Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua Book 1

by Tiana Dokerty © 1984-2021

Home | Chapter 5 | Chapter 7

Chapter 6: Correction

Updated 9/20/23

The Herald


Full Moon

Lorness to High Keep

Jonathan finished writing the petition. It asked for affirmation of the king’s contract laws and the release of their families. All the fathers signed it.

The mood in the tavern was light, and their conversation hopeful. Each thanked him profusely for taking it to Prince Sagen and then King Edal.

Riding alone on Melazera’s Highway, Jonathan expected the trip from Lorness to High Keep to take three days if the weather held. Posts marked every ten miles, and brush had been cleared, making the dirt road more easily traversable than the trails that dominated the country’s eastern region. Lord Melazera maintained it to ensure his safe passage to High Keep, allowing the family to facilitate political access.

Jonathan arrived at dusk. The walls and walkways of High Keep glowed with torches. Vendors were still hawking their wares. The clangs of a blacksmith sounded in the distance. He’d forgotten how lively the capital was. Searching for an affordable inn, he reminisced about happy days alongside the prince.

The next morning, his first attempt to see Sagen resulted in an eventual message informing Jonathan that His Highness was unavailable. After six wasted hours, he left, looking to work for coin or food.

By the third morning, Jonathan suspected Gaelib was intercepting his messages. Thinking about places Prince Sagen would visit to escape from the tedium of royal life—and, perhaps, Gaelib—he settled on the castle’s east gardens. Although the prince was a man now and might not go there anymore, Jonathan was sure he could reach the gardens unseen. He and Sagen had found every nook and cranny, every hiding spot, as they’d played throughout the castle.

When a wagonload of sacked potatoes arrived, he slipped in behind the last servant and grabbed a bag. He followed, flopping his sack down, and then backed into the shadows. Once alone, he used the servants’ corridor around the castle’s east side, hoping to avoid the chamberlain or any of his under-stewards.

The gardens appeared as he remembered. Their central feature was an intricate maze formed by tall, manicured hedges. He and the prince had whiled away many a day there. Their teacher kept them in the library for hours, but when they stopped for the midday meal, they headed for King Edal’s dining room. The food was grand. Before he lived with the prince, all he had to eat was porridge or pottage. After they finished eating, they’d wait, sitting still in the ornate chairs. Well, maybe not still. But eventually, the king would wave them off, and they’d run through the corridors, battling dragons or regaling the tales of the books they had memorized. And they always ended the day in the labyrinth.

Whenever King Edal convened his nobles, there were packs of boys at the castle. The older ones served as pages or squires to their fathers. The younger sons ran wild. He’d thought it very exciting. Of course, he’d remained glued to Sagen’s side as ordered, but watching them run and play was glorious.

The three boys, all in their seventh year, were inseparable, except when Sagen and he studied in the king’s library or the maze. The king forbade Gaelib from joining them in the library, and Gaelib wouldn’t enter the maze after some older lads had abandoned him there.

Jonathan had overheard the boys laughing about their prank, boasting about leaving the noble scion weeping. Dismayed by their cruelty, he rescued his cold and crying friend and even showed him how to find his way out. Yet Gaelib never entered it again.

Now Jonathan glanced around. Seeing neither guards nor gardeners, he dashed into the thick yaupon labyrinth. The trick to navigating it was always following the right wall. His hand passed lightly over the prickly branches. After many turns, he found himself in the center with the prince seated on one of the stone benches, reading parchments strewn across a finely carved table. “Hallo.”

Sagen, startled by the welcome, twisted. “Jon…?”

The prince’s face was much the same, only older. Clearly, his nanny no longer chose his attire. He wore a long leather surcoat and riding breeches. This was not the colorful peacock Jonathan knew as a youth. Sagen’s golden hair was darker but still bright.

Jonathan bowed low. “I remember how we enjoyed this spot, Prince Sagen when we came here to study.” His smile contrasted with his serious brows.

