Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua Book 1

by Tiana Dokerty © 1984-2021

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Chapter 9: Relief

Updated 2/3/23

 

Rebekah – Early Summer, 144 AK – The Circuit From River Town

Rebekah, as Tomas Bekh, decided to stalk George Rosewud, for he might lead her to another significant find. However, she couldn’t do so as a farmer. After receiving instruction from a merchant at The Sapphire, she acquired a charter to pose as a plow merchant for Franklin and Sons.

Even with her new disguise, she could not pursue the weasel immediately. She had to establish her new cover and 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. She made friends of each establishment’s owners, promising them a small commission if they pointed 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 merchant, expecting nothing more than a brief few hours amongst friends. She told them of the inn she’d be using in the town nearest them. They introduced her to their neighbors and, 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. By halfway through it, she was forced to open an account with the Lockes. Despite Melazera’s moneychangers being prominent at every faire, she didn’t trust them.

With what, to her, was a vast number of baden, she made her first major purchase, a mare with a burled coat. It was the color of the old hickory table her ma had loved so much. She named it Marly.

Yet, even after doing so, she’d barely touched her fortune. That was when she decided to return Justice.

Filling a saddle bag with enough baden to rent Justice three times over for three moons, she tied the mare to Marly and left for Wooster.

When she pulled up to the house, smoke rose lazily from the chimney. The open door of the barn behind it reminded her of the day she’d stolen the horse. She thought she’d be jittery, but only felt a buzz of excitement.

She hopped down and approached the door. “Hallo, is anyone home?”

A dark-haired woman appeared in the doorway, wiping her hands on her apron. “Hallo, can I help you, sir?” She craned her neck to look at the two horses.

“Yes, ma’am. My name is Tomas Bekh. I sell plows. But that’s not why I’m here. I recently acquired a horse that was said to belong to you.”

The farmer’s wife ran to Justice and threw her arms around the mare’s neck. “Friska!” Then looking back, she asked, “Where’d you find her?” She walked all around the horse, patting her lovingly. “She looks well cared for.”

“Well, ma’am, a woman gave her to me and asked me to return her to you. She’s… was very sorry she stole her, and wanted to repay you. She filled the saddle bags with what she hoped was recompence enough for your loss.”

“We’ve heard what happened that day. We’re thankful to J’shua to be on the Duke of Wooster’s lands. Melazera is a…” She paused, regaining her composure. “I hope that poor woman found her daughter.”

Rebekah wasn’t expecting sympathy and feared she’d cry, so just nodded. Taking a deep breath, she asked, “Do you have a circle?”

That day she added another stop for Helen to visit on her rounds, passing messages and interviewing new members.

 

Jonathan – Summer, 144 AK – Dunis Glen

After days of traveling and sleeping under the heavens, Jonathan passed through Dunis Glen’s gate. The sun barely peeked over the red clay rooftops, making them glow like fire.

The local herald stood as the knight entered. The old man’s eyes twinkled while he read the parchment, his eyebrows rising ever higher. “Astonishing news. I’ll proclaim it immediately. What’s your name, sir?”

“Jonathan Otual. I took a petition about these vile acts to the king.”

“Thank you for delivering this.” The herald donned his blue tabard bearing the king’s sigil, 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.

Their joy overcame Jonathan. His heart soared 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 Jonathan. “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 Jonathan, please give a word to the people.”

Jon stepped forward and trusted J’shua’s spirit to guide his words. “People of Dunis Glen, we owe thanks to King Edal for his mercy in granting us relief from the excessive acts of some 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 comfort from the spirit of J’shua. We must all stand against the darkness. Together, we will be victorious.”

The crowd cheered.

Jonathan bowed, as courtesy demanded, then departed.

He was in no hurry. There was nowhere to go. He no longer had a home. Nor was there news of his missing wife or daughter. He prayed until he was empty of words. Then he headed toward Lorness through a copse of Linden trees.

Now what?

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 Rebekah and Sarah? I miss them so.”

Jon thought of his son, David, at the horse farm in the Republic of Esthlanis and felt a surge of longing to see him.

Magistrate Gorum might know something. Perhaps Rebekah and Sarah have gone there.

