Chapter 9: Deliverance – 144 AK, Late Autumn
Psalms 82:3-4 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
After days of traveling and sleeping under the heavens, Jon’than passed through Dunis Glen’s gate as the sun peeked over the red clay rooftops, making them glow like fire. The streets were empty.
The local herald stood, smoothing his ruby tabard, as the knight entered. The old man’s eyes twinkled as he read the parchment, his eyebrows rising ever higher. “Astonishing news. I’ll proclaim it immediately. What’s your name, sir?”
“Jon’than Otual. I took a petition about these vile acts to the king.”
The herald donned his coat, went outside, and rang a large bell affixed beside the door. In response, people poured out of the shops and taverns and inns like wine from a press. “Hear ye, hear ye,” he began. “A Proclamation by King Edal, Ruler of the Kingdom of Freislicht….”
People cried, laughed, and hugged each other.
Jon’than was overcome by their joy. His heart soared high like a hawk gliding on the wind. His feelings grew stronger as the proclamation was read out twice at the insistence of those present.
The herald pointed toward Jon’than. “This Knight of J’shua appealed to King Edal for our relief. His Majesty responded. Thank the God of Truth for his faithfulness. He hasn’t left us powerless. Sir Jon’than, please give a word to the people.”
Jon stepped forward and trusted the spirit to guide his words. “People of Dunis Glen, we owe thanks to God for causing King Edal to grant us relief from the excessive acts of his nobles. We praise the God of Truth and our king for their blessings.
“Keep the fellowship of your circles. Not because it is required, but so you have strength in numbers and spread that comfort from the holy spirit. We must all stand against the darkness. Together, we will be victorious.”
The crowd cheered.
Jon’than bowed, as courtesy demanded. Mounting languidly, he rode away drooping over the saddle. He was in no hurry. There was nowhere to go. Nor was there news of his missing wife and daughter.
I no longer have a home.
When he was empty of words, he rode back to Lorness.
Jon’than woke well after dawn.
He had accomplished the king's task, but so many difficult roads lay before him. “Father, where would you have me go? Will you tell me where to find R’bekah and Sar’h? I miss them so.”
He thought of his son, Dav’d, at the horse farm in Esthlanis and felt a surge of longing to see him. Magistrate Gorum may know something. At least, I can relate recent events and ask them all to pray.
Perhaps R’bekah and Sar’h have gone there already.
R’bekah, as Mister Bekh, entered River Town and headed to The Sapphire. Not only was the food better there than at her lodging, she knew the weasel visited it regularly.
The taste of the savory rabbit stew, brimming with potatoes and leeks, lingered as she left. Rosewud hadn’t shown his face. He might be able to buy drinks and talk away the afternoon. She couldn’t. There were seven customer inquiries waiting for her.
While silently praying for direction, she noticed a plain, but well-groomed man with a noble posture watching her.
Is he another like Rosewud? Have I been discovered?
She entered a variety of shops, curious as to what he’d do. In each, she bought supplies she needed for the next journey. Yet, when she left the fifth establishment, the man hadn’t moved.
Is there a new price on my head… or that of T’mas Bekh?
The man was still leaning against a hitching post when she entered the cobbler’s shop. When she departed, he’d moved closer, outside the fletcher’s. She considered avoiding him. Yet, if he’d been watching her long enough, he’d have identified her horse. Someone could be surveilling it. Instead, she confronted him. “Have you bought arrows from this fletcher?”
“No, no, I haven’t.” He blinked. “The Lord told me to ask: do you know J’shua?”
Relief flooded through her. “I… do… Do you belong to a circle here?”
“My family leads a circle that meets tonight. I’m Patr’kh Gonn’ls.” He offered his hand. “Would you like to join us?”
A surge of hope filled her as she took his hand. "Have you seen a little girl?" she blurted out. "Her name is Sar’h. She's six years old and about this high.” She balanced her packages on one knee in order to gesture with a trembling hand. "She... she's my daughter. She has blonde hair and a dimple in her left cheek. She was stolen two moons ago."
Patrick's expression fell, sadness filling his eyes. "No, sir, but I think you'd best come to the farm so you can tell us your story and ask the rest of our circle for help. My parents offer hospitality to all. I could take you there once you’re done.”
Rebekah wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. "I’m done and mighty grateful to you." Patrick might not know Sar’h's whereabouts, but Joshua had brought them together for a reason. She needed information and, it seemed, the Lord was providing.
