Chapter 31: The False Witness
Give the king Your judgments, O God,
And Your righteousness to the king’s Son.
PSALM 72:1 NKJV
The prince whispered, “Why?”
Kester glanced back at him, trying to discern the nature of his inquiry. “These women are in disagreement. Your father will undoubtedly judge between them.”
“I know that,” Lemuel muttered, squirming closer. “I don’t like that baby.”
“Perhaps the mother’s distress has frightened the child.”
“Not that one. The other one.”
So he’d noticed as well. There were two babies—one whose wails echoed off the throne room walls, and one whose silence put a quaver in Lemuel’s voice.
“Yes,” said Kester. “That one is no longer here.”
“Why would they bring death into the palace? Father cannot raise the dead.”
While Kester didn’t fear death for the same reasons as humans, he disliked its taint and the loneliness that accompanied separation. Turning to wrap an arm around Lemuel’s shoulder, Kester whispered, “Fear not.”
“I’m not afraid.”
The prince scowled, but he didn’t pull away, so neither did Kester. “But you don’t like that baby.”
“Why?” Lemuel probably didn’t realize that he still had a hold on Kester’s shirt, nor that his trembling betrayed more than he wanted to admit. Turning further, so he blocked the prince’s view of the room, Kester quietly repeated, “Why?”
“What if they brought sickness? What if it takes Father?”
The argument turned shrill, but Solomon boomed a command. Mauler added a roar, as if for emphasis, and even the squalling baby was startled into silence. The king’s voice easily carried to the farthest corner of the room. “Take a reasonable tone, and I will hear you out. Both of you.” Indicating the first woman, he asked, “Why are you here?”
“This dreadful creature—one I foolishly counted as dear as a sister—is full of lies. She claims I murdered her son, and she wants to take away my precious child.”
“Murder?” The king’s gaze dropped to the limp bundle in the second woman’s arms. Kester saw sadness flicker through his eyes, but Solomon only said, “Is that the way of things, woman?”
“No! She’s lying! Make her give back my son!”
Sorrow ached in Kester’s soul, for the dispute was a mire of sin. Under Solomon’s close questioning, the women admitted to having no husbands. They shared a room in one of the shrines below the palace, where they lived as harlots. Both had recently given birth to sons, and by all appearances, one had been accidentally smothered.
“She traded our children in the night!” The second woman’s frustrated sobs made her words hard to understand. “Oh, this is horrible! Please, believe me! He’s all I have!”
Tears. Anger. Accusation. But both women told the same story. The living child belonged to them, and the dead child belonged to the other.
“Not a sickness,” Kester relayed to Lemuel, who blinked several times.
Kester shook his head. “An accident. Cause for sorrow, but not for fear.”
“I wasn’t afraid,” he muttered, daring to peek out.
Murmurs rippled through the gathered crowd, for many in the throne room had an opinion on the matter. Some believed the first woman, who spoke with such confidence. Some believed the second, who dashed away her tears with a trembling hand.
How will the king decide? Every eye in the room turned to Solomon, but Kester wasn’t prepared for the king’s stony expression.
“You want fairness? So be it.” Solomon stood and trust his hand toward the nearest guard. “Give me your sword.”
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 2015–2016 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.