The twilight had quickly waned
into a cold, chilling darkness,
and the air was crisp with the
smells of animal dung, muddy
streets, and dying cooking fires.
Demonilus pulled his heavy cloak
tighter about his thick, muscular
neck; he hated this place. A
young Roman soldier, he had been
sent from Jerusalem to help patrol
the registration booths; Bethlehem
was a nauseating little town, and
Demonilus presumed he
would be stationed there
at least a month or so: he
curled his finely sculptured
lips in distaste. Demonilus
was a handsome man, and
enjoyed being in a large
city where he could always
find warm, voluptuous entertainment
on any evening, off duty. Wine,
and song....,and lovely bare skin
was readily available for any
Roman soldier, particularly
when he had just received
his wages, and was as strong
as a young ox.
But with the newest decree
sent out by Caesar Augustus,
all young soldiers had been
ordered into the miserable
little towns, lying on the
outskirts of Jerusalem, and
other Roman controlled cities:
for registration of taxation.
And Bethlehem was one of those
decrepid little towns. Demonilus
snarled as he stepped into another
pile of manure: the whole town
was full it, and had little else to
boast of......except for, perhaps,
the opportunity to make a good
trade......for a Roman slave.
Demonilus smiled: forgetting the
dung on his sandals. He had been
keeping an eye on one particular
couple, ever since he had spotted
them along the path into town: young,
and without the company of other
family members...., and the very
young wife, a mere girl... in a fragile state.
The husband was obviously bone-weary,
and poor: carrying neither any arms,
or even a good walking stick; he was
leading their beast which was only
carrying a few small traveling bags,
and the pregnant slip of a girl.
They were obviously Jews: being
forced to travel from their hometown,
in compliance with the Emperor's latest
And the woman, with her baby, would
bring a very good price in the Roman
slave market. They were commodities...
well worth the trouble of fetching them,
and storing them away somewhere, until
Demonilus could travel back to the city.
He smiled: nodding slowly to himself,
with satisfaction: anticipating a hefty bag
of coins....and perhaps other delightful,
and delectible pleasures.
The couple had obviously
strayed too far behind the motley
group of travelers,
probably due to the wife's condition,
and was now wandering quite alone,
in the pitch dark, unarmed and without
family, along the lonely muddy streets
of this decrepid little village.
Demonilus, cursing to himself again
for leaving his horse behind at the
soldiers' stables, stood in the dark
shadows of one of the miserable little
outbuildings on the main path: waiting
for the lone couple to find someplace
to stop: alone, and unable to fight
against an armed, Roman soldier. Even
without his horse, Demonilus knew he
would be more than equipped to overcome
them: disabling the exhausted husband,
and seizing the fragile wife.
She would bring a fine price, indeed,
at the slave market.
Demonilus nodded, and smiled: slowly
and stealthily following the couple,
in the shadows....
as they moved quietly along: a slow-
moving donkey bearing
a weak, young girl,
by a weary young Jew.
These peasants were terrified
of Roman soldiers, and
Demonilus watched as the
young couple were turned
away, from house to house, in the
cold dark night: desperately finding
a place to stay. The night was growing
long, and the woman was obviously
in great need. No one seemed anxious
to help them.
Demonilus pulled his cloak and hood
tighter around his thick neck; he smiled.
This would be only a matter of time...
he chuckled: thinking again of the
handsome fee that he would fetch
at market, for the young woman
and her baby. If the child was a boy
it would fetch him a handsome price,
The couple had come to the end
of the long path of little, irregularly
built houses: obviously to the last
one in sight. Demonilus stood in the
shadow of the corner of a shed: watching
stealthily, as the young man knocked at
the door: an older, rather surly, and
plump man barked at him, and shook his
shaggy head: listening to the poor
young man for a moment, and then,
with great impatience, barked something
out again: pointing to a barn, just a
cave, really, just a ways from the
house and little stone gate. After
holding out his palm for a few
sheckels from the weary young man,
the ornery householder stepped back inside,
and slammed the door: almost hitting
the younger man in the face.
Suddenly the young woman cried out,
obviously in labor, and her husband
immediately took the reins of the
little donkey and led them up to the
householder's barn: quite hurridly,
and anxiously. The cave was dark,
and seemingly full of animals, crowded
in for the unusually cold night.
Demonilus calmly waited in the shadows;
he relit the oil lamp that he was holding,
and pulled out the jug of wine which
he had been carrying: it would warm
him enough. These peasant women
were strong, and were heard to make
short work of their birthing.
But during this time he could easily
overpower the anxious young husband,
Demonilus put the jug of wine away,
back under his cloak, and trudged
with heavy, firm steps towards the
barn: firmly holding his lamp...,
and sword. There was dried blood on
part of the blade,
from his last skirmish with
several rebels, from one of
the poorer neighborhoods
From inside the barn, the woman's
cries of anguish could be heard:
in the throes of childbirth. No one,
not a soul, had come outside in the
cold dark night, to help the young couple,
or to protect them.
This would be like grabbing a young
duckling from its helpless mother!
Demonilus chuckled softly: gripping
the well-worn handle of his sword.
a bright, almost blinding light shone
in his dark eyes: it was bright as the
sun in midday, and painful to behold.
Demonilus dropped his lamp to the ground,
and tried to step forward:
his muscular, heavy thighs striding
confidently on the muddy path. What
had the young man done: built a large
campfire, out of.....nothing?
What was happening? Demonilus cursed,
and strode forward: ready to swipe at
the young Jew with his bloody blade.
The light ebbed just a bit: revealing
something that struck Demonilus, and
brought him to his soldier's knees.
The sight was so frightening that
Demonilus was unable to get up: his
knees had turned to something a kindred
to the seaweed, that grew along shore
of his boyhood town...and, made him
feel like a little boy again: frightened
and alone, after he had been kidnapped
by Roman soldiers, and drafted into
The smell of warm urine filled his nostrils.
Demonilus panted hard: sweating
profusely, and getting chilled, as if
he had been struck down with fever
in the bitterly cold wind. He picked up his
head, just a bit, to painfully squeeze
open his eyes: trying to convince himself that
that the sight was alas quite real.
It was very real.
Demonilus cried out in pain: the
light was so bright that it threatened to
split his head in two. And then he
cried out once more: in such great
fright that he was unable to arise
from his knees for a long, very long time.
For within the painfully bright light,
as bright as the sun......
stood a man.
A different man.
He was not the poor traveler: the helpless
young husband struggling to keep his
beast and frail wife from dying, in the
horribly lonely, winter night.
This man was taller than anyone
whom Demonilus had ever seen.....
and much more frightening.
He was huge: a creature greater than any giant:
brandishing a magnificent sword,
and his sword...
was made......of fire.
The fire crackled, and
snapped like a lengthy whip
in the still night air:
the cold winds could not diminish it,
or put it out.
The creature was absolutely silent;
his huge feet were bare, and he only
wore a thin layer of oddly-looking
wool: barely anything to keep one
warm on such a cold night. And
his face was like a stone.
And he never moved.
Inch by painful inch, within sight of
the blinding light and crackling fire,
Demonilus, still on his knees, backed
slowly and painfully away: skinning
and cutting his knees, and shins on
the sharp pebbles, and broken rocks
that lay beneath
the hardening manure, and cold mud
on the little hilly street. He never
turned his head, or endeavored to
stand up, not until he had crawled on
his knees.....for almost three miles.
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