Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua Book 1

by Tiana Dokerty ©2023

Home | Chapters 21-25 | Chapters 31-35

Updated 3/15/24



Chapter 26


Jonathan added a last line to the expensive parchment and dusted sand across it. The petition asked for affirmation of the king’s contract laws and the release of their families. All the fathers signed it.

The mood in the tavern was light, and their conversation hopeful. Each thanked him profusely for taking it to the king. They offered toasts and clapped him on the back.

Riding alone on Melazera’s Highway, Jonathan expected the trip from Lorness to High Keep to take three days if the weather held. Posts marked every ten miles. Brush had been cleared, making the dirt road more easily traversable than the winding trails that dominated the country’s eastern region. Earl Melazera maintained it to ensure his safe passage to High Keep, facilitating his political access.

Jonathan arrived at dusk. The walls and walkways of High Keep glowed with torches. Vendors were still hawking their wares. The clangs of a blacksmith sounded in the distance. He’d forgotten how lively the capital was. As he searched for an affordable inn, he  kept one hand over the rolled parchment and the statements of each father that nestled inside his tunic.

The next morning, his first attempt to see Sagen resulted in the eventual message that His Highness was unavailable. After six wasted hours, he left, looking to work for coin or food.

By the third morning, Jonathan suspected Gaelib was intercepting his messages. Thinking about places Prince Sagen would visit to escape from the tedium of royal life—and, perhaps, Gaelib—he settled on the castle’s east gardens. Although the prince was a man now and might not go there anymore, Jonathan was sure he could reach the gardens unseen. He and Sagen had found every nook and cranny, every hiding spot, as they’d played throughout the castle.

When a wagonload of sacked potatoes arrived, he slipped in behind the last servant and hoisted a bag over his shoulder. He followed, flopping his sack down, and then slid into the shadows. Once the chatter and the clacking of the horse drawn wagon receded, he used the servants’ corridor around the castle’s east side, hoping to avoid the chamberlain or any of his under-stewards.

The gardens appeared as he remembered. Splashes of color in every direction. Their central feature was an intricate maze formed by tall, manicured hedges. He and the prince had whiled away many a day there.

Their teacher kept them in the library for hours, but when they stopped for the midday meal, they headed for King Edal’s dining room. The food was grand. Before he lived with the prince, all he had to eat was porridge or pottage. After they finished eating, they’d wait, fidgeting in the ornate chairs. Eventually, the king would wave them off, and they’d run through the corridors, battling dragons or regaling servants with the stories they had memorized. They always ended the day in the labyrinth.

Whenever King Edal convened his nobles, there were packs of boys at the castle. The older ones served as pages or squires to their fathers. The younger sons ran wild. It was very exciting. Of course, he’d remained glued to Sagen’s side as ordered, but watching them run and play was glorious. Occasionally, the king would summon all his leaders. Some would stay on longer and might have a son of similar age. One such was Drake Caswell. Several times a year, he would join their cavorting.

The boys, all in their seventh year, were inseparable, except when Sagen and he studied in the king’s library or the maze. The king forbade Gaelib from joining them in the library, and Gaelib wouldn’t enter the maze after some older lads had abandoned him there.

Jonathan had overheard the boys laughing about their prank, boasting about leaving the noble scion weeping. Dismayed by their cruelty, he rescued his cold and crying friend and even showed him how to find his way out. Yet Gaelib never entered it again. Drake would go with Gaelib at these times. Gaelib always doted on Drake, perhaps only to amplify his rejection of Jonathan.

Now Jonathan surveyed the area. Seeing neither guards nor gardeners, he dashed into the thick yaupon labyrinth. The trick to navigating it was always following the right wall. His hand passed lightly over the prickly branches. After many turns, he found himself in the center with the prince seated on one of the stone benches, reading parchments strewn across a finely carved table. “Hallo.”


The prince’s face was much the same, only older. Sagen’s golden hair was darker but still bright. Clearly, his nanny no longer chose his attire. He wore a long leather coat and riding breeches. This was not the colorful peacock Jonathan knew as a youth.

Jonathan bowed low. “I remember how we enjoyed this spot, Prince,” He teased.

“Why did you sneak in, knight?” Sagen grinned. “All you had to do was let me know you were here. I’d have sent a carriage for you.” The prince locked arms with his friend. “It’s been too long. Seems like an age.”

