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Friday, December 09, 2016

Prester John, Chapter 10 (Part 1)

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Chapter 10 (Part 1)

           It had been three weeks since their return to Smyrna. Polycarp had rejoined them, and Lucius adjusted to the daily routine of life in a pastor’s house. Justus had provided a small room with a bed for Lucius to call his own, and had blessed him with good food and hospitality. Far more than in his own Caelius house, where his needs had been tended to by servants and slaves, here he understood the service-love at the heart of family. He and Justus and Justus’ wife tended to one another in food, in service, in thoughtful acts and kind encouragements. And little by little, Lucius came to notice the harmony of grace that their faith was working into the substance of their daily lives, like leaven into dough.
            And, further adding to his cheerful mood, he had heard nothing from Ariston. More than once, he had dared to hope that their confrontation would be forgotten, and they could both simply move on to other things. But that was not to be the case.
             On the third day of the week, Lucius went with Polycarp to Smyrna’s central market. The sun burned down hot on Lucius' head and shoulders, and the dust of hundreds of moving feet filled the air around him. They were in search of a few necessities for the household, and Lucius had been grateful for the opportunity to get out and stretch his legs. As they wandered through the bustle of the marketplace, Lucius and Polycarp gradually became separated. It was then that Ariston sidled up to him.
            “Everything is ready,” Ariston’s voice hissed at him out of the crowd.
            Lucius whirled in surprise and locked eyes with him.
            “What do you mean?”
            Ariston wore the same devilish grin that Lucius always saw from him. “Well, you said you would help me with my scheme. It’s ready. Now it’s your turn.”
            Lucius had to refrain from cursing. He had dreaded this moment. But he had given his word, and it was the only way to keep Ariston from ruining the life he had built here in Smyrna. He had to keep his part of the deal.
            “What do you want me to do?”
            “I told you that my father had disowned me, right?”
            “Yes—you also said that he had thrown you out of the city, but I suppose that would have been a bit too much to hope for.”
            Ariston cracked another cocky smile. “You won’t be rid of me that easily, Tiro. Nor will my father. I’ve hired a group of brigands to raid my father’s house and rob him of the money and jewels he keeps there. You will lead them—you’re smarter and will keep a better head about you if things turn for the worst, so I want you in there too.”
            Lucius frowned. “This is just to gain revenge on your father?”
            Ariston shrugged. “And to make back a little of the money that is rightfully mine.”
            “But won’t he have household slaves throughout the place, working as guards? I won’t kill anyone for your little scheme, Ariston.”
            “You’re not in a position to be placing demands,” said Ariston sharply. “But I know the house well enough to give you all the information you'll need. Here, take this scroll—I’ve jotted down drawings of the rooms and corridors, places where the slaves will be stationed for the night, and the location of my father’s treasure. You shouldn’t have to kill anyone.”
            Lucius took the scroll. “When will all this happen?”
            “Tonight. Leave your house an hour after sunset. You’ll meet with your team at the corner of Zeus’ temple, and then proceed to my father’s house. When you've succeeded in spiriting away the family treasures, you'll find me waiting for you outside your friend Justus’ house. But listen carefully!--If you betray me in any way, or fail to return with a large share of treasure, then I will walk straight into that house, wake him from his sleep, and tell him the whole truth about you.”
            Lucius wanted to growl in frustration, but he instead he muttered his assent, nodded to Ariston, and then turned to go find Polycarp. 
          The plan was set. And Lucius, unwilling though he was, would have to play his part.

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