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Following Yonder Star

by Dennis Humphreys 5 months ago in Short Story
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The Travellers

by: Dennis R. Humphreys

“There have been dreams, Edwyn, not just between us but other Druids in the area,” spoke Wylun of a growing expectation regarding ancient prophecy. It concerned the prophecy of their forefathers in the Holy Land before parts of the tribes in the land migrated to Wales in the British Isles.

There, some of the Jewish people had built new lives to escape the persecution of evil forces dedicated to destroying them and the fulfillment of the prophecy.

“I had another myself last night that the time is near,” interjected Lenium.

“The population wants to know if this is the king of prophecy who comes to deliver them. Many wish to return to the Holy Land if our enemies are defeated by the Deliverer,” said Wylun, “there seems to be a growing consensus to do this.”

“We don't want to unknowingly help those that would try and destroy the Deliverer,” Edwyn warned.

“The entire city wants us to go and to this end they have been bringing money to finance the journey. The celestial forces say we must head eastward and arrive in the sixth month but to do this we must leave shortly,” Lenium commented to his two fellow Druid priests.

“I know,” Edwyn spoke, after listening to his two friends and practitioners of the magical arts. I myself had word last night from a messenger, we must leave in three days.

“Who was this messenger, Edwyn?” Wylun asked.

“He announced himself as Gabriel. He warned of much treachery along the way that we will be faced with, and to trust no one, nor tell anyone of our intent,” Edwyn told them.

“The angel Gabriel? Lenium wanted to know.

“I assume...in my dream I just accepted him as such. You know how dreams are,” Edwyn told them.

“Are we leaving then in three days?” Wylun asked the high priest.

“Of course. I've contacted a merchant who trades for tin in the area of Glastonbury. He will be leaving in a few days and is willing to transport us. The money the townspeople are bringing will be of great help,” replied Edwyn.

“Who is this merchant? Can he be trusted?” asked Lenium.

“He is a good man. I believe he can be trusted. His name is Joseph of Aremathea.

So, the three saddled their horses two days later taking little food and water, and even less clothes. The townspeople had collected enough money for their journey. Lenium was selected to carry the money though Edwyn was their leader, because he was the eldest Druid priest. They headed northward to meet with Joseph and his men to take the tin they had mined to his ship beached on the shores of Wales, near Cardiff.

“I'm looking for Joseph of Aremathea,” Edwyn asked a man packing wagons of tin. He pointed to a man around thirty with a long black beard with equally long hair tied into a single rope secured with leather strips.

“Joseph of Aremathea?” Edwyn called out as he approached the man girded only in a loin cloth helping to pack the wagons.

“Yes... who calls?” the man said turning to him.

“Edwyn, Druid High Priest... I corresponded with you,” he told the merchant.

“Of course,” he said,” there are three of you, are you ready to leave tomorrow? It will be a half day's ride to the shore where my ship is. There's a small town there and a man who will buy your horses. When we get to the mainland, we'll all be buying horses for the overland trip. It's a shorter distance this way but the horses can only go about twenty-five to thirty miles each day so it will take longer. I had it on good authority to go by land and not sea as I normally do.”

“How long exactly is this way going to take us and what is this overland route exactly?” Edwyn asked Joseph.

“Once at the mainland we go by way of France, then Germany, through Turkey and Syria into the Holy Land. The trip will take three months,” he told the Druid.

“May I ask what your business is there?” the Aremathean asked. “Perhaps I can give some advice.”

Edwyn looked at the man awhile wondering if he could trust him. A small voice in the back of his said assured him he could so he decided to be honest with him. He hated secrecy about certain things, but he was a Druid, and they were enveloped in secrecy and secret proceedings.

“We're following a prophecy regarding the one who is to be born... a great king that will free his people and will bring the world truth,” he told the merchant.

“Why did you choose me to take you?” the merchant asked now suspicious himself.

“You came recommended by others in my community. As Druids we rarely take advice from outsiders,” the Druid told him.''

