Thomas Part 15

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 14

The next day started out uneventfully for Thomas. He worked in his woodshop, met with a few customers, then resumed working. After taking a break for a late midday meal, he heard Pipi and Riporty suddenly begin to bark, barking happily like it was someone they knew and loved. Thomas quickly put his tools down on his workbench and walked out to the front of his woodshop to find Pipi and Riporty eagerly jumping and prancing around his parents! He ran to them, lifting Mary into the air and twirling her around, then happily hugging David. It had been several months since he had seen his parents so he was extremely excited to see them, more so than he would have thought. He invited them to the back of his woodshop where there was a small table and a few chairs. He offered them some water and something to eat, which they gratefully accepted.

Thomas asked them what brought them to his village since it was at least a two-day journey from their home. David and Mary looked at each other, gleefully smiling like two young children who had a secret. Mary could not hold back any longer and excitedly revealed to Thomas that she was with child! Thomas, feeling stunned and shocked, gazed at David for confirmation. David smiled, laughed, clapped him on the back and confirmed it was true; Thomas would be a big brother. Tears came to Mary’s eyes as she told him that she had about another five moons until the baby came. She had not told anyone yet because of past experiences trying to have children. She hoped that she was far enough along so the baby would be born healthy without any problems. David mentioned that he was the first person that they told except for the healer that has been helping them and she was sworn to secrecy.

Still feeling dumbfounded by the news, Thomas hugged Mary and told her how happy he was for her and for their family. He could hardly believe that he would be a brother, it was something he wanted his entire life. Even though there would be a large age gap between them, Thomas was definitely old enough to be the baby’s father, he was thrilled. His excitement for his mother was beyond belief. He decided that he was done with work for the day and asked his parents to join him at his house.

Before heading to Thomas’s house, Mary and David openly admired at all the work that Thomas had done. David was especially pleased and commented that his work had greatly improved, especially in the small intricate details in the animal carvings. Thomas beamed with delight at being praised by his father. He expressed his love for carving and became more adept with each piece he carved. He also revealed that he had some training from an expert wood carver who demonstrated to him several techniques to add detail and a more realistic look to his carvings.

Thomas showed David a couple of chairs that he had struggled with; then asked them how long they would be able to stay. David answered that they would be there for about two days and then needed to head back home. He explained that the healer wanted Mary back home as soon as possible. Thomas then asked his father if he could help him with the chairs, David examined them and stated he would be honored to help.

Mary walked to the house, David and Thomas enjoyed a lively conversation while they unhitched the horses from the wagon they had traveled in, put them in the barn, and gave them grain and water. They walked back to the wagon so David could retrieve a few items and handed Thomas a large rectangular item that was covered in cloth. Thomas glanced at him with curious eyes. David smiling and with a twinkle in his eye told him that he could see what was under the cloth once they were in the house. Thomas instinctively knew it was a painting that his mother created, but had no idea of what it could be.

Mary seated herself on a handcrafted chair that Thomas made out of hickory wood, anxiously awaiting her husband and son. As she waited, she admired the quality of the chair and the other items that Thomas had made.

As soon as Thomas and David entered the house, Thomas set the rectangular bundle upright on the floor; then eagerly asked if he could now remove the cloth cover. David and Mary excitedly told him he could. He pulled off the cloth and stared in amazement at what he saw. It was an exquisite painting of him in his woodshop. It depicted him with an unfinished bow in one hand and a carving tool in his other hand. He was looking forward steadfastly. In the background was a faint image of his beautiful Nara, dressed in a pale white dress with her hands out, appearing as if she were encouraging him to move forward. The painting was framed in a light maple wood that David crafted specifically for it. Thomas appreciatively gazed at the many elaborate details in the painting—carved animals in the background, tools scattered on a tool bench, Pipi and Riporty laying on the floor, Nara’s long beautiful hair flowing behind her, among so many other details. Thomas, with tears flowing down his cheeks, went to Mary and held her in his arms, crying into her shoulders. David joined the hug. Once he regained his composure, he told he mother how much he loved her and expressed as much gratitude as he could for the painting. They examined the painting together and identified many of the small intricate details imbedded in the painting, including Jesus Christ in the top left corner with his hands outstretched to Thomas. The image of Jesus was so subtle, Thomas did not see it at first. Mary disclosed to Thomas that she felt Nara’s hand as she created the painting; ideas of the small intricate details came to her as dew settles on grass in the morning.

