Monday, December 25, 2006

Chronicles of the Magi: Part 1

In honor of my favorite aspect of the nativity narratives, I'm presenting a writing exercise I'm going to engage in over the twelve days of Christmas, namely to write for 30 minutes each day, doing a fictional biblical fantasy of the Magi's journey to find the Christ child.

A demon was loose in the great house. Larvendad, one of the greatest Magi in all of Persia, huddled behind a marble column, desperately clutching his bleeding arm. If the infernal entity had been any more corporeal when it had broken through the circle of protection drawn intricately upon the floor, the old man would have been eviscerated. As it stood, he'd likely only bleed to death in the next hour, provided the beast, now completely material, couldn't find him.

He could hear it moving around the tower where, up until today, Larvendad had practiced the arcane magic of his order. The dissolution of the protective circle had resulted in a backlash of energy that had thrown the old man clear of the room even as the demon had lashed out at him with its talons. He had caught a glimpse of the conflagration within even as he'd scrambled to his feet and raced down the spiral staircase, out of the tower and down into his palatial home.

What had gone wrong with the spell? The last time he'd lost control of an entity was when Babylon was still a thriving metropolis, before the coming of Alexander and the fall of the great and ancient Persian empire...before the dark days that he and his order sought to restore balance to...

Larvendad looked down at his good hand, clamped over his mangled arm and the blood that sluiced through his grip in scarlet rivulets. It was only a matter of time before he passed out from loss of blood; he'd seen it many times in the wounds of the Persian fighting men who had resisted Alexander's onslaughts...but he'd never been the one to bleed. He needed to get out of his house, get to the servant's quarters, to tell someone to go the house of Hormoz and tell him what had happened.

He braced himself and by pressing his back against the pillar and pushing with his legs, was able to rise to his feet. He felt light-headed and weak. How could he ever make it down another flight of stairs and out the front door, let alone all the way across the gardens?

I have offended the balance with an overlong life, and this is the price I am paying...

Larvendad took a stealthy step forward, which became a stagger all too easily. He crumpled to the cool marble floor, his hand slipping from its grip on his wound. He tried to lift himself from the floor, but the blood pooling about his body had made everything slick and unmanageable. He raised his head weakly to see an inhuman shadow fall upon the white marble from the torchlight upon the tower stairs...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Across the city, from the top of another tower, a man in his middle years stood with his eyes to the night sky. He glanced away from time to time, to consult charts and drawings he'd been making of the heavens, based upon Hipparchus's findings. If the Greek was right, and he often was, there was going to be a conjunction of two of the planets tonight, the ones the Romans called Jupiter and Saturn. It was the sort of astrological phenomenon which would not occur again in Hormoz's lifetime. Unless of course, Larvendad was good enough to reveal the source of his longevity.

Hormoz smiled ruefully. The old man would never reveal the secret; he was convinced that he was the only man worthy of so many years in the world. He had refused his secret to kings. Why would he reveal it to his apprentice?

He focused his attention on an area of the sky where he could already see Jupiter, shining brighter than any of the surrounding stars. Near as Hormoz could tell, the conjunction would also align itself with the constellation of Pisces--the fish. Everyone agreed that such a portent could only mean one thing; the birth of a powerful ruler, a great king.

There was a flash in the night sky, a great burst of light beyond anything the Magi had expected. He had seen comets, eclipses and the like, but nothing like this. It was beyond what the writings of other astrologers had chronicled during such a planetary alignment. Something else was happening here...

The light erupted from the point in the sky Hormoz had been focused on, then raced toward the tower of Larvendad's...

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