Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of Joshua

by Tiana Dokerty © 1984-2021

Home | Chapter 15 | Chapter 17

Chapter 16: Judged – 153 AK, Autumn

Romans 8:27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

 

Alexandria

Tomas Beck was back in Alexandria.

She was trying to decide whether or not to fire her Southern Manager, Bywold Parsons. Maybe, she would just strangle him. It would be more satisfying.

Parsons had initially proven a wonderful addition to her enterprises. For the first four moons, he could do no wrong. However, in the last six weeks he had been late with three major shipments and had infuriated a long-standing customer almost to the point of losing them. Admittedly, he had taken responsibility for the mistakes but she simply did not need the headaches.

For her, business was a disguise, a way to move around unnoticed. Or it had been. She was starting to be recognized, not as a plow salesman but as a canny businessman. Several of her other ventures had taken on a life of their own, and were generating ever larger piles of baden. It was one of the main reasons she’d hired Parsons.

The messages left at her usual inn had directed her to an address she was not familiar with. The building turned out to be a largish warehouse with an integral office on its upper floor. The sign over the main doors read: Beck’s Bold Businesses. The image below it was a stylized depiction of her face… her masculine face.

Her heart sank.

What has Parsons done now?

As she stormed up the stairs, she was wondering how to fix this mess without wrecking everything she’d built, only to find a seated Bywold Parsons speaking to… Charles Dugan, who she hadn’t seen in almost a decade, since they’d both left Frei Forest. “What the…? What’s going on?”

“Mr. Beck,’ Parsons began, rising to his feet and bowing slightly, “I apologize for the recent inconveniences. I—”

“He did as I insisted,” Charles cut in. “I’ve ended up running Licht Gegen here in the south. It turns out that by creating a few hiccups with your deliveries, we were able to spot—”

“Should you be mentioning… Licht Gegen?” Parsons fretted, his face becoming ashen. “Mr. Beck knows nothing of them. I’ve kept my involvement absolutely quiet. I—”

“Bywold,” Charles soothed. “Tomas is one of us. I vouch for him personally.”

“Oh… oh… in that case,” Parsons sat back down.

“However,” Charles grinned at Tomas, “I was not going to take any chances until I confirmed that your employer, Mr. Beck, was still the… man… I knew nearly a decade ago. How about I buy you a drink and we talk about recent developments? Parsons, join us.”

Beck nodded, wondering just how odd things were going to get. They exceeded her expectations. Not only had Charles been using her company’s funds for Licht Gegen matters, he’d somehow made a profit doing so… which he’d returned to her company, making her even richer.

 

Farr Castle – Prison Cell

Jonathan was aware of scraping, shuffling, and voices outside in the corridor. Everything echoed within his head. He couldn’t make out the words, other than they were getting closer.

“I want to see him now!” A woman’s voice demanded.

“Yes, Lady Melazera,” a militet answered as the cell door creaked open.

The light from a torch flickered across the floor and walls. Her perfume drifted into the cell, powerful and exotic. Barely floral but spicy and musky, it was most pleasant.

Jonathan lay where he had been dropped the night before, his swollen muscles still unresponsive. “Good morning, my Lady… please excuse my rudeness… I have lost my clothes and cannot stand… the world spins when I open my eyes,” Jonathan croaked. “How may I be… of service?”

She said nothing but looked over every inch of him. She eventually scowled and left without saying a word, leaving her intoxicating fragrance behind.

Jonathan forced his body to straighten. He hurt everywhere. After a time, he dozed, ignoring the cold floor. His only hope was for some healing during sleep.

 

Alexandria

The knock on the door woke Tomas Beck.

It was fully dark outside.

Who could that be? Who knows I’m staying at this inn?

“Coming,” she grumbled. With a dagger hidden behind her back, she answered the door.

Charles Dugan stood outside. “Sorry for the hour but there were things I couldn’t say before. I like Bywold. He’s great with details but he frets. I know you hired him to help your business – your cover – but I want to steal him away from you.”

