Grace Part 2

Grace Part 1

The first day of the festival could not have been more perfect. It was a bit cool in the morning, but the sun was shining, rapidly warming the air to comfortable temperatures. Rachel excitedly prepared for her first dance. She donned the flowing costume that was recently made for her. She felt beautiful in her new costume and hoped it would accentuate the feelings and message that she desired to convey in her dance.

Rachel and Salali, along with Salali’s family, excitedly walked to the theater. Rachel looked for Pahana, but did not see him. As they arrived at the theater, Rachel and Micah went to the side of the stage since Rachel was in the first group to perform. Salali hugged her friend and wished her luck.

Rachel nervously, but excitedly watched the first two dancers while warming up. Then it was her turn. Micah gave her a quick hug and reminded her how beautiful, graceful, and talented she was and that she would have a magnificent performance. Rachel elegantly walked to the middle of the stage, positioned herself in her beginning pose, then waited for the musicians from her dance troupe to begin the music. She heard the familiar beat then spent the next several minutes lost in the music and her dance. She danced eloquently and with passion! As she finished, the audience immediately stood on their feet and cheered. Rachel bowed in appreciation. As she stood up and began to walk off the stage waving to the audience, she saw Pahana smiling at her and then he waved. Rachel’s heart about melted! As she walked off the stage, Micah hugged her and congratulated her on a spectacular and practically perfect performance.

After her group finished their dances, they took a break to eat. Rachel looked for Salali and soon found her. Salali hugged her and excitedly congratulated her on a perfect performance. She remarked that the audience was completely mesmerized while she performed; the passion for her dance was felt by all.

Just then, Pahana came up to Rachel and Salali. He enthusiastically congratulated her on her performance and informed her that he had become so entirely caught up in her dance that he actually forget where he was. Rachel thanked him then introduced him to Salali. After talking for a few minutes Pahana asked Rachel and Salali if they would like to join him for a small meal. They looked at each other, Rachel with stars in her eyes. Salali quickly mentioned that she promised her parents that she would find them immediately after the first dance group was finished but told Rachel that she could go and she would tell her mother where she was at. Rachel also said that she needed to change out of her costume then she would be able to go with him.

At her tent, Rachel put on her favorite tunic made out of a soft blue linen fabric with flowers embroidered around the neckline and hemline. The tunic lightly accentuated Rachel’s soft curves and accentuated her light colored eyes. Pahana took her arm and guided her toward his tent as he continued to praise her performance. Once they arrived, he introduced her to his parents, Len and Azelia. They both expressed their honor at meeting such a beautiful and graceful dancer. They indicated that they had watched her dance in other festivals and competitions and had always desired to meet her. They sat down on bright-colored and soft cushions and ate some dried meat and fruit while they talked.

Rachel learned that Len and Azelia were also dancers and would be dancing in two days. She enthusiastically expressed that she looked forward to watching them. Just then, a beautiful young women who Rachel thought was about her age, with long light-colored hair and eyes, came up and immediately hugged Pahana. He smiled and warmly hugged her back. Len and Azelia also warmly greeted her. Rachel suddenly felt foolish. She was beginning to really like Pahana, and now to learn that it appeared he may already be committed to someone. She felt foolish inside as she concluded that Pahana was just being kind to her, but she wondered for what reason. She tried not to let it show, but feared that her disappointment was so great that it would be quite obvious.

Then Pahana took the beautiful young woman by the hand and introduced her to Rachel, as his cousin and dance partner, Carmen. She looked at Rachel with awe and also a bit of humor in her eyes. Surprising Rachel, Carmen hugged her and told her how happy she was to meet her. She congratulated Rachel on the expressive and entrancing dance that she performed, then looked at Pahana with knowing eyes. He smiled and imperceptibly nodded at her. Carmen sat down next to Rachel and began chatting with her while they both ate some dried fruit. Rachel felt sudden relief as she realized who this beautiful girl was and took comfort that it appeared that Pahana had talked to Carmen about her.

When they had finished their meal, Rachel thanked Len and Azelia for the food and then excused herself as she wanted to see if Salali needed any help preparing for her performance. Azelia and Carmen hugged her and Pahana informed her that he would like to walk with her back to her tent. Rachel told him that it was not really necessary, but Pahana gently insisted. She could not resist his piercing eyes and agreed. As they began to walk away, Rachel just happened to notice Carmen give Pahana an approving look.

They enjoyed their walk. She thanked Pahana for the food and for walking her back. He then asked if she would sit with him during the afternoon performances. Rachel, her stomach full of butterflies, enthusiastically replied that she would love to sit with him. He informed her where he would be sitting and that he would look for her.

From that time on, Pahana and Rachel were practically inseparable. To the disappointment of many young women, Rachel had his complete attention during the open dances in the evening hours. Rachel and Pahana gracefully and easily danced together; it was as though they had been dancing together their whole lives.

The five day festival quickly came to a close; much too soon for Rachel who was completely smitten with Pahana. During the last evening of the festival, Rachel spent the entire evening with Pahana. They danced, and oh how Rachel enjoyed dancing with Pahana. They talked, they laughed, and they even cried as they thought about departing their separate ways. After all, they lived about a three days journey from each other.