“Why did you sneak in, knight?” Sagen grinned. “All you had to do was let me know you were here. I’d have sent a carriage for you.” The prince locked arms with his friend. “It’s been too long. Seems like an age.”

“Fourteen years. I have been sending messages for two days.”

“I see.” Sagen sobered. “As Royal Steward, Gaelib’s been keeping me even busier than usual. This time with accounting.” The prince waved a page in the air, imitating the steward. “Sagen, you simply must understand these matters before becoming king.” He pounded one fist into the other. “Yes, yes, you absolutely must.”

The impersonation of Gaelib’s condescending voice and exaggerated gestures had both men laughing. Jonathan sat. He thought of their escapades, smiling. What a happy childhood it was.

“Father is hale and vigorous. It’ll be many years before I ascend the throne.”

“I suspect…” Jonathan hesitated. “Gaelib is still jealous.”

“I suppose so, I but don’t see why. His place is secure within the court. Father likes him. He gets to spend far too much time with me. But…look at you. You’re ruddy and strong. The Fellowship of Knights has been good for you. I think Father should have sent me there,” he laughed. “Will you be at High Keep for a while? Where are you staying?”

“Oh, it is not an inn you would know.” Jonathan chuckled. “I have an urgent petition for your father.”

He told Sagen what had happened in Lorness. “I have a request from some fathers there. Many have signed affidavits. They want the law of contracts reaffirmed and their children and wives returned. Girls are taken to brothels and boys to the mines or the army. But the girls…” Jonathan’s eyes teared up.

Sagen’s face hardened. He turned and swore viciously. Then he calmed, looking at the knight again. “I am sure Gaelib will prevent you from seeing the king. As you say, he is…jealous.” Again, he paused. “Let me take the petition. I’ll see my father at dinner tonight. Meet me back here tomorrow.”

Jonathan handed Sagen the parchment. “There is one more thing. I did not mention it, as I do not want to make this matter about me.”


“They took my daughter too. And my wife is missing.”

Blast!” Sagen grabbed his shoulder. “Why didn’t you…you always were too selfless.” Sagen shook his head.

Jonathan sighed, opening his mouth to speak. He hesitated.

“What, old friend?”

“It is…possible…Gaelib caused this. Not directly, perhaps even inadvertently, but he did suddenly tax the nobles.”

“No one has done more to keep the kingdom solvent,” Sagen replied. “But…”

The prince’s brows came together as he tilted his head forward, putting his eyes in shadow. “…Gaelib has a dark side. For several moons, when we were young men, he snuck me out to a brothel every night to play cards or dice with his friends. Though entertaining, I knew Father wouldn’t approve. It showed me a side of Gaelib that…troubled me.”

Jonathan’s frown deepened. “It is his right to tax but not to subvert contract laws. He could have given them time to pay.” He tightened his fist. “Worse, there is no need for an army. There is no war.”

Sagen’s eyebrows rose. “How could you know that?”

“I have been to Mestelina three times in recent years, traveling all over their countryside. They do not want a war with us. They may be primitive, but they are upright people. Someone is stirring up the border…well, our side of it. I will seek answers. First, I must find my family.”

“As you should.” Sagen rubbed his chin with his index finger as his eyes bore into the knight. “I’ll talk to Father.”

Jonathan prayed the result would be favorable.

They shared warm memories and talked of hopes and plans for the future as the sun drifted west and shadows reemerged from under the benches.

Sagen drew him into another embrace. “If we don’t want Gaelib to know you’re here, leave now. The gardeners will come soon. I’ll see you tomorrow. Be careful.”

“I will. Tomorrow then.” Jonathan gripped Sagen’s shoulder, beaming. “Thank you, old friend.”



Prince Sagen sighed when he entered the king’s private dining hall to find Gaelib Melazera, the Earl of Lorness, seated, eating grapes.

His father, at the head of the table, picked at a bowl of nuts. “Ah, Sagen. Son, come sit, enjoy this wonderful fruit.” He waved his hand toward the perfectly ripened peaches, figs, and grapes. “Gaelib brought them from his orchards.”