“Seventeen years. I have been sending messages for two days.”

“I see.” Sagen sobered. “As Royal Steward, Gaelib’s been keeping me even busier than usual. This time with accounting.” The prince waved a page in the air, imitating the steward. “Sagen, you simply must understand these matters before becoming king.” He pounded one fist into the other. “Yes, yes, you absolutely must.”

The impersonation of Gaelib’s condescending voice and exaggerated gestures had both men laughing. Jonathan sat. He thought of their escapades, smiling. What a happy childhood it was.

“Father is hale and vigorous. It’ll be many years before I ascend the throne.”

“I suspect…” Jonathan hesitated. “Gaelib is still jealous.”

“I suppose so, but I don’t see why. His place is secure within the court. Father likes him. He gets to spend far too much time with me. But…look at you. You’re ruddy and strong. The Fellowship of Knights has been good for you.” He laughed. “I think Father should have sent me there. Will you be at High Keep for a while? Where are you staying?”

“Oh, it is not an inn you would know.” Jonathan chuckled. “I have an urgent petition for your father.”

He told Sagen what had happened in Lorness. “I have a request from some fathers there. I have many signed affidavits. They want the law of contracts reaffirmed and their children and wives returned. Boys are taken to the mines or the army, but the girls…” Jonathan’s eyes teared up.

Sagen’s face hardened.  “I am sure Gaelib will prevent you from seeing the king. As you say, he is…jealous.” Then he calmed. “Let me take the petition. I’ll see my father at dinner tonight. Meet me back here tomorrow.”

Jonathan handed Sagen the parchment. “There is one more thing. I did not mention it, as I do not want to make this matter about me.”


“They took my daughter too. And my wife and her parents are missing.”

Blast!” Sagen grabbed his shoulder. “Why didn’t you…you always were too selfless.” Sagen shook his head.

Jonathan sighed, opening his mouth to speak. He hesitated.

“What, old friend?”

“It is…possible…Gaelib caused this. Not directly, perhaps even inadvertently, but he did suddenly tax the nobles.”

“No one has done more to keep the kingdom solvent,” Sagen said. “But…”

The prince’s brows came together as he tilted his head forward, putting his eyes in shadow. “…Gaelib has a dark side. For several moons, when we were young men, he snuck me out to a brothel every night to play cards or dice with his friends. Though entertaining, I knew Father wouldn’t approve. It showed me a side of Gaelib that…troubled me.”

Jonathan’s frown deepened. “It is his right to tax but not to subvert contract laws. He could have given them time to pay.” He tightened his fist. “Worse, there is no need for an army. There is no war.”

Sagen’s eyebrows rose. “How could you know that?”

“I have been to Mestelina three times in recent years, traveling all over their countryside. They do not want a war with us. They may be primitive, but they are upright people. Someone is stirring up the border. I will seek answers. First, I must find my family.”

“As you should.” Sagen rubbed his chin as his eyes bore into the knight. “I’ll talk to Father.”

Jonathan prayed the result would be favorable.

They shared warm memories and talked of hopes for the future. He told the prince about his son, David, becoming a knight when his apprenticeship was done. Finally, the sun drifted west and shadows reemerged from under the benches.

Sagen drew him into another embrace. “If we don’t want Gaelib to know you’re here, leave. The gardeners will come soon. I’ll see you tomorrow. Be careful.”

“I will. Tomorrow then.” Jonathan gripped Sagen’s shoulder, beaming. “Thank you, old friend.”



Prince Sagen - High Keep

Prince Sagen sighed when he entered the king’s private dining room to find Gaelib Melazera, the Earl of Lorness, seated, eating grapes.

His father, at the head of the table, picked at a bowl of nuts. “Ah, Sagen. Son, come sit, enjoy this wonderful fruit.” He waved his hand toward the perfectly ripened peaches, figs, and grapes. “Gaelib brought them from his orchards.”

“An inspiring display, Gaelib,” Sagen said as he sat. He placed his leather boot across the other knee, leaning back in the chair. “But…what brings you here? Are the kingdom’s finances in jeopardy?”

“No…no…” the royal steward cooed. “Our coffers are full, our creditors satisfied, and the nobles happy.” His hands emphasizing each point. “Plus, there’s money enough for the army to control the frontier with an overwhelming show of force.”