While they were talking about their dreams, Len and Azelia strolled up to them. They looked at Pahana and Rachel, seeing the love and adoration in both of their eyes, and with parental concern and wisdom, asked them what was next. Pahana replied that they were just discussing that, trying to determine what they wanted and needed to do. He looked at his parents with pleading in his eyes and expressed that he did not want to leave Rachel. He confessed that he felt a familiarity about her and already believed that he desired to be with her forever. Rachel was a bit taken back by this revelation but felt elated. He looked at her and gently told her that he loved her and did not want to be away from her. Then (in front of his parents) tenderly leaned into her and gently kissed her lips.

Len, with wisdom and concern in his voice, asked Pahana what they had discussed doing. Pahana responded that he desired go home with them and tie up a few loose ends, then he wanted to travel to Rachel’s city, join the dance troupe there, and explore their relationship. He lovingly looked at Rachel then to his parents asking for their opinion and advice. Azelia gave him a big, long motherly hug and agreed with his plan. With a tear in her eye, she said that she would deeply miss him, but that he needed to follow his heart. She admitted that she already loved Rachel and would most enthusiastically welcome her to the family.

She turned to Rachel and asked her what she wanted. Rachel replied that she was a bit stunned how quickly this relationship developed; yet she really liked Pahana and wanted to be with him. She confessed that she had not yet given much though about being with him forever, but fervently desired to have the opportunity to see where this relationship would go. Pahana took her in his arms, kissed her and then hugged her like he never wanted to let her go, with his parents delightedly looking on.

(To be continued…)

Grace Part 1

Dancing and entertainment was an important part of the Jaredite culture. Similar to other cultures and eras, there was good entertainment and not so good entertainments over the hundreds of years of their existence.

As Jared, his brother, and their families traveled to the promised land, one way they praised their God was through dance.

They had many different types of dances. There were various ballroom-type dances, where couples danced together. They had their own genres of waltzes, upbeat dances like the swing, and the foxtrot. They also had a form of ballet, folk dances, and other types of dances that were unique to their society. Musicians were an integral part of the dances, as most dances were done to music. If musicians were not available, someone would tap out a beat for practice.

Many children took dance lessons while they were young. It improved coordination and actually helped with their studies, similar to the benefits of athletics. The children performed in dance recitals that the communities supported. Often, the recitals were combined with other performing arts.

One young Jaredite girl, Grace, loved to dance! She even began dancing before she walked. Any time she heard music, she danced. She was naturally gifted as her parents were dancers and loved to dance around their home.

One of Grace’s favorite stories was about how her parents met. She heard the story over and over again as she requested it often.

Grace’s parents met during a large five-day dance festival where dancers gathered from many surrounding cities to perform their various styles of dance and to learn from others.

Her father, Pahana, even in his youth was a well-known dancer, especially in couple dances. He was known for his strength, agility, and elegance. He could easily and eloquently pick up his female partners as they portrayed a story through dance. Several young girls, hearing and knowing about Pahana’s gift of dance, went to the dance festival, not only to perform themselves but also hoping to have an opportunity to dance with him.

Rachel, Grace’s mother, was a beautiful girl with light colored eyes and hair who was about 17 years old when she met Pahana. She was a bit above average height and very thin, yet her muscles were gracefully defined from hours of dance practice. She was a gifted dancer and well-known for her artistic abilities; she was more of a solo dancer, whereas Pahana was most often a couples dancer. Rachel loved performing in front of audiences as it gave her an outlet to express her inner feelings. She loved hearing the applause as she hoped her dances helped the audience to connect with their inner feelings and occasionally to God and inspire in them a desire to be a bit better.

Rachel desperately wanted to go to this particular dance festival. She learned that Pahana, who was just one year older than her, would be attending. She dearly longed for a chance to meet and dance with him. She had first noticed Pahana and his partner in a dance competition a few months earlier and was mesmerized as she observed his artistic grace and skill. Ever since that competition, she had wanted to meet him. She begged her father to take her to this specific dance festival so she would have a chance to meet and dance with Pahana. Even though she was a solo dancer, she had danced in enough couple dances that she had the confidence to easily dance with him.

Because of pressures at her father’s business, he was unsure if he would be able to take Rachel. She assured him that she would help him in anyway that she could. Her father, with twinkles in his eyes and seeing the determination in his daughter’s eyes asked her what would be the possibility that she would even be able to dance with Pahana; after all, would not most of the young women who went to the festival desire to dance with Pahana? He would not be able to dance with all the beautiful young women who attended; lovingly adding that Rachel would be the most beautiful of all of them. Rachel confided that she had a good feeling that she would be able to dance with him and that it would be the greatest experience of her life! Remembering the feelings he had had the first time he had seen her mother, her chuckled at her response and determined that he would do all he could do to fulfill his daughter’s desire.

Rachel was the only daughter of Paul and Lavena. She had two older brothers, Ruben and Pezi. Her mother passed away when she was a young girl, so her father raised her and her brothers on his own. Although her brothers loved to tease her, they adored her and were very protective of her. It was hard for the family, especially Paul, after Lavena died, but he received a lot of help from extended family members.

Rachel belonged to a dance troupe in her city and knew that a couple of the dancers, including one of her best friends Salali, would be traveling to the festival. She and Salali had been dancing together since they were very young and Salali’s mother, Micah was their dance teacher and coach. She mentioned this to her father and suggested the possibility that she could travel with them. Her father assured her that he would take that into consideration and talk to Micah.

The next day, while Paul and Rachel walked to the market to purchase food, Paul informed Rachel that he spoke with Micah and her husband, Donn, and they were more than willing and happy to have Rachel join them. Rachel looked at her father with excitement and love in her eyes. She gave him a big hug and kissed his cheek. He gave her some specific instructions, and assured her that he was happy that she could go and hoped that she would be able to meet and dance with Pahana.

