Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua Book 1

by Tiana Dokerty ©2023

Home | Chapter 17 | Chapter 19

Chapter 18: Captured

Updated 11/29/23

Gaelib Melazera, the ninth Earl of Lorness


Full Moon, Late Summer

Farr Castle

As the sun approached its zenith, beads of sweat formed on Jonathan’s brow. He wore his cloak brown-side out and hid the Writings under his tunic. In the previous town, they’d said the Way of J’shua was banned at Farr Castle, leaving him wondering how he would find his daikon.

The Fellowship of the Knights of J’shua was loosely organized. Individual knights reported on their travels to their sponsoring daikon every year or two. It had been quite some time since he had come to Farr to report to Daikon Crispus, his sponsor and long-time guardian. The daikon rescued him when his mother died and found him a place as the prince’s companion.

The noise of hawkers singing their offers filled the market. Boys brandished flags, picturing their masters’ wares. Occasionally, a pair of soldiers marched past. 

As Jonathan ambled down the street, occasionally stopping to chat with a passerby, he noticed a short, dark-haired man wearing a green cap, dressed in a beige silk shirt and wearing tooled knee-high boots, trailing about five yards behind.

Is he following me for the bounty? I thought it only a concern in the East. He’s no commoner, not dressed like that.

Jonathan changed direction, heading for the herald station, which was a stone’s throw from the city gate. Not an unusual course of action for someone new to the castle.

The herald was always kept informed to direct visiting dignitaries.

Each time Jonathan greeted someone new, he would turn them a bit as he clasped their hand to get a better view of the well-dressed man. He still followed, pausing with a farmer hawking potatoes.

Who could he be?

Jonathan entered the station and commiserated with the herald for a few moments while monitoring his shadow. When his pursuer turned his head, Jonathan slipped out the side door and concealed himself in an alleyway, squatting to watch through a gap between tent folds.

What will you do now?

The fellow came to the herald station, looking in all directions. “Blast.” Then he turned on his heel and strode briskly toward the inner castle.

He didn’t look back, so Jonathan trailed behind, weaving amongst the crowd. When the man reached the gatehouse, he walked right in without being stopped or questioned.

He must be known in the inner court. Who is he? What is his interest in me?

Pondering the situation for some time, without arriving at any useful answers, Jonathan headed back to the hawkers. There, he conversed with vendors.

People do love to talk, and such talk contains threads of truth.

He walked deeper into the market. A sign shaped like a broad-bladed dagger hung above a crude workbench. Blackened, carved letters spelled “Rohn Custom Blades.” After entering, Jonathan tested the weight and sharpness of a few knives. “Did you forge these?” he said to the man sitting by the display.

The artisan remained focused on his whittling. “No, sir, my father does. I craft the handles.”

“Glad to hear Master Rohn is still producing treasures. He made this one.” Jonathan laughed, slapping a hand on his sword hilt. “Are you the lad who used to follow the prince and me around the castle years ago?” 

“Master Jon? Master Jon!” The young man stood and shook the knight’s hand.

“I have just returned from afar. It took many moons to get here safely. What do you think of our new king?”

“Time will tell. It’s been almost a year. The king hasn’t really done much, good or bad. That’s all we can hope for. But the Earl of Lorness took up residence here after the coronation. He’s a different matter. He’s as vile as the green dragon from all the old tales.”


The young man lowered his voice. “Earl Melazera has instituted many pagan ceremonies. There are rumors of…” He glanced from side to side, “…people disappearing.” He dropped to a whisper. “And…human sacrifices.”

 “Oh, no.” Jonathan’s eyes grew larger.

“No one goes out at night anymore, but…” the knife seller hesitated, “the folk I know travel from town to town, like me. Mother Garvey is a local seamstress. She told some women about losing her granddaughter. The girl went to the tailor for needles. Never came back.”

Jon’s brows furrowed as he leaned in. “I would speak with her.”

“She has a stall three rows south. Let her bring it up. No one wants the earl’s ire.”

“I will be careful. Give your father my good wishes. I will seek you out again.”

As Jonathan meandered through the busy market, whiffs of familiar sweet and savory spices from bread and meat pies carried his thoughts home. Then he noticed the painted sign: “Apparel and Repairs.” He found a woman busily hanging a cream-colored shirt, a gray tunic, and a thick woolen cloak over a wooden rack. Beside it, a manikin wore an olive-green smock and a corset embroidered with red and yellow flowers.

