Rare Things for a Rare Life

The Knights of J'shua - Prequel

by Tiana Dokerty © 1984-2021

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Chapter 1:

Updated 10/15/23


Segment 1

Jonathan parried Prince Sagan’s blow, barely deflecting it. He did not know what had got into his friend. The moment’s distraction caused him to counter the next strike just too late. He landed on his backside with a thump.

“Better, young prince,” their fencing instructor noted with pride. “You should fight with such ferocity more often. What prompted this change?”

“I…” Sagen furrowed his brows. “my friend and study companion does not understand the Royal Court’s ways. He’s got—’

‘I do not care about the provocation. I care about your response to it. A moment ago, I was proud of you. Now, I am disappointed. If an enemy goaded you into such rashness, it could cost you – and more importantly, the kingdom – your life. Never let rage control you. Make it yours to control. Dismissed.’ The instructor looked down at Jonathan. ‘That means you too. However, once you have talked this matter out with Prince Sagan, you will return, so I can guide you on the appropriate manner to address sensitive subjects. Well, what are you waiting for? Be gone.”

As usual, Sagan had departed using the servants’ passages because he was, in King Edal’s words, “not presentable” at the end of a sparring session.

Jonathan scrambled to his feet and pursued. Only once the two were alone, did he call out. ‘I am sorry. I did not mean to offend—”

“Yet you did,” Sagan snapped, turning to block his friend’s path. “You most certainly did.” The twelve-year-old’s tone made him sound much older. “What you do not understand is Caileagh and her mother, Farina, are from another land where they do things very differently. What you interpret as inappropriate behavior, they consider normal. Be patient. Give them time to adjust. They will. But they will not do so in a timeframe dictated by you.”

Jonathan hung his head. He understood that, but lacked the words to convey his concerns.

“Whatever you do,” the prince continued, “don’t say anything in front of Gaelib. She’s his stepsister. You know how he overreacts to you upon occasion. It’s only a scant handful of moons before you leave to begin training as a Knight of J’shua. His father has already made several complaints to my royal sire about my associating with someone of your ‘lowly’ background. Please don’t give Gaelib Melazera anything his family can use to have you banished even a day sooner than necessary.”

Jonathan’s shoulders slumped. He had not meant to create problems for his friend. He had not considered the political implications of how his actions could be twisted.

Yet, Caileagh was trouble. Four years older than Sagan, Gaelib and himself, the girl had a habit of touching people, of placing her hand on their shoulder or arms or…

Jon blushed thinking back to his last encounter with her.

“What?” Sagen teased. “Are you concerned with Caileagh’s behavior or with how you react to her? Is that it? I know you’ve little experience of girls, but I’ve had them trying to get close to me all my life. Some want to be my future queen. Some want to be my special friend. Some just want me to lavish presents on them. All of them want influence because they’re associated with me. If you think that’s Caileagh’s game, it’s a silly notion.”

“But,” Jonathan gathered his wits and tried to explain himself again, “she seems fixated on you, as if you’re the only person who matters.”

“That’s your concern? That’s what you’ve been trying to get across?” Sagan laughed out loud. “Jon, Jon, Jon, there are moments you’re priceless!”

“I do not understand.”

“At sixteen, Caileagh is of marriageable age. She needs to find a husband. You and I are both too young. Yet, she can – and does – use us to gauge how things are done here. Haven’t you seen her tiny knowing smiles or the glints in her eyes? We’re practice, nothing more. She must learn fast. She knows no one here.”

“But,” Jonathan frowned, “she’s only young. There’s plenty of time to—”

Again, Sagan laughed. “If she’s unmarried at nineteen, the other noble families will wonder what’s wrong with her. If at twenty, she’ll be an old maid and will likely never marry. Has anyone told you how she and her mother came to be in our beloved Freislicht?”


“You really need to pay more attention to what happens within and around the Royal Court. Let’s see. Her mother married our ambassador to her homeland, Dubu. Less than a year later, her new husband was recalled – even you should remember that scandal – causing both mother and daughter to be uprooted from all they knew. However, by the time they arrived, the former-ambassador had been stricken with some strange wasting malady. The apothecaries could do nothing for him. He died within three moons.”

Jonathan nodded, recalling some of those details. His friend was correct. He mostly ignored the interplay of people within the court. It was too confusing. He would much rather be studying or playing with the prince.

“Good.” Sagan grinned. “It seems you can pay attention to something other than showing me up at sword practice.”

Jon laughed, as he had to practice harder with blade,  bow, knife, and horse.

“So,” the prince continued, “with Gaelib’s mother so very recently deceased and Farina’s husband newly dead, my father decided it would be best for the kingdom if they wed. That way, Farina and Caileagh had a home. It also meant Gaelib’s father, the Earl of Lorness, had a daughter who could be married off to cement certain wavering alliances.”


