Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua

by Tiana Dokerty © 1984-2021

Home | Chapter 9 | Chapter 11

Chapter 10: Revenge – 144 AK, Winter

Second Runic Precept of the Alte Regieren: Let Thy Revenge Be Strategic.

Updated 8/14/22

Southern Esthlanis

Jon’than stood watching the young men practice. He’d been guided to remain here until the end of the season. Then he’d, hopefully, meet R’bekah at the Knights’ School.
Despite being in a foreign land, there were similarities in their training to that used on the Mountain. There were also differences, as the workout they’d just completed had demonstrated.
Sir Fingal Tolmach slapped Jon on the back, squeezing his shoulder. “What’s got you pensive? Home? That wife of yours? Or, is it your daughter this time? From what you’ve told me of R’bekah, she’s as devout as you. The only thing that could stop her moving heaven and earth to find you is J’shua guiding her elsewhere… just as you were sent here.”
“I…”
“In the four moons you’ve been here, you’ve taught us fighting techniques, tactics, and strategies we knew nothing of… and learned a thing or two, I pray. You have also piqued our curiosity. Your take on the Writings is thought-provoking. It’s renewed our vigor to discover all the mysteries they contain.”
“As you’ve made me look at passages in a new light,” Jon’than responded.
If anything, that was an understatement. The Esthlani perspective had re-opened his eyes to the infinite wisdom contained within the Writings. That his small contributions had made a difference was gratifying.
“I know that expression, Freislander. Your modesty is too great,” Fingal teased. “The Premier’s Council has sent agents down here more than once to see what impact you’ve had on our Knights’ School. According to the most recent visitor, they’ve praised your so-called ‘modest’ effects on us. And those agents have urged the Premier to consider closer ties between the Fellowships of Esthlanis and Freislicht. There’s even been talk of the Premier’s office aiding your cause. But, if that happens, it will take many moons, if not years.”
Jon’than looked off into the distance. Assistance from the rulers of Esthlanis was too much to hope for. Even the suggestion was, or should be, beyond consideration. Yet, it warmed him.
“As for that wife of yours,” Fingal pressed on, “unless J’shua guides you back together, how do you expect to find her? You’re a wanted man in your home country. Not that any here believe the charges laid against you.”
“I–”
“R’bekah can hardly put out notices in every Herald Station asking to meet you at some time and place. The king’s men would be waiting… and probably take her into custody too, out of spite. Nor can you blunder about asking for her without promptly landing in some dungeon.”
“That may be the case—”
“And, if your daughter is everything you say of her, I have no doubt that someday she’ll pop up in front of you. In fact,” Fingal grinned, “if you don’t get back to work, your reunion could be delayed for years. She might even show up with a husband and children. Who knows, she might have the excellent taste to marry one of your friends... or their sons, like me. Just how long have you known my father?”
Jon’than picked up the practice sword. If teaching and learning could speed up the reunion with his wife and daughter, it was time to get back to it.

It took Jon’than nine days to travel to the Knights’ School, going south from Esthlanis into Tarinland, then entering Freislicht near the School.
Even in Tarinland, most wore a blade.
How could our people have lost this wisdom?
Upon entering the School, memories flooded back. Jon was surprised it was quiet. He smiled realizing the boys would be on the mountain. His eyes roamed up the wide oak staircase, imagining he and his friends rushing down it, then out into the fresh air.
It was a demanding five-year training program, but he’d thrived in it. Every day had begun with prayer and study of the Writings, followed by communication classes where the boys taught what they’d learned to other students. The afternoons were all outdoors. The boys ran to the kitchen, picked up food sacks, and headed for the mountain. No matter the weather, they lived up there for some part of every day and, occasionally, many days straight.
Being on the road by yourself was different, but a still small voice reminded him, you are never alone.
It was a simple matter to leave a letter for R’bekah, which unencrypted read:
Beloved wife,
Know that my love for you and Sar’h is never-ending and that nothing except J’shua’s guidance could keep me from searching for you, finding you, and bringing you both to safety. Yet, his voice urges me to continue my mission.
If the Lord permits, I will be at the School on the first day of each season. If not, I shall do my best to leave letters here for you. But you know how bad I am at writing, even to you.
If you cannot be here on those days, leave a letter for me so I know you are safe and what has befallen you since our parting.
Dav’d is happy in his studies. You and Sar’h are always in our thoughts and prayers,
Jon’than

