Monday, October 10, 2016

Enemy of the Gods 83

The soldiers then surrounded them. The decanus looked Nicholas in the eye. He pointed to the gold. “So this is your gold that you kept from the proconsul all these years?”

“What remains of it...” said Nicholas. “But it is no longer mine. It belongs to this captain.”

“Is it stolen money?” asked the captain.

The decanus replied, “No.” Then he said to Nicholas, “You have bought wheat to give to the starving?”


The decanus nodded. “Always the benefactor... You know I must report this to Silvanus...” Nicholas nodded. The decanus added, “I will make sure he knows your gold is gone.” He ordered his soldiers, “Withdraw.” As they marched down the gangway, the decanus turned back and said to Nicholas in Greek, “The anchor holds firm.”

Lucas looked to Nicholas for an explanation. Nicholas himself had a puzzled frown. They were expecting some sort of fight, but the decanus not only walked away, but assured him that Silvanus would know there was nothing left for him. Then the meaning of the decanus’ words came to him: “En kurios,” He said quietly to Lucas. “‘In the Lord’—the anchor of our soul.” He and Lucas both raised a brow at this unexpected ally.

The brothers offloaded the wheat, and that evening the smell of freshly baked bread filled the drifter camp. Nicholas carried a loaf to the edge of camp for the soldier on watch, but no one was there.

A few weeks later, near mid-November, a centurion and a group of soldiers came early in the morning to Nicholas’ hut. The centurion said to him, “You are Nicholas, the leader of these people?”

Nicholas replied, “If you mean a prince or a praetor, I am neither. I am the slave of all.”

The centurion said, “Nevertheless, you can pass the word on: Christiani are no longer forbidden from the city.”

“On whose order?” asked Nicholas.

“Emperor Maximinus. He has issued a letter stating that all are free to follow their own religion.”

Nicholas asked, “Does that mean we are allowed to hold assemblies?”

The centurion said, “I do not know. I was merely sent to inform you that you are now free to enter the city.”

Nicholas thanked the centurion and set off straightaway for the city. He marched past a group of soldiers at the city gate removing the bronze plate that read, “Christiani forbidden,” then continued on to the hall of magistrates. There he found the official copy of the emperor’s letter and read it. As he studied the words, a familiar voice behind him sent a shiver down his spine: “I see the centurion delivered the message.”

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