Tomas sighed. It was too late in the night for such matters. “Why?”

“He’s brilliant, can put together odd scraps of information and come up with things no one else has. I need him to analyze our intelligence. In particular, there’s something going on in Caswell. None of my people can work out what it is. Bywold’s given us more insight than anyone else but I need him fully inside Licht Gegen and protected. I can’t do tha—”

“Find me a replacement,” Beck cut in, “and he’s yours. Plus, if you need funds, just ask. I seem to grow richer no matter what I do.”

Charles eyes crinkled as he laughed. “What a terrible problem.”

She chuckled with him. “On the subject of terrible problems, I’ve several times requested investigation of a list of family names but am getting nothing back. Can you help me?”

“I know the list you’re talking about. There’s been speculation about why you really want it. Too many of our people don’t believe that you’re trying to find the parents of boys who’ve gone missing. They’ve been conscripted or are dead. Everyone knows that.”

“They’re not dead. I won’t say more but they’d like to be reunited, if they can… safely.”

“Since it’s you,” Charles hesitated, “I’ll do what I can, but there are folks on that list who have been in hiding for a long time and are very scared.”

“For everyone’s protection, have them write a note with particular questions to identify their children. If the responses I return match their expectations, that will verify each lad’s authenticity.”

 

Farr Castle – Main Hall

Jonathan had been dressed and escorted to the Main Hall by four Militets, their swords ready. It was almost amusing. Bruised, battered, and still bent over, he could walk. Albeit, it may not have looked like walking. Perhaps, it was more of a shuffle.

The Militets stayed close.

The large hall was filled with colorful, well-dressed people behind an ornate balustrade: dukes, earls, lesser lords, and their ladies. As they bobbed their heads and blinked their eyes to get a glimpse of the infamous knight, Jonathan smiled.

Huh, looks like a crate full of peacocks.

He had hoped to speak with Sagen alone. Clearly, that was not to be.

Father, give me wisdom, give me the right words. Please don’t let me die today.

Soldiers in bright red uniforms, standing at attention along the aisle, watched as he was brought to the correct spot before the king.

It was excruciating to bend and press his knees into the stone floor. Jon bowed his head and waited.

The militets behind him bowed. 

After a long pause, Sagen commanded, “Rise, sir knight.”

Jonathan wobbled but stood under his own power.

“Why have you come before your king?”

“I came because we were friends once, Sire.” Jonathan felt the spirit inspire his words. “Lord Joshua wants to heal you and heal your land. There is great oppression over your people.” Enthused, a boldness grew within. He felt warm. His pain faded away. “We awake early filled with thoughts and dreads, moved to sing in the spirit a mournful song in prayer and praise to the Lord. He alone knows what burdens our souls.

“Send us your angels, open enchanted ears, clear the vision of the fools. No longer will we pray for safety. We pray for strength. Pray for wisdom. Pray to walk in love.

“When in the night we cannot constrain our worries, we are moved to sing in the spirit a war song and a love song, for there is nothing stronger than the Love of God in Joshua Ha Mashiach.

“Your Majesty, you need only trust in the sacrifice of His son, Joshua, and believe in your heart that His Father, the God of Truth, is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. You are already ransomed by him. He will never leave you. You need only pray.”

The king looked down at him for a long while. “Jonathan, I hear your words and take them in the spirit of friendship in which they are spoken. But this land no longer serves Joshua nor his Father. All his followers have left, and the gods of this world have filled the land with prosperity and order. The Lord of Lorness has shown me the truth. He has brought order to our legal system. My dungeons are empty.

“You must be punished for your crimes. I choose not to render the death penalty for the sake of our childhood friendship. Instead, I banish you from my kingdom. Do what you can to end the fighting. If you succeed, I may permit you to return home.”

“Your Majesty,” Jonathan pleaded, “may I not see the evidence against me?”

“No,” the king decreed. “Leave. You will be escorted to Mestelina immediately.”

Jon’s heart breaking, he bowed and hobbled out with the militet.