” The Druids and my people have a kinship since you are of our heritage, so I will tell you this: the one you seek will be born of my niece, Mary, who is the child of my my brother, Helios. They are in Northern Galilee at the moment but I know they plan to leave before the birth. That's all I know at the moment.

Edwyn was beside himself. What were the chances he would arrange passage with a man related to the one they sought? The higher powers must have wished them to him

“Can we use the horse for our entire trip?” Edwyn prodded further.

“The land we go to is unlike this land, so I suggest you do what we do when we get to Syria. We will trade our horses in for camels. They will do better and can travel better in the conditions we all will encounter when we get that far.

The morning sun rose to a partly cloudy sky as the entire entourage of people left the small town outside of Gloucester and headed to the shore where the ship was beached and waiting. It was less than a day's travel before they caught sight of the shoreline and traveled down the lonely road to the beach. The ship was positioned for when high tide came in, men could pull the ropes, with the help of the shallow water to take it to deeper waters. The tide was a little higher now, but they would begin loading the boat until the end of day and finish tomorrow. When the waters ascended for high tide in the afternoon the boat would be manhandled to deeper water. Then they would sail to the European mainland around the tip of Britain.

The port of Calais was the busiest place Edwyn, Wylun or Lenium had ever been. They felt out of place and awed.

“You three come with me. I'm going to get the horses for our trip, and we can get you three more. I'll need help getting them back here,” Joseph requisitioned the three Druids, along with six other men behind him.

It took the greater part of the day to unload the ship and pack the horses. The men would walk and lead the loaded animals across the land. Once unloaded they could be kept and ridden, sold, or traded for camels. It was the normal procedure in such a trip.

Over three thousand miles was a long trip but they began it the next day heading southeast. Hopefully the lengthy trip, the longest they ever imagined, would not be fraught with danger. None of those on the trip were fighters. The bandits the train might run into, preferred not fighting either. It was used as a last resort if travelers didn't take a threat seriously and refused to pay passage. The alternative by sea was worse if you ran into pirates. They would take everything including the ship if you fell to their mercy. They'd drop you off at some remote shore somewhere and it could be an island where rescue was rare. This was a good sized group though with forty two horses and seventy one men making the trip... a large group that most brigands would avoid... not knowing what they were dealing with among so many.

They weather did change drastically as they moved south eastward becoming much hotter and drier. By the time they reached the border of Syria leaving Turkey, they understood the need for camels. They traded evenly, which was to the camel owners' advantage because the horses were more valuable in these parts, although the camels were better equipped for the area. Horses were in short supply while the camels were plentiful. Wealthier clientele wanted horses because they were more of a status symbol.

“When we reach Jerusalem, my friends I will send out a rider with news of my niece's child and their whereabouts. Keep any info to yourselves as there are those who would not like to see this child born. Our king, who is in bed with the Romans, has become very unstable and is constantly worried about anyone who might usurp his throne,” Joseph warned the three magi.

“What will you do once there?” Edwyn asked.

“I have buyers for my tin and for the few other items I have brought with me, but I will visit my family just north of Jerusalem in the hill country of Ephraim, on the border of Judah,” Joseph told them.

“You're welcome to come with us,” Edwyn offered. Wylun and Lenium both agreed.

“Thank you but I have other things to attend to,” was his answer. “I believe I have served my purpose for now.”

Jerusalem was a large city. The streets were loaded with vendors too numerous to count and there were mobs everywhere especially around the temple. Joseph sent out a rider to see if he could locate his niece and her husband. He knew her time to give birth had to be close. He had heard she left her husband's home with her husband in Northern Galilee because of the fear she would be stoned having become pregnant and not yet married. Her birth was expected now in June and it was the end of May. He only needed to know where they were.

“We'll know within two days where the messiah will be born. As soon as Joseph's rider returns with the news. Then we can leave,” Edwyn told the others

“We have the money the other Druids collected as an offering to the child. We need to buy something else for each of us to present. We can buy almost anything here in this city,” Wylun suggested.

“I suggest appropriate herbs they can use... as frankincense and myrrh,” Lenium thought was appropriate and fit for a king because of their value.

