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Historical Fiction Christian

This story contains sensitive content

Content warning: Mentions of death


The bustle of the city of Babylon was slowing as people retreated to their homes. Candles glowed and flickered in windows as breezes swirled the scents of the hanging gardens through the streets and up to the rooftops.Β 


Balthasar gazed up, watching the sky darken. The first stars were visible. Caspar, youngest of the trio, had not yet come to the roof, and Melchior was already sitting against the wall encircling the rooftop, dozing. He’s getting old, Balthasar thought wryly, glancing at the venerable gray-bearded man.Β 


His back resting against the sun-baked stones, Melchior caught a flash of Balthasar’s teeth as the Ethiopian’s lips parted in a chuckle.Β Β 


The smile disappeared. Balthasar turned and shouted towards the stairs, β€œCaspar! Come up here! Quickly!” 


Melchior roused himself at Balthasar’s excitement, trying and failing to stand quickly. Balthasar took Melchior’s hand and heaved him up.Β 


Sandaled feet slapped up the steps, and Caspar appeared, embroidered robes swirling with his haste. β€œWhat is it?” 


β€œLook!”


All three men tipped their heads back and gazed at the bright new star hanging in the Western sky.Β 


β€œI shall see him,” Melchior intoned slowly, solemnly, β€œbut not now: I shall behold him, but not near. A star shall rise out of Jacob, and a scepter shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, and shall waste all the children of Seth.” 


β€œWhat are you saying?” Caspar asked.Β 


β€œI am reciting. It is from a man named Baalam,” Melchior explained, β€œwho went to a faraway land, and died there in a war. He had been hired to curse a numerous and wandering people, all children of a man named Jacob-Israel. Baalam went, but blessed them instead. With those blessings came prophecies. That is one of them.” 


β€œA king is born,” Balthasar said. β€œA king who was foretold, and about whom great things are foretold. He is so powerful that a new star must announce him.”


β€œWe knew of it, but I never thought I would see it.” Tears shone in Melchior’s eyes.Β 


β€œThen what are we waiting for?” Caspar asked. β€œIs there any reason not to leave now, immediately?”


β€œI see none,” Balthasar said with a smile.Β 


β€œThen we go,” Melchior decided.Β 


Melchior, Balthasar, and Caspar rode the slow swaying camelsβ€”ships of the desertβ€”as they plodded across the sand. On each of their saddles, concealed beneath hangings, swung one particular item, which each man wanted to keep close at hand, and guard well.Β 


A bag of tried gold.Β 

A sealed packet of frankincense.Β 

A flask of myrrh.Β 


The journey was a long ordeal. The days were hot, and the nights cold. The camels were unpleasant creatures, not wanting to walk on. The camel drivers were not much more pleasant, muttering and cursing and striking their animals. Whenever they came to a town’s caravanserai, exorbitant prices were charged for supplies and lodging in filthy accommodations.Β 


Travel was only a means to an end. That being acknowledged, all three decided to travel as long as they could without stopping, until the drivers or their animals refused to go farther without rest. Night would fall, and still the camels plodded on, and the men grumbled but kept on for the wages they were paid.Β 


Finally, they neared the principal city of the nation of Jacob-Israel: Jerusalem.


On the night before they would reach Jerusalem, they lost the star.Β 


β€œBalthasar!” Melchior called. β€œI cannot find the star. Come and tell me if you see it.”


Balthasar moved beyond the reach of the firelight and searched the sky, but gave up when his neck began to ache. β€œCaspar, come here and find the star for us.”


After anxious minutes, Caspar shook his head. β€œI do not see it. I think it is gone.” 


β€œWe must be close.” Melchior clenched both hands into fists. β€œWe must. We know the ancient royal city of this people is ahead. All we must do is inquire there.”


Stone walls rose well above their heads as the camels swayed through the gates. They saw men in long, black robes and tall head coverings which swooped up above their foreheads, like the hoods of cobras, pacing through the streets. Many people made way for them, or stopped to greet them.Β 


Seeing that the dark-robed men were generally respected, Balthasar called out as one such man walked past the camels. β€œGreetings! We would like to know where the new king has been born.”


