Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of Joshua

by Tiana Dokerty © 1984-2021

Home | Chapter 31 | Chapter 33 

Chapter 32: Recovery 159 AK, Early Winter

Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Farr Castle – Cailleagh’s Workshop

Captain Edryk Lendyld the First had tried to stare down Commander Blackhawk. Unfortunately for him, commanders outrank colonels who outrank majors… and all of them outrank mere captains. Thus, his reminder that King Sagen had given orders for Blackhawk not to attempt to rescue Jonathan O’Toole fell on deaf ears.

Specifically, it fell on deaf, arrogant ears of superior rank.

Further, King Sagen had given the poor captain a direct order not to disclose any details about the real escape attempt. Things like the fact that it should already have happened, that the lack of furor indicated it had neither been discovered nor stopped, and that he’d briefed his twin about the castle’s security earlier in the night. Any of which he might otherwise have been able to use to dissuade Commander Blackhawk from making his own attempt.

Most unfortunately of all, the king had also ordered the first Captain Lendyld to stay with Blackhawk no matter what.

All of which explained why, just as the sun was clearing the horizon, the good captain found himself trailing behind the commander as they slipped through back passages and…

Blackhawk darted ahead, body-checking a guard into the wall with his right shoulder as his trailing left hand implanted a knife into the second guard’s groin. As the stricken soldier reached for his punctured privates, the blade slipped out, then slashed upward guided by its victim’s chest plate to open his throat. Stepping backward, the commander’s elbow crushed the first guard’s larynx.

Lendyld was still moving forward. He’d not anticipated his leader’s speed.

With only a single backward glance as warning, Blackhawk unbolted the door, drew his sword then strode into Lady Melazera’ private torture chamber.

Lendyld left his sword sheathed. Neither of them knew how cramped the interior of the dungeon would be. Instead, he drew the first pair of tomahawks from his belt and doffed their covers. Alerted to his leader’s liking for speed, he stepped into the room right behind the commander.

Blackhawk had engaged a guard who was wielding two knifes.

Edryk Lendyld darted past his boss then threw his first tomahawk at the torturer. It skittered off the overweight man’s leather apron but left a gash in his target’s skin. Allowing the momentum of his first throw to turn him, he cast his second tomahawk at the closest guard. Another step, then his third hatchet was in the air. And…

There were no more targets.

Blackhawk had killed two.

Lendyld two more.

The torturer was clawing at the gash, ripping into his own skin, trying to tear out the terrible pain caused by the concentrated tree sap that had coated the tomahawk’s edges.

That only left the naked prisoner, who was most definitely not Jonathan O’Toole.

“Whore of a hundn!” Blackhawk cursed at the woman helplessly spread-eagled across a cruel framework.

Lendyld retrieved a tomahawk, cleaned its edges then walked over to the torturer.

Blackhawk was staring at the prisoner with hatred that was returned with equal force.

It was only then that the captain recognized Lady Melazera… or what was left of her. Someone had taken to her with fiery brands, hot pokers and other implements. As that someone was almost certainly the torturer, Lendyld changed his mind. Instead of putting the man out of his misery, he cut both hamstrings and then equally incapacitated the fiend’s arms. Then he recovered his other two hatchets, cleaning them on the professional tormentor’s body, breaking the skin.

Lendyld almost felt sorry for him, but only almost.

Blackhawk had released Cailleagh Melazera from the frame and, to the captain’s horror, was tying her hands and feet.

Wishing to get out of the situation alive, Lendyld grabbed a blanket, rolled their bound and gagged captive in it, balanced her on his left shoulder, then glared at the commander. “I have strict orders from King Sagen not to talk to you about escape paths from this cell. He did not say anything about you following me, sir, while I used them.”

“At some point, Captain, when we are far away from here and with his Majesty’s permission, of course, I’d love to know what else has gone on today.”

“Yes, sir,” Lendyld responded as he broke into a trot while praying to whatever gods might listen – even those of the Ush – that guards were not waiting for them.