After spending several minutes admiring the painting, Thomas retrieved some bread, cheese, and deer jerky for an early evening meal. While they ate, Thomas asked more questions about the baby and how Mary was doing. She reported that she had a couple weeks where she felt sick, but for the most part, she felt good, just tired. After all, she stated, she was not as young as she used to be! They all laughed. Thomas complimented her, stating that she still looked beautiful and did not look a day older than 25. Mary laughed and thanked him for the compliment.

Becoming more somber, Thomas informed his parents that he had some news to share with them. He first talked about Maren and Daniel, only mentioning that her husband had died. Both Mary and David looked at him with hope in their eyes; they wanted him to move on with his life and find someone he could love. They both expressed interest in meeting Maren and Daniel before they left to go home. Thomas mentioned that right now would not be a good time to meet her. He then reluctantly recounted Helki’s visits and the threats made to him, Maren, and her family.

Feeling like he was stabbed in the heart, David expressed remorse in the actions of Helki. David and Mary knew Helki’s parents well and knew they were good people. They were well aware of the problems Helki had created for them and expressed that they had hoped he would have changed as he matured, but declared that it seemed to have worsened.

Thomas recounted the details of how Maren’s husband died. Mary’s face paled as her heart went to Helki’s mother and the grief and pain she must be feeling. She commented that Helki’s mother, even though she attempts to put on a happy face, looks as though she is deeply burdened. Now that Mary had a greater understanding she resolved to spend more time with her once they were back home.

David and Mary expressed deep concern for their son. They suggested that he go back to their village. Thomas mentioned that he considered that but did not feel it would be right to run away from the problem.

About that moment, there was eager barking from Pipi and Riporty and a knock on the door. Thomas opened the door to Micco and Rowtag filling the space with their large bodies. Thomas excitedly welcomed them into the house where he introduced them to his parents. They all shook hands and Thomas invited them to sit on cushions, since he did not have enough chairs for everyone. David and Mary moved their chairs so they were facing Micco and Rowtag.

Micco and Rowtag’s eyes immediately turned to the painting. They carefully and admiringly studied it as Thomas explained some of the details. They turned to Mary looking at her with awe and admiration at her astounding work. Micco expressed the desire to have Mary paint something for him in the near future. Mary replied that she would be happy to create a painting for him.

Micco conveyed his appreciation to David and Mary for raising such an amazing son. He recounted Thomas’s experiences with Satordi and that he knew he could completely trust him. David agreed that Thomas was trustworthy declaring that he was honored to call him his son.

Micco then asked David if Thomas had informed them about the recent happenings and threats. Thomas answered saying that he told them part of the threats, but had not had the chance to finish. Mary expressed concern for Thomas’s safety as well as Maren’s. She added that she looked forward to meeting Maren and Daniel. Micco smiled and told her that he hoped that it would be sooner rather than later. He also mentioned that Daniel was pretty smitten with Thomas and constantly begged to see him again so he could fly. They laughed as Thomas explained how he held Daniel in the air like he was flying. Mary put her hands to her heart and expressed how she longed to meet him.

Thomas spent a few moments informing Micco and Rowtag about his encounter with Helki the previous day. Concern spread over both Micco and Rowtag’s faces as Rowtag explained how a few men, and even women, had been taken against their will to Helki’s community. Mary immediately gasped and asked how Thomas could be protected, and again brought up the possibility of him returning home. Because Helki made a direct threat to Thomas, David asked if that wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him. Rowtag answered that it probably was not, since no one else heard the threat, but reminded Thomas to tell a member of the king’s army next time they stopped by.

As the group discussed the situation, they determined that Thomas’s returning home would not change their situation or the threats. Thomas assured Mary that the king’s army were discretely working with him and Micco’s family to help protect them and to find those who were making the threats. After discussing the situation for several more minutes, Micco and Rowtag announced that they needed to head back home. Before leaving they expressed to David and Mary what a pleasure it was to meet them and that they hoped to see them again in the near future.

After Micco and Rowtag left, Mary, with tears in her eyes, hugged Thomas and made him promise to be careful. Thomas promised her that he would.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 14

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 13

The next morning, Thomas woke feeling like he had a pit in his stomach. He wondered how he had gotten himself in this web of intrigue. One thing he knew for certain, he wanted to get to know Maren better but did not want to cause any safety concerns for her, her family, or himself.

