+JMJ+ Welcome to part 31 of A Journey, the rough draft for a WIP set in New Testament times. Jonah and his companions are on the run from Romans, Zealots, and a tentmaker, oh, my.
And now the journey continues. (Still featuring plot holes large enough to drive a couple of camels through.)
A Journey – Part 31
Second Day for the Fourth Time, Monday
I did tell the Centurion that I did not know how to use a sword. Still, I think I acquitted myself well in the thick of it. True, it was close once or twice. Oh, alright, if the Centurion or Raphael had not come to my aid, many times, I would still be in the fort, lying in a pool of my own blood.
Raphael, Nico and Joseph were all busy themselves, though of the three only Raphael wielded a sword. And wield it he did! I have never seen anything like it! When things have settled down, if they ever do, I will have to try to describe the battle. And ask him to give me some lessons. My respect for him grew by leaps and bounds today.
And my gratitude to the Centurion also. He is one who has surprised me. He was not here the last time I spent any appreciable amount of time in the town. Still, he is a Roman and I cannot forget that. He is worried that something is amiss, that the majority of his troops were called away not long before the Zealots struck. If he had not known about (or perhaps had not built) an escape route through a tunnel, we would surely all have perished, whether possessing prowess with a blade or not.
Only one of his men, his servant, fought with him and is with us now. I realize that in the rush to escape I have forgotten to ask their names. I do not know anything about their families or ancestors or much of anything at all about them. That is unusual.
More unusual is that the Centurion brought up the subject of my sister before I did once we had removed ourselves from the vicinity of the lost garrison. (In truth, once his men return they will make quick work of the Zealots. I almost feel sorry for them, the Zealots, I mean. But they did try to kill us all so I will not be too troubled if they get what they deserve.) He said we need to go find her and before I could say anything he charged away. His servant had to run to catch up with him and keep running to stay with him.
The rest of us followed, tired as we were, though, I have to say, Nico has shown himself to be spry for a man his age. Joseph is a little worse for the wear and I am sure we will all be glad to get any rest tonight, though I doubt there will be much rest anytime soon. If the Centurion was the target, then he is still in danger and so are we by being in his company. If someone else was the target, then whom?
My head hurts, my feet hurt, my stomach is growling, my right hand aches from trying to swing a sword and occasionally making contact with something, more than once a burning torch or lit lamp. Raphael accused me of wanting us to die by fire rather than sword.
“If I had known back in Jerusalem that you had such a sense of humor, I would have tried to be rescued by someone of more serious demeanor.”
“I will try not to rescue you next time.”
This he said just as my foot slipped on loose dirt and I would have rolled back down the hill we were climbing had he not caught me by my aching arm and pulled me to safety.
“You were saying?”
“You are very annoying when you are–“
“Right? Noble? Heroic?”
“Will you two be quiet? I was hoping we would get away from any pursuers, not announce our position.” Centurion hissed these words and both Raphael and I grew quiet. Joseph rolled his eyes but I know I saw the corner of Nico’s mouth move a little.
All thought of humor vanished when we heard the sound of men behind us and realized that they were looking for someone. Might be us or someone else, I do not know who else was being held there, but the voices behind us were speaking Aramaic, not Latin. This is not too surprising since so many “Roman” soldiers here were mercenaries from surrounding regions. But these did not sound like mercenaries for Rome. These sounded like Zealots who hate Rome. They had defeated the few soldiers in the garrison and had not found what they were after.
We all turned back to climb the hill and both Nico and Joseph passed me as if I were standing still. Raphael brought up the rear but he was defending our retreat. We made the top of the hill, painfully aware that we would be visible until we crested the top and began to move down the other side.
We could not risk going into the town for help, supplies or anything else. Joseph spoke, surprising in itself, but then he suggested we go to Magdala, we would find aid there and would be able to send a message to whomever the Centurion needed to send a report or a warning.
