10 Nov


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“What I like,” growled Herod, King of the Lands Around and famed for his nastiness, “What I like is being drunk out of my skull.”
“Then you’ll like the gifts that the three wise men from the East have brought you, sire,” whimpered his slave.
This was the Holy Land and they believed in slavery. It was part and parcel of the wisdom in all their literature, most of which seems ancient today but which was, in fact, a great deal less ancient back then. Indeed, slavery and the beating of women for minor misdemeanours was a cornerstone of their belief system which demanded divine approval for most of what they said and did.
“What’ve they brought – hic?” demanded Herod.
Herod was a king, possible in the eyes of some a puppet king with strings being pulled by important men in Rome. He enjoyed seeing people punished, executed and disembowelled. It was a pastime he thoroughly approved of, along with drinking. If he’d been aware of the damage alcohol can do to a man’s liver he would have been dead by then, but he was unaware, which made it all right when he drank copious quantities of rather excellent wine.
“They have jugs from the east, vessels that would seem to hold liquid rubies by the look of them,” clucked the slave, who only really expected fair treatment if he provided good news to his monarch.
“How many, poltroon!” bellowed Herod, slapping him on the back of his head with the full force of his right arm.
“S-six…” stammered the slave. “They are three in number and have explained that it is written in the stars that each of them must bring you two bottles of the finest wine that can be found anywhere on Earth. They are astrologers with news of … well, they will tell you.”
“With news of what, you blathering moron!” shouted Herod, slapping the slave with sufficient force that he fell down dead.
“Don’t answer, then,” muttered the king, “see if I care.”
A second slave bowed into the room, picked his dead colleague from where he lay on the floor and waited for further instructions.
“Send the wine men in!” shouted Herod, “and be quick about it or you will be suffering that moron’s fate, see if you don’t”
“Yes, sire,” squeaked the second slave, and he scurried out, dragging death behind him in order to escape all the faster.
In an anteroom he dropped his ex-colleague onto the stone floor and turned to face the three visitors.
“He’s not in the best frame of mind,” he stuttered.
Melchior cleared his throat and spat surplus phlegm into the corner of the room. “We will deliver to him some sound advice, and leave,” he coughed, and wheezed.
Balthazar nodded. “For we have vision,” he said, grandly. “We can see far into the firmament where the angels write with stars,” he added. “Our knowledge is sacred and must not be gainsaid by slave or king,” he added, hoping to sound threatening.
“I rather think our king is more interested in your gifts rather than the contents of your minds, but we will see,” whimpered the slave.
“Take us to him, fool,” demanded Caspar.
“But slowly, with dignity, so that I can get my breath back,” coughed Melchior.
The slave nodded, and escorted them into the King’s presence. And that king might have possessed a noble demeanour but for a trail of vomit down his imitation of a Roman toga.
“They say you have news and wine for me,” rumbled Herod. “The wine first, I think…”
“As you desire, sire,” smiled Caspar, and he produced six earthenware bottles and placed them delicately in front of the King.
“Just the job!” roared the monarch, and with one easy movement he opened one of the bottles and splashed a goodly quantity of rich red wine into a waiting goblet. He then proceeded to quaff it down in one huge gulp, and burped.
“Good enough,” he approved, and burped again. “Now what of the news a slave died trying to tell me that you have,” he added. A third burp was accompanied by an unwholesome dribble from the corner of his mouth, but he appeared not to notice.
Melchior cleared his own throat and bowed, wheezing.
“There are stories in the firmament,” he began, “written for those with knowledge and skill to read, and we three astrologers from Eastern lands have both in abundance.”
“Yes, yes, but what do you see in that very – hic – firmament?” demanded King Herod.
“It is dire news, sire,” wheezed Melchior. “It will need action if the future is to be altered,” he added, “and a mighty king like you may well be the agent of change…”
“But what is it?” shouted Herod, and the slave who was still hovering in the background scooted off before his head became separate from his shoulders.
“There is a Pretender,” whispered Melchior. “A baby has been born … a baby who will be King… sire, we are on a journey, guided by a star, to offer him the salutations of our people….”
“A PRETENDER!” bellowed Herod.
“Sire, it is in the stars,” gabbled Balthazar. “It cannot be gainsaid! But were you to order troops to follow us … the star will guide us and we will guide your troops … and justice will be done!”
“But first, we must be on our way in order to be followed,” suggested a breathless Melchior. “First we must trace the journey on the trail of a special star…”
“Right. Of course! Do that then,” ordered Herod, “And we will see what we will see. A baby, you say? A baby should offer little resistance to Herod the Great and his men at arms!”
“Of course not, sire,” wheezed Melchior, winking at his two companions as they turned to leave the unpleasant chamber of an unpleasant king.
© Peter Rogerson 10.11.14


2 Responses to “LIQUID RUBIES FOR A KING.”

  1. pambrittain November 10, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    I’m loving this one.

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