Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua Book 1

by Tiana Dokerty © 1984-2021

Home | Chapter 18 | Chapter 20

Chapter 19: Judged

Updated 3/31/23


Waxing Crescent Moon, Early Summer


Rebekah was back in Lexandria. She didn’t want to be. She wanted to be looking for Sarah, or searching for Jonathan. She wanted to learn more about Melazera’s plans and thwart them.

I can’t yet prove that everything rotten in this country leads back to the so-called 'Lord of Lorness. When I find proof, in J’shua’s name, I’ll wreak holy vengeance upon those who outlawed my husband, stole away my daughter, and tried to sell me into slavery.

However, the practicalities of life kept getting in the way. Plus, too many of Licht Gegen’s operations were directly or indirectly funded by her growing wealth.

I am already rich beyond imagining. It’s embarrassing and in conflict with J’shua’s example of living a simple life.  I could buy my parent’s farm dozens of times over and have money to spare. I am surrounded by… excess.

The extent of her holdings still puzzled her. As did their ever-increasing value with each new venture she started. Ventures initiated because they might provide information, contacts, or leverage. Or, to provide ways to clandestinely get money to those who needed it. Or, to obtain things that could not be openly bought and sold in Freislicht, such as weapons, armor, and other equipment.

Almost all of which, seemingly of their own volition, kept making more money.

The trip south was merely the latest imposition that her success had thrust upon her. She had tried to distance herself from controlling this mercantile monster she’d created by hiring a manager in the north and another in the south.

Kellick Dunston, her northern manager, loved numbers. He fulfilled her instructions without question. His only failing, was that he was making her ever richer, despite her insistence that he buy up as many of the debts the loathsome Melazera might otherwise foreclose on.

She was in Lexandria to see her southern manager and still trying to decide whether to fire Bywold Parsons. Maybe, she’d just strangle him. It’d be far more satisfying.

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

For her, business was a way to move around unnoticed. Or had been. She was starting to be recognized as an affluent trader.

The messages left at her usual inn had directed her to an address she wasn’t familiar with. The building turned out to be a large warehouse with an office on its upper floor. The sign over the main doors read: Bekh’s Bold Businesses. The image below it was a stylized depiction of her face. Her thickly bearded face.

Her heart sank.

What’s Parsons done now?

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

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

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

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

“Bywold,” Charles said, in a soothing tone. “Tomas is one of us. I vouch for him.”

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

“However,” Charles sprouted a grin, “I wasn’t going to take any chances until I confirmed that your employer, Mr. Bekh, was still the… man… I knew long ago. How about I buy you a drink and we talk about recent developments? Parsons, join us.”

She nodded.

How much odder can this get?

They walked across the street to the Blue Hare Tavern. From the open windows came the sound of a lute. Another, obviously drunk, sang a bawdy song off-key. There was much stomping of feet and roars of laughter.

It made Rebekah smile in spite of herself. She was tired. All she could do was take one day at a time and hope J’shua was leading her to Sarah. What else could she do?

Finding a table in a dark corner, Charles updated her while Parsons got drunk.


The Woods Outside Lexandria

James of the Wood had traveled south. While hunting with several of the boys, they turned at a hiss and a growl. One boy took aim at a lynx, but James rested his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “No, Tam, this is his forest too. We only kill to eat or defend ourselves. If we were to be his lunch, he’d have not made a sound.

Later that day, he was surprised to encounter Fyrna Locke. The woman was well-known in horse training circles. To find her and less than a handful of men herding two dozen mounts, far from anywhere, was either a blessing or a curse.

He wasn’t sure yet. Stepping in front of her, he blocked her way, aiming a bow at one of her men.

“Who’re you?” She’d begun, only for her tone to soften upon realizing she was surrounded by about thirty lads carrying bows or short swords. “Or, should I ask, who are you and your entourage?”

“These are my woods, lady. I’ll not rob you, but there’s a toll to be paid… if you’d prefer to pass peacefully.”

“My apologies, Lord of the Woods, I didn’t recognize you without your usual finery.” She semi-bowed, still in the saddle. “How many of my horses do you require?”