“An inspiring display, Gaelib,” Sagen commented as he sat. He placed his leather boot across the other knee, leaning back in the chair. “But…what brings you here? Are the kingdom’s finances in jeopardy?”

“No…no…” the royal steward cooed. “Our coffers are full, our creditors satisfied, and the nobles happy.” His hands raised as he emphasized each point. “Plus, there’s money enough for the army to control the frontier with an overwhelming show of force.”

Sagen watched as the small talk alternated between the king and his steward through the first course, leek-and-potato soup. Sagen gave small indications he was listening while praying for Gaelib to leave.

During the second course, a porter entered with a message for the Earl of Lorness, causing him to make his excuses and depart.

Once Gaelib had left, Sagen sought a way to start. He knew his father hated the misuse of Freislicht’s laws. Yet he also acknowledged temporary servitude had always been a way for the poor to enhance their position or pay their debts. But the incidents Jonathan had shared were akin to slavery. He expected his father to reject that. However, even indirectly accusing someone as powerful as Gaelib of being involved in such deeds…

“Some things have….” he gulped, “…come to my attention, Father.”

“Oh? What’s bothering you?”

“I saw an old friend today, Jonathan Otual. Do you remember him?”

“Yes,” the king replied. “Became a knight, I think.”

“He did. He told me of problems with tax collections…in Lorness.” Sagen studied his father’s face, trying to gauge his feelings, unsure how to say it best.

King Edal’s wispy, graying brows drew together. “Continue.”

“Gaelib has heavily taxed his nobles, which is his right. But…”

“But…?” The king’s growing concern was unmistakable.

Sagen hesitated. “According to Jonathan, Gaelib’s nobles are breaking your contract laws by calling in loans unjustly. They’re taking wives and children to cover the debts and—”

“And…what?” The last word was as sharp as a lash.

“He said they sold many of the girls to brothels. The boys—”

“Is there evidence?” King Edal demanded.

The prince nodded. “Jonathan brought a petition asking for relief.”

“Do you have it?” His father’s mood eased as he read the document. Then reread it. While reading, he grunted several times. Then he peered into Sagen’s eyes. “Jonathan should be in my court. His understanding of our laws is profound. As is his courage in bringing this to light. Bring me writing materials and wax for my seal.”

“With pleasure.” After obtaining what his father needed, Sagen returned to the table, a serious look on his face. He bit his lip.

King Edal looked up from the parchment. “There’s more. What have you left out?”

“Someone took Jonathan’s daughter. He hopes to save her.”

King Edal focused on his son, accepting the quill, ink, and enough paper for a dozen proclamations. “Well done. I’m impressed. You could have used Jonathan’s loss to hook me emotionally. That you didn’t shows me you’re thinking, as a king should, of the wider populace, of the welfare of our country. Yes, excellent indeed.” He began writing. “A speedy delivery is of the utmost importance, but….” he grinned. “I shall not inform Lord Melazera of this for at least a week, perhaps longer. He thinks me forgetful, so I won’t disappoint him. His reactions will tell us much about his part in this. Watch him closely, son.”

“Father, you are wise,” Sagen smiled.

“Hmmm…” His father drummed the table with his fingers. “I want to see your friend. I need to hear of this firsthand. Where will you meet him?”

“In the morning, at the center of the maze.”

“Excellent. I’ll join you. Now, set up the chessboard.”



King Edal thought back. Was it actually twenty years ago? Yes, it was. He’d stood in the turret of High Keep’s tallest tower, taking in the world below as the wind whipped around him. He’d loved it then and still did.

The sail-like flags flapped above as he watched a tiny six-year-old Sagen playing with two other boys from the kitchen. Then Lawrence Rothbard had approached, the distinctive tapping of his ironwood cane announcing him. Without taking his eyes from his son, he’d addressed his royal steward, “You need not have come all the way up here. I wasn’t planning on hiding for long. But since you’re here, I need some advice.”

