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The Greatest Story Ever Told
Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:22pm


“The flock is strange tonight.” Ephraim muttered, pulling his robe tighter around himself to better shield from the biting cold. “Do you think that they know something which we do not?”

Balthazar laughed “Every grass-eating one of them knows many things that you do not.”

His cackle was interrupted by the deafening boom of thunder as a glowing orb materialized in the air above their heads. It hovered there for a long moment, shining as brilliantly as a miniature sun and illuminating the entire field. Yet it was not sunlight that the orb cast, but rather an eerie glow that made the flock of stupefied sheep look monstrous and unnatural. The two men clung to each other and were sore afraid.

Suddenly a man flew from the orb as if it were a doorway from heaven; a man unlike any that the shepherds had ever seen before. Ephraim had once seen a Roman officer with hair yellow like straw, but this man had golden hair and blue eyes and very fair skin. He stood before them all but disrobed, clothed in just enough for modesty, and his tall form bore none of the scars or malformations that were so common in those hard times. He had the most perfectly straight nose that Balthazar had ever seen and in the glow of the doorway he looked like Apollo as described by the pagan Greeks.

The men fell on their faces in awe and abject terror, taking the visitor to be a messenger from God of Abraham. He spoke to them in some strange tongue, and when he grew angry at their incomprehension they fled madly like stricken animals. Hours later, after the two shepherds had stopped praying and gibbering unintelligibly for long enough to think and discuss the incident, they decided that the angel had meant them no harm and had in fact tried to convey a message of peace and goodwill. In the nearby city of Beth-Lehem their fantastic tale was received by the villagers with jeers of mocking disbelief, but there were some who would later remember and take note of the new star that appeared in the sky that night.

Once the portal closed behind him, Cross wasted no getting into trouble with the law. First he had to steal some clothes, and it was his misfortune to have arrived in a year when the ruler of the known world was taking stock of his subjects. The lost reploid had no answers for the census-takers, even if he had been able to speak their language. Eventually he did learn enough of the native tongue to discover that he was in a place called Judea and that it was populated largely by Jews. He then wasted fruitless months trying to break into the entertainment industry. In the end the only band he managed to join was a band of desert brigands who welcomed the blond stranger enthusiastically and put great value in his unexplainable strength and speed.

One day while encamped at an oasis near Masada the leader of the raiders found Cross sulking in his tent trying, trying in vain to get drunk on bad date wine that they’d stolen from a luckless caravan. The bandit chieftain was a great burly man named Rashid, the fiercest Bedouin in the tribe and a warrior who’d killed forty men with his own sword. But on this occasion he actually looked jovial.

“My spies in the court tell me that yesterday Herod entertained a party of emissaries.” Rashid reported. “It is said that they are magi from distant lands, come to find a new king that has been born in Judea.”

Cross uncorked a gourd and lazily poured another cup on wine for himself, asked “Magi? What’s a magi?” He only understood a smattering of Arabic, but wouldn’t have known the meaning of that word even in English.

“Wise men. Astrologers. Sorcerers.” Rashid explained with slight disdain. “They claim that the stars foretold this new king’s birth and so they’ve come to pay homage with gifts of incense and myrrh and -“

“What’s a myrrh?” Cross interrupted again, feeling particularly frustrated by the language barrier.

The Arab patiently explained “Myrrh is an oil. Very valuable. Used for sacraments, medicine… even perfume.”

“Perfume?” the reploid snorted. “No wonder it’s so valuable. This entire century stinks like goat.”

“They also carry gifts of gold with them.” Rashid further explained.

“Gold?!?” Cross reached for his scimitar. “Why didn’t you say so? I thought you wanted to ransom these wise guys. Let’s take their gold!”

“Actually, the myrrh is more valuable.”

“I know, I know. You people stink.”

The emissaries found themselves waylaid on the road to Nazareth. They and their guides offered no resistance in hopes of avoiding bloodshed, but one elder did speak up to try to dissuade the reavers. “Good sirs, you mustn’t take these things! They are gifts for the messiah!”

“I don’t think you understand; my friend here is very smelly.” Cross replied casually as he used the blade of his scimitar to pry open one of the treasure boxes.

Rashid continued to ignore the references to his hygiene and instead asked the old man “Who is this messiah of which you speak? A Roman?”

“No, a Jew, destined to be king of all Jews and savior of mankind. The child has been anointed by heaven and will ransom us all from death and darkness. I have spent my life waiting to find and worship him, and now the stars have directed me to-”

“DUUUUUUDE!!!” Cross exclaimed in English. Everyone, wise men and raiders alike, looked over to see the reploid pull an amulet from the treasure box and shout “It’s that thing!”

The old man stroked his beard and said “That is the Pendant of Pentane, an artifact I came upon in Alexandria.”

Instantly forgetting the other treasure, Cross tossed the amulet to Rashid and yelled “Quick! Point that thing at me and say ‘Ramshather’!”

“I take no part in sorcery, my frien-” the Arab warrior started to object, but Cross repeated his command so emphatically that Rashid reluctantly complied. As soon as the magic word left his lips a rift in time and space tore open like a bomb, projected from the amulet. The other brigands took flight in mad panic and the magi fell to their knees.

“Air condition and pizza, here I come!” the reploid laughed as the vortex sucked him in like a mayfly into a tornado. Desperate to rescue his friend and best warrior, Rashid rushed after Cross and was sucked in as well.

Rashid awoke to see a narrow street in Victorian England. The gas lamps were still burning, though dawn had just broken and was now beating back the London fog. Cross approached a soot-smeared washerwoman and asked what year it was, though now it was Rashid who could not comprehend the language.

“Eighteen eighty eight, it is.” the strumpet replied, then pinched her nose and declared “Blimey you stink!”

Cross backed away wide eyed and tore at his clothes, moaning “No! Not me! I was there too long! I was there too loooooong!!!”


NRP: Merry Christmas everybody!

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