“Since,” James grinned, “your manners are so fine, only three.”

Fyrna scowled, looking around as yet more armed lads appeared. “Given the circumstances, a small price to pay.”

“How good of you to agree. I’ll take your horse and that of the two riders with you. Leave their saddles and tack. A woman so noted for her skill in training such beasts will have no trouble riding bareback.”

“Less of a bargain." Fyrna’s expression darkened as she and her men dismounted. “A suggestion, youngster, abandon this part of your territory for a time. The weather to the north looks far more… pleasant. And I’d enjoy hearing stories of you taxing the Melazeras.”

“A wonderful notion, lady. It shall be as you say. I’d hate to wear out my welcome with such hospitable neighbors.”


Quorin was… happy. He’d left the Order of the Black Robe, leaving a trail of magnificent stories of his death. They’d never bother to look for him. And at certain spots along his way, he’d buried the appropriated funds, only what he deserved, of course.

A wagon approached.

One more win?

Quorin climbed a nearby oak whose branches overhung the road, and waited.

The wagon passed below him, and he leaped.

“What the…” The merchant yelped, the driver jerked the reins and the horse took off.

Quorin lost his footing, falling hard onto the dirt road. When he looked up the merchant was aiming a bow at him. He darted behind a tree as the wagon barreled on.

Quorin fled into the woods. But before he’d run twenty paces… he’d tripped a snare.


Things were not going according to plan. At least, not according to Quorin’s plan.

In the year-and-a-half since leaving Rhaylth to his fate, Quorin had – mostly – returned to playing the loyal member of the Black Robes. It was relatively safe. They had only the barest idea of how to keep track of baden. And, despite being paranoid, they were utterly unsuspecting when it came to betrayal.

For the most part.

Most of the time.

Well, almost…

So, when he’d heard that Rhaylth had entered the Order, he’d thought to… advance… both of their positions – Rhay-Rhay’s inside and his outside. He’d detoured a shipment of baden and dropped an anonymous note to his woefully uncunning cousin, pinning the blame on someone else. Someone more plausible.

In hindsight, he’d known he was being too clever. Rhaylth knew nothing of Quorin being a black-robe. The lad was too dense. Too arrogant. Too self-absorbed.

Characteristics that, in my more honest moments, I could probably ascribe to myself. Especially as they also explain why I’m hanging upside-down.

“May I interrupt your thoughts?” One of those surrounding him asked.


“I’d introduce myself,’ the man dressed in old-but-serviceable clothes noted, “but you trespassed into my territory. So, you first.”

“Names are such fickle things,” Quorin demurred. “I’ve collected so many of them. None would mean anything to you. Call me anything you want.”

“I am James of the Woods. You are a trespasser. More interestingly,” he grinned, as he accepted a parcel from a young boy, “you discarded a beautifully-cut set of black robes. Actually, there are several in this oilcloth you buried. We’ll find them most useful.” James passed them to one of his associates.

“I… use them in good health. Consider them a gift—”

“…that you discarded. You could have burned them, but you didn’t. You also buried a considerable fortune in baden over the week you’ve been trailed.”

“Week…?” Quorin felt sick. They’d know where most of his wealth was hidden.

“It may have been longer.”

“Oh…” They could know where everything…

“But,” James’s grin took on a wicked glint, “it turns out that you’re well known, in some circles. There’s a price on your head from the Caswell’s that would make my eyes water. Apparently, Lady Caswell was with child when… Of course, that’s dwarfed by the private bounty put out on you in the days since you left Fairness Crossing. Who did you betray?  Are those black robes a clue?”

“If you’ve been following me, you know how much I buried. It’s yours if—”

“It’s already mine. What else do you have to offer?”

“I…” Quorin quailed. He had only one card left to play. “I belonged to the Black Robes and have… left them. There’s a group called Licht Gegen. They’ll pay well for my knowledge. If they keep me safe, all I know is theirs.”