“I live to serve, Your Majesty.” The old man bowed, wrapping his cloak tighter.

“We’ve a rigorous education planned for Sagen. He must be better prepared than I was.”

“Yes, Sire. It is wondrously well-rounded.”

“Yet…when my son’s age, being forced to learn was…difficult. Worse, it was boring, drudgery…make-work! Or so I thought at the time. I saw no point in learning endless facts, consequences, and related philosophies. I resented my teachers and my mother, whom I blamed for the tedious hours spent sitting at a desk. Especially since my father encouraged me to spend as much time learning sword and shield, bow and arrow, and how to twist just so, causing an enemy’s blade to glance off my armor. That was excellent…and served me well…before I became king.”

“I think I see the problem, Sire. Have you thought of a solution, or…?”

“What if we found my son a companion? Someone who would learn alongside him. Someone who could…share…Sagen’s ‘suffering.’ Perhaps even someone who could make it a game. Is it possible to make such learning as we have planned enjoyable?”

Rothbard paused. Then his eyes lit up. “It’s possible J’shua has provided.” He smiled. “I was speaking with Daikon Paul earlier this week. He sounded me out about a strong, quick-witted boy, recently orphaned, for whom he’s seeking an apprenticeship. As I have two students already, I told him I couldn’t help but would pray about it. This lad might serve well as a companion for your son.”


“There’s always the consideration that anyone introduced into such close proximity with the royal family might become too great an influence, Sire.”

“We’ve discussed this often. I know your suspicions about the Melazeras and Lockes. I share them. Both have influence that needs to be guided. I take it this lad is connected to neither.”

“He isn’t, Sire. In fact, the boy will go to the Knights’ School at twelve.”

“Excellent. I wish to meet him. If he is of moral character, the boy could establish a childhood friendship with Sagen—encourage his studies—then depart as we see fit. Do I need to bother asking if you’re confident of the daikon’s assessment of this child?”

“No, Sire. I wouldn’t have suggested him had I the slightest doubt. His family isn’t of the nobility but are sound, loyal, and pious.”

King Edal smiled back at his steward. “Excellent! That’s even better. I don’t want my son to grow up solely surrounded by nobles. It would limit Sagen’s view of how most of my people live. Such a small perspective would be dangerous. Find others outside the nobility, children of suitable character, in case this knight-to-be doesn’t serve well.”

The king shook his head, laughing at the memory of his younger self. “In case this knight-to-be doesn’t serve well,” he repeated. Jonathan had definitely served well. Indeed, he had often seen them running about, all the while reciting some text they were studying. It was more than he’d hoped for.

He was curious to see the man Jonathan had become.



Jonathan slipped into the East Garden. With midday approaching, the gardeners would be away. He had no trouble getting in again. It was easy to blend in amongst the workers with nearly constant deliveries to feed those working and living inside High Keep.

Thank you, Lord J’shua.

Jonathan made his way to the center of the maze. As he was early, he lay on the sweet alyssum covering the ground, bathing in the honey-like fragrance of their childhood years. He was eager to know if Sagen had been successful. Closing his eyes, he prayed.

“…when managing people, judge them not by their words, but by their actions.”

The voice was not Sagen’s, but an older man’s. Jonathan slipped into a hiding place before the words became distinct.

“I’ll remember,” Sagen replied as they arrived at the center. “It appears Jonathan isn’t here yet. He’s sure Gaelib is preventing him from seeing me.”

“Be very wary of men that love riches.”

Realizing the voice belonged to King Edal, Jonathan stepped into view and went down on one knee. “Your Majesty, I am honored by your presence.”

“Jon, you made it!” Sagen’s face lit up.

The king’s eyes widened as he smiled. “Most cunning, Sir Jonathan. Arise, Knight of J’shua. Please, sit with us. I’m delighted you interceded for my people. I always knew you were of excellent character. Tell me more.”

“Your Majesty, soldiers enforcing unlawfully foreclosed loans demand immediate payment in full. Most cannot pay. They take wives and children. Those who do not comply…some have disappeared, others had their farms burned…or worse.”

