Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua Book 1

by Tiana Dokerty © 2022

Home | Chapter 20 | Chapter 22

Chapter 21: The Lady

Updated 3/30/23


The Border Inn, Mestelina

No one was about. Dinner was over and the drinking hadn’t started yet. The inn’s proprietor, Terrance, was wiping the last table when a sobbing, distraught Cynthia rushed in, wild-eyed and frantic. The dress she wore was travel-stained, gaudy, and provocative. It was unlike anything he’d expect of her.

Terrance’s eyes grew wide as he exclaimed, “Cynthia? How —”

She darted into his arms, clasping him tightly.

He doubted he could pry her off without hurting her. Not that he wanted to try.

Words poured out of her, impossible to follow, little more than sobs and mumbles. “They abducted… I tried… Then he… cut my… the dark…”

Terrance’s eyes narrowed when two men burst through the door. He immediately disliked them and prepared to defend her. Only to be caught off-guard when she turned, saw them, and a momentary brightness appeared on her face.

“Baldwin… half-brother, Cain,” she stuttered. “…wouldn’t… escaped… without...” Every shuddering breath drowned by tears and sniffles. “Find… David?

Terrance cringed to hear the usually exuberant wife of his friend, struggle. He concealed his doubts for Cynthia’s benefit. “Thank you, sirs.” He shook their hands. “I’d give you the best room in the inn, but I’ve only one available—”

“We understand,” Baldwin said. “It must go to the lady. We insist.”

Terrance nodded. “I’m sorry, gentlemen, that only leaves fresh straw in the barn.”

“Fine for us,” Baldwin replied too readily.

Cain nodded his acceptance.

They don’t look anything alike.

Nor did their response sit with Terrance. There was no explanation of how they’d helped her, no questions about what should happen next.

What are they hiding?

Yet, they weren’t his immediate concern. He beckoned Donna over. “Cynthia, I don’t know if you recall my youngest daughter.”

“Y-yes, of course. You’ve… grown.”

Witnessing Cynthia wrestle with such common civilities sent flashes of anger through him. “Donna, take our guest up to Room Five. See that she’s settled and address all her needs. Once she’s comfortable, fetch your mother. Cynthia will need someone familiar nearby.”

“Yes, Father.” She helped Cynthia up the stairs.

The brothers frowned. Their gaze trailed after the woman they’d rescued.

Terrance turned to the men. “Have you eaten? Would you like something to drink? It’s on the house.”

“Thank you.” Baldwin nodded.

Terrance poured each an ale, then went into the kitchen, where he encountered one of his sons. “Dren, fetch a watchman to ride for the Ankah settlement in Mestelina, find Sir David, and deliver this note.” He scrawled an encoded message.

Returning with bowls of hot stew, he set them before the two men. “This should warm you. Tell me what happened.”


Cynthia had stayed composed by sheer anger. It was the only thing keeping her going. Seeing Terrance undid her. Emotions flooded through her, threatening to drown her.

I want to kill the soldiers… slowly.

I want the lord who watched to suffer everything I did… and more.

I want the beast that befouled me… to… to… I want him to die, but it must take forever so he endures a hundredfold what I did. No, a thousand.

Shaking with rage, Cynthia ripped off the dress, tearing seams and shredding cloth. It was a reminder of…

“Shall I wash and mend your clothes?” Donna poured hot water into the bath.

“Burn it!” Cynthia snarled.

The serving girl backed away. “I… have I offended, lady?”

“Wait! I’m sorry. I can’t – won’t – explain. Destroy it so nothing remains. Not a single thread.”

“As you wish, ma’am.” Donna scooped up the offending pile and ran out, returning with clean clothes and a steaming bowl of stew. “Call me if you need anything.”

Cynthia lay in the warm tub for a long time, scrubbing her skin hard, trying to erase the musky smell of that monster. As she washed, she thanked J’shua he’d not entered her. It was the only indignity she’d been spared. At least, she’d no fear of a child from the ordeal.

Forcing her mind away from those memories, she wondered about the perverted man who’d directed things. It was in Farr Castle. It wasn’t the king. A noble? That putrid depraved creature had called her rapist ‘Steven’. The guards had called him ‘Blackhawk.’

Lord, grant me vengeance. I know who I want dead first, but he won’t be the last.

Tears flowed as she bent her knees and submerged herself entirely in the warm water, pushing away the memory of waking bound and shivering on the cold stone floor of a dungeon.

The water’s pleasant, soothing quiet almost drowned out the frivolity from the tavern below. It also drowned her screams…


She shot upright, inhaling deeply, desperate to breathe. “In the name of J’shua Ha Mashiach, demons leave!”

