Three high days
It was three days before they opened the tomb and found him alive.
He had thought himself dead long before that --- not dead as in resigned, but as in "already within the shadow realms". It had been in part the fear and the pain; in part the blood loss and the creeping infection fever; but most of all it had been the nails.
The nails made him wonder about the whole thing, later on. Why had the soldiers left the nails into his wrists, his feet? Nails were easy to sell to superstitious and sick people; even as actual objects they tended to be one of the kind of things that legionnaires kept a neurotic list of. And the nails weren't iron, even --- not iron, not brass nor bronze nor tin, not gold nor silver or any other metal that made even a shadow of an ounce of sense.
He had finally found a smith-alchemist that had hemmed and hawed a long while, and then taken a cleaver and cut one of the nails in half. From the middle of the dull grey, a few drops of bright liquid silver; from his mouth, a gasp of surprise. Lead, the smith had told him, nails of lead of all things, with pores and tiny holes and quicksilver inside.
Someone had had him nailed to the cross with heavy metal nails.
He did not remember anything of the cross; but he had ranted and raved, apparently, quoting the scriptures of his people and of many neighbors; not in wrath, but in despair, trying to express one further bit of wisdom before the cross had him. Nothing of that remained to him; his first memory was of him burning in the darkness and the cold. Three days and three nights, heavy metal coursing through his veins, paralyzing him, turning his waking moments into nightmares, and his nightmares into a descent into hell itself. Then the door opened, a cry sounded, sanity returned. He had lived, and had a new vision.
Who could have been behind the nails? One of the twelve? They could not have known in advance of the cross, and they were good, honest, simple men anyway; not leaders but followers. They would not have done something so underhanded and bizarre.
Then there was the thirteenth, the patriot; but he was dead, and so beyond his questions. And the poor man would not have done something like the nails: he would have scoffed it as just a torture, missing the mystical dimension of it. The patriot had been pure and honest in his wish for him to become a king on earth; and being denied this, the patriot had turned against him. Spite had not been a part of Judas's character. No, Judas had betrayed him feeling himself betrayed; but had been true enough to see through his selfish justifications and take the honorable way out.
Maybe the Romans, then. But the legionnaires surely didn't know of the mind-broadening powers of lead and quicksilver and manganese; though of course it was possible one had seen the ugly oracles of Giza, with lumps of lead sewn inside their skin, keeping them occupied by the demon fever all the time. But again, not something that fit the character of a legionnaire.
The Sanhedrin... surely not. They did not dabble in mystical substances, nor in torture beyond the sentence itself.
Who, then? It was no exotic cruelty, the use of those awful nails; it had been a wilfully cold deed, with full understanding pushing him into dreams, nightmares and visions from which he might not return. Felling him into a swoon from which he might not wake, or waking might never talk nor walk again.
It took him days to talk beyond a whisper, afterwards; weeks until he could walk; but he recovered, and at the end of five weeks found the last possible choice, and thus slipped into the palace, and into a tower, and knocked on a certain cedarwood door.
"Come in", a voice said from the inside.
He stepped inside, and in an instant knew his guess had been correct. A sidetable still held a forge the size of a duck's egg, and a mould the size of a large dagger; a glass vial held quicksilver, and was on a slab of lead the size of a sword-hilt. And behind the table, dressed as opulently as the rest of the room was decorated, in silks and rubies and moonstones, sat the unlikely one, reading a heavy tome on alchemy.
He tossed the nails to the table; they landed with a clatter and upset the quicksilver vial, which rocked for a few moments and then refused to fall. "Your nails, returned", he grunted.
She smiled, green eyes bold, curious and dangerous. "And the wisdom within delivered, I hope?", she said, she, Salome, the daughter of Herod. "I hope you have many visions to tell me of."