Tobias left the frenzy of festive preparations at Sarah’s house and wove through Ecbatana’s busy streets toward the bazaar, accompanied by a muscular young man named Phineas. Raguel had appointed Phineas as his son-in-law’s personal guard, though Tobit suspected the guard’s main task was to make sure Sarah’s husband didn’t leave town.
An errant goat loped their way, chased by a shouting girl, and Tobias sidestepped. He had to admit he was tempted to leave town – just for a day or so to retrieve his father’s money from Gabael in Ragae. On the other hand, he didn’t want his new bride to think he had abandoned her, and if she couldn’t go with him . . . well, that’s where Raphael might come in. If he could find the man.
Tobias edged into the milling crowd of shoppers, where the odor of spices and leather and sweat mingled with a tinge of garlic. Over the clamor he called to Phineas. “You’d recognize Raphael, wouldn’t you? Tall. Brown hair with reddish streaks. A leather band across his forehead.”
“I saw him when he arrived at the master’s house, sir.” Phineas craned his neck, eying the swarm of people. “There he is!” He pointed over a sea of heads.
Tobias tried to wedge past shoulders and elbows.
“Let me, sir.” Phineas bulled his way through.
Tobias followed at his heels, admitting that a personal guard did have its benefits. He sidled up to Raphael.
“Ah, Tobias!” Raphael handed him a light blue cloak, finely woven, edged with gold embroidery. “Your appearance is timely. I thought you ought to own something nicer for your wedding celebration.”
Tobias fingered the soft fabric, fit for a prince. “I can’t yet pay –”
“A wedding gift,” said Raphael, counting coins into the merchant’s glad palms. Motioning for Tobias to follow, he headed through the crowd to the far end of the bazaar, where curls of smoke drifted into the air along with the scent of meat. “You have to try the lamb,” he called over his shoulder. “Unusually spiced.”
Soon they were seated on a mat shaded by an awning, while Phineas stood guard outside. A jowly serving woman plunked a plate of sizzling lamb cubes before them. Raphael speared a bite on the tip of his knife, blew on it, then plucked it off with his fingers and popped it into his mouth.
Tobias slipped out his own knife and did the same. Over the juicy mouthful, he said, “You knew I’d live through the night?”
“I didn’t know,” said Raphael. “You might not have followed my instructions.”
“But I did.”
“And I . . . ” Raphael stabbed another bite. “. . . let’s just say I sensed the demon’s departure. I believe you sent him all the way to Egypt.”
Tobias chewed slowly. Egypt. He speared a cube of lamb. “Did you know that Sarah’s father wants me to stay for a fortnight of celebrations?”
“He told me.”
Tobias pointed his knife at Raphael. “You, sir, have interesting powers. Don’t you?”
Raphael raised his eyebrows. “Be careful where you point that knife. A man might take offense, you know. Luckily yours has meat on the end.”
Tobias lowered the blade and his voice. “Your ritual worked to rid us of the demon. Can you say a spell or conjure a vision that would persuade Gabael to bring my father’s money to me from Ragae? I can’t wait a fortnight.”
“I do not conjure or cast spells,” said Raphael. “But, yes, I do have powers. One of the most reliable is known as a long stride. I’ll walk to Ragae on the morrow and retrieve your father’s money from Gabael. You have a receipt for it?”
“I do.” Tobias dug in his waist pouch and found the small scroll beside the packet of fish gall. He handed the receipt to Raphael. “Shall I throw out the gall now?”
“No.” Raphael shot him a stern look and tucked the receipt into his pouch.
As Tobias watched Raphael arrange his cloak to hide the pouch, his chest tightened. What had he done? That receipt was the only proof of money owed to his father, and he had just handed it to a man he hardly knew. One with strange powers and a long stride and a plan to leave town.
- to be continued -
© 2012 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved. Based on The Book of Tobit, circa 200 BCE. Illustration courtesy Dover Angels.