Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of Joshua

by Tiana Dokerty © 1984-2021

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Chapter 9: Missions – 144 AK, Late Autumn

I Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Lorness Sanctuary of the Alte Regieren

Cailleagh arrived to prepare her full moon oblations. Dismounting, she gave the horse’s reins to her escort.

As she stepped into the cave, her head throbbed. She felt a pain in her chest so sharp she looked for blood. Her stomach turned. Fear seized her, and her skin felt as if it was burning. She ran to the table in the cavern’s center. Dropping to the ground, she prostrated herself thinking the God of this Age was punishing her. “Master, Ruler of the Earth, what have I done? Tell me how I can serve you.”

The screeching of many voices sounded within her mind.

A follower of Joshua has polluted this sanctuary. We cannot remain. Find the perpetrator. Reconsecrate this place with their blood.

“Master, how can I do that?”

We do not know.

Cailleagh yelled. “If you don’t know, how can I do as you ask?”

There was no answer. The voices were silent. All their words had stopped.

Fleeing the cave, she rode away as fast as she could.

Geleib looked up as the doors to his apartment burst open. He sat up straight in bed, taking in his frenzied wife. “Why are you back so soon?”

“Get out! Out, all of you!” She screamed, her eyes ablaze.

Five terrified little girls popped up from under the bed covers, grabbed their clothes, eyeing Cailleagh as they sprinted out the door.

Geleib sighed. “Was that necessary? It’s taken so long to get them to this point. You have undone much.”

“I don’t care! They’ve left me. I’m naked,” she wailed.

“Who has left you?” Geleib gentled, moving toward her. “You’re not naked yet,” he teased.

She glared. “My spirit guides.”

His eyebrows came together, almost touching. “Is that possible?  Has it happened before? How does it–”

“Don’t treat me like one of your experiments!”

Attempting to sound conciliatory, he asked, “How will I learn if I don’t ask questions?” 

HELP ME!

“Yes, my love,” he soothed, encircling her with his arms. “If they are gone, they can come back, right?

“I don’t… know.” 

“How did you get them in the beginning?”

She scowled.

“Can you go to a grave to get them back?”

“No, mine are lesser spirits. They’re not like the Warrior who guides you!” A vague memory surfaced on the edge of her thoughts. “My mother took me… somewhere. There was a big man. He painted symbols on my body.”

She pulled up her dress to look at the barely visible scars on her torso. They were indecipherable, having been overwritten many times.

“I think it was a rite of Tammuz,” she murmured, as she fell to her knees. “I was only a child.” Grabbing her hair, she rocked forward and back as more buried memories surfaced. “He raped me. My mother smiled as she helped them hold me down!”

“Come here,” he crooned, lifting her, whispering softly. “You were always good to your spirits and observed every ceremony. They will return. Tell me what happened.”

He stroked her hair and held her close as she babbled. Facts, impressions, and sheer nonsense spouted forth from her. One thing was abundantly clear, she was terrified.

“Years of careful preparations consecrated that sanctuary,” she bemoaned. “I’ve failed them, let their sacred place be… be… tainted, contaminated. I cannot be without them. We must return to Farr Castle, so I can search through the scrolls and tablets I’ve collected. Perhaps they hold the answer.”

Very well,” Geleib sighed again. “We’ll return to Farr. Now, let me help you relax.” His hands traversed her body, replacing tension with lust.

After she was calm, Geleib sent out four Black Robes, each paired with a soldier.

Their first target was Cailleagh’s mother, who was thrown into the dungeon at Farr. After three days and three nights without food or water, she told them where to find the old Wizard.

The hunt for the man who’d raped Cailleagh was quick, efficient. And brutal. Extreme precautions were taken to ensure the man’s wizardry was neutralized.

Special locks were made to prevent the prisoners from manipulating any guard while they were the Melazeras’ guests.

Only Cailleagh had the key. As long as they were useful, she would let them live.

 

The Road from River Town

The rain poured down hard and cold. Jonathan and his horse were long since soaked to the bone. There was no cover from the rain, so he’d kept moving since his parting with George Rosewood. Uncertainty gnawed at his stomach. He meditated on the Writings to still his fears, thanking the Lord for keeping him on track.

Two grey figures on horseback appeared in the distance, coming toward him at a walk.

Jonathan intuitively loosed his sword in its scabbard and checked his dagger.

