Chapter 24: The Good Host
My child, don’t ignore it when the LORD disciplines you,
and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you.
For the LORD corrects those he loves,
just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.
PROVERBS 3:11–12 NLT
Kester hadn’t realized that the king paid any attention to which dishes he’d merely tasted and which he actually finished. Yet without fail, Solomon selected foods Kester could tolerate. Poached fish, spiced almonds, sticky-sweet honeycomb—they all found their way onto Kester’s plate.
With each addition, Kester murmured thanks and obediently ate. But he became increasingly aware of Lemuel’s sulky stare. If only the young prince would notice that his father was equally adept in choosing things for his son. Piquant cheese, mashed vegetables, smoky meats—Lemuel nibbled at them with an injured air.
“Any word about the oncoming horde?” the captain asked.
“They’re guests, not an attack force.” Solomon refilled Asaph’s glass. “And it will be at least two days before the next rider returns with a report.”
“Where will you put her?”
Nudging a platter of melon slices toward Asaph, the king replied, “In a house of her own.”
Benaiah twirled a stripped meat skewer between his fingers. “Please tell me you’re not planning to build her a palace. There’s no time.”
Solomon slipped a stuffed olive onto his son’s plate, then tore bread for Kester. “That would have been ideal, but … no.” With a sigh, the king said, “I’ll have to displace one of the princesses.”
Lemuel burst out, “Why?”
Taking the interruption in stride, Solomon said, “A good host must consider the needs of his guests, and the queen surely ….”
“Not that!” The prince thrust an accusing finger at Kester. “Why do you serve your servants?”
His father’s lips twitched. “A good host must consider the needs of his guests.”
“But these are subjects! Mere servants!”
Solomon inclined his head, “Making them my responsibility. I wouldn’t neglect those here anymore than I’d neglect the monkeys you helped me tend earlier.”
Benaiah cuffed Asaph’s shoulder. “Did you hear that? He just called us pets.”
“Hmm. An imperfect analogy, but appropriate to the moment.” Asaph toyed with his goblet. “Does that make you a camel?”
The captain’s eyes narrowed. “Says the peacock.”
Kester ducked his head to hide his smile.
Across the table, Lemuel trembled with indignation. “Don’t mock me!”
“I’m not, child.” Solomon leaned forward. “I’m enjoying the companionship of friends. These are men I trust.”
“And him?” demanded the boy, treating Kester to a sneer.
“Asaph shares him with me. Shall I share Kester with you?”
“I don’t want anything to do with a servant!”
“Truly?” Solomon’s expression sharpened. “You envy his place.”
Lemuel wailed, “Because you treat him better than me!”
Silence ruled over the table for a tense minute. Then the king said, “Shall I hold court here and now? Tell me how I have neglected you.”
His son paled.
Gentling his tone somewhat, Solomon said, “Ask, for I can withhold nothing from my beloved son. Teach me how to please you so there can be peace between us.”
“Why should I?” the prince mumbled. “Aren’t you supposed to know everything.”
Solomon glanced at Benaiah, who made a gesture Kester couldn’t interpret. But the king squared his shoulders and let his voice ring from the walls. “Am I not Solomon the Wise? Am I not blessed by heaven itself to lead the children of Israel? So be it, child. Will you bow to my superior wisdom?”
His bravado gone, Lemuel retreated into silence.
“You wish to compare yourself to this boy? So be it.” Solomon looked to Asaph as he continued, “From this day forward, you will walk where Kester walks, live as he lives. Asaph, may I impose upon you?”
“Can I withhold anything from my king? Ask and it will be so.”
Lemuel’s eyes darted from face to face. Kester was similarly uneasy with the direction the king was taking.
Solomon turned to Benaiah. “Lemuel will be removed from his place in the palace. See that he’s quartered with Asaph.”
“I can handle that,” the captain said.
Asaph said, “My king, you are generous. With two apprentices, my burden will be lighter.”
Kester was positive his mentor was teasing. But Solomon wasn’t.
Lemuel managed a feeble squeak of protest, but his father cut him off. “Today you and Kester are the same in all respects. I have made you the servant of my servant Asaph.”
“I don’t want t–”
Solomon held up a warning finger. “Respect him. Obey him.” To Benaiah, he added, “Watch him.”
The captain blandly repeated, “I can handle that.”
♦ Are there lessons we can learn by drawing comparisons?
♦ What’s the danger in comparing?
♦ Anyone else looking forward to what’ll happen next? : 3
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.