Sagen watched as the small talk alternated between the king and his steward through the first course, leek-and-potato soup. Sagen gave small indications he was listening while praying that Gaelib would leave.  

During the second course, a porter entered with a message for the Earl of Lorness, causing him to make his excuses and depart.

Once Gaelib had left, Sagen sought a way to start. He knew his father hated the misuse of Freislicht’s laws. Yet he also acknowledged temporary servitude had always been a way for the poor to enhance their position or pay their debts. But the incidents Jonathan had shared were akin to slavery. He expected his father to reject that. However, even indirectly accusing someone as powerful as Gaelib of being involved in such deeds…

“Some things have….” He gulped, “…come to my attention, Father.”

“Oh? What’s bothering you?”

“I saw an old friend today. Do you remember Jonathan Otual?”

“Yes,” the king said. “Became a knight, I think.”

“He did. He told me of problems with tax collections…in Lorness.” Sagen studied his father’s face, trying to gauge his father’s feelings, unsure how to relate it best.

King Edal’s wispy, graying brows drew together. “Continue.”

“Gaelib has heavily taxed his nobles, which is his right. But…”

“But…?” The king’s growing concern was unmistakable.

Sagen hesitated. “According to Jonathan, Gaelib’s nobles are breaking your contract laws by calling in loans unjustly. They’re taking wives and children to cover the debts and—”

“And…what?” The last word was as sharp as a lash.

“He said they sold many of the girls to brothels. The boys—”

“Is there evidence?” King Edal demanded.

The prince nodded. “Jonathan brought a petition asking for relief.”

“Do you have it?” His father’s mood eased as he read the document. Then reread it. He grunted several times. Then he peered into Sagen’s eyes. “Jonathan should be in my court. His understanding of our laws is profound. As is his courage in bringing this to light. Bring me writing materials and wax for my seal.”

“With pleasure.” After obtaining what his father needed, Sagen returned to the table, a serious look on his face. He bit his lip.

King Edal looked up from the parchment. “There’s more. What have you left out?”

“Someone took Jonathan’s daughter. He hopes to save her.”

King Edal focused on his son, accepting the quill, ink, and enough paper for a dozen copies. “Well done. I’m impressed. You could have used Jonathan’s loss to hook me emotionally. That you didn’t shows me you’re thinking, as a king should, of the wider populace, of the welfare of our country. Yes, excellent indeed.”

He began writing. “A speedy delivery is of the utmost importance, but….” He grinned. “I shall not inform Earl Melazera of this for at least a week, perhaps longer. He thinks me forgetful, so I won’t disappoint him. His reactions will tell us much about his part in this. Watch him closely, son.”

“Father, you are wise.” Sagen smiled.

“Hmmm…” His father drummed the table with his fingers. “I want to see your friend. I need to hear of this firsthand. Where will you meet him?”

“Midmorning, at the center of the maze.”

“Excellent. I’ll join you.” He rubbed his hands together, smiling. “Set up the chessboard.”



The next morning, Sagen sat with his father before a table of peaches, sweet bread, and cheese.

King Edal leaned back in his chair. “Twenty years ago, I stood in the turret of the tallest tower, taking in the world below. The wind whipped around me. I loved it then and still do.”

Sagen listened intently, slicing a peach with a knife. Times when his father reminisced were rare.

His father continued, “The sail-like flags flapped above me as I watched you, far below, a tiny six-year-old, playing with two other boys. I heard the tapping of Lawrence Rothbard’s ironwood cane as he approached. Without taking my eyes from you, I asked him if we could find you a companion. Someone who would learn alongside you. Someone who could…share…the ‘suffering’ with you. Perhaps even someone who could make it a game.”

Sagen had not heard this story.

“I dearly miss Old Rothbard. We planned a rigorous education for you so you’d be better prepared than I was.”

King Edal shut his eyes for a moment.

“When I was that age, being forced to learn was…difficult. Worse! It was boring, drudgery…make-work. Or so I thought at the time. I saw no point in learning endless facts, consequences, and related philosophies. I resented my teachers and my mother, whom I blamed for the tedious hours spent sitting at a desk. Especially since my father encouraged me to spend as much time learning sword and shield, bow and arrow, and how to twist just so, causing an enemy’s blade to glance off my armor. That was excellent…and served me well…before I became king.”