The two men separated to come past him on either side.

He let them close, then turned his stallion to the left, blocking the larger man. Jon’s horse snorted and tensed.

“What’cha think you’re doin’, old man?” The rider snapped. “If ya can’t control ya horse, ya shouldna be ridin’.”

“I am in control, young man,” Jonathan replied, hand on his sword hilt, “that’s why I didn’t let you pass me as you planned. Perhaps that’s why I am still alive.”

“Well, if ya wanna stay that way, maybe ya’d get off’a ya horse. We’ll tell Rosie y’ar dead. He don’t need to know… if ya give us ya baden too.” The brute chuckled while his partner smiled menacingly, a narrow-bladed dagger in hand.

The Knight spurred his horse into the other’s, which reared. His sword slashed out.

Blood ran down the highwayman’s arm as he fell from his horse.

Jonathan galloped off.

Several miles down the road, he breathed a sigh of relief as he reined in the horse. There was no pursuit.

I guess they didn’t expect steel from a man my age. Rosie? Why would George Rosewood send them to kill me? Who is he working for?

 

Frei Forest

Rebekah rode straight through to Frei Forest. Despite her urgency, she would not risk someone following her.

An idea was forming, a way to root out this corruption.

When she arrived, the families ran out to greet her. It’d been weeks since she left.

Later, the adults sat around a small, crackling fire. Rebekah shared news of the king’s proclamation and Jonathan’s delivery of it. There was great rejoicing.

Rebekah next told of the cave, the child’s hand she’d found there, and of the Lord’s inspiration about opposing such evil. “I need you all to pray about this.”

Their eyes were sad, moved by this vile thing. “We must do something,” one said, followed by many sounds of agreement.

Rebekah stood, her manly clothing reminding her she was a spy. Her hood dropped, revealing her hair tied plainly in a man’s fashion. “We no longer need to stay in hiding. You can go back, reclaim your lives. But I have no home. My parents are dead. So, I will remain, for I have seen a way to combat this pestilence.

“I foresee some going home, others to different places. Every town in Freislicht must be covered in prayer, every suspicious place anointed for the Lord. Some will spy out the perpetrators. We all must pray in the spirit without ceasing, to protect one another and receive direction.”

She told them the five-fold plan: training, spying, praying, anointing, and adopting.

“We lost our freedom because our grandparents were too safe, too happy. They felt no need to defend themselves. Therefore, we will train in secret, so we can restore our liberty. Next, we must be as crafty as these perpetrators and spy out their dark secrets. Then, we must pray. Just as we must anoint every place harboring the evil ones. And, we must adopt the orphans, who are being sent to brothels, to the army, and used in demonic sacrifices.

“According to the writings of James, ‘pure, undefiled religion is to visit the fatherless and widows in their time of affliction’. By rescuing the children, we will slow the spread of corruption, so we must find the orphans before they do.”

They listened intently and asked many questions.

“There’ll be no condemnation if you decide to return to your old life. You all have children to consider. This is a grave commitment that not all can accept. Yet, I ask you to pray and give me your answers tomorrow. Do you wish to go home, anoint evil places, or become a spy?”

In the morning, the parents were quiet, still in prayer.

By evening, they’d decided.

Four families would return home, although they would pray for the mission daily. All of their children were very young.

No one had much to give, but they found tokens to exchange. Sheila and Eugene presented each departing family with wreaths of pinecones, woven together with dried vines and berries to commemorate the grace and unity they’d shared. Some of the children had made waterskins. Charles Dugan read a poem that he’d written and gave everyone a copy.

“In the crisp and quiet rangings of the heart upon the wood,

The singing of the sparrow to the mouse amidst the leaves,

Tend thou in the spirit so the weary traveler could,

Find rest in strong arms bending, and happy graceful eaves.”

They’d been together for many moons. Everyone had grown close. So, there were as many tears as there was laughter.

By noon the following day, the settlement’s teenagers confirmed that those leaving had made it to the road north.

That evening, the sixteen remaining adults met.

“Father, give us wisdom, grant us insight and peace as we oppose evil in the name of Joshua Ha Mashiach.” Rebekah began.

“So it shall be,” the others replied.

“To combat this evil, we have all agreed on our five-fold strategy.

“Training must be carried out by all.