Lord, why didn’t he hear me?

 

Farr Castle – Outside the Main Hall

Melazera stifled his reactions as he walked away. His face was fixed in artful cross between sorrow for the fate of his boyhood friend and the need to do what was right for the kingdom. Inside, he seethed so badly that he could not remain in the king’s presence without doing something very foolish.

People moved out of his way with even greater alacrity than usual. It was pleasing to see.

Sadly, that was the only good thing to have occurred in the Main Hall.

It had all been arranged!

It was perfect. Jon would have been returned to the dungeons to await his execution, only to take his own life with poison. The guard who had ‘missed’ it would then have been slain, removing the only ‘witness’. The king would have been permitted to view his friend’s body. And, only then, would Cailleagh have administered the antidote and restored the knight to consciousness.

After which…

The fascinating, deliciously wicked things that Geleib had planned could be enacted over however long a period Jon continued to amuse him. Add the bonus of being able to torture father-in-law and daughter-in-law together…

The frisson of pleasure almost offset his anger. But only almost. Curse Sagan!

Banishment!

Worse, banishment with the possibility of a reprieve!

It was ridiculous, soft, and utterly… ahhh!

Geleib slipped into a back passage and down into the interrogation chamber. Only there did he allow his mask to fall away, revealing his black mood.

His prize had been taken from him.

Then, there was Cailleagh. She had her own plans for the knight, plans that she had kept secret but whispered hints about. Hints that had tantalized him, aroused him, and had him salivating to see just how creative she could be.

She would be… displeased. No, she’d be far worse than that, only adding to his problems instead of being a respite from them.

Still, the daughter-in-law, Cynthia, would be some small consolation. Except, everything he did to her would pale against what would have been. Sagen had spoiled that pleasure for him too.

As he fumed, he felt the Warrior’s inspiration stir within. There were other ways he could use the girl, while still having a little fun with her. Enough so that…

“Yes. Yes. Yes! Oh, yes. Thank you, my Warrior,” Geleib roared out loud joyously. If she alone could not provide him the pleasure he was due…

Yes!

Having stirred the ember-covered logs in the fireplace to summon new flames, Geleib flopped into the only chair. He breathed in. The room still smelled of citrus and exertion. The memory soothed him. 

Greyson is a genius. With only a bag of oranges he beat the knight thoroughly and did not kill him… but Jon will be dead soon.

Stretching, he luxuriated in the fire’s warmth, thinking of what he’d already put into motion. Under the guise of meticulously taking notes while the king held court, a habit he was well known for, he’d sent off messages that…

…oh, the things those notes had made happen over the years.

He was the Steward to the king, although he preferred ‘Steward of the king’. He controlled the soldiers. He controlled the treasury. He controlled the lords in all their castles, either directly or indirectly through the Black Robes.

He was the true master of Freislicht. One day very soon, he would not have to rule this land – his land – from the shadows. He would sit on the throne.

Again, he breathed in the chamber’s aroma. It sent his mind back to when he’d learned the game of the world from Cailleagh. He continued sitting by the fire, his feet propped up on the table, and relived a memory.

 

Twelve years earlier, the moon had been high as Geleib and Cailleagh lay on a blanket. She was feeding him slices of orange as she told him of the different gods and their blessings. They were innumerable: the god of harvest, the god of the sea, the god of war, and the god of fertility. All needed to be pleased.

“Pay attention,” she coaxed, presenting another slice, “I’ve a new surprise for you”.

“Which god must I satisfy to have you completely?”

“I wish it were so simple.” She laughed and licked the juice off her fingers. “I long for you, but we must wait until we marry. Should your father discover I am not chaste, it would doom our plan.” She nuzzled his neck. “We must honor the gods we need. Each requires sacrifices on their special days.”

She smelled of citrus. He twirled her hair in his fingers, grabbed her and rolled on top. He didn’t want to listen anymore. He wanted her.

After a few minutes, she reminded him, “Don’t you want your present?”

He stopped kissing her. “I always want your gifts.”

