DEMACLI, THE LEGION DEMONIAC
25 A.D. in the region of the Decapolis
“Demacli! We have heard about you,” cried a voice in the crowd of laughing partiers.
“True! All of it, true!” said Demacli who raised his glass up, laughing. “Here is to Dionysus, our god of wine!”
“You Greeks always get it wrong. It is to Bacchus, the Roman god of grape that you should praise,” said a fat man whom Demacli didnot know. Some in the party roared in approval while most jeered in laughter.
Demacli, wildly laughing with the group, drunkenly walked out to a balcony. He looked up at the starry night. Then he up-ended his drink, some spilling down the side of his beard. There was a divan nearby and Demacli fell unto it and lost consciousness.
The next day, he was rudely awaken by a cold splash of water.
“Well, master,” said an old man amusingly. “Last night’s party seem to be your most loudest ever. We’ve cast out thirty seven this time, only seven we recognized.”
“Aaarrrgh… Please Habbi,” growned Demacli, as he slowly and painfully sat up on the divan he collapsed on the night before. “You are too loud for this early morn.”
“Originally, master, it is the seventh hour since the sun came up.”
“Food… I need food.”
Habbi clapped his hands and a female slave came in with a tray of food. As Demacli wolfed down his food. From the balcony, he looked out upon the desert city of Canatha.
Canatha was one of the free cities of the Decapolis, a grouping of Greco-Roman centers located on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. Some three hundred years before, these ten cities were founded during the Hellenistic period after the untimely death of Alexander the Great. Canatha was located fifty or so miles east of the Sea of Galilee in the deserts of Syria. It was on a major caravan route with Damascus in the north and an untold number of Persian cities in the far east.
Habbi pulled up an overturned stool and sat on it.
“Master, the rate you are going, you will lose the wealth of your father in two years. Six caravans of your investments were lost to marauders. Those shipments that you entrusted to that lying Phoenician are gone. And the parties you hold practically every night… well, let me put it this way. One day, you will awaken to find everything in this villa gone, stolen by your so called drinking friends.
He pauses. Then, in a softer voice, “Demacli… my dear boy… I have watched you grow up. Your father commanded me to take care of you as you go out into the world to make something of yourself. There is no shame returning home to Hippus and admitting to your father that you were not ready.”
“Enough, Habbi!” Demacli stood up and walked into the house. With Habbi following, he went downstairs, walked across the patio to a garden pond. Then he jumped right in. When he came out dripping wet, he was wide awake. “Habbi, no more lectures. You forget your place. Now, I am going up to change and then I am going out to meet someone who promises that I can gain more wealth.”
The room he entered was smoky and dark except for a lit oil lamp on the floor. There was another light source coming from above that emitted a circle of light around the lamp. The light was so bright, he could not see the walls.
“Come and sit in the circle,” said a deep feminine voice.
Demacli sat on the floor with the lamp before him. Then three cowled persons slowly walked in and sat down before him. Their faces were hidden in the shadows with only a slight glint reflecting from their eyes. The feeling was somewhat erie.
“What do you ask of the gods?”
“I seek wealth. All my ventures have failed and I would give anything to be lucky.”
Together, all three of them asked, “What would you give to the gods?”
“What can I give? Gold or silver?”
“Those things are nothing to them.” It was the feminine voice that spoke.
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