After eating some bread and cheese, Thomas fed his animals, then followed by Pipi and Riporty, he walked to his woodshop where he resumed work on Marcus’s bow. He was grateful for the diversion that working with wood brought to him. He always felt a deep sense of gratification as he utilized wondrous materials from nature to create works of art.

Later that morning, Pipi and Riporty began eagerly barking; Thomas knew that bark meant someone was approaching his woodshop. He put down the bow he was working on and greeted the visitors. There were three men who were with the kings army. They were dressed in light weight armor and carried swords and shields with them. All three were taller than Thomas with bulging muscles. Two of them had dark hair and eyes and looked like they could be brothers. The other one had short light-colored hair, a lighter complexion with blue eyes. Thomas looked outside and saw three beautiful mares that the soldiers must have rode up on. They were subtly decorated to identify that they belonged to the king’s army.

The lighter-complected of the soldiers informed Thomas that Micco sent them to him to learn about the threat to him and to Maren. Thomas led them to his house to retrieve the note that was sent. They read the note and asked if they could take it with them. He agreed. They asked Thomas to keep an eye out for anyone who may be watching him. Thomas chuckled as he informed them that he usually became so engrossed in his work that he almost became oblivious to his surroundings. He laughingly expressed his gratitude for Pipi and Riporty to let him know when someone approached the woodshop. He proclaimed that he did not even notice that Micco’s sons were watching him; however, he promised that he would pay better attention.

The soldiers assured Thomas that they wanted to capture those who threatened him and have been plundering communities. They remarked that it has been a very difficult process as highly respected members of the communities are secretly part of Helki’s group. Thomas inquired as to why they did not just travel out to the community Helki and his followers built up. One of the darker-complected soldiers responded that various soldiers had been there several times but they could not find any evidence of wrongdoing. They had several soldiers disguised as travelers in many cities, including Thomas’s village, but were not convinced that Helki’s group were not aware of what they were doing.

They informed Thomas that they would leave the village for a few days. They surmised that Thomas could possibly receive another note as someone in Helki’s group was most likely aware that they had been there. They warned Thomas to be careful and advised that it would be best not to see Maren for a few days. He agreed with them and expressed his desire to help them in anyway he could. The fair-complected soldier then showed Thomas a leather band with an identifying mark that all the soldiers carry. The band is to identify actual soldiers in the army. Thomas studied the marking carefully and curiously asked if others could reproduce it. One of the soldiers stated that some have tried but pointed out the leather which has a different look from the processing which is something that only a couple of people know how to do. Thomas had other questions, but chose to wait until another time to pose them.

After their departure, Thomas felt a sudden relief sweep over him with the knowledge that the king’s army was working on capturing Helki and his group.

Later that afternoon, Marcus came by the wood shop. Thomas showed him the bow that was almost complete. Marcus inspected the craftmanship with the wonder of a small child receiving a new toy. He inquired about the visit with the soldiers. Thomas expressed his gratitude that the king was aware of what was happening and attempting to stop all the plundering and threats. He also told Marcus that they agreed it would be best for him not to see Maren for a few days. Marcus concurred and assured him that their family supported that decision. He did say, with a big grin, that Daniel had been asking to see him. Thomas smiled as he remembered holding the young boy in the air, pretending to fly.

The next day, Helki showed up at Thomas’s wood shop. Thomas was not happy to see him and surprised that he came. Helki eagerly greeted him as if everything was fine and as if he had no awareness of the recent threats to Thomas. He asked to see the bow Thomas was currently working on. Thomas let him look at it and Helki admired his fine artistry; then bluntly told Thomas that he wanted to purchase it. Thomas declined stating it was being made for someone else. Helki then asked if Thomas would create a bow for him, pulling several coins out of his pocket, more than Thomas would normally make from a custom bow. He had no desire to do any work for Helki, let alone have anything to do with him. He informed Helki that he was quite busy and would not have time for another few weeks. Helki pulled out a few more coins. Thomas held firm to his decision, not even tempted by the extra coins.

Helki persisted and asked Thomas if he wanted to do some target practice. Thomas thanked Helki for stopping by, declined the offer, then informed him that he needed to get back to work, that he had several deadlines approaching. Lingering, Helki started looking at some of the already finished wood carvings and began asking him about them. Thomas, feeling annoyed with Helki’s persistence, but with some pride in his voice, showed him a few of the animals. Helki admired them and asked if he could purchase one. Thomas took a few coins from him and gave him a beautiful carving of a bear. He thanked him for his purchase and firmly reminded him that he needed to get back to work.

