Chapter 29: The Stone Basin
The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.
PROVERBS 4:18 NLT
Morning arrived, and Lemuel slept on, heedless of dawn and the duties of servants. Kester eased his shoulder out from under the prince’s head and left the bed.
A Messenger must have already come and gone, for Asaph presented him with his share of morning manna. Concern gave way to amusement as Asaph remarked, “You look decidedly harried. What have you done to your hair?”
Kester bowed his head as his mentor tugged at his mussed curls. “Is this not appropriate?”
“Very authentic,” Asaph blandly assured. “Ah, well. I dare say you have time to bathe. Eat, and I’ll bring a basin.”
“I apologize,” Kester mumbled when Asaph returned.
“No need.” Fragrant steam rose from the heavy stone basin in his hands, and the sleepy smile was back. “Your attention to detail will serve us well. And fussing is a mentor’s privilege.”
Kester’s eyes widened when Asaph’s hair shifted from black to vivid blue. The boy shot an uneasy look in the direction of their sleeping guest, but his mentor’s unfurling wings banished him from view.
“What if he wakes?” asked Kester.
“Peace, child. He won’t.”
Worshipers usually groomed in pairs or even groups, for the intricacy of their wings made the task formidable. Yet lovely. Kester unfurled and gave his kaleidoscope wings a gentle shake. High, sweet notes twinkled, and light scattered in rainbow hues.
Time stood still as Asaph helped Kester tend to his wings and tame his hair. Wrapped up in lessons and lyrics, news and notes, Kester forgot all about the prince, the king, and the risk of discovery. He had his Maker, his mentor, and a song. What could be better?
‘I will show you.’
Although there was no censure in his Maker’s tone, Kester’s wings trembled. Had God Most High found him lacking? What was in store? But He offered no further insight or instruction.
Asaph brought Kester back down to earth. “If you don’t rouse our sleeping prince, you’ll both be late. Solomon is expecting you.”
“But I sat at his feet yesterday.”
Had Asaph forgotten? Kester tentatively rehearsed the particulars of their arrangement. “I am only permitted to attend the king every other morning, and not on the Sabbath.”
His mentor furled his wings and calmly said, “I have two apprentices now. My lord the king believes that with the extra help, I should be able to spare you more often. I’ll release you into the king’s service every morning except the seventh.”
“Truly?” Kester’s fingers flexed in anticipation of taking up David’s harp once more.
Asaph hummed an affirmative. “Wake Lemuel, and the two of you can be on your way.”
Hurrying to obey, Kester knelt beside the sleeping platform and shook the prince’s shoulder.
Lemuel turned away, pulling his blankets up around his ears.
“Morning has come. We must begin our day.” The only answer he received was a squinting glare. But Lemuel seemed more sleepy than angry, so Kester tried again. “Sit up.”
He complied, though he drooped in a dramatic fashion. Can humans sleep sitting up? That might make things easier. Kester retrieved the stone basin and dipped his fingers into tepid water that still shone with heavenly light. But he hesitated. Should I go for well water instead?
Asaph sat at his worktable, back in human guise and copying a text. Without looking up from his work, he said, “Go ahead and minister to him, Kester. Our prince is unlikely to notice anything out of the ordinary. His eyes are closed.”
To the truth or to the brightness of the day? Either way, Kester forged ahead. With damp hands, he patted at Lemuel’s fuzzed and matted hair, coaxing it into better order. For the first time, he noticed that the golden circlet was missing. Had it been confiscated? Could a prince be demoted?
Lemuel sat in listless docility. At first. Nose twitching, he mumbled, “What smells nice?”
“You,” Kester answered.
The prince yawned and blinked, then focused on Kester’s face. His brow furrowed. “You don’t belong to us.”
Still fussing with Lemuel’s unruly curls, Kester offered reminders in polite tones. “You have been given as an apprentice to Asaph, who is my mentor. I am called Kester. The captain brought you to us last night.”
Lemuel stiffened and leaned away. “I know that.”
Kester inclined his head. “We must hurry to the throne room.”
“To see father?”
The prince’s expression turned skeptical. “Two days in a row?”
Sitting back on his heels, Kester shook his head. “Every day except the Sabbath.”
“He called for me?” Lemuel’s gaze skidding briefly to Asaph on the other side of the room. In a rushed whisper, he asked, “Every day? Are you sure?”
“Most assuredly,” he repeated, wondering why the news caused so much doubt.
Lemuel scrambled out of bed and hastily pulled on his robe, his sandals, and his sneer. “I will obey my father, even if it means going with you.”
All the way to the throne room, Kester wondered which Lemuel to believe—the haughty prince or the boy who’d whimpered and clung through the night.
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.