The bar finally calmed as night slowly became dawn. The evening had been rowdy because the men had not received liberty in two weeks because of the holiday that had overtaken the city. Each legionary was to be given one day’s liberty over this weekend and Dismas and Gestas had a firm plan that involved a lot of wine and hopefully a prostitute if they could find the money.
The two Roman soldiers were auxiliaries and were not paid a soldier’s wage. They were born in neighboring Syria in the city of Tyre. Both orphans, their only hope for a better life laid in the legions and the promise of Roman citizenship at the end of decades of service.
Gestas set his elbows on the bar and buried his face in his hand, released a loud yawn, and turned to Dismas, “Come on. Let’s go find a girl and get back to the barracks. I’m tired.”
Dismas laughed; wine slurred his speech, “We can’t even afford a boy.”
Gestas belched, “Let’s go down to the tent camps outside of the walls and have our pick of whatever we want. I hear this Jewish cunny’s supposed to stay intact…”
The bartender slammed a cup down on the table, “You two will pay and you will leave now. I want no more of you two in my inn every again! I will tell your centurion -”
Gestas exploded into action like a wildcat. He jumped up and drew his short sword from the scabbard, deftly placing it under the bartender’s chin in one smooth motion, “And with what will you tell him, Jew? Your old mouth or the new one I’m going to cut in your throat?”
Dismas lurched over the bar and pointed at the floor, chortling drunkenly, “Look Ges, he’s pissing himself!” Both men laughed as a small dark puddle developed at the bartender’s feet on the earthen floor.
Defusing a possibly lethal situation, the door to the tavern suddenly opened. A dark skinned man of Semitic descent, well-dressed in a fine, black silken tunic with gold embroidery and a floor length skirt, entered the building. This bar was a frequent for off-duty legionaries and a local entering was odd enough. That such a fine-dressed local would enter such a place was unheard of. Three sets of eyes turned to the door as the official-looking man made his way into the tavern.
The bar hung deathly still for a moment as the well-dressed man quietly surveyed the scene with eyes ringed with dark make-up. His soft, ruby-colored lips slowly parted, and an airy, effeminate voice cracked the tension, “You, legionaries, are with the second torture detachment to the 12th Legion Fulminata, are you not – ?”
The sound of oiled metal rubbing against metal echoed around the common room of the tavern as Dismas released his sword, dropping his scabbard to the ground, “I think we found our entertainment for the evening. Deal with the barman quietly and I will subdue the nancy -”
The official-looking man held up a soft, smooth hand with well-manicured nails in a gesture of peace, “Hold legionaries. My people know I am here and that I search for you. My master has need of men with your unique skill set.”
Dismas scoffed, “And who is your master, nancy?”
The well-dressed man pursed his lips, “Yosef bar Kayafa, High Priest of the Temple.”
Dismas and Gestas glanced at each other quickly and nodded. Dismas bent over to pick up his scabbard, and Gestas lowered his sword and slowly backed off from the terrified innkeeper.
The Temple Ordinator tossed a small sack of coins at the legionaries’ feet, “Ten denari just to hear his offer, another twenty upon completion.”
The legionaries took the sack of coins and grabbed their kits from under their stools, sliding the mailed tunics over their heads and buckling on their sword belts. They placed their helmets on their head as Dismas grabbed two jugs of grain spirits from under the counter and Gestas grabbed as many sacks of wine as he could carry under an arm from off of the wall behind the bar.
Before following the Ordinator out the door, Gestas sneered at the bartender and grabbed the cup he had slammed down earlier; a small, flute-less, rough ceramic bowl about the size of a grown man’s hand, “A proper Roman only drinks from a proper cup, barbarian.”
The three men made their way through the meandering alleys of first century Jerusalem as dawn slowly crept over the city. The morning quiet was a welcome relief to a city that had been overburdened with travelers for weeks in preparation for the local holiday. No one paid any attention to the three men as they crept into a hidden entrance to the catacombs below the Temple Mount.
