the coming of dawn on this third day following the tragedy on Golgotha. As he plucked the strings of his lute, Accipiter's thoughts wandered back to the grissly scene on the rise outside of the city.

On the afternoon of that day, Accipiter found a patch of earth at the foot of the place called Golgotha and sat on the barren, rocky ground so as to draw as little attention to himself as possible. He watched sadly as two men were tied with short lengths of rope to crossbeams and as each crossbeam was harnessed, lifted and dropped in place on upright, narrow tipped posts to form the Romans' infamous Tree of Death. The centermost post of the three was still uncrowned, but he knew it would not be for long.

The sound of a wooden beam being dragged across stone and dirt was heard coming from the foot of the hill. He turned to see a young Hebrew carrying a crossbeam of the same shape and size as carried by the two thieves now hanging from their crosses. Behind the Hebrew, dripping blood with each step and wearing a crown made up of twisted interlocking thorny stems, staggered a man in a torn red and purple robe, a man Accipiter knew all too well.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 04-15-2003 @ 11:30 AM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-14-03 15:58 EST (US)     2 / 9       
As the bleeding, staggering man approached the peak of the rise where the post waited for its crossbeam, Accipiter's eyes found the man's mother within a small crowd of bystanders. Her once exquisitely featured, youthful face was now worn and creased beyond her years. Thirty-six months of care and worry for the welfare of her now bloodied son had taken their maximum toll. Accipiter remembered her in her youth, on that day almost 34 years ago, when he found her alone in her cottage and brought to the fifteen year old girl, bound for marriage to Joseph the Carpenter, the gift that would turn her life upside down.

She opened the door just a crack to see Gaius Accipiter standing there towering over the opening to her home. "Yes?" she said tentatively. "Is there something you want?" A brief trembling in her voice said this young girl was somewhat afraid of the tall man with green eyes standing before her.

"Are you Maryam, sometimes called Mary, who is betrothed to Joseph of Nazareth, the carpenter?" Gaius did his best to use the most soothing of voices within his range of choices. It was somewhat successful as the girl seemed to begin sensing that no harm was intended by the visitor.

"Yes, I am she," answered the girl, the door opening just a little more.

"I am a messenger. May I enter?"

The girl instinctively looked back over both shoulders very quickly to see if the cottage was in order. Still she hesitated. "Who is the message for? Is it from my betrothed?"

"For you, Mary. I bring you glad tidings."

The hint of a smile crossed her face. She decided the man, despite his impressive size and oddly colored eyes, meant no harm. "Enter, please."

Gaius Accipiter, the one chosen and given The Duty, delivered the message he carried. The girl stood entranced as his green eyes began to change, the color of his pupils circling, swirling and metamorphing into a vibrant pattern of gold with intervening streaks of royal blue. "Mary, I bring this word. You are given The Gift. You shall be with child from this day forward. The Father is your Faith. Your son shall come to know his Father and do what his Father behests. He will be called by his Father when the time is right. Marry Joseph and honor him as if he were the father. You have heard these words for yourself, though others may change them later. Do what is bid. It is His will." Accipiter's eyes returned to the green of jade, his message fully delivered, the first of many that comprised The Duty.

Mary sat hard on a wooden chair fabricated as a gift by her husband-to-be. Tears formed and look for a place to gather and run. "But I am not worthy. Why choose me? I am but a girl and betrothed. What will Joseph say?" Tears ran like the waters of the river Jordan.

Again the soothing voice of Gaius Accipiter filled the small cottage room. "Do not fear, Mary. Tell him. All will be well." She looked up at him, some disbelief still evident in her eyes. Accipiter could do no more to comfort her. "I must leave now, Mary. My message is given."

"Will I see you again?"

"When the next message is to be given." Accipiter inclined his head respectfully to signify his purpose there was completed and to acknowledge Mary's changed status. Then he turned and walked out of the cottage. From a vantage point concealed from Mary's view, he watched the distressed girl leave her cottage and make her way up the road walking quickly.

"Yes, Mary," he said to himself. "You must visit your cousin. Let Elizabeth finish what I have begun." Accipter watched the girl disappear around a bend in the road. "Now to Nazareth," he said, and Accipiter began the journey that would bring him to Joseph the Carpenter on the day on which the shocked man would learn of the child in the womb of Mary. It would be Accipiter's task to calm the betrothed of Mary and ensure that the boy would have a father who would provide the means to sustain mortal life.