The time to leave for the festival could not come soon enough for Rachel. She and Salali spent hours practicing their dances, receiving last minute instructions from Micah, and creating and organizing their costumes. With the help of a costume designer, Rachel went to one of the dressmakers to have a new costume made just for the festival. It was a beautiful flowing costume using light fabrics in several shades of blue that accentuated her beautiful and shapely body and allowed for complete, unrestricted movement.

The morning of the day before they left for the festival, Pezi and Rueben brought a medium-sized trunk into Rachel’s sleeping chamber. It was a beautiful trunk made out of sweet-smelling cedar wood with a carved picture of Rachel in an elegant dance pose on the lid. Rachel was shocked and surprised at what Pezi, with some help from Rueben, made for her. She put her nose to the trunk inhaling the sweet cedar scent and traced her finger over the elaborate carving. Rachel hugged her brothers and thanked them for the beautiful trunk. She was so surprised and deeply touched at the beauty of the trunk and that her brothers, who had teased her for much of her life, did something so generous for her. Rachel gently and carefully packed her clothes and costumes in her beautiful new trunk.

After Rachel and Salali, arrived at the festival, and set up their tents, they walked around to see who else was there. They recognized several of the attendees as they had seen them in various dance concerts and recitals. Suddenly, Rachel stopped and without saying a word, she pointed off in the distance. Salali, at first, did not understand what Rachel was doing; then she saw who Rachel was pointing at, it was Pahana! Rachel became giddy like a star-stuck girl and wanted to run to meet Pahana. Salali grabbed her arm and reminded her that she would get a chance to meet him.

Rachel and Salali continued to walk around where the attendees were setting up their tents and rehearsing. They talked to many dancers that they knew and met a few that they had seen in previous concerts. Rachel kept a watchful eye out for Pahana, but she did not see him again.

This particular festival was held was at one of the nicest outdoor theaters in the region. The stage was nestled at the bottom of a rounded hill, the perfect place to create a theater setting. The stage was created from thin hardwood strips, sanded to perfection and coated with a finish to protect and preserve the wood from weather. Hardwood walls were constructed behind and over the stage to facilitate scenery and acoustics. The stage and theater were used often for several different types of performances; plays were performed, choirs sang, musicians played, and dancers danced. Rachel and Salali walked to the stage and rehearsed parts of their dances on it. Both girls had already danced on this stage so they were familiar with it.

Since both girls were scheduled to dance the next day, they went back to their tent area to rehearse their routines with Micah observing and giving them last minute instructions to perfect their dances.

The next morning Rachel woke up when there was barely enough light to see, just before the sun was about to rise. She quietly left her tent and walked to a clearing where she could watch the sunrise. There were a few high feathery clouds in the sky that took on light orange and pink colors as the sun reached toward the horizon. Soon, the colors faded as the sun began its ascent and cast long shadows in the clearing. Rachel closed her eyes and said a silent prayer to express gratitude for a beautiful morning and for the great privilege to attend this festival.

As she was finishing her prayer, she heard quiet footsteps coming toward her. She opened her eyes and gasped! It was Pahana! He apologized for interrupting her and then introduced himself. He mentioned that he was also out watching the sunrise, saw her in the distance and thought he would come and join her; if she was agreeable to that.

Pahana was a few inches taller than Rachel and had dark hair with deep blue piercing eyes. Even with his tunic on, Rachel could tell that his body was well-defined and that he took very good care of himself.

Rachel, almost too stunned to answer, finally told Pahana her name, where she was from, and responded that she was happy to have him join her. Pahana asked her when she would be dancing and inquired about the type of dance that she did. Rachel, feeling giddy inside, answered his questions, and asked him about his dances. After talking for a few minutes, Rachel informed Pahana that she needed to return to her tent and prepare for her dance later that morning. Pahana asked if he could accompany her back; to which she readily agreed.

After arriving at her tent, Pahana wished Rachel luck with her dance and expressed his desire to see her again. Rachel, trying to stay calm despite all the excitement that she felt inside, thanked him, wished him luck with his dance, and enthusiastically replied that she would enjoy seeing him again.

As soon as Pahana left, Salali, who was watching from a distance, rushed over to Rachel and impatiently insisted to know all that had happened. Rachel, jumping up and down with excitement, shared all the details with her friend.

(To be continued…)

Thomas’s Stories

Author’s note:

I have been working on Thomas’s story since the end of April. It’s hard for me to imagine that I have worked on a single story for that long, and it is still not done! I was curious of how pages long the story was, so I put all the stories in one document…it’s 62 pages long!

I feel the need to take a break from Thomas’s story for awhile as other stories want to be written. I do not know when I’ll come back to finish it; I know, it’s not a good place to pause a story. I also have no idea what will happen to Thomas as he begins a new life in Helki’s community. This will all come in time.

Thank you for reading the stories and please share them with others!

Thomas Part 21

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 20

Surprising everyone, Thomas sadly but confidently disclosed that he would go in for Shiblon. Micco looked at him incredulously and warned him against doing that. Thomas took Micco aside and the others in the group followed to hear what Thomas had to say. Before Thomas could say anything, Micco reminded him of how this would hurt his daughter. He did not want to see her go through sorrow and grief like she had done before. With tears threatening to escape his eyes, he told Thomas that he finally had his daughter back. Marcus also pleaded with him not to go. He expressed his anger at his brother who stupidly put them in this situation, only thinking of himself and not even considering how this would affect his family. Now, it appeared the consequences were further reaching than anyone could imagine.

