Sixteen: Prologue

Gerushah was a descendant of Ithran – the cursed Hebrew. Neglecting her people spelled life. But associating with them-the Ithranites, as they were called-meant something unpleasant, and she was just about to find out.
The silver coins in her skin bag jingled against each other as she rode toward the wooden gate of the village, forming a rhythm that made hope swell within her. She was just a few steps away from being where she belonged, but it would only be a moment and she’d have to hurry back to her Kingdom, lest the King have innocent souls to blame for her disappearance.
More than three centuries ago, a Ithran was banished from Israel for a sin he had committed. A sin that no longer mattered. At least not to his descendants. He’d taken with him Hadassah, one of his father’s serving girls, and she became his wife, the mother of all Ithranites. Over the years, their sons and grandsons took wives for themselves and bore sons and daughters, thus becoming the population the land currently was.
But Ithran had been cursed with abject poverty, and that the land on which he cultivated would not give its produce. The curse, it seemed, followed his descendants and the land they’d claimed as theirs was not half as productive as the neighbouring ones. And for that reason, Gerushah had to supply them as often as she could. They were her people, and try as King Frederick might, he could never succeed in getting her to turn her back on them.
The Ithranites picked up the marching footsteps of Gerushah’s horse – a sound they knew was what preceded jubilee. They burst out of their huts and started toward Gerushah. The songs of children filled the air. In their dialect, they sang, “Gerushah has come. Our own Gerushah has come. Yes, today we will eat.”
Just like Gerushah, the Ithranite women were all beautiful, with raven hair gracefully cascading down their backs. And although their abject poverty fought hard to conceal their beauty, they were still pleasing to the eyes. As were their men.
The state of Gerushah’s people filled her eyes with more tears. No thanks to pregnancy and childbirth, months had passed since she last had a chance to visit. Smiling at her people, Gerushah grabbed the bag of coins and swung her leg over the horse. But her smile was short-lived.
She noticed the children had stopped singing. The smiles on her people’s faces had taken a cowardly sprint. They all looked past her, at the men riding toward them. They wouldn’t be surprised to see dents where hoofs pounded the ground.
“Frederick,” a little girl gasped. She shuffled till she hid behind a woman, most likely her mother.
Frederick halted his horse a few inches from where Gerushah stood. His men-about four of them-were lined behind him. Only one man stood beside Frederick. John.
Meeting Frederick’s burning gaze was a challenge Gerushah wasn’t prepared to accept. Being with her people in a land she was meant to never visit, and holding a bag of coins, she felt no different from a stealer caught red-handedly with his hands in a pot of gold. But she found John’s presence soothing. He was here. There was no way Frederick could harm her in John’s presence. It was just as impossible as the sky falling.
Although Frederick dismounted his horse and bridged the distance between him and Gerushah, she didn’t drag her gaze away from the ground. She took one unconscious step backward, putting distance between her tiny frame and Frederick’s imposing build. Even as his wife, she found him intimidating. His arm lunged at her and she cowered.
“Frederick,” John warned. He’d gotten off his horse and was getting ready to step between Frederick and Gerushah if Frederick made one wrong step.
But Frederick didn’t strike Gerushah as everyone had wrongly judged. He’d only reached for the bag of coins she greedily held on to.
“So it turns out,” Frederick said. His voice was decidedly slow in a menacing way, and when he took a pregnant pause, everyone attempted to complete his statement for themselves.
As much as Gerushah was scared, she was curious. “It turns out what, my lord?” Her voice was almost a whisper, but she was sure the intended audience had heard it. She still fixated her eyes downward.
“It turns out the queen is not only witch, but a thief.” Turning the bag upside down, Frederick emptied its contents on the ground. Coins dove to the ground, sunlight sparkling brilliantly off them, it almost hurt Gerushah’s eyes to stare. They were too many to be less than a hundred, Frederick roughly estimated to himself. Amidst the coins were fine ornaments of gold and silver.
For a moment, Gerushah let her gaze flicker to Frederick’s face, and in that split-second she saw the look on his face. She’d expected him to be seeing red, but the look of relief on his face was alarming. Obviously he was relieved because of the law he’d made a few years ago. The first new law stated that any Ithranite-except the queen-who entered his kingdom must be killed on sight. Identifying the children of Ithran wasn’t a problem. Their hair, dark and lovely, always stood out. Ever since the law was made, no Ithranite stepped into Frederick’s Kingdom.
The law after the first new law stated that anyone having dealings with the children of Ithran must be banished; he chose Ithran and so must dwell with them.
Gerushah also remembered an old law; one which stated that the hands of stealers must be cut off.