His father paused, lost in the memory. “You must have much more wisdom than I, Sagen, for I fear your reign will have greater challenges than mine. I feel that discord and rebellion is brewing. But you are ready.”

Sagen nodded, hoping he would continue. “Did Rothbard find Jonathan for us? I remember pacing back and forth before him like I was king. I am embarrassed to think of it.”

 “You did well that day.” His father smiled. “I was very proud of you taking charge. There was nothing to be embarrassed about. He was your servant to choose and command. It gave me a glimpse of the good ruler you will be.”

His father stood. “Rothbard said J’shua may have provided exactly what we need. Then he told me about a strong, quick-witted boy, recently orphaned, that was seeking an apprenticeship.”

His father gestured toward the door. “Let’s go meet your friend. I’m curious to see the man Jonathan has become.”


Chapter 28


Jonathan slipped into the East Garden. With midday approaching, the gardeners would be away. He had no trouble getting in again. It was easy to blend in amongst the workers with nearly constant deliveries to feed those working and living inside High Keep.

Thank you, Lord J’shua.

Jonathan made his way to the center of the maze. As he was early, he lay on the sweet alyssum covering the ground, bathing in the honey-like fragrance of their childhood years. He was eager to know if Sagen had been successful. Closing his eyes, he prayed.

“…when managing people, judge them not by their words, but by their actions.”

The voice was not Sagen’s, but an older man’s. Jonathan slipped into a hiding place before the words became distinct.

“I’ll remember,” Sagen replied as they arrived at the center. “It appears Jonathan isn’t here yet. He’s sure Gaelib is preventing him from seeing me.”

“Be very wary of men that love riches.”

Realizing the voice belonged to King Edal, Jonathan stepped into view and went down on one knee. “Your Majesty, I am honored by your presence.”

“Jon, you made it!” Sagen’s face lit up.

The king’s eyes widened as he smiled. “Most cunning, Sir Jonathan. Arise, Knight of J’shua. Please, sit with us. I’m delighted you interceded for my people. I always knew you were of excellent character. Tell me more.”

“Your Majesty, soldiers enforcing unlawfully foreclosed loans demand immediate payment in full. Most cannot pay. They…they take wives and children. Those who do not comply…some have disappeared, others had their farms burned…or worse.”

“You have proof of this?”

“They burned my farm. My wife and daughter are missing, and I think her parents are dead. Nor is this the only case I have encountered and investigated.” He reached within his tunic and produced a sheaf of papers. “Each is signed.”

King Edal frowned as he read. “These are disturbing. They confirm my decision.” He gestured to his son, who produced a leather pouch holding twelve scrolls. “I need the proclamation posted with the heralds in each district. Will you do this for me?”

Sagen handed one to Jonathan.

His eyes teared up as he read. “I am honored to distribute them, Your Majesty.”

“Excellent. Go westward. I shall send another rider south and east.”

“May I speak plainly, Sire?”

“Yes, right now, you’re my most faithful subject.”

“Sire, I have been to Mestelina. The Mestels are no threat. They love J’shua and are peaceful. So, why are we building an army?”

The king put his hand on Jonathan’s shoulder. “The Earl of Lorness has his own intentions for the army, but I will use it for good. He doesn’t understand that a godly man acting out of love is more powerful than anything. If I put those upright men into my army, they’ll exert J’shua’s influence, overcome, and do right.”

Jonathan bowed. “Thank you, Sire, for reassuring me. I had no right to doubt you.”

King Edal laughed. “I oft doubt myself. God helps us to walk in the light, yes?”

“Yes, Sire, he does.”

“Is there anything you need from us to help with your task?”

“Perhaps a pass? In case I have a disagreement with any soldiers.”

“An excellent idea. Once the first proclamation posts, word will spread. It will displease many. Be careful, Jonathan. I want you in my court someday. You’ll have the pass within the hour. Wait here.” King Edal turned to his son. “Come, Jonathan must be away quickly.”

“I’ll return with your pass,” Sagen said while extending the pouch. Then he followed his father out of the maze.

Jonathan happily read the proclamation again.

This will benefit so many. Although it may not help me find Rebekah and Sarah, it will free people that may know of them.