Melchior reminded Thomas that he had no idea what he was getting in to. He could not guarantee that the king’s army would be able to get him out alive. The community had grown in size since the last time he was there and he knew that all members, including women and girls, rigorously trained to fight battles. Malachi remarked how eerily calm and confident Helki seemed, he acted almost king-like. Thomas acknowledged their remarks but told them that deep down, he felt like he needed to go. It felt as though God was telling him to go.

With that said, he turned and looked with determination at Helki and commanded him to bring Shiblon to them and then he would take his place. Helki ordered two of his companions to go back and bring Shiblon.

After they left and while waiting for them to return, Thomas soberly asked Micco to send a letter to his parents explaining the situation and why he is doing what he is doing. He also requested Micco to warn his parents that Cherubim might be in danger and to seriously consider relocating to somewhere Helki could not find them. He asked him to advise them that they would need to be careful since it seemed that Helki had spies everywhere and could possibly know if they left. He also asked Micco to encourage Pat to keep the business going, that he would be back in time. He gave Micco a big hug to give to Maren and Daniel. He told him to tell them that he loved them and would be back as soon as he could. He pled with Melchior and Malachi to get an army to the community, soon, as something had to be done to stop the evil practices.

He then requested a blessing from Micco and Marcus. Surrounded by the others in their group, Micco and Marcus placed their hands on his head. Micco, with tears streaming down his face, blessed him with an assurance that he was following God’s will. He blessed him with a measure of protection, however could not bless him with complete protection. He commanded angels to always be with him, even in difficult circumstances. He blessed him with the ability to keep his covenants. He told him to pray daily and to always stay close to God.

As Micco closed the blessing, all the men in the group had tears flowing down their faces. Micco still doubted Thomas’s decision to go but felt the assurance that it was God’s will.

Thomas counseled Micco and his sons to keep a close eye on Shiblon. Feeling concern for him, he told them that he did not want to see him back there. He assured them that he would pray for Shiblon, and also Maren and Daniel.

Within the hour, they saw 3 people riding towards them. Thomas immediately knew one of them was Shiblon. As they came to the group, Micco and Rowtag ran over to Shiblon, helped him dismount the horse and hugged him tight. Shiblon’s horse, seeing him, whinnied in greeting. Shiblon was surprised and felt hesitant seeing all who had come for him. Helki spoke to him and asked him if he really wanted to go to his home, or stay in the community where he would be surrounded by beautiful girls, reminding him of his time with Dena and others who were looking forward to their time with him.

Looking at Helki, then looking at his Father, then at his brothers and Thomas, Shiblon commented that it was an amazing place. He described in detail the delicacy of the food, wine and all the beautiful women. It seemed as though he had no regard for anyone but himself as he appeared that he loved his short time there. Marcus looked at him with disdain in his eyes knowing that part of the enjoyment was because of Dena.

Deron, who had been quiet most of the trip, finally spoke up and expressed his sincere desire to Shiblon to come home. He empathically expressed the emotions of the family and the extreme sadness they felt when he left. He also mentioned that he understood his hesitations about God as he has had many similar thoughts and doubts, he just never expressed them to anyone. He sincerely apologized for not being more forthcoming with his thoughts and feelings, that maybe if he had expressed them, Shiblon would have found greater empathy and more answers.

Deron then recounted his struggles with his faith. He told Shiblon, and the others, how he had completely doubted his parents faith and teachings. He hated to go to worship services, but went anyway, putting on a show, hoping everyone would believe that he was happy and had a strong testimony. He apologized for lying to his parents and to him. He then thoughtfully recalled how he regained his testimony.

He reminded Shiblon of the day when he was out hunting with Marcus and Rowtag and Rowtag accidently shot him with an arrow in the shoulder. He said it was the most painful thing he had ever experienced. He wished that the arrow would have just pierced his heart and killed him instantly rather than to endure the intense pain he felt. Marcus, knowing that the arrow needed to come out, and knowing how painful that would be, without saying a word, quickly pulled the arrow out. He screamed with the intensity of the pain. Rowtag put cloth over the wound and then they carried him back home as quick as they could. The pain continued to be intense with every movement and every step; in fact, he passed out for part of the trek home. As soon as they arrived home, a healer was sent for.

The healer came and made a poultice of several healing herbs to put on the wound. Again, the pain was incredibly intense, so much so that Deron passed out again. He reverently conveyed what happened to him during that time. Looking off into the distance, he recalled that a beautiful angel came to him and reminded him of the testimony that he once had of the coming of Jesus Christ. He also reminded him that God loved him and his parents loved him. He instructed him to read the scriptures and listen to the prophets to find true and lasting happiness. After that experience, Deron never doubted again.

Micco looked at him with awe and amazement in his eyes, he did not know about Deron’s feelings and experience; Deron never told anyone—until now. Micco asked why he never told anyone about his feelings. Deron replied that he did not want to hurt his mother.

Deron put his arm around Shiblon, and apologized for not saying anything sooner. Shiblon asked him how he knew that vision was real, that it was not just in his imagination? Deron responded saying that the vision was just as real as they were standing there.

