No, I have no shame whatsoever.
They came for her at that time near dawn when the light is showing faint hints of itself over the distant hills, but not yet painting the sky beyond the margins.
She met them, with her handmaid and their bodyguard, Peter standing solemn at her side, at the gate facing to the West. They appeared as if from the very air, and even Mary stepped back with some trepidation. Whatever rumours and contradictions she had heard, this resembled witchcraft or sorcery, things the Romans used expressly to intimidate and kill and manipulate.
They called this time the Greylight; as she had had it explained, it was the time when their power was strongest - this meant that their journey, from this moment, though it would not lack any peril, would have the stronger backing of what force protected them.
There were three, altogether, clad in cloaks of varying shades of green and grey. Mary could not see their faces until the smallest of the three stepped forward and pulled back her mantle - for it was a woman, older than Mary, a mother or grandmother, with broad streaks of white in her dark, curling hair. She smiled at Mary in such a way that seemed to confirm her assumption. She nodded in respect and greeting, eyes flickering to her charge's swollen belly and the protective manner in which she held it with both hands, as if it could part from her short of her own death.
"There isn't much time," said the woman gently, surprising Mary with her voice, which was deep and rich in tone and resonated with a wisdom and calm Mary had scarce seen outside the company of the Disciples - but this woman was no follower of Joshua.
Her name was Helen. She gave small gestures and her two companions nodded, before turning to vanish into the long grass that bordered the manor walls. She turned back to the party surrounding Mary. "They go to see to the safety of our path, before we go," she told them all, but looked at Mary. "It would not do to be stopped at the road."
Other stages in this journey had been managed by men - by followers of the Disciples and their leader, but mostly not by friends. In every case Mary had been treated with the utmost respect and care, but this was the first time any of those lending them aid had spoken with her directly, addressed her as the leader rather than merely the purpose of their expedition. Mary found the change refreshing as well as surprising - as much so as the leader of their benefactors being a woman.
The others, returning, said little, but Mary studied them as they bent their heads in conversation with Helen. Both young men - one much taller than the other - showed deferance to the woman, both in leaning down to address her and in their near but respectful distance.
"We must go now," said Helen finally. "There is little time."
The young men, both exotically fair and ginger, stepped slightly forward, as Mary turned to Peter and accepted his embrace.
"Are you quite certain in this?" he asked her, for the second time since sunset.
Mary, though anxious, nodded. "It will help you not at all to be the target of the Roman attacks simply because I remain, nor will it help your cause." She surprised herself with vehemence she had not known she felt. "I must be away, for both our sakes. Give the others my farewells."
Peter, grave and unhappy, touched her shoulder a final time. "Go well and safely, Sister," he said, and then turned and strode through the doorway, vanishing into the darkness under the manor trees. Mary turned next to her own companions. Sarah, her handmaid, had been a loyal servant since childhood, a retainer of the family. The girl was slight but strong and quietly fierce, and knew Mary better than even her husband had done. Mary's bodyguard was Sarah's husband Maxwell, a Roman by birth who had joined their cause before they'd married. He had been injured in the Gallic war as a soldier and been sent to retire, in Israel, as an administrator. Without Sarah's influence he never would have joined their cause, and now he was one of Mary's stoutest defenders - nothing but death would allow harm to come to Mary through him.
At a gesture from Helen, they went away into the gathering dawn, the Greylight chasing at their heels.
Don't look at me like that. :P