Shouts! Pounding hooves! Bandits on horseback invaded the campsite, wielding sharp swords. Some carried torches! They thrust them into supply wagons and fire blazed up everywhere!
It all happened so fast that the entire camp seemed frozen—for about two seconds. Then chaos!
In the midst of it all, a special contingent of guards surrounded the master. The captain of the guard pulled the prince into the tent and the rest formed a circle around it, brandishing their spears.
The boy ducked under a wagon. In the dim light of sunset, he wasn’t noticed. He watched the hooves of galloping horses from where he lay in the dust. He listened in horror to the terrifying battle cries of the bandits.
“Shazaar! Where’s Shazaar! Get him!” It was the voice of the master. The boy recognized it even in all the noise and confusion.
“I don’t know where he went, Sire. Don’t go out there! We’ll find him!”
The boy heard the words, and swelled with happiness in spite of all that was going on around him. The master was worried about him. He’d always known that Prince Balthasar thought of him as more than just a servant. Perhaps it was because Shazaar’s father, a servant himself, had died to save the prince.
And the boy knew that he would give anything for the privilege of serving his good, kind master. He was happy to do the slightest task for him.
“Shazaar!” came a hiss. “Is that you down there?”
It was one of the guards.
“I’m here,” said Shazaar as the guard, whose name was Amir, bent to look under the wagon.
“Come. The prince is concerned.”
A bandit with a flaming torch nearly tripped over the guard. Amir grabbed at his ankle and brought him down, but not before the evil-looking man heaved the torch toward the prince’s tent. It flew between two guards. They both grabbed for it, but it struck the tent, which immediately caught fire.
“Get him! Help the master!” cried Shazaar.
But the prince’s guards were caught up in battle. They were fighting furiously against the intruders, but in the meantime the tent was engulfed in flames.
Shazaar raced toward it, with Amir following. Together they entered and saw the master sprawled on the ground.
Shazaar and Amir pulled him out, dragging him to the wagon. Amir stood in front of it alertly, but the battle was nearly over. The soldiers were easily disabling the band of robbers who had foolishly thought they could overcome the large caravan. If they’d been observing for some time, surely they had realized that there were plenty of guards—and a contingent of soldiers. They must have been very brazen to think they could win.
“Master! Are you all right. What do you need?” He would run for water. Or bandages! The prince’s lavish tent was a burned and broken-down mess.
The prince rose up and peered out from under the wagon. “I’m all right.”
“I’m all right, I tell you. Everything was falling down around me. You shouldn’t have come running in like that! You could have been killed.”
Another voice came from above. A chuckle. “Balthasar, when are you going to learn? This servant boy, at least, has always known that he’s supposed to take care of you.”
“Caspar, my friend,” The prince held out a hand, and the man helped him up. “As you can see, I have yet another reason to be glad he’s around. He and his father have saved my life.”
“Come on over to my tent. Let your men clean this up and be ready to move out at first light. I’ve had enough of these desert cliffs. It’s just too dangerous.”
“We are almost there. Another day or two. I daresay, Shazaar, you’re sorry you came on this trip. Dry, dirty travel for these many months. Wild animals and bandits— nearly getting yourself killed….”
“Adventure and the chance to see new places….” interrupted Caspar. “We have been to quite a few great cities, and seen interesting sights in spite of this vast wilderness. I can see that he’s glad to be here.”
The master went off to clean up and get some supper.
Long into the night, Shazaar helped sort through the useless supplies, pack up what was good, and care for the animals. When he finally laid down on a sleeping mat under the stars, he saw that the very bright one, the one they were all following, was still there. They could always trust it to be in the sky, leading them on.
He remembered the night they’d decided to actually do something about that star.
“There it is! Yet again!”
Shazaar had bolted to Prince Balthasar’s side. The master never seemed to notice that he was just a servant. He was pleased that the boy was so interested in the sciences. And it was the boy who toted up the many scrolls and manuscripts from the library, writings from every part of the known world. He always lingered, bringing in food and drink, making any excuse to visit the chamber where the master’s best scholars searched for information on what this amazing new star could mean.
Prince Balthasar had sent messages to other cities, and met with other wise men and royal friends. And finally, finally, they had decided to come on this trip.
A new king. A baby was born. They didn’t know much else. Only that they sensed that they should worship this child. And Shazaar had been allowed to come!
Now, as he looked up at the bright star, he knew that they had to be close to finding the new king that they’d been searching for so long.
It was only a couple of days after the attack that a city came into view. Jerusalem.
The caravan’s arrival was greeted with great excitement and wonder. People marvelled that there were so many servants, guards, and soldiers to meet the needs of these three great men.
Only two were royalty, but Melchior was a great astrologer and magician. He worshipped many gods, and had travelled far and wide before this.
Caspar was an interesting man, the king of a small province in India, he was as short and stout as the master was tall and rugged. They had become fast friends in their fascination with the star. Caspar was always pouring over maps and charts, and watching the night sky to make sure they were on track.
The Roman king of the region sent out messengers to the wealthy visitors. But that night, in the richly decorated chamber that the master had been given, Shazaar found him disappointed, even disgusted.
He dismissed all the other servants and confided in Shazaar. “How is it that no one knows of this new king? He’s not a baby any longer, surely. Yet only these Jewish slaves seemed to know anything. And they were terrified to speak. But they had to. They brought a new scroll that we don’t have. We studied their ancient writings, but missed this one. In Bethlehem, they said.”
A tapping on the door. The guard came in, “I know the hour is late, My lord, but….”
The messenger behind him was too excited to wait. He hurried past the guard, and bowed low. “Sire, news!”