“Yes, that's a good suggestion. It's only fitting that Edwyn, as high priest should present the gold,” Wylun said.

Their conversation was overheard by one of the others in the group who had heard of the prophecy and realized the importance of what he just overheard. It might be worth something to the right person. Herod's palace was nearby, and he thought he might find that the king would be interested to pay for information.

“Your excellency, my name is Boab and I have some information of which you may have interest. Since I am a poor man, I would hope you might part with a little something for my dedication to you,” Boab told the king.

“What is this information? I do not pay unless I know what I am paying for,” the king informed him.

“It is of the nature of those who know what city the king that is prophesied to be born in soon,” he said immediately catching Herod's attention.

“Tell me who knows this?” the king asked standing and approaching Boab.

“There will be three men leaving the city in two days with the knowledge. They will be on camel, and they have come a long way in adoration of this king,” he said incurring irritation from Herod.

“I want you to point these men out to one of my guards who I will put with you,” he said reaching into his pocket and pulling out a gold coin to give to Boab and holding it front of him. “You will get this now and another one from the guard when you indicate these three men to the guard. If you don't and you are lying, he will be instructed to slit your throat. Is that understood?”

“Yes, your excellency... a fair offer,” Boab told the king as he snatched the coin from his grasp.

The king called in one of his guards then to go with Boab.

“Go with this man and stay with him for the next few days. When he gives you the information about three men on camel you are to bring those men here to me. Here's a coin when he does. If he fails to do so you are too kill him. Change your clothes first so no one knows who you are,” the king commanded.

“Yes sire,” the man bowed.

“Don't let him out of your sight,” the king further commanded his guard as the two men walked out together.

“Finally... I'll rid this land of another king. There isn't room enough for two kings. How dare this child come to usurp me. I'll turn it into fertilizer for my fields,” the king spoke out loud to himself between clenched teeth.

Boab finished work unloading the horses to be unloaded. The others left, were being taken to the north with another merchant to sell there. He stayed with the guard to watch when the rider came with the news to Joseph who in turn would tell the three travelers what they needed to know.

Two days later the rider came and went directly to Joseph. Boab watched as he accepted the news and paid the bearer. In turn he searched out the three Druids and spoke with them. When Boab saw the conversation transpire he knew the rest of his money would be forthcoming. He could just as easily have turned Joseph over to Herod, but he wasn't about to do that and lose his work he had consistently with him. The three strangers meant nothing to him, and it would appear the king got more for his money this way.

Boab waited until the three men had loaded their camels and mounted them. As they began riding away, Boab went to the guard who was eating something just then.

“There are the three men now, the king wants. You best go after them,” he told the guard.

The guard pulled out the other coin and handed it to Boab, then jumped on his horse. Boab stood and watched him chase after them but then quickly took off not wanting to stay around in case there was some mishap.

Down the road leaving Jerusalem, the guard stopped his horse in front of the three men and they stopped.

“Can we help you?” Edwyn questioned the man that just stopped their progress.

“The king, King Herod requests and audience with you,” the man announced.

“Why does King Herod request our presence?” Edwyn asked.

“The king doesn't always tell me about the reasons for this and that, only to do it and I'm here. The palace isn't far. Follow me,” the man told them and then took the lead.

“Your excellency... these are the three men you wished to see,” the guard told the king.

“Ah yes, I am King Herod, ruler of Israel,” he introduced himself arrogantly.

“We know who you are. I am Edwyn, and these are my associates Lenium and Wylun. We have come a long way from the country of Wales,” he announced.

“Ah, and in the country of Wales what do you do?” the king asked.

“We are Druid priests, I am the high priest,” Edwyn informed him.

“Ah then, you are magi?” the king inquired.

“That's what they refer to us as. Why have you summoned us, if I may ask?” Edwyn wanted to know being suspicious of the man's mannerisms. He wasn't a well man, Edwyn could see that.

“As you know we are in a land of prophesies. There is one in particular that tells of a mighty king... a messiah to be born soon that will deliver our kingdom from the Romans. We do need help there. They have been oppressing us for a very long time. I would like to give tribute to this newborn and welcome him into this world. Perhaps I could even help the parents in some way,” the king explained. He took a drink from his goblet of wine before he continued.