The dark, torchlight rough stone tunnels opened into a shallow cavern of sorts lit by two floor braziers at the tunnel entryway. Metal shackles adorned the ceiling of the room and two nude figures were held suspended by their arms over their heads with their toes a few inches from the ground. The first, a man, had been obviously mistreated with one eye already swollen closed, probably from resistance during his capture. The second, a woman barely more than a girl, with small budding breasts that could be cupped in a grown man’s hand and dark puffy erect nipples that glowed with recent abuse, sobbed quietly, her downcast faced stained with tears. Her long black hair fell below her waist and partially covered her stained face and only small tufts of black curls adorned her underarms and pelvic mound, providing recent evidence of her adolescence. A table at the side of the entrance was piled with all manners of wicked knives and whips, a worn whetstone and dark stains provided testament to their frequent use.
The Temple Ordinator, who had revealed himself as Yoel bar Lev during their journey through the city, lifted a lazy finger in the direction of the captive man, and his statement was accompanied by an ear-piercing wail from the young woman, “We need this man scourged and publicly crucified.”
Dismas snorted, “Are you addled? You want us to hang him on the crosses in the market? We’ll be hanging with him before the day’s out!”
Yoel waved his hand dismissively, “The temple doesn’t care where you hang him, so long as he will be seen. Do it outside of the city if you wish. The city gates open in three hours. You have plenty of time to put him on a cross and sneak away before the morning merchant traffic and the pilgrims can see him.”
Gestas frowned and crossed his arms over his chest, “If you want him crucified, then hang him from a cross yourself. Rome isn’t some lapdog to a provincial god that dishonors the Emperor.”
Yoel set a larger, second bag of coins on the edge of the table, “It must looked like Rome did it. We want to lend his heresy no more credence by martyring him.”
Dismas laughed and took a swig from one of the wine bladders, “Why would Rome give a grain of salt about Jewish blasphemy?”
Yoel slammed his dainty fist against the tunnel way and raised his nasal voice, “I don’t care! Say he tried to overthrow Herod Antipas! Hang a bloody sign from his neck proclaiming him King of the Jews! Just get it done – !”
Gestas interrupted Yoel’s rant and motioned toward the second captive, “Who’s the girl?”
“Some whore we found him coupling with in the bushes at Gethsemane,” Yoel sneered.
The captive man spoke in Aramaic through swollen lips, “She’s my wife and my favor-”
Yoel stamped his foot and shrieked at the top of his voice to drown out the captive, “NOT ACCORDING TO THE TEMPLE! SHE’S NO HONEST WOMAN AND YOU ARE NO RABBI! YOU ARE A HERETIC, AND AN ADULTERER, AND A HOMOSEXUAL -”
“ENOUGH!” roared Gestas, “Give us the girl and we’ll do the deed.”
Yoel nodded his ascent, “Fine. We don’t care about the girl, anyways. I wash my hands of this whole affair.”
“Not so fast,” Gestas grinned, “How many times do you want him scourged? Five, ten?”
Yoel’s eyes narrowed, “Forty.”
“What?!,” exclaimed Dismas, “Forty’s a death sentence by Roman law! He’ll be dead long before he hangs from the cross.”
“Thirty-nine, then!” Yoel shouted as he stormed out of the cavern.
The fiery spirit burned as Dismas poured it down his throat, “Fine Ges, you can have the girl first, but save her cunny for me. You get her ass. I’ll do the first twenty lashes and then we’ll switch.”
Gestas pulled off his mailed tunic and tossed it aside, “Agreed.”
Dismas moved over to the table of assorted implements of torture and selected a wooden-handled scourge with eight three foot long straps of leather, tied off with jagged shards of bronze in their ends. The young woman howled in terrified, broken Latin, “Why you do these things? We no harm you or your Caesar-God! Let us leave in peace or your soul be damned!”
The captive man softly mumbled in Aramaic, “Do not give them the pleasure, my love. You have been called for this purpose, and I shall suffer as you suffer. We shall leave an example for those who follow us; we who have committed no sin, nor has any deceit escaped our mouths. While being reviled, we shall not revile in return; and while suffering, we shall utter no threats. We shall entrust ourselves to God who judges righteously.”
