Chapter 18: The High Horse
Also Solomon had horses imported from Egypt.
1 KINGS 10:28
Kester hung back, unsure what to make of the confusion at the gate. Heavy doors swung on well-oiled hinges to admit the king and his general. Soldiers rushed into line, and their captain sent runners in the direction of the palace and stables. Moments later, Solomon’s stallion clattered through the gate, closely followed by his general’s. Both horses pranced and wheeled.
“Concede!” Solomon exclaimed. “You were both overridden and outridden!”
In aggrieved tones, his general said, “My lord the king is as swift as he is confident. But I cannot ensure your safety if you embrace recklessness.”
Solomon laughed. “Are you questioning my wisdom?”
The man lapsed into tight-lipped silence.
A squat building against the city wall emptied, effectively tripling the guard. Their torches cast wavering shadows on white limestone, and their leader handed down orders in a gruff undertone. Kester eyed the crowd of men uneasily. All of them seemed to be well acquainted with their king, for they offered greetings. He could hear Solomon asking after one man’s family, then another’s upcoming wedding. Are these not enough to welcome the king? More and more, Kester felt unneeded.
“If you dawdle, you’ll miss your chance,” said Benaiah. “Solomon can’t see you from here.”
Taking a deep breath, Kester entered the fray. He sidled past tall soldiers, working his way closer to the two horses.
One of the bodyguards stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Are you from the stables?”
“I am not.”
The man’s eyes dropped to Kester’s golden arm band, and he released the boy. Attention straying to a point beyond the busy gate, he muttered, “They’re taking their time.”
Kester slipped away, weaving between guardsmen who dismissed him with similar disinterest. As soon as the boy was close enough, he caught the creak of leather and jingle of harnesses. The stallions were still breathing hard from their run, their nostrils flaring as their sides heaved. Kester didn’t fear the horses, but his toes curled when the king’s mount swung around, dancing closer on polished hooves. Suddenly, the young angel found himself nose-to-muzzle with the beast.
“Fear not,” he whispered. “I am also a friend of the king.”
The stallion nickered softly, then proceeded to lip Kester’s hair. Which drew his rider’s attention. Solomon did a double-take and leaned sideways. “Kester?”
“My king,” he replied, offering a small smile. “Welcome home.”
Surprise melted into delight, and Solomon reached down. Rings glittered on the fingers that wiggled demandingly. Kester stepped closer and clasped his hand.
“Jump!” Solomon ordered.
Kester sprang, and the king used his momentum to haul the boy across his saddle. A short scramble found him straddling the tall horse, who tossed his mane and shifted his weight from foot to foot. Sitting astride a powerful animal was unexpectedly unnerving. Do I hold onto the horse or the king?
He was still desperately searching for a handhold when Benaiah suddenly appeared at the king’s knee, one hand resting on the stallion’s neck. “Easy, now. Easy,” he soothed.
“So it was you? Did you bring him down here, Captain?” asked Solomon.
“As it happens, Kester and I were out for a stroll.” With a vague gesture, the old guardsman said, “Imagine our surprise at finding you here.”
“So this is happenstance?” the king asked blandly. “Yet again.”
Benaiah’s brows arched. “Let’s call it providence. After all, God directs the steps of His servants.”
Solomon grumbled, “I can find no other explanation for your uncanny ability to turn up at my side whenever you’re needed.”
Benaiah’s gaze sharpened. “Is there a need?”
When Solomon didn’t immediately answer, Kester tipped his head back, trying to see the king’s face.
The king’s tight smile didn’t reach his eyes. “There is always a need for a man to surround himself with true friends. Find me in my rooms.”
“I will.” Benaiah caught Kester’s eye and asked, “Ever been on a horse, newbie?”
Kester managed a tiny headshake.
“Then I should warn you. Riding a fine steed with a reckless man is like flying.” The captain smirked. “Hold tight.”
♦ Has anything providential happened in your life lately? Do tell!
♦ Have you ever been on a horse?
♦ Knowing what you already know about adult Kester, do you think he’ll enjoy his first ride?
Author’s Note: This story is a prequel to Christa Kinde’s Threshold Series [Zonderkidz] and updates on Thursdays. More information can be found on the Sage and Song index page. Sage and Song, © Copyright 2015 Christa Kinde, all rights reserved. If you want to receive an email whenever my stories update, subscribe to this blog. You can also watch for notifications on Twitter.