Will running set her free of sentence her to death?
Today, Keturah became a woman. But her joy ends in terror when Abba accepts an offer for her betrothal. Her plan to escape the arranged marriage worked. She's now free to find her brother and live as she chooses. But the lies and deceit catch up with her. If she confesses, will it lead to her death? Will she ever learn to live the life Yahweh desires from her?
Justus' devotion to Yeshua results in Abba proclaiming him dead to the family. When Justus rescues a child from slavery, Keturah falls in love with the toddler. But the child's mother returns, and Justus falls in love. Will Keturah's jealousy destroy all bonds with her brother? Can they save their relationship?
Onesimus, a runaway slave, has a secret. Befriending Keturah, he finds she has a secret of her own. Will the two friends be destroyed by what they hide, or can they learn to give everything to God?
Will running set them free or sentence them to death?
Under Penalty of Death – excerpt
Keturah slept little that night, or the next night either. Anxiety kept her mind buzzing while hesitation, and yes, a nagging fear overtook her dreams. Her mind was spinning with tales of adventure and visions of days on the sea. As soon as she heard her brother rustling about in the adjoining room, she was on her feet and ready to leave. She knew he wouldn’t be in to say goodbye before he left. They had said their goodbyes the night before. He had explained how it would be the last conversation for many months to come. Justus promised he would either come for her in the next six months or send her word.
“Six months.” She thought. “Did he really expect her to stay here six months, or longer?’ Justus was sure she would love it here in the care of Dorcus. She had been eager and excited to take her in. Dorcus always had some work to do or people to take-in and care for. They well knew her in Jaffa for her benevolence and comfort to the homeless and widows. Many of the believers here in Jaffa could trace their introduction to HaMashiach through their interaction with this wonderful woman.
For a moment she felt guilt, imagining Dorcus may be worried about her after she left; but that couldn’t be helped. There was no way to leave a message. Doing so now could alert Justus and she couldn’t take that chance. Maybe, if she could find a way, she would send word once the ship had sailed. She would investigate that. Then again, maybe she wouldn’t have to. Dorcus would most likely figure it out on her own when they both disappeared on the same day.
The streets of Jaffa looked much different in the pre-dawn darkness. Keturah was glad that she had made the walk to the dock twice already. She was right in her assessment of needing to know the way well and was glad that she had paid close attention to landmarks.
Even with the extra care she had taken, she took two wrong turns and ended up in a rank looking back alley. Fear had almost overtaken her until she realized the crash of the waves in the distance and followed the sound.
Once back in the more familiar dock area, it didn’t take long until she spied the ship. Finding the seaman she had spoken to the nights before, however, was proving to be a little more difficult. The fact that she had to stay out of sight compounded this. Not only was her brother standing on the dock near the ship, waiting to sign his name on the ships log and take his turn to board, but there, not too far behind him were Sophia, Jerome, Martha, Pantheious and the rest of the small party of travelers that she had journeyed to Jaffa.
Keturah’s heart dropped into her stomach. Could this be true? Didn’t Martha and Jerome say they were leaving yesterday? What were they doing on a boat to Rome? If she didn’t see her brother in the same line, she would think she had the wrong ship.
So, they were also going to Rome. Why hadn’t asked more details about their trip? It never occurred to her it would matter. It wouldn’t matter now, except they thought she was fetching her brother to go back to her sick mother. This is going to be embarrassing. What will they say to her… think of her, when they find out the truth? What would her brother say? She would have to avoid them if she could.
Keturah looked around once again, with more determination, trying to find the man with the parchment from before. This time, she saw him almost immediately. He was standing by a group of barrels that were being loaded onboard. She walked around the back of the small inn that was on the far side of the pier and approached him from the other end, avoiding the passengers that were boarding the ship.
He must have talked to others about her arrival. They seemed to expect her. He said nothing to her as she approached. He barely lifted his head. He had that stupid half smile that traced his lips the day before and jerked his head toward another of the shipmates, who immediately got up and came toward her. With more of a grunt than a word, helped her on board the ship.
Keturah followed as the sailor led onto the deck of the ship and past tents that were being set up by early boarding passengers. She kept her head down, not wanting to be seen by her brother or by anyone in the group that she had recently traveled with. Keturah hadn’t noticed that they walked past the galley until she saw a pot of boiling water. When she looked back to confirm they had passed the galley, a group of travelers obscured her view. Wait. Were they tied together? She didn’t see the group when she glanced back a second time. Her eyes must have been playing tricks on her. Then again, slave trading was very common and lucrative. Oy, Of course, they would have slaves as cargo as well. Ships were the backbone of commerce and travel. They carried freight, passengers, news; and yes, slaves.
“Did we miss the galley?” she inquired.
“Ya won’ be needin’ there ‘ntil after wesail. Baldainiam’s orders, wer’ ta get ya settled first. I’m ta take ya whereya can fin’ a nice corner ta res’ fer da voyage.”
“Oh.” Keturah was a bit surprised. Pleasantly surprised. This would work out well. She would have a room away from the other passengers and could hide the entire time, for however long that was. How long was the voyage, anyway? Silly. She had forgotten to ask. How fast could they move from port to port?
“How long will it take us to get to Rome?”
The man gave her a quizzical look, then answered with a gruff smile. “Two months, mor’ er less, dependin’ on da wind.” No wonder Justus had said it would take him at least six months. Travel time alone for the round trip would be four months or more.
Keturah took in a deep breath and spun herself around, arms wide as if grabbing for air then pulling it into herself and holding it tight. Giggles of excitement welled up within her and burst outlike the sunshine that was peeking its head over the horizon.
“I think I’m going to love the sea.”
“Here’s your room.” Linking his fingers through a brass ring on a door in the ship’s deck, he yanked it open and allowed her to walk down the ladder first.
Her guide never followed. The door snapped shut. Keturah heard the distinctive sound of a lock as it clinked, sealing the door. A deep black enveloped Keturah as the clank of the door above fell silent. The light in the room was snuffed out as quickly as the joy she had felt a moment before. The chilling sound of others clinging together in fear assaulted her ears.
She wasn’t alone.