James of the Woods frowned. “Wish I knew who they were. Sounds like a good payday. Also sounds like the private bounty’s too dangerous to collect. Perhaps the Caswells—”


“Don’t go anywhere,” James yelled as he walked off. “And don’t try anything stupid, my boys are watching you. I need to go chat with some folks. Shouldn’t be more than a few hours. Overnight at worst.”


“Oh, yes,” James turned back to face the hanging Quorin. “Tomas Bekh, sends his compliments. And he hopes you weren’t too badly hurt when you tripped the snare. His driver is a madman. You’re lucky to be alive.”

“Oh…” Quorin wondered just how much worse the day could get. He doubted he’d not enjoy the answer. At least, not in the short term.


Farr Castle

Jonathan became aware of scraping, shuffling, and voices outside. Everything echoed within his head. He couldn’t make out the words, but they were getting closer.

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

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

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

Jonathan lay where he’d been dropped the night before, his swollen muscles still unresponsive. “…morning, M’lady… excuse my rudeness… lost my clothes and cannot stand…” Jonathan croaked, rolling to his side.  The world spun. “How may I be… of service?”

With a foot, she pushed him onto his back. “The sketch of you on your wanted posters does you no credit. It doesn’t do justice to your… eyes. I thought, to commemorate this long-delayed meeting, I should correct that. Enter!”

A black-robed-and-hooded servant came in carrying parchment and a small board, followed by two soldiers carrying torches.

“Be still,” Cailleagh said.

Through blurry eyes, Jonathan took in Lady Melazera standing over him. Her smile was disturbing as her eyes traced the lines of his body. Her tongue played over her lips. She was repugnant, foul…


That was the best word to describe her.

For a moment, despite his pain and the situation, he felt sorry for her, wondering what had led her to this.

Then, she knelt close and whispered to him, “I intend this to be perfect to mark my beloved husband's revenge as he announces your death. Seeing His Majesty is only a formality. Your fate is sealed.”

The hooded man held up his drawing to the lady.

“Delightful, make a dozen copies and bring them to me by nightfall,” she commanded then left without saying another word. Only her intoxicating fragrance remained.

Jonathan forced his body to straighten. He hurt everywhere.

His only hope was some healing during sleep. After a time, he dozed.


Jonathan had been dressed and escorted to the Main Hall by four militet. It was almost amusing. Bruised, battered, and still bent over, he could walk. Albeit, it was more of a shuffle.

The militet stayed close.

The Main Hall, three times larger than the Steward’s Hall, was filled with colorful, well-dressed people behind an ornate balustrade: dukes, earls, lesser lords, and their ladies. They bobbed their heads and blinked their eyes to get a glimpse of the infamous knight.

Looks like a crate full of peacocks.

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

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

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

Jon grimaced as he bent, pressing his knees into the stone floor. He bowed his head and waited.

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

Jonathan wobbled, but stood under his own power.

“Why have you come before your king?”

“I came because we were friends once, Your Majesty.” Jonathan felt the vibration and warmth of the Lord’s inspiration. “Lord J’shua wants to heal your land. There is great oppression over your people.” A boldness grew within. His pain faded away. “We awake early filled with thoughts and dreads, moved to sing in the spirit a mournful song in prayer and praise to J’shua. He alone knows what burdens our souls. Send us your angels, open enchanted ears, clear the vision of the fools. No longer will we pray for safety. We pray for strength. We are moved to sing in the spirit a war song and a love song, for there is nothing stronger than the Love of the God of Truth. Your Majesty, trust in the sacrifice of His son, J’shua. You are already ransomed by him. He will never leave you.”

The king looked down at him for a long while. “Jonathan, I hear your words and take them in the light of friendship in which they are spoken. But this land no longer serves J’shua or his Father. All his followers have left, and the God of this Age has filled the land with prosperity. The Lord of Lorness has shown me the truth. He has brought order to our legal system. My dungeons are empty.

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

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

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

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

Lord, why didn’t he hear me?


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

People moved out of his way with even greater alacrity than usual. It pleased him.

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

It had all been arranged!