Days later, Gaius Accipiter fulfilled this part of The Duty given to him. Joseph, struggling mightily with Mary's revelation, found solace in Accipiter's words. Resigned to the fact (Mary's bright, earnest face everpresent in his thoughts) the carpenter decided "what is, shall be". The marriage occurred as planned, but Gaius Accipiter was not there. He had long since departed the region and was engaged in other matters charged to him in that time.

Gaius did not see the boy again until the boy with the Gift was in his early manhood. It was then Gaius brought to Jesu a request that Jesu pledged to remember and a further message: On that day, do whatever his mother asked, and to do so without fail. After Accipiter departed, Mary and her son journeyed to a wedding feast that would be of momentous importance to both the wedded couple and to Jesu himself. It was there, at the wedding feast, that the Gift began to blossom.

The next time Gaius saw the young man and his mother, she would be standing tearfully on a rise at a place to which her tortured, bleeding son was being led to be raised high on the Tree of Death.

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-14-03 20:37 EST (US)     3 / 9       
Words spoken gruffly in Latin, the tongue of the Romans, distracted Gaius and drew his eyes to the place where a Centurion stood, hands on hips, glaring at a Roman soldier of obviously lesser rank.

"What do you mean by 'That's all the rope there is'? I distinctly told you bring sufficient for three crucifixions."

"Centurion, I brought all the rope left in our supply. Flavius said there was no more to be had until the next galley arrived."

The Centurion's face purpled with anger. "Flavius! The cheating scum! If I find that he's been selling our supplies on the local market, why I'll... I'll..." He struggled to contain his rage. "How much do we have, then?"

"Enough to work the pulleys, but not enough so that we can cut lengths and bind the prisoner to the crossbeam."

"Then find something else to bind him with, and hurry. I don't want to take all day with this!"

"Yes, Centurion," said the soldier saluting. He then turned and was about to hurry off to find whatever he could when he stopped and pointed to some objects on the ground. It did not take particularly long for the two of them to agree that the solution was at hand.

The noonday light of the sun darkened as rogue clouds began to form in what otherwise was typically a dry, dustladen clear sky. Jesu was stripped of his tattered, bloodstained robe and laid down on the ground, his hands and wrists held firmly to the crossbeam, his head just below the wood. The crowd gasped in horror as the Roman raised the iron mallet and struck the spike placed point down on Jesu's wrist, near his hand. CLANG! A man's scream echoed off the walls of every nearby building. CLANG! The second blow drove the spike home. CLANG! Another scream. CLANG! The second spike was in place.

Two ropes led from the crossbeam to pulleys erected on a frame. Two men, one man per rope pulled from the far side of the upright post. The crossbeam began to move and elevate, taking Jesu's battered body with it. For a few feet Jesu was dragged across the gravel and stones of the hilltop, then he too began to be elevated as the crossbeam rose to the top of the post. His feet left the earth and his body swung hard, slamming into the flat of the post. Finally the crossbeam was just above its place on the post. Unceremoniously and with little care of any kind, the men allowed the crossbeam to drop on the narrowed top of the post and find its resting place. CLUMP! The shock of placement caused Jesu's body to drop downwards, his rib cage to squeeze hard on his lungs, leaving him gasping for air. Breath came back slowly, painfully even as the earth spun before Jesu's eyes.

Gaius Accipiter struggled with these events as he had with The Duty for all of these nearly 34 years. Not that time mattered much to one like himself who is immortal. No, time was irrelevant. What did matter was being charged with The Duty and charged as well with a directive to never interfere in the acts of the mortals, especially these mortals in this time. He was to be bearer of the Gift and a messenger, that is all. Gaius bowed and accepted his charge. He might have done differently if he truly knew that this would be the result of his dutiful passing of the Gift to the womb of Mary.

Some now hurled insults at the man on the center cross. "King? You are no King! What is your decree, King among us?" Laughter took the place of the scream heard earlier. "If you are so powerful, a god they say, remove yourself from the Tree of Death and walk away!" Out of curiousity, even the Roman guards looked up to see what the man would do. They snickered among themselves when nothing happened. The accuser in the crowd spit on the ground near the foot of the Tree and walked away voicing curses. The Romans gathered near the foot of the cross and cast a die to see who would keep the robe. But most in the crowd either remained silent like Accipiter, or wept like Mary, the mother of the man who would soon be dead.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 04-16-2003 @ 03:22 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-15-03 15:39 EST (US)     4 / 9       
Leather sandals striking gravel, rocks and dirt in unison grew louder and co-mingled with the derisive words, laughter and crying scattered among individuals in the sparse crowd. A patrol of Roman legionnaires approached the crest of the hill.

