Many miles to the south of where Melchior and Caspar were meeting and getting to know each other, a merchant of fine spices and resins was also drawn to the star. In all his travels across the nations, Balthazar had never seen anything like it. He had travelled Roman roadways and rough laneways to find buyers for his products. He had wheedled and beguiled in equal measure to make deals for over forty years, but now he was hungry for something deeper. He had already decided that this shipment of resin would be his last. He had riches enough to provide for his growing family; a family he hardly knew because he was on the road so much. He was back in his home village which nestled on the very southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It was a fishing village, and his children, and now even his children’s children all worked on the boats that traded along the Red Sea; He wanted to let his family know of his plans and his regrets. They had long since accepted their father’s wanderlust, so they were bemused by this late yearning for staying in one place. While not a close family, there was genuine love and respect, and they assured their father that he would be well looked after following his journey North.
While he often travelled by camel train, Balthazar was finding that his ageing body ached from the jarring footplods of the camel bearing him. Better by far to travel by boat he reasoned. it would be quicker and relatively smoother. He could always hire a team of camels when the sea met its northern tip at the base of the Sinai Peninsula. It would certainly shorten the journey time; he surprised himself at how keen he was to return home.
His cargo of a dozen large jars of thick sticky resin had long since been harvested from the sap of the tall prickly myrrh trees. It now lay heavy in clay jars, waiting purifying and thinning by those who would pay him well for this kingly substance. Its uses were many, but it was in the preparation of the bodies of the wealthy for burial that most of Balthazar’s business came from. This was why he was making his way north. He knew that the King of Judea was ageing, it mattered little whether he was kind or cruel, the most important thing was that he was proud. Proud kings valued ritual, and ritual could be expensive. In their craven desire to be remembered beyond their death they would ensure all practices of preserving their remains were closely followed. The rich pungent smell of refined myrrh would serve other health benefits to royal households, but Balthazar was more concerned about timing. In his business timing was everything, you had to be sure to arrive long before the king was expecting to die, but equally important to be there when the king’s family were mentally preparing for the pending (and oft-hoped for) passing.
He had heard of the barbarity of Herod the Great, and shuddered to think of how badly a mistimed sales pitch could actually go; but this would be his own final trip North and the potential rewards would set he and his family up for generations.
He gave little thought or notice to the bright light that blazed by night and was still visible by day. His fellow travellers could talk of little else, so Balthazar spent much of his sailing journey alone, calculating, estimating, preparing his business pitch for business. As his ship docked he sent his steward to acquire a team of camels, sturdy and strong; he must give Herod all the impressions of wealth and success. When all the jars of resin were loaded he set off, distracted and annoyed by the constant presence of the heavenly light. He noticed two other teams leaving ahead of him; Long years of travelling had taught him the reality of ‘safety in numbers’, so he decided to join these teams, after all they seemed to be travelling in the same direction, perhaps there was extra financial advantage to be had by a shared journey.