“My horse is at the stable down the road getting a new shoe.” Mister Gonn’ls pointed.
She retrieved her mount, affixed her supplies, and followed Patr’kh to the stables.
He was a major in the army, home visiting family before starting a new posting at High Castle. “I’m excited to be stationed in the capitol. The Lord inspired me to apply for it.” He paused. “Just as he told me to watch you.”
As they rode, they talked of the Lord’s marvelous works, of divine appointments, and needs being met miraculously. After an hour, Patr’kh pointed at a thatched roof and lazy smoke coming from a chimney.
The farm was a goodly spread with many fields ready to harvest. In the yard was a middle-aged man sharpening an axe and a woman plucking clothes off the line.
The rich aroma from the open windows made her stomach growl again.
“Welcome, visitor.” The woman wore a blue dress and plain muslin apron.
“Mother, this is T’mas Bekh,” Patr’kh announced, “a follower of J’shua from the south. Mr. Bekh, these are my mother, Clar’n, and my father, W’nston.”
The elder Gonn’ls laid aside his axe. “I am pleased to meet you. Come inside.”
They spoke about the Writings and general topics until she heard, tell them your mission.
R’bekah recounted the debt collection, the murder of her parents, her daughter’s kidnapping, the many moons spent hiding in Frei Forest, the reasons for her pretending to be a man, and the human sacrifice she’d discovered. She cried, overwhelmed by the enormity of it.
Their care and love made her sob. Patr’kh’s mother embraced her.
“We feel your burden and see its truth. We’ll help any way we can,” W’nston added.
As she told them of more of her plans, a vision formed within her mind of all the land’s circles united and, somehow, the Gonn’ls playing a central role in what was to come.
Thus, with fellowship and food, a movement began. They called it Licht Gegen, or ‘light against’.
Magistrate Gorum’s Estate
Esthlanis was a beautiful, tranquil country to the east. Its wide-open plains rolled out a golden blanket dappled with wild horses. A welcoming blue sky promised freedom.
Jon’than wished R’bekah and Sar’h were with him.
Keep them safe, Lord.
As he traveled east, there were pastures everywhere filled with mares nursing foals and proud stallions stomping the ground.
He slept under the stars for three nights before arriving at Magistrate Gorum’s estate. As he approached its gates, four riders intercepted him, each coming from a different direction. He was impressed by the tactic. They were intimidating, all wearing short swords in simple scabbards.
These must be his sons, all grown now.
“Can we help you?” one asked.
“This is Jon’than Otual,” the eldest corrected. “His son, Dav’d, is apprenticed here. I’m Jathan. I’ll take you to father.” He turned to his siblings. “Continue inspecting the fences. I’ll find you later.”
The knight followed, admiring the gait of Jathan's horse.
“Dav’d’s a fine boy, Sir Jon’than. He learns fast.”
The rider led him to the main house. It had been expanded yet again. Another wing jutted off to the east. Their father was sitting on an enlarged porch.
“Jon!” Agon Gorum bellowed. “Come, have some tea. You’re not taking my favorite student away, are you? It’s only been two moons.”
“No, he is in good hands here. I hope he appreciates the opportunity you are giving him.” Jon’than dismounted. “There is…” his voice caught, “…bad news. My wife, her parents, and my daughter were… set upon by debt collectors. The house and barn were burnt down. There is… no sign of them.”
“Those drecksa!” Gorum snarled, striding forward to clasp Jon’than’s shoulder. “What can I do? If you know who’s behind this, my sons, my ranch hands, and I will ride with you. I don’t care how far. I don’t care who we must face down.”
“I do not know who.” Jon shook his head, frowning at the ground. Then looked into Gorum’s eyes. “I am honored by the offer, Agon, but…”
“I, and others, appealed to the king, who interceded, declaring such takings unlawful.”
“That’s something… but your wife and daughter are still missing. It’s written on your face.” Gorum pointed to chairs on the porch. “Sit. Please. Maria, bring drinks – strong ones!”
Jon’than collapsed into the offered chair and told his tale.
“Keep your faith strong. You’ll have what’s needed when it’s needed.”
Jon looked into the distance. “I know… but… being separated is…”
“Dav’d can stay as long as you want. He’s as family to us. What can I do for you?”
Jon’than exhaled slowly. This was the first time he’d spoken to an old friend about the situation. Somehow, that made everything more painful. “R’bekah knows where Dav’d is. She may end up here at some point, with or without Sar’h.”
“My sons and I will protect them with our lives,” Gorum stated fiercely.