Helki did not take the hint and continued to dawdle. While Thomas was trying to convince Helki to leave, another man rode up to the woodshop. Thomas greeted the  man who appeared to be a few years older than Thomas, with long dark hair and light colored eyes. The young man, Melchior informed Thomas that he was traveling through the city and had heard about his talent and wanted to stop by to meet him and see his work. Thomas showed him the bow he was currently working on and some of the other carvings he had done. Melchior seemed quite impressed and asked if he could custom order a bow. Because Helki was still there and listening to the conversation, he told Melchior that it would be another couple weeks before he could finish the bow, but could take his order now. He gave Thomas his specifications and also ordered a carving of a dog. He said that he would be passing through the village again in about two weeks. Thomas would have liked to guarantee that the work would be done, but was hindered because of the presence of Helki. Melchior turned to Helki and asked if had purchased any of Thomas’s work. Helki showed him the bear carving that he just purchased and said that he had also bought a bow from Thomas about a year ago. He then informed him that he had just offered many coins to purchase another bow to be made immediately, but Thomas did not take the offer. Melchior smiled as he looked at Thomas and declared that he must be really busy to pass up that generous proposition. Thomas asked him if there was anything else that he could do for him, he replied that there was not and went on his way.

Watching Melchior leave, Thomas hoped that he was one of the king’s soldiers trying to distract him from Helki, but after he left, he concluded that he wasn’t. Thomas, again, reminded Helki that he needed to return to his work, said good-bye, and started to walk back into his woodshop. Helki followed and encouraged him to go out to his community, adding the enticement that there would be a place for him there where he could make much more money than he was earning in this village. Thomas looked directly into his eyes and commanded him to leave, emphatically informing him that he did not want any part of the group. He felt tempted to express his annoyance about the threatening note, but thought it would be best not to discuss it at that moment.

Helki walked towards the door strongly implying to Thomas that it would be in his best interest to visit his community. He shrewdly added that it would be in his best interest for himself and for the girl if he came willingly and not by force. At the mention of Maren, Thomas’s heart began to pound so hard, it felt as though it would come out of his chest. He forcefully ordered Helki to leave and not to come back. Helki arrogantly sneered as he departed.

Thomas wanted to run to Maren’s home and let her family know what just occurred but felt constrained, assuming that someone was probably watching him. While talking to Helki and the man that came by, he did remember to look around for anyone that could have been watching, including one of Maren’s brothers, but he saw no one.

Later that day, another tall, well-built man with a light complexion, hair and dark-blue eyes entered Thomas’s woodshop as Pipi and Riporty barked to greet him. He introduced himself as Malachi and quietly informed Thomas that he was part of the king’s army. He then quickly changed the conversation and asked to look at some of his bows. He informed Thomas that he had heard about the quality of his bows from many who owned them. Thomas picked up the bow he was working on for Marcus. Malachi whistled in amazement as he admired the beautiful craftmanship. While inspecting the bow, he discreetly showed Thomas a leather band that was inscribed with the army symbol to assure him that he was who he said he was.

While discussing the bow and perusing some of Thomas’s animal carvings, Malachi asked about the conversation he had with Helki earlier in the day and informed him that the man who visited him while Helki was there, was also part of the king’s army; they had been watching the exchange. Thomas looked at him incredulously and wondered how and where they could have been watching. Malachi just smiled at him, showing his straight white teeth, and said that they learned to be very clandestine.

While talking about the carvings, Thomas gave as many details about the conversation as he could, including the threat made by Helki. Malachi placed an order for a bow, but Thomas explained to him that it would not be ready for another two weeks. Malachi informed him that would be acceptable and that he may stop back before then to see how the bow was coming along and to see how Thomas was doing. They shook hands, Thomas thanked him for the business, then Malachi left the woodshop.