“Sire, but how can we be of help?” Edwyn asked him.

“What city is this child to be born?” he asked wiping the spilled wine from his chin as it dripped on his clothes. “I wish to go there and take gifts.”

“Sire, we only know to head east. A rider is supposed to meet with us and lead us to the place we search for,” Edwyn told him lying since he didn't trust the man. “You may accompany us if you wish.”

Both Wylun and Lenium were besides themselves, wondering what Edwyn was doing.

“That would be most kind of you. I'll ride along with one of my servants to bring the gifts. We can leave in the morning after I gather everything. Meanwhile the three of you will be my guests and stay at the palace tonight,” the king announced and clapped his hands for a servant girl.

“Put these men in the east wing as guests. Give them whatever they want. They will be dinning with me as well tonight,” he told the girl.

“Thank you, your majesty,” Edwyn bowed and the three followed the girl.

She showed them to their rooms and when she left the two priests went to Edwyn's room.

“What are you doing?” he's exactly the one we don't want to know where the child is.

“We're headed north in the morning, not east like I told him and we will leave in the middle of the night. By the time he realizes we're gone, even if he tries to follow, we will be nowhere in sight. I couldn't refuse to tell him something. He would have locked us up. Besides, I also know the city where the child will be born. I'll keep that to myself for now,” the high priest informed his fellow priests.

That night they ate with the king. It seemed like he was fattening them up. He suspected nothing on their parts and had a good time acting as the host.

“We will leave after breakfast within two hours of sunrise. I'll meet you at this table then in the morning and then we can leave,” he told the men.

“Very well, your excellency, we will see you in the morning. Rest well,” Edwyn told him bowing as the three left.

“What do we do about the guards out front and where the camels are? I'm sure they've been instructed to tell the king if we try to leave,” Wylun asked his leader thinking it was a decent assumption.

“Take a walk with me just outside the door,” Edwyn told Wylun.

When they went out, he watched as his his high priest took a couple of blooms and leaves off a plant.

“Angel trumpet? What are you planning with that?” Wylun asked.

“Think Wylun. You know what it's properties are and what it does to the mind,” Edwyn suggested, letting Wylun think for himself.

“It clouds the mind and leaves that person that inhales it, at the mercy of the deliverer. He will do whatever you ask and remember nothing when he awakens,” Wylun said smiling because he understood now.

“Now we have to dry this quickly but not too fast and grind it into a powder,” Edwyn told him as he led Wylun back inside to his room.

There they built a small fire in the hearth and began drying what he collected. In a couple of hours, it had been ground to a powder.

“When do we leave?” Lenium asked.

“Soon. Kings want their sleep, so I want to make sure we don't leave too early but when he most likely sleeps soundly. I will go out and take care of any guards. It will look too suspicious if the three of us go out together,” Edwyn warned them.

“How are you going to administer that without affecting yourself,” Wylun asked his master.

“Don't you worry about that. Just be ready. We have to load the camels and try to get them out of here quietly. At least they're used to us,” Edwyn said.

A couple of hours later there was a knock at Wylun's and Lenium's doors.

“I'm going out. I'll come back to get you when it's clear,” the high priest told his men.

Edwyn saw three guards. There was one at a gate behind the palace where Edwyn thought they should go; one just outside the back door and one in the stable where the horses were and the camels.

“Who's there,” the first guard asked at the back door when Edwyn left the palace.

“A guest of the king's. This was in my room, and I have no idea what it is. Do you know?” Edwyn asked, having rolled a piece of parchment into a tube where he placed an ample supply of angel trumpet powder.

As he lifted the tube to show the guard, he placed his mouth at the other end and blew the powder directly into the man's face. The guard began coughing but within in seconds he quieted, and the high priest told him he was sleepy and was to go to sleep and remember nothing of their meeting. He left him there in the bushes sound asleep.

Next, he went to the guard by the back gate and approached him the same way.

