Then he returned to the place where Melchior had erected their tent. They had learned from past encampments to leave nothing of value with the horses, and Gaspar immediately asked the location of the gold.
“It is safe,” Balthazar told him. “Hidden in the bottom of this grain bag.”
“Good. And the perfume?”
“With our regular supplies. No one would steal that.”
Melchior chuckled. “If they did, we could smell out the culprits quickly enough!”
And then Balthazar said, “There is gaming tonight, near the well.”
“I know,” Gaspar replied. “But it is not for us.”
The fat man held out his hands in a gesture of innocence. “We could but look,” he said.
And Gaspar reluctantly agreed. “Very well.”
Later, when the fire had been kindled and the people of Ziza came forth from their tents to mingle, the three travellers joined them. Almost at once Gaspar was sought out by a village elder, a man with wrinkled skin and rotting teeth. “I am Dibon,” he said, choosing a seat next to Gaspar. “Do you come from the east?”
“Yes, from Persia.”
“A long journey. What brings you this far?”
Gaspar did not wish to answer. Instead, he motioned towards a group of men with small smooth stones before them. “What manner of sport is this?”
“It is learned from the Egyptians, as are most things sinful.” Then the old man leaned closer, and Gaspar could smell the foul odour of his breath. “Some say you are a magus.”
“I have studied the teachings of Zoroaster, as have my companions. In truth some would consider me a magus.”
“Then you journey in search of Mazda?”
“In search of truth,” Gaspar replied.