Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua Book 2

by Tiana Dokerty ©2023

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Updated 6/6/24

Part 7

 

Chapter 31

Blackhawk

[Blackhawk learns of a plot against Peter Taelor which may, or may not, be Gaelib’'s doing. He takes risks to find out what is going on He is distracted from Gaelib’'s other endeavors]

***

Even though he’d little warning of the summons, his jangled nerves had already left him exhausted. His mind teetered between feeling unworthy of the king’s attention to wondering if he’d violated some regulation or custom. He felt as if he’d been in a battle, fought a hundred men, and somehow survived.

Having the king assign him to the King’s Guard was beyond surprising. Being commanded to remain behind and speak privately with the king, he had no words for that. It was beyond any honor he could have expected. Certainly, beyond any he deserved. All he’d done was serve loyally.

He no longer believed Gaelib Melazera was all-powerful. He had as a boy. However, he’d been right to fear the nobleman. The Earl of Lorness was malevolent, violent, and fickle. Blackhawk had seen him turn on too many of his friends without warning. Things that he’d only realized looking back on old memories.

His conversation with King Edal, if it could be called that, provided Blackhawk insights he was still coming to grips with.

He’d always thought in terms of Melazera as the sole power behind the scenes. It hadn’t occurred to him there were more: the Lockes in the South, diplomats from foreign countries, the guilds, the Merchants’ Alliance, and so on.

For nearly half an hour, the king had spoken, and Blackhawk had responded with little more than, “Yes, Your Majesty.” Yet the king had encouraged him to ask questions…and had answered them—honestly. Neither Gaelib Melazera nor Caileagh had ever done that. They had never engendered a desire to serve them in return. Yet the king had, without ever asking for it.

All the king wanted was for Blackhawk to do his best and follow his conscience.

Not the king’s conscience. Blackhawk’s conscience.

It was freeing and unnerving.

He fiddled with the assignment letter as he returned to his station. He’d never felt more alive.

***

Later, Blackhawk sat in his room, reading an encoded letter from Melazera. It had been less than a week since his last report to the Earl of Lorness. That he’d received any reply at all was unusual. For Gaelib Melazera to be exhilarated by recent developments was unheard of. It alarmed him.

Despite being written in code, the tone of the missive was joyous, including the phrases “magnificent achievement,” “outstanding coup,” and “beyond all my high expectations.” Such was the praise for Blackhawk on his induction into the King’s Guard.

Then he read something that made his neck hairs stand up. Melazera was “ready for the next phase.” Blackhawk’s concern wasn’t solely for himself. Or, he didn’t think it was.

He had no idea what the next phase of the plan entailed. Something terrible was about to happen—to him, to someone else, or to both. He knew better than to ask questions. That could be fatal. Yet, Melazera didn’t offer details…

Blackhawk pulled the buttons from beneath his shirt, holding them tightly in his hands.

I can’t break away from Melazera. He would kill me. Nor can I oppose him. It would be suicide.

Yet King Edal is a good man. A man I’m honored to serve. A man who deserves my loyalty. But he isn’t, I fear, able to overcome Melazera. If I don’t learn his plans, I’ll be powerless to stop them. But if I appear more interested, he might make me do more.

Recent visits of Rosewud to High Keep suggested the Order of the Black Robe was growing here. With such a deep pool of acolytes present, Melazera could orchestrate anything.

His stomach clenched. He had no way to infiltrate them without becoming entangled in some trap. Or taking part in one of their deadly rituals. He surveilled the undersecretary of Gaelib Melazera as much as he could, but it was futile.

Blackhawk forced the impotent thoughts aside. Especially the momentary notion of thwarting Melazera’s plan. That was madness.

 

Chapter 32

Caileagh - 216

Farr Castle

[Insert examples of him lording it over Caileagh. Caileagh worries that she is losing power over him.]

Caileagh had petitioned her spirit guides every night to grant her power over Gaelib again. She begged them with blood sacrifices.

It frightened her when she saw that the Warrior’s will grew in Gaelib. Sometimes she knew it was the Warrior speaking to her, not her lover, not Gaelib. The Warrior disdained her. To the Warrior women were merely toys to toss about.

Finally, she found a passage in an ancient scroll. This told of mastering a lover. She hadn’t noticed it before. She’d never needed such before.

It was a ritual and a charm that would make Gaelib love her as his own flesh.

[If you fear your beloved leaving, find the one most abhorred by him. Draw the likeness of his face. The more exact the likeness, the stronger the charm will be. Have your beloved burn the image after every full moon sacrifice until the solstice. For the solstice sacrifice, the hated one must be broken and then offered as a blood and body sacrifice. He must be marked with the runes and sigils. Weave a collar of his hair. When you wear the collar, your beloved will feel one with you and unable to displease or harm you.]

She knew who that was. Gaelib abhorred Jonathan Otual more than any other.

 

Chapter 33

Gaelib@@@

[Insert examples of Gaelib acting like the Warrior and snubbing her.]

 

Chapter 34

Rebekah - 1068

Rebekah bustled through the archway covered in layers of pastel silk in the Lexandrian fashion. She pranced into the hall, calling boisterously, “Hallo, hallo, I bring welcome from Lexandria.” Waving her hands in every direction, she praised, “How lovely!”

All the decorating ladies stopped to beam with pride.