As Thomas scratched Pipi and Riporty’s ears, he reflected on the visits of the day, grateful to know that the king’s army was diligently searching for Helki and his group to again bring peace and order to their village and in hopes that he could see Maren in peace.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 13

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 12

A couple of hours after Helki left, Maren’s older brother, Rowtag, arrived at Thomas’s wood shop to visit with him. He had a look of intense concern on his face. Thomas kindly greeted him, wondering why the deeply troubled face, but did not think much about it. Rowtag immediately stated the reason for his visit. He reported that he saw Helki at his wood shop and straight out asked Thomas about his relationship with him. Thomas, holding up his hands at the force of Rowtag’s question, assured him that he had no desire to meet with Helki or to even remain friends with him. He quickly explained that they grew up in the same village and had known each other since they were young; however, they were never close friends as Helki had an inclination for trouble. Rowtag affirmed that he did see Thomas order him to leave and that Helki responded with something that he could not hear. Thomas, looking down, revealed exactly what Helki said to him. He expressed that he had no idea how Helki knew that he was with Maren the night before; however, he did not take the threat seriously.

Rowtag then asked Thomas if they could talk for a few minutes. Thomas agreed and invited him to sit on a hand-crafted light oak chair in the back of the wood shop. Rowtag urgently warned Thomas that he needed to take Helki’s threat seriously. It was extremely disturbing to him that somehow Helki knew that his sister was with Thomas, surmising that he had spies in the city. He felt an anguished anxiety knowing that Maren and his family were being watched. He began explaining what happened to Maren’s husband. Although Thomas heard the story from Myron, he listened to Rowtag’s version, learning more details. He then informed him that he had already heard the story from Myron but appreciated hearing it from him. Thomas expressed his shock and anguish and condolences for Maren; then inquired if the man who killed Teetonka was part of Helki’s group. Rowtag grimly answered yes. Thomas stated that he understood why his family was so protective of Maren; it became alarmingly apparent to him that none of them were safe.

Expressing his concerns, Rowtag apologized that Thomas was now involved in their current family affairs and now he knew for a surety that his sister was still being watched. He extended an invitation from his father for Thomas to come to their home after he was done at his wood shop to share in their evening meal and to discuss the situation. Thomas looked surprised that it was Rowtag’s father who invited him; Rowtag informed him that his father felt very strongly that Thomas was a good and honest man.

This time when Thomas approached Maren’s home, Satordi eagerly greeted him, firmly pulling on his rope to try to reach him with his tail wagging wildly. Thomas gave him a small treat that he brought with him, petted and scratched his head, and easily walked to the door with Satordi happily following behind. Maren, with Daniel smiling in her arms, saw the change in Satordi’s reaction from the first meeting, laughed and welcomed Thomas to the family! Micco and Abigail warmly welcomed him into their home where the scents of a delicious meal drifted to his senses. Daniel immediately held out his arms to Thomas, wanting to be held by him. Thomas took Daniel into his hands and lifted him high into the air like he was flying to his utter delight.

After everyone finished eating and most of the eating utensils, pots and pans were cleaned up, the family sat on large individual cushions in a circle in the main sitting room in their home. Micco began by suggesting they have a word of prayer to bring the correct spirit into their home and to have the inspiration needed to appropriately deal with the problems they faced. This surprised Thomas as he was still unsure about the depth of their faith and belief. He observed their prayers before eating, but many people did that, with or without faith. Unexpectedly, Thomas gained a new respect for Micco and the manner in which he led his family. Tocho, the brother just younger than Maren and Marcus was asked to pray. Maren held a squirmy Daniel during the prayer.

After the prayer, Micco recounted some of the problems the village, and other communities, have encountered because of Helki and his group. They had robbed and plundered peoples’ homes and businesses, taken advantage of their wives and daughters, and brought fear into the hearts of many by their threats. He went on to explain that some members of the group, like the man who took advantage of Maren, had been caught and were in various prisons, but the group continued to plague the community. He informed Thomas that members of Helki’s group not only lived in the community he created, but many lived within towns and villages and remained yet unknown to the villagers.

Thomas moaned as he disclosed his concerns about his parents and the village he came from. As far as he knew, there had not been any issues there, but that could have been because it was Helki’s hometown and his parents and family still lived there.

Micco apologized for sending his sons (and not just Rowtag) to secretly watch him. He declared his deep love for his daughter and his undying determination to protect her. He assured Thomas that he sent his sons to watch any man who had an interest in his daughter or that she had an interest in. He also commented on Satordi’s greeting to him and informed him that Satordi knew easily sense those who had complete integrity and those who did not. He explained that even though it seemed that Satordi wanted to eat Thomas the first time he came, he did that with everyone. Once he was able to get acquainted with them, he knew who could be trusted and who could not. There had been a few people that the dog would not let into the house. Abigail proudly proclaimed that Thomas passed the Satordi test and that she and her family completely trusted him.

