Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua Book 1

by Tiana Dokerty ©2023

Home | Chapter 23 | Chapter 25

Chapter 24: Strategies

Updated 11/28/23

Impossible Shot


Farr Castle

Karl Fortuch, promoted again to captain by Melazera, leaned against the rough boards of the tavern he’d just left. Drinks were cheap, and the smell was nasty, but he felt comfortable there. He understood its patrons. Better yet, they feared him. And that drecksa, Blackhawk, was rarely at Farr and almost never outside the castle. Karl’s current superior officer appreciated his skills and rewarded him handsomely.

As he picked meat from his teeth with his dagger, a pair of soldiers approached.

They bowed. “We’ve a report, sir. We’re with the western patrol. My sergeant here noticed a glint of metal as a bear cub ran in an open field. We pursued until the cub dropped it. It was a commandant’s silver armband.”

The captain sighed. “Take four dozen militet and search the area.”

A few hours later, the lieutenant rushed up. “They’ve found a torso scavenged by animals and crawling with maggots.”

Fortuch arrived as they added a foot to the remains arranged on a tarpaulin. All that was missing was the right arm. He identified the body as Greysun, the only missing commandant. Fortuch smiled. Melazera would be pleased when he received his report. With this confirmation, the reward for Otual would be doubled.


The Border Inn, Mestelina

Jonathan fell against the door, pushing it open with his shoulder. He had run into soldiers again and been forced to flee. Once he lost them, he let Ruby lead the way for a bit. Then he would hide deep in Mestelina. Aimless as a bee drunk on nectar, Jonathan had finally arrived at the Border Inn.

Terrence bounded to him, using a strange name, “Master Notman, we have been expecting you. Your usual room is ready and a meal will be brought up to you. Let me carry your bags.” To his daughter he said, “Donna, take Master Notman’s horse to the stable. Give him a good bucket of oats.”

Jonathan stood straighter and played along. “Such good care you take of me. I am pleased.” He followed Terrence up the stairs.

Once in an empty room, Terrence whispered, “The men at the back were asking questions about a pale haired man wanted for murder. I know it isn’t true, but do you think they are looking for you?”

Jonathan nodded, tossed his hands up with a smirk. “It’s a long story. Do you think it can wait. Ruby could use a rest. I thought I could sleep some myself.”

“Yes, your cloak covered your hair and we are going to bring so much to your room, they will think you wealthy. A penniless fugitive would not receive such tending.” He clapped him on the back as Jonathan smiled wearily.

“Sit on the bed, brother, I have terrible news. It’s about Cynthia.”

Jonathan’s face crumpled and he held his hands in his hands as Daryll told him the evil tale.


Waning Crescent Moon, Late Autumn

South of Caswell

Rebekah, as Tomas Bekh, rode out ahead of her six wagons, their drivers, and three outriders.

As usual, she tried to spot James and his boys—well, more than boys now—before they spotted her. And, as usual, she failed. Having James ride up beside her on a tawny mare was a first.

His brown, wavy hair danced in the breeze. All his men wore dingy clothes in need of repair, but their skin was clean, and they didn’t smell wild. Even though they placed themselves randomly about, she knew they were well-organized.

“Welcome back, Mr. Bekh.” James grinned.

That grin held more meaning than his followers knew. She had warned him she was in hiding and asked that he keep her secret.

“James, the horse is new. I didn’t know you could ride.”

“Several of us can. We’ve been teaching others. What’s hidden amongst those wagonloads for us?”

 “Hidden? Nothing.” Rebekah beamed. “it’s all for you. Plus, I finally have news about more than a handful of names. Many more of you can safely go home.”

James halted his horse. “The contents of all three wagons are for us?”

“Yes, the lot.” She stopped her horse beside his. “Everything from new clothes to cooking utensils and tools. There are even some prototype swords from an artisan in Esthlanis. Let me know what you need. I’ll get it for you in only a handful of weeks.”

He hesitated, throwing a glance at his younger brother. “There is something.”


“Several of us want to train as Knights of J’shua. We may be older than traditional candidates, but with the Fellowship proclaimed illegal, if there’s somewhere we could train, we’d like to.”

Rebekah paused. “There may be a way…”

Amidst the Atmosphere of Lorness

Owakar marveled at the intertwining of their lives. These men and boys living in the woods, the common folk calling themselves Licht Gegen and the Knights of J’shua. Simply by acting according to the prompting of the spirit, they supported each other’s efforts. They were insurgents of goodness, orchestrated by J’shua through the holy spirit in each person and aided by guardians assigned to help them.