“Hallo, I am Jonathan. Are you Mother Garvey?”

The old woman turned to him. Her eyes were red, and the corners of her mouth downturned, yet her sad wrinkles pulled up into a smile. “Yes, sir, how can I serve you?”

“Do you make repairs?”

“I mend on the full moon and have them back the first of the following week. But if it’s easy, I can do it while you wait.”

“I think it is.” He drew a set of breeches from his pack. “These have a torn seam.” He pointed out the damage.

Mother Garvey took the garment and retreated to within the booth, beckoning for Jonathan to follow. Within were two stools and a small, cluttered workbench. “The cloth is sound,” she said as she sat and reached for her sewing box.

“Have you had this place for long?”

“Please, sit,” she said, waiting until he’d done so. Then she tested the material, drew out a needle and thread, and began sewing. “Not too long. My husband passed last fall. I needed to make coin, so I rented it from the Earl of Lorness.”

“Is he fair?” he asked gently, not wanting to alarm her.

The seamstress paused and stared beyond him. “I don’t have much to compare him to, but ‘fair’ doesn’t come to mind.”

“Oh?” His eyebrows rose.

The woman glanced furtively outside through the stall’s canvas door. She lowered her voice. “There are things that should not be overheard by others. It’s not…safe. Yet, I perceive in the spirit you’re a Knight of J’shua.”

Jonathan bowed, becoming more aware of his surroundings and how easily the tiny tent could become a trap.

She gestured that he should lean closer and then whispered, “Earl Melazera has the evil eye. He worships the ancient gods. They demand sacrifices.”

Jonathan furrowed his brow. He had suspected things had deteriorated, but this? The old religion had not been practiced for over a century, so Jonathan knew little of it. But fables were often told to scare children.

“There are rumors,” she continued softly. “My grandmother knew the old ways. She taught me about…” She paused as people passed the stall’s opening. “They say Die Abwanderung was performed for King Edal. A gruesome thing. They paint runes on the dead body. Incantations, cuttings, and then the body is burned—all to placate their foul gods. Only after did Prince Sagen take the throne.”

“Oh?” Jonathan’s stomach clenched.

Sagen, what’s happened? You were a good man.

She frowned, staring at the worn canvas wall as she resumed. Her face was hard, angry. “The annual hunt has been the high point of the year for generations. Yet, the king was alone when boars attacked and gored him fatally. No inquest was called.”

Her expression softened as she checked her work and then showed him the mended seam.

“This is well done. How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing, sir.” The old woman clasped his hand. “All I ask in return are your prayers and vigilance. These are wicked times,” she hissed and then gestured for him to leave the tent. “Only the knights can overcome this evil.”

“I had hoped to speak of your missing granddaughter—”

“There’s nothing to say. Whatever you’ve heard, the truth is worse. If you do not leave now, people will notice and then gossip. That could be bad for us both.”

With a nod and his thanks, he left. He continued through the market, stopping at a tavern where others told of the trouble at the border, of conscripted boys, and debt collections.

He found a less-than-reputable place, the Farr Away Inn, still within sight of the gate. Here he sought more people who’d enjoy gossiping. Inside were the blacksmiths, coopers, and stablemen who lived near their sheds, as they might be called upon at any hour.

Hopefully, Daikon Crispus will come out at dusk. I have not received a letter from him in several moons. What if he no longer has the patronage of the king?

Jonathan took a chair at the back, near an open window, still fretting over his long-time guardian. From there, he could watch the castle’s gate, the path, and the door—or jump through the window if necessary.

A man laughed, talking boisterously, “You must hear my tale!”

The storyteller was hefty; his whole body laughed.

“Earl Melazera was dressing down a terrified page for bringing the wrong parchments for his meeting with the magistrate,” the man regaled his fellows and aped each character. “The Lord stepped away from the boy, toward his coach, as the man fell from his horse…”

He waved his huge arms about, imitating the fall. “…placing Melazera, the Ninth Earl of Lorness, perfectly for the splash.”

He took a deep breath. “There he stood, covered head to toe in mud!”

The entire room erupted in laughter. A few slapped the table and raised their cups. Their amusement spread, making Jonathan chuckle too. He called out, “Uplifting story. You made my day. Can I buy you a drink?” Jonathan signaled to a server. “Bring us two of whatever he is drinking.”

The storyteller approached Jonathan, raising his cup. “My friends call me Lafferty.” He winked. “Always happy to meet someone that appreciates my stories. What brings you to Farr Castle? Do you have a tale for me?”

