Chapter 20: The Foreign Delegation
“And his fame was in all the surrounding nations.”
1 KINGS 4:31
Asaph didn’t comment on Kester’s piggy-back arrival, nor did he ask why his apprentice returned to his post at the bottom of the stairs. Instead, he traded a long look with Benaiah. Returning to his work with a sleepy smile, Asaph’s thoughts nudged Kester’s mind. Is your hope restored?
The captain excused himself, murmuring something about grilled meat.
“Do you need help?” Kester asked.
“Stay put, newbie,” the old man replied. “You’re where you belong.”
Kester pulled his legs up, wrapping his arms around them and resting his chin on his knees. The king is coming. He will be here soon. And in the morning, he will call for me, and I will sit at the foot of his throne and play. Not many minutes passed before Kester heard footfalls in the hall above. He bounced up, thinking to help the captain with whatever food he’d procured, only to find Solomon smiling down at him.
Letting a lumpy pack drop to the floor with a muffled clank, the king mussed up Kester’s hair in his usual way. Then he startled the boy by pulling him into an enthusiastic hug. Kester’s nose collided with embroidered robes, and Solomon cheerfully addressed Asaph. “Did you know your boy was at the gate to greet me?”
“The captain mentioned something of the sort.”
“Strangest thing I ever saw. Bleak didn’t budge a hoof, even though Kester was right under his nose.”
“Your stallion?” Asaph set aside his work and strolled over. “The one that terrorizes the stable boys?”
“The very one.”
“Then I’m grateful my apprentice is safely returned. But aren’t you early my king? No one was looking for your return until the middle of next week.”
Solomon hummed an affirmative. “Events took an unexpected turn.”
The captain returned then, balancing a tray of food in one hand while hefting a wineskin under his other arm. “Welcome home, my king.” Benaiah rolled his eyes significantly at Kester before adding, “You were missed.”
“Oh?” Solomon beamed down at Kester. “Did you think of me?”
Releasing his young servant, the king retrieved his bundle. “I brought you something!”
Kester edged closer. “You thought of me?”
“Regularly!” Solomon fished around in the pack, muttering, “Not this one. Where …? Ah! No, wait. I know I put it in here somewhere.”
Curiosity had Kester up on tiptoe. He really couldn’t imagine what the king might have chosen.
“There, now!” Solomon exclaimed, freeing an item that flashed in the lamplight. “What do you think?”
Kester’s eyes widened as the king presented a delicate instrument wrought from polished silver.
“Can you play the pipes?” inquired the king.
“I would like to try.” Kester held out both hands. “May I?”
“Certainly,” Solomon said, all indulgence. “They’re yours after all.”
With a sense of awe, Kester took the gift and inspected its many holes. A gift. For me. He raised the instrument to his lips and puffed, producing a tremulous note. Kester tried again, pulling an off-key shriek from the pipes. Rearranging his fingers, the boy searched for more pleasing notes.
Captivated by the musical puzzle Solomon had presented, Kester almost missed the conversation happening over his head. But the captain’s sharp tone snagged his attention. “They intercepted you on the road?”
“Nothing like that. Their swiftest runner came in advance of the main company,” Solomon explained. “After word of our arrival reached him, he found us in the governor’s residence.”
“How long do we have?” Asaph asked.
Solomon tugged at his beard. “Another fortnight at least. A month if we’re fortunate.”
Kester asked, “Someone is coming?”
“A foreign delegation,” the king replied.
“Will you offer them hospitality?”
“We will welcome our guests in fine style.” Solomon flung his arms wide, then bowed with a flourish. “Sparing no expense! Holding nothing back!”
Asaph interjected, “Despite the short notice?”
Solomon chuckled. “As you may recall, I like a challenge!”
Kester still didn’t understand, and he looked to Benaiah for some hint.
The captain helpfully remarked, “It’s not every day a queen comes to call.”
♦ Which do you like better, a king or a queen?
♦ Can you name any favorite royal personages from books?
♦ How would you prepare for a royal entourage?
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.