β€œThe new king?” The man’s bearded face showed extreme confusion.Β 


β€œYes, the new king of the people of Jacob-Israel.”


β€œWe call ourselves Jews,” the man explained. β€œUnfortunately, the rule of our kings was ended long ago. There is no new king, and there never will be.” 


β€œDoes no one rule this city?” 


β€œHerod is the ruler here, under the Roman Empire. He lives in the old palace. That way.” The man pointed deeper into the city.Β 


King Herod appeared just as confused by the question of the travelers as the man in the street. β€œA new king?”


β€œYes,” Melchior replied. β€œWe have seen his star in the East, and we have come to adore him. He was foretold.”


β€œYou may go,” Herod told them. β€œThe audience is over. I will search for any knowledge of this new king.”


More of the black-robed men were about the palace after that, though they seemed ill-pleased. Servants followed them, carrying many scrolls.Β 


Caspar, restless, roamed the city, and witnessed a swift change in the mood of all the people. The bustle of the crowds did not abate, but now all seemed anxious, transacting business swiftly and disappearing back indoors, seemingly unwilling to be caught in the streets. He could not fathom what was causing the unrest.Β 


In the throne room, black-robed Pharisees and their scribes, scholars of the law, assembled before a scowling Herod to read the answer to his question from the sacred scrolls.


"Where is the messiah to be born?" Herod demanded.


β€œIn Bethlehem of Judah: For so it is written by the prophet: β€˜And thou Bethlehem, the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come forth the ruler, who shall rule my people Israel.’”


When Herod secretly called the men of the East for a second audience, he had a burning question of his own. β€œWhen, exactly, did you see the star appear? How long ago?” He leaned forward in his seat, eager for their answer.


After ascertaining the time of the star's appearance from them, Herod revealed the prophesied location of the new king, saying, β€œHead South, to Bethlehem." His cunning deceit carefully veiled with a friendly and open demeanor, he added, "Inquire diligently after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word that I also may go and adore him.”


As soon as the city was behind them, Melchior, Balthasar, and Caspar cried out in excitement. The star burned brightly above them, directly ahead. They quickly arranged with the caravan captain to meet them in Bethlehem, and then urged their own camels faster, beyond a walk, into a wild, galumphing gallop.Β 


On entering the house, they saw the Child with His mother. The three kings fell prostrate and did Him homage.


Rays of light shone from the Boy-Child’s entire being. His mother was nearly lost in the glow as she held Him in her lap. Then the shafts of glory retracted, and the wise men rose. Producing their gifts, the three travelers offered them to the Child and His mother, after which the woman’s husband took the offerings into his keeping. All too soon, the appointed visit was over.


The next morning, upon arising, Melchior said, β€œI dreamed a dream.” 


Balthasar and Caspar both looked up sharply.Β 


β€œI was made to understand not to return to Herod’s court, to go home by another route.”


β€œI dreamed a dream as well, and I was made to understand the same thing,” Balthasar declared.Β 


Caspar nodded. β€œAnd I, the same.”


It was not until some weeks later that the intent of the mysterious dream was revealed to them.


A traveler caught them up on the road as they were making camp. They invited him to share a meal, during which he shared news from his hometown of Bethlehem.Β 


β€œThere was a massacre!” he declared.Β 


β€œWhat happened?” Melchior demanded.Β 


β€œKing Herod, ruler of Jerusalem, sent his soldiers to Bethlehem, and they put to the sword all the boys two years old and under."


Balthasar felt sick. β€œAll the boys died?”


β€œThey say so," their guest affirmed. "It is as if Herod were the Pharaoh of old, from whom Moses was saved.” 


Caspar looked at his companions and spoke quietly. β€œThe Child could not die unless it was appointed. You must know this! We could not but fall before Him and do Him homage.”