“Concerning spying, we must identify those serving the Serpent. Evil people seek to master violence, perversion, lying lips, and slander. We all sin, but those who serve darkness are masters of these behaviors. Thus, by these traits, we can identify them.

“As to prayer, we shall pray in the spirit for both the good and the evil. The good shall be bolstered in their faith, strengthened in their times of trial, and aided in their most desperate hours. Our prayers for the evil will cause them to displease their master, shall undermine the effects of their foul practices, and may if it is the will of Joshua, turn them to the God of Truth.

“Before we can anoint those places used by the Serpent, cleansing them for the God of Truth, we must find them.” She unrolled the map of Freislicht.

Eugene asked for the map, then pointed. “We have no one here. My family will move to River Town and begin a circle.”

Charles motioned for the map. “My family will move to Dunis Glen.”

They decided each family would move to a different town.

“When we spoke of adoption, my first thoughts were of the children. That we must save them from evil, despair, and enslavement. But we must do more than that. We few will not be enough. We are a beginning, but we must rebuild the circles. We must open the people’s eyes, quietly, to the God of Truth. We must increase our numbers to match the tasks ahead. They will teach their neighbors to walk in the spirit and pray in tongues so the God of Truth may work on their behalf.”

“My oldest daughters and I will spy out connections.” Vincent Donofrio added.

Rebekah nodded in thanks. “As will I.”

Helen Donofrio stood tucking a wild curl back in her scarf. She’d proven to be a skillful mediator and leader. “I will spend a moon or two with each family as a visiting kinswoman, keeping all of us linked together.”

“We shall continue to pray for all,” Rebekah added, “and for each bit of information, so we may learn our enemies’ weaknesses and destroy them. Speaking in tongues will keep us edified and strengthen us, for we are fighting a mighty spiritual foe. We must keep our fellowship free of interference.”

“Agreed,” they all responded.

 

The Road to Farr Castle

Geleib held Cailleagh in the rocking coach. It worried him that she was so undone. She’d been the inspiration for his dream. She was strong and brilliant. She’d shown him his destiny all those years ago. Would she be able to recover her spirit guides?

Can she help me if she doesn’t?

Throughout the five-day journey, she vacillated between convulsive sobbing and catatonic stupor.

How will this setback my plans?

He stroked her hair absentmindedly and worried.

Once through Farr Castle’s private gates, the Lord of Lorness helped his wife from the coach. He instructed the servants to take her bags to his bedchamber, where he drugged her so that she’d sleep.

She meekly lay down without any protest.

Her whole demeanor’s changed. Who’s she become?

While in the carriage, Cailleagh was lost in her thoughts, memories washing over her.

She recalled unwanted hands touching her childish body. Being held down. Being forced to watch her mother commit unspeakable acts. Being told she too would willingly do those things.

Glimpses of a wizard performing bizarre ceremonies.

Her mother, Farina, bewitching her to forget.

All resurfaced, tormenting her. Brought back by Geleib brushing her hair and crooning a melody reminiscent of that Farina had often hummed.

A scene presented itself. Cailleagh was in her seventeenth year. Obeying her mother, she’d drunk a potion climbed upon the stone altar.

“My guiding spirit has led us to a boy,” Farina explained. “You’ll teach him the ways of the Warrior, then marry him. Together, you will rule all for the God of this Age.”

Her mother had then sacrificed that last of Cailleach’s innocence.

How could I have forgotten such things?

Her mind recoiled. It fled into the deepest recesses of her earliest childhood, seeking safety and a time when she’d not been used.

 

Fairness Crossing

Rebekah dismounted from the wagon in front of the commandant’s office. She’d donned her most flattering blue dress and brushed her hair out. She entered slowly, her head held high. She let her quiet rage dampen her fear.

“I am here to see Commandant Greyson.” She forced herself to speak quietly and politely to the Militet at the counter.

“He is out ma’am.”

Then a gruff voice from the room behind announced, “Bring the lady back, Brett.

As she entered the office, Greyson stood with a bow, smiling cordially. “How can I help you ma’am?”

“I am here to retrieve my daughter who was sold to you three moons ago.”

The commandant stiffened. “Many children passed through here then. We only kept the boys.”

“The herald assured me that all the cage carts that came to your garrison left empty. She is six and has very blonde hair.”

Relax, breathe. It will do no good to shoot dagger-eyes at him.