"Centurion!" cried out one of the soldiers who had labored to begin the executions. "Our relief is here!"

"It's about time," grumbled the Centurion. When they arrived he questioned the new Centurion who led the relief patrol to Golgotha. "What kept you? You should have been here an hour ago."

"Sorry. Trouble in the city. These Judeans... " The Roman shook his head. "They're roaming about in small bands looking for followers of the one called Jesu. Their priests are leading them." The Centurion looked up to see the center post occupied by the man talked about in the city. "Were the spikes necessary?"

"Ran out of rope. No choice." The Centurion looked the other in the eye. "Any problem with that?"

"No, I suppose you did what had to be done." The newly arrived Centurion's face paled slightly and he looked at anything other than the eyes of the other.

"Then, Lucius, I will take my men back to the barracks if you are ready to take command here. Hail Caesar!"

"Yes. Hail Caesar." They exchanged salutes. One salute, that belonging Lucius the newly arrived centurian, was half-hearted. Lucius looked up once more at the man on the center Tree. "I heard your words. I don't know what in them was so wrong."

Slumped on the Tree, his chin pressing into his lower throat, Jesu managed to elevate his head enough to peer into the face of the Centurion below. His soft brown eyes spoke the words his lips could not form. Despite his pain and discomfort, he smiled. Lucius saw the smile and could not bear its import. He turned away taking shelter in duty while his mind churned with doubt.

Accipiter saw words spoken between Jesu and the two men who were his companions on the hill. They were too faint for him to know what was said. Once Jesu struggled to lift his head up and say something in protest, his mortal being inwardly screaming against the abuse being administered to his body. Laughing, a Roman placed a cloth dipped in vinegar on a spear point and placed it on his mouth. Jesu winced as the acidy, bitter liquid dripped down his chin and coursed down his chest inflaming the cuts on his chest caused by the whipping in the gaol. He spit the liquid out and refused the cruel offering.

Lucius saw what the soldier had done and before the soldier could lower the spear, Lucius struck down the man's hand holding it and reprimanded him for unneeded cruelty, the Tree of Death was cruel enough. The soldier waited for Lucius to turn his back and in an act of pure vengeance for his reprimand, pressed the point of the spear into Jesu's side. No blood flowed. Accipiter lowered his head. Jesu's words, "It is finished," seemed anti-climactic.

The storm struck with all of its pent up fury. Lightning split the grey of the sky and rain fell in torrents. Miserable with the weather, grumbling about their duty, the Romans took down the man hanging dead on the centermost Tree of Death. The Centurion saw to it that the lifeless body of Jesu was placed in the arms of the woman who claimed to be his mother. Lucius paused as if to say something, but could find no words that were suitable. He turned and walked away.

Gaius Accipiter, drenched in rain, his hair plastered to his head, green eyes red with barely controlled sadness, rose as well to return to Jerusalem and the inn where he kept his meager belongings. There he would seek out his one avenue of release from melancholy, his lute.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 04-16-2003 @ 03:19 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-15-03 15:55 EST (US)     5 / 9       
As Gaius entered the city, the torrential rain ceased. Water rivulets continued to run off the roofs of buildings, then gather and run down the center of the narrow streets. The sun would be well set and the dark of night would swallow those on the streets who did not carry torches, he concluded. He found his way to the inn just as the night extinguished all record of the day's meager sunlight.

He needed no food or drink, but took these things merely for appearance and for the satisfaction triggered by their consumption. A disturbance outside the inn in the middle of the night drove him from his solitude at a table in the public area. Accipiter stepped outside to see what the noise was about. He had lost track of time, a usually meaningless thing to an immortal, and found that the eastern horizon was slightly lighter than the sky around him.

A man was being pressed against the wall of the inn. A small, shadow-eyed crowd of sleep-deprived Judeans carrying torches and clubs and led by two pharisees crowded around the man. No Roman soldiers were in sight. Accipiter moved in as close as he could to hear what was being said. Remember Gaius, he said to himself, do not interfere, merely listen. He regretted his own self-advice almost immediately.