“If you see them, tell R’bekah I will go to the Knights’ School every first day of the Ram, the Crab, the Judge, and the Goat. Have them meet me there—”
“No.” The word was flat and cold. “Old friend, if they reach here, I’ll keep them safe… here… and send word to your School. With all that’s befallen you, I’ll not risk any snatching them away again.”
Jon’than snorted. “I have no doubt of your good intentions, but do you really think my R’bekah can be ‘kept safe’ anywhere?”
Gorum thought for a moment, then shook his head. “Perhaps you’re right. I could no more contain her than I could cage a southerly wind. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t provide her with an escort, weapons and whatever else she might need.”
“For which, I am grateful. Now, where can I find my son? I won’t keep him long. Then I will be on my way.”
“Nonsense, rest here for a few days,” Gorum commanded.
“I will stay until I receive J’shua's guidance.”
“Your boy’s in the north barn. Jathan’ll take you there.” Gorum signaled his son.
Dav’d squatted beside the gently snorting mare, watching a wet foal wrangle its skinny legs and stand shakily. His face lit up as his father entered the barn. He leapt to his feet and bounded toward him. Although his curly blond hair was tied back, stray curls framed his face. “Da, you’ve returned! Did you see it? The foal was birthed only minutes ago. It’s a wonder every time.”
“No, I missed it.” His father knelt, embracing him.
“Master Gorum says, ‘you must know horses to be a good horseman’. So, he started me here. It’s my job to care for the mares and foals. Why’d you come back? Are you taking me with you?”
“I cannot. This is where the Lord wants you. Can we go outside and talk?”
Dav’d looked to Jathan and the breeder, seeking permission. When both nodded, he followed his father out.
“I do not want you to worry,” da began, “but need you to pray.”
Dav’d frowned. Something’s terribly wrong.
“When I came home, our house and barn had been burned down.” Da cleared his throat and a single tear rolled down his cheek. “There was no trace of your grandparents, your mother, or sister.”
“What? Why? We must find them!”
“I fear your grandparents are dead. The Lord has confirmed that…”
The single moment’s pause in his father’s speech terrified Dav’d.
Had they all died?
“…your mother and sister live. I have not found them yet. I will continue searching.”
Dav’d hugged his father tight, relief flooding through him.
How could this have come to pass? How could there be such evil in the world? What could he – must he – do to put an end to it?
Placing a firm hand on Dav’d’s shoulder, Da instructed, “I need you to pray for each of us, so each has the strength and wisdom to do the Lord’s will. He will bring us all back together. Especially, I need you to pray in the spirit as much as you can.”
“I will, Da. I should go with you. You need help to find them.”
“Prayer is more important than anyone knows. It grants the Lord permission to work on our behalf. Because of the first man’s sin, the Serpent owns the world.”
“I know this, Father.” Dav’d controlled himself. He wanted to rail against what would be required of him, but knew such behavior wouldn’t change his father’s mind.
“As man has free will, he must ask for aid,” Da continued, repeating a lesson Dav’d knew by heart. A lesson that only confirmed his father wouldn’t take him away from Master Gorum’s. “It isn’t magic. Everything takes time. We struggle and learn as we go.”
Dav’d paused, considering his father’s words, and – despite its futility – tried again. “I can pray and go with you. I–”
“We have an agreement with Magistrate Gorum. He expects your help. We cannot break our promises. Besides, I have no information on where to find Ma or Sar’h.”
Dav’d sighed, looked at his feet, and nodded. So be it, father. If I can’t travel with you now, I can learn everything possible to be ready for the day when we venture forth together.
Da lifted Dav’d’s chin. “Your mother may come here. She knows where you are. I need you to be here for her. Tell her to meet me at the Knights’ School on the first day of the next season. Tell her to leave a letter if I am not there. I will do the same. I will write to you as much as I am able.”
Dav’d nodded. I’ll never again be unready to act. Never. Nor will I permit any evil I encounter to survive. I shall strike it down. My father requires that I bide my time as I’m still a boy. I shan’t as a man.
“That’s my boy.” Da smiled at him, tousling his hair. “Do you eat with the family?”
“Yes.” Dav’d felt the righteousness and certainty of his resolution. It comforted him, easing his fears for his mother and sister. As did J’shua’s peace that flowed into him, prompted by a still, small voice.
The way is clear when it is needed.
“Then, I will see you at dinner. It is time you get back to that foal and her mama.”
