Clayton pressed forward on the yokes as his craft made an entry into the stratosphere. He had tracked Jessip from the underground caves to this place. Only a faint signal and memories drove Clayton to this rock his kind neither admired or cared to visit. And who could blame them, he thought. No other inhabitants in the galaxy preyed on their own. So, this clump held little allure for beings of any intellect, he thought to himself as he watched the darkness morphing into a blue horizon.
Jessip knew few of his kind would want to mingle among the populous and their soiled air. No one considered it a travel spot or a place one might hide. Yet on previous missions, Jessip had acclimated himself to the short list of land masses that could support him. He also knew any tracker with Clayton's experience in this place could gain an edge against a man on the run.
Jessip rarely underestimated his own resourcefulness. He felt he could hide by becoming visible. Who would expect to find him in the open? He would blend into the population, perhaps take a wife.
Back in his vehicle, Clayton planned to revisit places where he and Jessip resided when surveying earth years before. He would start by storing his hopper in the sands of the Sinai and then use the ancient communication lines to amplify the signal from Jessip's implant. Clayton cleared the images from his mind and looked over the horizon until he saw the white dwellings he remembered so well.
As he neared the hills he pulled back on the yokes of his hopper and an opening appeared in the rocky formation of a white hillside. He landed smoothly but in exiting his craft became baffled. In the hanger, he saw a second hopper like his own that he assumed belonged to Jessip. He expected that. But from where did the third hopper come?
As he signaled he watched the doors to the hillside close. He felt troubled. What dangers would he face knowing either an another tracker or another fugitive roamed the planet?
He felt trapped as he had no orders from Command to undertake this mission. He knew if he reported into Mission Control, they would order him back. He had no access to the mainframe. He lacked the information he needed.
Whatever he faced, he would face without the knowledge of the third party. He sat in his hopper frozen in a kind of fear he had not known before. He attempted to think, to improvise, to adapt. Who knew when he would formulate a working plan? Then it struck him: examine the third craft for clues.
In a village north of the hills, Jessip walked through the market and observed the vendors and their wares all brought by the peasants. He felt delight as he looked into the eyes of the people. As he walked the narrow passages, he spied a melon, rich with color and sweet to his senses. The vendor offered him a slice and Jessip took it and began eating it as the cool juice began to cover his chin and cheeks.
Then as if jerked by someone, Jessip turned and heard the muffled sound of a woman struggling. Through the loud noise of the market, the muffled sound triggered his instincts and in his mind he saw himself standing in a small barn with a straw floor. Two men held a young woman down by her arms and legs and another had his hand over her mouth.
Jessip hurried through the crowded market to a wooden horse barn and entered through a side door. He saw the three men hovered over the woman. One man held a dagger to the woman's throat. Jessip approached the men.
"What are you doing here?" ask the man with the dagger. "This is none of your business. Leave. Get out."
Jessip moved closer to the men until one stood up and pulled a weapon. Jessip grabbed the man's arm and slung him across the barn into the wall like a child's doll. The man fell on his face unconscious.
The site of Jessip's strength frightened the other men and they quickly jumped to their feet. The leader spoke less curtly to Jessip. "We are carrying out a sentence. This woman has defamed her people. She has sinned and she must pay."
Jessip moved to the woman as he brushed the two men aside with his right arm. Laying on the ground, he saw a girl, not a woman. He put his hand under her neck and lifted her slightly. He looked into her sobbing eyes. He saw her terror and her exhaustion but continued to probe her soul with his.
Jessip turned and said, "Which of you accuses this girl?"
The second man replied, "We have not accused her. A tribunal found her stained. We only prepare her for her execution."
Jessip raised the girl and held her in one arm. "She has committed no crime. Where are her accusers?"
"They will come," the leader replied.
He looked at the girl and asked, "Where does your family dwell?"
The girl spoke up through sobs, "I will take you to my home".
"You will pay for this interference," said the leader defiantly.
"You can find me at her dwelling," replied Jessip as he placed his hands on the child's shoulders, leaving the barn and the men behind. He walked with the young woman to her home where her family gathered and rejoiced at seeing their daughter and sister alive and well.
That night, Jessip accepted the family's food as the sun began to set. He knew the authorities would make an appearance. Curious, Jessip asked what led to the accusation of the daughter's sin.
He elderly father continued to sit as he began to answer. Aristocratic, he patted his face with a folded cloth. Looking directly at Jessip. "We are Nazars and no longer belong here. When the occupation began, we became a minority. My people live now in exile, taken away. We know not where."
"Marian has become of age and the people now occupying our land will either take our women and force them to bear children or kill them. It makes no difference to them, they are barbarians. Do you understand this?"