He frowned. “There was a batch I sold to Madam Bonaforte’s brothel. She may know what became of her.” The officer pointed west. “Go to the one with the green door on the main street. It’s on the right.”

“It is my understanding, sir, that you are to actively assist in the return of all children illegally seized. Please have someone escort me.”

Greyson scowled and motioned for a Militet to attend her.

Rebekah left as gracefully as she’d entered.

Rebekah entered the brothel, the Militet trailing behind. She looked at the mere children being exploited as whores with compassion, their feather-framed faces and scantily clad bodies marking them as fallen.

She glanced back at the wide-eyed Militet, perhaps thirteen, whose mouth was agape.  “Close your mouth, son.”

The decorated ladies looked back with calculating eyes. Some snickered, only to silenced by the bordello’s matron.

Rebekah’s hard gaze locked onto the madame. “According to Commandant Greyson,” she growled, addressing the madame, “three moons ago, my daughter was brought to you with other girls.”

The old woman stiffened then sputtered. “All we received have been returned.” Then her eyes grew wider. “Was her hair golden-blonde, about five or so years old?”

“Yes.” Rebekah was hopeful and terrified at the same time.

“She escaped on the day she arrived.”

Lord, where is my Sarah?

Rebekah wanted to cry, but wouldn’t. “What happened?”

“All I know is the girl wasn’t delivered to me.”

The words were cold, flat, and bluntly told Rebekah she’d get no more from the old hag. She turned and left, the boy following her out.

 

Lorness

Jonathan rode hard. In part to share the king’s joyous proclamation with his friends. In part to assuage fears he could not shake.

How could the proclamation not have reached Fairness Crossing and River Town before I did? Had it not reached Lorness either?

He entered Lorness still at a gallop, the horse lathered in sweat. His mere passage drew a crowd. He would take no chances because this was the Melazeras’ seat of power.

Please, Lord Joshua, let Geleib be at Farr Castle.

Somehow, word of mouth was even faster than his steed. The streets were full of people as he reached the Herald Station, slid from his horse, and marched inside, ready for battle.

Only to be greeted by the herald’s beaming smile. “Were you successful?” Reading the parchment answered his question. Calling his men in from the barn, he told them. “We have an important proclamation from the king. Look lively.”

The herald ushered Jonathan outside to the waiting crowd. “Hear ye, hear ye, a Proclamation by King Edal, Ruler of the Kingdom of Freislicht. Whereas: We have taken into Our Royal Consideration recent grievances…”

Jonathan’s fears lessened as the men who’d signed the petition slapped his back and thanked him. It was better than they’d hoped. Whoever had their loved ones must return them.

He was happy for them but wondered who held his daughter. And where was Rebekah? The only reason his wife would have stolen a horse would be to give chase.

If I had been there, I would know.

Their joy had been short-lived for him.

He still did not understand how the king’s proclamation had not reached Lorness. That meant someone had intercepted the rider headed east. Jon prayed for him.

Jonathan pushed aside his suspicion of Geleib. Many other nobles and rich men would be troubled by the proclamation. Any one of them could have killed, bribed, or waylaid the courier. All that was important now was that Jon deliver the proclamation to Dunis Glen.

Before he could say goodbye to his friends, the herald intercepted him with two fresh horses, each laden with provisions. “Go with Joshua’s blessings, knight; you do his bidding… and that of the king.”

 

The Circuit

Rebekah, as Tomas Beck, decided to reacquire George Rosewood, for he might lead her to another significant find. However, she could not do so as a farmer. Instead, she acquired a Franklin and Sons catalog to pose as a plow salesman.

Yet, even with her new guise, she could not pursue the weasel immediately. She had to establish her new cover, so began her first circuit.

As she passed through each town, she stayed at the inns used by traveling salesmen. Most were, at best, clean. Yet, they drew no attention, which was more important to her. She made a point of making friends with each establishment’s owners, promising them a small commission if they pointed her toward farms that might be potential customers… and those farmers bought something, of course. She was shocked to make two sales on her first stop.

Her travels also permitted her to set up regular contact with the families that had left the Frei. She visited each in her guise as plow salesman, expecting nothing more than to visit for a brief few hours. She told them of the inn she would be using in the town nearest to them. Again, she was surprised to make more sales.

At the commencement of her second circuit, six letters were waiting for her at the inn, four potential sales and two sightings of the weasel.

 

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