 

Rebekah – Summer, 144 AK – River Town

Rebekah, 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.

After eating, she stepped into the sunlight and noticed a plain well-groomed man 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 Tomas Bekh?

The man still leaned 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. Instead, she approached him. “Have you bought arrows from this fletcher?”

“No, no, I haven’t.” He blinked. “This may sound strange. A still, small voice told me to stand there,” the man pointed at the hitching post, “and wait. Then to move here. I felt utterly foolish. But I am ‘a fool for the Lord’ as the Writings say. Do you know J’shua?”

“I… do.” Relief flooded through her. “Do you belong to a circle here?”

“My family leads a circle that meets tonight. I’m Patrik Gonnels.” 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 Sarah. 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 three moons ago."

Sadness filled Patrik's eyes. "No, but I think you'd best come to the farm, so you can tell your story. Our circle can 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." Patrik might not know Sarah's whereabouts, but J’shua had brought them together for a reason. She needed information and, it seemed, the Lord was providing.

“My horse is at the stable getting a new shoe.” Gonnels pointed.

She retrieved her mount, affixed her supplies, and followed Patrik to the stables at the edge of town. Then they both mounted and headed down the empty dirt road.

“It is good to know there is an active circle in River Town. I wanted to find one.”

“I’m home visiting family before starting my new post at High Castle. J’shua inspired me to apply for it. I’m excited to be stationed in the capitol.”

As they rode, they talked of the Lord’s marvelous works, of divine appointments, and needs met miraculously. After an hour, Patrik 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 of a meaty stew made her stomach growl.

“Welcome, visitor.” The woman wore a blue dress and plain muslin apron.

“Mother, this is Tomas Bekh,” Patrik announced, “a follower of J’shua from the south. Mr. Bekh, these are my mother, Clarin, and my father, Wenston.”

The elder Gonnels 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.

Rebekah recounted the debt collection, the murder of her parents, her daughter’s kidnapping, the moons spent hiding in Frei Forest, the reasons for her pretense as a man, and the human sacrifice she’d discovered. “My son, David, is safe in Esthlanis. But I have no idea where to begin seeking Sarah or Jonathan.” Her eyes welled up with tears.

Patrik’s mother embraced her. Rebekah sobbed.

“We feel your burden. We’ll help any way we can,” Wenston added.

As she told them of more of her plans, a vision formed within her mind of all the circles in the land united and, somehow, the Gonnels 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’.

 

Jonathan – Summer, 144 AK – Esthlanis

Jonathan crossed the Tarin River at dawn after two days of riding. Esthlanis was a beautiful, mostly tranquil country to the east of Freislicht. Its wide-open plains rolled out like a golden blanket dappled with horses. A welcoming blue sky bolstered the impression of freedom.

He wished Rebekah and Sarah were with him.

Reining in his steed, he watched a bronze stallion with a black mane followed by dozens of mares. Their speed and grace took his breath away, as they swept past him like a river of rippling muscle.

As he traveled east, there were pastures everywhere filled with mares nursing foals and proud stallions stomping the ground.

At the gates of Magistrate Gorum’s estate, four red-headed riders intercepted him, each coming from a different direction. The tactic impressed him. They were intimidating, all wearing short swords in simple scabbards. Their green woolen tunics made their hair stand out like fire.

These must be his sons.

“Can we help you?” one asked.

“This is Jonathan Otual,” Jathan, the eldest, corrected. “His son, David, is apprenticed here. 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 and the comfortable way the young man rode.

“David’s a fine boy, Sir Jonathan. He learns fast.”

Jathan led him to the house. It had been expanded yet again, another wing jutting off to the east. His father sat on the enlarged porch, not a grey hair on his head, only streaks of gold here and there.

“Jon!” Agon Gorum bellowed. “Come, have some tea. You’re not taking my favorite student away, are you? It’s only been four moons.”

“No, he is in good hands here. I hope he appreciates the opportunity you are giving him.” Jonathan 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. I fear my mother and father-in-law are dead.”

“Those drecksa!” Gorum snarled, striding forward to clasp Jonathan’s shoulder. “What can I do? If you know who’s behind this, my sons, my men, 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, looking into Gorum’s eyes. “I am honored by the offer, Agon, but…”

“But what?

