• A cold morning fog hung thick over the city streets, the roofs of houses jutting into the sky seeming like mountains in the clouds. A sleek black automobile trundled along the cobbled road, passersby stopping and staring, craning their necks to see the man seated inside. They knew who he was by the blunt profile of his elegant face; by the silky pitch-colored hair that curtained his high cheekbones; by the way he held his head up high and proud, like a beast surveying his territory. He looked absolutely striking in his tailored black suit and officer’s cap, the famed immortal General now serving the Germans in this war. Yet something was clearly weighing on his mind… His fingers in their leather gloves tensed on the hilt of his rapier, the other tucked in his breast pocket, a scowl barely visible on his placid face. Even the driver in the front seat could feel the strict emotion coming off him in waves.

    He was not happy.

    It had been sixteen years since the end of the Great War. It had taken him sixteen years, going back and forth all over Europe and America alike, constantly shifting sides in this new conflict. Now he fought for the Russians, now for the English, now for the Italians. The outside world thought him crazed – why would this man switch sides so often? They looked down on him as much as they admired him. Now he’d settled in Germany, traveled to Poland, to Warsaw… he had felt a pull there. It was calling him, finally clearly after so much vague leading. The sleek black car puttered to a stop, and he waited for the chauffeur to open the door for him, one slick, tall black boot after another clacking on the brick sidewalk. His mansion here stood tall, in the high-class area of Warsaw where only the officers and soldiers accompanying General Gray had settled. It was here he’d been pulled, more specifically to the streets of Warsaw, to the low-class areas. To the Jews.

    And it was there he’d found what he was seeking.

    Servants were waiting to take his coat when he entered the mansion, bowing and scraping. He paid not a single one of them heed, his hand still on the hilt of the rapier, his coat kept on his shoulders still as he tracked water from the streets into the foyer. He had waited enough. He had left his prize alone too long. He needed to bring him back. He strode with a sense of purpose up the stairs, ignoring the maid who offered him tea, opening the third door down the hallway and turning to glare at her.

    “I am not to be disturbed,” he said forcefully, all sense of tact gone. “Tell the others. If a single one of you comes near this door I will personally see to it that you are put out on the streets.”

    The door slammed violently behind him, his back bracing against the wood as he tried to calm himself. Emotions running high… useless emotions. He couldn’t afford to show his weakness, not to these people, not to anyone… except one… And with this sentiment he exhaled slowly between his teeth and straightened himself, finally addressing the supine figure on his bed.

    A boy of sixteen was bound tightly upon the duvet, chest heaving slightly against the thick leather straps that held him. His arms were twisted and tied, his legs mangled together. A wad of cloth was shoved into his mouth, held in by another strip that wound itself around his jaw, blinded by a length of black fabric. He was naked, his ashy skin showing visible signs of recent bruising, some bluish purple, some fading to yellow as they coagulated beneath his skin. His recently bleached hair was strewn over his face, his cheeks brilliantly flushed with pink. It seemed he’d been struggling again.

    He had found the boy on the street. There was a procession in the lower-class area, tanks rumbling down the street with the General in his little automobile behind them. He had felt his heart stinging as he passed a certain part of the crowd, demanded the driver to stop. There were hushes in the onlooking crowd, already terrified of the German tanks and their General, rumored to be an immortal… But it was a sixteen-year-old boy who stared almost fearlessly back at him from the crowd. With that face. HIS face. The face of his boy, his treasure, surrounded by matted black hair that the Jews had. And immediately he demanded the boy be taken, and though his soldiers were confused, they captured the boy, squirming and screaming for his mother.

    The General exhaled again and threw his overcoat onto the floor, approaching the bed with one hand still on his rapier. His boots thudded softly on the Oriental rug spread out before him, further alerting the boy to his presence. Immediately the boy tensed, desperate, muffled noises escaping his gag as he squirmed away, further onto the bed. Gray didn’t know why he even bothered struggling – no matter where he moved, it was still the General’s territory, and everything within his territory would be made his as well. Finally he sat himself upon the thick mattress beside the boy’s straining form, laying a leather glove on his chest firmly.

