The bride stood in the simple white robe appropriate to her station, with an unscrutable look on her face. The groom, the son of the house, was not that much better dressed, but looked extremely pleased and impatient. A few servants stood near looking bored, and the groom's mother filled out the marriage party, looking rather displeased.
And I, the father of the groom, stood in front. I had just finished the necessary words and was preparing to sign the certifying scroll, when the bride, in violation of all propriety, said "Look!".
Everyone turned to look. There over my left shoulder was a star. A new star. A bright star.
"Go fetch an astrologer! Tell him to bring his star charts. Quickly!"
We all stood, and stared, and waited.
"Yes, yes, don't hurry me. No, don't touch!"
A small, thin, stooped man emerged up the stairs onto the road where we all stood. He had his arm is full of scrolls and other bundles. "Well?" He snapped.
I pointed. He turned. He stared. And, in a much more commanding voice, "A table, get me a table!"
We waited while he looked and measured and muttered.
"King. West. Jews. Never seen..."
He turned to me, "Who saw it first?"
"She did," I answered, pointing at the slave bride.
"She did? She did!? You! Tell me about yourself."
It was very bad manners to ask a slave about their history, but I suppose I had to ignore that in these circumstances.
The story that emerged was horrible. The middle daughter of a mountain bandit, who, with his whole village preyed on travelers over the highway. She had engaged in horrible acts; helping her father and her village torture and kill many of their hostages. She described acts of mutilation and emasculation that made even me shudder. My wife looked appalled and my sons impatient anticipation changed to a look of sick horror.
"And she saw it first. She did. Not the lord of the house, not the son, not even the mother..."
He went back to his charts and began writing furiously. When he slowed down I got up the courage enough to ask, "So what does it mean?"
"Haven't you been listening? This day is born, in the land of the Jews, a mighty king, a king who..." He stopped.
"And you say you are a virgin?"
She lifted her head up proudly. "Since I received my breasts no man has looked at me. Not even the soldiers. After they attacked our village, they had an old lady they brought with them examine us. She certified me herself."
"A mighty king, born of a virgin! And one who has come to redeem those involved in the worst of evils. A prophet, and a priest as well. One who will undergo great sorrows..."
He stopped, and seemed finished.
"But what of the marriage?" Did this man think that I merely wanted to know about some foreign king? "Is it a bad omen for my sons marriage?"
"Marriage?" He looked and finally seemed to recognize the tableau for what it was, a rich father giving his young son a slave bride in order to try to keep him out of the various brothels.
"The marriage?" He bent back over his charts. We waited.
He straightened up and now speaking in the tone I have learned to associate from astrologers when giving their 'readings' said:
"I have two messages from the stars for this marriage. First this marriage will be blessed above all other marriages in this city. Never have I seen such a powerful omen. The kingdom of the king will extend to bless the fruit of this marriage."
"Second," and here he looked straight at my son, and his voice changed in its tone, "I would recommend that you enjoy your marriage bed, and never, ever even think of straying from it."
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