She pushed him off, reaching for a wineskin and two glasses. Pouring a thick pink liquid into each, she offered one to him. “Drink it.”

Sweet and salty and rich like cream, it tasted amazing. Geleib felt energy warm him from his center outward. He savored it, growled, then leaped on her again. “Is there more?”

“There can be. It’s difficult to make, but if you want, I’ll make more.”

“When?”

“Soon,” she responded, touching him.

Geleib sighed. No more time to think about the past. Time to implement and enjoy the Warrior’s new plan.

 

Farr Castle – Steward’s Hall

Blackhawk entered the hall. A young woman sat on the floor, terrified, guards flanking her. He had not seen Geleib or Cailleagh for two years. He had sent reports but not been summoned by either before today.

Has my loyalty been challenged? I’ll have to make a good show to survive.  

“Steven, come here.” Geleib’s mood was effusive but, as always, mercurial. “It’s been too long. Let me look at you.” The Lord of Lorness was seated on an ornate chair, placed upon a raised dais. It was not a throne, exactly.

Blackhawk approached and bowed low. As he rose, Geleib stroked his son’s beard.

“You’re quite a man now, Steven.”

Blackhawk bowed again. “I am pleased you think so, my Lord.”

“I hear such great things from Commander Taylor.

“My success is only because of your interest in me, my Lord.”

“He made you a Major.” Geleib touched the silver armbands, then the back of his hand stroked Steven’s uniform and traced its way slowly back to his waist. “He hasn’t seduced you away from me, has he?”

“No, my Lord, you taught me well to be entertaining, helpful, and complimentary. That and obedience has earned me my rank.”

“Yes, yes, I did. I was worried. Now, I need you to be useful to me. You should enjoy this, too.” He pointed to the woman. “This is the wife of a Knight of Joshua. It’s illegal to practice that religion. I’ve pronounced her guilty. You shall execute my sentence.”

Blackhawk’s gut tightened but he maintained his icy calm. He’d never let his emotions show with Geleib or Cailleagh. He learned very early that displaying your feelings gave them power over you.

“What punishment shall I administer, my Lord?”

“Chain her to the center post facing us.”

Blackhawk crossed the room, yanking her up by her bound wrists.

“Stop!” She pleaded, struggling to pull away.

Steven fastened the rope through the ring at the top of the post. He quashed his feelings as she thrashed, then turned back to the Lord of Lorness.

“Now, despoil her.”

“As you wish, and thank you, my Lord.” After flashing his most lecherous smile toward Geleib, Blackhawk turned back to the bawling female and pulled out his dagger. She begged and cried as he cut her laces and dress at the shoulders, then fondled her. He knew what Geleib liked, so imitated his lord.

She bellowed louder.

Slowly, he tasted every inch of her body, peeling the dress off, until she was completely naked. He shut his eyes. He could not look at her. Lifting her legs, lunging, he pretended to enter her, hoping his moves and noises would satisfy Melazera. Despite himself, his body responded, leaving telltale liquids behind. He felt ill.

She was sobbing convulsively when he let her legs drop and fastened his trousers. Turning, he bowed to Melazera, saying, “Thank you, my Lord. I’d like to do that again later. If you are of a mind to let me.”

Geleib laughed.

Blackhawk relaxed, a little. It was the laugh of his adoring father rather than his suspicious Lord.

“Oh, my, Steven. You always were eager to please. I’ll think about it, but I have other pleasures in store for her. Don’t be greedy,” Geleib smirked, then commanded a guard, “Take her away. Dress her. Put her in the interrogation chamber, in the dark.”

Melazera smiled as she was dragged away. “Steven, you remember that place.”

Blackhawk did. As a child, he’d learned obedience and to please Geleib and Cailleagh.

“You may go,” Melazera dismissed him with a wave of his hand.

A wave of relief washed over Blackhawk. But just as the porters opened the doors for him, Melazera added, “I expect you for dinner tonight in my chamber.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

Clearly, the tests are not over.

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