When Sagen returned, he handed Jonathan a purse for food, shelter and horses, and a pass permitting him to go anywhere in the kingdom unmolested. Then he pulled Jonathan into a firm embrace. “Remember, I shall do all in my power to help you. I hope I can count on you when I’m king.”

“I will always be your ally, Your Highness. Never hesitate to call me to your side.” Jonathan bowed and left.

As Jonathan Otual left High Keep, the king’s proclamation gave Jonathan a sense of relief, but the thought of his family crushed it. He stared up at heaven, his eyes wet. Had Rebekah rescued Sarah? He had no way to know. It gnawed at him.

At least they will no longer be hunted.

From High Keep, he rode toward the setting sun. It took Jonathan only two days to reach Farr. As he traversed the town, he scanned for blonde heads. A girl ran across the street in front of him, golden curls bouncing. His breath caught.


Then she turned. Her eyes, her cheeks, and her mouth were wrong. He sighed and set his countenance for his first delivery as he approached the old stone building. The nickers and neighs of fresh horses tied, tacked, and ready to ride, showed the discipline of the king’s messengers.

The herald was an ancient man with a long gray beard and wise eyes, perhaps as old as the structure itself. He sat at a long oak desk, his nose only inches from the parchment he scribbled on.

Jonathan bristled. The announcement wall displayed posters of criminals and fugitives. Seeing his wife’s, he tore it from the pockmarked surface.

The herald lifted a hand, opening his mouth to protest.

“I am Jonathan Otual, Knight of J’shua. The king sent me.” He passed the proclamation to the herald. Then he pointed to the wall of warrants, shaking his wife’s. “These are no longer to be hunted.”

The old man read, eyebrows rising. “This’ll cause an uproar. You should leave before I announce it. Many of the wealthy hereabouts have bought these tributes.”

“I go because I have more destinations. Do you officially acknowledge receipt of the decree?”

“Yes, sir. I’ll proclaim it immediately.”

“The God of Truth bless you in J’shua’s name,” Jonathan shouted as he departed.

Then he mounted, looking to the horizon as a cold breeze tousled his hair and dark clouds formed above. He pulled his navy cloak tighter and prayed for success.


Chapter 29


Rebekah gazed at the stand of Quaking Aspen as the leaves fluttered joyously in the breeze. As she slowly stirred the melting beeswax, she sighed.

Nothing could soothe her need to find Sarah. She ached to do so but couldn’t. Each time she was reminded of her missing daughter, it was like a knife was twisted in her gut.

But she didn’t dare leave to search. The price on each of their heads since they’d escaped the debt collections made venturing out of Frei Forest dangerous. She was afraid to ask anyone questions when in town selling candles or reed baskets. It would do her daughter no good if she, too, were captured. And now there were more families depending on her.

Guided by J’shua, the hamlet had expanded to twelve families, including forty-six children. All of them were in danger from their lords and the soldiers hunting them.

At first they’d talked of their sorrows. They had lost their homes. All their belongings. Later, stories and songs and jokes were shared. They were family now.

She cared for them, but her grief was deeper than theirs, her daughter was missing and she must seek her, alone. None of these shared that pain.

Their settlement was unlike others, for they lived in constant fear of discovery. Families with the youngest children lived farthest from the river. For the scream of a colicky baby would carry far. And even their laughter might be heard.

A rustling in the green underbrush drew her attention as a child burst through, chirping, “Mother Otual, Mother Otual, we’re ready.” The sight of the girl brought no joy, only stabbing memories of Sarah. Still, she smiled. It would be wrong to steal a child’s delight. All the others followed her, popping into view like tadpoles.

“Make a line. To be safe, you’ll all obey my instructions, yes?” Rebekah asked once all the older children assembled. Today the tallest of the children would help.

“Yes, Mother Otual,” the children chorused.

“Put your hand on the shoulder of the one in front of you.”

Twelve hands shot out.

“Now, straighten your arms.”

The line lengthened.

“Very good. See how far apart you are? That’s the distance you must stay while dipping the candles. Otherwise, you might drip hot wax on your friend.”

One by one, she showed them how to lower the stick parallel to the ground to dip the twelve wicks into the hot wax. After one dipped, they went to the end of the line. By the time each returned to the front, the wax on the string had hardened enough to dip again.

