Chapter 9: The Private Audience
Happy are your men and happy are these
your servants, who stand continually
before you and hear your wisdom!
1 KINGS 10:8 NKJV
Kester found himself numbering the ways that playing for men was different from worshiping his Maker. I cannot lose myself in songs. These melodies are not my own. Neither was the harp, but the boy was growing increasingly comfortable with its weight and its voice. The carved wood smelled faintly of beeswax and spiced oils, and the strings vibrated under his fingertips. Resonating with his soul. Sending tremors through wings he wasn’t allowed to unfurl.
Resisting the urge to improvise around one of David’s themes, Kester played them faithfully. And inadvertently caused a stir among Solomon’s many servants.
“The child! Why does he have that harp?”
“Such skill for one so young!”
“He is David all over again.”
As surprise and speculation rippled through the throne room, Kester sought Asaph’s gaze. Am I causing trouble?
His mentor offered a sleepy smile and a mental nudge. They’re right. That instrument suits you.
Reassured, Kester relaxed enough to play the songs as they were meant to be played. His throat ached slightly from holding in David’s words, but he knew better than to interrupt the proceedings. Men had come from far and wide, both to see the splendor of Solomon’s courts and to hear his opinion on matters.
What fascinated Kester was that none of them came empty-handed. Why do they give and give to one who needs no more? A set of golden goblets. Bolts of shimmering silk. Spice-drenched perfumes. Gleaming shields bearing Judah’s lion. A group of three men even led in a spirited stallion, who pranced and reared at the sight of Solomon’s lions.
All through the commotion, Kester watched and played and wondered. God favors this king. This king wishes to favor me. I have never received a gift. After further consideration, Kester struck upon a new notion. Am I a gift?
When Kester reached the final chords of “The Deer of the Dawn,” Solomon leaned down to squeeze the boy’s shoulder. “Well done,” he whispered. “But hours have passed, and the morning is gone. Shall we take a break?”
Kester’s glanced over to where Asaph waited. The captain stood by his side, and both were watching him closely.
Solomon followed his gaze, then chuckled. “I am in for a scolding.”
“From the captain?”
“And your good friend Asaph.”
Can servants scold their king? The question felt disrespectful, so Kester held his tongue. He hugged David’s harp to his chest and followed Solomon down the six steps as servants took their cue. Refreshments arrived on silver platters. A small choir took their positions just outside the throne room’s doors. While the king took his respite, his guests were offered every comfort and courtesy.
In the private room behind the throne, more servants had been busy. It was as if luxuries sprang into existence to suit the king’s every whim. Basins of water with flower petals floating on them. Covered dishes from under which steam escaped. Bowls of honeyed fruit.
Solomon waved away the soft-eyed women who hovered expectantly, then nudged Kester toward one of the low couches near the food. “Sit at my table. Eat and drink to your heart’s content. I shall withhold nothing from one who brings me joy.”
Kester was at a loss, but he obediently sank to a seat. And wilted with relief when the captain strode in with Asaph at his heels.
The old guardsman bowed with careless courtesy before announcing, “Kester’s keeper wants a word. Will you grant a private audience?”
“Certainly, Captain.” Beckoning for both men to join him at the table, Solomon spoke to Asaph. “Come, let us reason together.”
“I can be reasonable,” Kester’s mentor replied with a bow.
The captain dropped to a seat and peeked under lids until he found skewered meat. “Careful, Asaph. He’s going to try to talk you around to his way of thinking.”
Asaph’s smile was as lazy as ever. “That would be unwise.”
♦ How does your family usually show hospitality to guests?
♦ Hey, did you know that “The Deer of the Dawn” really is the title of one of David’s melodies? (Check out Psalm 22.)
♦ Kester’s never received a gift before. What would you give him, given the chance?
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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