Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua Book 2

by Tiana Dokerty ©2023

Home | Part 10 | Part 12

Updated 5/18/24

Part 11

 

Chapter 51

Rebekah - 340

Arm-in-arm with James, whose pace now quickened some, Rebekah walked to the stables south of the castle. As the first bodyguard opened the stable door for them, the other murmured from behind…

“Grio, kvenna astri. Sok met fjellet.”

It was perfect Mestelin for “Peace, beautiful wife. Seek me in the mountain.”

She stifled a gasp, overcome and blinking away tears. Her heart clenched. She yearned to turn around, to hold him. Yet couldn’t. They were being pursued. She couldn’t let anyone know she was his wife, not even James. There was too much at stake.

The people stopped and stared at the armed men poking and prodding them out of the way.

She must not be seen addressing Albertus Bekh’s bodyguard. She could, however, speak to James. “I am so happy to have seen you, to know you are well. We will meet again.”

“Hurry,” James said, scanning the street as many armed men spread out, searching every doorway and merchant stall.

Two women cowered in the shadows of the stable.

Jonathan stepped forward. “This is my employer,” he said pointing at James.

James nodded toward Rebekah. “This is the lady who will get you safely out of Caswell. Do exactly as she says.”

They looked uncertain for a moment.

Rebekah asked the stable boy to ready her coach. As soon as he left, she motioned the serving women toward the stable’s rear door. “Come with me.”

Jon, James, and the other bodyguard donned hooded cloaks bearing the green dragon sigil and mounted. Then they rode casually into the street. Her breath caught as she stifled a sob.

Jon, that scraggly beard. You are well and as strong as ever. Oh, how I miss you.

A rendezvous location used by Licht Gegen was only a block away. There, a quick change into common everyday shifts and cloaks, a little flour make-up, and spilled wine permitted a gaggle of old farmers’ wives to make their drunken way out of the city in the midst of other peasants leaving the castle.

 

Chapter 52 - 887

Blackhawk

Anger filled Blackhawk as he surveyed the ruin of the king’s body.

Colonel Braxton commanded the nearly one hundred others at the scene to depart immediately. He left Blackhawk in charge of eleven members of the King’s Guard, with orders to keep watch over the king’s body. He also sent a rider in search of Colonel Lucius Lafarge, the officer who’d ordered the soldiers to surround the hunting area rather than be within it.

It gave him time to think. Lucius was loyal to the Earl of Lorness. So too, were many in the Royal Guard at Farr Castle. He’d learned to identify Melazera’s pawns.

So, this was the next phase of Melazera’s plan.

The king was a good man who lacked all hubris.

Unlike Gaelib Melazera.

Eventually, a replacement detail arrived, and Blackhawk dismissed his men.

Had we been closer, we might have caught those responsible.

Blackhawk remained until Braxton was long out of earshot. He was curious. Had the assassin left clues behind? Could he find the king’s horse? It shouldn’t have gone far.

Analyzing the terrain and the deployment of the soldiers, Blackhawk deduced there were two likely escape routes for Melazera’s operative. One went uphill, due east toward the market faire. The other went downhill, southward. It led to the river. He chose the river. The man might need to wash before encountering travelers. Blackhawk followed it and soon found the tracks of a horse. The impressions were shallow, so it was probably riderless.

In the ninth hour of the day, he spied the king’s stallion eating tender shoots in a stream.

The horse is many miles from Farrling Wood. Why’d it run so far?

He dismounted. Walking a circuit around the royal beast, he slowly approached it, speaking soothing words.

The blood spray on the animal’s legs, belly, and neck was from the king’s encounter with the first boar. Its saddle and stirrups were intact, as were its reins. But the thick blood down the beast’s left side…

The boar’s blood couldn’t have drenched the horse this way.

The king’s two-handed sword was missing. That was beyond odd.

No boar killed King Edal. I must document this.

He rode hard for High Keep, leading the royal mount. Entering by the back gate with it covered by the blanket from the king’s pack, he sought Donert Maitlan, recently promoted. “Captain, I need a stall for this horse and a guard to post on it.”

“Yes, sir. Right this way.” Maitlan guided him to a secluded bay at the rear of the stables.

“The king’s been murdered,” Blackhawk whispered. “Colonel Lafarge has already declared it a hunting accident. I must have the evidence documented. Then I’ll return the horse to Farr Castle. Wake Commander Taelor and ask him to come to the stables.”

Maitlan strode away quickly and returned promptly with Commander Taelor and Lieutenant Mitchett following.

“What in the world…?” Taelor’s eyes grew large at the sight of the blood-soaked horse.

“King Edal’s been murdered,” Blackhawk said. “I found his horse far from the hunting grounds. If it bolted, it should’ve stopped quickly. I can’t explain it.”

Where was the king’s wound?” Taelor said.

