Got a bit of a plotbunny itch. Thinking of continuing this one . . . tell me what you think.

He watched the smoke drift off into the early morning sky.

How can creation be so beautiful right now? The sky should weep to see this . . . death and destruction. Mostly death. Mostly this death.

He rubbed his hands together, trying vainly to clean them of a dirtiness that existed only in his mind. As he blinked the smoke from his eyes, his body began to feel the toll of the past few days' actions. The adrenaline and sheer, emotionless determination had allowed him to finish his tasks without thinking about what had happened, but now that all was said and done, weariness bit into his body and soul.

How could evil take such a price to destroy? Why had it taken that price? Why couldn't it have taken him, instead? Or as well?

He shuddered at the realization of what he was thinking. The shuddering spread quickly. Exhausted, he dropped to his knees in the grass, fighting back sleep out of instinct. As he shivered more fiercely, his body screamed at him to go to sleep. Cuts, bruises, burns, scrapes, and perhaps much worse all sent out clear messages of pain.

How could this happen to him? How could he have ended up in such a miserable situation? Why was life doing this to him? Punishment?

He let the tears fall from his eyes as he fell over onto the ground, now laying on his side in a hunched ball, trying to control his shivers by pinning himself into fetal position. Clutching his knees in his arms, he tried to rationalize his thoughts, tried to concentrate on getting up and moving towards civilization, but all he could think about was the pyre before him, and his heart telling him to jump right into the flames.

How could he think something like that?

With his remaining sanity, he realized he was sick. Well, that didn't surprise him. He was still wearing his soaking wet clothing. He hadn't slept, hadn't eaten, hadn't even bothered to deal with his wounds. Probably something was infected by now. Or maybe something had reached an organ, before.

How could he hope that this was the truth, and that he could join the dead?

His thoughts were dangerously bordering on true, unforgivable sin. Taking one's own life would send that person straight into hell, for all eternity. No redemption, no salvation. Though he was already living in hell . . .

He was being punished. Yes, that was it. Punished horribly. He had to get up, had to bind his wounds, had to get back to Rome . . .

He could not lift himself from where he lay, shivering and gasping for air on the ground in front of the flaming double pyre.

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