“I, and others, appealed to the king, who interceded, declaring such takings unlawful.”

“That’s something… but your wife and daughter are still missing.” Gorum pointed to chairs on the porch. “Sit. Please. Maria, bring drinks. Strong ones!”

Jonathan dropped into the offered chair and told his tale. His voice broke. He rubbed his face.

“Keep your faith strong. You’ll have what’s needed, when it’s needed.”

Jon looked into the distance. “I know but… being powerless to find them is…” He blinked.

“What can I do for you? You know David can stay here beyond the agreed time while you seek them. He’s family to us.”

Jonathan exhaled slowly. This was the first time he’d spoken to an old friend about the situation. Somehow, that made everything more painful. “Rebekah knows where David is. She may end up here at some point, with or without Sarah.”

“My sons and I will protect them with our lives.”

“If you see them, tell Rebekah 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. Then send word to your School. With all that’s befallen you, I’ll not risk anyone snatching them away again.”

Jonathan snorted. “I have no doubt of your good intentions, but do you really think my Rebekah can be ‘kept safe’ anywhere?”

Gorum thought for a moment and shook his head. “Perhaps you’re right. I could no more contain her than cage a southerly wind. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t provide her with an escort 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.

 

Blackhawk –Summer, 144 AK – High Castle

For the most part, Steven Blackhawk was settling into High Castle well.

However, Lieutenant Fortuch had not forgotten their clash. While the other junior officer went out of his way to behave acceptably in public, his private revenges were ongoing. Little things kept happening. Laundry went missing. The door to his shanty would mysteriously unlock itself. Things would be moved around.

Despite this harassment getting on Blackhawk’s nerves, he remained outwardly affable and unaffected by the increasing frequency of the intrusions.

However, when he found a silver goblet hidden amongst his clothes, he had to act. Stashing it in the only safe place he’d found in his quarters, a space under loose floorboards, he sat at his table and began reviewing maps leading from High Castle to Fairness Crossing.

Minutes later, there was a knock at the door.

A captain wearing a pronounced scowl entered without waiting for Blackhawk to respond. “Lieutenant, there have been reports of pilferage. Your name, amongst others, has come up. Primarily, it has been suggested, because you always have baden to spend buying food and drink for others… without a wealthy patron’s backing. Therefore, I need you to stand at attention over there,” he pointed to the farthest corner, “while I perform a search.”

“Yes, sir.” Blackhawk put on a perplexed but compliant expression and did as ordered. That the captain went almost immediately to where the goblet had been told Steven this officer was part of Fortuch’s revenge.

It was clearly no longer enough to aggravate Steven, the other lieutenant wanted Blackhawk’s reputation ruined and, possibly, to have him thrown out of the army in disgrace.

The captain’s puzzled expression at not finding the goblet was almost comical. He looked over at Blackhawk, back at the spot where the stolen item should have been, then marched out.

 

Owakar – Summer, 144 AK – Above Lorness

Owakar’s sent a message to Jonathan Otual’s attending angel. This one is significant to happenings in the domain of Lorness. J’shua has presented me this passage regarding him.

Deliver the poor and needy out of the hand of the wicked.

Therefore, send me messages of his activities.


David Otual – Summer, 144 AK – Gorum Estate, Esthlanis

David 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 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.”

“No, I missed it.” His father knelt, embracing him tightly.  Then he held him by the shoulders. “Are you well son?”

“Yes, Da.” He smiled, looking into his father’s eyes.

Jonathan stood, taking David’s hand. “That’s good, son.”

“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.” David looked up at his father. “Why’d you come back? Are you taking me with you?” David bit his lip, raising his eyebrows.

“I cannot. The Lord wants you here. Can we go talk outside?”

David sighed, then looked to Jathan and the breeder, seeking permission. When both nodded, he followed his father out.

They walked a short distance beyond a corral of wild horses. His Da saying nothing. David’s insides knotted as his father’s face clouded. An expression he’d only seen when there was dark news.

“I do not want you to worry,” Da said, “but need you to pray.”

David gulped. Something’s terribly wrong.

“When I arrived home,” Da cleared his throat and rubbed his eyes, “our house and barn had been burned down. There was no trace of Oma and Opa, your mother, or sister.”