Gestas untied the drawstring of his trousers and stroked his half-erect cock with one hand as his other hand lifted the sobbing girl’s face to his own. Her lower lip quivered in fear, but her eyes betrayed a steely resolve as Gestas brushed a soft kiss on her forehead and whispered in his native Aramaic, “We do it because we can.”
The captive man looked up at the sound of his captors’ use of his native tongue, “We are brothers. Release your rage on me, but leave your sister in peace.”
Gestas balled up his fist and slammed it into the captive man’s already abused jaw and barked in Latin, “I do this because my wife and my children will be Roman – unlike you, Rex. They will never fear rape and murder at the hands of a Syrian!”
Recovered and blinking back the pain, the captive man turned his head to the young woman and mumbled in Aramaic, “Forgive them, Mary. They know not that which they do,” as the first lash from Dismas’ scourge flung him forward against his chains and tore into his back.
“Do we deserve your mercy, Rex?!” Gestas screamed.
Dismas flogged the captive man repeatedly; each lash borne stoically by the captive man and each lash accompanied by a horrified shriek of empathy from the captive girl. Gestas continued stroking his cock as it grew harder, shouting with each lash, “Where’s your God now, Rex?!”
All four people were covered in blood and gore when Dismas stopped the beating at ten lashes to rub his sore shoulder and take off his mail. The captive man faded in and out of consciousness as his toes touched the ground for the first time in hours as his torso elongated because of his torn open, eviscerated back muscles. His whole body quivered reflexively in shock as the captive girl choked for air through her sobs.
Gestas approached the rear of the flogged man and rubbed his erect penis in the ichor that just a few moments before was the captive man’s lateral dorsal muscles. Gestas grabbed the quasi-conscious man by the back of the hair and whispered in his ear in Aramaic, “Lube. For courtesy. Romans are always polite.”
Gestas turned to the terrified, suspended girl. She wriggled, trying to back away, and her legs kicked feebly in the air searching for purchase on the ground below. Gestas wrapped his burly arms, toned and muscled by countless hours of training in sword-and-shield-play and spear-throwing, around her delicate waist that was just blossoming into the curves of womanhood. The captive girl’s body was lean and toned, as if accustomed to frequent exercise, but it wasn’t hardened as if to suggest she regularly engaged in common labor. Her smooth, Mediterranean-colored skin still had the silkiness of a child and suggested that this young woman enjoyed a healthy diet and that she knew little of want.
She clenched her lips tightly closed as Gestas leaned forward and brushed his rough, wind and wine dried lips against her soft, tensed lips. Gestas thought he could taste a hint of olives, suggesting how the loving couple had spent their final evening together.
Gestas heard Dismas laugh and quickly run over to the side of the room for some unknown reason. He turned to see his friend running back to the unconscious, suspended man with the cup they had taken from the bar in his hands. The captive man had released his bowels and a steady flow of urine dribbled from his penis. Dismas placed the cup on the ground under the stream of urine laughing hysterically, “We made two people piss themselves today!”
Gestas joined in the laughter as Dismas picked up the cup overflowing with urine and walked over to the suspended girl. Holding the cup with one hand, he instructed Gestas to hold her legs steady, and plugged her nose with his other hand. After a few moments, as the girl’s face started to turn blue, she rapidly gulped for air with her mouth and Dismas tossed the mix of urine and blood into her oxygen-starved mouth. The restrained girl choked and gagged on the foul mix as Dismas slapped her open-handedly across the face, “If my friend wants to kiss you, you kiss him back – understand?”
Gestas nodded his thanks to his friend and returned his attention to the girl choking on her dying lover’s bodily fluids.
Gestas turned the girl on her rotating manacles to face her beaten, dying lover. Gestas grabbed the base of his bloody, ichor-covered cock and placed the head at the entrance to her rectum before instructing Dismas to continue with the flogging. Gestas wrapped his other hand around on her stomach and violently invaded her anus in a single thrust in time with the first renewed lash from his compatriot’s scourge.