“Yes, Sir.” He hugged his father again. “I’ve missed you so.”
“I have missed you, too. Go now. Otuals are not idlers.”
Jon stayed at the estate for two more days, spending time with his boy in the evenings. The spirit then led Jon’than, not back to Freislicht, but deeper into Esthlanis.
A new mission was forming. The circles planted in this foreign land needed support. He would feed them, tend them, and help them grow.
But first, he had to find them.
Those circles had been planted many years before his birth. However, for all of the accomplishments of the Fellowship, they kept few – if any – records. It was not their way. They went where they were guided, acting as inspired. Thus, he knew the Lord would direct his steps… and that the journey would wend its way to his destination. Straight lines were for others, those who only considered their travel’s end. For a knight, traveling was its own reward, an opportunity to commune with J’shua Ha Mashiach, and to be open to whatever the God of Truth placed in their path.
Yet, as he rode, his thoughts were of Dav’d.
I suppose it is different for him than for me. When I was sent to High Castle for my apprenticeship, my father was dead. So, I did not miss him the same.
Heading into a small wood, bird calls announced him and fell silent as he passed. Only the rustling leaves complemented his thoughts.
I don’t see any solution for it, though. Men must learn a trade or develop skills. The best time to start is at seven or eight when the mind is agile, and the body is not yet ready for the rigors of physical training. I will write more often, relating everything I would say to him if he was with me. It will have to be enough.
As he rode out of the woods and into a town, homes and a dozen buildings were arranged before him. He asked the first person he saw if they had a herald or a place to read messages.
“There’re postings on the outer wall of the Sheriff’s Office.” The man pointed.
“You are very kind, sir,” Jon’than acknowledged, tipping his head.
As he approached that building, a small gathering was in serious discussion. Their excited talk stopped as he dismounted.
“Where can a hungry man buy a good meal here?” Jon’than asked.
“I’d be happy to show you,” a tall, brown-haired man replied. A wide-brimmed hat hung down his back. His spurs jingled as he walked.
Jon’than followed along, leading his horse to The Braying Donkey Inn.
“Are you a Knight of J’shua? It’s many years since we’ve seen your kind.”
“I am sorry to hear that. I would learn about your town.”
The inn provided a good meal, followed by a bitter drink mixed with honey and cream called cofaidh.
Blake Tolmach, the owner of the jingling spurs, was a friendly soul, offered great conversation, and talked in much detail about the circles in his village. “We have three that I know of. One is led by a near kinsman. Would you like me to introduce you?”
“That would be a blessing.”
After their meal, Blake offered hospitality for three days, where the knight shared fellowship with them and two of the local circles.
Jon’than traveled as far as the mountains on Esthlanis’ eastern border, then north to the country’s farthest point, a township overlooking the Sea of Glass. He was astounded at their understanding of the Writings and of their love for all. He ministered to them and encouraged them to continue in the Writings and manifestation of the holy spirit.
All those he met offered to pray against the spiritual darkness in Freislicht, for the believers there to grow in wisdom and understanding, and for the safety and return of his wife and daughter.
In Esthlanis’ capitol, Jon’than met Mathu Duine, Steward to the Premier of Esthlanis. After sharing several meals together and speaking for many hours, Mathu insisted the knight meet the current Premier. Together, the three of them spoke of the state of Freislicht, its problems, the evil that grew there, the threat it posed to neighboring countries, and how it might be countered.
Two days later, Jon’than was summoned to their Court, where the Premier of Esthlanis formally inquired about the pestilence that plagued Freislicht.
After several more weeks, Jon’than returned to see Blake. Talking as they watched the moon rise one evening, he noted, “I have learned much and am especially appreciative of your people’s understanding of liberty.”
Blake smiled. “Every man in Esthlanis must wield the sword to defend against any that would subjugate them, especially rulers. Our wise men teach that Freislicht fell into darkness because your people became complacent, relying on the swords of others.”
“There is more than a little truth to that,” Jon agreed. “But how do we reverse it?”
"More cofaidh,” Blake joked.
“I am not sure this drink will catch on in Freislicht.” Jon’than shook his head, enjoying the bitter brew. “Perhaps, the journey toward redemption must start with the Writings. Your bookshops sell complete copies of them. Could I buy some to distribute on my return?”
“Every home in Esthlanis has the Complete Writings. On their twelfth nameday, every person – boy and girl – receives a copy and is given their first steel sword, to ensure they learn both. Let me provide you with fifty copies as a sign of our joy in helping you.”