Chapter 49: Revelations – 160 AK, Late Autumn
I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Lion & Tiger Inn
Daryl Andrews settled in behind the bar. While the celebrations at the capitol had been entertaining, and catching up with Peter Taelor and Steven Blackhawk even better, life went on. There was a potential son-in-law to evaluate as Missy had taken a shine to one of Daikon James’ lieutenants. Charmaine and her husband were expecting their second child. And his wife had quickly tired of the hustle and bustle of High Castle, despite being delighted by the king’s largesse.
He looked around the Lion & Tiger Inn. It was his home, a thriving business, and the center of a growing community. Farms had sprung up nearby. There was a biweekly market. The Roving Knights were cutting a road through the forests between Caswell and their inn.
It was more than enough. It was everything he wanted and needed. With Melazera’s perfidy erased, it was time to get back to what was important: living a good life.
High Castle – The Royal Forest
Rebekah prodded Jonathan along. She didn’t want to be late. David had invited them for a picnic and let slip they had a big announcement, most probably, that Cynthia was pregnant.
She was dying to know if that was the case.
She doubted it could be anything else.
She was too well informed which, it turned out, was the biggest drawback to working with Dwain. She was never caught by surprise.
So, being unsure was a refreshing change.
As it was a small family affair, Rebekah and Jonathan had chosen to ride horses, of which, Jon inevitably complained they owned too many.
He really needs a mission, Lord. After twenty-five years of marriage and fifteen years apart, I hardly know the man. Blast, even in the early years, we only spent two or three weeks out of every three moons together. He’s itching to travel… and… I need time to adjust.
They’d set out early, but she’d become increasingly anxious as they rode.
What if it’s something bad? What if they’ve decided to do something foolish like resign from their new position? Was Cynthia still so spooked by Blackhawk that she’d flee the capitol to get away from him?
She didn’t like uncertainty. Yet, it kept building as ever more implausible possibilities occurred to her. She didn’t just want answers. She needed them. Jonathan, as always oblivious to her internal struggles, kept dawdling. So, she spurred her beautiful bay mare into a gallop.
As she rode over the crest, Rebekah wondered if she’d followed the wrong directions. Instead of her son and daughter-in-law and a modest spread of food and wine, there was a pavilion large enough to seat twenty… and perhaps that many very well-dressed people milling around.
Jonathan’s horse halted beside hers. “What the…? Why is the king here?”
Rebekah’s head snapped around to see if he was joking. He wasn’t.
“Those are the king’s banners… and the queen’s… and the Locke’s.”
“We must be in the wrong place,” she muttered.
“Mother! Father!” David called out. “You’re early. Let my people take your horses. I do hope you haven’t guessed our surprise.”
Jonathan slid off his horse easily, walked around it and offered his wife a hand.
Rebekah was still sitting in the saddle, stunned.
What’s going on? How could I have missed this?
At Jon’s urging, she dismounted.
“Come along,” David waved them toward the oversized tent. “The king insists everything must be done properly, in accordance with older customs. Please go along with it. He’s even insisting his minstrel, Dwain, do the introductions.”
Rebekah briefly frowned. Hmm, Dwain?
“Again, please don’t make a fuss if the bard goes on too long. This is the king’s idea of a treat.”
Rebekah allowed herself to be guided forward, Jonathan following in her wake. She recognized the Royal Midwife, Kennah Beecher, tending all three royal children.
Gregory and Ellyth Locke were chatting with their son, Danyth.
Sagen and Melyssa came out to meet them, smiling, causing alarm bells to sound in Rebekah’s mind.
What do they want now?
“Before we eat,” Sagen grinned wickedly, “I’ve never had the opportunity to properly introduce you all to each other. It’s way beyond time I did so. Therefore, please get yourself something to eat and drink, then I shall correct my woeful oversight. After that, we’ll all wile away the afternoon.”
Rebekah and Jonathan bowed indicating their agreement, then were herded to a circle of chairs set in the shade. The only thing that struck her as odd was that the Royal Midwife was seated with them.
“Before I start, I have one more restriction to place on everyone here, “Sagen announced. “Once my minstrel is done, no one – that includes you, Jon – gets to hit me. Not only would my guards object, but what you’re about to learn is something I only became aware of very, very recently. Before you jump to conclusions, Baroness Rebekah, yes, it does concern your missing daughter.”
“Dwain, you may commence.”
“Your Majesties, your Graces, Lords, Ladies and others, it is my honor and privilege to present Rebekah, Baroness of Myhufri, and mother to David and Sarah.”
What the hell?
Following the queen’s example, everyone politely clapped.
“Next,” Dwain continued, “please all welcome Midwife Kennah Beecher, a woman of great expertise and mother to many, including a daughter named Sarah... whom she gained along the way.”
Rebekah was almost out of her seat when the queen wagged a reproving finger and indicated that the baroness remain seated. She sank back down.
Is Sarah alive or dead?
Again, there was polite applause.