Gestas placed his face next to hers and barked in her ear, “Open your eyes and watch or we’ll stop and I’ll cut off your eyelids.”
The shackled girl moaned piteously and continuously, choking for air through her pained wailing, as she was forced to watch her husband be beaten to death by Dismas and his wicked scourge as Gestas savagely plowed her ass with his hard, throbbing cock.
“That’s twenty. Your turn. Finish him off,” Dismas mumbled quietly as he lowered his whip and rubbed his sore shoulder again.
“Ahhhh. Come on, Dis,” moaned Gestas, “I’m not done yet.”
Dismas dropped the whip to the ground and surveyed his handiwork on the unconscious man. The violent twitching had mostly subsided, and the captive man was clearly never going to regain consciousness naturally. Broken rib bones and pieces of his spine stood exposed. Dismas walked over to the stash of liquor and grabbed a sack of wine, finishing the whole bladder in almost a single drink.
Gestas withdrew his filthy penis from the girl’s gaping, abused anus and reached up and unhooked the manacles from the ceiling chain, allowing the girl to fall unceremoniously to the floor. Her hands were still shackled above her head, but the relief to her swollen, dislocated shoulders was palpable in the first, mildly pleasant, sigh she had uttered in hours.
Gestas walked over to Dismas, grabbed his own wine-sack and took a heavy drought, “It’s no fun beating a corpse, Dis.”
Dismas smirked, “What can I say? I’m a professional.”
Gestas grinned and let his eyes roam over the table. He found a bronze circlet and tossed it into one of the coal braziers before rejoining his friend for another skin of wine.
Dismas finished his second bladder and said, “I think I’m going to go to the quartermaster and see if I can get the wood, the hammer, and the nails we’ll need. You bring the body and let’s meet up in that shady grove near the hill of Calvary outside the walls.”
Gestas frowned, “Oh come on! You made me pull out of the tightest ass I’ve ever had and you’re not even gonna get a piece of that cunny? I’ll bet it’ll choke the life out of your cock!”
Dismas chortled and held up the empty wine skin, “I think Dionysus has already cursed my cock today. There’ll be plenty left of her when we get back.”
Gestas picked up a set of tongs from the table and shook his head, “Alright, but I can’t promise you’ll get first chance at it, brother.”
Dismas smiled, “Fair enough,” as he left the cavern. Gestas picked up the red-hot circlet from the brazier and walked over to the unconscious, suspended man. He placed the burning crown onto his head and the unconscious, dying man was ripped violently awake to issue a blank stare into the face of his tormentor, “Welcome back, Rex.”
Blood and bile oozed from the dying man’s mouth as his childish lover tried to scramble to her feet to protect him. Gestas slammed his meaty fist into her face and knocked her to the floor. His heavy iron boots rained punishment as she tried feebly to protect her coiled abdomen. The high-pitched sounds of cracking ribs augmented the piteous, pain-filled shrieks from her mouth.
Having subdued the woman, Gestas returned quickly to his original quarry, worried that the captive man had already returned to unconsciousness, “Oh no! Not so fast, Rex!”
Gestas scurried behind him and grabbed the base of his still throbbing cock. The copious blood dripping from the remains of the dying man’s back made insertion easy as Gestas drove his cock into his anus. Ichor clung to Gestas’s chest hair as he rubbed his chiseled chest against the remains of the dying man’s back. Gestas reached around and fondled the captive man’s genitals and nibbled on his earlobe as he plowed viciously into the man’s ass. The smell of burning flesh and hair was intoxicating.
The dying man showed one last surge of life as his heart burst; he gurgled in Aramaic, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit…”
Gestas roared with ecstasy as he climaxed and filled the dead man’s anus with his seed.
Dismas struggled under the weight of two heavy wooden beams, a shovel, and a sack full of tools.
“Blasted…,” Dismas dropped his burden and motioned to a nearby man, “You. Jew. What’s your name?”
The bystander nervously replied, “Simon, sir.”
“Great. Simon,” Dismas reached into the coin sack and tossed a denarius at the man, “Carry one of these beams with me.”