The ‘Morgan’ Farm

Rebekah wished that Jon would awaken.

She hoped he would not.

While Mark and Courtney Morgan carefully cleaned Jon’s body, Lucas Overhill had gone to fetch some of James’ lads.

Amongst their hurried preparations for this operation, the Knight of the Wood had insisted that they have a way of transporting whoever was to be handed over swiftly, covertly and openly.

The ‘open’ method was a covered wagon and four horses. It was also a diversion. A distraction that Melazera’s soldiers were intended to observe and waste time tracking down. If caught, all they would find was a young couple eloping against the wishes of both sets of parents. All of whom were from Licht Gegen.

The ‘swift’ method mirrored that used by Captain Lendyld. A net strung between four horses. Although in this net was a rapist-and-thief with a high price on his head, who was bound, gagged and thrashing about wildly. Melazera’s troops might take the prize away from the four bounty hunters – all well-known – who were getting extra payment for detouring past the front door of Morgan’s farmhouse. And who had been tipped off as to where to find their prey.

As Rebekah examined Jon’s wounds, an owl hooted twice just before horsemen approached and thundered by. She was not quite sure who to thank for the timely distraction that would distort Lendyld’s tracks, but when she found out – if she ever did – there would be a bonus in it for them.

Lighting an additional hooded lamp, she continued her examination of her husband’s body while Mark and Courtney completed cleaning it.

Jon’s injuries were the work of a sadist. Ichor dripped from them every time he moved, almost every time he breathed, for they had been designed to weaken the body. The runes and other arcane symbols tattooed onto him, cut into him, and seared through his flesh were – she was sure – intended to cause his soul to waver and yield.

Yet, even unconscious, she could feel his strength, his focus and his determination. They were written upon his body. He had chosen a goal – one she prayed he would survive – and was driving himself relentlessly toward it. She’d seen such dedication upon his sleeping face several times before. She’d been both proud and afraid of it.

She was proud because, once he set his mind to something, it occurred. The first time she had seen it, she’d not understood. Not until after she was his wife. Then, it cleared from his face and soul.

She was afraid because, in his grief at the thought of losing both her and Sarah, he may have recklessly pledged himself to an impossible goal.

Lucas and three of James’ lads, all four of them in their late teens or early twenties, strode silently into the room.

“We must be on our way, M’lady,” her bodyguard reminded her. His use of that particular honorific was a codeword, a reminder of the need for extremely urgent action.

Rebekah nodded and stepped away from Jon, as did Mark and Courtney.

The four lads positioned a net on the floor, gently lifted Jon into its center, and attached the ropes at each side to a wooden framework they positioned above him.

Lucas stepped clear, as did another young man. The remaining pair could have been twins, they were so alike. One positioned himself in front of Jon, the other behind. Kneeling, they raised the framework over their heads and lowered it so that the two poles supporting the knight’s weight rested on their shoulders.

The lad standing with Lucas moved forward and attached padding to the support poles. Then, in a fluid motion, his companions straightened and Jon rose off the ground. “The rig has some give in it. We’ll be running, not jogging. Keep up.”

Rebekah was still absorbing the nonsensical words when the two holding Jon aloft between them turned then loped out the farmhouse’s rear door. By the time she was outside, they were indeed running, albeit at a leisurely ground-eating pace, along the only safe path out back.

She hurried to catch up and was grateful, a third of an hour later, when the two stopped. Only to be replaced by a fresh pair, who immediately dashed off. Ten minutes later, they were pulling further and further ahead of her, almost out of sight. She was stumbling. Mark and Lucas were slightly ahead of her, Courtney a little behind.

She was not going to lose Jon again. Yet she was gasping and could not keep going, when James of the Wood stepped out in front of Mark and Lucas. “Stop. That’s enough. A tracker got as far as the farm, followed your path for a short time, then went back and reported. His lieutenant decided the prisoner could not have been carried away on foot, so they’re following the bounty hunters.”