 

Fairness Crossing

It had been many moons, yet Greysun kept reliving Otual’s actions. He seethed thinking of the more than one hundred thousand baden he’d lost. On top of which, he’d personally had to cover the costs of returning every conscript to their home.
Lord Melazera would be displeased that he'd not stopped the knight. A dissatisfaction that could be lethal.
Greysun’s rage boiled over because the knight was still out of reach. He thought of all the ways he’d make Otual pay, dwelling on them, sweating out new ideas until…
I’ll not be revenged on merely one knight. I’ll make them all suffer.
Yet, for his plan to be successful, he required his lord’s permission and so traveled north to Farr Castle.
Entering the Reception Hall, Melazera was reclining on a couch eating grapes. “Commandant Greysun, welcome.”
Whistles and twittering erupted as the commandant approached, staring wrathfully at one birdcage after another. Exotic beady eyes gazed back.
The Lord of Lorness enquired in a lazy, apathetic tone as he threw a grape to a flamboyant red parrot, “How are my military assets in Fairness Crossing?”
Greysun watched the bird crush the morsel in his sharp beak. “My Lord, the trainees I have left will be ready when you call.”
“That you have left?” Melazera’s tone was icy.
“The king’s proclamation recently delivered by Jon’than Otual–”
“I am aware of it. Yet, the more pertinent question is: why didn’t you prevent its delivery? You… waylaid… the other courier.”
“I was going to arrest him–”
After he’d delivered it in Fairness Crossing!” Gaelib surged to his feet, advancing on Greysun. “What use was that? And how’re you going to make up for not stopping him from reaching River Town, Lorness, and Dunis Glen? Do you have any idea what your failure to stop one man cost me? I needed time to dispose of those I’d not yet sold.”
The commandant backed away, tripping. He looked up at the Lord of Lorness toying with a knife. “I’ve placed a large bounty on the knight’s head. If he’s within Freislicht, he’ll be in your hands soon.”
“That’s… something. Too little, but something. It doesn’t relieve you of responsibility for your failings.”
“We can get revenge, Lord!”
"How…?”
“The Knights of J’shua are zealots,” Greysun babbled. “They interfere with your noble designs. Let me chastise them. What if, by some happy accident, their only school burned down? Due to their own negligence, of course.”
Melazera smiled. It wasn’t a pleasant sight. “We didn’t have this conversation. However, if such a misfortune occurred, I’d wish to hear of it promptly. We wouldn’t …” his cruel smile became a sneer. “…want unfounded rumors to spread.”

 