“I am Jonathan, just returned from Mestelina.”

“Did you have any trouble? Those Mestel dogs have been attacking farms on the edge of the frontier and burning crops.”

Jonathan looked about to see who might be listening.

Lafferty glanced around as well. “This is a safe place. There’s no one here that I don’t know.” He spread his arms wide. “Except you.” He slapped the table.

Jonathan chuckled. Then he leaned in. “Why are the Mestels doing so?”

“Got no idea. Who can understand the savages? The war is why there aren’t many boys around.Soldiers come to my smithy when they need help with a tool or a blade. Some lads joined to protect their families. Some enlisted for riches.”

“Who is this Melazera person? I may have known him as a youth.”

“Can’t picture him as a boy. He’s very stern. There’ve been many executions since he came to Farr.” Lafferty shook his head. His light brown hair flew in all directions from under his brown cap. “Old Steward Rothbard was a fair man. He’d work with people, brokering compromises between lenders and debtors. Melazera’s ruthless. Before, if you owed another man, you worked it out with him. The royal steward just facilitated it.”

Jonathan gave a nod.

“Go to Melazera’s court, and he claims the debt for the Crown; buys it for a fraction of its value while forcing the debtor to pay in full. Even uses soldiers to collect. Pay up, or your children go to work on the royal farms or in the mines. Sometimes, he’ll even take wives. We shudder to think what happens to them. They don’t oft return. If not bound to Melazera, I’d leave this place. It’s tough to keep a sense of humor.”

“How did you become…?”

“My father was a kind man but not too bright. He gambled, lost a wager, so owed five hundred baden. My da offered a horse and a fine sword instead, but the winner sold the debt to Melazera, who sent me to the mines. Fortunately, I was more valuable as a blacksmith, so I’ve some freedom and can see my family. Both are great blessings.”

“When will your servitude end?”

“My father lost money several times after that, extending my sentence. Now that he’s passed, Melazera said, when the war with Mestelina ends, I’ll be freed. He only needs me to make weapons for the conflict,” Lafferty said. “Every day, new soldiers come with requisitions for swords, daggers, and other gear. It keeps me busy.”

“What of the king? Does he help the people?”

“Yes, yes, of course. But he is preoccupied with the war, and all his largesse goes to build an army.”

Jonathan frowned and put a hand on Lafferty’s shoulder. “Hopefully, that will end soon, and everything will improve.”

Why does Sagen still believe this myth? There is no war.

With the light dimming, Jonathan mused, “I must find Daikon Crispus. Do you know him?”

Lafferty smiled. “Sure do. He shares a room with me in this inn. Neither of us can afford a room for ourselves.”

“What happened? He always had a room in the castle before.”

“The way of J’shua’s been outlawed in Farr Castle. Circles are now unlawful here.”
“I heard,” Jonathan scanned the room, “but am perplexed. Is this the earl’s doing? Or the king’s?”

“It’s a local law, not the king’s. But Earl Melazera’s domain extends from Farr to Lorness because he is the king’s steward. He claims it’s temporary to ferret out abuses. I hope so,” he laughed. “Daikon Crispus’ remaining Circle’s tiny and must meet in secret. He’d prosper if he went back south, but he refuses to leave. I’ll tell him you’re here.” Lafferty’s chair scraped the floor as he left and bounded up the stairs.

Jonathan silently praised J’shua for directing his footsteps. To find the daikon so quickly was amazing. While waiting, Jonathan gazed out the window, watching passersby. No children ran about. People trudged by looking at their feet. Others leaned against buildings, indolent.

They look more troubled than the last time I was here.

Lafferty reappeared. “He told me to bring you up.”

Jonathan ascended the stairs.

“Hallo, hallo, my dear boy! I am so happy to see you whole and hearty.” Daikon Crispus encircled him in a warm hug.

Jonathan squeezed him back, “Sir, are you well?”

Lafferty left with a smile and a bow, shutting the door.

“I’m sorry I haven’t written these last few moons.” The daikon offered Jonathan a chair. “After the proclamation declaring Circles of J’shua unlawful, I feared my letters would be intercepted, and you’d be in danger.”

“It is I who has been remiss. I should have returned to you sooner. How did it come to this?”

Daikon Crispus paced, hands folded behind his back, as he always did while talking. “Sagen became… difficult… after you and Drake went to the School. Sagen’s studies suffered. His father demanded the prince stay at High Keep until his teachers gave him a good report.