Turning away, grabbing the nearest upright fence post, David gazed into the distance. He could not bear to see the look on his father’s face. “W-w-what?” he forced the word out, trying to reject what had been said. “W-why?”

There was no answer.

“We must find them!” David demanded, turning back to his father as grief and anger warred within.

Da nodded, slowly. “There is more. I fear your grandparents are dead. Your mother and sister……”

The single moment’s pause terrified David.

Had they all died?

“…are missing. I trust in J’shua that they are alive. I will continue searching.”

David did not register the last few words. He was hugging his father tight, clenching the back of his father’s shirt in his fists.

How could this have come to pass? How can there be such evil? What can I – must I – do to right it?

Placing a firm hand on David’s shoulder, Da stepped back and looked into his eyes. “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 pray in the spirit as much as you can.”

“I will, Da, but… shouldn’t I go with you? You’ll 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.” David nodded, controlling 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 David 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.”

David paused, considering his father’s words, and – despite the 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, as yet, I have no information on where to find Ma or Sarah.”

David sighed, looked at his feet, and nodded.

So be it, Father. If I can’t travel with you now, I will learn everything I need to be ready when I can.

Da lifted David’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.”

David nodded. “I’ll stay and learn. When I am a knight, I’ll be ready.”

I’ll never be unready again. Never. Father requires me to bide my time for now. I shan’t as a man.

“That’s my boy.” Da smiled at him, tousling his hair. “Do you eat with the family?”

“Yes.” David 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.”

 

Jonathan – Summer, 144 AK – Gorum Estate, Esthlanis

Jon stayed at the estate for two more days, spending time with his boy in the evenings. J’shua’s spirit then led Jonathan, not back to Freislicht, but deeper into Esthlanis.

He had no way to find Rebekah or Sarah. He believed he would be led to them in time.

The circles planted in this foreign land needed support. He would feed them, tend them, and help them grow. But first, he had to locate them.

The Esthlani circles had been planted many years before his birth. However, for all 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 David.

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 in a square before him. The sign to his right read Kalmah. 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,” Jonathan acknowledged, nodding.

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?” Jonathan asked.

“I’d be happy to show you,” a tall, brown-haired man replied. “The name’s Blake Tolmach.” A wide-brimmed hat hung down his back. His spurs jingled as he walked.

Jonathan followed along, leading his horse to The Braying Donkey Inn.

“Are you a Knight of J’shua? It’s been many years since we’ve seen your kind.”

“Yes, I am. I would learn about your town.”

The inn provided a good meal. It was followed by a bitter drink, called cofaidh, that was mixed with honey and cream.

Blake was a friendly soul. He talked in great 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. His home was a modest cabin two miles outside of town. The knight shared fellowship with his family and attended two of the local circles.

 

Blackhawk – Late Summer, 144 AK – High Castle

It took almost a week for Blackhawk to complete his arrangements. A week during which Fortuch stayed clear of him. As did the captain that had searched Steven’s room. Nor were there any more incidents.

Then…

Blackhawk had made sure there were plenty of witnesses to corroborate his alibi. He’d also ensured that he’d be very memorable on this particular evening, which explained the appalling string of “bad luck” he was having at cards. “Another hand to you,” he lamented, taking a long pull of ale.

Brean Mitchett scooped the baden towards him with a grin. “I told you his luck couldn’t hold.” He grinned at Samuel and R’bert.

“Seems everyone’s winning but you tonight, Steven,” Samuel Benutt crowed.

“Finally evening the score,” R’bert Maitlan chuckled, looking down at the largest pile of baden he’d ever amassed at one of their games.

“Fire! Fire!” came a yell from outside.

The four lieutenants grabbed their gear, and their baden, then dashed outside to see what was going on, only to see flames engulfing the nearest row of junior officers’ shanties. Shouldering militet out of the way, they tried to get close, but the heat prevented them from doing so.

Karl Fortuch ran into view, then turned on Blackhawk. “You did this! I’ll get you for this! You’ll rue the day that—”

“He’ll rue the day he did what, Lieutenant?” Commander Taelor demanded, striding into view as he buttoned up his jacket. “I’m waiting, lieutenant! I won’t ask again.”

