Flickering torchlight danced across the softly rippling waters of the public bath. Clustered amongst the bath’s Corinthian columns was a crowd of Romans, Greeks and Jews. Most spoke with barely concealed anticipation of the evening’s program, while others looked on with a casual indifference.
“Is there a Celt amongst us?”
I sighed, “You know, Paul, that line’s getting old. Why don’t you just use my name?”
Paul embraced me, “Hey, you’re the only Celtic Christian here, Hierax, so I’m making the most of it.”
“Ah! There it is – you said my name.”
“Shhh, don’t tell anyone,” Paul laughed. “I was wondering if you could run an errand for me. Alexina hasn’t turned up, and, as her villa’s not far from here…”
“Isn’t she getting baptised tonight?”
“That’s what she said.”
“I’ll see what’s up.”
Paul gripped my shoulder, “Follow the Spirit’s promptings, Hierax.”
“Uh, okay,” I said, heading off. Why did he say that?
The streets of Corinth were filled with revellers but I weaved my way past them without thought. I crossed the street to avoid a dozen drunkards only to find two unlikely characters watching me from an alley’s darkened entrance. But a stern glance from my badly scarred, weathered face and they withdrew.
Reaching Alexina’s villa, I passed through twin rows of columns to enter a well-lit courtyard. A girl in her late teens was sprawled on the pavement stones, her head bent at an impossible angle.
It was Alexina.
Trembling with rage, her father Diokles stood before her body. Several paces back from him were her mother and several slaves, their faces stricken with horror.
Noticing my arrival her father spun angrily towards me, “You Christian dog! This is your fault. You made me do this!”
I could not take my eyes from Alexina’s broken, lifeless form. She had been such a sweetheart, so full of life, so eager to serve Jesus and share His Word with her friends. I looked up slowly, “I made you do this?”
“It was not enough for you fools to convince my daughter to abandon her life long goal of serving in Aphrodite’s temple, but you led her to rebel against my authority by telling her to get baptised!”
“So you killed her?” I snarled, struggling to keep my old nature at bay. When I was in the Roman army, I had slain many such oafs.
“No, Christian, you killed her. I forbade her to attend this baptism ceremony, but she refused to listen! So I did what I had to!”
“You hit her too hard!” Alexina’s mother hissed.
To bury my knuckles in Diokles midrif was an almost irresistible urge, but Paul’s admonition sprang to mind. I opened my heart to the Holy Spirit and received from Him a word of knowledge, which I voiced immediately: “Can you remember what you said to Alexina when her little sister died, Diokles?”
He just stared at me, blinking uncontrollably.
“She said to you, ‘Papa, I hate death! It stole away my darling sister! Papa, please promise me…”
“…that you’ll never leave me,” her father whispered.
“Now look at what you’ve done to her.”
All traces of rage gone, Diokles fell to his knees. “My gods, what have I done?”
The Holy Spirit prompted me to lift Alexina’s limp body into my arms. I tried so hard not to stare at her head lolling unnaturally to one side.
“What…what are you doing?”
“Alexina is getting baptised tonight, sir. And I think you should come.”
All conversation ceased abruptly when I strolled into the public bath carrying Alexina’s corpse with her dejected father in tow.
Paul was already in the water; he had been addressing the crowd. He gestured for me to come so I jumped in and waded across to him.
Paul laid a hand on Alexina’s brow and said, “Wake up, daughter, glorify God!”
There was an audible crack and Alexina’s neck straightened. When her eyes fluttered open I gently set her down in the waste deep water. Every mouth present was hanging open.
“Alexina, do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?”
Paul lowered the young girl beneath the water. When he lifted her out again her face was glowing with delight.
“Who else who would like to repent and be baptised?” Paul called forth.
“I would!” said a loud voice, followed immediately by a loud splash. I turned to see Diokles wading through the water towards us; his eyes fixed on the daughter the Lord had returned to him.
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