I watched carefully as Hithaeron and Gabrithon circled around each other. The oldest prince had come with a group of Centaurs led by some of the males that Gabrithon had appointed to gather soldiers. In fact, waves of people from every race were coming in. Most of the males that came in offered no trouble. Hithaeron wasn't one of them.
"I challenge you," the chestnut Centaur growled.
"As you wish," Gabrithon said tersely.
Suddenly Hithaeron lunged, and they came together hard, squealing and roaring like enraged horses. I watched the fight apprehensively. Gabrithon wasn't quite as strong as his older brother, and he began losing. How he had beaten his father, I didn't really know. Every Centaur there was shouting for Hithaeron. I was terrified that Gabrithon would lose. We would lose, too, and the cost would be almost all of the Centaurs. Hithaeron reared and came down to grab Gabrithon's neck. There was a cry, and my friend went down.
"No!" I yelled.
Instead of stomping on Gabrithon and going for the kill, the oldest prince turned king walked over to me and physically picked me up.
"Fear me, girl," he said angrily. "And know Gabrithon couldn't beat me. Bow to me."
I told him 'no' in the rudest way possible. His face turned red, and he threw me to the ground.
"Very well, girl. Prepare to die."
Hithaeron reared and was about to come down on me when he was hit on the side. He went down hard. Gabrithon began doing what his brother had neglected to do, bloodying him up and hurting him so he couldn't retaliate. When he went in to kill him, I called his name. The golden Centaur stopped and trotted over to me. I stood, smiling up at him.
"I guess you're still the king?" I asked softly.
"I suppose I am," he replied.
Delight suddenly burst onto his face. He turned and reared, letting out a victorious cry. The Centaurs all bowed at the noise, but none raised their voices with him. None, that is, save one. It was Cevenor.
"Good job, brother!" he said as the crowd began dispersing.
"You're the only one who thinks so," Gabrithon said, gripping his brother's forearm in greeting.
"Maybe so, but you are doing well for not being properly trained to be king."
"Thank the other kings. I am constantly asking their advice, and they seem more than willing to give it."
"Gabrithon," I said impatiently. "They're probably waiting for us."
"Oh yes! Sorry brother. We're going for the scroll reading. Care to join us?"
"Why not?" he asked, falling into step beside the golden Centaur.
We hurried through the streets to a small crowd of people. Spotting Elthinor, I made my way over to him. He smiled in greeting.
"She's here, Jaiden!" my father cried; he and Aloron were standing in the shadow of a house. "Now we may begin!"
Jaiden looked terrified and shy as he stepped up onto the crate. He swallowed hard and took in the sight of the fifty or so people around him.
"Well, here goes nothing," he said, loud enough to be heard by everybody. Then he unrolled the scroll and started reading.
"The Son of Man shall be delivered up to be crucified after the Passover," Jesiah told his disciples. I was confused. What was crucified?
Then I saw them sitting in a house at a table. A woman came in holding a flask. She broke it and poured the contents over Jesiah's head. The most fragrant smell filled the air. There was a stirring amongst the disciples.
"What a waste!" one of them said. "That oil could have been sold for quite a bit of money, which could have been given to the poor."
Jesiah sighed softly, his eyes looking distant. "Why do you trouble this woman? She did something good for me. You will always have the poor with you, but you won't always have me. In pouring this oil over my head, she anointed me for my burial. I promise you that wherever the Good News is preached, what this woman has done will also be told."
I saw one of his disciples, a Human, sneak out the door. Curious, I took a few steps to see if I could follow him. I could, so I did. We walked through the streets to an enormous, ornate building. We were admitted by the guards. We came to a group of strangely dressed Humans. They looked important, and their clothing reminded me of the robes the priests wore in Paxtonvale.
"What do you want, disciple of Jesiah?" one of them asked.
"I wish to give Jesiah to you. You may do what you wish to him. But what shall I get in return?"
They talked among themselves. "Thirty pieces of silver."