“He burned down my quarters!”

Taelor’s eyebrow rose as he turned to face Blackhawk. “Is this true… Lieutenant Maitlan? Did Blackhawk set the fire?”

“I don’t see how he could, sir. He’s been playing cards with us for the last two hours, maybe longer. He hasn’t even left to take a piss.”

Taelor fixed his gaze on Lieutenant Samuel Benutt. “Can you shed any light on this?”

“No, sir. Blackhawk’s had a lousy day, hit a terrible run of cards. But that’s the only thing he’s done since we came off duty.”

“I… see…” Taelor’s jaw worked back and forth as if chewing a tough piece of meat. As he turned back toward Fortuch, there was a crash from within the burning officer’s quarters, a wall collapsed, and a silver goblet rolled into sight. “Does that belong to you, Lieutenant Fortuch?”

“No, sir. Never seen it before.”

Taelor walked forward, knelt and examined the piece. “It was stolen from me about a week ago. Which of these quarters,” he pointed to the burning rooms, “is yours?”

Fortuch smiled smugly, pointing to the one next to where the goblet had appeared from.

“And who owns that one?” Taelor pointed to the goblet’s former hiding place.

“It’s…” Fortuch’s face fell. “It’s empty.”

“How long has it been empty?”

“Four…”

“Days, lieutenant? Weeks?” Taelor demanded, his tone hardening.

“Moons, Commander.”

“Really? How did that come about, lieutenant? Were any of the other quarters empty?”

“Yes, sir…”

“How many of them, Fortuch?”

“All of them, sir.”

“I think that you have a great deal of explaining to do, lieutenant. Starting off with why you would accuse a brother officer. Next, there is the matter of your… unique… living arrangements in a camp that has little or no space to waste. And, finally, how this goblet appeared in an empty set of quarters that just happen to be adjacent to your own.”

‘Sir, I…” Fortuch glared at Blackhawk with murder in his eyes.

“That is quite enough of that!” Taelor snapped. “If I could prove that you’d stolen the goblet, I’d see you got the maximum number of lashes and were thrown out in disgrace. As it is, I’ll just have to deal with the administrative issues. You won’t be a lieutenant much longer.”

Blackhawk remained with his friends, saying nothing. Paying for the planting of the goblet and the setting of the fire, via multiple cut-outs, had been worth every baden he’d spent on it. It was even worth all his losses. Plus, the worst quarters at High Castle were about to be rebuilt.

Although, he could not work out how the goblet had rolled into sight as if on cue. For a moment, he thought back to Little Soldier saying, “We need it when we need it.”

Perhaps, every once in a while, things just fall into place.

 

Jonathan – Early Autumn, 144 AK – Kalmah, Esthlanis

After several more weeks, Jonathan returned to the Braying Donkey Inn.

“You’ve been busy,” Blake noted as he held out his hand and greeted the knight. ‘You’re also making me famous, or maybe infamous, due to our friendship. Gossip says you met with Mathu Duine, Steward to the Premier of Esthlanis. A man that many hold in high esteem. Others think him merely the premier’s puppet.”

Jonathan nodded. “Is that all they have said of me? That I consort with politicians? Were my travels not mentioned? Was the reappearance of a knight not worthy of a few comments?”

“Fishing for compliments is not like you, knight.”

“More like seeking information. I am astounded by your country.” Jon turned to watch the moon rise. “I have also come to appreciate your people’s understanding of liberty. It has profoundly affected me. You have enlightened me, especially regarding Paul’s letter to the Galatians. ‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Mashiach hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.’ I wonder if I have had any effect.”

“You have.” Blake folded his arms. “You’re the center of all the gossip. It’s said you’ve been all the way to our eastern border, to Petinbrok in the far north, followed the Sea of Glass west before turning southward. And everywhere you’ve gone, tales of the return of the Knights of J’shua have sprung up as if there was an army of such men. Not just you.”

“People do enjoy exaggeration. However, it was as cold as everyone said it would be up north.” Jonathan winced and laughed.

“I speak only the truth. You are blind to your effect on others. As for my country,” 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.” Jonathan shook his head, sipping 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.”

 

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