29 September 2005

Name My Novel

Greetings Faithful Readers,

I have almost finished editing my third novel and am still in want of a title. Belowe is a chapter and it gives the gist of the novel and the character's first impression. Let me know through comments on this post what you think the title should be.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Working Title: Portimus


Most of the Jews who appear in this tale appear in an unfavorable light. Most of the Jews who have lived and do live are noble people who hold passionately to an honorable faith. So that I have said it clearly, no single race, faith, or person is responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. We all are. Our sin cost his life. The politicos of the time are all guilty of conspiracy but they acted their part in a divine plan to redeem us all.

Jesus said that no man could take his life from him but that he laid it down freely. In a previous tale you met Portimus, a Roman soldier who befriended Joseph and his family in Nazareth. He would not leave me alone as he had more to say about Jesus and the nature of man. Time has kept its undying, unstoppable pace and we rejoin Portimus, now a Praetor at the beginning of holy week. He has been hunting Zealots for the empire.

That I believe in the Resurrection of Christ is not a doubt. Beyond that are many questions as to how it was dealt with politically, socially, and practically by many of the parties involved. Many have given the evidence of the Resurrection of Christ as factual material to be viewed through the eyes of scholarly consideration. Portimus is the first century equivalent of a detective.

While in Jerusalem over the Passover holy day, events surrounding the Crucifixion begin to unfold. Involuntarily Portimus becomes embroiled in the crime of eternity and a mystery that will cause man to ponder its details for the rest of history. Other deaths surrounding the death of Christ cause the Roman to realize that a conspiracy lies before him.

He deals with several issues during the week of the crucifixion and the following cover-up by the Pharisees and the Romans. Please join me as a man who cares only for truth tracks down the information necessary to decide the questions of the Resurrection and assign them logical legal answers.

Covering the truth for political gain is not new. Questioning the truth to avoid embracing it is deadly. I believe that some of the ruling counsel of Jerusalem and of Rome acted politically for their own gain. I also believe that thousands of witnesses and direct evidence are available to the honest.

Please remember dear reader that I write fiction with respect to the truth. In this tale, I ask you to seek the truth of the Resurrection of Christ while enjoying the unfolding of a mystery. Should you find my musing offensive, please remember that I am a storyteller and claim no right to impeccable understanding of Roman history or detective work.

Enjoy and as always, feel free to share with me your thoughts.

A Stitch in Time

Brilliant stars and an even brighter moon illuminate the landscape of a chill Judean night. Unaffected by the night air, an angel sits astride a ruddy mare. Both Polemos, the Angel of War, and Eman, his mount are untouched by the elements and invisible to the eyes of man. He waits at the end of a flower field near the Jerusalem gate. The man for whom he waits enters the opposite end of the field. Polemos hastens to his side, aware that his mount will not harm any of the flowers nor leave any trace of his passage. The War Angel knows that he is to observe the man and protect him. He wonders why but obediently takes his place beside the rider.

The rider makes his way silently across the field of night blooming Narcissus. Out of respect for the unknown owner, he guides his horse through the narrow path used to tend and irrigate the ocean of fragrant flowers. The scent of the Narcissus provides welcome relief from the coppery stench of the blood still damp on his tunic. Checking the puncture wound between his third and fourth rib the Roman solider notes with relief that the bleeding has stopped. Pulling the arrow from his pack, he studies it under the moonlight. Looking up into the night sky, he whispers to no one in particular, “Zealots.”

The timber of his single word accusation is more anguish than anger. He knows that Rome grows weary of the lack of assimilation in this region. Even their great celebration of Passover is celebration of freedom from oppressors. Portimus does not see that Rome oppresses Israel but he also knows that how he sees it did not matter to the recently dispatched band that ambushed him in the mountains near Gaza.

Having tracked them there from the site of their attack on a Greek caravan, the Roman offers the four men the opportunity to surrender and live. Their response, attacking on foot against a mounted soldier, proves unwise. That this particular Praetor could best any four other Centurions any given day proves fatal for the untrained inexperienced assailants.

Weapons and will do not complete a fighter. The Zealots have both but lack the confidence of practice and wisdom of action. The first two of them rush him, flailing their swords wildly as if to scare him. Although this tactic works on caravans of merchants and women, a sidestep with his horse, a parry, and two quick thrusts cut the number of opponents in half, literally.

