Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua Book 2

by Tiana Dokerty ©2023

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Updated 6/3/24

Part 12

 

Chapter 56

Gaelib - 399

@@@Gaelib stalked amongst black-robed acolytes as they pored over books and parchments from the royal library. There was a steady stream of them bringing new scrolls and returning others. He had charged them a moon ago with delivering any information he might leverage, especially if it related to the rebel knight, Jonathan Otual. But they have found nothing of use.

He was already in a black mood. King Edal had, again, persuaded his nobles to prevent one of Gaelib’s subtle changes in protocol.

Caileagh pranced up and grabbed Gaelib’s arm. “Come my love.” She drew him into an alcove and whispered softly, “I have seen a vision and heard from my spirits. It is time.”

His eyes bore into her. “Time? Are you sure?”

“Yes, I confirmed it, with blood and bones. The stars will align on the night before the hunt. It must be done when the sun is high on the first day.”

He could not hide his excitement. He pulled her close and kissed her. “I thought the day would never come.” Holding her face in his hands, he said, “I love you. What did I do to deserve you?”

He twirled her around and she giggled. He kissed her and said, “Send instructions to your acolytes to make the necessary sacrifices. I will inform my man.” He watched her saunter away.

Sagen will be an easier king to bend.

He noticed a merchant bow to Caileagh as she passed. His cap matched a high-collared navy jacket. With a nod to his guards, he indicated the man should remain.

Devoted to Gaelib, one of their first acolytes, the individual was an exemplary spy who’d supplied useful information on multiple occasions. To arrive openly was unusual. He must possess something truly special.

“Approach,” Gaelib commanded, pointing him to a private room.

“My lord.” The man went down on one knee with his head bowed. “Within a moon, the son of the man you seek above all others will marry. The Earl of Caswell is hosting the ceremony.”

“That is…interesting,” Gaelib said, outwardly calm.

Drake, you traitor, you know I seek Jonathan. Why did you not inform me? If not for your wife’s relationship with Caileagh, I would smite you now. Perhaps I should pay closer attention to what happens in your domain.

“Do you have instructions for me, my lord?”

“I want Otual’s son under continuous surveillance. Should the father approach his son, your spies are to track that knight and send word to me.”

Let’s see you evade me now, Jon.

 

Chapter 57

Owakar

Owakar tapped through the account of King Edal’s death. Saddened, he continued reading from the Book.

Blackhawk found the king’s horse, but instead of returning him to the royal stable at Farr Castle as Alocrin expected, he rode hard to High Keep. Alocrin sent guardians to observe and report. It seems this one’s affection for King Edal is strong enough for him to risk his life to bring truth to light.

Owakar tingled, thinking of how J’shua must rejoice at his unexpected behavior. Would he ferret out the traitors? Or would they catch and torture him. Melazera would never forgive his betrayal.

[But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.]

One day, Gaelib Melazera, the ninth Earl of Lorness, would be brought to justice by his victims.

 

Chapter 58 537

Rebekah

Farr Castle

Like every other peddler, trader, and merchant, Rebekah had come to Farr Castle to watch the festivities of the Royal Annual Hunt and take advantage of the opportunities that arose when so many gathered together. However, she wasn’t interested in sales but in collecting and disseminating information.

Each year she accidentally encountered either Commander Peter Taelor or Colonel Patrik Gonnels. Then, as the commander’s kinsman or the colonel’s friend, they would have dinner, appear to get drunk, and exchange stories interspersed with intelligence reports late into the night.

The most recent special order from Peter Taelor stated he had duties that kept him at High Keep, so she was on the lookout for Patrik. However, it was early in the evening, so she ambled through a nearby market.

She kept an eye out for certain hard-to-find objects that Licht Gegen needed, the foremost of which was weapons. She couldn’t purchase them in bulk, nor could she buy them everywhere she went without drawing attention.

In the temporary marketplace established on the outskirts of Farr Castle, wares were on display that were not seen at any other time of year. Amongst them were Esthlani short swords. The foreign merchant appeared rather dejected.

“Why the long face?” Rebekah asked.

“I listened to my cousin. ‘Aodh,’ he says, ‘go to Farr Castle. Make a killing at their Annual Hunt Fair. You’ll sell more there in a week than anywhere else in Freislicht in a year.’ Sheisse! That last might be true. I’ve made a few sales, but the others selling swords derided me for wasting my time. No one wants our humble weapons here.”