The Judean pressed by the crowd looked at his accusers with intense fear written all over his face. A pharisee pointed his finger at the perspiring, entrapped man. "You know of whom we speak! You were seen with him!" The accused man, in early middle age, shook his head but said nothing in response as if his tongue were tied by the fear he felt. The pharisee persisted, "Don't deny it! You have been in his company. You even dined with him the night he was taken prisoner!" The small gang with the two pharisees pressed closer, their clubs shifting back and forth in their hands. Those carrying torches held them higher and closer so the face of the accused man could be seen better by all.

The accused man finally broke his silence and exclaimed, "NO! I deny these accusations! I do not know the man!" The gang grumbled their dissatisfaction with the man and their expressions turned ugly.

The other pharisee now raised his finger. "LIAR! You are in alliance with the blasphemer! You shall die as well!"

Something snapped in Accipiter. The day's events and now this incident tumbled together to drive his anger nearly beyond his control. Well he knew that he could bring his powers to bear and prove the mortality of these ignorant men; but he did not. Instead, exercising all of his power to control himself, he stepped back from the gang, elevated himself straight-backed to his full heighth and spoke in a voice as powerful as he had ever attempted. "HOW DARE YOU THREATEN THIS MAN WITH DEATH FOR BEING THAT WHICH IS NOT A CRIME!" Accipiter's voice echoed off the walls and any other object to be seen on the street outside the inn. Every living soul on the street felt a chill run up their back and immediately turned their attention to the origin of the powerful voice.

With all eyes focussed on Accipiter, the accused man found a space through which to escape. He took advantage of the opportunity, stopping only when in that instant he heard a cock crow. The man's face fell. He looked at Accipiter who was standing tall among those who stared at the stranger, and Accipiter returned his look. The Judean's tears falling immediately, the now free man buried his face in his hands, turned and ran up the street and away from the gang in front of the inn. They paid no attention to him. Accipiter had earned all of their attention with his outburst.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 04-15-2003 @ 09:47 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-15-03 21:37 EST (US)     6 / 9       
The gang, the pharisees in the lead, edged closer to Gaius Accipiter. He stood his ground with a steady stare aimed directly at the two who guided the group. The fingers of the pharisees now pointed at Accipiter. "Are you a follower of the blasphemer?"

"He who died is no blasphemer," said Accipiter, his voice firm, full, but less preemptive now.

"You defend the blasphemer? You defend words that defiled us, we who are Pharisees and Sadducees; that defiled the Temple and defiled Jehovah? That offended the people who..."

Accipiter's voice rose in volume and force once more. "ENOUGH! ENOUGH I SAY! YOU WHO ARE PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES DEFILED? YOU HYPOCRITES!!!! It is you who defile the Temple! It is you who offend the people! It is you who reject the honest sacrifices of the people, confiscate their offerings and cause them to buy only "sanctified" animals for sacrifice! Then you take the same animals you confiscate and sell them, unchanged, to the people who come to the temple the next day!" The two pharisees looked nervously from the corners of their eyes to see if Accipiter's words were having any impact. To their dismay, they found some of their companions were looking suspiciously at the pharisees.

Accipiter allowed nothing to interrupt what he was saying. "It is you, the Pharisees and Sadducees, who declare prayer money to be unclean and send the people to the Temple's moneychangers to replace their hard earned coins with 'clean' coins acceptable in the eyes of Jehovah with which to buy exhorbitantly priced animals for sacrifice. These honest people who come to the Temple to pray find their real sacrifice is to the moneychangers and to the pharisees and sadducees who exact a stiff fee for their beneficial services leaving little for people to offer that is their own. Blasphemer? THE MAN YOU MURDERED THIS DAY DID NOTHING WORSE THAN DRIVE FROM THE TEMPLE THE SELF-SERVING, AVARICIOUS VERMIN OF JUDEA!!!! And you, his target that day, in your anger conspired to see him condemned to a death by the cruelest means at your disposal! YOU ARE AN ABOMINATION TO YOUR FAITH !!! YOU DISGUST ME!"

The sun was beginning to rise in the east and the blazing gold and flaming reds in Accipiter's eyes could now be seen by all, but especially by the pharisees who were closest to him. "Who are you that you think you can speak this way to us?!" shouted a pharisee, a tremor of fear and doubt surfacing despite the aggression in his voice. "You are not one of us, you are no prophet!"