The third, the one with the bow, becomes overconfident when a lucky shot pierces the Roman’s side. Portimus shifts his gladius to the hand holding his mount’s reins at the same moment the emboldened Zealot stands and aims for a second shot. With speed uncommon for his size the mounted warrior grasps a javelin from his quiver and lets fly. The bow shot sails far over the soldier’s head as the force of javelin drives the Zealot into the rock wall behind him.

Fear shows in the eyes of the fourth Zealot. Unfortunately, for him bravado and
rage soon replace his fear. He charges Portimus screaming epithets, his sword raised high. Portimus nudges his horse back and to the left. The Zealot’s swing goes wide and the soldier calls to him in flawless Aramaic, “You cannot beat me. Surrender and you will live.”

The assailant screams at the soldier. “I would rather die than receive mercy from a Roman.” He spits on the ground and charges again. Seeing that there will be no parley with the Zealot Portimus grants his request. The soldier kicks his horse to the right and beheads the rebel as he passes. The Roman takes no pleasure in killing but has dispatched all four Zealots efficiently and professionally in a matter of seconds.

He takes a moment to carefully remove the arrow from his side and wash the wound. It is not life threatening but will need professional attention. He gathers the fallen men’s belongings and the camels and items taken from the caravan. Returning to the place where the caravan survivors wait, he delivers their belongings to them.
Bidding the travelers well, he presses on toward his assignment in Jerusalem. He knows that the gates are already closed for the night and makes his way around to the needle’s eye. This small gate is guarded and allows access to travelers only via a narrow passage. There is an opening through which animals must stoop to pass. The guards recognize the Roman’s rank and hasten to open the larger gate for him.

Portimus rides through the crowded streets to the garrison. The pre-Passover bazaar makes the going slow but he is determined to clean up and assess the city before reporting to the Governor. Pilate does not mind late night chats but he prefers clean officers in his presence. The night watch at the garrison snaps to attention and salutes as he rides up. To his credit, one of them notices the blood on the Praetor’s armor and summons aid. To his further credit, he rouses the garrison commander, alerting him to the arrival of a higher-ranking officer.
Polemos moves away, aware that his charge will be well for now. The War Angel’s brothers are gathering. Something requires his attention and there is a sense of foreboding in all of creation. Whatever is on the horizon, his new interest will play a part in it.

The soldier retreats from his commander’s quarters and guides the Praetor to an empty officer’s billet. Portimus gingerly removes his armor and lays it with his pack and weapons by the bed. He checks that his letters to Pilate are safely in the baggage and asks direction of the solider to the baths.

While waiting, Portimus enters the bath to soak away his road weariness. A Greek physician arrives, bleary eyed and groggy. Inspecting the wound carefully he announces that there is no infection, applies some foul smelling ointment, and stitches it closed. Two servants enter with food for the soldier and he thanks them. The leader of the garrison, Castor, notices this and wonders why a Praetor would bother to thank a servant.
Portimus dines in silence listening to Castor report of activities in the city. Having attended the Passover celebration in Jerusalem a number of years ago, he is used to the common complaints of overcrowding and various petty crimes surrounding the bazaar. The Praetor’s attention focuses when Castor mentions problems with the ruling religious council of the Jews, the Sanhedrin.

He listens intently as the officer explains the problem the council has with one of the local religious fanatics. “Apparently, the fanatic in question is rumored to work miracles and has defied the Pharisees’ abuses of their religious law for personal gain. It seems that this rogue teacher is going to enter the city tomorrow and the Jews are worried about a public uprising in his favor. If you ask me they make too much fuss over a carpenter from Nazareth.”
Only his keen discipline keeps Portimus from visible reaction. He knows the only carpenter from Nazareth that could cause such a stir. He has not seen him in over five years, but he knows him and is sure that the stir and the rumors are genuine. He will look further into it tomorrow, after he reports to Pilate. For now he needs rest and apparently preparation.

* * * * *

The sun rarely rises before Portimus. The wound offers a degree of stiffness but he dons a clean tunic and his body armor, ignoring the pain. Most officers of his rank wear the decorative Lorica Musculata, a vain, poorly functional bronze cuirass. Portimus prefers the subtlety and protection of his Lorica Hamata, a chain mail shirt that covers all of his torso and usually turns away any weapon. The massive strength of this man more than compensates for the additional weight of the mail shirt. Most other officers chide him about his lack of show. He always points out that his sporran, the leather belt he wears, signifies his rank and that his armor tells other legionnaires that he will fight at their side not watch from the rear.
After girding on his sporran holding his gladius and pugio, then donning his cloak of rank, he spends some time in quiet meditation. Following his morning rituals, the officer assures that he has the proper look for his position. To him example is vital to command authority.

