Saturday, January 06, 2007

Chronicles of the Magi: Part 9

The remainder of the swift race to the town of Bethlehem was a blur to Gushnasaph. He could not shake the images that continued to run through his imagination of the being of fire and light which had shattered the line of Uttuki blocking their way to bring warning to the new King. The thing had been, in many ways like the ball of fire and light which had smashed into Larvendad's tower so many months ago. It seemed like an eternity, since they had begun this journey.

When they had left Babylon, he had been eager for the leaving. He had been born the son of nobility, in a land where nobility no longer mattered, a people of an empire now forgotten. The Parthian empire stood against the advance of Rome, yes, but it did not itself advance into Rome's empire either. Persia and Babylon's days of glory were a thing of the past. While he had owned fine horses and slept in luxurious tents beside beautiful, lithe concubines, while he commanded a small regiment of his own personal guard, Gushnasaph had always been all too aware of what a sham it all was. Like the Parthian empire, he only maintained--he did not advance. The desire to journey somewhere, to step out into the unknown and change the world in some ways had burned in his heart, like the sacred fire of Zoarastrianism. Fire changed things. It consumed, heated, flickered, roared and raged. If a fire smoldered...

Now, he felt the fire that had driven him to this quest smolder. He saw his whole life trailing out behind him, and wondered what it would mean if this child was indeed not simply a king, but the king of heaven. What would it change? Already he was a man without a country, a nomad amongst nomads. Where would they go once they had finished this work? As the Uttuki had stated, the magic was changing. Would Hormoz still be able to read the skies? Would Larvendad's unnaturally long life finally come to an end? Would he be able to command the elements? He had drawn his sword against the Uttuki because of how much it had drained him to pull the fire down upon the guards in Jerusalem. He had not the magic left to deal with the demons. Once upon a time, it had been child's play to fly upon magic carpets, to contain djinn within lamps, to walk upon water. Was that magic gone from the world now?

As they neared the town of Bethlehem, dirty and bedraggled, the moon was high in the sky. Larvendad reined in his mount and turned to his companions.

"I wish you could see as I do," he said in awe, the fire and light burning in his eyes brighter than it ever had before. "And now I understand why it was all changing. I understand why there was a trail of light leading us to this place...from any direction. If we had come from the west, I'd have seen it. If we had come from the south, it would have guided us from there too. It is why we could approach from the north. It is, furthermore why I became confused about the location the nearer we came here."

"What do you see?" Hormoz asked.

"Great bands of light and fire coming from all over the earth," Larvendad replied. "to this one place. It is the magic. It is being compelled to return to its source. All these years I thought we were it's masters. But now I see how wrong we were."

They rode into the tiny, sleeping village, following Larvendad who followed the streams of magic as they coallesced upon a house. A plain, simple home. It seemed no different from the others, aside from the noise coming from within.

A baby's healthy, noisy cry in the night.

The three magi dismounted and approached the house. Larvendad walked to the door and knocked, soundly three times.

The baby ceased its crying. The door opened, and a man of Hormoz' age peered into the night. He held a small oil lamp in one hand. Behind him, in the shadows of the house, a woman could be seen holding a small baby to her. The baby was staring out at them as well.

"We are...Magi," Larvendad said, having nothing else to say. "We have come from the east, seeking a king. We saw a sign in the heavens that told of his coming...and we were lead here, to this home."

"Come in," the man said, stepping back from the doorway.

Gushnasaph wondered at the man's faith. How could he know it was safe to allow them in? He'd have thought someone mad who came to his door in the middle of the night to tell him of signs in the sky about kings...this was not a palace. It was a labourer's house-the tools of his trade in the front rooms.

But when he gazed into the child's eyes, he knew why. The baby smiled at them all...not in the beatific way he would be painted in years to come. With the simple smile of a child, delighting in the arrival of new visitors.

And there was something else behind that gaze, behind the smile. Hormoz gasped when he saw the child, and Gushnasaph knew his companion was catching a far sighted glimpse of the boy's future. Larvendad looked upon the child with eyes of fire, and then his sight dimmed. He went to one knee immediately.

Gushnasaph had never seen his mentor bow. Not once, ever. Never before the council of the Magi. Not before King Herod. And here, in this humble house, before this child of no remarkable signs, he bowed.

And then Hormoz did as well.

Gushnasaph was stunned. In a daze, he approached the child, who held out a chubby hand to him. Gushnasaph raised his hand, and the babe squeezed one of his fingers and laughed. In that moment, Gushnasaph was given a vision of the depths of time, and of the point at which all history would forever rest upon, a moment of sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness, of love so powerful that no darkness could stand against it, let alone begin to comprehend it. All the knowledge of the Magi was dwarfed by it. No wonder Larvendad had gone to his knees.

Gushnasaph wept. Everything was changed. Nothing would ever be the same.

Blood magic indeed.


  1. This has truly been an amazing example of a counter-narrative. To retell a founding myth/history of a tradition is advantagous on many fronts. It revitalizes the myth for those who adhere to the tradition. It also shows different tones and subtlties even within the more "accurate" and widely accepted accounts of the myth. And, it allows a way for outsiders of the tradition to look in and understand it without automatically writing it off as "stagnant dogma". Without such raw and potent examples of counter-narrative such as this Magi story, the strange events of the year zero would have been entirely swallowed by rabid dogmatism...oh wait, they have for the most part. Well, that just makes the necessity of these stories felt so much more! Good work Mike.

  2. I've heard this comment now both online and off. Glad to hear that it did that, thought I had no agenda or intention with it. It was a writing exercise, and such as is often the case when you have no time to edit or revise, the story writes itself. I had a different ending in mind, but this is the one which happened.