Chapter 21: The Other Boy
He who blesses his friend with a loud voice,
rising early in the morning,
It will be counted a curse to him.
PROVERBS 27:14 NKJV
Early the following morning, Kester presented himself to Ichi at the rear entrance to the throne room. The foreign guardsman’s dark eyes glittered. “You are early, pet.”
“For loud voices and song, too early. For feeding birds and monkeys, good.”
Kester tapped his chest and asked, “Will I be welcome?”
Ichi solemnly unlocked the gate and let it swing wide on silent hinges. “Ask the one who always knows the answers.”
Whispering his thanks, Kester hurried along the passage. He was soon surrounded by the beauty of Solomon’s private garden, with its abundance of fruit and flowers. Half a dozen servants moved from cage to cage, cleaning and replenishing dishes of food and water. Solomon was there as well, with sleeves rolled back, coaxing one of the tiny monkeys into his hand with a bit of fruit.
Kester took a step forward, eager to announce himself, but then the king turned enough for him to see that there was a different boy at his side. Talking in soothing tones, Solomon placed the wee pet in the other boy’s hands.
Another servant? This would be the first time he would have to share the king’s attention with anyone other than Asaph or Benaiah. Kester hung back and watched, only to realize that the boy was also hanging back. Tense. Guarded. Is he afraid of the king? But why? Perhaps the animals made him uneasy. After all, the attendants had begun leading the lionesses into the throne room.
The new boy seemed close to Kester’s own apparent age, though he wasn’t as tall. His skin wasn’t as dark as Solomon’s, and his black hair hung in loose curls around slim shoulders. Although he wasn’t dressed much differently than the other servants, Kester couldn’t see any sign of an arm band. Maybe he was new. That might explain the his moodiness.
Just then, one of the lions—the big male who usually sat to the right of Solomon’s throne—pulled free of his handler. Instead of following the rest of his pride into the throne room, he strolled purposefully toward Kester.
“No, wait!” exclaimed one servant.
Another called, “Look out!”
Solomon turned in time to see the lion butt his head against Kester’s chest, toppling him onto his backside. The lion yawned and sprawled across the young angel’s lap, pinning him in place. Unsure what else to do, the young angel patted his mane and gently tugged his ears.
“Kester!” Solomon exclaimed, rushing over. But one look at the lazing lion, and the king’s deep laughter filled the garden. With a wide smile, he asked, “Do you need help?”
“Please,” Kester gasped. “Mauler is heavy.”
Solomon looped his hands under Kester’s arms and dragged him backwards, then set him on his feet. “You’re remarkably calm. Most boys are afraid of my lion and his ladies.”
“He will not harm me.” Absently brushing at his tunic and pants, Kester added, “We are well acquainted.”
“Speaking of acquaintances! Let me introduce you.” Solomon took him by the shoulders and steered him toward the other boy, whose full lips were set in a pout of confusion.
Now that he was closer, Kester could see that his eyes were light brown, and instead of an arm band, he wore a thin circlet of gold across his forehead. When the boy’s gaze fell to Kester’s arm band, his curiosity faded to flat disdain.
Solomon said, “Lemuel, this is Kester.”
“A servant,” the boy said dismissively.
“A friend, if you are wise.” The king gently squeezed Kester’s shoulders and finished the introductions. “Kester, this is Lemuel, youngest son of the bride of my youth. She was my beloved, and he is mine.”
Fun Fact: Lemuel’s name is borrowed from Proverbs 31 and means “devoted to God.”
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.