Chapter 36: The Palace Brat
“Wise planning will watch over you.
Understanding will keep you safe.”
PROVERBS 2:11 NLT
“Where are you going?” Lemuel lengthened his stride to keep up with Kester’s longer legs.
“I am uncertain.”
“If you don’t know, how come we have to run?”
With a small shake of his head, Kester explained, “I must find the song before it ends.”
“We’re chasing a song?”
The prince veered off the garden path in order to grab a stick. “You really like music.”
“Is that why they call you little David?” Lemuel caught up and swung his new weapon at passing flowers.
“I do not know.” Kester was only half paying attention. His ears sifted through the usual morning hustle-bustle around the palace, straining for any hint of a melody. “I have no say in the names people use for me.”
Kester drew up short, partly because he found himself facing a wall, but also because of Lemuel’s tone. Although the prince still batted carelessly at a shrub, his voice was tight. Is he angry? Or is this frustration? The young angel couldn’t tell, but he could listen.
“The guards call me a brat and a troublemaker.” The stick rose and fell in a steady rhythm, and the air took on the bright green smell of bruised leaves. “They’re kinder than the others.”
“Others?” Kester asked softly.
Lemuel stared fixedly at nothing. “My brothers, the princes. Other sons of my father. They call me a crybaby.”
Kester held his peace about his new friend’s nighttime whimpers.
“And the women.” Several emotions passed swiftly across the boy’s face, settling into a grim sort of resolve. Meeting Kester’s gaze, Lemuel said, “They say I’m a killer. Because my mother is dead.”
“What would you like me to call you?” Kester asked.
The young angel tried again. “What does Magdiel call you?”
“You know about my sister?”
“Only her name.” Kester lowered his voice. “You spoke in your sleep.”
“Oh.” Lemuel eyed him warily and changed the subject. “I thought you were in a hurry.”
Kester touched the cool stone barring his path. “I am supposed to continue in this direction, but I cannot pass through a wall.”
“Is that all?” Lemuel rolled his eyes and ran to the right. “This way!”
The Sending gently shifted. Kester’s destination hadn’t changed, but the way had.
Along a garden path. Behind a row of columns. Down a short flight of stairs. Lemuel ran without a backward glance, and Kester did his best to keep up. They dove into a narrow passage and clambered out a window partway through, landing in a hedge. Crawling through was a battle against knobbly roots and catching branches. Kester had to backtrack more than once to rescue his sandal and emerged in a walled garden with wild hair and dirty knees. But he could hear the singing now. A woman’s voice—rusty with age, rich with feeling.
So caught up in the faint lyrics coming from beyond the next gate, Kester didn’t notice that he and the price weren’t alone until a black-robed figure landed lightly in front of them.
Lemuel yelped, and Kester jerked backward, sprawling awkwardly amidst fragrant herbs.
Distantly recalling the captain’s frequent reminders, the young angel drew breath to holler. But a hand appeared before him, palm up in a peaceable offer of assistance.
His name sounded strange on the man’s tongue, the syllables blurred by accent. But Kester recognized the old guardsman who crouched on his toes, perfectly balanced, clearly amused. With a rush of grateful relief, Kester glanced at the prince who was once more using him as a shield. “Fear not. Ichi is a friend.”
But Lemuel glared sulkily at the white-haired man. “He’s no friend of mine.”
Ichi seemed to be hiding a smile. “This mouse finds many ways in. I am the cat who corners him.”
Looking around Kester lowered his voice to a whisper. “Are we somewhere we do not belong?”
“He is home.” Ichi’s pointing finger swung from Lemuel to Kester and gently poked his chest. “You are out of bounds.”
“Where …?” But there was only one place Asaph had forbidden Kester to go.
Ichi inclined his head. “You are nearing the king’s harem.”
Author’s Note: This story is a prequel to Christa Kinde’s Threshold Series [Zonderkidz] and updates on Mondays. 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.
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