She forced herself to remember the Lord and her rage.

I will be avenged.


A shocked and horrified David rode through the night to reach the Border Inn. “Where is she?” he demanded.

Terrance stopped him, gripping David by the shoulders. “Calm down. Cynthia is… not fine, but whole, physically, at least. Be strong and support her. I don’t know what happened. She wouldn’t tell my wife much. It was bad.”

David looked down, biting his lip, and sighed.

“Two men brought her,” Terrance said, “but there’s something off about them.”

David’s only focus was his wife. “I should’ve been there. I should’ve had her with me. I thought it safer–”

“This, whatever it was, was not of your doing. When you know, tell me how I can help. Anything I have, can supply, or arrange – lawful or not – is yours.” Moved by his friend’s offer, David took a step back and, outwardly, calmed himself. “Is she awake?”

“Karlene is with her.” Terrance reassured. “Room Five.”

David bounded up the stairs and into Cynthia’s room. She flew into his arms, sobbing and babbling unintelligibly.

Terrance’s wife placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, then left.

David tried to console his bride, helpless, not knowing what to do. With each tear, he became angrier. He wanted to ask questions, but wouldn’t risk upsetting her more. His heart broke for her. Eventually, when she was silent and clinging to him, he asked, “How can I help? Where do I take you?”

“Not to my parents. They mustn’t know… and… the lord,” she spat the word, “might seek me there.”

“Who…?” His imagination filled in all too many vile possibilities. Whoever it was, regardless of rank or position, would die.

“I don’t know.” Her voice caught. “The only name I heard was ‘Steven Blackhawk’.”

It meant nothing to David. “I fear, my love, traveling with me would be just as dangerous, especially if some nobleman is to blame. Worse–”

“I don’t care. I want to be with you.”

“I want that, too, but…” David forced himself to admit, “alone I can’t protect you.”

“Where then?” Cynthia cried. “That lord said he’d do me more harm. I’m afraid.”

“The safest thing will be to hide you. Just for the time being. Just until this matter’s settled. Then, we’ll be together.”

“I…” His wife’s mouth moved, silently praying. She nodded.

“My love, stay here. Daikon Terrance will watch over you. And Karlene can help you. I’ll return soon.”

She hugged him tighter, burying her face in his chest.

He forced himself not to ask more. “I must talk to the men that brought you.” He waited, stroking her cheek. “I’ll not leave without saying goodbye.”

She released him and nodded.

They hadn’t been married a year. To be apart had been hard, but this…? David would do something about this. With a last kiss, he left the room, quietly closing the door behind him, then strode down the stairs. “Where—?”

“In the barn,” Terrance responded. “I don’t like them. Be careful.”

David hadn’t paused, nor had he heard the warning. His purposeful strides carried him to his wife’s rescuers.

Upon seeing him, they bowed.

“Sirs, it’s I who should bow to you,” he replied, doing so.

“It was our duty, sir.” Baldwin dropped his bedding on the straw and stood at attention.

“Tell me what happened.”

Baldwin didn’t meet David’s eyes, instead stared over his shoulder. “There were rumors that… the wife of a Knight of J’shua had been arrested… and…” he gulped, “had spent time with Lord Melazera in his Judgment Hall.”

Another vile name. All too well known.

“Major Blackhawk, uh… discharged the sentence. There were guards boasting about how he’d – I’m sorry, sir – about how he’d raped your wife. They said he requested to do it again.”

David’s fists clenched.

“Being believers, we had to help her. We got lucky, stole a wagon, and got her out.”

Cain added, “The rumors also say, forgive me, that rebel knights are terrorizing the countryside. Knights that,” he looked at his feet, “want to overthrow the king.”

“Rubbish,” David snapped back.

“The, uh… defilement was, according to rumor, a message to those rebels—”

“I’m no rebel. Why attack Cynthia?” David took two strides toward them.

“I don’t know, sir,” Baldwin pleaded, backing away, his hands raised defensively. “All we heard was kitchen gossip.”

 “I know of no such rebellious knights, but know who will. Thank you.” David turned to leave, but stopped “I’m in your debt. How can I repay you?”

“We’ve nowhere to go. We cannot go home.” Cain frowned. “Can we help you?”

“Do you ride? There’ll be no time for wagons.” They both nodded in answer to his question. “Get ready to leave. I need a few moments with my wife.”


At the suggestion of Donna’s mother, Karlene, Cynthia began destroying the dress.

This is better.