Rebekah wanted to hit James, whose tone could have applied to thanking someone for a cold drink. It lacked all urgency. She still wanted to hit him as he walked up to her and held out a leather water flask, which she grabbed and drank from. Only to splutter as the fiery alcohol it contained went down her throat. “You…”

He whistled and four people – dressed identically to Rebekah, Lucas, Mark and Courtney – walked into view. “If it had been necessary, I’d have had each of you replaced to lay a false trail. Happily, it won’t.”

“And a good thing too,” the girl-dressed-as-Rebekah stepped forward, “I have much better things to do than impersonate M’lady O’Toole. But,” her eyes twinkled, “did you catch the switch?”

“Switch…?” Rebekah huffed, catching her breath. “What switch?”

The girl’s tinkling laughter brought the smallest of smiles to James’ face.

“Of the knight… you didn’t… You thought we were bouncing him around all this time? By Joshua, no! He’d barely been carried out of the rear of the house before two lads you wouldn’t have seen, bounded off into the distance and your husband was taken, far more carefully, to tonight’s destination. Come, there are horses in the thicket yonder,” she pointed. “That includes you,” she winked at James.

Rebekah decided that she would hit the girl first, then James. Yes, that was definitely the right order in which to do so. She also wondered what she should give them as a wedding present for James’ days as a bachelor were surely numbered.


On Lord Melazera’ Highway

Blackhawk rode hard, wondering what he had been thinking. He’d had no horses ready, no supplies, no distractions, and no support.

When they’d emerged from the Castle, the town outside had been in an uproar. Why was not clear, but he assumed it had to do with Jonathan’s escape.

Lendyld had led them to the stables, and commandeered six horses, all fresh. He’d then left the swaddled Lady Melazera with Blackhawk and approached a lieutenant and the troop of cavalry the young man had been about to lead out on patrol. He’d spoken to the lieutenant briefly, pointed once, made a throat slitting gesture, then waited for a response.

The younger officer had saluted smartly, only to fall in behind Lendyld as the captain returned to Blackhawk.

“I apologize, Commander,” Lendyld had begun, “despite your orders and those of the Duke of Lorness,” the eyes of the younger officer standing behind him went wide, “I cannot find a full company to escort you to High Castle.”

Blackhawk had glowered his best glower, wishing the damned captain had let him in on the plan up front, “I am displeased, Captain. However,” he’d looked around with disdain, “given the urgency of my orders, this will have to do. Mount up, Lieutenant, after your people tie this wretch to one of my spare horses. There’s no need to be gentle, as long as she survives. Instruct your people not to speak to the prisoner, nor pay any mind to what she says. She is a gift from the Duke to his Majesty and, hopefully, spells the end of O’Toole’s rebellion.”

Then they had mounted up and simply ridden out of Lorness with the lieutenant leading the way. Two officers had tried to stop them. Both spoke to the lieutenant first, then decided that stopping them was not in their best interests.

Halfway to High Castle, Lendyld had indicated that they should stop.

Blackhawk had thought it was to rest and water their horses. Instead, fresh mounts were waiting for them. He’d thought the lieutenant’s head was going to explode upon seeing the quality of the horses. They were far better than what filled Lorness’ stables.

In near record time, they arrived in High Castle.

The lieutenant sought leave to return to Lorness. As Blackhawk deemed that a likely death sentence, he had the entire patrol transferred to the Royal Army and his personal command. They got to keep their new mounts too.

Captain Lendyld, true to the king’s orders, had not left his side. Nor did he when the king summoned both of them and the Duke of Lorness’ ‘gift’.


The Shores of the Sea of Glass

It had taken a moon for Rebekah and Jonathan to reach the shores of the Sea of Glass. Now it was the new year, 160.

As promised, James of the Wood’s lads had escorted them for as long as they were in any wooded area. That had meant to within sight of the sea. Only then had the last of them turned back.

Rebekah still fretted over Jon’s condition. Physically, he was better. Not as well as he should be, but better. It would take time, good food, rest and exercise to return him to close to what he’d been.