Licht Gegen distributed funds and information. The woods folk provided shelter and strength and the Knights taught the people. Each one sought to remain in fellowship with J’shua not to gain control over others. And it all began with individual divine appointments and hearts seeking the God of Truth.

In battles, such will turn the tide.


Farr Castle

In her secret hall, Caileagh poked a stick at Greysun’s skeleton as the bubbling acid cleaned away the last bits of stinking flesh. She motioned for others who would finish processing his bones to powder.

The loathsome, self-important commandant had disappeared shortly after earning Gaelib’s praises for wielding a bag of oranges. Then he failed—failed!—to kill Otual and let the knight escape. It was said Greysun had absconded with money. There were tales of him in Tarinland and Esthlanis. Or that he had a villa on the coast of the Sea of Glass. But here he was, dead, most likely by Otual’s hand. And only a mile from the castle. It was a pity, for the manner of his demise must have been all too banal. “Oh, well, nothing to be done for it now.” She wiped her hands on a cloth and strolled to an adjoining room.

Caileagh paced back and forth. It had taken far too long for this fool, Streib, to report back. Worse, he was distracting her from other, more important things, such as the upcoming celebration of Boreos, God of the Wind.

Yet, on the slight possibility of a lead on Otual’s wife, it had to be hunted down.

The docent remained kneeling, his forehead touching the floor, while his body shook.

“Again!” Caileagh demanded. “This time, I require details, not the slick summary you just babbled out.”

“Yes, Lady Melazera. Forgive me, Lady Melazera. I—”

His words ended with a satisfying grunt of pain as she kicked him. “I am not interested in your apologies or your excuses. I instructed you to find out if the knight’s wife had lived in Frei Forest, to see if an encampment had existed, and to report back promptly. It’s been weeks. Yet all you give me is, ‘We found nothing.’ It is unacceptable. You know what becomes of those who disappoint me, don’t you, Docent Streib?”

“I do, Your Grace. I won’t fail you. I haven’t!”

“Then give me a proper report.”

“Yes, Your Grace.” The docent squirmed. “I took three lesser docents and two dozen initiates. We went to the location your informant indicated. We searched thoroughly. There were no buildings there. Certainly, women and children could not have lived in the woods without shelter. Then—”

“Is this true, Lesser Docent Rhaylth?” Caileagh demanded.

“We did search, Your Grace.” Rhaylth paused. “It was not thorough. Docent Streib was uncomfortable away from town and had no knowledge of what could and could not be livable. I tried—”

“Quisling, traitor,” Streib squealed. “You said nothing. You—”

“I do not care which of you said what,” Caileagh interrupted, nodding to a guard whose sword cleanly dropped Streib’s head to the floor. His body slumped.

Docent Rhaylth,” Caileagh soothed, “it was good of you to inform me of the former docent’s failings. Can you do better?”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

“Then use however many you need, have them scour that forest, and tell me definitively if there was a settlement there. While that small task is being accomplished, find out if there is such a thing as Licht Gegen. Again, I require a definitive answer—with proof. If it exists, bring me, say, six of its followers. Finally, I need to know if Mistress Otual is involved.”

“If I may, Your Grace, the area to be searched is large.”

“How long?”

“Six moons, Your Grace.”

“Not a day longer. Dismissed.”


First Half-Moon, Early Winter

North of Caswell

Jonathan traveled extensively in the moons that followed Dunis Glen. He moved wherever J’shua led him, staying well beyond Freislicht’s borders.

He spent time with many tribes in Mestelina, spreading the Writings and exchanging skills. Later, he briefed the Premier of Esthlanis, and Mathu, his steward, about what had occurred at Dunis Glen and how it was being portrayed in Freislicht. Jonathan would maintain the trust he’d established years ago.

Eventually, Jonathan found himself back in Freislicht, just north of Caswell, pulling his cloak tighter to protect against an icy wind. Tears welled up when he tried to picture his daughter in her sixteenth year. She’d be thinking about boys now. He grit his teeth. And they would think about her.

I know I will find them when I least expect it, Lord J’shua.

No matter where he went, he sought Rebekah and Sarah.