“Yes, ‘oh’ as you so eloquently put it. Caileagh has to know she must become a desirable wife-to-be according to our customs. And she must do so quickly. She can’t practice on any potential beau, so she’s doing so on us.”

“Oh, I did not understand.”

“Why would you, Jon? Someday, you’ll get to marry a girl because you love her. I’ll marry for reasons of state. Now, are we passed this?”

“Yes. Yes, we are.”


Segment 2

Sagan remained bowed, waiting to be acknowledged after being summoned to his father’s private study. It was most unusual for him to be sent for. He worried that Jon’s behavior had reached the king’s ears and his majesty was displeased.

The frown creasing King Edal’s brow was not a good sign.

Pushing aside a thick sheaf of papers, his father’s gaze rose to lock onto Sagan’s face. “Troubling rumors have reached me. Therefore, I wanted to—”

“I’m sure Jon meant no harm.”

King Edal’s head tilted forward. His eyes receding into the deep shadows thus created. “I am not concerned about Jonathan. His occasional social faux pas are both enlightening and well intentioned. He will grow out of them. At least, he will if he becomes the man I hope he’ll be. No, I am concerned about rumors circling around you.”

Sagan blinked, opened his mouth, then closed it again. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Excellent! That is an excellent beginning. Never explain yourself or justify your actions unless absolutely necessary. And only after you understand the facts and the context.”

“Thank you, father.”

“The problems concern you and the Earl of Lorness’ stepdaughter. It’s said she’s been seen going into your room and emerging later.”

“But… I was with Gaelib and Jonathan. She came seeking her stepbrother. As we were in the midst of solving a tactical problem set by the Master at Arms, I asked her to come in and wait. I couldn’t leave her standing in the hall like a servant. It would have been rude.”

“And yet, when she left, she did so alone. As if she was sneaking out of your room after a romantic tryst.”

Sagan blushed. “No. It was nothing like that. She got bored and decided to leave.”

“You should know appearances matter. You are never to allow her to enter your rooms again. There are already several barons’ and viscounts’ sons who’ve set their sights on Caileagh. I do not want you being seen, or even referred to, as an obstacle to their ambitions.”

“I’ll do as you command, father.”

“Excellent. I expect the Earl of Lorness will not want her married off to a lesser noble. He’ll be targeting another earl’s son. Better yet, that of a duke. Regardless, I shall be astonished if she’s not engaged within the next half-year. She has a pretty face and exotic looks. Therefore, you will avoid Caileagh. You will not permit her to touch you. You will not permit her to be alone with you. Is that clear?”

“Yes, father.”

“Then off with you. I must finish,” he gestured at the piles of documents strewn across his desk, “this.”

Sagan bowed and departed.

It was late afternoon as he walked into the courtyard. The sun was warm. Yet he felt a chill settle upon him.

In the distance, the Master at Arms was talking sternly to Jonathan. Not wanting to get involved, Sagan detoured toward the kitchens, only to see his other friend. “Gaelib!”

“Your Highness,” the young Melazera responded as he turned, then fluidly bowed. “I thought you were still at sword practice.”

“The king wanted to see me.” Sagan hesitated. “Actually, it’s something you can help me with. If you have the time, that is.”

“It would be a pleasure, as always.”

Pointing toward a quiet alcove, Sagan continued, “It’s somewhat sensitive. Will you promise me not to take offence? It’s… regarding your sister, Caileagh.”

Gaelib’s eyebrows rose and his nose crinkled. “I would never take offence. As to my stepsister, what’s your concern?”

“I… father informed me that there’s a rumor going around about her being in my rooms. Alone. With me.”

A giggle escaped his friend’s lips. “That’s ridiculous. You, me and Jon were there the whole time. She was never alone with you. As for being interested in you…” He chuckled. “Well, father would be delighted if she married into the royal family. But I hardly see that happening.”

“Regardless, she’s not to come near my room again. If she seeks you out, have her send a servant.”

“I’ll try, but she and her mother… they do things differently. Nor am I in a position to advise them. However, I can pass on His Majesty’s concerns to father, and ask him to deal with the matter.”

‘Thank you. It’s been something of a day. It seems Caileagh is on many people’s minds, as well as being gossiped about. Even Jonathan has spoken of her…” Sagan realized his mistake as soon as he uttered the words, but it was too late.

Gaelib’s face clouded over. “What did he say? Don’t tell me he’s interested in her? He’s… not a noble. She wouldn’t have anything to do with him.”

“No, no, of course not. He’s going to be a knight. He’ll leave us soon.”

Gaelib relaxed at the suggestion of Jon’s departure and smiled. “How can I improve your mood, my prince?”


Segment 3

Gaelib tried to put on an appeasing expression. Yet it never worked with Caileagh. She always saw right through him.

