Chapter 4: The Wrong Turn
I don’t want you ending up in blind alleys, or wasting
time making wrong turns. Hold tight to good advice;
Don’t relax your grip. Guard it well—your life is at stake!
PROVERBS 4:12–13 MSG
Kester hesitated at a turning. Am I supposed to continue along the colonnade or cross this courtyard? The sprawling home of Israel’s king was extravagant in every detail. Lush gardens. Shapely columns. Detailed carvings. This way? With a pensive glance at the sky, Kester darted across the open square and through the opposite archway. A row of potted palms seemed vaguely familiar, but he was far from confident. If only Asaph had been invited.
Before parting the night before, Solomon had said, “Come to me in the morning, before the gates open and men flood my courts. Come early, and I will be waiting. With the harp, and with something more.”
The invitations of kings were as good as commands, but Kester dearly wished that Solomon had been more specific. I must go to him, but where do I go? Being sent for is nothing like being Sent.
Kester had been all over the palace and even into the surrounding city, but always when Sent after some snippet of song. At times like that, the way was bright before him, and in his eagerness to reach his destination, he paid little attention to his surroundings. There and back. Safe and sure. But this time, he was lost and late.
Is this the same fountain I passed earlier? As the sun gained strength, hammered gold took on a warm luster. Kester trailed his fingers along a column of exquisite workmanship. Almond blossoms and pomegranates wove their way up to sprays of palm fronds at the finial. He was neither impressed nor bothered by the palace’s grandeur, which fell short of heaven’s glories. Riches were one thing, but reputation was another. And Solomon’s good opinion was something Kester wished to keep.
The next passage brought him to a wide staircase that led down into a garden where peacocks roosted in the branches of fruit trees. A winding path overhung with flowering vines took the boy to the top of a terraced slope, which was dotted with small buildings. Smoke drifted into the air, but it didn’t smell like cookfires.
An odd muskiness overtook his senses, and rising incense barely covered the slick-sweet stench of decay. Kester covered his nose and mouth, sick at heart and to his stomach. When the heavy drone of deep voices took up a chant, the boy clamped his hands over his ears. Wrong. All wrong! This is wrong!
He reached for Asaph with his thoughts, crying out, I am lost.
His mentor calmly answered, Fear not. Help is near.
Kester shuffled backward and found another path leading away from the unholy clamor. He retreated along the shaded alley only to run up against a dead end. I am lost, he repeated, hugging himself to stop from trembling. And I am afraid.
Suddenly, a hand closed around Kester’s arm. He wrenched and wriggled, but a familiar voice cut through his panic.
“Take it easy, newbie.”
The tall guardsman. The one Asaph had called trustworthy. Kester stopped trying to get away, but he couldn’t stop shaking. “C-captain,” he stammered, eyes watering.
“Didn’t I tell you to holler if you ran into trouble?”
Kester crowded close to the old man, using him as a shield. “I am lost.”
“Figured as much,” he said kindly. “This is no place for a child who worships God Most High.”
“What are those places?” he asked shakily.
“Shrines and temples to foreign gods.”
“H-here? Within sight of His footstool.”
Indignation flickered briefly across the captain’s face. “Solomon has wives from all over the place. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that their husband was using his wealth to build a magnificent house for Israel’s God. They pitched a fit, saying it wasn’t fair, and demanded their own places of worship. At first, Solomon refused, but all their weeping and whining wore him out. So he decided to be generous. He tolerates their idolatry so he can have a little peace.”
Kester understood then. The enemy is there. They have a foothold within the palace.
“Don’t come this way again,” the captain said. “It’s not safe for a little guy like you.”
“I have no wish to return.”
“I’ll teach you which paths are safe, but that’s a lesson for another day.” The captain straightened and offered his hand. “Come on, Kester.”
Accepting the clasp, he held tight. “Can you lead me to the king?”
“You got it,” the captain replied. “Solomon’s throne room is this way.”
♦ Do you prefer to travel by freeway or by back roads? Why?
♦ Have you ever been lost? How did you find your way back?
♦ How do you suppose someone as wise as Solomon could have ended up compromising his beliefs?
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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