When he came upon the glade where he’d first met James of the Wood and his brothers, he felt moved to find them. He did not try to be discreet. He knew they were good at hiding and wondered if they might appear.

Perhaps they have gone home.

A twig snapped.



James hoped Sir Otual would be proud of the progress they’d made. Their camps blended into the deepest woods all around Freislicht. In fact, they had camps within five miles of every major town in the country. This one was closest to Caswell. It had been almost ten years since the knight had trained them to survive.

A boy in a tree had seen him heading toward the camp and reported. So, James sent several boys to follow Sir Otual. His only instruction was, “Don’t get caught.”

They were only away a few hours when the knight walked in, leading his horse.

“Hallo, James.” The knight locked arms with the young man. “You look fit.”

“Sir Otual, welcome! I’d hoped we’d be harder to find.”

“When you have been out in the wilderness as long as I, it is easy to see the tiniest sign. Yet, I never saw any boys shadowing me. They did well. I suspected they were watching but I never spotted them.” He waved at the other lads in the camp, who’d stopped what they were doing to greet him.

“Come. Have some rabbit.” James motioned for the knight to enter a structure built within a cluster of trees. It was warm inside. “Several boys have been able to return home. We’ve another helper, a traveler who brings us news from time to time.”

“Good. I am glad some families have been reunited.”

“This friend had a very good year. He recently brought us many provisions: clothing, tools, cook pots, and even some swords.”

Jonathan looked pleased.

Then James asked, “Have you ever encountered Tomas Bekh? He helped locate some of our parents. He’s heard of you.”

“I do not recognize the name.”


New Moon, Spring


Fyrna Locke smiled as she entered Duke Gregory’s library.

“What has you so happy?” the Lexandrian duke asked as he poured wine for her.

“I’ve just learned that someone I met a few moons back is, uh, ‘taxing’ the Melazeras.”

Gregory handed his niece the goblet. “That you’re going to have to explain.”

“Do you recall I got waylaid by some highwaymen and had to give them three horses, their saddles, and tack?”

“I recall you being undaunted by it,” Gregory said, sipping his drink. “It was out of character. When I insisted on additional information about the incident, you demanded I not follow it up. To call the matter odd would be an understatement. Yet, they were your losses, and there were no other similar incidents, so I agreed.”

Fyrna’s smile grew. “You’ll soon be happy about that. I suggested that the lads who, uh, required a toll to pass through their woods, should head north. In fact, I strongly advised that Gaelib Melazera’s territory would have much better prey. It seems,” she took a sip, savoring her wine, “they took my idea. However, instead of waylaying honest horse traders, they’ve settled their sights on that northern lord’s less-than-honest ventures.”

“Of course,” Gregory grinned, “I know nothing about Duke Melazera siphoning off monies from the Royal Treasury for his own purposes.” He chuckled mirthlessly. “Or the unsavory feasts he charges admission for, in coin and other currencies. However, if you are telling me that some bandit—that you’ve met only once—is preying on that lord’s illegal gains, that would be most amusing.”

“Yes, wouldn’t it, Uncle Gregory?”

“I only have one question.”

“Is the story true?” she raised her brows. “Yes, I believe it is.”

“That wasn’t what I was going to ask. My question is whether you might have some way to contact these robbers and ask if they need any help. Weapons? Horses? Tack? Anything?”

Fyrna bit off her laugh. When her uncle had a notion, it was usually good. “As I don’t know them, I couldn’t pass on your offer. But if I did find myself in contact with them…?”

“Establish a relationship. We don’t know who we might need in our ongoing rivalry with that northern lord. And,” he beamed, “thank you for bringing me such an uplifting story.”



Drawing his tattered hood forward, Jonathan rested against the tavern’s wall. The old cloak stank of spilled ale and needed cleaning. Yet it allowed him to move about without drawing attention. The private bounties on his head made being in Freislicht difficult. But, now that he was blamed for the murder of Commandant Greysun, it was even riskier.

Yet, he needed to follow up on this lead. Every instinct told him to.

The sun had just risen. Two men were weaving their way down the street. Another emptied his gut nearby. Jonathan slumped against a building, clutching a discarded bottle, humming off key.

Other townsfolk were already hard at work. Stable hands had fed and watered their charges. Bakers had lit their ovens. And the workers at Bekh’s Bold Bargains—whom Jonathan had been watching for days—already had wagons hitched and loaded, ready to send on their way.