“Well, every merchant wants to undermine the other’s confidence.” Rebekah chuckled. “I sell plows. Some of the tricks my competitors have tried…” She shook her head.

“I suppose it’s the same everywhere,” Aodh grumbled.

“Mind you,” she picked up one blade and examined its workmanship, “I can think of several farmers and their wives who’d think these fine weapons.” She grinned. “Perhaps I could buy you a drink, and we could chat about a profitable arrangement?”

Aodh scratched his chin, then nodded. “I—”

The herald’s shout drowned him out. “Hear ye, hear ye. Be it known: King Edal is dead, gored by a rogue boar. Long live King Sagen!”

Rebekah gasped.

Would the new king protect the people? He was Jon’s good friend. Would he support Licht Gegen?

The listening crowd chanted the new king’s name, but their cheers were weak and unenthusiastic. Shopkeepers and merchants began covering their stalls. No one would sell today. No one would insult King Edal’s memory by doing so. The only people to profit would be tavern keepers.

“That drink sounds like a good idea.” Aodh threw tarps over his wagon. Then he turned to a red-haired lad. “Aaren, look after things. I’ll be back later.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy said and went back to whittling.

“Bring one of your blades, so I can examine it,” Rebekah suggested, wondering how the king had really died. She’d bet half her fortune there’d been foul play. She’d bet the other half she could predict the gossip that’d be flying around by nightfall.

 

Chapter 59

Sagen

Sagen’s eyes followed a hawk as he sat on the window seat, a spot he hadn’t moved from for hours. He hadn’t attended the hunt. After an argument with Gaelib, he’d decided not to go. Instead, he had roamed the quiet castle and the gardens, pondering the best way to respond to the steward’s uncharacteristic, barbed words.

Guilt consumed the prince.

I would have saved him. Together, we’d have killed those boar.

He stared out the window, unable to cry.

Through all the arrangements for the funeral and the coronation, he was mute, numbly following Gaelib from one meeting to the next. He only nodded or shook his head.

Sagen was afraid to assume the throne. Although he was thirty-five, he wasn’t ready.

Father should still be alive, should have lived many more years.

Everyone told him the feeling would pass, that the grief would become bearable, that it just required time. He sent them away.

He’d not prayed for years. “Father God, forgive me. I’ve forsaken you. Help me; I drown in guilt. Sycophants surround me. Who can I trust? Show me, in J’shua’s name; I beseech you.”

 

Chapter 60

Blackhawk

Friends of every rank surrounded Major Steven Blackhawk. The dingy little tavern was just on the other side of the stables. It stank and was probably only swept once a week. But after a few rounds, no one noticed. The drinks were cheap, so he could afford to be generous.

“…Did you hear what happened to that drecksa, Karl Fortuch?” Lieutenant Samuel Benutt asked with a sly grin, drawing everyone’s attention. “Some lieutenant lost Karl’s boots and got a major dressing down for it.”

“A major dressing down from a major? Your jokes are getting worse. Maybe it’s the ale,” Blackhawk teased, taking a bite of mutton.

Samuel chuckled. “Fortuch’s voice could be heard for miles. If you were in camp, you couldn’t have missed it.”

“Sounds like the dolt,” Donert Maitlan chimed in.

“It gets better,” Sam continued, laughing. “He made the lieutenant strip and run exercises buck naked.”

“Blast, I missed it,” Brean Mitchett chortled, slapping the rough-hewn oak table.

“And…?” Blackhawk pointed the clean bone at Sam. “There’s always more to your stories.”

Sam held it back, then his face exploded with his laugh. “Turns out the lieutenant’s uncle is Commander Taelor.”

“What a prat!” Donert shook his head.

Blackhawk’s eyes widened. “Fortuch has only had that rank for a week.” It was ten years ago that Fortuch had tried to frame him.

“You haven’t heard the best bit. The lieutenant had nothing to do with the missing boots. It was the whore Karl bedded the night before who stole them…” Benutt could barely get the words out, “as a tax for being lousy in bed.”

They roared with laughter.

“So…he’s a captain…again.”

“Here’s to Captain Karl Fortuch!”

 

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