Melchior and Balthasar sat back in astonishment, then began to nod.Β 


"Wise we may be,” Melchior said, β€œbut who can fathom these prodigies? One day, perhaps, we shall understand.”










Author's note:

The prophecy Melchior recites is from the Duoay-Rheims version of the Bible, Book of Numbers XXIV:17

The arrival of the wise men in Jerusalem through their finding of the Child is taken from the Gospel of Matthew II:1–12

January 13, 2024 04:51

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16 comments

07:39 Feb 05, 2024

Well written Guadaloupe. Saw the word Babylon and had to read this story. So appropriate to the prompt. A few points you don't know. The so-called wise men were not Kings they were Astrologers. The star led them to Jerusalem as per the Devils plan to try to have the child killed. You got it right that about the time they arrived in Bethlehem the family had long vacated the stable and were in a house. The scripture you quoted is referring to Bethlehem Ephrathah - the smaller of the two Bethlehems The three men didn't return to Herod and as a ...

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Thanks for the compliment, Kaitlyn! I’m always happy if someone can enjoy one of the stories I’ve written. I’m grateful when anyone lets me know if they think I’ve matched the prompt well. I’ve got one other Bible-inspired story here on Reedsy: Vigil, one of my earliest.

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03:46 Feb 14, 2024

Will read it sometime. Thanks for the tip.

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Joe Smallwood
16:15 Jan 27, 2024

I would echo David's comments. Anyone who would be bored reading this excellent piece of writing would have given up in the first few paragraphs. Your real audience goes right to the end no matter what. Anyway, I'll be back to read more of your stories, as there is so little written from a Catholic perspective these days.

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Thank you so much, Joe! I’m glad you enjoyed this story. It makes me so happy that people enjoy my writing and are interested in more. I hope I’ll get more feedback from you in the future. And I pray I can continue to contribute more writing from a Catholic perspective.

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David Sweet
17:35 Jan 17, 2024

I enjoyed the story. This gives a unique perspective of The Magi. If you decide to re-work this at any time, consider going deeper into their individual personalities and deeper connections between them and their individual gifts. I would like to have more details about their journey before and after Bethlehem. Perhaps even a segment that details the flight to Egypt contrasted with the movements of The Magi. Just food for thought. Thanks for sharing.

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Thank you so much, David! I really enjoyed writing this story, and I think I could have gone on, but I was worried that readers would get tired of it and stop reading. It’s such an encouragement to hear that you would have liked more. Delving more into individual personalities would be fun, and would hopefully add interest for readers. Adding parallel scenes of the return to the home country and the flight to Egypt certainly would be interesting.

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14:26 Jan 17, 2024

I love this perspective on the story! I remember seeing the prompts and thinking of the Magi, I’m so glad someone else wrote the story! ❀️

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Thank you, Hannah! The wise men were my first thought, too. I’ve wanted to write this story for a while, and with Epiphany Sunday coming just after the prompts premiered, the timing was perfect!

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12:22 Jan 13, 2024

Nice idea to tell the story from this point of view . Nicely written!

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Thank you for reading, Derrick! This POV is one I’ve been hoping to write for a long time. The prompt came out right before Epiphany Sunday, so it was perfect timing! I had a lot of fun writing this story.

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Marty B
06:26 Jan 13, 2024

I didnt know the three Wisemen's names- thanks for the good story!

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Thank you for reading, Marty! These are their names according to the tradition of the Catholic Church. Alternately, I think Caspar is sometimes rendered Gaspar. I’m so happy you enjoyed this!

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Michelle Oliver
06:10 Jan 13, 2024

The Christmas story retold from the wiseman’s POV. Fitting for the prompt. Thanks for sharing.

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Thanks for reading, Michelle! I really appreciate it. I conceived and started writing this story sometime last year, but didn’t finish it until now. It’s the perfect time, since Epiphany Sunday came right after the prompt came out!

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Thank you for reading. Critiques, comments, and feedback are greatly appreciated.

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