Thursday, August 11, 2016

Enemy of the Gods 41

Circa 303 AD

The warm afternoon sun spread golden bands across the streets of Myra. Nicholas strode along in his best toga, fringed with intricate stitched designs. At 22, he sported a full beard, thinking the philosopher look gave him an air of respectability in court. His companion, Valerius, was clean shaven with a military crew cut in the more western, Roman style. He wore a toga with a finer fabric and even fancier fringe. Valerius spoke of the magistrate’s house where they were headed, saying, “You’ve met him before, haven’t you?”

“Only in court,” said Nicholas.

“Well, you’ll fare better with him in court after this. And his banquets are beyond compare.”

They followed the music of lyres and flutes drifting from up the street. Children skittered about, playing as if the music was for them. Valerius took no notice of them, but Nicholas smiled. He stepped aside to a storefront, saying, “Wait.” He paid the merchant for a cake of raisins.

Valerius said, “I am sure he doesn’t need a gift from us.”

“It’s not for the magistrate,” said Nicholas. He called out, “Children! Would you like to help us?” Several boys came running, knowing any man dressed in fine clothes might be offering gifts. The girls hung behind to see what he would ask.

Nicholas set the cake of raisins on the counter before them and said, “This man sold me some raisins, but I do not have the time to eat them. Do you think you can help me with that?”

The boys and girls rushed in with delight, and in a matter of moments, the raisins were gone. Nicholas laughed. Valerius grinned, then prompted, “Let’s be on our way.”

As they headed on, Valerius remarked, “As a benefactor, you waste your gifts. The children will do you no favors.”

Nicholas thought of the habit of his father and mother to give in the name of Christus, but he thought Valerius would not understand. Instead, he merely shrugged. They came to a massive walled compound. The entry columns were draped in crimson bolts of cloth. Other guests were gathering, all dressed as richly as they were.

Nicholas asked, “Do you know who the new proconsul is?”

“No. But I’m told he served a term or two in the province before. We will see shortly, since he’s the second guest of honor.”

“Who is the first?”

Valerius chuckled, “Zeus, of course. The king of the gods.”

Nicholas winced, but Valerius didn’t notice as he stepped up to the doorman and gave their names. Nicholas dragged behind him into the house.

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