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    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

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THE HEART OF A KING (Part 5)

David thought about his meeting with Michal for some time after that evening. Images of her smile, her eyes and her lips danced before his eyes, in his dreams, and his logical thinking fought a heavy battle with his baser instincts. There were times he would see her in the Throne Room conversing with her father and it would take everything in him not to stare at her perfection. She would cast amused eyes over him and greet him with a somewhat condescending ‘I hope the day finds you well, David’ and he would mutter an equally inane reply.

The atmosphere in the palace began to stifle him, the intrigues and games of the palace officials grating on his spirit. The sycophancy and artificial smiles fawned upon Saul wore his nerves thin and what made it worse was that he sensed that Saul liked all the flattery and false attention. He seemed to make no effort to surround himself with men of worth, like Samuel, and that worried David, not only for his sake but for the sake of the entire nation. If Saul surrounded himself only with those who would cater to his ego, then where would he be expected to get wise counsel?

David felt as though he was farther from Yahweh than he had ever been in his life, and that brought him no small amount of grief. He spent entire nights pacing up and down his chamber, throwing his hands up in frustration as he poured out his heart to Yahweh. And Yahweh answered one hot afternoon as David walked in the Great Hall from the Throne Room to his chamber.

It was not an audible answer, nor was it a spectacular event – just a feeling of peace that came over him. Yes, Yahweh was indeed close, and He held David’s destiny in His palm.

“You have much on your mind, David,” he heard someone say, and he quickly turned to find a young man with kind brown eyes smiling at him. He was dressed simply but richly, indicating that he was a member of the royal household. David had seen him once or twice with Saul but had never been told who he was. The young man walked toward him, his expression open, his hands hanging loosely by his sides and the hilt of his sword glinting with the royal insignia. He was a little shorter than David but of stockier build and he moved with the seasoned grace of an athlete and fighter.

“You wonder how I know you?  Everyone knows of you, David, and my sister has not kept silent about you either,” he said, his mouth twisting in wry amusement.

His sister? David could think of only one woman and that was…

“My sister, Michal? I believe you met her some time back?”

So this was Michal’s brother? One of Saul’s sons? David knew that he and Michal had left an impression on one another at their meeting, but he was not prepared to defend himself should he be accused of impropriety toward the princess.

The young man must have read his expression because he spoke, belying David’s trepidation: “You need not worry David, for my sister is full of notions and imaginations as beautiful women are prone to be. When she makes up her mind to be fixated on something, then there’s no swaying her. You, my friend, happen to be the object of her fixation at the moment.”

“I do not wish to cause any member of the house of my lord, King Saul any discomfort,” David said evenly.

That statement elicited a burst of laughter.

“I hardly think you are causing her any discomfort…or anyone else for that matter. In fact, I dare say my father is more relaxed when you are present.”

“I thank you for your kind consideration, my lord.”

“Jonathan…my name is Jonathan. I think we shall be good friends, David, for in you I see something rarely found in the palace.”davids-and-jonathan-

“And what would that be, my lord?” David asked, his brow raised in question.

“Integrity and a true zeal for Yahweh. That is something we seem to lack here…” Jonathan said, his eyes shadowed over with sadness. After a moment, he brightened up and slapped David amiably on the back. “Come now…tomorrow I shall be in the open courtyard on the east side of the palace practicing my sword-fighting skills with a few of my skilled men. Please do me the honour of joining us at midday.”

“I shall do as you say,” David said, bowing.

“Come now, you need not be so formal with me. You may call me Jonathan and I shall call you David.” With that Jonathan sauntered away, calling over his shoulder as he left, “Oh…and Michal will definitely be passing by once she hears you are there. Try not to be distracted by those beguiling eyes. My sister does have that effect on people…”

David felt heat travel up his neck in embarrassment. He had not intended for anyone to notice his attraction to Michal. He resolved to treat her with cold civility the next time he saw her, even though her presence made his gut melt.

* * *

The sound of swords clanking, the echoes bouncing off the walls and pillars, met David’s ears as he walked toward the open courtyard at the west side of the palace. He could hear young men shouting challenges and muffled oaths at each other as they sparred, taking care not to draw any blood from the royal princes in the process. David wondered if this was how the princes and other members of their entourage spent all their time – playing pretend fights, wining and dining and generally indulging their every whim. Where was the time for other less physical pursuits? Did they ever take the time to converse with their Maker? They had access to the very best scholars and interpreters of the scriptures and he wondered if they took advantage of the fact.

He soon came to an opening where a group of young men jumped around, practicing their sword-wielding skills. He spotted Jonathan almost immediately in the middle with his sword drawn and circling another man. Jonathan spotted him and then stood up straight, clapping his hands twice. In that instant, all activity ceased and the young men turned towards David.

Jonathan walked toward him with an open smile saying, “Welcome, David. Won’t you join us?”

David shook his head slowly. “I’m content watching and learning from you and your warriors, my lord.”

Jonathan’s sparring partner chuckled, saying, “But we have heard great tales about you, David. Surely you will not prove us wrong.”  He was a tall, robust man, tan with blond hair – rather unusual coloring for an Israelite. His corded muscles spoke of much training in battlefields and his eyes held a mixture of condescension and interest.