It was perfect. Jon would have been returned to the dungeon to await his execution, only to take his life with poison. The king would have been permitted to view his friend’s body. After that, Caileagh would have administered the antidote and restored the knight to consciousness.

After which…

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

The frisson of pleasure almost offset his anger. But only almost.

Curse Sagan! Banishment! Worse, banishment with the possibility of reprieve!

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

His prize had been taken from him.

Then, there was Caileagh. She had her own plans for the knight, plans she’d kept secret. But she’d whispered hints. Hints that tantalized him, aroused him, and had him salivating to see how creative she could be.

She would be… displeased. No, she’d be far worse than that.

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

As he fumed, the Warrior’s inspiration stirred within him. There were other ways he could use the girl, while still enjoying a diversion. Enough so that…

“Yes. Yes! Oh, yes. Thank you, my Warrior,” Gaelib roared joyously. If she alone couldn’t provide him the pleasure he was due, then…

I’ve never before been able to learn when the elder knights are meeting. This is delicious.

Having stirred the ember-covered logs in the fireplace to summon new flames, Gaelib flopped into the only chair. He hated waiting for his plans to come into fruition. He breathed in. The room still smelled of citrus and stale sweat. The memory of Jon’s suffering soothed him.

Greysun is an artist… and Jon will soon be dead.

Stretching, he luxuriated in the fire’s warmth, thinking of what he’d already put into motion. Under the guise of meticulous note taking while the king held court, a habit he was well known for, he’d sent off messages that… oh, the things those notes had made happen over the years.

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

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

Again, he inhaled the chamber’s aroma. It sent his mind back to when he’d learned the ways of the God of this Age from Caileagh. He continued sitting by the fire, his feet propped up on the table, and relived a memory.

Twelve years earlier, the moon had been high as Gaelib and Caileagh lay on a blanket. She fed him slices of orange as she told him of the different gods and their blessings. They were innumerable: the God of Harvest, the God of the Sea, the God of War, and the God of Fertility. All needed to be pleased.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet and salty and rich like cream, it tasted amazing. Energy warmed him from his center outward. He savored it, growled, then leapt on her again. “Is there more?”

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


“Soon,” she responded, touching him.

Gaelib sighed. There was no more time to think about the past. It was time to implement the Warrior’s – no, his – new plan.


When Blackhawk entered the hall, a young brown-haired woman sat slumped on the floor, her eyes were wide with terror. Guards flanked her.

He hadn’t seen Gaelib or Caileagh for two years. He had sent reports, but not been summoned by either until today.

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

“Steven, come here.” Gaelib’s mood was effusive but, as always, mercurial. “It’s been too long. Let me look at you.” The Lord of Lorness was seated on an ornate chair, placed upon a dais. It wasn’t a throne, exactly. However, the tapestry of a giant green dragon behind it, reinforced the regal impression.

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

“You’re quite a man now, Steven.”

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

“I hear such great things from Commander Taelor.

“My success is only due to your interest in me, my lord.”

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

“No, my lord. You taught me to be entertaining, helpful, and complimentary. That and obedience has earned me my rank.”

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

Blackhawk’s gut tightened, but he maintained his icy calm. He didn’t let his emotions show with Gaelib or Caileagh. He’d learned very early that displaying your feelings gave them more power over you.

“What punishment shall I administer, my lord?”

“Chain her to the center post facing us.”

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

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

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

“Now, despoil her,” Gaelib commanded, leaning forward in anticipation.

“As you wish, and thank you, my lord.” Flashing his most lecherous smile toward Gaelib, Blackhawk pulled out his dagger. She begged and cried as he cut her laces and dress at the shoulders, then fondled her. He knew what Gaelib liked, so imitated his lord.

She bellowed louder.

Slowly, he peeled the dress off. He shut his eyes, unable to look at her. Pretending to enter her, he hoped his movements and noises would satisfy Melazera. Guilt curdled his insides.

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

Gaelib laughed.

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

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

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

Blackhawk did. As a child, he’d learned obedience and to please Gaelib and Caileagh there.

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

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

“Yes, my lord.”

Clearly, the tests aren’t over.

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