The mines beneath where Melchior stood were rarely silent. Night and day the clanging of metal upon rock rang out across the Persian valley. In nearby villages the sound was so persistent that the people slept soundly through its constant ringing. Another reason they slept so deeply was pure and utter exhaustion. A mine is dug to uncover hidden treasure; treasure is sought to bring wealth beyond words; treasure is harvested by hard work; and so it was in Melchior’s mines. While he was not above the purchase and use of slaves, he preferred to pay people well for their labour; it reduced the temptation, and the need, to steal. He had visited mines harvested by half-starved wretches in his youth and as well as being sickened by the barbarity and brutal cruelty, he had also instinctively known that such unnecessary treatment was counterproductive. In his goldmines, tradesmen, merchants and craftsmen came and went, free to make their fortune and move on. Melchior’s late father had taught him that there was only so much wealth one man could own before it became a snare.
Melchior missed his father every day, his wise counsel, his generous heart and his determination that human character was worth so much more than all the ‘shiny stones’ on the ground. His father’s death two years earlier had troubled Melchior with deep questions as to the meaning of life. He had noticed within himself of late a yearning to travel, to explore, to look up rather to the heavens than down at the minerals and rocks beneath his feet.
The light that would change his life for ever came, of course, from the heavens; but it was the way that the light played on an outcrop of rock halfway down the mineshaft beneath him that firstcaught his eye. He wondered for a moment, were his ageing eyes playing tricks on him. The outcrop was one of the many ledges left along the steep path that wound its way down into the darkening depths below. It was a good place to stop and to store stocks and tools for the miners below. For the first time in ages the outcrop was clear, and whatever early evening light had glanced upon it, Melchior had spotted an anomaly. It was as if he could see, by the deep penetrating light of a star beaming down, every curve and shape of a great nugget of gold hidden within the stone. It took Melchior and his team several hours to carefully chip around the emerging treasure. It was a rare and beautiful thing, a stream of Gold, long-since pressed and compacted into a rough misshapen nugget. It had taken most of the next day to raise this treasure filled rock to the surface, where it now lay at Melchior’s feet as all of the workmen rested, their faces shining in sweated reflection of the strange light above them.
Melchior dragged his eyes from the king-sized gold beneath him, to finally take notice of the heavenly light that had revealed his new-found treasure. He perceived it to be a star, and yet so much brighter than any he had ever seen before; and it seemed to move, to dance really in the evening sky. He knew by instinct what he must do. Instructing his workmen to break the giant nugget into seven manageable pieces, he called on his servant to ready a team of ten camels for a long journey west. While all was being prepared, he called his younger brother to him, still a lad but already showing shrewd insight into how to run the mine. Standing side by side at the grave of their father, Melchior pledged the mine to his brother, to be kept safe and sufficient until his return.
As dawn was breaking, and the star starting to move again, Melchior and two of his chief stewards mounted their camels, the seven other camels ladened with provisions and a large piece of gold. As they made their way from the mine, their eyes fixed on this heavenly wonder, Melchior noticed another camel train ahead of him, also heading west, also looking to the heavens. He decided, on a whim, to catch up with these fellow travellers and see if they too were drawn by the star to some far-off destiny.