Sermon on a Mount

The words broke through the mob’s pandemonium like when in the midst of the thrashing storm a sudden calm is ordered. All at once, man and beast, nature herself, quieted their doings and looked upon the condemned. Sitting upon an ass, arms bound to the saddle, he was led by a guard to the gallows. He had been muffled, a rag stuffed down his throat, but it now hung full of bile by whatever rough cord had been tied around his mouth to hold the rag in. The cord’s knot had held, but instead of fastening his mouth shut, now formed a strange necklace.

Adorned with this jewelry, he proclaimed:

Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.
Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you,
and when they shall separate you from their company,
and shall reproach you,
and cast out your name as evil,
for the Son of man’s sake.

Thus he spoke while paraded towards death, and when the procession stopped, finished speaking and was still a moment. Then falling forward, as if exhausted, he crashed into the ass’s bristly mane. He stayed bent over and quiet.

Weaving an erratic path through the crowd, a small lean figure effortlessly darts between the jostling bodies. He flows around them like the ever-changing wind, nearly unnoticed by those he passes, until stopping dead, he reaches the perimeter of the mob.

That voice, silencing all with a virtue unknown before this point, had preached words that seemed to quell not just the world around, but even the raging storm within the young man’s mind. Without thinking he had jumped into the midst of the pressing throng, chasing something he never knew existed, and yet this small flavor seemed everything for which he had longed.

He heard, closer than most, the Monk whispering to the ass: “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.”

Awestruck, this man of action watches the unfolding proceedings:

He, the Monk, was as someone asleep, or perhaps drunk; indeed, inebriation seemed a just diagnosis, for though his voice like a knife had upon his entry cut with unearthly authority, he now muttered, hiccupping and blubbering incoherently. The guards tried to wrestle his limp body from the ass, but seemed unable to lift his from the animal. They would shift him to one side, and just when it looked like they could roll him off the laden beast, the ass, out of boredom or in true rebellion, would suddenly move, undoing their work.

The crowd began to view the exchange as a mirthful one, and their bated breath soon gave way to snickering, and laughter even, when the ass’s movement hobbled an unwary officer, the hoof proving itself the master of the toe. The lieutenant in his bright regalia, one who was known for the putting on of an exaggerated style, which would have met quite a few snickers were it not that the first of these had in turn met his steel, jumped up and howled in pain. The individual, which feared this man, now dissolved safely into the crowd, could safely assault the proud man’s pride with a spontaneous uproar.

It was no small laughter that then escaped the denizens gathered there, for they laughed knowing the preciousness of laughter, knowing its want under a tyrant. And so, whereas one unacquainted with the case might find the crowd strangely overtaken with humor—as the young, lean man did—it is understandable that even after a minute’s passing they were want to cease, nor seemed likely to cease on their own. Yet here the lieutenant, now more resembling a cock, his limping gait adding to the image of the strange plumage adorning his head, screamed a loud crow, drawing his sabre.

The crowd joined the young man in silence, though of a different sort than his: their silence, born of fear and dread, little resembled his calm and ease. Perhaps it was that he had made his way foremost in the crowd, perhaps it was his stillness contrasted with the worried motion around him, perhaps it was that this stranger should stare unafraid at the lieutenant, but whatever the cause, the proud man next made a mortal mistake, pointing his sabre at this nameless young man.

It should here be noted the young man’s look and apparel: His clothes were all black, the darkest dye the eye has seen; these were worn tight about his body, showcasing fatless muscles; at his waste hung a sword, the handle long with a strange diamond pattern woven along its length.

Breaking from the crowd, the young man put his hand to the oriental weapon, and taking a wide, low stance, fixed his gaze upon the challenger. Though acquainted with the vice of pride, the lieutenant suffered no relation with its cousin cowardice: by all accounts, courage was his only virtue. Limping forward, his foot now numb and swollen, the officer approached the Nameless Hero. But before their swords could clash, the ass broke from the center of the guards still trying to unload the prisoner, and between the contestants interposed the burdensome Monk and itself.

In fury, the lieutenant swung his sabre into the ass’s butt. Rearing up, the equine let out a scream, and fled into the crowd, carrying the prisoner away. The guards were soon in chase, and running, passed between the duelists unaware of the blood about to be shed. How often had their officer, at any imagined slight, killed a man? They little cared, and knew after this trifle their commander would diligently renew his duties, for had the Monk a weapon, this matter would have been settled by steel.

As the last guard passed between them, the officer on instinct lunged. The lieutenant arced his sword to cleave the stranger’s head and neck. Below this wild cut, the youth ducked under, and stepping off to the side, drew his curved steel. Fresh from the scabbard, in its very drawing, the sword thirstily sliced the proud man’s side, sating[1] itself on his blood.

Knowing the liver struck, the Nameless Hero doesn’t turn upon the collapsing form behind him, but swings his sword clean of blood. Returning the cruel weapon to its sheath, the man in black sprints into the shadows of an alley.

Under the brim of her wide hat, Andrea gazes after the fleeing victor. Around her, the crowd in disbelief mutters, some drawing near the corse and some, their fear of the man compounded at the sight of his spilt blood, retreating to safer, pleasanter locals to drink a quiet celebratory toast. Once the stranger is truly gone, she approaches the rash lieutenant.

Still his life pours out, though his breath has gone. Kneeling down, she gathers the purple essence into the jar prepared for another victim.

[1]
A somewhat poetic term, but one lifted directly from the Nameless Hero’s journal. He writes of his sword as if it drives him toward conflict and death, personifying it with its own wants and desires. In general, this paragraph has a one to one correlation with the original text, as the Nameless Hero often wrote out his duels in detail, performing a sort of post-mortem, analyzing his own efficiency.

 

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