Jessip heard the sounds of men in the courtyard and could see they carried torches to light their way. Jessip walked to the doorway and gestured to the family to stay in the dwelling. He then emerged from the doorway into the courtyard where he saw several men armed with swords and spears. He also saw three men in robes holding large books and standing in front of the others.
"Who are you to interfere with our laws?" asked the larger and older of the men.
Jessip simply stared at the man without answering. The man stepped back into the others. The man then asked again, "Who are you?" Then he stated in a lower voice, "I do not know you."
Again, Jessip stared at the man. Jessip kneeled with his arms resting on his thighs. He waited until silence swept across the troupe.
"I understand you intend to stone this girl," Jessip stated.
"Yes," replied the elder as he approached Jessip.
"You hold an ancient staff with a crystal at the crown. Did a prophet once condemn stoning? You hold his staff do you not?"
"I know of no such prophet," replied the elder. "Do you know of such a man?"
"I know you carry his staff," replied Jessip. "Watch it glow." And as Jessip stood, the crystal began to glow with light so white and searing that it blinded the troupe. The elder threw the staff to the ground and Jessip swiftly picked it up and as he did the crystal ceased to emanate light.
Jessip held the staff in his right hand with his arm extended and replied, "Yes. I knew this prophet. This was the staff he carried. I gave it to him as a gift."
Then Jessip began swinging the staff striking randomly at the men in the crowd. As he did each fell to the ground for the force of Jessip's swings pierced their armor and broke their swords. When he stopped the men stared up at Jessip from the ground.
"This practice of yours stops today. If you persecute or harm any Nazar from this time forward you will all die. I will personally see to it. Is that clear?"
The elder stood in shock and replied, "Yes. I understand. But in the morning we will return with a thousand men and we will kill every Nazar in this village."
Jessip turned the staff toward the elder so the crystal faced him. Light and energy radiated from the crystal and turned the elder into dust in an instant. He then looked around at the men who lay prostrate on the ground.
"Now, who will return tommorrow to face annihilation?" asked Jessip.
One of the original three elders approached Jessip and spoke. "The old minister spoke for himself, not for our people. He was a tyrant. From this day forward Nazars will live in peace with the Irites. On this you have my word, oh Holy One." And as he spoke the men all nodded approvingly.
"Then go," Jessip commanded as he entered dwelling of Marian's family.
As Jessip stepped through the entrance he saw confusion on the faces of each family member. As the father began to kneel, Jessip took him by the elbow and raised him so he stood upright.
"I hope you approve of my magician's tricks, father?" Jessip faced him with a grin on his face.
"But you turned the High Counselor into dust," the father replied. "I watched it from the behind the doorway."
"The crystal returned the power of the man's hatred to him" Jessip explained. "So, he destroyed himself. I saw this done many years ago when I first enountered this staff. A sheep herder found it in a ravine. Notice that the wood looks new. I believe it is indestructable."
The eldest son then drew near and spoke to Jessip saying, "Will you turn me to dust if I ask who you are?"
Jessip laughed one time and with a smile replied, "Of course not."
"Then who are you?"
"I am a man," Jessip began, "who has lost his way. I am looking for my people. Have you seen people who look like me?"
"Korduenes," the elder son uttered. "Very tall people, like you with light hair and eyes of blue. I saw them once on a caravan. They live in the mountains to the north. "
"To the north?" Jessip asked.
"Yes," replied the son.
The next oldest boy stepped forward, "Yes. They live to the north. I know the trail they follow. I have seen it and walked with them."
Jessip smiled and took a seat at the table. He sent his consciousness to the north and sensed the presence of one of his own kind among the Korduenes. He then looked at the young man and asked, "what is your name, son?"
"I am Amar and this is Adel and this is," the boy began but each member of the large family reached out to shake Jessip's hand and introduce him or herself. "
Amar waited for everyone to finish and then asked, "What do we call you?"
Jessip became still and then asked, "Can you guess my name? Marian what should they call me?"
"Titus," replied Marian. "I heard one of the soldiers say you were Titus."
Jessip became still again for a moment and then replied, "I wonder how he knew. I have never been to this village before."
The father spoke up, "You were known to them. You just won't tell us everything, I believe."
Jessip nodded affirmatively.
The mother then spoke up, "We should all take our rest. This day has weighed heavily upon us all. Titus will you stay with us, then?"
Jessip replied, "Yes. I will rest here and then prepare to go north."
And as the mother shuffled her family to their corners, Marian and her older sister brought Jessip a blanket to cover himself. And they retired for the night.