Once up he dines with the men in the garrison common room. Dining with men of lower rank often yields much more information than any inquiry. Those who do not know him will not immediately know his rank if he is already seated when they arrive. He listens as men assigned to keeping the peace among a less than peaceful people discuss the duties of the day. Their concerns over the influx of pilgrims and the associated threats monopolize the conversations.

A young soldier with clear eyes and clean face takes the seat opposite Portimus. The morning fare of bread and cheese goes well with the warm wine they share. He learns from the young legionnaire that during the end of his watch, in the early morning, a celebration broke out in the city.

The legionnaire’s eyes sparkle as he reports the spectacle, “The Jewish prophet entered the city riding a white donkey. People gathered at the Golden Gate, laying down palm fronds for him to rider over. They laid down their cloaks in front of him hailing him as King of the Jews. The man waved at the crowds but said nothing. People began to chant ‘Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven and glory in the highest places.’

Our captain ordered our squad to follow him through the city. He arrived at the Mount of Olives and dismounted. All the Jews there were praising him as if her were a god. I overheard people speak of him raising the dead and healing people.”
The legionnaire lowers his voice conspiratorially as he continues, “Some of the Pharisees called for him to rebuke his followers, accusing them of blasphemy. He paused just long enough to see that all present would hear him. His reply was simple and enraged the priests. He said, ‘What good would it do to stop them. If they fall silent the very stones will immediately cry out the same.’
This made the Pharisees so angry that they stormed away to the temple. He sat down to speak quietly to the crowed just before my watch ended. I fear that the crowed will cause trouble over their holy days. There were thousands of them.”
Portimus reassures the young soldier, “I do not think you need to fear this man. I have heard of his kind. He is not a Zealot. Tell me something. Did you hear his name mentioned.”

A moment of thought and a sip of wine are enough for the legionnaire to recall it, “Yes, his friends called him Jesus, and he came from Nazareth.”
The Praetor’s smile spreads slowly across his face, “I spent some years in Nazareth. Zealots do not come from there. The people you speak of are kind and peaceful. Save your fear for the trouble the Pharisees may yet bring because of this man’s popularity.”

As he finishes his statement, Castor enters. The legionnaire sees his commander approach and rises to attention. Out of courtesy, Portimus rises as well. The young soldier looks confused when his breakfast companion fails to salute the commander.

Castor returns the legionnaire’s salute in turn originating one to Portimus. The younger man’s confusion only deepens until his commander speaks, “Praetor, the Governor sends word that he will receive you any time this morning. Apparently matters with the Jews need your attention.”

Portimus acknowledges the information with a nod, “This young legionnaire has given me an excellent report of events at the Jews’ Golden Gate this morning. Although he is young, he is alert and intelligent. Please see that he gets an opportunity to put those skills to better use than as a night watchman.”

Castor beams at the excellent favor of a Praetor. “Flavius Silva is a good soldier and will be given opportunity at your word. May I begin by assigning him as your escort while you are in Jerusalem?”

At this, the young legionnaire merely stands straighter and sputters slightly. Portimus laughs and nods his agreement, “Give him time to rest and he may meet me at the Governor’s after midday. Get him some better armor and a new tunic. Have the stables assign him a good horse and proper equipment for travel.”
Castor snaps an affirmative reply, “All will be ready by midday.” Turning to Silva he continues, “Go to your rest and then to one of the private baths on my authority. If you are to stand before the Governor, you must represent us all well. I will give you a letter of entry.”

The color drains from the young soldier’s face as he realizes how quickly his life has just changed. He can only think to obey his training. Snapping off a salute, he turns briskly and exits. The two officers share a laugh at the young man’s expense after he is out of earshot.

Portimus collects his helm and cloak then addresses Castor, “I wish to be kept informed about the activities of the prophet from Nazareth. Should there be trouble surrounding him I want to know at once. Keep me informed quietly, but keep me informed.”

Castor, a politically wise officer ignores his minds questions as to the Praetor’s interest in a Jewish prophet. “I will see to it,” is all he allows.
“Excellent,” allows Portimus, “I will be with the Governor most of the day. Keep your men alert. Something is on the move.”