    “You are going to stop this nonsense,” he said quietly. “We will both be much happier if you simply give in. Won’t we, Ashbel?”

    The man’s fingers graced the heated cheek of the boy before loosening his gag and blindfold, delicately plucking and pulling the wad of fabric from his mouth, careful not to get bitten. The boy’s eyes were full of fury, of confusion. They were deep and incredibly dark, but still they were familiar to the General. He had looked so often into those eyes… The eyes of his Adjutant.

    “That’s not my name!” the boy said exasperatedly. “My name isn’t Ashbel! I keep telling you, it’s Shiloh… Please, Sir, let me go…”

    The general closed his eyes and inhaled sharply, his upper lip tensing. The way he said “Sir”… was not what he remembered. Not what he loved. This boy had no idea how much pain he was causing the man who bound him. He would have crushed the child’s throat if it brought him any relief. But it wouldn’t; he’d just have to start his journey over. He’d have to go back to scouring the globe for this… boy. He would spawn in another war, probably somewhere as far as Japan again… He only just realized his clenched fingers were hovering over the boy’s gullet and the child was staring at him with a look of pure terror on his face. He balled his hand into a fist and withdrew it, swallowing.

    “Now, listen,” he said calmly, slowly. “I do not want to cause you pain. But realize that you are making this difficult for both of us. Look back inside yourself, remember…”

    “Remember what?” the boy spat bitterly, straining at his bonds again. “You keep telling me to remember… Sir, I don’t know what you want me to remember! I’m not a spy or anything… I just want to go home to my mother…”

    The general’s eyes closed again and he turned away slightly. “That woman is not your mother, she is merely the medium through which you came back into this world. She did her job and she is useless to both you and I now-“

    “She’s my mother!” he cried. “Please, I want to go back home to her, she’s terribly ill-“

    “That woman is dead, I KILLED her!” yelled General Gray, rising to his feet.

    The boy’s mouth now hung open quietly, his body trembling, his eyes wide in shock. All at once a heavy, dry sob escaped his mouth, and then the tears began to flow down his blotchy cheeks. General Gray only looked down coldly at the blubbering mess on his bed, eyes taking in the leather straps that bit hard into his forgiving flesh, his emaciated figure racked with sobs. He had no pity. He had absolutely no remorse for what he had done. He was simply removing an unnecessary element from this boy’s life, and once he returned – TRULY returned to his General, he wouldn’t care about this woman… He would barely know who she was. He would know only what HE was, the man he served…

    He moved back to the bed and gripped the boy’s throat, his other hand pressing hard on his chest. He pulled the boy’s jaw up and forced him to look into the man’s eyes, vivid amber flashing. “Look at me,” he commanded sharply. “Remember. Who. You. Are.”

    The boy hiccupped, his face streaked with tears, his body twisting. “No… get off… g-get off of me… Let me go! I’ll scream!”

    “By all means, go ahead if you think anyone will care,” Gray said coolly.

    And he did. All at once the boy was opening his mouth and screaming bloody murder, his face nearly purple. Let him, thought Gray. He had ordered no one to come into this room. He’d do more than fire them if they did, he thought as he felt at his side for the rapier at his belt.

    The boy’s bellowing was becoming more strained, his throat cracking. Gray had had enough. He struck the boy hard across the face, so much so that he choked and began coughing violently. With one swift movement he pulled the boy onto his knee on the bed, gripped his throat tightly and forced his head back, bringing their faces close, and their foreheads touching.

