The following morning, about midmorning, having been provided a lavish breakfast and an opportunity to wash or bathe, the princes were escorted through the grand palace... and out the back door, to a grandly arcaded garden courtyard of many acres, where several litters awaited, each with four men to transport a prince, lest they grow weary.
Hoisted on the litters, the trio were carried the length of the broad, paved and terraced gardens. The gardens were traced with running streams and clear ponds with bronze founts, and planted with a vast variety of tree, shrub and flower species. Everywhere there was light there was greenery and fruiting plants, both native and exotic.
Small alcoves, arches and delicate arcades contained beautifully crafted bronzes and other sculpted art, much of it painted and decorated with gold leaf. A pair of small antelope watched them pass before returning to tugging leaves from a flowering shrub. Colorful birds and small Asian monkeys chattered from the trees. And at the far end of the gardens... another palace, similar to the first, both in design and grandeur.
At the foot of the steps, the litters were abandoned and the men were escorted through room after room after glorious room, each adorned and decorated with the wealth of a prosperous kingdom, the accumulated wealth of conquered kingdoms, and the meticulous attention of a gifted architect and builder. This place was the culmination of a life’s work, the fruit of a brilliant and creative mind driven by ambition and fueled by... by what?
Only the king could have marshaled the resources to fund a building project of this magnitude, thought Melchior, and only a long lived monarch would have the time to see it through to completion. But monarchs did not stay in power through love; they stayed in power through might, or guile, cleverness or ruthlessness. And this king was reported to have killed his own sons, a wife, and his daughters’ husbands in order to defend his position, his power, his authority. This spectacular royal compound was testimony to what Herod could do, and what he would do... what he had done... to stave off any threat to his position... real or imagined.
A cold lump made itself known where Melchior’s heart beat in his chest. He looked to Balthasar for reassurance, but the look on his own face spoke to the observant Arab prince.
Balthasar nodded just once. “I know. Me, too.”
At length, they were lead to a modest room where attendants washed their hands and feet, and anointed their heads and feet with scented oil.
And then they waited. Sweet wine was offered in small gold cups, but they declined. And waited.
Then with a flourish, their bearded escort returned and pressed them to make haste. He ushered them quickly through a small passageway that opened onto a much larger chamber.
Giving your heart to others by listening to their heart
When you grow a leader who values people you help the whole world