We have taken Henry’s story and given it a contemporary twist.
Artaban, magi and astrologer, is in despair of the world that is filled with corruption, oppression and greed. He and his fellow Magi have discovered from their studies of ancient prophecies that there will be a new leader, a king who will bring light back to the world. Once he sees the prophesied sign – a star – he sells his possessions and buys three gemstones, a ruby, a sapphire and a pearl to be gifts for the new-born king. His family are sceptical of his quest and his friends are reluctant to travel with him, but Esther, an escaped slave from the court of the country’s evil ruler Herod arrives at his father’s house and Artaban is persuaded to take her along on the journey to meet up with three other Magi, Melchior, Balthazar and Caspar who also believe in the prophecy.
His journey is delayed when he comes across a dying Hebrew man who desperately calls for his help. His compassion wins over his desire to join the other Magi and, unfortunately, he arrives too late to travel along with them. He therefore must finance his own travel and with a heavy heart he sells the sapphire to cover the expense of his own caravan. He visits the local market and buys what he needs.
Herod fumes as he hears the news that his slave has escaped and joined Artaban who is spreading the prophecy that there will be a new king of the Jews, a usurper to his role. To eliminate the threat to his position he sends out his soldiers to kill all new-born Jewish boys and he swears to kill Artaban for stealing his slave.
Artaban and Esther continue their journey and arrive in Bethlehem where they stop by at the house of a woman, Martha, who tells them that as prophesied the baby has been born but his family have already left to travel to Egypt. The village erupts as Herod’s soldiers arrive to start their killing spree and Martha is distraught as she too has a new-born baby son. Again, Artaban’s compassion drives him and when the soldiers come knocking on her door he offers the Captain of the troop the ruby as a bribe not to search the house. Afterwards, he is filled with self-doubt and remorse that he has given away his second potential gift for the new king. Martha and Esther do their best to convince him that he is in fact a man of great value and a hero in their eyes.
As they leave Bethlehem he and Esther realise they are beginning to have feelings for each other and she pleads with him to settle down and have a life with her, but he is driven by his passion to complete his quest and reluctantly and sadly sends her away.
As he continues alone on his mission to find and support Jesus he eventually arrives in Egypt. Although he doesn’t find Jesus, he meets up with the other Magi who had made it to the birth in Bethlehem. In the great library of Alexandria they share an old text they have found that predicts that Jesus, although a King, will be humble and live in lowly circumstances; he will not live long and will be crucified by those he has come to help.
Undaunted, Artaban continues his search for many years, however, his journey is often interrupted as he stops to care for the many who need his help. Despite the love and adoration he receives from those he helps he despairs that he is letting God down by not reaching Jesus.
He continues his travels and, as his good deeds and care are now well-known, he gets a rapturous welcome when he arrives in a town. His lost love, Esther, who is in the crowd hears his name being shouted and fights her way through the throng to be joyfully re-united with him. They fall into each other’s arms and, with their love as strong as ever, they continue to travel together.
Eventually they arrive in Jerusalem at the time of Passover. From the conversations of the crowd Artaban realises that the king Jesus is near but is about to be crucified. He decides to use his last gemstone, the pearl, to buy Jesus’s life. Before he can get to Pilate, the town governor, to offer the pearl they are invited to join a Passover feast. This turns out to be a trap set up by Herod’s son Herod Antipas who is now planning to fulfil his father’s revenge and kill Artaban and reclaim his slave, Esther. His servants drug Artaban, capture Esther and hold her to ransom. Again, Artaban’s heart is pulled and with a heavy heart he uses the pearl to buy her freedom. Despite being reunited with his love he is distraught that he has failed to secure the life of Jesus and has failed his life’s quest. At this point Herod Antipas arrives on the scene and ruthlessly kills Artaban. As he rises to heaven he is reassured by God that, in fact, he did fulfil his life purpose. He finally understands that despite not meeting up with Jesus he himself has brought light to the world by his many unselfish and caring acts that have helped so many people.