“Third, it is my privilege to introduce Ellyth, Duchess of Alexandria, mother to Danyth, Melyssa, Melyssa, Rodyn, Lyrena, Saryssa, Deryca and Neryssa. You will have noted that the name Melyssa appeared twice in that list. This is because—”
“At this point,” the queen leaned forward, “I’ll take over. Thank you, Dwain. You have done beautifully. Play something for us.”
The queen paused until the minstrel strummed his first chord. “Due to an outrageous set of circumstances, I find myself in the oddest of positions. How and why that came about, some of you know parts of, but none know all of. As all of you were, directly or indirectly, involved in creating the path that led to me sitting before you as queen, married to a man I love, and with three adorable children, it’s time that was made plain.”
Ellyth smiled at Rebekah.
Kennah bowed her head to Ellyth.
Rebekah silently fumed. She had the pieces, but couldn’t put them together.
“That odd circumstance,” the queen continued, “began with a little girl being saved from a dragon by a knight. She traveled with him for a time until Sir Hawk found her a new family. She grew up in a happy home. Then she was asked by a friend, almost a sister, to play pretend… as an adult. J’shua encouraged her. So… the little girl’s name changed, becoming Melyssa.”
She can’t be!
“Thus, I find myself with three mothers and three fathers. Sadly, Kennah’s husband, the third of my fathers passed away in 158, leaving me only Gregory… and Jonathan.” Melyssa grinned at the knight. “Of course, my mothers are Ellyth, Kennah, and Rebekah. Hallo!”
Rebekah didn’t recall leaving her seat, any more than seeing Jonathan dash forward, only that she was hugging her safe, living, long lost daughter… and queen.
What followed was a joyful blur. The only clear memory was David’s knowing grin.
How? When did he…?
It didn’t matter. Nor did the fact that neither Jonathan nor she could publicly claim Queen Melyssa as their daughter. They’d finally found her.
High Castle – Caswell
James of the Wood didn’t feel like a daikon, despite his fellow knights thrusting the title upon him. He was a Roving Knight. That was all he cared to be.
Yet, having a home, somewhere to return to, was something he and the others who’d lost their parents yearned for.
Having Caswell Castle as a home was as ludicrous as it was wondrous. However, for someone who’d lived rough for most of his life, it was excessively furnished. There were all sorts of bits here and bobs there. None of which were necessary for him or his boys. So, they’d decided to give them away.
The lads darted through halls, gathering up anything they’d no need of. Items were piled in the main hall until they were disposed of. Some were bid upon and bought by Alexandrian merchants after the locals had claimed first pick.
After Melazera’s defeat, King Sagen and his queen had toured the land. When they saw how woeful the roads were during the rainy season, he’d commissioned a building program to improve travel throughout Freislicht.
This included not just upgrading existing roads, but the creation of new ones, such as that between Caswell and the Lion & Tiger Inn. It also provided work for many of the people displaced due to the conflict, its aftermath, and those freed from enslavement.
An unexpected consequence of recent events also saw large numbers of people seek out new lives and new opportunities. Farms were carved from the wilderness. New villages sprung up in the most unlikely of places. And many sought homes, anywhere but Lorness.
Some moved to Caswell. In part, due to the king’s new roads. In part, because of the new Knights’ School. In part, as it was in the middle of Freislicht and offered opportunities for trade.
Coming with those families were daughters of marriageable age. A development that pleased James’ lads almost as much as having their own castle.
“James,” D’rson interrupted, his arms overflowing with strings of jewels, pearls, and gold, “ we found more…”
“That doesn’t go into the main hall. Store it in the treasury we’ve set up in the dungeons. No souvenirs. You’re supposed to be demonstrating how reliable you are. That is, you are if you still want to become a knight.”
“I was only going to keep—”
‘D’rson, we’ve spoken about this. That wealth will be needed for construction projects, food, clothing and lots else.”
“I help you with that load,” James grinned, “I wouldn’t want you to get lost.”
“Okay.” The lad sighed.
James shook his head. He doubted D’rson would ever become a knight. His prospects were too good. The boy was being chased by daughters from three wealthy families. Hopefully, one would tame him.
Outside High Castle – The O’Toole’s Lodgings
Jonathan leaned back, grinning at his opponent. It had taken some moons, but he’d finally forked Steven’s rook and bishop. Thus, reversing their situation when they’d found Gaelib’s treasure trove.
“Humph…” was Blackhawk’s only reply. His eyes were glued to the board, his forehead furrowed, his elbows planted on his knees. “Don’t suppose you have a secret room we could discover, do you?”
“Of course, I do.” Steven nodded. “It was one of the very few games where I thought I’d win. Not that dealing with Melazera wasn’t important. But…”
“Gentlemen,” Rebekah intruded, “I don’t believe we have any hidden passages, secret treasures, or diabolical traitors to distract you. However, dinner is ready. If either of you can come up with a suitable bribe, I’m sure one of the servants could knock the board over… or, I might do so if you both continue to ignore me!”
Both men looked up sheepishly.
“We shall finish this later,” Jon acceded.