“After I took you to the Knights’ School and Sagen returned to High Keep, her daughter set her eyes upon Gaelib, despite being four years older than he. Always sneaking into vacant rooms. It was a strange relationship, but I couldn’t get his father to acknowledge it.” The daikon paused, shaking his head. “He kept saying ‘Gaelib can’t stand the girl’ and ‘She’s a woman, he but a boy.’ Not that his father ever paid any attention to his son except to berate him.”

“I knew some of that.” Jonathan shifted in his seat. “I know very little detail about Gaelib’s life since we parted as boys.”

“Gaelib was eighteen when his father died and he became Earl of Lorness. Only a few weeks later, he married his stepmother’s daughter, Caileagh.” Daikon Crispus buried his face in his palms. “This made me painfully aware that my suspicions were correct. I knew things would get worse.

“In charge of his father’s fortune and enthralled by his new wife, Gaelib began having feasts, where lewd things occurred. Soldiers of rank, nobles, and people of influence attended. You had to be invited and pay for the privilege of benefiting from his corrupt dealings and unseemly entertainments.” The old man paused, looking tired, his eyes tearing up.

His sad face moved Jonathan. “Please, sit, sir.”

Daikon Crispus did so. “Then Sagen came to Farr Castle again and became almost inseparable from his old friend. It was the happiest I’d seen him in many moons. But I knew renewed friendship with Gaelib would be corrupting.”

“Poor Sagen.” Jonathan focused on the floor.

“Then the king made Gaelib apprentice to the Royal Steward, Rothbard, so the young Earl of Lorness traveled with them whenever they changed residences.

“Gaelib continued to have his private revelries wherever he and Caileagh went, spreading depravity and his influence throughout the kingdom. Once he knew where all the king’s accounts were, the old steward died in his sleep.” Daikon Crispus sighed heavily. “I tried to reveal what I understood to King Edal one last time but was sent away, never to be called back.”

Jonathan squeezed his shoulder.

“Then I began hearing of their religion, Alte Regieren, which translates as ‘Rule of the Ancient Ones.’”

“I heard of this in the market.”

“This is what you feel here, the oppression of the old hedonistic ways and its superstitions. They call evil good—and good evil. Pray for us.”

Jonathan gazed up at heaven. “Holy Father, lead us unto the right path, help us know what to do, and how to help our neighbors in this dark time. Shower us with your peace. Show us the way, in J’shua’s name.” He hugged the daikon, then stood. “I must talk to Sagen. Perhaps he will listen to me.”

“I think that unwise,” Daikon Crispus said curtly. “Things have changed. There’s evil growing. You can’t expect King Sagen to listen to you because of childhood friendship.”

“I must try.”

The daikon sighed. “I’ll pray for you, son.”

Leaving his sword, pack, and the Writings behind, Jonathan headed down the stairs and out to the street. He prayed in the spirit quietly as he approached the castle’s keep.


Amidst the Atmosphere of Lorness

Owakar waited for another message from Alocrin. Pacing and groaning. He prayed for Jonathan. He could imagine what might happen to him.

What is taking so long? Time in the density passes so slowly when I want something. But when I have it, time speeds up. In heaven, if it is lawful, desires are a thought away. I can remain in that moment as long as I like. I don’t know how they cope with it.

The luach chirped.

[But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.]

“Why do bad things happen to good people, J’shua?”

[Man, born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.]

He didn’t want to see that one.

[And we know that all things work together for good to them that love the God of Truth, to them who are called according to his purpose.]

“I know Lord, he will overcome it. I will not interfere.”


Farr Castle

Guards stood rigidly in full armor on each side of the gate. A soldier demanded, “What’s your purpose?”

“I am Jonathan Otual, a friend of King Sagen from childhood. I request an audience with the king.”

The soldier signaled to a militet, who had written Jonathan’s words, to take the message to the King’s secretary. The response came quicker than expected, unlike the last time he’d tried to meet with Sagen.

What might have been had I remained with the prince all those years ago?

The soldier read the reply and then issued orders for Mister Otual to be escorted to the South Reception Hall.

A large stone archway loomed. Liveried men sprang to open the doors as the militet approached. Jonathan followed.

“That will be all,” a voice commanded, and the militet left.

A chill ran down his spine.

He took in every detail of the chamber. It was small for a hall, only ten yards deep by eight yards wide. Birdcages, a different exotic species in each, were its only decoration. Each captive warbling or whistling. Under each tall window and at each door, a soldier stood armed and ready.