An impatient Helki broke up the reunion by telling them it was time for Thomas to depart with them. Shiblon looked at him in horror and said that he was not told that Thomas would be taking his place. With his devilish grin, Helki said that was the only way he would let him go. Shiblon then, in furry, told Thomas that he would not allow him to take his place! He was the stupid one to have followed Motega and Dena. He now knew he was wrong and wanted to make all things right again! He would go back! He did not want Thomas to go.

Thomas put his arm around him to comfort him and assure him that all would be alright. Shiblon shouted No, imploring that it would not be alright. The community was enticing, but there was something wrong. He implied that he had felt that before he allowed himself to go, but he was too caught up with the teasing and seductive advancements of Dena. He begged Thomas not to go; he would go back. With tears beginning to form in his eyes, he bore into Micco’s eyes, silently pleading with him to not allow Thomas to go.

Helki’s men seized Thomas, unarmed him, and ordered him to mount one of their horses, then took him away from those who loved him.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 20

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 19

Abigail and Maren gathered food for the men to take with them on their journey to rescue Shiblon. They filled water skins and helped to prepare the horses. They also prepared Shiblon’s favorite horse for him to ride home. The men gathered bed rolls and weapons. They each had swords and knives, as well as bows and arrows. They did not want to use any of the weapons, but brought them to hunt and for their own protection. Melchior warned them that at times, members of Helki’s group had used violence to accomplish their purposes.

As the group prepared to leave, Malachi rode up and announced that he would also like to go on the journey. Micco shook his hand and thanked him for coming along; they could use all the help that they could get. Thomas, Melchior, Micco, Rowtag, Marcus, and Daren packed their food, water, and bedrolls on their horses, then before mounting them, Micco offered a sincere, heartfelt prayer asking for protection and that Shiblon would be protected and desire to come home. They mounted their horses and departed, with Micco guiding Shiblon’s horse. They set out on a well-traveled road towards Helki’s community. It was about a one and a half’s day journey.

As they neared the community, both Melchior and Malachi commented on how the community had grown since the last time they were there. Then Melchior gave them some final instructions. He strongly reminded them not to use their weapons, unless it was in self-defense. He told them that most likely Shiblon would be hidden from them and most people in the community would be very wary of them and would not give them any information. He also instructed Rowtag and Marcus to stay on either side of Thomas to help protect him.

Suddenly, they saw five horses with riders quickly riding from the community to meet them. Thomas immediately recognized one of the riders as Helki. Nervousness and a sense of foreboding overshadowed him, but he brushed it off as an irrational fear.

Helki stopped as he reached Micco’s group. Thomas noticed that Helki was dressed differently than he had been when he previously visited his woodshop. He wore a skirt similar to the one Motega wore with an elaborate leather belt, an embroidered purple cape made from very fine silk wrapped around his shoulders, and his bare chest was decorated with gold and silver chains with a jade jaguar head attached to one of the chains. He wore several rings on his fingers made of gold and precious crystals. Even though he was not nearly as big as Micco and his sons, and even Thomas, he had a forbidding arrogant presence about him that unconsciously demanded respect and honor from those he met, even if it was not deserving.

Helki warmly greeted the travelers and welcomed them to his community. He offered to take them in and show them around and invited them to stay. Micco thanked him for the offer and told him that they were there to take Shiblon home. Helki momentarily stared at him with disdainful control and confidence and laughed. He calmly informed Micco that Shiblon was happy in his community and had no desire to leave. He complimented Micco on how well he taught Shiblon in his trade. Shiblon’s skills in metal work would be put to good use as he was already beginning to design and create knives and spears. Micco, wanting to jump off of his horse and attack Helki, mustered up as much calm in his voice as he could manage and ordered Helki to take him to Shiblon; he desired to see him and talk to him. Helki smirked and replied that he could not do that since he was still in community training and was not allowed to see outsiders for another several weeks.

Dismounting his horse, Micco walked over to Helki and demanded to see his son. Marcus and Rowtag also quickly dismounted and followed their father, one on each side of him. Helki also dismounted along with two of his companions, who were almost as large as Micco and his sons. They carried large curved knives on their waistbands which were plain to see and were easily accessible.

Helki stood in front of Micco exuding complete self-assuredness and control, even though he was several inches shorter. Smiling sinisterly, he informed Micco that Shiblon took an oath and covenant of allegiance to the community and to break the oath could result in death. Micco, with control, yet with an angry edge in his voice demanded to see Shiblon. Helki convincingly told him that would be impossible. Melchior spoke up and reminded Helki that Shiblon was still only 16 years old so was technically still under the charge of his parents and informed him that he could be charged with kidnapping if he did not allow Micco to see him. Helki, with continued arrogant cockiness, reminded him that Shiblon came on his own will and had already thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Dena. Micco angrily asked what they poisoned him with, asserting that according to a witness, Shiblon was not quite himself when he left. Helki assuredly responded that their community was so appealing to many that they did not need to poison anyone to get them to come. Again, he arrogantly invited them to take a tour and see the community for themselves. He confidently assured them that they would be greatly impressed and desire to stay.

Dismounting his horse, Thomas walked to Helki and asked what they could do to bring Shiblon back home. Marcus and Rowtag immediately rushed to his side. He reminded Helki that they could press charges of kidnapping and that would bring the King’s army to the community. Completely unmoved and full of haughtiness, Helki reminded them that the king’s army had been there many times and could not find evidence of any wrong doing. Micco, ardently and assuredly declared that he would bring his son home, even if he had to file charges of kidnapping and bring in the king’s army.

