Dear readers, see the MEMO just beneath this installment for a very very VERILY important announcement. Expo: Prizes to be won!!!
…continued from The Medallion IV
“Hold it!!!” Rufus bolted up, one hand automatically reaching for his dagger…
Slowly, he rose into a crouching position and turned around to see who it was.
“Hold it!” the soldier yelled again, “Wait for me!”, as he puffed up the hill. He ran up to join a group of other soldiers who stood in a circle a few meters from the foot of the cross of Jesus. Rufus relaxed as he realized that nobody was paying any attention to their – him, Simon and the lads – general direction. All eyes in the vicinity were on the soldiers as they cast bets over an item which lay on the floor in their midst; eventually, the winner yelled and triumphantly lifted the item he had just won.
Rufus saw that the item was the undergarment of the crucified Jesus. They had cast lots over the sweat-drenched, blood-soaked undergarment of a man whose very life they were stringing along to a tortuous end! Incredible! Even for a thief, such behavior was low. Wretched Roman dogs, Rufus spat.
A few feet away from the raucousness, the same group of women from back in the Praetorium now stood huddled together again at the foot of the cross. There was a young man standing with them, he was fresh and ruddy in the face with a full head of hair and a pencil-thin mustache. Rufus could see Jesus staring down at them, he wondered though how much the man could see seeing as his eyes were both bloody and bulging like the infamous grapes of the Cherudian vines. The crucified man seemed to be talking to the group with sparse and measured movements of his chapped lips, speaking in his state was understandably a Herculean effort.
Mary burst into a fit of sobs and the young man who was standing with the women gathered her into his arms, swaying his body slightly while soothingly stroking her back. Rufus looked away; he had no time to indulge in such sloppy scenes. He needed to concentrate. As he returned to his former sitting position, he observed that his company had all fallen asleep, from Simon who lay against the rock with his head lolling between his drawn knees to Eleazer who lay coiled up just by his father’s feet. He felt the beginnings of weariness grab a hold of him as well but he shook it off.
Mentally, Rufus reviewed the clues: The place of the Skulls, done; but the King of rocks, who was the King of rocks? Mayhaps the hill used to be a royal sepulcher and a king – the King of rocks – could have been buried there with the treasured medallion of Ra. Or maybe Golgotha had been a battlefield and the king had died on it fighting a war, the medallion concealed in his royal ensemble. Perhaps the hill had been forgotten during those many decades of captivity away from home, forgotten with the prized medallion that had been lost on it…until now. Or mayhaps…
Rufus sprang awake. Even before he turned around, he knew that the yell had come from the man on the cross. It was a blood-curling scream laden with agony and the tell-tale rasp of a life slowly ebbing away.
Rufus was Nazarene by birth and even though, he had never been to his homeland, his father had ensured that he understood and spoke his native Aramaic. Jesus’ call for his father was no surprise, Rufus had seen men at the point of death do a variety of things, from fouling themselves to crying for their mothers like snot-nosed tots. What was surprising however, was the fact that there had been no paternal figure throughout the ordeals the man had undergone; Rufus was sure of it – Simon would have made sure to point such a man out to him. So who was this father, he wondered.
“E-loooo-i…” Jesus yelled again, his voice breaking on that last syllable. His head reached as far back as the wood of the cross and the nails that held him suspended could allow and his eyes stayed raised to the skies as Jesus broke into more audible sobs.
“Oy! Someone get Elijah! The king of the Jews here would like a private audience!” one soldier taunted and the crowd bawled their amusement. One overzealous youthful soldier stood and ran off down the hill, apparently on his way to raise Elijah to answer the call. His antics tickled the crowd’s amusement even more; Rufus itched to rap some sense into the fool’s skull.
“Eloi…” Jesus rasped, his tone much mellower, “lama sabachthani!”
Rufus felt something in his chest crack; he batted his eyelids furiously, denying room of flow to the tears that pressed from behind his eyes. The combination of Jesus speaking in his native tongue and his looking as forsaken and dejected as his cry portrayed, was just too much for Rufus to bear. So he dragged his eyes away, focusing instead on the crowd and people gather at the foot of the cross and around.
Jesus’ mother, Mary broke down in loud sobs from where she knelt at the foot of the cross; the young man Rufus had seen with them earlier stood bent over by her side doing his best to console her. The rest of the women wailed uncontrollably. The soldiers around continued to make fun of him. The fool who had run off earlier returned holding a stick which had on its end, a sponge soaked in something that was dripping onto the floor as he ran.
