Roman Dispatch


Marcus Lividius to the Regional Superintendent:

Hail Caesar!
By usual courier
And in the hand of scribe
Flavius Sornom. Greetings.
Wishing to report the
Dispatching of a group
Of Christians-Traitorous.
Infecting the Region of
Mid-Appia
By their pathetic community
And wicked teachings
Of an adverse king.
Also wishing to report
Unfortunate death
Of Second-in-command
Sergius Veritatus.
Mid-winter Janus patrol
Of Second District.

Encountered small village.
Approximately thirty-five persons
Varying in age and sex.
Sparsely prepared for the cold.
Foodstuffs largely dairy, coarse barley,
Local plants, berries, tubers, fish salted.
Limited fuel available
In region around the lake.
Evidences of their strange
And bloody sect:
Crosses, fishes drawn on walls of huts.
Ornate clay chalices,
Parchments in possession
Of their Elder, purporting
To convey holy words
And directives of their “Saviour”.
(A criminal, one Jesus of Nazareth, executed
Under justice of Pontius Pilate,
Procurator, Judea,)
Clearly an affront to Caesar,
The one true God!
Of course, we conducted usual
Examinations for signs of hostility,
Sedition, witchcraft,
Trade with barbarians.

Assembled all in the
Village compound.
Demanded the standard
Affirmation-loyalty to Caesar,
Renunciation of their “Christ”.
Group seemed totally
In accord with submissions,
Resistance voiced by their Elder.
Elder chastised with the rod.
Physically strong man- unflinching.
Expressed his preparedness for death.
Said his master had proved
Victorious over death.
(Strange words to the ears of a soldier!)
“His master, the only way,
The only truth, the only life.”
Peculiar dogma.
Assembly appeared mesmerized by his address.
Commenced singing- harmony
Haunting, other-worldly.
Whereupon my Second,
Sergius Veritatus manifested
Irregular behaviour, suggestions of clemency.

(Had been noting
Change in his outlook to duties,
Since leave of absence at Rome.
Something about an encounter
With other of these mongrels,
Gathering secretly, underground.
Catacombs.
Said he was investigating
Their activities.
Nothing came of it.)

So death was their boast?
So, death they should face.
Marched entire group
Onto the lake ice.
Frigid.
Again demanded renunciation.
Nothing.
Additional waiting period.
Threatened that as reward
For their rebellion, they were to be
Stripped of clothing.
Left to freeze, standing on the lake.
Group huddled around their leader,
And one senior couple- man and woman.
Children surprisingly quiet.
Gave the order.
Twelve foot-soldiers, spears,
Compelling the group to disrobe.
Little resistance offered.
Finally, one man broke.
Ran before Sergius Veritatus, groveling.
Words of allegiance, repudiation.
Scarcely comprehensible.
This evoked moans and wails
From the group.
Some tried to sing..

Veritatus immobile, silent,
That troubled countenance again.
Gave his sword to his junior.
Removed his robe, breastplate,
Marching leathers, tunic,
Boots.
Walking naked now
To that group on the ice.
Unsound mind, obviously.
Refusing orders to rejoin ranks.
Joining their number.
Their only words:
“Receive us now into glory.
Jesus is Lord.”
All frozen within the hour.
Sergius Veritatus.
Corpses dragged by horse.
Village torched.
Armour of Veritatus returned herewith,
For his parents.
He had been a good legionnaire. Hail Caesar!

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