She introduced herself as Millya Shussel, a distant kinswoman by a marriage long ago. Soon all the women came close to welcome her.

Drake bowed his greeting and bid her sit with the Caswell family dowagers while he supervised the seating of the final guests.

“It has been too long since we’ve seen the Shussel family.”

“My lord, I’ve brought our family’s bard and a few musicians.” The five were bodyguards provided by Licht Gegen. As was her maid that hovered about, seeing to her every whim.

She had approached Drake through an intermediary a week before. Hatching this plan and making him promise to tell no one, not even his wife, that Rebekah must be in disguise. He loved the idea and provided the identity of Lady Shussel.

The clothes she wore were expensive. A few locks of her long-neglected hair escaped the elegant wimple atop her head. Primly, she tucked them back in.

At a nod, her musicians began playing in the background.

Drake and David came over, welcoming her and the other dowagers.

You are so handsome like your father.

His beard was a man’s. Golden blond curls touched his navy-blue cloak. He stood straight, taller than Jon.

Parynna Caswell trailed behind them, a pleasant expression frozen on her face. She nodded to this one and that, doing the absolute minimum necessary to meet her social obligation as hostess.

“That one would be nothing if any of Drake’s brothers had survived,” the elderly woman beside Rebekah said.

Lady Caswell was not out of earshot. She slowed while David and Drake continued.

“You’re being far too kind,” another hissed. “If. Do you really believe her elevation was merely because of others’ misfortune? There are rumors that—”

Parynna had stopped walking away.

Alarmed, Rebekah interrupted. “She seems disinterested.” The last thing she wanted to do was to be caught between the dowagers and the hostess. “However, it could just be that, raised as a lesser Locke, she simply does not know how to behave around her betters. I must mention it to Gregory when I next see him. Perhaps he could send her a protocol tutor.”

Parynna turned back, glaring at them. But at the mention of Duke Gregory Locke, her lips closed tightly, the color in her face drained, and she stormed off.

Rebekah let out a sigh.

“Please, please do,” the woman beside her pleaded. “I would love to see that.”

“Well,” Rebekah smiled back, “I shall do so. But it’s been a decade since I’ve encountered him, and it could be another before I do so again.”

The surrounding women all giggled as “Millya” graciously accepted their accolades.

Rebekah returned to examining the crowd, asking questions about this person and that. Her companions were more than helpful and provided gossip and insights that were astounding.

[describe]

One of them glanced toward an old, bent-over, bearded man leaning against a wall. “Drake really must do something about his older servants. He thinks it a kindness to force such unfortunates to continue working. Even if that means merely guarding some random spot.”

Another interjected, “Still, it’s better than what his wife would do. Dismiss them all and evict them from their homes.”

The oldster never moved from his place. Rebekah kept her eye on him. He didn’t perform any duties. Yet, she couldn’t get a good view of his face.

Is it Jon? His height seems right, but…blast! I can hardly go over there and ask. Nor can I send my maid. If it is my Jon, he could spook and run. Worse, it could lead to his capture.

“Ooh, isn’t he a handsome, strapping young lad?” another woman said. Seated behind and to Rebekah’s right, she leaned forward and pointed to a young, flamboyantly dressed merchant. It was James of the Wood.

What the…? Why is he here? Her heart fluttered. Is he helping Jon?

Before she could send her maid to summon James over on some pretext, the wedding music began, sending everyone not already seated scurrying for their places.

Drake took his position at the head of the hall. He was resplendent in his family’s colors, covered by his navy Knights’ cloak.

David, also clad as a Knight, approached and bowed.

He has the noble stance of his father. She sighed. Where are you, Jon? 

Her boy stood straight and tall, awaiting the entrance of his bride. He held his hands flat, fingers pressed against his legs like he had as a small boy, trying not to fidget.

The processional music started as a petite brunette walked gracefully to the dais, her hand on her father’s arm. Cynthia wore a pale blue linen shift decorated with white lace about her hips and small white flowers in her braided hair.

Rebekah giggled quietly, thinking of when she approached Jonathan on their wedding day. Tears streamed down her face, which she dabbed with her scarf.

Ours was a simple affair in the yard. Yet I was thrilled.

David’s eyes roamed the hall. Then he bowed to honor all those who had gathered to celebrate. He winked at the watching crowd as Cynthia’s father put her hand into David’s.

As Drake wound a blue ribbon around their entwined hands, the happy couple exchanged their vows. Then he said, “We all bear witness to the promises these two have made before the God of Truth. I declare you one flesh. What God has joined, let no man put asunder. Do you have the ring?”

David slid it onto her tiny finger.

“You may kiss your bride.”

David and Cynthia smiled brightly and kissed. When they turned to face the assembly, everyone roared with praise and applause.

Drake beamed.

Out of the corner of her eye, Rebekah noticed the old servant leave the room, still without having seen his face.

Is that you, Jon? And what is James doing here? I hope he doesn’t cause a ruckus.

She lost sight of James as the dowager lady on her left began speaking about the last wedding here. She turned and pretended to give the sweet old woman her full attention.

 

Chapter 35

Sarah

[Sarah and Melissa arrive at the wedding, with Sarah and Melissa having swapped places for fun

Kel’'shan arrives as the two girls are swapping places

The Lockes don’'t know that Kel’'shan is going to the wedding]

 

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