Accipiter's eyes turned full, blood red. His teeth were clenched and his words came out as if sharpened like the edge of a Roman sword. "Here me well, pharisee. I am nobody, but He Who Is has already decided your fate. By the end of a generation, Judea will be no more. Your precious Temple will be reduced to rubble. The Covenant and its vessel will be lost. You will be scattered to the ends of the earth and you will not know peace until you and gentile alike finally learn the meaning of the words of the man you murdered this day on the Tree of Death. Woe to you pharisees and sadducees. Your greed has guided you and your people to their destruction! NOW GO! AND LEAVE ME AND THIS PLACE IN PEACE!"

To the pharisees, the tall man with the eyes of red seemed to grow to an impossible heighth. Ebony appendages, feathered like a bird's, seemed to expand from his back and spread to an unbelievable width. Nothing like it had ever been described in the scrolls. Nothing like it had ever been described in the legends. Fear grasped the pharisees in its firm grip. The two men dropped their torches and ran up the street leaving their gang behind.

The gang who had accompanied the pharisees saw nothing of this. Instead, they listened as the tall man with the green eyes spoke of things they never knew, and in a way that was spellbinding. As the pharisees ran for the protection of the Temple, something touched the minds of each and every one of the men standing with a club or a torch. A calm came over them as Accipiter ceased speaking to them. One by one they dropped their now useless torches and their pointless clubs and they all returned to their homes.

With a sigh, Accipiter re-entered the inn and sought out his room and the treasured instrument he carried with him these days. The mournful tune he played on its strings conveyed much more than sorrow. Buried deeply in the music were notes of remorse... For having nearly lost his temper... For telling more of what will be than he intended... For the ever-trying directive against interference in the acts of mortals that he is burdened to obey. And this last burden, carried painfully on the day now gone by, was nearly more than he could bear.

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-16-03 16:19 EST (US)     7 / 9       
Morning found its way into all of the streets, alleys and openings of the city of Jerusalem. Four Roman soldiers paused outside of the inn in which Accipiter spent the night. They cautiously looked around before talking among themselves. It was imprudent in these times to let eyes stray too far from the everpresent threat of ambush. In fact two of the Romans were newly arrived in the province as replacements for two legionnaires who were killed in an ambush led by the rebel Judean named Barabbas.

"Octavius," said one of the replacements, "It is so very quiet this morning. Where is everyone?"

Octavius looked around once more before answering Lucindus' question. "This is the day these Judeans call their 'sabbath'. It is a religious practice. None of them work, except to prepare a supper for the evening. It's a law I heard said was given to them by one of their dead leaders when he brought them out of Aegyptus many years ago. We legionnaires look forward to this day. Except around the temple, there's generally very little trouble to be had in the province when it is sabbath-time."

"Oh, I see. Well, in a way I see." The other legionnaire had a question of his own. "I am told that this rebel Judean... Uh... Barabbas? Yes, that's his name, was released by Governor Pilate. Why? It's not like Roma to free a captured, convicted rebel leader."

"No, it's not," agreed Octavius. The other veteran legionnaire, Marcus, shook his head. "I hear Pilate gave the Judeans a choice between the rebel and the one some called a false prophet. One would be freed in recognition of some Judean holiday and the other would be crucified. Crassus told me even Pilate was surprised when they chose the prophet for the Tree. Crassus said Pilate found no fault in the man and that as the Governor washed his hands in the bowl Crassus gave him Pilate mumbled something about the strange people in this land and their unpredictable behaviour. Pilate was not pleased at all, but had no choice. Actually, the Governor felt somewhat duped, Crassus said. The Governor thinks the whole situation was contrived by the temple priests simply to free the rebel and to get the prophet out of their beards."

"Why? What did the man do to the priests?"

"You apparently didn't hear about the Temple. The prophet rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey with a parade of followers behind him. He then went to the Temple and terrorized the thieves who worked there, overturning their tables and bodily throwing them out of the building." The four Romans started to laugh. "Yes, said Marcus, it was indeed a funny sight to behold. I was on duty there when it happened."

"What did you do?" asked a newcomer.