“I'm a guest of the king and this was left on my bed, but I have no idea what it is or what it's for. Do you have some thoughts on it,” he said raising it to the man's face and then blowing into it, delivering more powder than before. The man coughed and wheezed, his eyes watering immediately but within seconds the man was docile and open to suggestion. Edwyn had him curl up next to the wall behind a bush to sleep the night with the same suggestion he gave before.

Then the high priest walked to the stable going through the closest door to where he knew the guard was. He didn't want to have to walk too far and give the man too much time to think. Better to catch him 'off guard' first and then do what is needed.

“Good evening, sir! I'm a guest of King Herod's stating in the palace. I thought you might like this. It was laying on my bed when I went to get in,” Edwyn told the man as he was handing it to him. Then he puffed though the end of it and sent a cloud of the powder into the man's face causing him to react as the other two.

The high priest left the last guard curled up and asleep in one of the stalls on a pile of hay.

“Let's go,” the priest told both of his men when he got back inside.

“That was quick,” Wylun observed.

“Simple is quick. Complicated takes time and screws things up,” Edwyn answered as they followed him out the back door. They all expected someone to cry out for them to halt... someone unexpected to mess up their escape.

They went to the stable and went to where the camels were.

“You already saddled and loaded the camels!” Lenium remarked.

“No that's the way they were when I got in here. Camels are nasty with people they don't know, they probably bit and spit the people trying to bed them down so the help gave up. I'm glad they weren't horses. It saves us some time,” their leader told them as they got their camels up and moving out the door and through the gate. Once properly away from the palace they mounted their rides.

“Head east first then when the ground is hard, we'll move north. If someone tries to track us from the palace, they'll think we're headed east like I told the king,” Edwyn told them.

As they traveled eastward, they had the help of a full moon. It lit the sands, making the way quite visible. They traveled several miles and then headed north when they came to the town of Bethany. From there they skirted the desert wilderness and headed towards the town of Bethlehem. Even though the night was well lit it was a slow process moving towards the town. It wasn't far but still it was slow. The three didn't want to be caught moving along during the day or be seen by someone that might say something if the king sent out search parties for them. By sunup Edwyn wanted to be in Bethlehem.

“How will we find them?” Lenium asked the high priest.

“That family is part of the Davidic line that requires the birth of a child in a cave facing Venus. We're either looking for a cave there or a stable dug into the side of a hill or part of a cave used as a stable. I'm sure if we ask a few people, they'll direct us, Edwyn informed his fellow travelers. How many caves or stables could there be in a town the size of Bethlehem?” the high priest surmised.

As the three rode into town at sunup, Wylun looked at the planet, Venus shining brightly in the clear morning sky. He noticed a fenced area for animals to the left as they were coming into Bethlehem. There was one good sized hill where the corral was facing the planet. There were no structures like a barn so there had to be an area built into the hill for the beasts.

“Sir... correct me if I'm wrong but that hill over there is a possibility. It meets the criteria for the Davidic tradition,” Wylun observed.

“Right you are, Wylun. The animals seemed to be gathered as well outside of an opening in the hill,” the high priest noticed as they got closer. So, they went off road before asking anyone to check out the spot.

“Hello in there,” Edwyn announced from outside.

A bearded man came out rubbing his head to see who called.

“This may seem a strange question but is Mary here, the daughter of Helios who is the brother of a good friend by the name of Joseph of Aremathea?” Edwyn asked directly.

The man looked up as a very pregnant woman who emerged from the darkness of the stable and smiled at the three men. Then she nodded at the bearded man.

“This is she,” the man told them, “I am Joseph, her husband.”

“Forgive me... I know we cannot speak with a woman directly by Judaic law unless they are a sister or mother, or I am a rabbi. I am not a rabbi but a high priest of Druid tradition from a way off, nor are we related. So, I will direct everything to your husband,” the high priest elaborated.

“I believe traditions are about to be broken, or traditions that have become laws. We are not in town where any of us can be judged. You may speak with me directly,” she told the three men as they began their dismounts.

