THE HEART OF A KING (Part 4)

It was quite late in the night when David arrived in the city. The gates had been opened for them and they slowly trudged toward the Palace, their mounts weary with hunger and exertion. David was himself hungry and tired although he kept silent. He had kept himself busy on the long journey reciting the Law of Moses in his head and composing new songs to Yahweh.

They passed sections of the city filled with the stench of waste and rotting food, corners where shadowed beings huddled next to small fires to keep warm. David wondered at how God’s own city could house so many wretched and be interspersed with pockets of filth. They crossed the gates of the Palace and David saw before him the grandest structure he had ever seen – a wonder of pillars and marble, carvings and climbing plants. The fragrance of jasmine and other spices wafted through the air and David thought himself to be in another world entirely.

As they disembarked from their horses, one of the officials spoke to him. “You will be taken in to wash yourself and you will be given a change of clothing. The King will want to see you tonight. You are not to speak to him unless spoken to and you will behave with utmost courtesy. Whatever you do, try not to behave like a country bumpkin.”

It was at the tip of David’s tongue to reply that King Saul himself emerged from humble beginnings, but he thought better of it. There was no need to antagonize anyone so early in the day. He maintained a calm façade even as he was led to what he was told would be his chamber for the duration of his stay. The room was an assortment of rich hues and textures; smooth glazed floor tiles overlaid with thick, colorful rugs, exquisite tapestries hanging on the smooth walls, and beautifully molded ornaments arranged on carved stools. A tray laden with delicacies lay on a stool and David took a handful of raisins, dates and nuts to stave off his hunger.

He was soon ushered into a chamber with a large tub filled with warm water and little flasks of oil placed by the side. The steward discreetly retreated as David bathed. When he came out, he saw fresh linen clothing laid for him on his pallet and he put them on, picked up his brass harp and came out of the room. A guard was waiting for him and led him to the Throne Room.

The immense hall was held up by large pillars on either side, the floor polished so it shone to the point that David could see his reflection. There was an eerie silence in the hallway, the only sounds being the echo of the trickle of water from the gardens outside. King Saul sat in the Throne at the end of the hall, his countenance somewhat pensive as he stroked his beard with one hand and rubbed the arm of the throne with the other.

David walked up to the Throne and bowed low as the official introduced him to the King. David didn’t raise his head until he was spoken to.

“Rise, young man…” Saul’s deep voice resonated through the hall, bouncing off the pillars.

David raised his head and found himself looking into the deep blue eyes of King Saul, who was said to be the most handsome man in all of Israel. It was evident that he was very tall and his build made for battle. Yet there was a hint of something disturbing about him, a sense of disquiet and David felt it almost immediately, his spirit being very sensitive to the environment. There was something not quite right with Saul. He exuded nervous energy, and his eyes radiated inner torment.

David answered calmly. “My lord honours me with his request for me to serve him. May the king live forever.”

“Ah yes…you are the one they told me of…the one of valor and great skill. You are said to be prudent of speech and a man that pleases Yahweh…”

“I make no such claim, my lord…but I shall serve you in any way I can and I pray that Yahweh give me wisdom and diligence to do so.”

Saul laughed aloud and shook his head.“Very wise answer, my boy.Wise enough to ensure you keep your head on your neck, eh?”  Saul gave a wry look as he continued to speak. “You are much like my son Jonathan, whom you will certainly meet during your stay here. I hear you play the harp well. I like music. It…soothes me from my…distractions…”

David looked up and once again he saw the turmoil in Saul’s eyes, the glazed look that had come over. The soldier beside David shifted uneasily as Saul began to murmur incoherently, his eyes staring off into the nowhere, his fists clenching and unclenching nervously. Saul was rumoured to be plagued by a demon, and David was certain that this was what was happening at that very moment. Discreetly he brought out his harp and began to strum a tune he had improvised. The notes flowed out effortlessly bringing to mind the bubbling brooks of the hill country and the chirping birds, the hum of women fetching water from the well and children laughing as they ran through the village square. David began to sing, his voice blending with the music. He sang of Yahweh’s goodness, mercy and love. He sang of creation – blossoms and leaves, lions and sheep, love and innocence.

David-Playing-The-Harp-Before-SaulSaul relaxed visibly after a few moments and closed his eyes, breathing evenly and deeply in sleep. David sang for some time after that until Saul woke up abruptly and with a smile, bade David goodnight as he rose from the Throne and exited the great room with his entourage in tow. David took that as his cue to return to his bedchamber where he fell into a deep and exhausted sleep.

* * *

The next few days were spent mostly in the Throne Room with Saul, talking with him and playing the harp. Saul was a man deeply troubled, his heart far away from Yahweh, David saw. David kept himself from the other servants in the Palace, content to serve Saul and spend his free time in his room with the windows overlooking the city of Gibeah. He felt the presence of Yahweh very strongly and prayed on a daily basis.

On a balmy evening, when it seemed as though there was no air in his room, he ventured outside to the Palace Gardens in a bid to get some fresh air. It was almost sundown and he had been dismissed from the Throne Room earlier, and so has some free time for himself.

He marveled at the variety of flora available for the pleasure of those living in the palace. Heady scents mixed with sharper citrus fragrances, causing his head to swirl. The colors ranged from the lightest green to the brightest scarlet of blossoms, and the birds still continued to chirp in readiness for the slumber ahead. David located a carved bench underneath a squat palm tree and sat down. He closed his eyes and began to hum, his mind going back to his flock in Bethlehem and the grip of homesickness coming over him.

“Why do you look so forlorn?” A voice, soft and haunting, broke into his thoughts.