We made the rest of the journey in silence, except for a muttered word or two when slipping on loose dirt and rocks as the light of the day lingered too long for safety from searching eyes, but not long enough to light our path. Indeed, where we were attempting to pass there was no path and I would have more than one thorn to remove when we finally reached our destination, which I should not have been surprised to see was the hometown of a notorious though former sinner and demoniac, though she spent most of her time, until now, in a small quiet town outside Jerusalem. In the aftermath of recent events she, like the other disciples, had traveled back to Galilee, stopping at her old home, presumably before continuing on to Capernaum.
As we approached the house, a woman stepped out of the door. I thought at first that she was coming out to greet us. But then I saw that there was someone with her and they stood talking on the steps. The woman was facing us, the man had his back to us, but as she saw us, he noticed and began to turn toward us.
Centurion’s servant said, “The tentmaker!”
Centurion, Joseph, Nico and I said, “Mary! Wait–That’s not the tentmaker.”
We turned to Centurion. “You know Mary Magdalene? You know the tentmaker?”
The servant turned to me and said, “That’s who his papers said he was. He is the one who took your sister away!”
Raphael said nothing but out of the corner of my eye I saw that he had closed his hand over the pommel of his sword, as had Centurion.
At this news I grew so angry, I ran toward the stranger, intending to drag him off the steps and fling him to the ground and demand to know what he had done to my sister. I grabbed him with one hand by his shoulders and spun him around to face me, fingers of my other hand already curled into a fist, earlier aches of the day forgotten. But then–
“This is Yaakov, my friend! From the Community! Yaakov, what are you doing here? They let you out? Or did they kick you out?”
“I heard that you were in trouble. And–” Here he blushed. “And Rachel.”
“Rachel! Where is she? Do you know? Tell me!” I nearly shook him in my desperation.
“She is fine, Jonah, she is–“
“Right here, brother dear.” And then stepped through the door the most beautiful sight I have ever beheld. Rachel, my sister, the one who has led me to doubt my sanity and hers, and caused me no end of trouble, pain and heartache. And, oh, the way Yaakov was looking at her.
After the longest hug I have ever given my little imp of a sister, Mary suggested we all go inside the house before everybody in town came out to stare at the odd way we were behaving in the street.
Once we were inside, I could no longer refrain from asking questions of Yaakov. I wanted to know everything. How did he know we were in trouble, how did he know to save Rachel, and where she was, and how did he get those false papers he must have used? And did he know Rachel, and, if so, how?
“I can answer that, Jonah,” Rachel said. You never would tell me why you wanted to visit the Community so often, so once I followed you, brother mine. And Yaakov and I met accidentally.”
“And I did not mention it to you because I saw no need to. I did not know she was your sister, and I could not tell anyone else until I was ready to leave. But I knew I had to.”
The way they looked at each other, I could tell I need not have worried about my sister making a good marriage. Yaakov would make an excellent husband for her. And an excellent brother for me.
But I still had questions. For everyone.
“They will have to remain unanswered for now, Jonah,” said Centurion. We have pressing matters, though, thankfully, locating and rescuing your sister is now no longer one of them. But we cannot stay here.”
Mary was already packing food and other items we would need. Rachel went to help her while we men gathered near the door to discuss our next move, except for Raphael who moved around the house, peering through the occasional window, checking the courtyard, the roof.
The light outside was failing. Soon we would have to decide whether to stay in the house in Magdala until morning or to leave now and travel by night. And where were we going to go? Mary and Rachel paused the packing and prepared a quick meal, one that did not require any kind of fire. We could not risk it. I was glad this house was not in the middle of the town but on its edge. Perhaps not many had noticed us earlier when I acted like such a fool. Being on the edge of town will make it easier to slip away later, out of the sight of prying eyes.
Now for some important business. Before we do anything else I must know these things: What is Centurion’s name and what is his servant’s name? I cannot keep calling them Centurion and Centurion’s servant or I will go mad.
End of Part 31
Other parts of the story are linked on the Fiction page.
I’ll bet you thought I forgot about Yaakov, didn’t you? Did you remember who he was? (Truth: I had to go back and look to see what I had named him. 😁)
Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and remember, we are all on the journey to the heavenly city. So pick up your cross daily and follow Him, so you can become who you were meant to be: a SAINT! May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Image in the cover: From the east, Nazareth, Holy Land, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.