“What do you want?” she asked without looking at him. Her focus aimed toward the courtyard below where many nobles’ sons were studying under the Master at Arms. She smiled at  the clash of practice swords and shields and lots of sweaty but energetic young men shouting.

Gaelib did not comprehend why she often spent hours watching when it was clear she knew nothing of fighting styles, skill levels, or their potential. All too often, she’d take interest in some unimpressive specimen who’d failed miserably.

It would be different if she stared at the best or most prominent fighters. He could have understood that. Lots of girls around her age watched, swooned, and made eyes at those young men most likely to make a name for themselves.

In only a handful of years, he knew he’d be the center of attention. After Sagan, of course. With Jonathan departing, and the advanced training he’d already had, there’d be no other to catch the girls’ attention. Then, he’d have the pick of them. The Melazeras were the most powerful, well-connected family in the country. Well, in the country’s north. The Lockes of Lexandria held that status in the south. Not that they were relevant. They did not visit the capital often enough to truly be considered rivals.

“Well?” Caileagh prompted again.

“Prince Sagan spoke to me three days ago… about you.”

“Really?” she preened. “He’s a little too young for me, but it’s always nice to be noticed.

“Then,” he snarked, “you’ll probably want to know Jonathan’s taking notice too.”

She turned and leaned on the ledge. “The tall blond lad with those piercing eyes. The one that hangs around with Prince Sagan and you? That’s utterly delightful. He’s…” She licked her lips, then looked back at the practice below.

Infuriated, Gaelib stalked away. From behind came the tinkling sounds of mocking feminine laughter.


Segment 4

Caileagh sat, the cool northern breezes of Freislicht caressing her skin, as she communed with her guiding spirits. The wind was almost cold compared to the hot streams of air that blew across the deserts of her birth-land, Dubu. It was as if her new home was asleep, waiting for the heated breath of the God of this Age to awaken it, to set it afire, to burn in everlasting sacrifice to him.

You have begun well, their chorus sang. As promised, your mother has been rewarded with wealth and position beyond anything she could have achieved elsewhere. Just as you, in the future, shall become the most powerful woman in this land.

Caileagh remained silent. She had heard this many times before. Yet she felt guilty. Unworthy. Since arriving in this new land, she’d made no sacrifices. Not to the lesser spirits that she served. Not to her God. It did not matter that she had been instructed not to. It felt wrong to ignore their needs. To not to offer up lives, as she’d done since she was young.

She’d not been permitted to offer the passing of blasphemers and the unrepentant.

She’d not been permitted to offer the passing of unbelievers.

She’d not even been permitted to offer the passing of small animals, something she had thought left behind as a little child.

You are right, child, the spirits whispered. Your dedication and control are being tested. As is your ability to hide unseen amongst the godless people of Freislicht. You must never give yourself away. Not even while molding those foolish unbelievers to our purposes.

Continue bending the weak and incompetent sons of Freislicht nobility to your will. Already several are besotted. Lead them on. Use them as practice to hone your skills.

Just as you have your foster-brother and his friends. Above all, it is those three boys who must never be permitted to doubt your actions or question what you are doing.

Caileagh bowed her head, knowing she must follow the spirits’ guidance. Even when it galled her to do so. Especially then. “So, I should have listened to Gaelib’s warning?”

Seek him out. Be kind to him. Be close to him. He has access to information you will need. Soon, he shall lose another parent and, once again, your mother will become a widow. Before then, he must be in your power, willing to do anything you ask. Hot and cold. That is the way. Just as you have with the other boys. Lead him on, making him feel special. Then ignore him.

Hot and cold. Hot and cold. Hot and cold.

Again, and again, and again.

But you must do so slowly. Failing to woo him, to control him, will doom you.

She nodded as they faded into the background. They were always with her, directing her, providing insight, nudging her towards her destiny.

Her eyes refocused, looking out through the gauze drapes that allowed this land’s light breezes in, while providing privacy. She breathed in the sweet scent of the candles, which had been made from the fats rendered from the bodies others had sacrificed. It was a tiny defiance, but she had to do something to demonstrate her dedication.

Truly, she did not understand the godless people of Freislicht who offered only thanks and prayers to their god.


Segment 5

Farina looked down into the courtyard as Caileagh and Gaelib went their separate ways. Neither would return until the evening meal.

Her daughter pleased her. The girl had learned her lessons well and believed what she’d been taught. She was intelligent, manipulative, and capable of deception. She lied with ease. She allowed her spirits to guide her. Even her minor ‘rebellion’ – using candles made from human bodies – only served to demonstrate her dedication.

Yes, Caileagh pleased Farina greatly.

As for her stepson, the boy was… malleable. The loss of his mother and his desperation to please his father made him an ideal candidate. He was intelligent, but in constant need of praise and reassurance. A combination that would allow her to shape him into whatever she needed him to be.


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