Cynthia’s smile grew slightly with every piece she fed to the blaze. Each colorful flare was a banner, her signal fire, her call to arms. Each flame burned a man from that hall. Mostly Blackhawk, but also his lord and the others who’d watched. The silk smelled like burnt hair.

She forced herself to pray for their souls, for she knew J’shua had died to rescue them also. She prayed for her own soul too, fearing it would never be restored, fearing it would be blackened by her desire for revenge.

She recognized the sound of David’s boots and the rhythm of his gait. Still, she flinched at his gentle touch. Only sinking into his arms when she saw his face, his kind eyes, his compassion, and his none-too-well-hidden pain. Even so, she couldn’t muster a smile.

“May I help?” He pointed to the dress she’d dropped.

“Let me borrow your knife. It’s difficult to rip.”

He pulled a small blade from the top of his boot. It had been a gift from her. It was also better suited to her tiny hands than the dagger sheathed at his waist. “Keep it with you, always.”

She was touched that he returned it now. It was a comfort. A knife to be carried out of sight, with which she could surprise an enemy. A blade balanced for fighting and throwing, both of which he’d taught her to do. Well sharpened, she easily sliced the skirt into long ribbons, then watched them burn.

He supported her by just being there.

Once finished, she faced him. “When will you return?”

“I don’t know. I must report this to the elders and hear their remedy.”

Her lip trembled as her eyes filled with tears. His arms enveloping her were all she needed, and everything she’d all-too-soon be parted from. “You must go. They’ll do this to others if…” She couldn’t complete the sentence.

His hands on her shoulders, he stepped back and looked into her eyes. “I know.” It was as if he’d forced the words out.

Perhaps he had, Cynthia thought.

“I’ll be back in no longer than a moon.” His voice steadied. “Sooner, if I can.”

Karlene brought her a shawl and tied it snugly about her.

Cynthia wiped her eyes and nodded. “Go.”


Leaving Cynthia was the hardest thing David had ever done, or could imagine doing. Just walking out of the inn had required all his willpower. Yet, he couldn’t stay. Others were in danger. Others would be hurt. Others would be…

She has the comfort of women. Karlene will take care of her better than I.

The idea of rebel knights appalled him, adding to his ire. He had to know more before reporting to the elders. His only thought was Drake Caswell, a good friend of his father’s who’d kept an eye on David since his commencement, and even hosted his wedding.

Drake always described himself as a fair-weather knight. He had no desire to fight evil, instead wanting to grow a circle into a haven and provide an environment in which peace would grow. This he’d done in Caswell. Often over a thousand people traveled great distances to attend.

The Circle of Caswell was held up as the highest example of how such a society should run. Many emulated it, their words of peace drawing more and more people. And, like Drake, those daikons had also grown wealthy.

Terrance had provided rations, fresh horses, and tack for Baldwin and Cain, in exchange for the wagon and horses they’d stolen.

When David emerged from the Inn, Baldwin was already in the saddle. Cain struggled to mount as he smiled at Terrance, nodded to his brother, and even winked at a drunk, probably to hide his embarrassment.

It was a funny sight.

Eventually, the ‘experienced’ rider sat unsteadily in the saddle.

“Where to, Sir Otual?” Baldwin enquired.

Without looking at the brothers, David spurred his horse into motion. They’d keep up or not. He had no time to worry about them.


Farr Castle

The private audience chamber in the depths of Farr Castle was lit with torches. Her shadow quivered along the floor following her slippers that chafed the cold stone. The three docents knelt in supplication before Lady Melazera, who strode back and forth before them as if they defined the bars of a cage within which she was trapped. “Nothing?” she repeated yet again. “Otual has had a price on his head for years and none of you had thought to entrap him using his wife?”

“It has been considered, but she’s surely dead,” the boldest of them answered. “The last confirmed sighting of her was by Commandant Greysun. And…” his voice trailed away.

Savoring the coward’s terror, Caileagh let the painful silence drag out.

“It’s said—’ another began.

“Shut up,” the first docent hissed.

“What tasty tidbit are you withholding?” She paused to examine them. They were unimpressive specimens. Two were overweight. The third… she shuddered at the thought of him touching any woman. His balding pate and scrawny body lacked all virility.

She walked behind Baldy and used her foot to push his face into the stone floor, making him groan. “What is said?”

She thrust harder. “I am waiting.”

He moaned. The sounds of nasal cartilage and cheek bones breaking were as sweet as the coppery scent of blood accompanying them.

“That,” the second docent began, only to hesitate, “Lord Melazera recently had Otual’s daughter-in-law in his clutches… but lost her. Just as Rosewud lost the knight’s wife… and daughter.”