"Nothing. They got what they deserved so far as I was concerned. Anyway, things quieted down soon enough and so calling in a cohort or two wasn't necessary. The prophet left peacefully enough and went on his way. Eventually they arrested him in a garden. They let his two followers go, though one tried to cut the ear off of a servant of the High Priest who was part of the delegation from the Temple."

"Didn't they arrest the Judean for taking up arms like that?"

"Well, that's the strange part about it. The one they crucified said there was no need to arrest the Judean because the servant wasn't really harmed. And you know, it was true. Despite the blood on his shoulder, the man's ear was perfectly normal. It confused things just enough so that the Cohort Leader who made the arrest on behalf of the priests felt compelled to let the two Judeans go. He can't explain why or how any of this happened to this day. I understand he hasn't been himself since. In fact, they are sending him back to Roma on the next galley."

One of the Romans was about to say something more when the door to the inn opened wide and a very tall, green-eyed man emerged, stopped and stared at them. Then the man inclined his head to signify recognition and respect and turned to walk the street on his way to his business for the day. The Romans watched the man disappear into the city and then looked at each other wordlessly. Thoughts disrupted, the Romans resumed their patrol on this day the locals called the Sabbath.

Gaius Accipiter took very little time finding out the resting place of Jesu. It seemed all of Jerusalem already knew where it was. The merchant named Joseph (Gaius didn't miss the significance of the name) allowed the body to be placed in a tomb he had originally purchased for himself. A huge stone was rolled in front of the entrance and on the advice of the pharisees and sadducees the Governor ordered a three-man Roman guard to be posted. It seemed there was a prophecy that was a particular concern of theirs, or so the Governor was told.

The location and conditions now known to him, Gaius took the extraordinary step of focussing his attention on the time of day. He returned to the inn and sought his instrument. He passed the time in thought and music until the sun set, darkness enfolded Jerusalem and the time of the Sabbath passed. It was close to dawn now on the third day since these momentous events began. It was time for him to fulfill the rest of The Duty that was his charge.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 04-17-2003 @ 03:26 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-17-03 15:42 EST (US)     8 / 9       
Today, the third day, there would be no walk through the streets of Jerusalem, no pause to dabble in things that were mortal, and no other endeavers except to fulfill The Duty. Gaius Accipiter changed his well-worn garment for another on this day: a long robe white as northern snow. Dressed, Accipiter closed his eyes and cleared his mind of all matters except The Duty. He bowed his head and placed his hands together to sharpen his focus.

An aura began to emanate from his body, spreading around and enveloping him from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Ebony wings began to unfold, glistening with the brightness of the aura, contrasting sharply with the white of his robe. His wings spread farther until they were fully extended, the leading points nearly touching opposite walls of the small room. The aura expanded until it nearly filled the room, then silently and suddenly, Gaius Accipiter and the aura was present in the small room of the inn no more.

Accipiter opened his eyes to find himself in the destination he intended. Except for the barest hint of early morning light leaking through small openings between the rolled stone and the entrance to the tomb, the carved out chamber was as dark as night. Gaius closed his eyes and the aura resumed its glow. That would be sufficient light for his purposes this day.

His jade green eyes sought out and found the body lying on a raised, flattened rectangular piece of the tomb's floor obviously left for this purpose by the quarrymen who formed the chamber. Jesu was wrapped in white linen. The task had been done hurriedly, without the usual preparations, and the stains of his death were subtly visible through the linen where it was thin and close to the skin. Accipiter knelt on one knee and pulled back the linen that covered Jesu's face and breast. He placed a hand on the dead man's breast... Bowed his head... Said the words...

It was then that the Gift finally coursed to full bloom and revealed itself in all of its manifest glory.

The man lying cold on the even colder surface of the carved altar opened his eyes, blinked a few times and focussed his attention on the glowing image of the man on one knee at his side. Recognition occurred immediately. "Messenger, I am alive?" said The Christ.

"No," answered Accipiter. "You are not."

"Then... I am dead and you have carried me to the House of my Father."

"No, Christus. I have not done this. You are not dead, nor are you alive. And the time for you to depart is not yet arrived."

Gingerly, Jesus raised himself to a sitting position on the stone. He looked down at his arms and saw the wounds caused by the spikes. He found the place in his side where the point of the spear had penetrated his body. "The wounds do not bleed, yet they are not healed."

"They are not wounds any longer but testimony to where the wounds once were on what was your mortal body."