“Leave him be, Ammiel…”

“Come now David. I challenge you to an easy sparring session. After all, you are in the service of the King of Israel. It will not do to have you appear weak and helpless.” With that he grabbed a short sword from one of the young men and threw it toward David, who caught it by the hilt.

“Ammiel is one of my mightiest warriors…and a great swordsman too. You would do well to learn from him,” Jonathan said quietly and David knew then that he could not refuse. Doing so would not only brand him a coward, and engender disrespect, but it would be a direct rebuff against the Crown Prince.

The courtyard cleared and soon it was just David and Ammiel standing in the middle. Ammiel took on battle stance and nodded, giving David the first thrust. David raised the sword and began to walk toward Ammiel slowly, his mind focused and his senses sharpening. Slowly he shut out all sound but that of his breathing and visualized Ammiel as a desert fox, smooth and cunning as he strategized his next move. Ammiel jabbed his sword in David’s direction and David made a swift twist to the side, the tip of the sword narrowly missing him. Ammiel nodded in approval.

“I see your survival instincts are sharp. Very good. Now let’s see about your skills…” And with that he lunged at David, the sword moving in different directions. David lost none of his focus and brought his sword up, blocking every blow. Ammiel’s eyes took on a different hue, going from easy confidence to question as David never let up in his defense. Then Ammiel made an error – he swung his sword high to knock David off his feet and in doing so gave David the chance to dodge. The momentum of the swing cost Ammiel his balance as he tripped and fell to the ground. He turned around to see the tip of David’s sword at his chin.

“My lord is not injured, I hope?” David asked quietly.

Ammiel shook his head slowly, a grudging respect for David filling him. David dropped his sword and extended an arm to help Ammiel up, which he grasped. Jonathan clapped slowly and the others joined him, some out of respect for David’s skills and others out of deference to Jonathan.

“Well done…It would seem you have no need to fear for would-be assassins, David,” Jonathan said, his eyes glinting in amusement.

“Yes…you are very good. That may come in handy, especially as it seems the Philistines are spoiling for war,” Ammiel said good-naturedly.

Soon the courtyard filled with young men again and the activities resumed. Jonathan, Ammiel and David walked to the side of the courtyard for a refreshing drink of chilled wine in goblets balanced on trays held by blank-eyed servants. They sat on small stone benches.

“So David…what do you intend to do after your discharge from service?” Jonathan asked.

“I intend to go back home and serve my father, as I did before.”

“You have no intention to wed?” Ammiel asked.

Jonathan laughed and slapped his friend on the back. “Come now, Ammiel…not everyone is as ready to walk the matrimonial path as early as you did.”

David raised his eyebrows and stared at Ammiel. He wouldn’t have guessed him to be married.

“Yes but it is well worth it, especially being a father.”

“You have children?” David asked.

“Only one – a daughter – Bathsheba. She turns ten in the summer.”

“And she’s a real beauty too,” Jonathan countered, gaining a withering look from Ammiel. “You will need those sword-wielding skills to keep the young men away from her as she grows.”

“I hope to marry and have a family of my own when Yahweh wills it,” David said.

Jonathan shrugged. “I will do so sometime next summer. It will be good for me.”

There was a bit of commotion from the upper balconies overlooking the courtyard, the sound of feminine giggles and tinkling jewelry filling the air. David looked up and found himself staring straight into glimmering sapphire eyes. Michal leaned against the stone balcony with some other ladies, presumably her maids. They all giggled and covered their faces, feigning shame as the young men looked at them in appreciation. Only Michal looked straight down at David, not bothering to cover her face or hair, the sun making the jewels in her hair sparkle. His pulse quickened and he bowed his head as she smiled knowingly at him, making it obvious to all that she had eyes only for him.

David felt the familiar gnawing in his belly as he looked at Michal, his breath coming in short, sharp bursts. He cursed her effect on him, wishing he could trample on the feelings she aroused. There was a sort of uneasiness within him, as though something resisted Michal’s pull and fought a battle in his mind. For the very first time, David pushed aside the prompting in his spirit to listen to his senses, and every sense in him craved Michal, wanted her with an intensity that surprised him. Whether or not it was love, he did not know, and in truth he did not care to delve deep into the issue. All that mattered to him was that Michal drew him in a way that no other woman ever had; it was that simple.

Jonathan was not oblivious to the silent exchange as he said, amused, “And who knows? It could be Yahweh’s will that you wed royalty, is it not so, David?”

David shrugged as he watched Michal rise from her position and gracefully disappear behind gossamer curtains into the inner chambers, her maids scurrying behind after her.

Written by Sifa Asani Gowon

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4 Comments

  1. Nurain

     /  November 17, 2013

    Once again, this is exceptionally well written.
    I doff my hat to Sifa Asani Gowon, the author, and Walter. Looking forward to part 6.

    Reply
  2. There’s a mistake I noticed, east n west side? D courtyard where d sparring was going on….apart from dat its excellent…thumbs up!

    Reply
  3. Excellency

     /  November 18, 2013

    Nice one again Sifa, and you’re creatively paying attention to the spiritual details of this anciet story… Tantalizing & interesting this is. Next one please…

    Reply
  4. Esther genius

     /  November 20, 2013

    i luv being in d mist of intellectual geniuses, it tickles my fancy alittle nd challenges my intellect a lot. keep up d gud work Sifa

    Reply

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