Mister Frink, a thin, frail man with oily hair escaping from his cap, stormed up as she watched the children. “Rebekah, someone lost the hatchet.”

Rebekah recognized his voice and didn’t turn. “Ask everyone around the fire tonight if anyone’s seen it.”

Mister Bendol appeared, intruding before Frink could respond, “Rebekah, I provided the anvil; I should decide who uses it.”

“Why? Would you deny another in need?” she turned and glared.

He frowned as she returned to watch the children.

“Rebekah!” Mother Hinston ran up. Her screeching voice surprised the dipping girl, who turned abruptly and wailed.

The woman ignored the child and continued, “I’ve five children. I shouldn’t have watch duty again.”

Rebekah stilled her rage as she tended to the crying girl. “There, there, it’s just a few sprinkles. Nothing’s ruined.” She checked the child’s hands. Memories of a scar on Sarah’s hand caused by a similar incident pushed her near to breaking, yet she spoke softly, “It will need washing, but that’s all.” She scraped the hardened wax from the child’s shift with her thumb. “Line up, children; let’s start again.”

Only once they’d recommenced did she round on Mother Hinston, hissing, “You could have caused that girl to be marred. You go explain it to her parents.”

Mother Hinston blanched.

“I didn’t ask to be your leader. I’ve problems of my own, or have you forgotten about my daughter?”

The men took a step backward.

“We—” Frink began.

“Solve your own petty squabbles.” Rebekah steadied her voice. “Once Vincent’s taught me to pass as a man, I’m leaving. Nothing is more important than finding Sarah.” Rebekah turned her back on them, fixing a pleasant smile on her face. She’d not upset the children.

They needed supplies to survive and couldn’t farm. Instead, they made what they could to sell in town. Vincent had found places that would buy their wares. The beeswax candles would fetch a good amount, worth every sting. Every day she saw God’s provision and it gave her hope.

The next morning dressed as a man, she wrapped the candles by the dozen and filled her pack. Then she set out.

Rebekah rode into Fairness Crossing wearing plain breeches and a rough woolen tunic. It had taken more than a moon’s practice to make her believable enough to talk to a stranger face-to-face, giving no hint of her gender. Today was the first half-moon of early summer. They’d been hiding in the Frei for almost two moons.

Vincent Donitoro had given her clothes and cut her hair to shoulder length. With a piece of lace she’d tatted to fit, the women fashioned a beard from her cut hair. It took weeks to knot the hairs into the fine lace and hand-curl them with a blade. Then carefully trim it. She fastened it in place with glue, hiding her feminine jawline.

Taking a different name for her new persona, she posed as a down-on-his-luck farmer who scrounged a living selling candles, leather, and whatever else he could lay his hands on. This provided the Frei community with supplies and, more importantly, information every two or three weeks. Only the Donofrios and the Dugans knew she used the name Tommas Bekh. It was a secret to dear to share.

Sadly, there was still no rumor about Sarah. Listening would not be enough. She needed to bring the topic up.

On her third trip to town, she encountered Simon Hunt, the local herald’s assistant. He approached dressed in the blue tabard of the office, his brown wavy hair pulled tightly into a tail.

“Tommas.” Simon beckoned Rebekah over. “I’ve been told you’re looking for work. There’s a stable in need of an extra hand for a few days. It includes a dry place to sleep.”

Looking down at her disheveled appearance, she mumbled, “Yeah…that would be good.”

“Why so glum? Surely a few baden landing in your pocket is a good thing?”

Rebekah tried a new tactic. She bit her lip.

“Yeah…yeah…it’s…” she hesitated. “Someone took my daughter in a collection. She was supposed to be safe with my sister and her husband, but…”

“Them too?” The assistant shook his head. “This is happening too often. Contracts have been misplaced. Or simply ignored. When was your girl…?”

“A moon ago, but I only learned of it this week.”

“That’s rough. I overheard…there have been wagons of children taken to Commandant Greysun’s camp. The boys…uh, join…his trainees.” Simon looked down at his feet. “I’ve no word about the girls. But all the carts were empty when they left. So…”

Rebekah’s insides knotted. “Oh…” She already knew they went to Greysun first. Now she feared the worst. She couldn’t walk into a brothel, pretending to want that service.