"Done. I shall come and get you when there are no crowds around him."
Everything melted, and I was suddenly in a different room in an entirely different building. Jesiah and all his disciples were there, including his betrayer. After listening to the conversation, I determined that they were observing the custom of the Passover, but I realized he was departing from the old ritual, and beginning a new one. Jesiah took a loaf of bread. He gave thanks then broke it, handing it out to them.
"This is my body, which I give for you. Do this to remember me," the Son of Man said. Then he took up a cup. "This cup is the new covenant, made in my blood, which I shed for you. But look! My betrayer sits with me at this table. And though this has been determined in advance that I shall go, which I shall, woe to him that betrays me."
They began discussing greatness, and Pyotr said that he would go to prison for Jesiah, even die for him. Jesiah smiled sadly.
"Before the rooster crows, you will thrice deny that you even know me."
Reality melted again. I found myself in a garden, looking at Jesiah. He was kneeling with his head down, obviously deeply troubled, and I realized he was praying.
"Father, if it is in Your will, please take this cup away from me. But not my will be done, but Yours."
It was evident that he was in great anguish, even pain, and I saw that he sweated great drops of blood. Then one of those awe-inspiring, yet terrifying beings that had watched the creation of the races came down and seemed to strengthen Jesiah. Three times he prayed, each time walking back to his disciples, Pyotr, Jem, and Jehan who seemed to be overcome with exhaustion a short way away. The first two times, Jesiah rebuked them for not staying awake. He returned to them a third time, and he told them to rise. As they joined the rest of the disciples on the garden path, he told them his betrayer was near. Sure enough, there was the Human who had agreed to betray Jesiah. A crowd of people approached behind them, some of them soldiers. The traitor walked forward and kissed Jesiah's cheek.
"Teacher!" he said.
"You betray me with a kiss?" Jesiah asked.
There was a scuffle as the soldiers advanced, and the disciples scattered. Jesiah chastised the soldiers, asking why they had never arrested him in the temple while he was teaching. He went off with them willingly to a walled villa. Pyotr followed him from a distance, settling outside in the courtyard as Jesiah was taken a short way away. I watched sadly as he did indeed deny Jesiah in front of a crowd of onlookers that had gathered. When he realized what he'd done, he stumbled away to weep in the shadows of the night.
Next, I was shown Jesiah. He was in a room with the priests and soldiers. The men who held him were mocking and beating him. He had been blindfolded, and they struck him then taunted him, asking who had hit him. They also spat on him. I wanted to hit them, tear them to pieces, but every time I tried to do that, I found I couldn't even shift my weight. I finally resigned myself to just watching, but tears prickled at the corners of my eyes.
He finally went into some kind of council and was condemned. The high priest, for that is who was questioning him, asked him if he was the Son of God. Jesiah told him that he had rightly spoken. At that the high priest tore his own garment and wailed that the man in white had made himself equal to God and deserved to die. The astonished councilors then angrily hauled him before the Elven Governor of the Humans of Fairwick, named Poncio. Under law, only he could condemn a man to death and that was what they thought Jesiah deserved for declaring himself to be equal with God. Poncio asked if he was king of the Fairians, who were the Humans of the fair city, who were followers of God and the keepers of the law. Jesiah repeated what he had told the high priest. Poncio listened neutrally, then turned to the chief priests and said that he found no fault in Jesiah.
The priests would not let up. They began stirring up the growing crowd outside to demand the death of Jesiah, so Poncio maintained that Jesiah was innocent in his sight and said he would chastise him. Chastise? Poncio sighed and sent Jesiah away for this chastisement.
They stripped Jesiah down to his undergarment, and I immediately looked away, my sense of propriety very strong. Nothing was uncovered that shouldn't be, but it felt wrong and strange to see the Son of God so…vulnerable. I heard a crack and turned to see a thick whip. I looked at Jesiah then back at the whip. My eyes widened. No. They wouldn't! They couldn't! But they did. The Elf wielded the whip expertly. Stripes of red appeared along Jesiah's back, and I was immobilized by that strange force again. Tears ran down my face. I began screaming at each pain-filled shudder from Jesiah. It was heart wrenching. But still, Jesiah did not cry out, not even once.
