“Go, why don’t you go back home,” he mutters, dismissing me with a casual wave of the hand.
“Please,” I say. “Let me serve you. You’ll find my music soothing, I trust.”
“Trust?” he says, locking eyes with me.
“Just so, your majesty. Trust!”
“There is no such thing, where I’m sitting.”
“But my music—”
“It awakens something in me,” he groans, pressing a hand against his temple. “Something I wish to ignore. An unspeakable sort of pain. There’s a demon in me, and I know—I just know he’ll break loose, he’ll take over, the moment I’ll let myself soften.”
“Perhaps not,” I suggest. “If you soften, the pain may wash over you, heal your soul. You may find yourself rising anew, if only you would listen to me. Let me, your majesty. Let me play.”
The king shakes his head, No. No.
“It’s not the music,” he mutters. “It’s you. I can’t bare looking at you.”
This leaves me dumbfounded, and I stand at his feet, waiting for what may come out of his lips next.
After a while he moans, “Boy—”
“Have you ever been wounded? Ever been on a battlefield?”
“No,” I say. “My mother won’t let—”
“Of course,” he bares his teeth, belittling me with laughter. “It’s always the mother. Yours must be a smart woman to keep you safe, away from any danger.”
“I give you my word, I’ll follow you anywhere,” I say. “Even to the battlefield. Sounds exciting, no matter what my mother says.”
He raises one of his eyebrows as if to say, I know how you feel. She hides the world from you, doesn’t she.
“Yes,” I have to agree. “I hate it, hate being protected. Makes me wonder what’s on the other side of obedience.”
He pays no attention to what I say. “Listen, boy. Let me tell you one thing: often, when I leave the bloodied scene and ride back here, a long way over the range of the mountains, I don’t even realize I’ve been wounded. My mind wanders, it roams elsewhere... But then…Then I look at myself. And what do I see? A slash, deep across my flesh... And this, this is the time—not a moment earlier—when the pain comes. In a snap, it takes a bite.”
Saul takes a long pause. Then he looks straight down at me. “That’s how I feel, right this minute,” he says. “That’s what your music does to me.”