For many days and many nights they traveled. Their horses tired, but the equine beasts stubbornly plowed on at their heavy master's insistence.
The first of men, an ancient man of frail proportions, was decked out in flowing robes of heavy red silk to shield him from the harsh desert. Caspar, as he was called sat steadily on his steed with signs of discomfort permeated through the air around him.
The second, a man named Melchior, was clad in a cloak of ermine fur dirtied by many sandy winds. He didn't seem eager to be traveling in such an unconventional manner.
The third, a relatively young man who was ready to make a start for himself in the world, was Balthasar. He cradles a small chest close to his heart, a gift from the king himself to give to the babe.
The three men had traveled long distances from Persia in an effort to keep a paranoid content. They had been charged to find a child, of all things. After years of being praised for their wisdom, they were told to find a child. How important could a child be? The world would soon find out. But this is not that child's story. Nor does that child appear in this story. Merely his birth is the reason behind the story. This story belongs to Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. Three wise men from the East.
"What are we doing again?" Caspar asked. In his old age, his memory began to fail him more and more frequently.
Sighing, Melchior repeated himself for the tenth time that week. "We're going to find a child that is to be born in some town. King Herod told us to find the child so he could pay his respects to him. Something about the child being a king or something."
"Oh," Caspar said happily. "The kid's going to die."
Melchior sighed once again. "No, the child is not going to die. Herod said he just wants to pay his worship to the child."
"It's a kid being a king," Caspar continued. "Why would a grown man pay tribute to a kid? Herod's gonna kill him."
"Please," Balthasar spat. "King Herod would never do such a thing. He gave a gift to give to the child in his place. Just in case his Highness is unable to retrace our steps. The king would never murder a child."
"Didn't he murder a few of his own?" Melchior asked.
"What present did he give you?" Caspar inquired.
Balthasar brandished the gilded box like a precious gem.
"Yes," Caspar said, "now what is in the box?"
"What do you think," Balthasar hissed. "The most kingly of all gifts. Myrrh!"
Melchior paused. "Wait a second," he said. "Isn't myrrh used as an embalmment?"
"Never!" Balthasar screeched. "King Herod sends it as an anointing oil to be the first crown on the child's head."
"Herod's going to kill him," Caspar sang quietly.
"Still," Melchior said. "It will seem a bit odd when only one of us has a gift to give."
"Speak for yourself," Caspar laughed. "I picked something up in the last village."
"What, old man?" Melchior asked tiredly. "Another sack of bones?"
"Bah!" Caspar intoned. "You shouldn't have thrown those away. You never know when you might need the thigh bones of a camel. I got something better than bones. Frankincense!"
"A perfume?" Melchior asked. "How do you know the child is a girl?"
"Girl's aren't the only ones that use perfume," Caspar said indignantly. "Besides, if it's a boy maybe the mother will like it."
Melchior and Balthasar stared at the eccentric old man. "Well then," Melchior said slowly. "I guess that means I have to pick something up. What's the next town?"
Balthasar consulted the map. "It says Bethlehem. There's a big star over it on the map. Think it means anything?"
Caspar pointed to the sky. "Look, a star!"
"There's no star in the sky, old man, the sun is still in the sky," Melchior sighed.
"No," Caspar said once more. "A star in the sky! Just over the city of Bethlehem!"
Balathasar looked at the map. "Well, there is a star over the city on the map," he trailed off into silence.
"Five pieces of gold says the kid is in there," Caspar said with a grin.
"No bet," Melchior sighed. "If the kid is there, I'm going to need a gift to give him. God knows, if Herod is trying to kill him his parents can pay for a decent funeral."
"What?" Caspar asking indignantly. "Gold? You're going to give a baby gold?"
"Sure," Melchior responded. "Why not?"
"What happened to five dollar gifts?" Caspar shrieked. "Now all our presents are going to look like crap in comparison!"
"Fine," Melchior snapped. Long days in the desert with the eccentric old man had finally warped the last plank of remorse Melchior had left. "I'll trade you! You take the gold, and I'll take the damned perfume! Happy now?"
"Of course," Caspar said in an amused tone. "They don't call me wise for nothing."