The Six of Swords
We Three Kings of Orient Are ...
Artists Serving Creation Applying Given Talents
Giving Praise to the Master of Creation
Jim, John and Xuang materialized just above Sinai. Jim remembered the scene from his vision and knew the ground to be sacred. In the sky above, he could see the light from the supernova. The Merkabah unit scanned for signs of life in the region, but there was none. Switching to a mode of invisibility, Jim silently piloted his craft to the region of the Dead Sea. The trio needed to purchase some beasts of burden to undertake the next phase of their adventure. Genie conveniently provided gold dust, gems and other items which could be used for trade. Each was also richly dressed in Artemis royal garb so that the natives would mistake them as rich princes from the East.
Jim managed to locate the Nabataen city of Petra. Genie piloted the Box invisibly through Petra as Jim surveyed the city considering the means he would use to acquire necessary materials. He decided that it would be best to materialize within the city, because no one would question then how they managed to arrive at the city with no transportation.
Genie provided a vox unit to each of the travelers so that they could speak to the natives. It was evening and the moon was dark as the trio found themselves once again on the planet's surface. Jim folded up the merkabah and translated it into belt form. It was not yet past curfew, so the guards did not notice the trio as they made their way to an inn. There was till some evidence of Venetian influence, but without their presence, the glory of the former days was gradually being forgotten.
A few unfortunate thieves attempted to take advantage of the apparently unarmed men, but the tremendous speed and strength of the Venetians made a mockery of the attempted assault. Instead of severely thrashing the thieves, however, Jim would use the opportunity to extract information about the city. Finding this method to be an excellent way to gain information, the trio split up so as to let themselves be "victimized" and learn the ropes. It was not long before they managed to find the residence of the chief of Petra's thieves.
With very little persuasion and just a few pounds of gold, John, Jim, and Xuang managed to acquire a caravan fit for three kings and a fortune in spices and incense. These were the customary trading commodities of the day for international trade. Petra's governor, for indeed he was the chief of Petra's thieves, advised Jim to be wary of the Roman soldiers. They would arrest them for being spies if they were not adequately bribed.
Jim laughed, "Do you think I am going to let those thieves rob me when I declined you the favor. I am giving you a fair price for these goods, and you are doing us a great favor by hosting us in your fair city."
"My pleasure, but please won't you explain how it is that I never was made aware of the arrival of your likes in my city."
"We are magi, masters of the hidden ways." Jim explained. "We are following the star of the Messiah and are here to do him honor."
"I have heard legends of such a being. I thought it was superstition and still believe it to be so, somewhat. I now have doubts only because I can not account for your mysterious presence nor your invulnerability. You are quite aware that I would take all from you, if I could, because I fear you greatly. Please leave my city in peace. I know not where you come from, nor do I wish to know, nor do I desire to encounter the likes of your kind again. I shall be honored you to host you as the kings that you claim to be. I shall have my servants provide you with the very finest of lodging for the evening if that is your wish."
Jim broke in to thank the man. "Beware of the Romans yourself, Haji. They seek to destroy your city and will take this city and destroy your kingdom. He, who we shall pay tribute to, shall conquer the Roman empire. He shall teach you to do kindness to others and to share what you have with those in need, for such sacrifices show true greatness."
"Certainly, this must be a great king you are to visit, and I see that you must be seers of the East. I fear you wizards as well. From what you tell me, you sound like no friends of Rome and you certainly do not seem to follow their customs. I shall be greatly honored to honor you, if you tell me that you are no friends of Rome."
"We shall never be subject to Rome, nor shall anyone in our kingdoms ever be subject to Rome. We can tell you no more of our origin, lest you wish to die because you know too much."
"It is remarkable that you have not purchased a single sword from my merchants, but that is the way of wizards I suppose. Must you insist on traveling unarmed? At least, permit me to provide you with some bodyguards. At least then you will not need to use your magic to protect yourselves. If you wish to be treated normally in the new Roman province of Palestine, you must not show your magic. The Jews there would think you as devils and would certainly not welcome you."
"We need not be lectured how to use our magic, but we will accept your offer. We would prefer these men not to be free with their tongues."
"No need to worry there. My men shall swear to an oath of silence. I have seen your face before, sir. You have some very noble features, the face of the great king, himself."
He was looking at Xuang. He showed it to John as being the face on an ancient Egyptian coin. He also had a Chinese coin, from the ancient Xia dynasty also showing the same face. I always wondered why these two faces were the same, and from empires that are worlds apart, and now you appear again under such odd circumstances, and claim to be a king. Please tell me if my observation is more than coincidence."
"It is more than coincidence," Xuang assured him. "I am related to them both."
The bandit chief uttered a few words to his pagan god, finding it very hard to accept the reality of these three strangers. Fearing them all the more, he began to think that they were gods and not men at all. He ordered his chosen few to guard these men well and to keep silent as to all that they would observe. He managed to pursued Jim to pay a small fortune in gold for these favors. Jim didn't mind at all. The gold was nothing to him.
In the morning a caravan set out from Petra heading west down into the Dead Sea valley heading to Jericho and eventually Jerusalem. John, Jim, and Xiang were now richly adorned and were heading a caravan of unlimited riches. After all, Jim still had Genie and his magical belt. John had his unit as well. The guide that Haji had provided Jim with proved to be quite useful and managed quite well to keep curiosity seekers away from the visitors. Bandits dared not attack the caravan, as they recognized the escorts as their own chieftans.
The Roman guard at Jericho was somewhat displeased to see the crew of Petra outlaws escorting these three very important persons.
"Who goes there?" cried the centurion. "We welcome these thieves not to our provinces. For what reason would you enter our territories?"
"We bear gifts for the King of the Jews, my captain. Provide us escort to the King of Israel and we shall gladly discharge our escort."
"I hardly think Herod accepts strangers at their request, just because they ask to see him."
"We are kings and hardly strangers and we bear gifts for a king."
Jim gave the centurion a glimpse of the treasure that they bore. He also remembered Haji's advice.
"Unless you would prefer some other captain would receive the wages I would pay for an escort to Jerusalem. I warn you that I am quite generous."
"Dismiss your escort, sire. I shall gladly escort you to Jerusalem."
With that Jim tipped the centurion a good amount of gold, as much as he could carry unassisted. "For you and your men, see that you are generous as I have been generous with you."
The Romans permitted the Venetians to keep the porters which claimed ownership to the beasts of burden. All others had to turn back. Jim did not object, and John warned Xiang to keep quiet. As a result the Roman centurion and his troop learned little about Jim, John, or Xiang. The trio conversed with each other in their own tongue so that none could eavesdrop.
"It is imperative that we say very little Xuang," John lectured. "Our mission here shall be brief. We are going to bear witness to a very significant event in human history, and I am not at all surprised that your father chose to visit this time. I am even more surprised that he has the courage to do so."