Ari Belenkiy
Morituri Te Salutant, p.2

The crosses around the camp, with people hanging on them, make him feel sick. He rubs his temples. Pain, intolerable pain, will come later, after his triumphant return to Rome; now there is just a hint. Even less than a hint. He asks a soldier to pour a jar of water over his head and cleans his neck with a towel. Suddenly he recalls the name of that short Jew: Paul. Well, for a final triumph he needs his own Paul, one who will faithfully record all his deeds for posterity. All material things he will leave to the greedy crowd.

            A voice against the East, a voice against the West,
            Grey ashes wrap my heart, black leaves of grief and sorrow.
            A blessing and a curse kiss my lips, a curse and a blessing.

It is a great day, one he will remember for the rest of his life with pride. The day has almost passed and he has not carried out his most important daily practice -- charity. He has almost wasted the day! He casts one more look at the prisoner. Well, the man definitely knows how to hold a sword. His destiny would be to die as a gladiator in the arena at Rome. The prisoner had surrendered to him without a fight, having no further credibility among his own people. Good! He claps his hands: Free this man! No, cut his fetters in pieces! The prisoner indifferently rubs his arms. He does not know what to do with his freedom. Well, he will teach the man how to use freedom. He will marry him off. He will find for him a vocation to support a family. He will enrich his life with fine arts and poetry. It will be his mitzva, his gift to the Jewish G-d.

            In the midst of the fire I will find you, my sister, my bride.
            In the midst of the pain I will be outrageously happy.

An owl cries. The superstitious would herald this a bad omen but not he. He does not believe in this heathen nonsense. Astrology is another matter. He looks at the sky. Unevenly, a tear-like lunar disc obscures the constellation of Leo, which Jews display as their ensign, whereas his star, the major star of the constellation of the Eagle, is bright and smiles to him victoriously. He returns her smile and comes back to the tent. The parchment lies untouched on the table. He takes a stylus and slowly starts his letter as usual: to the Roman Senate - salutant. I and my people are well.

            Woe, Woe, to the city again, and to the people,
            And to the Holy House.

He touches his temples. The pain completely passes, and inspiration, that Divine inspiration which has accompanied him for many days, returns. His thoughts are clear and lofty, his language succinct and poetic. He writes for History: this letter will be inscribed on his obelisk. His hand easily moves over the parchment from left to right, and in each line the Latin characters stand one by one, as firmly as did his comrades of the tenth legion before the last storming of the city wall. He finishes writing, briefly looks once more through the letter, signs it and puts a date in the corner: the third day before the Nones of August, the 823th year from the foundation of Rome, the second year of the consulship of the Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus.

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