“It’s all right,” the prince said to the guard, who departed. “Tell me what you’ve discovered.”
“We found shepherds! It seems several people there in Bethlehem know all about it. It’s just a village, really. But they remember a newborn baby—about two years ago. You won’t believe this, but angels appeared to them! We interviewed an innkeeper. He says the parents were just poor commoners. He couldn’t understand what we meant about him being a king. He didn’t see any angels. The woman was pregnant but he had no room, so the baby was born out in the stable. It’s all very confusing.”
“But where are they now!” asked the prince.
“Not far. They’re from Nazareth, but they stayed. They didn’t want to travel with a newborn and then the man got work with the local carpenter. They’re still here!” The messenger was quite forgetting himself in his excitement, but the prince didn’t even notice. “Do you want to tell the king—this Herod?”
“No! Do not tell anyone. I’ll speak with Melchior and Caspar in the morning. Not a word. I don’t trust Herod.”
The young man bowed. “Yes, Sire.”
“It’s here! It’s here! The star’s here!”
It was sunset yet again. The caravan was camped outside the small town. Only the three magi, along with several guards and—Shazaar—approached the house. Even so, there was a crowd in the streets, curious but keeping their distance as the guards frowned at them.
The man of the house was outside, watching their progress toward his dwelling. A guard approached him, telling of their quest.
The man seemed relieved, and he motioned them into the house. “My name is Joseph, the son of Jacob, of Nazareth. I am honoured. You are most welcome.”
The guards stood outside as the three men entered the little house. Shazaar stood at the doorway. He knew his master wouldn’t mind. The prince seemed overwhelmed as he laid eyes on the child, who was being held by his mother.
“His name is Jesus,” said the father.
The little boy stared at them with curious eyes, then gave the men a big smile. The gifts were presented. The three visitors bowed before the child.
Shazaar somehow knew they were in the presence of Someone who was much more than even a king. How he knew that, he wasn’t sure.
The men talked with Joseph for a long time, sharing stories. The little boy sat in their laps, played with the tassels on their robes, looked up into their faces with dark eyes. The mother listened to the talk silently, taking it all in.
“Thank you,” said Joseph, gesturing once again to the exquisite gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
“You have given us far more.” It was Caspar who spoke.
“Savior….” mused Prince Balthasar. “I don’t understand most of this….”
“Sire, read the Scriptures. Learn of the God of Israel. He loves people of all nations….” Joseph seemed at a loss to explain.
“And this boy will take over as king? How can that happen? Will he start a rebellion? I could tell that this Herod won’t give up his throne easily.”
“We don’t understand it all. We only know that God has given him to us to care for, and that he is the Savior we Jews have been waiting for. The Savior of the world, God’s only Son.”
There was little talk on the way back to the campsite. There was just too much to take in, too much to try to understand.
“Shazaar! Send for the others!” The prince had awakened out of a sound sleep. Shazaar jumped up from his mat.
“A nightmare, master?”
“We must leave. I’ve been spoken to in a dream. We must not go back to Herod. We must go home another way. I had hoped to stay a while and to try to understand all this. Perhaps talk to some of those Jewish priests. But we must go.”
Shazaar hurried out to send messengers to the other wise men and by first light they were ready to leave. Servants hurried back with food for the journey, bought at the marketplace from some sleepy shop owners who were already at their booths. It was then that the prince called for Shazaar.
“You have been good and faithful servant. Now I have another task for you, if you accept it.”
“I’ll do anything for you—” Of course he would obey. That’s what a servant did.
“Listen first and then decide for yourself. I will not force you to do this.”
So Shazaar listened.
“I want you to stay here. I want you to watch and learn. Send me word often. When you discover what this all means, come back. And if you do this, I give you my oath that when you return, I will free you.”
Some time later, with a pouch of money hidden away, and a bundle of provisions, Shazaar watched as the caravan got underway.
“You’ll never see him again,” said Melchior, from atop his camel. “You’re a fool. You know that, don’t you?”
He perhaps hadn’t meant for Shazaar to hear, but the master looked back at the boy. He gave him a look that said he trusted Shazaar completely.
Shazaar smiled, then turned toward the little town. He would get a job. He would watch…and wait to see what would happen next. And soon he would see his master again.
Two Nights Later
Shazaar woke suddenly. What was going on? Joseph was in the barn, loading his donkey! Not long after, Mary and the sleepy child joined him. They quietly left the barn and started down the dark street.
What were they doing? Where were they going?
Grabbing his own pack, he hurriedly rolled his mat, and dashed out, following the little family as they headed out of town. The next day they joined a caravan heading south.
Egypt! They were going to Egypt? Well then, that was where he would be going, too. He mingled with the tail end of the caravan, listening to the chatter of businessmen, common people, and other travellers.
He overheard someone say, “Herod’s in another one of his tempers again.”
“Something about those high and mighty visitors that came. All that talk about a new king. He’s searching for him among all the children up to two years old in the villages roundabout. Going to be trouble for sure.”
Shazaar, shocked, slowed his steps. The little family was in trouble. How had Joseph known? Now he knew what they were doing—escaping out of Herod’s domain. He straightened and hurried forward. He wanted to keep them in sight and be sure that they were safe.
He would follow them wherever they went. This little boy, the Son of God, the Savior of the world….Shazaar believed it already. And he would learn what it all meant.
And he would return home and share his discoveries with everyone someday.
The End- Total nr. of readings: 1,520 Copyright © The author  All Rights Reserved. This story may not be reproduced without the express written permission of the author except for personal use.
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