“You have proof of this?”

“They burned my farm. My wife and daughter are missing, and I am sure her parents are dead. Nor is this the only case I have encountered and investigated.” He reached within his tunic and produced a sheaf of papers. “Each is signed.”

King Edal frowned as he read. “These are disturbing. They confirm my decision.” He gestured to his son, who produced twelve scrolls. “I need these proclamations posted with the heralds in each district. Will you do this for me?”

Sagen handed one to Jonathan.

His eyes teared up as he read. “I am honored to distribute them, Your Majesty.”

“Excellent. Go westward. I shall send another rider east.”

“May I speak plainly, Sire?”

“Yes, right now, you’re my most faithful subject.”

“Sire, I have been to Mestelina recently. The Mestels are no threat. They love J’shua and are peaceful. So, why are we building an army?”

The king put his hand on Jonathan’s shoulder. “The Earl of Lorness has his own intentions for the army, but I will use it for good. He doesn’t understand that a godly man acting out of love is more powerful than anything. If I put those upright men into my army, they’ll overcome anything to do right.”

Jonathan bowed. “Thank you, Sire, for reassuring me. I had no right to doubt you.”

King Edal laughed. “I oft doubt myself. God helps us to walk in the light, yes?”

“Yes, Sire, He does.”

“Is there anything you need from us to help with your task?”

“Perhaps a pass? In case I have a disagreement with any soldiers.”

“An excellent idea. Once the first proclamation posts, word will spread. It will displease many. Be careful, Jonathan. I want you in my court someday. You’ll have the pass within the hour. Wait here.” King Edal turned to his son. “Come, Jonathan must be away quickly.”

“I’ll return with your pass,” Sagen added while extending the leather pouch containing the copies. Then he followed his father out of the maze.

Jonathan happily read the proclamation again.

This will benefit so many. Although it may not help me find Rebekah and Sarah, it will free people that may know of them.

When Sagen returned, he handed Jonathan baden for horses and a pass permitting him to go anywhere in the kingdom unmolested and then pulled his friend into a firm embrace. “Remember, I shall do all in my power to help you. I hope I can count on you when I’m king.”

“I will always be your ally, Your Highness. Never hesitate to call me to your side.” Jonathan bowed and left.



As Jonathan Otual left High Keep, the king’s proclamation gave Jonathan a sense of relief, but the thought of his family crushed it. He stared up at heaven, his eyes wet. Had Rebekah rescued Sarah? He had no way to know. It gnawed at him.

At least they will no longer be hunted.

From High Keep, he rode toward the setting sun. It took Jonathan only two days to reach Farr. As he traversed the town, he scanned for blonde heads. A girl ran across the street in front of him, golden curls bouncing. His breath caught.


Then she turned. Her eyes, her cheeks, and her mouth were wrong. He sighed and set his countenance for his first delivery as he approached the old stone building. The nickers and neighs of fresh horses tied, tacked, and ready to ride showed the discipline of these royal messengers.

The herald was an ancient man with a long gray beard and wise eyes, perhaps as old as the structure itself. He sat at a long oak desk, his nose only inches from the parchment he scribbled on.

Jonathan bristled. The announcement wall displayed requests for help and posters of wanted criminals. Seeing his wife’s name, he tore one from the pockmarked surface.

The herald lifted a hand, opening his mouth to protest.

“I am Jonathan Otual, Knight of J’shua. The king sent me with this proclamation.” He passed it to the herald. Then he pointed to the wall of warrants, shaking his wife’s. “These are no longer to be hunted.”

The old man read, eyebrows rising. “This’ll cause an uproar. You should leave before I announce it. Many of the wealthy hereabouts have bought these conscriptions.”

“I go because I have more destinations. Do you officially acknowledge receipt of the decree?”

“Yes, sir. I’ll proclaim it immediately.”

“The God of Truth bless you in J’shua’s name,” Jonathan shouted as he departed.

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