“Daughter? I know of a son. You three have provided regular reports on him and his associates. He’s not even a pale shadow of his father. Why is this the first time I am hearing of a daughter?”

“She… she was… sold to some brothel.”

“Really? Why have none of you brought her to me?” Her foot twisted, slipping onto Baldy’s neck, slowly suffocating him.


“You finally have something to say?” Caileagh eased off just enough to permit the choking man what may be his last words.

“Greysun lied in his reports. They stated Otual’s daughter was sold to Madam Bonaforte’s. But when the collections were deemed unlawful, Otual’s wife went there, demanding—”

“Traitor!” The first docent hissed. “You never told—”

“Boys,” Caileagh kicked the interrupter in the face, “one at a time. Go on, Baldy.”

“She went to get her daughter back. Caused a scene there. With Greysun too.”


“And neither mother nor daughter have been seen since.”

Taking a few steps away to examine the three men, she decided none deserved to continue serving her. Yet killing all three would be wasteful. “You,” she kicked the second, “remind me of your name.”

“Streib, my lady.”

“Take your companions away and kill them. Slowly.” She motioned to her guards who unsheathed their swords. “You won’t fail me again. Will you, Streib? Do it in front of all your acolytes to remind them of the cost of failure. When you’re finished, take others with you to Frei Forest and determine if Otual’s wife had a settlement there.”

Rosewud and Greysun owed her answers.


This evening, Caileagh arranged for Gaelib to meet her in one of Farr Castle’s lower halls. A long time past, it was used as a staging area for wartime operations, but no longer. Peace had reigned in Freislicht for well over a century. She had consecrated it many years ago, after losing the Sanctuary of the Alte Regieren in Lorness, when her guiding spirits had deserted her.

Three long years had passed before their voices spoke again. Three years in which she’d had to guide Gaelib on her own using runes, blood spatter, and bones. Three years in which she’d learned the evil things her mother had done to her.

But that was the past. As was her mother, who, along with the old wizard, gave their lives so Caileagh’s guiding spirits could return.

It had then taken another six years to dedicate this place so it was ready for Gaelib’s Emancipation Ritual, for his final release from the bonds of conscience.

Five of her highest docents had prepared the ceremony.

Gaelib stood stoic, yet she saw his underlying nervousness, his need, and his eagerness to do anything to gain the full power of the Warrior. He’d arrived on time, dressed in ceremonial robes. He knew the nature of the ritual and his part in it. But she doubted he’d understood that this was a choice. That the Warrior wouldn’t force him. That Gaelib must freely offer himself, handing over control to receive the powers he sought.


Gaelib scanned the large room, enjoying the dancing shadows cast by torches against pillars and statues as the acolytes surrounded him along the outer circle for this rite. He waited, impatient for what he was finally to receive. I need that power and vision to become the sole ruler of Freislicht. With the Warrior’s abilities, I’ll overcome all.

Accompanied by familiar chants and rituals, the docents entered the hall, bringing with them a struggling woman, a rope around her neck. Clutching an infant, she was pulled by a docent in black robes, his face hidden by the hood. Two more walked at her sides. Another two behind.

Given she was dressed as a peasant, Gaelib surmised she had no family of consequence to repay whatever he did to her.

Caileagh wouldn’t risk that.

His wife handed him the bowl filled with the dust of crushed bones and ashes, instructing him to draw the sublime circle on the floor.

He did so without thought, having done it countless times, while recalling the next step: coax the woman into the circle, then have her kneel without the threat of force. Gaelib removed the leash. “Step into the circle.” He pointed to the symbol he had drawn. “After the ceremony you will be released. All will be well. Simply kneel.”

Terrified, she yearned to believe his comforting words, clutching the child tighter.

The five docents spread out around the sacrificial circle.

Caileagh stepped forward to prompt him.

He raised his hand, stopping her. This was his moment. He no longer required guidance. With feigned comfort, his honeyed voice soothed the kneeling woman’s fears and quieted her sobs. Tears streaked down her face as she looked around at robed figures and shadowed faces, seeking a way out that didn’t exist.

“All is out of our control,” he crooned. “The God of this Age is in charge, here in this circle that you entered freely, and everywhere else. There is no escape. There are no alternatives. But there is a higher purpose. You must act to preserve the kingdom. Within the dungeon, the child would surely die slowly, starving and in pain. It is inevitable. No other outcome is possible. Complete the offering. Be highly favored. Receive my blessing. Act and all your cares will cease, as His beloved.”

He offered her the ceremonial dagger as she surrendered, taking the blade. As her eyes pleaded for another way, he shook his head and guided her hand to the babe’s neck.

