Dream of the Passion

Disclaimer: I don't own anything that you recognize. I'm just borrowing them without permission but with every intention of returning them to their rightful owners.

A/N: This is a one-shot for the Easter season and has nothing to do with my other story, Chance Encounter. It takes place during Balian's sojourn in the Holy Land. Enjoy!

The sheer curtains billowed in the warm desert winds. The sky was clear. Balian lay on top of the sheets and watched the stars through half closed eyes. He could remember his mother telling him that the stars were in fact the lamps of the angels who watched over the world while people slept. He used to believe her stories, until the troubles of the world had taken away his innocence. Now, he even doubted the existence of God and all the beliefs that were the basis of his religion. As he pondered the loss of his faith, his eyes became heavy…

He was in the dusty streets of Jerusalem, but it was different. No crusaders patrolled the area. In their stead were Roman centurions with their plumed helmets and kirtles. Jewish pilgrims filled the markets —he recognized their language. The sepulchre had not yet been built. There was nothing on the hill except a few Roman soldiers.

As he wandered the streets, he realized that something of great significance was about to happen. Even though his knowledge of Hebrew was limited, there had been Jews living in Ibelin and he had learnt a few words from them. He recognized the words for 'Passover' and 'Sabbath'. The city was filled with pilgrims, but none of them were Christian. He wandered listlessly through the market places. It was a hot and dry day. Each gust of hot wind sent grains of sand flying into his eyes and nostrils. He could barely see through the veil of dust.

He was wondering what was going on when there was a shout, followed by several more. He followed the sound until he saw huge crowds lining the main street. Curiosity gripped him, and he went to get a better look. Roman centurions guarded a prisoner who bore a heavy wooden cross on his shoulder. The man's garments were bloody. A crown of thorns sat on his head and rivulets of blood ran from where the sharp points hand pierced his skin. Balian's breath caught in his throat. He knew this unfortunate. He knew his story. He just couldn't believe that it was happening before his eyes. His heart clenched as he watched the man's torment. How could the crowds jeer at him? How could they be human and yet feel no pity for this innocent man who had been condemned?

The prisoner fell, and could not rise, no matter how much the centurions flogged him. He was breathing heavily and sweat mingled with blood and dirt. The soldiers conversed amongst themselves in rapid Latin. They had to get to Calvary before a certain hour—Balian's grasp of Latin was not good enough to hear everything that they were saying.

Without warning, one of the centurions grabbed Balian by the arm and pulled him to the middle of the street. He shouted at Balian, and then pointed at the cross. Balian understood. They wanted him to carry it for the prisoner. He bent down to haul it onto his shoulder. As he did so, the prisoner looked up, and Balian's eyes met the sorrowful and compassionate ones of his God. He thought his heart stopped then, for he was rendered speechless and full of wonder. A message seemed to pass between them. The Lord's gaze seemed to say 'I know you, Balian. I have not forgotten you.' Balian could not look away until He released him from His gaze.

Balian straightened with much difficulty. The cross was heavy and the rough wood dug painfully into his shoulder, chafing his skin. His back and knees were bent under its weight. In front of him, the centurions had managed to haul the Lord to his feet. With the Lord within his sight, Balian followed. The centurions lashed at the backs of his legs to make him go faster. They were in a hurry. One steps, two steps, three steps… The cross was heavy and yet Balian did not regret having to carry it. He made his way laboriously up the hill to where the sepulchre will be built some centuries later. There, the Roman soldiers took the cross and laid it on the ground.

Mid-afternoon. The sun blazed down. Sweat trickled down Balian's face and neck. He shielded his eyes from the sun with his hand. The Lord gave a shout. His voice was filled with despair and yet there was satisfaction. With that, His body sagged. The sky became dark and thunder rumbled as if in anger…

His eyes opened suddenly. He was back in his chamber in Ibelin. His clothes and hair was drenched with sweat. That had been a most vivid dream. Balian slowly raised his head. His shoulder ached. Slowly, he undid his shirt to inspect it. His flesh was red and marked as if he had been carrying something hard and heavy. The backs of his legs stung from welts made by a whip. He got up and looked down at himself in amazement. He was covered in dust as if he had been walking through the streets of Jerusalem on a hot windy day. Still confused, he went out. It was a quiet morning. The Christians of Ibelin had gathered, waiting to hear about the Passion of their Lord on that fateful Friday when the world was changed.

A/N: As with all my stories (I've only got one other), this is slightly AU. The real person who carried the cross for Jesus was Simon of Cyrene. He was a foreigner making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and he had two children; Alexander and Rufus. This was inspired by a passage of Stephen Lawhead's book, The Black Rood. It's a great book and set during the crusades as well.