Like every other writer, I intend to make the coming year a more productive one and I’m making a start with a short story about a journey and a new start.
Following the Star.
The caravan master leads out the procession mustered in the central courtyard of the caravanserai through the heavy wooden doors of the enormous horseshoe gateway. I gently tug on the reigns and guide my beast to fall into line behind my master’s camel.
I try to wipe away the sleep from my eyes as we turn to head into the last rays of the setting sun. Even after all this time, we have been following the Royal Road from Persepolis for many weeks now, I still find it hard to sleep under the relentless heat of the desert sun. The merchants and the senior officials all have private quarters sealed off from the sun’s glare, but we humble camel boys must find what shelter we can beneath the awning, hunkered down with the camels trying to ignore the cacophony of their noisy snoring and moaning, and cover my nose against the stench of their constant belching.
My master is a great philosopher but I’m not sure why he is so keen to make the long journey to the land of Israel just to take a gift to present to a newborn child. It must be someone very important. Every evening, my master is eager to set off, urging the Caravan Master to ready everyone for the next night’s journey across the Arabian wastelands.
Some claim that my master, Melchior is the wisest man in the whole of Persia and that he can read the stars. He is the one paying for this expedition, but even he must follow the route laid down by the Caravan Master. Only the grizzled, old caravan master who barks out orders in a language I do not understand, knows the way to the next caravanserai and the entrances to the underground cisterns where we will find water. More importantly, as we carry valuable goods, he knows how we can avoid the places where we are most likely to be attacked by bandits. There are sacks of frankincense more costly than gold, loaded onto the back of the camel I’m leading.
Asan says that we carry gifts to give to a king, but that can’t be true. Herod still reigns in Israel. Besides, it’s gold for a king and frankincense is offered to gods. But how can a baby be a god? Melchior comes from the lands of Persia, so his god is the Lord of wisdom, Ahura Mazda. But then, what do I know? I’m just an ignorant camel boy.