With a calm confidence in his voice, Helki smugly assured Micco that Shiblon was fine, he was there because he wanted to be there, he would deny any charges of kidnapping, and that he could not see anyone, except for a few select people, including Dena and some other beautiful girls, for several weeks.

Thomas calmly asked what they could do to bring Shiblon home. Helki, the corners of his mouth moving into a nefarious smirk, suggested that they could possibly work out a trade: Thomas for Shiblon. Thomas’s heart about stopped; his foreboding feeling flashed back to him as Helki informed him that he had heard about his new baby sister and asked if he had seen her yet. Recognizing a threat to his family, Thomas told him that planned to visit his parents as soon as they brought Shiblon home. Melchior gave Thomas an odd look; Thomas informed him that he and Helki they were from the same hometown.

Helki immediately interrupted affirming that he and Thomas grew up in together and then spitefully accused Thomas of cheating at all the competitions that he became so well-known for. Micco immediately came to Thomas’s defense and replied that Thomas was a good man, and always had been good and honest.

Melchior and Malachi, moving towards Helki, calmly and determinedly demanded that Shiblon be brought to them. Helki emphatically denied their request, unless Thomas took his place. In his manipulative arrogance, he attempted to entice Thomas with promises that the most beautiful women in the community would be standing in line to be brought to him to satisfy his desires. He would have the best food and clothes and that he would enjoy far greater success in his business.

Micco, with disgust on his face, calmly and passionately stated that was not an option, that if he and the group were not allowed to go into the community to get Shiblon, he would personally file charges of kidnapping and send in the king’s army to retrieve him and any others who were held there without their consent. He then remounted his horse, told the others to mount their horses and informed Helki that they were going to find his son. Helki informed him that may not be a good idea as they were armed and they trained the men in the community to fight to the death; it could be a strong possibility that they would not leave alive. Melchior spoke quietly to Micco and counseled him to take Helki’s warning seriously.

Helki again, with deceptive kindness, invited them to come into the community to see where Shiblon would be living, but it would be under his terms and his guards would follow close behind them. They would not go anywhere close to where Shiblon was staying.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 19

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 18

Several months passed by. Thomas had not received any more threats and saw Maren on a regular basis. Their love for each other slowly grew and flourished. He and Pat stayed busy as many new customers came to them for their work. They wondered how many were part of the king’s army; they did not know, but were grateful for the business. Pat married his sweetheart, Tsifira, and they started their new life together.

Motega and Dena, among others from Helki’s community, continued to come to the village and speak in the marketplace. They had obtained many followers, many left their homes and families to go live in their community. Shiblon was still obsessed with Dena and went to see her as often as he could, but thus far had remained with his family. His parents were felt constantly on edge, concerned that he would be caught in her web and leave. Dena was a very alluring temptress to Shiblon; she had a strong lustful pull on him, as well as other young men. Unfortunately, Shiblon did not see that; he only focused on her beauty and naively thought she had eyes just for him.

On one beautiful sunny day, a messenger came to the woodshop with a letter from David. Thomas opened it in eager anticipation as it was about time for his mother’s baby to be born. Th baby had arrived! His mother delivered a strong, healthy baby girl. They named her Cherubim as they felt she was an angel sent directly from God. Thomas wept with joy at the news. David requested that he come home as soon as he could to meet his new baby sister.

Thomas told everyone who stopped by the woodshop about his sister. As soon as he was able, he ran to Maren’s home to share the great news with her. He hoped to take Maren and Daniel home with him to meet his parents and new sister and decided that he would discuss that with her and her parents.

When he reached Maren’s home, Satordi eagerly barked and greeted Thomas. They had become best buddies during the last few months as Thomas was able to spend more time with Maren. Daniel came running out, followed by a teary eyed Maren.

Thomas immediately hugged Maren and asked her what was wrong. She took his hand, and led him into the house with Daniel following behind.

When they walked into the main sitting room, Abigail was in tears with Marcus, with a distressed look on his face, sitting next to her with his arm protectively around her. Thomas looked at Maren and Marcus for information. Marcus sadly informed him that Shiblon had run away to be with Dena. Tears continued to stream down Maren’s face; Thomas took her into his arms to comfort her.

Over the last few months, Shiblon went to the marketplace as often as he could. He developed what he thought was a friendship with Dena, as she continued to seduce him into her web. His family, Thomas, and others warned him about Dena and the group but he would not listen. Since he was now 16, he loudly and angrily protested that he was old enough to be a man and to make his own choices to his family.

Levi, one of Shiblon’s friends, was with Shiblon at the marketplace and was the one who came to tell Micco and Abigail what had happened. Levi was also somewhat interested in the teaching of Motega and others that came from the same group, but not as fascinated as Shiblon was. He informed Micco and Abigail that Dena had enticed Shiblon with promises of being entertained by her and other beautiful women, and wealth. She gave him a gold chain with a jade jaguar head, similar to one she wore, and strongly suggested that he come with her. Feeling full of lust and desire, he blindly followed her. Levi said that he tried to stop him, but it was as if Shiblon had been drugged. He described how several men who appeared to be shopping in the marketplace, subtly surrounded Shiblon to be sure he stayed with Dena. Shiblon mounted a horse with Dena and they left with the others following close behind.

