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The swaddling darkness had robbed him of his sense of the passing of time. The lack was halfway between a comfort and a curse. His thoughts had come unmoored, which partly assuaged the pain of his deed, but if he could not think plainly of it, how, then, could he repent of it?

Several of his men, aware that he'd stood the vigil each of the two nights before, had offered to take the duty from him. He'd thanked them with his usual formality, and declined. This was where he belonged, the only imaginable place where he could finish grieving.

He'd vowed to himself, silently, that he'd stand the night vigils until the tetrarch rescinded the order that the tomb be guarded...perhaps until God should grant him surcease from his regrets.

When summoned to bring a condemned to the place of execution, he'd thought little of it. Executions in this rebellious province were common. Given the belligerence of the locals, they demanded a military guard. He and his had been detailed to this rude place as agents of law. The law required that its forms be protected in their observance, if it were ever to gain the allegiance of the barbarians among whom he dwelt.

Only when he first looked upon the condemned did he realize to what he was to be party.

Throughout the thing he'd been torn between the need to halt it and the imposed duty to see it carried out as prescribed. His reason knew that for him to interfere in the proceedings would only guarantee his own death for insubordinate treason. Yet the urge was powerful. It never slackened, even unto the moment of death.

The coup de grace would linger in his memory until he was no more.

At least the darkness concealed his tears from others' eyes.

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