“Look, go to the stables, tell them I sent you. Smile at the widow who owns it. She likes to take in strays. It might get you a hot meal. Maybe more than one.”

“Thanks…thanks, I’ll do that.”

She worked for the widow for two days and was paid well. When she left for the Frei the woman gave her a bundle of bread and cheese. Tears formed, she was moved by her generosity.

“J’shua bless you ma’am.”

Rebekah turned to leave when words sounded unbidden in her mind.

Find the weasel.

Finally, a task she could do.

Her thoughts returned to George Rosewud.


Chapter 30


It was the first half-moon of summer, the twenty-ninth year in the reign of King Edal. Three moons had passed since J’shua appointed him an apprentice watcher, but he still worried he was falling short.

“How could this woman masquerading as a man facilitate anything good?” Owakar added her doings to the Book of Life. A passage appeared from the luach.

[And we know that all things work together for good…]

“Hmph. Their lives are so short. Why must they be so wrought with suffering? Isn’t there a better way?”

The luach thrummed again.

[Wisdom is better than weapons of war.]

“I know—and wisdom is only gained through suffering.”

[For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.]

“Yes, J’shua, of course.”

[The upright shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answers him in the joy of his heart.]

“It is written.”

He wondered what his brother, Alocrin, would think of her.

Maybe they could meet at the inn and discuss it.

Owakar sent the message to his mentor and immediately went to the inn. Travel for a watcher was a thought away.

He became physical in the nearby woods, then entered the Lion and Tiger Inn dressed as a peasant. He smirked. Alocrin wore the garb and airs of a merchant and conversed with the innkeeper.

As their eyes met, Alocrin thanked the man and pushed away from the counter holding a jug and two cups. “Come, Owakar, I think you need some good ale. My friend, Daryl, will send bread.”

“We’re supposed to blend in,” Owakar whispered.

“I do.” Alocrin nodded to the room filled with merchants and peasants.

Owakar shook his head as he sat at the rough-hewn table. “I haven’t been a watcher for very long. From what I’ve read, since the last earl died, it’s become worse and worse.”

Alocrin placed a firm hand on his shoulder. “Peace, brother. You are doing well. I will continue to pray for you. Do not worry for them. They must learn. Just like we do.”

Owakar sighed.

His mentor continued. “Unfortunately, they learn best by experiencing failures and pain. Sometimes we can warn them away from danger, but that simply pushes the lesson farther down the road to a time in life when the consequences might be more dire. So the God of Truth has ordained that each should learn their lessons as soon as they can. We can at times interrupt traps set by their adversary. But most of their mishaps are of their own devising. The infant that is always carried never learns to walk.”

Owakar nodded as a server set a loaf of bread and a dish of cinnamon honey sop on the table.

Alocrin thanked her and continued, “At least you have exciting things to observe and facilitate. Tell me of this woman that dresses like a man.”

Owakar smiled and took a swallow of the sweet, earthy ale. “She has become quite convincing.”

Alocrin laughed. “Do you think she’ll keep doing it?”

“I do. J’shua recommended I prompt her to find George Rosewud next time she leaves to give her a focus. She visits all the taverns and asks about him very carefully. She’s accepted as a regular in some. She’s made many friends, or rather Tomas has.”

“Excellent! How far has she traveled?” Alocrin asked, leaning in.

“Each time she leaves their community in Frei Forest, she ranges farther. Clearly dangerous because of so many soldiers there, she went as far as Lorness her last trip.”

“I look forward to hearing more of her escapades, Owakar.”

After their meeting ended, Owakar returned to his post.

The sun set over Lorness while he closed his latest entry and watched Rebekah ride to River Town. “Find the weasel.” He clapped his hands when she stopped and prayed. She’d heard him. Owakar glanced around for any signs of the Warrior or his henchmen. He had to keep her hidden from them.

Only the faithful watchers had access to a luach. Even if they stole one, it would not work for the ungodly. They have no faith. But they might notice what she was doing if they observed him following her.

He whispered comforting words to Rebekah, then sent two brawny guardians. They walked beside her, invisible to all who looked their way. They would shield her from the weasel’s evil spirits and help her see.

Then the luach hummed. Alocrin sent him a message. Jonathan Otual would soon be arriving in the domain of Lorness. Be ready.

Owakar tap-tapped through all the linked records.

He has an enemy.

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