Micco asked Levi about the possibility that Shiblon had somehow been poisoned. Levi did not think so, saying that Dena seemed to have some kind of alluring power. He stated that he watched her use this power with other young men, and even almost to him. He expressed his concern and regret that Shiblon did not see through the deception and realize that he was not the only one who was allured by Dena. However, recalled that Dena had given Shiblon a drink or water and guessed it was possible there was poison in it, but he also received a drink and he felt fine.

Thomas asked Micco what he could do to help get Shiblon back. Micco said that he, Rowtag and Marcus were going to Helki’s community to bring him home. Deron, Maren’s 19-year old brother, immediately spoke up and said that he also wanted to go. Levi warned them that they needed to be careful. Even though Levi was young, Shiblon’s age, he had an inner sense of the evil of Helki and his followers, which is why he had not gone with Shiblon.

About that moment, Satordi started barking; Maren and Nastas went to the door. Melchior stood patiently outside, waiting for someone to come and control the dog. Nastas firmly held Satordi as he introduced him to Melchior. Satordi instantly calmed down realizing this man did not pose a threat to his family. After greeting those in the house, Melchior offered his services to help rescue Shiblon. He explained that many other young men, and some young women have been seduced by Helki’s group and were taken away from their families. Because these young men and women left on their own volition, the group could not be charged with forcefully taking them. He went on to explain that once they were at the community, they were not allowed to leave for several months after arriving.

With great appreciation, Micco accepted Melchior’s offer. Feeling a great love and responsibility for Shiblon, Thomas informed Micco that he also wanted to go to find Shiblon. Melchior expressed extreme apprehension reminding Thomas of the threats he had previously received. He expressed concern that Thomas would be walking straight into a trap. Thomas stated that he shared the same concern, but hoped that they all would be safe. Micco suggested that having Thomas along might give them leverage since Shiblon seemed to have a great respect for Thomas and may listen to him whereas he may not listen to others. Melchior reluctantly agreed but on condition of an added precaution to ensure his safety.

Micco informed Melchior of his current plans then asked for suggestions. Melchior shared his limited knowledge about the community. As a group, they counseled together as what they would need to do to bring Shiblon home.

Thinking about his parents and his new baby sister, Thomas quickly wrote a short letter explaining that he needed to help find Maren’s brother and he would need to delay his coming to see them but would come as soon as he could. He found a messenger to deliver the letter.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 18

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 17

Thomas explained to Shiblon the importance of following specific guidelines in woodworking and in metallurgy like his father did. Without following specific guidelines, the work would be inferior and not hold up to regular use. He went to the back of his woodshop and brought out a large bow. He showed Shiblon the bow and asked if he thought it was good bow. He inspected it and mentioned that he would love to have the bow; it was a beautiful bow and looked to be very well made.

Taking the bow back, Thomas shared a time when he was younger and just felled a large hickory tree. He was anxious to use the wood to create a bow. His father warned him about the importance of letting the wood dry completely before trying to shape it into a bow. Thomas remembered how impatient he was and after letting the wood pieces dry for a short couple of weeks, rather than for several months or even a couple of years. He was positive the wood was ready. He spent hours and hours on the bow and it was beautiful. He planned to use it for one of his competitions.

After finishing the bow, he practiced shooting targets with it to assure it was perfectly aligned. He seemed to have needed to adjust it more than most of his bows. Even though he believed he had it adjusted perfectly, his shot would be off. He would readjust the string, it would work for a while, then need realigning. He was beginning to feel very frustrated with the bow since perfect alignment was imperative for his competition. Yet again, he went to great effort to ensure it was perfectly aligned, then took it to a competition. During the warm-ups at the competition, his aim was off again. Finally, he did a thorough inspection of the bow and discovered it was slightly warped, just enough to where he would never be able to use it. He mentioned to Shiblon how grateful he was that he had taken another bow which he knew was made correctly.

He then handed the bow back to Shiblon and asked if he still wanted the bow. Shiblon examined it more carefully and found where the wood was warped. Thomas pointed out a couple other places where the wood slightly warped over several months after the competition.

Continuing his story, Thomas expressed his frustration about the bow to his grandfather who then reminded him about his impatience of waiting until the wood was completely dry before shaping it into a bow. He informed Shiblon that he honestly thought the that wood was dry enough to shape and carve and would be alright. He recalled how his grandfather pointed out to him the importance of the wood being completely dry before using it for anything, that even though it appeared to be dry, there was most likely moisture still in the wood. Even to build chairs, tables, boxes, the wood needed to be completely dry. Thomas acknowledged that he did not want to believe his grandfather, but over time, he learned the importance of only using timber that was completely dry, even if it took a couple years to dry. He explained to Shiblon that he had been tempted several times to begin a bow or a carving with wood that had not been completely dried, but the experience with his bow was a valuable lesson for him that helped lead to his success.

Shiblon asked if that was why he had so much timber in his woodshop. Thomas replied that was why and he was very careful to assure wood was dry before it was used to make something for a customer.

Thomas asked Shiblon about the steps his father used as he created works with metals and if there was any step that he could skip to save him time and effort. Both Shiblon and Pat laughed as they thought about the many times their father tried short cuts that only created more work and inferior products. Pat recalled the one time a sword that Micco made came out of the hilt during a battle because an important step was missed as he was making swords as quickly as he could. Micco was very grateful that this did not cause his customer to die or be severely wounded in the battle. Pat commented that from that time forth, Micco assured all of his products were of the highest standards.

