Chapter 3: The Tempting Offer
“I also gathered for myself silver and gold and
the special treasures of kings and of the provinces.
I acquired male and female singers, the delights of
the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds.”
After singing freely, Kester found it difficult to hold himself in check. An instrument offered new avenues for expression, and he wanted to explore them. Given the chance, he would have continued straight through until morning, but an ordinary boy could not sing through the night watches. And I am meant to be an ordinary boy, not an unusual one.
Kester took advantage of a musical interlude to peek at the king. Solomon reclined on a footed couch, listening with eyes half-lidded. Surrounded by comforts. Lost in memories.
My instructions were to act as a scribe and copyist, not a temple singer. Asaph had cautioned Kester against singing in any place where he might be overheard. Wise counsel, given the attention he’d drawn in a single, unguarded moment. What will come of my carelessness?
“Kester.” Solomon languidly announced, “The hour is late.”
He nodded but kept right on playing. “I am not sleepy.”
“Oh?” Asaph politely countered, “Were you a boy who gladly obeyed the summons to sleep?”
The king chuckled. “Far from it. But my mother would insist.”
“As must I.” Asaph bowed and added, “With your permission.”
Solomon sat up and stroked his beard. “Why is a child with such a voice laboring in silence? He would be an asset to the chorus. Shall I take him off your hands?”
Kester’s heart sank.
But Asaph only shook his head and smiled. “The quality of Kester’s singing hasn’t escaped my notice, but weigh it against a rarer gift.”
“Oh?” The king sat up, all traces of drowsiness gone. “What can your servant do?”
With unhurried poise in the face of Solomon’s keen interest, Asaph retrieved one of the scrolls. “Many voices can blend in chorus, but few can write as neatly as Kester. He has been a great help to me in collecting your father’s songs.”
Kester held his breath as Solomon scanned the lyrics.
Finally, the king sighed. “I don’t know where you found such a treasure, but you are wise to keep him close.”
Asaph bowed. “Kester is indeed precious. I continually thank God for him.”
“If I cannot take him, may I borrow him from time to time?”
Without hesitation, Asaph answered, “I can withhold nothing, my king. Ask, and it will be so.”
Solomon beckoned. “Come here, Kester.”
Slipping from his perch, he knelt amidst the pillows scattered around the king’s couch. Solomon held out hands that glittered with many rings. The unspoken command was clear, and Kester was startled by the reluctance that flared through his heart. He didn’t want to let the instrument go. But he yielded, and the king took the lion’s head harp. Setting it to the side, Solomon held out his hands again.
This time, Kester didn’t know how to respond, but Solomon took charge by catching the boy’s hands. He turned them over, casually inspecting his palms. The king found the ink smudge, on the pad of one finger and rubbed distractedly at it. “Your hands are soft, yet you play with such skill.”
Kester lowered his gaze.
“Do you prefer scribe’s work to singing?”
An honest answer might jeopardize his place, so Kester framed his answer as a question. “How can I sing your father’s psalms if I do not first apply myself to learning them?”
“Well said.” Solomon released him and sat back. With an inscrutable gaze, he said, “Calluses cannot form on hands left empty; therefore, I propose a trade.”
Kester rubbed his fingertips together, then folded his hands in his lap, waiting.
“You may play my father’s harp whenever you like. But only if you play for me.” With all the confidence of a haggler who knows he has the advantage, the king inquired, “Does my offer appeal to you?”
Kester stole a glance at his mentor.
Asaph gently prompted, “The truth.”
“Yes, my king.” Leaning forward, Kester added, “Most assuredly.”
♦ Are you more of a night owl or an early bird?
♦ Asaph and Kester certainly know more than they’re saying. Do you think the same could be said for Solomon?
♦ What kinds of things have been stirring your curiosity lately?
Author’s Note: This story is a prequel to Christa Kinde’s Threshold Series [Zonderkidz] and updates twice a week (Wednesdays and Saturdays). More information can be found on the Sage and Song index page.
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