“Yessir. Thank you, sir.”
“Keep digging,” growled Gestas.
Simon had dug a hole about two feet deep while Gestas and Dismas had bound the corpse’s arms with rope to the crosspiece and nailed the wrists securely to the beam.
Dismas walked over and inspected the hole, “That should be enough. Thank you, Simon. You may go.”
Simon nodded his thanks to both men as he brushed the dirt from his trousers. Gestas leapt forward and plunged his sword into the Jew’s throat, “No witnesses.”
Dismas nodded solemnly as he fished his denarius out of the man’s belt pouch. Gestas set the gibbet, a 6 foot vertical piece of wood with an indentation at the top, into the hole Simon had dug.
The two men grunted as they lifted the crossbeam with the corpse nailed to it and dragged it over to the gibbet. They put the beam on their shoulders and lifted it unto the top of gibbet and they secured it with a nail. They came down and nailed the corpse’s heels to the sides of the gibbet.
“Now, the sign,” said Dismas, “What did the girl say his name was?”
“Ah, Pluto’s thorny cock,” exclaimed Gestas, “I forgot to ask.”
Dismas’ eyes widened as he picked up the small board and the charcoal, “Well, what do we put then?”
Gestas grinned, “Just put Rex.”
Dismas frowned, “Rex of what? We already have the silver. I don’t want Rome getting blamed for this.”
Gestas nodded, “Blame Herod. Put ‘In the name of the King of Judea’.”
Dismas shook his head, “There’s not enough room!”
Gestas grimaced, “Abbreviate!”
The men stood back to admire their handiwork momentarily before slinking off into the early dawn shadows.
Dismas sighed heavily and put his hand on his friend’s shoulder, “Brother. I have this odd feeling that we really screwed up today.”
As he said this, the familiar stomp of a cohort of iron boots marching in formation came from the road. Gestas hung his head, “Gods below, I should know better than to hang out with a guy named Dis.”
The pair turned to see a centurion accompanied by a host of legionaries and a couple dozen locals who had gathered to see why troops were on the move so early in the morning. Standing next to the centurion was a very familiar and very pissed-off young Jewish girl, dressed in rags, and clutching her side as she limped along trying to keep up with the marching troops, “There they are! That’s them!”
“Where are your kits, auxiliaries?” barked the angry centurion.
Mary shook her finger at the two men, “I told you! They left them in that dungeon!”
The centurion waved his hand to silence the angry girl, “Auxiliaries, is what she saying the truth? Will we find your kits in a catacomb under the temple?”
The two men looked quickly at each other, and Gestas suddenly grabbed a pilum from a surprised legionary flanking the centurion and plunged it into the crucified corpse’s side, “See! We didn’t do anything! He was already dead when we found him!”
The centurion roared in anger, “Seize them!” and pointed at the legionary who had had his spear stolen, “You! Go to the quartermaster and get two more crosses!”
Gestas and Dismas were quickly restrained by the other soldiers and Dismas cried out, “Wait! We’re soldiers! I want to appeal to our Prefect!”
“Silence!” bellowed the centurion, “Auxiliary troops don’t have the right to appeal. Besides, the closest Prefect is in Damascus with the rest of your legion! We aren’t waiting a season for him to pass through on inspection.”
The crowd had grown and gathered closer and wanted to see what was happening, so the centurion stepped forward and addressed the crowd, “By the order of the Praefectus Legionis of Legio XII Fulminata, these men have been lawfully convicted of high treason against Augustus Caesar and the Senate and People of Rome. They shall be crucified unto death… uhhh… out here… on this hill… ummmmm… so that ALL may bear witness to the wrath of Caesar!”
The centurion was relieved as the crowd seemed mollified. Mary whispered in his ear, “Very good, sir. With your permission may I take the body of my husband down for proper burial? I wouldn’t want him thrown in a common grave…”
The centurion blinked, “Of course. Mighty Caesar expresses regret for the inconvenience.”
“Get those two up on crosses and get back to barracks,” ordered the centurion as he stalked off to return to his breakfast.