The cruel chastisement seemed to be endless. I had sunk to my knees, the only movement I had been allowed. The torturers changed weapons to a many tailed whip, and I could see shards of glass at the ends of it. I didn't want to watch as flesh was torn from his body, but my gaze was riveted to the horrible sight. Blood soaked his undergarment and the ground.
The beating was finally over but not the torture. They brought something else. Long flexible branches with sharp, lengthy thorns, twisted into a circular crown-like shape. I grimaced as it was forced onto Jesiah's head. Yet more blood flowed from his wounded scalp, dripping down his face. Again they mocked him, dressing him in a beautiful purple robe, spitting on him, and striking his head with a crude scepter they had made for him. They taunted him by bowing, as subjects bow before a king. They shouldn't have been allowed to do this! Where was God? Why wasn't he stopping this?
After humiliating him, the guards brought him back to Poncio. Seeing his bloodied and battered frame, the crowd became frenzied, crying out for him to be crucified. They called on their laws and said he should die because of who he claimed he was. Poncio was really trying to release him, and I could see that. But the crowd won. Poncio ceremoniously washed his hands of the ordeal as he let the crowd have their way, but I could see the stain of guilt on him.
I was moved to the edge of the city to see Jesiah struggling to walk with a thick wooden beam. It looked familiar, but I couldn't place it. A man called Semyon was there, and the Elven guards forced him to take the beam when Jesiah just couldn't bear it anymore. His body was weak from the beatings, with open wounds still oozing blood. They approached a barren hill outside of the city. Another group of soldiers were gathered there with two other prisoners, with beams like the ones Jesiah carried. On the ground beside them, three longer beams were laid out. I suddenly realized what was going to happen. I had seen this before, pictured in the stronghold of the Humans when I snuck in to save Elthinor. I now knew that it was Jesiah's face that had been clawed away from the painting on the wall.
"You can't!" I screeched, trying to lash out at the guards who had attached the beams together to form what they called a cross. This time I could move, but I went straight through them, ending up sprawled on the ground from the momentum.
I watched helplessly as two huge nails were driven through my precious Lord's hands, cutting through coiled muscle. They then tied his wrists securely to the crossbeam. They positioned his feet one on top of the other then drove another nail through them. I was sobbing at this point. The other two crosses were already up, but I hadn't noticed, too focused on Jesiah. I saw a Human and an Elf on them. They were in their undergarments, too, but they weren't as beaten and bloody as Jesiah.
People paraded by and mocked the two others, but only a little. Through their words, I discovered they were thieves. The mob mainly focused their jeers on Jesiah, telling him to save himself and come down if he was truly the Son of God. Suddenly time sped up. I could tell hours had passed since the sun was now in a different spot. Thick, dark clouds started rolling in, covering the sky, more ominous than anything that the Dark Ones' minions could summon. I knew what was about to happen.
Jesiah suddenly threw his head back and cried out to God. I couldn't understand the words, but he seemed forsaken, bearing an unimaginable burden. I swear I heard his last breath squeeze out of his lungs. The soldiers seemed in a hurry now. They cruelly broke the legs of the two thieves to hasten their death. Seeing that Jesiah was already dead, a soldier stabbed him in the side, and I saw blood and water pour out. All was still for a second then I wailed as lightening flashed across the sky, and it didn't stop. Thunder boomed louder than anything I had ever heard, and the earth began shaking violently. I struggled to keep my feet beneath me during the upheaval. As quickly as the turmoil started, everything became still again.
I watched as he was laid in a tomb wrapped in linen, and a stone was rolled in front of it. Everything began fading. What? No! It can't be! There has to be more!
I opened my eyes to stare at Jaiden. He was staring at the bottom of the scroll blankly. There was silence, everybody too shocked to move. I concurred.