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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Billboard/Poster/Sign (any or all) (12/02/10)

TITLE: The Apprentice's Challenge
By Ruth Neilson


Several pairs of eyes scanned the horizon seeking to see if they could still see if the strange sign hung in the heavens. A sign had appeared in the wee hours of the morning yesterday and every single of one the Magi wondered what it could mean. The virgin star aligned with several stars including Leo and the one that the Romans called Mars. A flash of light filled the night sky. The sign shone bright enough to temporarily blind each one of them...but now, they had to decide what to do with this newly found sign. There was a collective sigh as the Magi filed into the large meeting hall.

Arif stepped up, and cleared his throat and everyone turned to face the elder Magi. His silver crowned head spoke of the years he had lived and the events he had witnessed. "My brothers, last night we witnessed a sign in the Heavens that none of our records have ever recorded before." He began slowly, his breath labored at the effort of his speech. "I feel we must send ambassadors to all the lands see if we can find the cause of this great sign."

Naveed cleared his throat and then raised his hand before stepping into the middle of the floor. "My father, I hesitate to propose this, but after studying the path that the stars took last night, I might have a possible place to begin our search."

Arif tilted his head to the left, his glassy eyes gazing at the young Magi. "And where would this be, my apprentice?"

Naveed coughed once, before taking a sip of the wine a servant provided. "I've been studying the Jewish prophecies of late, my master, and the names of the stars stand out to me. The Virgin star crossed paths with Leo, the lion," He began tentatively, tugging at his tunicís collar. "The Jewish prophecies state a virgin shall conceive from the house of Judah..."

Naveed paused, looked around the room, and rapidly pressed on, feeling every eye on him. "In Jewish lore, the house of Judah has always been seen as a Lion and according to Greek and Roman tradition, Mars is the god of war. The prophet, Isaiah, did say this king would be the Prince of Peace after all, so that would explain why the stars would pass the bringer of war..." Naveed was babbling now, but he pressed on, seeing the thoughtful nod from his teacher.

"Could it be that this new star is a sign? A sign that just announced the arrival of the new Jewish king, one that would restore the kingship back to the house of David...and ultimately to the house of Judah?"

His words hung in the silent air for a long moment before other Magi began to speak up. Their voices started to overlap and Naveed felt his cheeks flush as criticism of what he said flowed over him like a wave. Finally, Arif had enough.

He struck the marble floor several times with his staff, and the room fell silent. He stroked his silvery beard and his glassy eyes stared unfocused at the rich tapestry that covered the walls. "Very interesting, Naveed, a very real theory indeed." Arif paused and took a deep wheezing breath. "So, what do you propose we do if the kingship is being restored to the kingdom of Israel?"

Naveed paused and rubbed his thinly whiskered chin. "Well...I don't know about anyone else, but I would like to follow this sign to see and worship this new king." The last part of his statement was barely louder than a whisper and his mentor silently nodded. Naveed shifted awkwardly as he listened to the others discuss amongst themselves about what he said. He looked around, knowing that he was foolish to speak up, let alone offer a suggestion about this mysterious sign.

Several minutes passed and finally one of the other Magi, an African, spoke up. "I wish to see if this sign is real as well. I will travel with you, my young friend."

Several others stood and nodded in agreement and Naveed let out a deep breath. He was glad that his interpretation of the sign was generally accepted amongst his peers. He just hoped that at the end of this journey, the sign was all it seemed to promise.

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Member Comments
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Rachel Phelps12/10/10
What an awesome concept for this topic. I got bogged down in the dialogue and felt like I didn't really get to know the characters, but your writing kept me going until the end. Well done!
Anita van der Elst12/12/10
I had a bit of the same struggle as Rachel did with the dialogue. It was hard for me to get into the story after the first couple of paragraphs but that may be because I've had opportunity to read a number of other versions of the Magi contemplating the star and my interest is lagging. I think you have a talent for using words though and look forward to reading other works you do.