Chapter 10: The King’s Table
Do not forsake your own friend
or your father’s friend.
PROVERBS 27:10 NKJV
“Try these,” Solomon said, pushing a dish closer to Kester. “Or don’t you like sour things?”
The boy peeked at Asaph, who gave a small shake of his head.
“You saw the face he made with the cheese,” said the captain. “Those have an even stronger flavor.”
“Perhaps they are an acquired taste,” the king conceded.
Kester sat on a plump cushion, trying to keep up with a conversation that skipped from one inconsequential thing to the next. Giving his mentor a searching look, the boy pushed a puzzled thought in his direction. He thought you would scold him.
Not during a meal, Asaph replied, amusement touching his unspoken answer. That would be rude. I’ll scold him afterward.
Why would a king accept a scribe’s scolding?
His mentor’s eyebrows lifted. Why do you think?
One swallow of a pulpy fruit juice was enough to send Kester into a fit of sneezes that left his eyes watering. Asaph whisked away the offending cup, replacing it with a goblet of cool water. The boy whispered his thanks, then stared at the flower petals floating on its surface. Am I meant to consume them?
Subtle sniffs. Small sips. Cautious nibbles. Kester did his best, but human nourishment was nothing like manna. Olives were salty. Preserved lemons were bitter. Meat smelled strongly of smoke. When Kester carefully set aside a skewer of lamb, the captain casually nicked it. At least it wouldn’t go to waste.
“What do you feed the boy?” Solomon asked. “He acts like he’s never seen an olive before.”
“Kester’s needs are adequately met, my king.” Asaph smoothly slid a piece of honeycomb onto his apprentice’s plate. “Pass the bread?”
Solomon held back his sleeve to keep it from dragging through sauced dishes as he passed Kester half a round of warm flatbread.
The captain nudged over a dish of something white and whispered, “Fish. Poached. Very mild.”
Guided by their choices, Kester sampled enough dishes to satisfy the king’s insistent generosity. And all the while, he listened closely. They are different from the rest. The boy had spent the entire morning in the throne room, watching men bow and scrape. But Asaph clearly didn’t hold the king in awe, and the captain’s remarks were barely respectful. And Solomon acted as if their behavior was perfectly normal. Understanding stirred in Kester’s soul. “I see!”
All eyes turned to him, and he grimaced apologetically.
“A moment of clarity?” asked Solomon. “Please, share your newfound wisdom!”
Asaph cheerfully posed the very same question Kester had asked him earlier. “Why would a king accept a scribe’s scolding?”
“Is that the riddle of the hour?” Solomon chuckled. “I do love riddles.”
“Go on, newbie,” urged the captain. “Tell us why.”
“He should not. And a servant has no place at the king’s table.”
Solomon and the captain traded a look, and Asaph prompted, “Unless …?”
Kester’s certainty increased tenfold, and he confidently answered, “Unless he is the king’s friend.”
♦ If you could give Kester his first taste of a new food, what would you serve him?
♦ Can you imagine being a Graft and experiencing all those flavors for the first time? What new foods have you tried lately?
♦ Who would you say knows you best?
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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