    The boy was still squirming when Gray’s eyes closed, when he slipped off his leather gloves and braced his hands hard against the boy’s jawline. If he had to do this the usual way, that was fine… He exhaled deeply, slowly, his hot breath flowing over the boy’s open lips and mixing with the desperate, hurried breaths escaping from the boy’s mouth. He squirmed. Gray held him tighter. Finally he fell still in the man’s strong arms, limp and breathing heavily.

    Gray’s fingers traced over the prominent bones in the boy’s face, feeling how thin he was, how underfed. That would change. He’d get the boy back to his old strength… Right after he got him to his old self. Slowly he exhaled over the child’s face again and whispered to him, quietly, barely audible. The unintelligible, babbling words were foreign to the boy… This man was speaking in Aramaic. But... How did he even know that it was Aramaic at all?... Was that… Familiar to…

    The boy’s eyes widened, pupils contracting. He heard words assaulting his mind, thousands of languages, commands, loving whispers, battlefield cries… His vision flashed with the bright yellow of desert sands, the white dust of crumbling walls, the rushing verdant leaves of a forest, the red flames of war…

    All at once the boy’s back arched violently, almost snapping, tearing himself out of the General’s grasp, and at the same time screaming – unholy, horrible screams that rent his throat and filled the room with a horrid echo. The general seized his boy and clasped him tightly to his chest as best he could. The boy was writhing, blind, bound, convulsing horribly. The older man laid himself over the male’s body, his weight keeping him mostly still, but nothing muffing that horrible, ungodly noise spilling forth from his lungs. Nothing would stop that screaming. Nothing would wipe those screams from the man’s memory… His eyes were shut tight, clutching the child to his breast desperately, trembling. This was his only moment of weakness, no one there to witness it but this blind, tortured boy struck with millennia of memories flooding back to him…

    His Adjutant, the immortal soul, and the General of immortal body…

    He remembered the last night they shared, the end of the Great War. The Adjutant, dressed in his fine uniform and standing at his General’s bedside. He was forty-two years old, deep lines in his face and a distinct graying to his pale hair. Despite all this, he was smiling at the man he served.

    The man himself was not smiling.

    “You will not reconsider this decision?” General Gray had said sullenly.

    “Well,” the Adjutant said to his Master calmly, “this war is over, isn’t it? You don’t need me right now… not right away, anyway.”

    The general stood up almost angrily, half-heartedly. “I ALWAYS need you,” he snarled.

    The Adjutant chuckled warmly, turning and facing the window. “You won’t need me much longer, at the rate I’m going,” he sighed. “I’m getting old again, Sir. Look at me… Old and gray, no more beauty in me now… And yet you still lie with me every night. But next to you, I feel so…” He sighed again and turned to look at his General, the handsome face as it had been since the beginning. “Well, as I said. I need to start over.”

    General Gray was scowling. But he could not be angry at the Adjutant, had stopped being angry at his decision. “You don’t know where you will be next?” he said quietly.
    The adjutant shook his head slowly, still smiling. He sat himself beside the General and laid his head on the – now younger – man’s shoulder. “Not a clue,” he said happily. “But you will find me. I know you will.” He lifted his face and nuzzled the man’s high cheekbone. “Will you…?”

    “Do not ask me to do that for you again,” Gray snapped, turning away.

    The Adjutant smiled sadly and nodded, stroking the back of the General’s hand. “All right,” he sighed. “I’ll take care of it then. Please let me go prepare.”

    And he had turned and left the room right then. That was back in America, sixteen years ago. The next morning he was discovered hanging from the doorway.

    The memory sent a painful sting through Gray’s heart, and he lifted his face immediately to discover he was still in his room, the tiny figure of the sixteen-year-old boy beneath him. He had fallen still. Gray glanced to the window. It was the next morning, it seemed… They had laid there for more than a day. He exhaled slowly and brushed hair out of his face, eyes flicking over his hat lying on the floor and the gloves he’d discarded beside him on the bed. Finally he drew his face back to the boy’s.

    Beneath him, Ashbel had opened his eyes.

    “Good morning, Master.”