Feeling somewhat frustrated, Shiblon asked what wood crafting and metal work had to do with obeying all the commandments. Thomas explained that when we know the entire picture, then it is easier to understand why we needed the commandments. He reminded Shiblon of the great Plan of Salvation given by our Heavenly Father and the importance of the coming of Jesus Christ in that plan.

Interrupting him, Shiblon asked if he actually believed that himself. Thomas hesitated, then slowly said yes. He went on to say that he doubted for so long, he wondered how Jesus could actually come and die for them. He wondered why a savior was even needed. He admitted that at times, he doubted the actual presence of a God, especially a loving God; but suddenly, in his need to help Shiblon understand, he was given the sweet assurance that God does live and that Jesus will come and atone for their sins. He began to weep as he said these words. Pat had tears come to his eyes as he also felt the sweet assurance of the Holy Ghost testifying that what Thomas said was true and right.

Adding to what Thomas said, Pat shared his feelings about God and the Plan of Salvation, and how Jesus Christ was the center of that plan. Even though Jesus had not come yet, Pat shared how he had felt the powerful influence of the spirit confirming to him that He would come, just as all the prophets had testified.

Thomas added that his parents always taught him that it was freeing to obey God’s commandments. Although God gave man agency, man would always be more free by obeying His commandments and sin brought bondage. Just as missing important steps in woodworking and metallurgy results in inferior or damaged products, failure to keep the commandments results in bondage and not being as whole and complete as he could be.

Shiblon felt like he had been trapped in a corner. He expressed that he felt that he had been betrayed by Thomas, the one person he thought he could trust with his feelings about God, one person who he thought would agree with him. He resentfully expressed his disappointment to Thomas that he was suddenly a believer. Thomas reminded him that he had always believed, he had just forgotten for a time that he did believe.

With all the energy of his heart and tears in his eyes, Thomas expressed his love for Nara and the hope that he will be with her forever. He expressed his gratitude and love for Maren and how he hoped to have a great life with her and that somehow in the eternities, his love for Maren would be rewarded and that she and Teetonka could be together forever. He asserted his now firm conviction that God will make everything right in the next life. He testified of his belief in Jesus Christ and the importance of following the prophets.

Pipi, who was laying next to Thomas, quietly got up and licked Shiblon’s hand as if he were trying to tell him that all would be okay. He then went to Thomas and jumped up on his lap as if he were pleased with the words he had spoken. All three laughed as Pipi did this, adding some lightness and peace to a tense situation.

Thanking Thomas for his words, Shiblon told him that he would think about what he said, but still was not convinced about the reality of God and especially of the coming of Jesus Christ. He used the same argument as all the nonbelievers: How could anyone know of something that is to come? Pat stared at him disbelievingly, yet with love, and asked him if he did not feel the spirit that was there. Shiblon replied that he wanted to feel it but did not feel anything different, then added his wonderment of why they were crying; two large, grown men with tears in their eyes.

He then stated that he needed to figure this out for himself; he needed time and space. Pat promptly directed him to talk to the prophets, teachers, and their parents, not those who were trying to destroy their faith and their lives. Shiblon replied that he had listened to those people his entire life, now it was time to hear the other side. Feeling some empathy towards him, Thomas told him he understood his feelings and asked him to at least take his experiences in to consideration. He reminded Shiblon that he would not find joy and happiness in what Motega and Dena taught. While he may find some temporary pleasure and gratification, he would never find the long-lasting joy and happiness that his parents had. He then pled with all the sincerity of his heart for Shiblon to seriously heed his words.

Thomas wished he could warn Shiblon of all the dangers of listening to Motega and his group but knew it would only push him away. He felt as though Shiblon were like a younger brother and desperately wanted to help him but knew he could only do so much. Fortunately Shiblon was still considered underage at age 15, so his parents still had responsibility over him for another year or so. He reflected back to when he was 15 and felt grateful for the competitions that he was involved in that helped to keep him focused. He also felt a strong gratitude for his grandfather who helped him through some tough times. He then thought of Nara; he knew when he was 15 that he wanted to marry her. That decision proved to be valuable to him as it gave him a focus and a very good reason to stay close to God.

Feeling a strong urge to leave, Shiblon abruptly stood up and stated that he was going home. Pat looked at him with skepticism in his eyes; Shiblon responded with a snarky attitude that he would go straight home. Besides, he figured that Motega and Dena were gone. As he walked walk out of the woodshop, Thomas let him know that he could come and talk anytime.

Reflecting on the conversation, Pat mentioned that Shiblon had always been more free-spirited than the rest of the family. He had always questioned his parents more than all his other siblings, especially when it came to matters of religion. Thomas expressed his empathy towards Shiblon as he had his doubts about God; then conveyed his deep gratitude for what he had just experienced, feelings that he had not felt since in his early marriage with Nara. He was so grateful to again know that God existed and to feel his love and mercy for him. Pat thanked him for the powerful witness that he gave of God, Jesus, and the Plan of Salvation. Thomas and Pat then returned to work.

The next day Micco came by the woodshop to express his profound gratitude to Thomas. He mentioned that Shiblon told him about their conversation and that what Thomas expressed to him actually helped, but he still questioned the reality of God and the coming of Jesus and wanted to continue to search. Micco’s deep blue eyes looked sad as he knew that Shiblon would most likely go to the marketplace again to see if Motega and Dena were there, or if any others came to talk to the people. He wished that he could completely prevent Shiblon from going to the marketplace and mentioned his desire to do better to keep him busier at home and in his business, but ultimately knew he could not keep his free-willed son chained up.

(To be continued…)