“Elijah will soon be along,” he announced, “he only has to dust off his bones” Chuckles and laughter. “He however, presents the king with some wine to soothe his thirst” The youth was really enjoying the attention of the crowd. After executing a mocking courtesy, he pushed the soaking sponge into the face of Jesus who eagerly opened his dry mouth for some liquid respite. No sooner had he made contact with it than he drew his head back, sputtering and spitting. The young soldier doubled over in laughter, the sponge-bearing piece of wood forgotten on the sand; the other soldiers and crowd roared their approval.
Rufus felt his eyes drawn back to the forlorn figure on the cross. No longer spitting, Jesus was crying profusely; with each sob, his ribs strained against the skin of his abdomen. A few moments passed and his sobs lessened, his breaths coming in longer gasps.
He raised his eyes to the heavens again. “Father,” Rufus heard him say, “forgive them” What?! Rufus was livid, unbelieving of what he had just heard. Jesus was mad, he knew it. First, it was unthinkable that he had a father with enough power to reside in the skies but couldn’t do anything to save his son. Secondly, who forgave such blood-thirsty enemies as the Roman soldiers? The same flesh-eating dogs who were responsible for the slow and tortuous death you were nearing? Futuo! Rufus swore; the man was mad.
As if on cue, Jesus turned and his eyes – red, blubbery and nearly shut – met with Rufus’. The look was dripping with pity, affection and some plea; it elicited some tingling in the base of his spine. What? Rufus challenged the stare, albeit mutely. Don’t look at me, he fumed, you’re the one on the cross.
The message must have gotten through because Jesus looked away, but the tingling did not stop.
In a loud voice – one too loud for a man on the brink of death – Jesus cried out, “It is finished” And hung his head, his body sagging, lifeless.
The crowd shut up, mouths suspended in mid-roars and hands in mid-air, even the birds and the wind uttered not a single sound. There was resounding silence over the entire hilltop. And then, the earth beneath Rufus shook with a distinct intensity. Before his eyes, rocks split and fell away into crevices that widened in the ground from the force of the quake. Pandemonium broke out; people started yelling and running, some back towards the city, others farther away from it. The group at the foot of the cross huddled closer together, clutching on to it while the soldiers with their swords and spears, dug into the ground and held fast.
Total darkness enveloped the entire land, a darkness so black that Rufus couldn’t see his hand in front of his face. Someone lit a torch and with a wet poof!, it was instantly extinguished. Rufus hunkered down on the ground, felt for Eleazer and drew the boy to him. Blindly dragging Eleazer, Rufus crawled till he could feel Simon and the boys; he threw his body over them and shut his eyes.
After what felt like ages, Rufus opened first one eye, then the other. The light had been restored; raising his head, he was astounded to see that everything was just as it had been. There were no splitting rocks, no gaping crevices in the ground with people tumbling down into their dark depths, no screams. But for the rock-solid conviction within him of what he had seen he might have doubted that there had just been an earthquake.
“You look like you have seen a ghost, my friend” He spun around to face a now-awake Simon who sat rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Rufus felt like he had seen a ghost; he said nothing.
Simon sat up and stretched, looking much better with most of the color back in his cheeks. “Let’s have another look at that parchment” he said, hand outstretched. Rufus started; he had actually forgotten about his quest. What was happening to him?!
His movement rigid with self indignation, he reached into his his inner pockets for the scroll. The moment the tips of his fingers felt it, he knew he had found the missing link. Rufus had solved the riddle.
The king of rocks, it had said, not the King of rocks. He already knew which was the king – the largest – of all the rocks on the grounds of Golgotha but just to make double sure, he took a quick look around. He was right; the biggest rock was the same one which now supported the cross from which Jesus hung.
“I have it” he told Simon, his delight evident in his excited grin. When Simon’s expression remained quizzical, Rufus read the second line of the clue aloud – lies beneath the king of rocks, and pointed at the said rock. Simon followed his finger then as realization dawned on him, his mouth formed a small ‘O’. Rufus felt a familiar tingle course through his muscles ending in the tips of his fingers, a heist was near. Together, they turned their attention back to the cross. Rufus’ mind was was racing, trying out different schemes to retrieve The Medallion whose location they now knew. As if they had sensed his scheming, the soldiers gathered around the cross. They looked guarded, wary as if they expected an army to come and steal it.