He’d even shaken off most of the effects of the arcane runes and sigils, but they returned late at night to torment him when he was at his weakest. His will was unbroken, but it was diminished… and it was not recovering.

He was not recovering.

He had told her of all that had been done to him.

Word had come from King Sagen whose Gatherer of Intelligence had ‘spoken forcefully’ to Esther and her companion, both of whom were true converts. Their accounts of what had been done to Jon caused Rebekah fits of helpless rage. Fits she hid from him. It was a good thing, she eventually decided, that she had not encountered them as part of freeing her husband.

As they sat watching the sunrise over the sea, a silhouette appeared in the distance.

She had heard stories of knights showing up when needed. Not that she’d ever experienced such a thing. Indeed, she’d spent fifteen years seeking one particular knight who had been all too elusive. The only time they had almost met, she’d been in a cage cart ambushing one of Melazera’s baden shipments.

What would have happened had I not waved him away that day? Would he have avoided this fate?

As the wiry old man drew closer, she squinted, trying to make out his face. There was something familiar about him. Jon’s head was resting on her shoulder, as he gently snored. Sensing no danger, she did not wake him.

Then again, Licht Gegen controlled this area and would have – should have – dealt with any threat long before it approached them.

The man was ancient, he could be a hundred years old, yet he had youthful eyes and his gate was spry. It was the last that identified him.

Gently, she shook Jon to wake him, “We have a guest. Welcome, Daikon Baxter.”

“Hmmm…” was her husband’s only response as he continued dozing.

“Dear Rebekah, I’ve not seen you since your wedding day. You are as beautiful as ever,” Sylvanus noted as he sat down beside them.

“And you, sir knight, are still a flatterer… but, I do have a question. I’ve heard from many that you fell at Dunis Glen. No doubt he,” she hugged her husband, “will eventually get around to asking you, but I’d like to know how you survived.”

“It was just a simple trick. When your husband yelled to retreat to the roof, I knew I could not escape that way. I’m no longer as lithe as I once was. Climbing and such strenuous exercise are for the young.”

“This,” Rebekah frowned at him, “from someone who I’ve been told by many fought more deftly than any man half his age and more skillfully than any other present.”

“Now who is the flatterer?”

“I’m merely repeating the honest and truthful accounts that I’ve heard,” she almost got out without grinning.

“I see. Well, when my next opponent attacked, I fell deliberately. The youngster got overconfident and stepped in close for the kill. I blocked easily with my staff, then thrust upward striking the underside of his chin rather hard. He… collapsed and I dragged his body under a table where I—”

“You dragged him under the table?”

“Leverage. It’s a wonderful thing and my staff made a useful lever.”

“Uh huh…” Rebekah nodded, having trouble imagining the scene.

“I then stripped him of his black robe. It was a little short, but in the kerfuffle that followed, I rose and exited with the others so dressed. No one was being especially observant as the fires broke out, so I found another closer to my height who… volunteered… his black robe. Then I walked to Esthlanis and have been there ever since.”

“I’m definitely going to want more details,” Rebekah noted.

“Recently, I heard the Lord call me here. I was not expecting to encounter either of you.”

“He’s not well. He’s been through a lot.”

“Forgive me, my dear, if this comes across as an old man’s pride, but I am proud of your husband. He obeyed the holy spirit whenever it spoke, followed it wherever it led. Even into danger. Even sitting here, I can feel his inner conflict and toil. He is still fighting off whatever has been done to him. He is not losing, but nor is he winning. At least, not quickly enough.”

“Quickly enough…?”

“I do not know what it is, but I sense Jon still has a central role to play in what’s to come. At the rate he is recovering, he will not be well enough to do so. He is holding his ground, at great cost. He is taking back what is his, but it is inch by inch, when he needs to stride forth reclaiming yards. Perhaps, now that I am here, the three of us can speed his recovery.”

“I pray it is so.”

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