“The left side of his torso…Boars got to his face and arm—”

“Arm?” Commander Taelor demanded. “The king’s armor would have protected his arm.”

“The base of his arm, near the shoulder—”

“Murder indeed. Melazera’s thugs were the first to discover the body?”

“Yes, Commander.”

“Continue.”

“If you agree, sir,” Blackhawk said, “we need to write independently of what we see regarding the king’s horse. I’ll also write an account of my observations of the hunting grounds. Each of us should make four signed copies. I’ll keep one, the Commander will keep the second, Lieutenant Mitchett the third, and I’ll take the last copy to the prince. Be swift—”

“No, Major.” Commander Taelor put a hand on Blackhawk’s shoulder. “We will document as you recommend but don’t tell the prince. Not now. He’s untried as a ruler and influenced by Melazera. We must watch and wait until the prince carries that weight for a while. He might react rashly, getting us all killed. Worse, it would imperil the kingdom. Besides, we haven’t identified the perpetrator. And we don’t know all the players.”

“Yes, Commander,” Blackhawk said as the others nodded. It pleased him that Taelor was aware of Melazera’s involvement. “Please be quick. I must return the horse by morning. If I’m gone longer, I’ll be missed, and they’ll silence us all. I couldn’t withstand Melazera’s torture. I’ve seen his work. He’s patient.”

It was midnight before they’d finished. Blackhawk washed the horse and saddle. The Commander explained how to clean the pad and royal trappings in a trough with water, ash, and urine until the blood dissolved away. Then Blackhawk re-tacked the horse and headed back to Farr.

 

***

Blackhawk circled around the castle at a distance, so it seemed as if he were coming from Farrling Forest.

As long as they’re unafraid of exposure, we’re safe.

He noted who was concerned and who avoided his eyes, adding them to his list of suspects.

Blackhawk found Colonel Lafarge at the stables and reported, “I found the king’s horse wading in a stream far to the south of the hunt area.”

Lafarge praised his initiative.

 

Chapter 53

Jonathan - 189

Jonathan rode in silence, pleased to know that Rebekah was still alive. But what was she doing impersonating a dowager noblewoman? Drake must have helped her. He glanced at the lad riding beside him.

Once they were well away from Caswell Castle, he could wait no longer. “James, do you know that woman?”

“Which one?”

“The old one you sat at table with.”

“Oh, I just met her. She knows Tommas Bekh, the other friend to us that I mentioned before.” He chuckled. “I guess I shouldn’t have used the name Albertus Bekh.”

Jonathan hid his disappointment behind a laugh and they rode on without another word. He pondered the strange circumstance, praying to see her again. Entering the woods, he removed the Lorness cloak and gave it to James, who stuffed both in a leather pouch. When they came to a fork in the road, he canted his head to James. “Thank you for allowing me to see my son’s wedding. I think it best we separate now. Godspeed to you.”

As soon as James returned the nod, Jonathan galloped off on the westward trail toward Mestelina.

 

Chapter 54

Spy - 150

Outside Caswell Castle

The girl, Rhin-something, was pretty and had carried a purse full of baden and a sealed letter from Parynna Caswell. The spy easily extracted information from her. He took pride in his work, delighting in the suffering of another as he encouraged them to speak. Thus, for it to end so soon was a disappointment.

He knew all of Earl Gaelib Melazera’s allies. And Parynna Caswell wasn’t one of them. That the letter was for Caileagh, the earl’s wife, was of no consequence. He served the earl alone.

But the letter contained an intriguing idea: Follow and, at an opportune moment, kidnap the knight’s daughter-in-law. That would off-balance the boy and, with luck, lead to the father.

Even if none of that happened, the spy knew that merely possessing someone close to Otual would bring his patron exquisite pleasure.

He smiled.

And perhaps generosity toward me.

 

Chapter 55

Parynna - 183

New Moon, Summer, Caswell Castle  

Parynna was still angry weeks later. She stormed through Caswell Castle, fuming, seeking anyone on which to take out her ill temper, scattering servants before her.

The fool! The absolute fool! If I’d known Rebekah Otual was in attendance as one of those doddering old harridans, I could have quietly scooped her up and shipped her off to Caileagh. When Drake finally told me, she had already fled.

She flopped onto a couch, her brows furrowed. “Blast.” Catching sight of a serving maid approaching with a pitcher, she scowled. “Be away with you!” Although she wanted to beat the life out of him, Drake wasn’t her only annoyance.

Lady Melazera has not responded to my missive. Surely, the serving girl was attractive enough. That stupid minx who won my contest couldn’t resist yet more baden to deliver a simple note. She’d never escape Caileagh.

Perhaps my suggestion that Drake start a Knights’ School was too presumptuous. Although, it would be a wonderful way to infiltrate that sect. Have I offended her? What can I do to atone?

 

Home | Part 10 | Part 12