“The Main Course”
Part IV. The Two Sisters
“Well done, Benjamin,” the stocky man said. Benjamin gave a mock bow, and they turned to look at the woman. She was a regal autumn, and would have been a dazzling spring in her youth. She smiled, and began her tale.
“My sister and I lived in a small village, not far from …”
She was interrupted as the door crashed open, and a group of armed men entered. The scent of ashes returned. It had been several months, but the air still carried the memory of the fire.
She sighed, “I had barely begun.”
“You can tell the rest to the master,” the stocky man replied.
A finely dressed man followed the guards. He approached the table, and addressed the stocky man in a loud, formal tone: “Simon, known as Peter, stand.” He did. The officer continued, “The time of justice is now. Your request as to the manner has been granted.” Peter smiled. With surprising quickness, he stepped forward and embraced the officer.
A guard stepped forward, and Peter released him and embraced the guard. The guard stumbled back and pushed Peter away, raising his fist.
“I am sorry if I startled you. You have my thanks. May the Lord bless you all of your days.” The guard gaped at him.
The officer smoothed his uniform, and finally drew himself straight. “You will accompany us now. Will chains be necessary?”
“As you wish.”
The officer looked to the others. “As to the rest,” he paused, and then switched from Greek to Latin, “Damnatio ad bestias.”
There was silence for a moment. Then the loud man spoke, “You should have fed us better. It will be a poor show.” He started to laugh, and the others joined in.
“Stop that!” the officer shouted, waving his baton.
And so the sentences were carried out, but it did not make for good theater. It was tried a few more times, but the performance did not justify the cost. What was meant as entertainment became a duty, and one that was increasingly distasteful. Even for the lions.