“How would you like to be punished?” Frederick asked, tossing the emptied bag behind him. Almost immediately, Gerushah fell at his feet and wrapped her fingers around his ankle. She sobbed at his feet. She’d expected Frederick to kick her off, but he stayed still, staring into the air as she wept.
A hand touched her shoulder and helped her back on her feet. She didn’t need to turn around to know it was John. “Frederick, please, for heaven’s sake. Do not forget that this woman is your wife.”
“Does that place her above the law?” Frederick asked. “She has broken the laws of the land. Not once. For the sake of mercy, I’d have tampered justice and forced myself to believe she’s a thief by accident. But she has broken the laws repeatedly, evident of her high disregard even for the laws that were written before she came to be. This woman is a witch. This woman is a thief. And this woman has allied with the people of Ithran.” If Frederick could turn back the hands of time, he’d burn Gerushah at the state. Gerushah could see it in his eyes. His determination to rid himself of her was painfully strong. The Ithranites were beginning to murmur, and although the foreigners could not understand their words-for they spoke no English-the angry pitch of their voices gave the foreigners clues of what they were saying: indignant words to Frederick in defence of Gerushah.
“Her people!” John defended. Sometimes Frederick wondered if was by accident that John was not a descendant of Ithran. His love for Gerushah and for her people was stunning. It was impossible for Frederick not to think that John was an offspring of a Hebrew parent. His compassion was weakening and a source of stumbling to others around him. John’s father had taken for himself a Hebrew wife, Frederick concluded. Afterall during that period, there was no law separating the Hebrews from Frederick’s people. Now look what had become of the son. In the eyes of Frederick-although he had affection for him-John was a deformity amongst men.
“Would you not go to lengths to save your people?” John asked.
“Love for one’s people doesn’t justify doing what is wrong in the eyes of all.” Directing his attention to Gerushah, he said, “Therefore, I ask you again, woman. How would you like to be punished? For witchcraft, you are to be burned to a stake. For theft you are to lose an arm.”
“Frederick, please!” John retorted. “For the love of God.”
Ignoring John’s interruption, Frederick went on. “And for associating with these people, you are to be banished. All three retributions are rightfully yours, for you are full of sin. But look! For word of my mercy to spread amongst my people and for the neighbouring lands to speak of how Frederick of Drisden dealt with his sinful wife, tampering mercy with justice, I give you the chance to choose from the three, the way you would be dealt with. This act of kindness, you do not even deserve. But here I am, presenting it to you, woman.”
Three decades of living with Frederick as his wife told Gerushah it would be pointless to beg again. This man had a heart of stone. “What happens to the child I nurse when I am no longer allowed to set foot into your Kingdom? For anyone seeing me will kill me on sight, and it is unthinkable for the child to be separated from her nursing mother.”
“Should not the nursing mother have put her newborn into consideration before venturing to break the laws in this manner?” Frederick asked. He returned to his horse, and after he had climbed upon it, he said to everyone within earshot, “The sinful woman has chosen to be banished. This is her retribution. Anyone catching sight of her in Drisden should kill her at once.” With that, he turned around and started to ride, his man with him.
John wrapped his arms around the grieving Gerushah.
“Stay a minute longer and you share with her in her sins,” Frederick said, halting his horse and turning to face John.
Gerushah disentangled herself from the consoling embrace. “Go, please. I do not want your brother to turn against you.”
“Be strong, my lady,” John said, glueing a palm to Gerushah’s face. Nodding vigorously, Gerushah placed her hand on his and sucked in a deep breath to halt her tears.
“It is for my child that I grieve.”
“I will find her a nursing mother to care for her. You have my word.”
“May God look upon you with favour, John.”
John stepped away from Gerushah and her people. He mounted on his horse and readied to meet his people when something came to his mind. “My brother, the king, refuses to name the child just as he had refused to name the daughters you bore before this one.”
“Kitra. Name her Kitra.”
John nodded. “Kitra.” Without another word, he rode toward Frederick and the men. Gerushah watched till they were out of sight.
“Gerushah,” a woman called from behind her.
The meaning of her name came to mind. Gerushah – the exiled. Before this day, she had thought her name meant that she was an offspring of the exiled Hebrews, which also made her an exiled one. But this day, she knew. Being the prophetess her mother was, she’d seen this day coming – the day that Gerushah would be exiled from the land she had been bought into.

2 thoughts on “Sixteen: Prologue” by darkcrisp (@Darkcrisp)

  1. loved it! loved it! loved it!
    More please….

    1. Lissa Darkcrisp (@Darkcrisp)

      Thank you so much for commenting. I honestly just saw your comment. I forgot a site like this even existed

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