The soldier stood in the doorway of the animal shed, sword drawn and ready to use, and he breathed a silent sigh of relief that it was empty of human life.
He looked up into the morning light, and shuddered slightly with an atavistic fear at the strange star that still pulsed out light above the town of Bethlehem.
He felt a second shudder course down his spine, and prayed quickly to his Pantheon of Gods to protect him from the malevolent light.
He looked once again into the shed, noticing the signs of recent occupation – and hurried departure – and was glad that, at least for now, he wouldn’t have to put another child to the sword.
The soldier had always done his duty to the Emperor of Rome but this order, coming directly down from Herod – the Emperor’s representative in this land – had got even the most unquestioning of his brothers-in-arms wondering what was going on but, like the well-trained soldiers they were, they still gritted their teeth, and went from house to house, finding all the young boys they could, and putting them to death.
He had heard some strange rumours about all this: that Herod was furious with the locals over their insistence that their King was due to be born, and that their strange God, Jehovah, had sent his own son to rule over them.
The soldier didn’t understand these people that he and his fellow soldiers had been sent to rule over. The fact that they only seemed to have the one God perplexed him deeply – after all, how could they be protected from everything that could happen to a man throughout his life, if they didn’t have a god to oversee every aspect?
He couldn’t see how just one god could look after all the people in his care, and the fact that the Roman army was going about – almost totally unhindered – killing all the boys from newborn to two or three years of age, was proof to him that his ways were infinitely safer!
He glanced once again into the shed and, seeing that it only contained its proper occupants, walked away to find his superior officer, to report the lack of boy children in the area.
He looked quickly over his shoulder at the star that seemed to hover directly over the Inn and its attached animal shed, and wondered which powerful god had sent this thing to guide Herod to his prey – then decided he definitely wouldn’t like to know!