"This is the body I had when they crucified me, Messenger. What do you mean by "was"?"

Accipiter patiently answered the question knowing the Gift was in bloom, but still not fully opened. "Jesus, for you to fully realize the Gift, it was necessary for you to shed your mortality. This was the task you began three days ago and concluded on the Roman Tree. That which you think is a body is not, that which you see is for the sight of those who remain anchored to mortality. It is for you to decide how you shall be seen, in what form and with what characteristics. Now it is time for you to seek that which is within. Unlock now the last aspect of the Gift brought to you at conception. Seek the answers to your questions within your soul. To guide you there is the last act of The Duty I was bound these years past to perform. Follow me, Christus, and I will show you the way."

The chamber was enveloped in light shining as brightly as the light of day outside. When the light subsided, there were two figures aglow in the darkness. The second and newest light elevated himself from the stone on which he had lain, removed the earthly linen in which he was wrapped and manifested on his shining body a new wrapping, much like a gown or a robe, that was as white as the one worn by the messenger who awakened him. He neatly folded the burial linen and laid it gently on the stone. Turning to Accipiter, Christus said, "Thank you Messenger. You have shown me the way to fully understand That Which Is."

"You maintained the images of your wounds, I see," observed Accipiter.

"It is best they see me in this aspect, or recognition will not be possible."

"Then, Christus, in truth I believe you understand all that there is to understand."

"You have guided me well. And as you say, there is much I must do." Jesus suddenly had a faraway look in his glowing eyes. "And the time I have here is so brief before I must assume my tasks elsewhere."

Accipiter nodded, not knowing what tasks they might be, but knowing that tasks are what he will have. The matter of the stone now became paramount.

____________________________________________________________

One of the three Roman guards outside cocked an ear towards the circular stone that looked like the oversized wheel of an oxcart rolled into place to prohibit the passage of beast or man. He looked at the other Roman guards, a strange expression on his face. "Did you hear voices within the chamber?" he asked, feeling just a little foolish from the asking.

"No, did you?" said the second guard looking at the third guard and giving a slight tilt of his head to signal his opinion of the mental state of the first guard.

"Hmmm, no I didn't. Morning breeze maybe?" the third guard said, trying to be less critical and more indulgent than the second guard.

"I'm sure I heard voices," said the first guard.

"Right, so put your ear to the stone and listen some more to the whisperings between the worms and the dead," said the second guard derisively. The first guard felt himself bristle but held his tongue. Disregarding the laughter of the second guard, he did exactly what was suggested.

"Shhhhh! There are voices!" he said. "Come here and listen for yourself!"

Turning his back on the first guard, the second guard waved his hand at him in dismissal; but the third guard, younger than the others and fresh in the service of Roma, coming from a deeply military family, followed the example of the first guard and listened at the stone as well.

Suddenly, the grinding of stone on stone filled their ears and the great round rocky doorway serving as their listening post began to roll aside of its own accord, opening the chamber within to the light of the morning sun. Two figures, one much taller than the other, both shining brighter than the sun itself, emerged from the now open tomb and stood gazing upon the three Romans who had been their guards. Two of the soldiers fell to their knees quaking in fear, but the third, the youngest, merely stepped back and away from the newly emerged figures, and stared appraisingly at what he unexpectedly beheld.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 04-18-2003 @ 00:03 AM).]

Civis Romanus
Earl
posted 04-18-03 00:56 EST (US)     9 / 9       
While two of the three guards cowered on the ground before the shining figures, the third guard felt compelled to speak to the taller of the two spectres. "Are you gods?" asked the Roman. The other two motioned to him to get down on the ground like they were and assume a humble posture. The third guard would have none of it and again asked, though politely. "Please, if you will tell me, are you gods?"

The aura surrounding both figures seemed to dim so that facial features were visible where none had been visible before. The taller of the two men, the one whose eyes seemed to have a green cast, answered for his companion. "The words are yours."

The shorter figure manifested what could only be described as a benevolent smile. Jesus remembered his time before Pilate and the other judges when those very words comprised his answer to questions about who he was. Now more than ever he understood that who he was and what his presence meant would be deciphered through the words of others, not necessarily his own. The words were not yet written. He knew one of his remaining tasks was to see that they were.

The taller man smiled as well. "Young Roman, do not fear us. You and the others, go your way. Tell Pilate what you have seen. No harm shall befall you from events this day."