High Castle

R’bekah was back at High Castle, her third stop on her circuit as a plow salesman. It was different this time. She knew where she’d be staying, had an arrangement with a local stable, and knew which taverns to frequent and which to avoid.
Or, she hoped she did.
To her amazement, she’d already made a small profit. The original plan was to use her disguise as T’mas Bekh to learn and pass on information but, as things turned out, people were far more talkative than she’d expected. What’s more, listening to those people gossip was a great way to sell… while also learning about recent happenings.
The manager of the Poplar Inn greeted her with more than the usual pleasantries. Smartly dressed and clearly hoping to attract higher-class residents, he presented T’mas Bekh with eleven messages.
She’d been hoping for one or two. The missive from Major Gonn’ls read:
Looking forward to seeing the new catalog at midday on the quarter moon of the Goat at our location.
That meant the Commander’s office. The quarter moon was tomorrow.
The following morning, she walked down the bustling street. Her heart ached as she watched a young man twirl his lady, both happy as could be. R’bekah smiled as she thought of her lover.
Where are you, Jon?
She stopped at the butcher shop for some dried meat, then the bakery for bread and a journey cake. As she nibbled on the treat, savoring its sweet corn, she studied the passersby, street venders, shoppers, and soldiers.
Ahead, she saw Gonn’ls enter the Commander’s office. When R’bekah felt the peace of the holy spirit, she entered too.
“How may I help you?” the corporal behind the desk greeted her.
“I’m T’mas Bekh,” she responded, “a kinsman of Commander Pet’r Ta’ler from the south. My mother asked me to pay her respects. Is the Commander available?”
“Let me see. Please have a seat, sir.” The corporal gestured toward a chair, left through a door, and returned a minute later. “He’ll see you now. This way, sir.”
R’bekah followed.
“T’mas, how good to see you.” The commander grinned. “Don’t get stuck on formalities. Call me Pet’r, as you did when we were young.”
The corporal left, shutting the door behind him.
“Thank you for meeting me… Pet’r.” R’bekah shook his hand, then Patr’kh’s. “And also for your greeting. For a moment, I was sure we’d met before.”
“No matter how this goes…” Pet’r motioned to the empty chair. “I have no intention of raising suspicions. The Major is willing to stand surety for you. That’s reason enough to meet.”
“Major Gonn’ls also assures me that you can be trusted,” she replied, “and that you serve the king, not Melazera. You must not discuss what I’m about to tell you with anyone, not even your wife.”
The commander’s eyebrow rose, then he nodded. He kept nodding while rubbing his chin, as she told him of Licht Gegen’s strategy, their observations, and conclusions.
“Will you help us, Commander?”
Ta’ler paused. “Mister Bekh, I serve the God of Truth, J’shua, and the king… so, yes, I will help you. We will expel this evil, but it will take time to root out.”
T’mas handed him a parchment.
Commander Ta’ler looked at the letter, then back at R’bekah. It was nothing special, no more than someone addressing their grandfather, some pleasantries, and that they were studying Ephesians 4. At the bottom was some unintelligible text, and the writer asking if his grandfather could translate it.
“A code,” Ta’ler noted.
“A letter replacement cipher based on the passage quoted,” she confirmed. “If things become more dangerous, we’ll alter the order or use multiple verses. Patr’kh can teach you the substitutions. This…” She handed over a second parchment that could have been a shopping list. “…is an encoded list of nearby locations where Licht Gegen is active. It doesn’t extend beyond your area of authority.”
“I appreciate your prudence.” The Commander nodded. “Had you given me a list covering the entire country, I’d have had nothing to do with you, no matter how noble or righteous your cause. If you can’t maintain secrecy, you’ll fail.”
“I agree and, had you asked for the full list, I’d have thought you a deceiver,” R’bekah countered. “If you need our aid or to pass information, let Patr’kh know. I’ll leave now. It’s best if I’m not seen with people of influence… unless you want to buy a plow.” She grinned. “God speed, gentlemen.”
“God bless you, Mister Bekh,” Commander Ta’ler responded with a bow.
“Godspeed,” Patr’kh added.
“Thank you both,” R’bekah replied and left.
There were still ten sales calls she had to make before moving on to Farr Castle. “If business keeps growing like this,” she muttered, “I’m going to need an assistant.”
Otherwise, my cover’s going to get in the way of my mission.

 

