"Well, do you want to finish our walk?” Amoli said in an incredibly friendly voice. Her request seemed devoid of affection yet pleasant and inviting. He could see she would make a pleasant friend.
“Yeah, that'd be nice,” Avi said. He felt as if he had just made a new friend. Though, she proved to be a friend who shared very few interests with him. She went on and on about dresses and fabrics and makeup. She talked about marrying one of the Bankshi boys; she wasn't picky about which one. Avi listened politely, laughing when he thought she intended to be funny and giving the appropriate reactions when it was expected. Without the pressure of having to marry her, he could enjoy the talk. He found her charming in her difference from himself.
As they walked the length of the colonnade and turned at the corner of the courtyard, they walked beneath a row of open windows. An amber glow poured from the upper openings. Though Avi was trying to keep up with Amoli's shopping list for the next day, his attention deviated from her words. It was faint, but he could hear singing.
“Listen,” Avi interrupted. Amoli paused for a quick second.
“Sounds like singing. So, I really liked the red dress at that little shop. Oh, what was it called?”
“Amoli, do you mind if we finish our talk later? I’d like to sit and listen to the singing.”
“Sure, I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said. It must be impossible to hurt her feelings. She wandered off in the moonlight, leaving Avi standing beneath the windows.
As Amoli’s footsteps shrank away, the night quiet grew. In the dark backdrop, Avi could hear the sounds of the city slowing. Two voices flowed over the window’s seal and poured down sweetly. Avi knelt quietly and sat against a marble column below the window.
A man's voice as clear as a bell rang out with ancient wisdom drifting through the rises and falls of a milky melody. A woman's voice singing a satin harmony followed the man's as closely as if the two came from one mind. Avi closed his eyes and let the song wash over him like a musical waterfall.
He could hardly help himself. Softly at first, he sang a third harmony. He wove his voice in with theirs as quietly as he could. He did not want to be detected, but he was enamored by the silky smoothness of the song. His volume rose with theirs as he felt the movement. It wasn't long before he was absent from his body and living within the indigo waves of the music. His voice increased in volume to meet the harmonic third when he suddenly realized that he was no longer singing with them.
His solo note rang out across the courtyard. Quiet followed. “What was that?” The man's voice said from the upper room. Avi scooted around to the backside of the pillar to hide. He had been eavesdropping on parties unknown in the King's palace. He may have just committed a crime.
“Hey, who’s down there?” the man’s voice called out of the window. Avi took a deep breath and stepped out from behind the column. He knew he could not remain hidden. They’d caught him. Avi stood below the window, though the occupants of the room were not visible from where he stood.
“I'm—I'm really sorry, It's just—I mean—I was just taking a walk, and I heard your singing. I couldn't help but sing along.” Avi said, but then added. “It's a wonderful song.”
“Thanks,” came the voice. “Who are you?”
“Oh—uh—sorry. I'm Avi.” Though he couldn't hear what was being said, there was an exchange of muted voices in the room. Avi wasn't sure if he was free to go, or if he should stand his ground.
“Avi of Sundar?” the voice asked.
“Yes,” Avi said. Then more quiet conversation.
“Avi, come up here, please,” the voice said. Avi spun around to make his attempt to find his way. His heart nearly bounced up into his throat. On turning around, standing within arm's reach, was Adelaide. She was smiling with a wide toothy grin. Avi leapt at the start she gave him.
“Your presence has been requested in the upper chamber,” Adelaide said.
“Oh, Ok,” Avi said. “I’d love to, but that guy just asked me to come up there.”
“Yes, that is the upper chamber,” Adelaide explained.
“Oh, but how did you get down here so fast; he just—" Avi asked, but then said, “never mind.”
“Right this way.” She directed him toward a large bank of stairs.
They wound their way upward through opulent passageways and spiraling staircases. Avi followed Adelaide quietly, feeling the nervous tension rising in his stomach. The stairs unloaded them into a grand door-lined foyer. A round opening revealed the starry sky above. Dim amber sconces gave the high walls a cast of dozens of intricate shadows.
“Right through here,” Adelaide pointed. He stepped up to a large door. She knocked once and then opened it. She stepped to the side and allowed him to enter. “They will be at the far end, in the room that opens onto the courtyard.”
"Who?” Avi asked, but it was too late. Adelaide had already swung the door shut. Avi looked around the room. Lining the walls were musical instruments of all kinds, both modern and ancient. There was space for wind, string, electric, and percussion instruments of every variety. There were many musical devices that Avi had never seen before. He did not want to delay his arrival, but he wished he could spend more time among the musical items.
He passed through and made his way into a cross hall that led to more rooms. He looked toward the end of the hall, where Adelaide had pointed. He walked with a nervous gait toward the place from which they had summoned him. In a whisper, he practiced how he would apologize for his eavesdropping. He hoped he could convince them he had no foul intent.
As he passed through the doorway, there were two surprising visions. The first was that of Low King David of Israel. Avi recognized him, as anyone in the Kingdom would. He sat behind a large shiny array of percussion instruments. King David stood immediately at Avi’s entrance.
The second thing that Avi found surprising was that across the room from King David, holding a small stringed instrument, looking as delicate as a flower, and as radiant as a lioness, was Zariah. Avi's eyes darted between the two. It was enough of a surprise to discover King David's upper music room, but to find Zariah there, was almost enough to give him a heart attack. He stammered a stumbling greeting.