The third guard, the one Accipiter addressed as 'Young Roman' looked down at his companions and noted they were cautiously rising to their feet. "I think you are not a god," observed the third guard. "You and the other are far too kindly. I know not who or what you are, but I shall obey."

"Young Roman," said Accipiter, appreciative of the Roman's candor. "Know this for now. Your family's strength shall be found in the East. It shall be your great-grandson who will know me best. His name shall be the same as yours."

The third guard frowned and paused to say something more, but the others grasped him about the arms and pulled him hurriedly from the site. "Get a move on, Romanus! No time to tarry. We are told to leave, so we shall leave!" The young Roman was hurried off by the others, none of them stopping to exchange even a brief greeting with the two women who approached the tomb, jars of scented oils and clean linens in their hands.

The brightness of the clothing worn by the two men startled Mary of Magdala and another woman named Mary who accompanied her. Though their auras were subdued, the two figures nonetheless contrasted sharply with the strength of the morning sun, at least seemed to in the eyes of the women. Mary of Magdala was so startled that she nearly dropped her precious jars of ointments meant for the body of the man she accompanied since his public forgiveness of her past sins. In a trembling voice she spoke to the taller man first. "Why is the tomb open? Have you stolen his body?"

Accipiter shook his head. "No, Mary. He is risen. Enter and see for yourself." Mary of Magdala and the other Mary ran to the tomb to see if what they were told was true. The body of Jesu was indeed gone. They left their jars and linens there and hurried outside. The two men were still there.

"What have you done with him?!" Mary of Magadala said, a touch of anger as well as anquish in her voice. The shorter of the two men stepped forward. Bravely, Mary stood her ground ready to defend herself however a woman could.

"Do you not recognize me, Mary?" said the figure, his soft brown eyes hazily discernable within the aura surrounding his peaceful face. The woman looked hard, and harder yet. Finally, decidedly, recognition flooded her soul. "Jesu!" she exclaimed and she fell to her knees before him. The other saw the wounds as Christus extended his arms in greeting, and she too fell to her knees as had the Magdalene.

"Rise. Do not kneel before me," said Jesus, touching each woman gently in a way that was felt by the soul of each in a way unlike the touch of a mortal man. "Rejoice! The prophecies have been fulfilled. Tell the others wherever they may be. Tell them I shall be among them soon and to prepare." Weeping with joy the women hurried off to do as they were bid.

When Jesus returned to his side, Accipiter looked upon him with green eyes tinged with the return of melancholy. "I must take my leave now. The Duty I was charged to perform is now fulfilled."

"Brother, must you go. Stay with me. There is much I would like to talk of with you."

Accipiter felt strangely uncomfortable, though pleased. "Would Christus, that I could be your brother in more than just thought. I cannot. I am not a possessor of the Gift. There will be another, centuries from now, who will serve as will you. He will know you and acknowledge you, but his followers will be blinded to the meaning of his words by those who translate their meaning self-servingly. Yes, Christus, though you and he will show the way, some of your faithful and his will be more like the pharisees and sadducees of this time than like your disciples, or Mary of Magdala or your beloved mother. Many will be caught in the trap woven by these hypocrites and many shall die in your's and his name by each other's hand, encouraged by false priests and ambitious men. There is no help for it. He Who Is has given mortal man the right to choose a way. You and the other will Light the way down different but equal paths; but many, eyes wide open, will not see the Light and will stumble about in the Light as if it were darkness. I weep for those who sincerely believe in the words of the hypocrites who defile the way to the Light."

"Where do you go, Messenger?"

"To observe, Christus, for I cannot interfere. I can only hope that what I fear could happen, does not happen. So I go beyond this time and travel the ages to observe, to learn, to quench my curiousity about mortal men and to quest for the moment when they at long last learn to separate hypocrisy from truth so that the Word and its ways will find its intended fulfillment among them. Until then, I carry a message which I cannot reveal, the message you already know. And it greaves me so to know that in no age yet traveled can I find the conditions right to deliver the message and see the comfort it will bring manifested."

Jesus looked at Accipiter, the tall man's sadness reflected in his own eyes. "Until you do, Messenger, peace be unto you."

"Yes," repeated Gaius Accipiter. "Peace."


THE END

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 04-18-2003 @ 01:28 AM).]

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