So far, he’d seen no sign of Tomas Bekh, James of the Wood’s friend.

As a coach drawn by six horses arrived, six armed men surrounded it.

Jonathan shrunk into an alley, frustrated that he would never get close to a man so well-guarded.



Rebekah exited the carriage, dressed as Tomas Bekh.

Riding through the night behind six horses driven by her madman of a coach driver was not conducive to sleep. It was, however, a good way to stay safe, elude highwaymen, and outrun others who might do her harm. Especially as, when she’d set out from Fairness Crossing, the signs on the carriage’s sides were for Thaddeus’ Trade Goods. A company recently purchased under a new alias, Tyrone Beecham.

Red-eyed and in desperate need of food and sleep, she ignored her six guards as she strode toward the main offices of Bekh’s Bold Bargains. Bywold Parsons intercepted her.

“Mister Bekh! Thank heavens I encountered you. As I’ve repeatedly warned you, in my letters, there are problems that have to be addressed. Things only you can decide.”

“What…?” Rebekah was too tired to have the conversation, but the phrase in my letters meant they were being watched. So, she allowed herself to be dragged inside.

“A suspicious drunk has been outside for much of the last three days. As you approached, I sent men to question him but, while I have you, we need new offices. Something larger. I’ve a short list for you to peruse.”

By the time Bywold had gone through the options, all Rebekah wanted was to sleep. Even food could wait. She dismissed the news that her guards had not caught the stalker. He’d disappeared.

Probably just a drunk. Not the first time my protectors have been overly cautious.


High Keep

Commander Taelor dropped the letter from his kinsman, Tomas Bekh, on the desk. He made a few more calculations and studied the decoded report.

“Rumors false. Dunis Glen dead not commoners, all black robes.”

He tossed the letter and the secret message into the fire and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin.


Farr Castle

Blackhawk sat down at the desk in his quarters to write his report to Gaelib Melazera.

“I was only with the king three times this week due to other duties. The king met with the ambassadors to Mestelina—Misters Coper and Kitch. I couldn’t overhear anything they said. All seemed happy at the end of the meeting.”

He paused, considering how best to phrase the next statement.

“The king and queen had an argument yesterday, leaving him aggravated for the rest of the day. I’m being sent next week to check on officers in the field. I don’t know when I’ll return.”

He stopped writing and thought about the encounter. The king had told the queen that she couldn’t always have her way and should grow up. She’d crossed her arms, stomped her foot, and scowled at him, wrinkling her nose. Then she did an about-face and walked off head high.

It reminded him of Little Soldier. He touched the spot where her buttons still lay under his shirt, making him smile. It was she that had led him to J’shua and the Writings eleven years ago.

[But the God of Truth, who is rich in mercy, has quickened us together with Mashiach. By grace ye are saved.]


First Half-Moon

Caileagh inhaled sharply, stepping back into the shadowy alcove. The queen was walking down the corridor surrounded by her gaggle of lady’s maids. The girl pranced throughout the castle.

I could easily break her little neck.

She waited until they passed, babbling about fancy garments and parlor games.

She groaned inwardly. Since his Emancipation Ritual, things had seriously worsened. Gaelib had become moodier and more prone to violent, sometimes fatal, outbursts. Last week, he killed one of the new servants. It had been difficult to fashion rumors that explained the sad accident.

He barely ventured forth from Lorness anymore except to attend meetings with the king here at High Keep. Meetings that left him frustrated, seeking someone to take his ire out on.

While she had once enjoyed playing rough, she no longer did. Worried now that Gaelib might do her permanent harm. He’d tortured those she brought to amuse him. She preferred to be in charge. But it was increasingly evident she wasn’t.

Worse, he belittled her in front of servants and, on more than one occasion, important people. He openly told her he didn’t need her.

It was demeaning.

It was a warning.

The small spirits that guided her were no match for the Warrior. Gaelib was its servant now. He belonged to the Warrior. There would be no reversal of his fate.

What does that make me? Have I become irrelevant, like my mother? No, there must still be purpose in my life.

Yet, too many of her former friends protégés and confidants looked at her differently. They whispered that she hadn’t given Gaelib a son. Some questioned what it would take to oust her from her husband’s bed.

There’d been women who had made advances toward her Gaelib before. But then she’d had power. Then he’d needed her. Then she’d had influence.