While Rufus and Simon looked on, two men arrived and walked up to the centurion. Their gold and white linen robes gave these newcomers away as noble men of good living.
“That’s Nichodemus” Simon said, pointing to the one who sported a bushier beard and did less of the talking. “It is rumored that he secretly was a follower of Jesus. The other one doing most of the talking is Joseph, the wealthiest man in Arimathea and a good man by all standards.”
Rufus was glad to have his ‘tour-guide’ back but he was stuck on a word Simon had said.
“Follower?” Rufus asked. “What do you mean ‘follower’ of Jesus?”
“Oh, Nichodemus?” Rufus nodded.
“Well, he was a supporter of the gospel Jesus preached” Simon went off, “but he was also a wealthy member of council so…”
“Wait,” Rufus interrupted yet again, his heightening confusion evident in his expression. “Supporter of the gospel? What was this Jesus? A priest?”
“You do not know who Jesus is?” Simon asked incredulously, piercing Rufus with a look that cast no doubts as to exactly what he thought of him. With an exaggerated sigh, Simon launched his attack: “He is Jesus, the Christ. A prophet. He was born to Joseph, the Carpenter and Mary and for the past three years, he has…”
Rufus silenced him with a raised hand, his attention held by the unfolding results of whatever discussions the two noble men were having with the centurion. Two soldiers mounted ladders on the arms of the cross of Jesus to free the nails while a third freed the nail that held his feet. As they took the body down, Mary who still stood there gestured for it to be handed to her. She then sank to the ground under the weight of her son’s corpse. She cradled it in her arms like a newborn child cooing to it in an agonized, sob-racked voice. She rained kisses all over the corpse’s battered face, ran her hands over the wounds on his hands, feet, side, back; it looked like she was performing some sort of post-mortem healing. Raising her face to the skies in seeming surrender, Mary held her dead son to her bosom and rocked it slowly. Rufus heard Simon sniffle beside him; he felt something warm slide down his left cheek but he quickly swiped it away – thieves never cried.
One of the women started to gather soil around the foot of the cross into a little white handkerchief. She was taking care to scrape up the sections of the soil which had been drenched by the blood of Jesus. Rufus wondered if they would go all the way back into the city for more of blood-drenched soil, especially to the Praetorium where Jesus had been scourged. He was still pondering the futility of the task when the glint of something caught his eye. The rays of the sun from behind him had fallen on something shiny in a clump of soil the woman had gathered. Oblivious of anything abnormal, she dumped the clump of soil in the handkerchief and turned back to scrape some more. Rufus looked again to be sure and there, a lustrous brilliance from amongst the dark soil winked at him. He darted an enquiring look at Simon, his companion nodded, his face resembling the Midian owls with the eyes so wide in them.
They had found it; they had found The Medallion.
…to be continued
Hi esteemed readers,
As most of you must have already guessed, we’re nearing the end of The Medallion series; infact, we have just one episode to go (who’s yelling Yaayyy?!) That episode will be posted by noon on Easter Sunday (April 20, 2014).
I was just with Rufus (y’all know he’s a Bollywood actor, right?) the other day and he was really touched by the many fans he has gotten on this series. He mentioned that he had always argued with Eli over who was sexier, and the readers’ obvious preference for him will definitely help his case henceforth; because truth be told he isn’t much of a looker (okay, I added that last part).
Anyhow, in appreciation of that and in the spirit of the Easter celebrations, he has put up two prizes to be won by the faithful followers of this centuries-old tale. To win either of the prizes, you only have to fulfill the following requirements:
Be the first to comment on Easter Sunday’s episode titled, ‘The Medallion – Found“.
Predict accurately the location of the Medallion at the first instant Rufus would lay hands on it. Predictions for this prize will be accepted starting now and closing midnight on Saturday, the 19th.
Prize 1 is NGN 1000.00 credit recharge for any telecommunication network within Nigeria.
Prize 2 is NGN 1000.00 credit recharge for any telecommunication network within Nigeria.
Rules of Entry
1. You must not be related to Chisom Ojukwu by blood. (Dubem, you’re included, but not the rest of the family. Hehehehe, sorry loves…we’ll soon, hopefully, have a Family Special Edition)
2. For prize 2, you can only vote once. Once a comment bearing your answer has been approved and uploaded, do not send in another.
3. You must fulfill the requirements exactly as stated.
By 6pm on Easter Sunday, we should already have our winners.
Let the ‘treasure hunt’ begin!!! See ya in three/four days…
All rights are reserved.