Now Jonathan could see him. Bright jeweled rings, dark velvet coat, still dressing to impress.

I still recognize the quiet boy peering out of those hard eyes.

“Jon, I heard you were here. I’ve wondered when we’d cross paths again. It’s been too long,” Gaelib said cheerily and then turned away displaying the green dragon sigil embroidered on the dark velvet. “I miss those raucous days when we ran through fields and lazed about with Sagen. What have you been up to?”

“Travel mostly. I didn’t expect to see you. You look well. Will the king be joining us?” Jonathan approached the well-groomed royal steward, hoping to seem relaxed.

Gaelib turned, flashing the tight smile Jonathan remembered. “He’s still deciding what to do with you, having heard many reports of you inciting the Mestels. They even yell your name when they vandalize property and murder his people. Surely you didn’t expect a warm welcome.” Gaelib poured wine into a glass.

Jonathan took a step closer. “You cannot believe such lies.”

The soldiers tensed.

Gaelib’s smile broadened as he offered the cup. “Of course I do.”

Jonathan stiffened as the old prickling sensation from childhood flooded over him. Gaelib had always set his nerves on edge. “No, thank you,” Jonathan said, pushing down his rising panic,

Gaelib smiled. “Jon, I insist.”

“No. If the king is not coming, I shall leave.”

“I think not.” Gaelib signaled to the soldiers.

“You are behind these fictions.” Jonathan’s brows furrowed. “Why?”

“Why? Because it pleases me.”

The soldiers advanced. One kicked him behind the knees.

Pulling a dagger from his boot, Jonathan slashed the wrist of the closest. Two more drew their swords, ready to cut his neck. More were holding him down, pulling his arms behind his back. Jonathan felt the chamber spin as the liquid filled his throat. All faded to blackness.



Cynthia Otual, had kissed her new husband, David, and watched him ride away yesterday. She was the only one home when men in red brigandines burst through the doorway. They grabbed her by the hair, dragging her outside. She struggled as they threw her in a cart.

“You are owed as payment for a debt.” One soldier said.

She fell to the dirty cage floor as the soldier slammed the door shut. Staring at her plain blue shift, now streaked with dirt, she gathered her thoughts.

My parents have no debts. David has no debts.

On her knees, beating against the bars of the cart, she screamed, “There must be some mistake! This farm has been in my family for generations. If you—”

“Quiet!” a guard snapped. “If I say you were taken in a collection, you were. It’s not going to matter. You’ve already been bought. Why else do you think the cart’s empty but for you?”


The butt of the guard’s spear knocked her unconscious.



Jonathan awoke with a gasp—his hands tied overhead with a rope, hanging from a chain—in a small, windowless chamber wearing only his breeches. Above him were thick wooden rafters. Many other chains hung along them. Sconces filled with candles fluttered in the draft from the stanchions supporting the stone ceiling.

Cold pavers sent a chill through his bare feet. His arms had cramped. He rose onto his toes to relax the pressure on them. He wiggled his numb fingers and felt the pricks of a thousand needles as the blood returned.


He controlled his breathing, exhaling slowly to stop the rising panic.

The daikon warned me. I should have listened.

He prayed. He had felt the calm, the certainty of the spirit.

Have I misunderstood your guidance, J’shua? Please save me.

The door creaked open. Several soldiers entered, red blurs, carrying a crate, then left. The same spicy, sweet scent from earlier filled the room, the fragrance his former friend was bathed in as a youth. Some healer had promised his father it would prevent his heir’s death.

Gaelib is here.

Gaelib pointed to the chains hanging above. “I was only thirteen when I was introduced to this secluded chamber, Jon.” He stood, yanking at one of the chains so that it tinkled high above. “Caileagh found it covered in many years of dust. Unlike the dungeon below, there were benches along one wall, so guests could witness methods of…persuasion.”

Jonathan could see Gaelib’s smirk as his old friend circled him, pulling him around by his breeches. “It fell into disuse decades ago under King Edal, who wanted to show what a fair and noble king he was.”

“So, the chamber lay empty until Caileagh discovered it.” He paraded about the room, gesturing like a thespian on his stage, as he continued, “When she brought me here, flickering torches created frightening shadows around the room. A fire roared. The room was like an oven. Undressing me was a relief. And hanging with my hands tied as you are, sent a shiver through me. The chains jingled overhead as she instructed me in the most transforming revelations. Her rewards were so tantalizing…”

The door opened again.