Energy surged into him as the child expired, heady, transcendent.

Caileagh gestured for the infant. Despondent and sobbing, the woman relinquished the small, lifeless body to Lady Melazera who drained its blood into an ornate bowl.

As if from a great distance, the Warrior said, “Take her for your pleasure. Do with her as thou wilt.” He knew the ceremony could have no other end. Indeed, buoyed by the force flowing through him, he played, enjoying every notion from the Warrior.

Yet more power entered Gaelib as he silenced his victim with the same dagger she’d used to end her child’s life. When he drank the blood from the bowl, the Warrior spoke with the energy of a cyclone and the clarity of a sunbeam, “We are free of all moral constructs.”

I’m free of guilt, shame, and hesitancy. I see clearly that my word is the Will of the Gods.


King Sagen sat still as a statue on the ancient throne while the fourth of five potential wives approached. “I am Zillah, youngest daughter of Lord Macom.” She curtsied.” You are our great king and your countenance shines like the sun.” It was painful, both to watch and, Sagen suspected, to be presented so.

If I don’t find someone tonight, I’ll declare a series of balls and outings, like my father did. I’ll praise Gaelib for the suggestion and have him spend several fortunes on it, diverting funds from the army. What’s more, I might meet someone naturally.

He listened intently to each of the young ladies. As with previous processions, their averted eyes and halting speech reminded him how much he hated this process. Worse, they were terrified. All came from families who understood the true nature of power and the conflict brewing between the king and his steward. A conflict many expected the king to lose. Being queen was one thing. Being queen to a dead king, if she survived, was quite another. He smiled often to reduce their discomfort.

The last girl was different. She was relaxed, displayed no fear, and possessed a quiet boldness. “Your Majesty, the library you built to foster education is a most wondrous thing. It is a true boon to the kingdom. I hope to see it one day.”

Sagen leaned forward and smiled. It was the first movement he’d made. “Thank you, Miss Locke. Regardless of tonight’s outcome, I shall ensure you do.”

“You are too kind, Your Majesty. I was very sorry to hear of the late king’s passing. It grieved me very much. It must have been excruciating for you. Please forgive my impudence, but you’ve been in my prayers.”

He suppressed a gasp before his courtiers could see his reaction, feeling a spark of hope.

After thanking all five ladies for presenting themselves, they were escorted to an antechamber to wait for their chaperones. When only Miss Locke remained, he entered.

The young woman’s companion was waylaid, providing a moment of privacy.

Her name was Melyssa. She had golden hair and blue eyes. She remained composed and even though she smiled only slightly, a dimple graced her left cheek. She curtseyed.

“My dear,” Sagen said, “we don’t have much time. Are you willing to be my wife?”

She lowered her eyes and bit her upper lip.

He raised his hand, forestalling her response. “Life as my queen will be distressing, even hazardous. Politics within the Royal Court are even more vile than your kinsmen will have warned you. Intrigue and danger will surround us.”

“Your Majesty, I am a Locke… and, I hope… you are the Key.” Her lips curled up whimsically, as she batted her eyelashes. “I apologize, Your Majesty.” She bowed her head. “It’s an old jest amongst my family. I shouldn’t have burdened you with such a pitiful attempt at humor.”

Despite the seriousness of the moment, Sagen laughed. Her authentic, humble, and funny words were the final signs he’d needed.

“It isn’t fitting that you should remain bowed before me. Rise,” he commanded, and she did so. “Apart from which,” he went down on one knee, took her hand in his, and kissed it, “how can I propose when you’re bent over? Be my wife.”

Melyssa smiled. “It shall be as you wish, Your Majesty. I swear by J’shua Ha Mashiach that I’ll be faithful and do whatever’s needed to help you.” Then she curtseyed again.

She knows J’shua. Perhaps I have been blessed as the proverb says.

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.


Sagen paced back and forth in his chamber, wondering how Gaelib would react. Would his steward be pleased or angry?

Melazera hadn’t been in the hall to oversee the Procession or the Royal Court’s dismissal. Nor had he been in attendance when there’d been lively discussion about when the wedding should occur. Some had pushed for as little as five days. Others wanted the customary forty days. However, her family couldn’t reasonably be informed of the upcoming nuptials and arrive in less than twenty-five days.

With Gaelib absent, he had proposed a compromise: thirty-nine days.

There’d been some murmurings and grumblings about the king’s choice of bride, mostly from families that had been unsuccessful. But none of the noble dowagers spoke out.

When the herald informed him that Lady Melyssa awaited him in the drawing room, he had butterflies. Sagen walked briskly. He hadn’t felt this way in years.


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