“As you can see, Mary is about to give birth. We did not want to risk not finding a cave so when we got here, we stayed. We've been here for two days, and her labor hasn't begun yet. It will be her first child so it may be a while,” Joseph told them.

“Forgive my rudeness... I am Edwyn and those two are Lenium and Wylun. We are Druid priests from the west and have come a long way to get here based on the prophecy. We are what you call magi. You cannot stay here long for there is a crazed ruler by the name of Herod that wishes you and the child harm. Joseph of Aremathea told us of your location and Herod tried to find out from us but I misled him. I'm sure he has search parties looking now for us and for you,” Edwyn warned them.

“Thank you for the warning but I'm afraid we can't travel at the moment. As soon as our child is born as she rests, we will,” Joseph told them.

“Tonight, will be the night” Wylun spoke suddenly, and everyone looked at him.

“What do you mean?” Joseph asked him.

“The child will be born tonight. The image just crossed my sight,” Wylun explained.

“Wylun shows the beginnings of great insight and foresight. He's probably right,” Edwyn commented.

“Have you birthed many children?” Joseph asked the priest because I have not.

“I have and it would be a blessing to do so for you. We have herbs to help in a delivery to decrease the pain,” he told them.

“If it's all the same to you,” spoke Mary,” I wish to feel the pain. There will be pain bringing this child into the world and there will be pain when he leaves.”

The high priest looked at them both not fully understanding her comment but desired to honor her wish. He nodded in acceptance.

“Let's make things ready then. Build a fire on the ground and line it well with stone. We don't want to set fire to the stable here. Make a bed of straw close to keep mother and child warm. Get some blankets and rags to prepare a kings entrance into this world... the king of the Jews,” Edwyn proclaimed.

At midnight Mary felt the first signs of labor.

“I think my sons come,” she announced in a quivering voice. She seemed older than what she was and more certain than other women her age. There was a quiet confidence in this twelve-year-old than most women twice her age. In fact, she acted stronger than her husband who nervously wandered around the stable not appearing to be the nineteen years of age he was.

“Sons? Edwyn asked Joseph, surprised.

“Mary is having twins,” Joseph told the magi.

Within a couple of hours, an unexpected short time, a new cry was heard in the world. The animals heard it and came close to see what was happening. Joseph beamed as any new father, finally calming down a bit. Edwyn cut and tied the umbilical cord. Then he laid the baby on his mother's chest and covered him. He blessed both mother and son, a Druid blessing as he was done. Minutes later his younger brother was born.

“The king is the older of the two. May I ask his name?” Edwyn asked Mary.

“His name is Yeshua and he is the messiah,” she proudly announced.

“And his brother?” the wise man inquired.

“He shall be called Judas Thomas, the twin,” she told him with some trepidation. The balance in the world, I fear requires another Cain and Abel.”

The three watched over the family that night and in the morning light as the sun rose, they presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Both herbs were expensive but medicinally the finest to keeping one's health.

“You should leave tomorrow. We will ride with you a way to make sure you're well on your way,” Edwyn suggested.

“What will you three do since Herod is looking for you and will probably kill you for lying to him?” Joseph asked them as Mary fed her newborn.

“We won't leave by way of Jerusalem. I think we'll head northwest towards Syria on our return to avoid the man,” he reasoned. “Well move back west once we're far enough,j to the trade route the Aremathean brought us. I would have liked to have seen him but who knows, perhaps our paths will one day cross again,” the priest told Mary's husband.

The rested well that night and rising Wylun told of another dream he had.

“A light came to me during the night and the voice that came from it told me your safety is assured taking the path to Egypt,” Wylun announced to the family while they ate something.

“I had the same dream,” announced Joseph. “I suppose that does it then. We got to Egypt.”

Edwyn and Joseph helped Mary get onto the back of the donkey they had with all their worldly possessions. Lenium held the baby until she was settled and then handed him to her. He was all smiles having the privilege of doing so. The three magi boarded their camels and followed the family a way before they headed in the opposite direction. The all wished each other well and parted company.

Short Story

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Dennis Humphreys

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