Alexandria

The cross-country portion of Jon’than’s journey had been uneventful, giving him time to pray and plan. Although he saw many farms along the way in the distance, he felt no call to go to any. Instead, he kept to himself and slept under the stars.
Having forded the Freish River, he was sopping wet and freezing. Spying a small glade, he made a fire, donned dry clothes, and let his horse graze. While spreading his wet things out over bushes, he spied some rabbits and shot his dinner. He gathered chickweed and lamb’s quarters, found wood sorrel to add a lemony accent to his salad, then spit the rabbit and relaxed, waiting for it to roast.
The smell of cooking meat attracted a group of boys. They weren’t stealthy. The boldest stepped into the clearing. The others flanked Jon, while still hiding in the trees.
The knight’s mount had signaled him with twitching ears. And he’d heard them long before seeing them. Jon gazed at the boy. “Hallo there. Would you like some rabbit?”
“Yes, but you don’t need it as much as we do.”
“So you plan to steal it, rather than accept my hospitality?”
“I don’t see as you’ve much to say about it. You’re surrounded.”
Jon’than heard the other boys advance. Scooping up his bow, he fixed an arrow and aimed at their leader. “You have an advantage,” he acknowledged with a gentle smile, “but as I can teach you how to catch rabbits, which are plentiful here, why settle for one?”
The bold one took a step back, readying his crude spear.
Jon told the others, “Come out with your weapons undrawn, and I will not harm him.”
One by one, boys walked into the clearing. “Please don’t hurt our brother,” the first to appear pleaded. “We’re so hungry.”
Jon chuckled. “Sit down, let me get a few more rabbits,” He doubted they’d eaten much for weeks. It didn’t take long to return with six more.
They intently watched as he skinned, gutted, and spit the hares on greenwood stakes.
As the meat roasted, he drew out their story. While he’d been away, the followers of J’shua had begun being persecuted in Lorness and other locations where Melazera held influence.
The eldest lad was in his fifteenth year. The youngest, twins, in their seventh. Their parents had been arrested at a circle gathering and taken to Farr Castle six moons ago.
The boys had remained near their homes for several weeks but, afraid of debt collectors, took to the woods. Not knowing how to survive in the wilderness and with only makeshift weapons, they didn’t catch much food. The bold one, James, had taken charge and led them to the river to fish. Still, they were gaunt and their clothes in tatters.
Jon’than felt moved to help them. He prayed for guidance.
I could take them to the Knights’ School, but half are too young… or, take them with me, but they would be in danger if when I am chased again. Or…
The last alternative was so obvious, he did not even form the words in his mind. Nor did he require the still small voice’s confirmation. He knew it was the right choice.
Looking deep into the fire, he listened to the boys as they ate and talked amongst themselves. They were good lads whose lives had intersected with his. Unconcerned as to J’shua’s plan for them, and him, he looked around and smiled. “I will teach you how to survive upon the Lord’s abundance, if you will permit me to.”
James’ eyes went wide, then he stood and bowed. “Thank you… sir.”
Jon’than spent the next two moons teaching them to live well in the wilderness, how to stay healthy, and how to protect themselves with bow, knife, and spear. He trained them how to hide, how to be still, and how to move silently. He instructed them in finding flint for knives, fashioning weapons, and fire-making. He taught them to hunt and had them practice stalking small game. He showed them how to make snares and fish traps. And he brought them to fellowship with the Lord every day.
When he left, they’d grown in wisdom and understanding. He told them, “No stealing, unless a life depends on it. No armed robbery, that will get you killed. Remember, you can always go to Shining Mountain to hide.”
He promised to return when his mission allowed, but had no idea when that would be.

 

The Knights’ School

It was shortly before sunset when Commandant Greysun had his soldiers surround the Knights’ School. “Come out, by order of the king!” His anticipation warmed him against the cold.
Trickling out the front door, the knights came. Some wore the familiar navy cloaks, others in plain clothes. The cook folded his apron, securing it in his belt. All were armed, but they were outnumbered four to one.
“Is this all of you?” Greysun scowled at the mere twelve knights.
“All that’re here,” Daikon Vale replied, signaling his knights to keep their swords sheathed. “Why’ve you come, Commandant?”
“You are training rebels against the crown,” Greysun accused. “Unfortunately, for you, a fire broke out while you were sleeping… and everyone died. It was a sign from your god that you’d failed him. Or, that’s how the tale will be told.”
“You can’t –”
Greysun’s hand clenched into a fist, ordering the bowmen concealed in the trees to fire. He’d been expecting many more targets.
Each of the knights was struck numerous times. Even so, ignoring the arrows protruding from them, four had the strength of will to charge. Closing with the mounted soldiers, they made it impossible for his archers to fire upon them.
His horsemen should have ended things quickly. Yet horses and riders screamed as they fell. Again, and again, and again. What should have taken only moments, lasted more than a minute before the last knight died.
It should have been a one-sided slaughter, but eleven horsemen were dead, a dozen more severely wounded, and three horses would have to be put down.
Inwardly, Greysun quailed. If the story of his losses got out, it’d ruin everything. He scanned his handpicked men. No, he resolved, the knights’ actions had been impressive, but futile. “Lieutenant!” He smiled. “Have the men carry the bodies inside, recover the arrows, and spread the oil.”
The commandant scanned the mountain as the warmth of the burning building spread through him.
That night, Greysun sent a report to Melazera, detailing the tragedy.

 

Home | Chapter 9 | Chapter 11