David opened his eyes. Before him stood the most beautiful young woman he had ever seen in his life. Her hair was as dark as coal, waves cascading down her back and held away from her face by jewel encrusted pins. Her face was exquisite with slanted, dark-rimmed eyes of the sharpest blue he had ever seen, somewhat similar to those of Saul. Her mouth was stained red as with the juice of pomegranates and her nose small and dainty; her face as yet unlined with the ravages of time as he deduced her to be between fifteen and seventeen years of age. There was a deeply tanned man of slight build standing some distance from her; no doubt a eunuch charged with her security. David stood up slowly, knowing she was certainly born of nobility and wishing to show respect.

She tipped her head slightly and raised her eyebrow.“You have not answered me…”

“I am not forlorn. I was just thinking about home and –”

“And you wish you were there? Tell me, does someone await you?” she asked.

He was struck by her confidence and forwardness. Something about her reminded him of someone, although he couldn’t remember who just yet. She walked towards him languidly and he had to make an effort to stop the roiling in his stomach, so aware was he of her all-encompassing femininity. She moved with the grace of a cat, her body seeming to glide as she walked. David felt a rush of heat in his stomach, accompanied by a keen longing and he muttered a prayer under his breath for self control.

“No one, my lady. I have family but I am sure they are doing well without me.”

She formed her lips into a pout. “So no one misses you? I find that hard to believe.” Then she smiled.“Oh…but I am remiss. I must introduce myself. I am Princess Michal, daughter of King Saul of Israel.”

Now he understood where she got those eyes…and the carriage. He bowed before her.“I am David of the House of Jesse of Bethlehem, your humble servant.”

“David…” she said and it sounded like a sigh and a promise at the same time. She raised her eyes to meet his and for an instant there was a crackle between them, like lightning, and David knew that if he did not tread carefully, she could change his destiny in the days to come. That she possessed an element of danger was evident and yet something in his innermost parts yearned for the challenge in her eyes.

“I have heard much about you, David. I hear that you are a warrior and that you are also a musician, an odd combination for one hardly ever thinks of the two together.”

“I have not fought in battle, my lady, and so I fear the title of ‘warrior’ may be a little exaggerated…”

She crooked her eyebrow in question. “But you are said to have slain a bear and a lion with no sword…” David nodded slowly.“Then you are indeed a warrior,” she said, and then as an afterthought, added, “And most likely a man who approaches all he does with fervor and strength.”

The double entendre was not lost of David and he was aware of the conversation taking a turn he was uncomfortable with. Indeed his inner response to this woman was even more complicated. He had to put some distance between them, and fast. He looked around, and spying the well-built man hovering in the distance, whom he assumed to be a palace eunuch and Michal’s bodyguard, nodded in his direction.“Perhaps you should be going inside, my lady. The evening air may turn chilly and cause you harm.”

“You dare to give me orders, David?” she replied, her eyes glinting with chagrin, her chin going up and her voice taking on a haughty tone.

“I wouldn’t be so presumptuous to do so, my lady. I am merely concerned that you do not mar your loveliness by catching a chill…not to mention the fact that His Highness the King may not appreciate my speaking to his daughter without the presence of a female servant or appropriate chaperone. I wouldn’t want to bring his displeasure upon you.”

She chuckled, obviously pleased at the compliment and her ire was momentarily mollified. “You think me lovely, do you, David? Oh, very well then, I shall go inside promptly.”

She stepped back and with a swish of silks, linens and perfume, swayed out of the garden, calling over her shoulder, “We shall meet again, David of the House of Jesse.”

And he knew they would. He stood staring after her long after the rich scent of her perfume had diffused into the balmy air. Then he realized whom she reminded him of. Her self-assured attitude and sense of haughtiness was akin to someone he had known all his life – his brother, Eliab.

Written by Sifa Asani Gowon

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20 Comments

  1. damn…this guy is good… He’s really good

    Reply
  2. Sifa,you really really got me enthralled.Well done bro.

    Reply
  3. abikoye

     /  November 10, 2013

    Wonderful is all I can say and another reminder that I patiently await the story of Esther.

    Reply
  4. Nurain

     /  November 10, 2013

    Fantastic read, very well crafted. Well done.

    Reply
  5. kachi

     /  November 10, 2013

    Mark, Sifa is a lady. That’s why the fine touches of feminine beauty exudes from this awesome tale. And yeah, i do agree with you, she’s good!

    Reply
  6. Excellency

     /  November 10, 2013

    Stunning creativity! I’m learning a lot from the story. Check this”It was almost sundown and he had been dismissed from the Throne Room earlier, and so has some free time for himself.” I think ‘has’ shd be ‘had’ except I’m missing something…
    A very well done Sifa, encore…

    Reply
  7. ahhh… A lady!! *draws in fresh air*…

    Reply
  8. Yemie

     /  November 10, 2013

    Nigeria’s agog with soo many talents, too numerous to count. Just when you think you’ve seen it all; someone emerges from the shadows. Sifa, this is a masterpiece. You turned a simple story in the Good Book to this ‘fantabulous’ piece. You’re one to look out for.

    Thanks Walter for posting this beautiful piece, its simply a delight. Double Wowzer!

    Reply
  9. Ustyn

     /  November 11, 2013

    Creativity in high places….good work

    Reply
  10. This is a rich narrative…
    I am spellbound

    Reply
  11. Adeline Kasper

     /  November 11, 2013

    Anoda beautiful one.

    Reply
  12. mana

     /  November 12, 2013

    Beautiful piece indeed.. e be lyk say oga Dav get masters degree fr English studies, d guy dey tear grama fr me abeg..

    Reply
  13. Beautiful piece…so gud to knw d writer is a lady 😀

    Reply
  14. Wow! So captivating! I thank God the first day I came across your piece. Now I’m so so blessed by it

    Reply

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