Chapter 22: The Royal Treatment
In a multitude of people is a king’s honor, But
in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince.
PROVERBS 14:28 NKJV
Kester recalled himself enough to lower his head before the king’s son. At that moment, the ring-tailed monkey in Lemuel’s hands sprang free, landing on Kester’s shoulder. Solomon laughed at his pet’s antics, but the other boy scowled.
Although Kester tried to give it back, the wee imp clung to him, mussing his hair and crooning monkey-nonsense.
Lemuel turned his back on monkey, lion, and king alike, stomping his way to the throne room.
For the remainder of the morning, Kester sat at Solomon’s feet with the lion’s head harp in his lap. He played David’s melodies—low and sweet—while men from far and near visited the king’s court, bringing their gifts or their troubles. And all the while, Lemuel sat upon a regal cushion, attended by two minders. Kester couldn’t tell if they were teachers, bodyguards, or a bit of both, but every time Lemuel squirmed, they’d pinch or poke him. And with each stern word they put in the prince’s ear, he’d shoot increasingly surly looks in Kester’s direction.
When a break was called, Solomon strolled over to Lemuel, and while the king spoke with his son’s companions, the boy favored Kester with a haughty glance. Almost as if he’d won some victory.
“What did you do to yon princeling?”
Kester stirred and searched the captain’s lined face. Do? Hugging the harp to his chest, he slowly replied, “It was not my intention to give offense, but … his discontent seemed to begin when I was shown favor by Mauler.”
“The lion’s favorite?” Benaiah glanced at the big cat, whose half-lidded eyes shone like liquid amber. “Not the king’s favored one?”
“He is a prince. King Solomon’s own son.”
“One of many,” Benaiah countered. “Lemuel’s lost in a crowd.”
Kester’s eyes returned thoughtfully to Solomon. “His father loves him.”
“That’s the way it should be.”
“And you love him.”
“Oh?” The old man’s gaze sharpened. “What makes you think so?”
“You know his name.” Kester rubbed his fingertips lightly over taut harpstrings. “And you were one of many.”
“One of the Thirty.” He smirked. “But also one of the thousands. Everybody loved David.”
“Is that why you understand Lemuel?”
“Maybe so. And maybe now you do, too.”
Kester leaned back against the throne, stretching his legs far enough to tuck his toes under Mauler’s cushion. “Would an apology be appropriate?”
“Nope. Total insult.” Benaiah eased himself to the floor at Kester’s side. “Especially now that the brat’s marked you as a rival.”
Uncertainty slipped into Kester’s heart, bringing uneasiness along with it. “But I’m a servant with no rank.”
“Trust me. You don’t need rank to have something another man will covet. And you have more than you realize.”
“Let’s make a list, shall we? A place at the king’s side. A treasure beyond compare,” Benaiah said, rapping a knuckle lightly against David’s harp. “A talent few can match. A voice fit for heaven itself. And the innocence to think himself unremarkable.”
Kester fidgeted. “I do not want attention.”
The captain jerked his thumb at the throne they were both using as a backrest. “Welcome to center stage.”
“It was not my intention to ….”
“Yeah, kid. I know.”
At that point, Kester realized that Benaiah wasn’t simply keeping him company. He continually scanned the room, and some of his scowls were nearly as dark as Lemuel’s. Shrinking slightly into the guardsman’s side, the boy asked, “Am I in danger?”
A grunt. A sigh. And an answer that didn’t answer anything. “Just be careful, Kester. You’ve made good friends, but because of us, you might make bitter enemies.”
“Because of you?”
The old man offered a tight smile. “Any king’s favor is a blade with two edges. It can protect you, but the closer you’re kept, the deeper you’ll be cut when his enemies try to pry you away.”
Kester whispered, “What should I do?”
“About Lemuel? No idea.” Benaiah shrugged. “But otherwise, it’s the same as I said before. You been practicing that holler?”
“Keep it in mind, newbie. Just in case.”
♦ Why do you suppose “royal” has its share of insulting connotations?
♦ Do you have a rival? Can rivalry be good?
♦ How about sibling rivalry? Do you get along with your brothers and/or sisters?
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.