“Remember me, knight?” a hoarse, masculine voice growled in his ear.

Jonathan cringed, unable to see the man. “Who…?”

“Fairness Crossing?” the soldier hinted, louder.

Everything echoes. The drugs have not worn off.

Jonathan prayed for help to escape.

After you see the king, the still, small voice spoke within.

He focused on the peace of J’shua.

“Jon, this is Captain Greysun.” Gaelib sneered, coming closer. “He was Commandant at Fairness Crossing fifteen years ago. Don’t you remember? You and your friends interfered in his command, dishonoring him.”

“He…told me I would regret…” Jonathan was dizzy and nauseous.

“My father would not let the commandant retaliate, the fool. Every peasant in that market should’ve been whipped. And if I had learned of it when first I became earl, you…would have been hunted down and dealt with long ago.”

He could see a little more clearly. The damp walls were limestone. There were crude wooden benches. More chains hung from beams above, and there was a single chair. Before him, a hearth held a crackling fire. His cloak, tunic, shirt, and boots were on a table by the only exit.

A sharp crack pierced his muddled thoughts as the lid of the crate broke free.

“Later, you lost him a great sum,” Gaelib continued, “well over one hundred thousand baden when you had King Edal reverse the debt collections ten years ago. He’s asked me for the opportunity to repay you. I told him he mustn’t leave any marks since the king will see you in the morning. Greysun promised he’d obey my orders…today.”

The spirit led me here. I will see the king.

Gaelib smiled as he lowered himself into the chair. “Begin. Don’t kill him, Captain.” He leaned back, resting his cordovan boots on the warm hearth.

Greysun smiled. “My lord, I learned this technique from the madame that runs my brothels. She’d never do as much damage as I intend. She needs her girls to keep working. But a mere half dozen blows would be felt for weeks with little bruising.”

The captain glanced at one of the soldiers, “Lieutenant Fortuch, place three oranges in a burlap sack.” Greysun motioned for it. Hefting it for a moment, he nodded his satisfaction.

“Are you ready for my sermon, knight?” Greysun grinned.

“Nothing you say could—”

The first blow knocked the wind out of Jonathan.

After several impacts, the whole chamber smelled of citrus.

Gaelib inhaled deeply. “I just love the smell of oranges. Don’t you, Jon?”

“Not…anymore,” Jonathan grunted.

Gaelib gestured for an orange. Breaking it apart, he peeled away a slice with his teeth.

Greysun continued striking. When the sack became ineffective, the captain signaled for another.

Jonathan had meant to stay quiet. The pain was not bad at first. But he could no longer stand. He didn’t recognize the sounds he made. He lost track of time. His last utterance only a whimper.

“You’re an artist, Greysun,” Gaelib said, now leaning against the stone. “Your strikes are so precise, delivered with such panache. I can’t recall seeing such a virtuoso at work.”

The captain paused and bowed to Gaelib. “Thank you, my lord.”

“Don’t you agree, Jon?”

They startled Jonathan awake with a cold splash.

“We wouldn’t want you to miss out on even a moment of this evening’s entertainment.” Gaelib patted Jon’s cheek. “Be a good lad. Stay with us.”

Beads of sweat formed on Greysun’s brow.

It hurt to breathe so he held it as long as he could. Then his body would gasp on its own. The sound he heard, he could not recognize.

Time and time again he slipped into a daze, only to be revived so the process could continue.

He actually felt better now.



Gaelib sighed loudly. “That’s enough, Captain. It’s late. Have your men rinse him off and lock him in a cell. Ensure he’s dressed  before his interview with His Majesty. He must make a good impression.”

Gaelib smiled as they dragged Jon away. Things were going well. His influence grew stronger. His allies obeyed with ever-greater fervor. And the new king was doing as instructed. Best of all, he had not one but two Otuals. The Warrior had led Jon right into the castle. Jon’s daughter-in-Law, Cynthia, was in a dungeon below.

Oh, the revelry he’d have degrading one in front of the other once King Sagen sentenced the knight. The prospect was…delicious.

Even better, he had them all to himself. Caileagh was off doing whatever she did to control her spies, informers, and seductresses, plus those things necessary to placate her endless Gods. All he cared about was the Warrior. Otual and his daughter-in-law could, and would, amply satisfy that deity’s demands.

Picking up a length of silk, Gaelib ran it through his hands, thinking about ways he might use it. “Oh yes, this is going to be exquisite!”

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