Friday, July 1, 2016

Enemy of the Gods 12

Nicholas peered into the shadows and saw the glint of gold. His father reached in and stirred the mass of coins. The clinking sounded as if the sarcophagus was nearly full of them. Epiphanius counted 30 coins from his bag into the pile, then shoved the lid back in place.

Nicholas asked, “Is this to keep them from the tax collector?”

“No,” said his father. “Unless the tax collector sees fit to become a thief. The rest, we hold to pay our taxes. This, we have saved bit by bit as a treasury for Christus.”

“Who knows of it?”

“Only your mother and I. It has bought the freedom of many a slave, as well as many other gifts in his name. You must keep it secret. Use it only as he directs you.”

“Yes father,” said Nicholas.

The next few days flew by as Nicholas worked in the fields helping with the barley harvest. Thoughts of robbers, rhetoric and gymnastics drifted aside, and were replaced with thoughts of winnowing forks, baskets and scales.

With all the activity, it didn’t occur to him one day until late in the afternoon that he had not seen his father and mother for some hours. He asked about them with Jason, the chief steward. Jason said, “They went to the forum to do business.”

Nicholas thought of his father carrying gold in a sack. He asked, “You’re sure they haven’t come back?”

Jason didn't seem too concerned. He said, “Yes. Something must have delayed them. If they don’t arrive soon, we can send the carriage for them.”

Nicholas kept thinking of gold and bandits. He said, “Would you please ready it now?”

As Nicholas and Jason set out in the carriage the sun hung low over the hills. They passed along the bend in the road through the wooded grove, and the trees now cast long shadows across the road. Between the shadows, it looked to Nicholas like someone had left two piles of robes. Then he realized they were not just robes, but people. “No!” he cried. He leaped from the carriage and ran to them.

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