A Gift for the King of the Heavens
by Helen Murray 11/01/2011 / Short Stories
"Ishtar, look at this." Tiglath's usual exuberation steadied right down as, breathless, he focused his vision directly into the night sky above Babylon. "See that star over there on the right? It's getting brighter and brighter every time I look for it. What's going on?"
Ishtar looked benignly at his volatile student and glanced casually in the direction he pointed. Certainly there was a star shining more brightly than usual in that position.
"When did you last look?" was his bemused question.
"Just after dusk I noticed it because that part of the sky takes longer to show its stars, yet it was there before the others. Now the other stars are visible, but this one is stronger."
"Let's check it again at midnight."
Ishtar , always very measured in his reactions, noted the star in question and located its position on the astrolabe. Tiglath, a brilliant student in his School of Astronomy, had a huge curiousity about the ancestral teachings, always demanding explanations challenging Ishtar's already great learning. Their conversations occupied long evenings of assiduous star-gazing at the high parapet of the school.
As midnight approached Ishtar caught some of Tiglath's excitement, perceiving some change in the position of the star. At exactly midnight Ishtar brought the antikythera to re-examine the position.
"It has moved, Tiglath. It has migrated left across the sky, and I'm certain it is brighter than before!" The adrenaline was rushing now through the veins of both men as, shaking, they took the measurements and relocated the star on their map. No falling star, this one, but unmistakable movement across the blackness among the other slighter stars.
"There is no record of such a star in the whole, long history of the institute." Ishtar's face was shining now. "This is portent of something very great."
"What could that be?" Tiglath's feet were almost dancing on the tiled floor as his excitement rose and his eyes pierced those of his teacher and mentor.
"The only possibility" there was a hush as Ishtar considered his response "is the birth of a great King," whereupon Tiglath's amazing aerial somersault expressed his excitement at so enthralling a possibility.
"Where? Where?" He could hardly contain his excitement. Never before in the history of astronomy had such a phenomenon beset the eyes of men, and here, before his very own eyes..
"The star is moving west, so if we really want to understand, we should follow it, and discover the new King ourselves."
"A King! A King! That means gifts gifts suitable for the greatest ever born. What sort of a king has a star like this? He must be King of the heavens!"
With that they looked at each other hard and long in silence, wondering.
Tiglath broke the silence.
I'll organise the train," he said. Twenty camels should suffice. Let me know what you need to take. I'll be taking gold from Ophir as my gift to the great King much gold.
"I shall take stores of the great perfumes of my family. Frankincense is appropriate for a King. I'll need five camels to carry it."
Tiglath bowed very deeply to his mentor.
"Oh that my gold should have such value." The value of the frankincense far outweighed the value of gold in those times.
"And send a message to Utu in Sumer. He will want to come as well." Ishtar could not think of going on this amazing journey without his own old friend and mentor. Utu was a great teacher in history and would research and understand the ancestral lines of the great king they were to find.
Two days later they received the message that Utu was on his way down to Babylon with his own gift. Myrrh was his choice, for the annointing at His death, for the appointments for His whole life had to be established from the very beginning.
Whether the old man could stand the journey was not available for question since Ishtar well knew his passion.
The star moved further west each day, so the time for leaving was urgent and preparations had to be very quickly determined. Five days later all was ready and the trio activated their camel train in the direction of the city of Haran in the west amidst huge crowds of students and their families waving their farewells. To those who, weeping bitterly, feared that Utu may never make it home again, he, with his large dark eyes piercingly pregnant with foreknowledge in his lined old face, explained, from the seat on his rocking and rising camel, that
"If I were to remain at home among my comforts, and ignore so extraordinary an opportunity to meet the only great King, whose personal star so brilliantly lights up the expanse of the night sky, I should indeed be a dead man".
Grandmother, teacher, bushlover, horse-lover, gardener, poet ("Poetry with Punch" published by Tate Publishers) and passionate person, especially about Jesus.