Last Half-Moon


Jonathan crossed the Tarin River where he usually did and slept in the woods before heading to Bowing Sister on the mountain. But as he and Ruby walked the trail he began to desire a warm stew. The taste of it filled his thoughts. He could think of no reason to avoid the Tarin Inn so he nudged her toward it.

The smells that caressed him as he swung open the door were a wonderful blend of Tarin and Freislicht flavors. Open borders harmonized cultures and allowed trade to sing. He was glad he’d decided to stop here.

The inn’s dining room was empty save for a sour looking old man sitting alone with nothing on the table before him.

Jonathan approached as his manner was. “Hallo, sir. May I sit with you and buy you an ale?”

The man shrugged so Jonathan sat and waved to Hala, a maid, serving a steamy bowl across the dining room a merchant with many gold buttons down his blue robe. He smiled widely as he picked up his spoon.

“Hala, two plates of what is cooking and a jug of ale.” Jonathan winked.

“It is good to see you again, sir. I’ll bring the savory pigeon. We have fresh rosemary today.” The girl said as she left.

Jonathan looked at the man. “It feels like this Spring will bring goodly rains. Have you a farm near here?”

The man looked up and shook his head. The face was weather beaten and frowning with weariness.

“You have been traveling long then. How can I lift your burden?”

He looked at Jonathan with surprise. A bit of the weight seemed to leave his brow. “I left the army,“ he whispered, then leaned closer to Jonathan. “I could not stand it any longer. Evil men doing evil things. It wasn’t like that when I began to soldier for the king. Now, they brag about murder and mayhem.”

Jonathan leaned in, resting his hands on the table. “I have heard such stories. Where were you posted?”

“In Lorness mostly. That’s where I was when I ran. Stealing children and wives is wrong. I refused to do it.”

“My own family was attacked by soldiers. I still have not found them.”

“I want to help those I have harmed. But I don’t know how.”

“I am sure you will do much good. It is often so once we see our errors. We are less condemning of others when we realize we are not any better. We all bumble through our lives doing harms of one degree or another.”

The old deserter finally smiled. “I was bedridden from a leg wound. In the healer’s tent, a soldier lay dying from a stab to his bowels. We were both trapped there. In a fever, he confessed his whole life to me, name after name that he’d killed or kidnapped. Afraid to meet his end, he was. .”

Jonathan listened to the long tale and discovered the dying man was Sergeant Jonsun. He’d collected debts for George Rosewud. He killed Rebekah’s mother and father and burned their farm.  Steven Blackhawk a young lieutenant, the youngest ever, had found the small yellow-haired girl in the woods.

Steven Blackhawk took my daughter.



The last ambush had net Licht Gegen a staggering 439,000 baden. It was the largest amount they’d ever intercepted. As for Bekh’s Bold Bargains, it was growing at an astounding rate. All of which meant Rebekah had more money available to her and Licht Gegen than she’d ever imagined.

Almost two years after meeting the swordsmith from Esthlanis, Licht Gegen’s primary need was still weapons. Regular shipments of farming equipment were coming from him. But they required more than whatever third-hand items they could scrounge up.

That was why she was in Lexandria as the mysterious Tyrone Beecham. Contacts here in the south had created his presence, acting as his agents and crafting a reputation for him for the last six moons as a shrewd, if uncouth, broker.

Rebekah wasn’t entirely comfortable with how much coarse language she used in the role, but it had to be a stark contrast to her Tomas Bekh persona. Her companies had offices in every major city in Freislicht, several in larger towns, three more in Esthlanis, and one in Tarinland. That image of Tomas’ face was an all-too-common sight. Despite many attempts to change it, people liked the wretched thing.

Thus, Tyrone Beecham was born. Families from Frei had created his new wardrobe. They refurbished a carriage, hired a driver, and supplied a dozen well-trained bodyguards.

Twisting a braided sideburn, she stepped onto the street for the first time as the elegantly dressed Tyrone. She noted the difference in the way passersby eyed her. They took in the red brooch on her shoulder, the pair of bejeweled daggers with worn handles on her belt, and the long leather surcoat that dragged the ground. Others noted the four identically dressed guards flanking her and moved briskly out of her way. Only one or two truly observant people might note the two additional guards, inconspicuously dressed, one preceding and one trailing in their wake.  No one saw the rest spread out along either side of the street.

It was time to make her first arms deal.


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