Thomas felt a bit overwhelmed. Here was a family that he barely knew and were already taking him into their confidence and complete trust. He assured them that he could be trusted and would do all he could to help protect Maren and their family. Rowtag reminded him that he also needed to protect himself, his animals, and his wood shop.

After talking for about an hour, Satordi suddenly started fiercely barking. Maren and Micco ran to the door and went out to see why he was barking. Myron, shouting over Satordi’s barking, asked if Thomas was there and after Maren answered in the affirmative, he instructed them to tell Thomas that he needed to get to his house immediately. Maren calmed Satordi while Micco almost knocked Thomas over as he rushed to go back inside. Micco, with concern in his voice commanded Rowtag and Marcus to go with Thomas.

With the light of a bright, full moon, Thomas straightway sprinted to his home, while Rowtag and Marcus mounted their horses and beat him there. Pipi and Riporty were anxiously barking at the house. Thomas urgently ran into the house to find a note left tacked onto a wall ordering him to stay away from Maren or else they would make sure he would never be able to see her again.

His heart, beating quickly from the run, beat even faster and harder as he read over the words of the message, then showed the message to Marcus. Marcus exclaimed that Thomas had not even spent much time with Maren and who knew that he was at their home that evening. Who in their village was watching them?

Myron soon rode up to the house, dismounted and entered through an open door. Thomas asked him how he knew something was happening at his house. Myron explained that he was riding past Thomas’s house on the way to his home when he heard the dogs fiercely barking. He stopped at a distance to watch for a moment to assure all was satisfactory, when he saw someone trying to secretly leave the house, quickly mounting a horse, and kicking it to send it to a quick gallop to escape. Myron expressed that he did not think the person saw him. He described the man the best he could from the distance he was at; he did not think it was someone that he knew.

Feeling hot anger at the whole situation, Rowtag, towering over Myron, looked him in the eyes and asked how they could be sure he did not have anything to do with the incident. Myron put up his hands and assured him that he was not involved with Helki and his group and he even had a couple animals taken by members of the group. Hearing that, Thomas ran outside to check his animals; they were all there.

With regret, Rowtag apologized to Myron and expressed his deep intense frustrations at the whole situation. He reminded him how members in the village had met together to discuss ways to deal with Helki’s group and they had not made any progress. He felt that there was someone in Helki’s group who had attended the meetings and reported to Helki all the results. Part of his deep frustration was that he did not know who to trust and who not to trust. Thomas laughingly informed him that they could always perform the Satordi test! They all laughed.

Myron asked if there was anything else he could do. Thomas thanked him for taking the time to watch what was happening and informing him about the intruder and let him know there was nothing else he could do for now, so Myron mounted his horse and left. Rowtag looked at Thomas and reminded him to be careful and asked if he wanted company that night. Thomas thanked him for the offer but told him that he thought he would be alright. Rowtag and Marcus said their goodbyes and left.

As Thomas lay in his bed that night, images of Maren kept coming to his mind. He was completely intrigued with her beauty and even more than that, her kind and gentle nature. He sensed the emotional scars from her past, but saw how her tenderness and the support from her family has helped her to heal. How he desired to spend more time with her and get to know her better; he wondered if it was worth risking their lives.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 12

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 11

Two days after Maren placed the order for her bow, Thomas saw her walk toward his wood shop carrying her son on her back. He saw a tall, broad-shouldered man accompanying her and felt immediate disappointment. He hoped to spend time with Maren and get to know her better. As they came closer, he noticed that the man looked exactly like Maren, with the same long dark hair the same dark eyes. After Maren greeted Thomas, she introduced him to her twin brother, Marcus. Thomas was very pleased, and quite relieved, to meet him and learn that he was her brother.

Thomas brought out Maren’s handcrafted bow. Marcus, with a look of admirable awe, took the bow and thoroughly inspected it, pulled the string, and declared it to be the finest bow he had ever seen. He promptly ordered a bow for himself. Thomas felt tremendous satisfaction that Maren’s brother was impressed with his work.

After placing his order, Marcus invited Thomas to their home for the evening meal. Seeing a surprised look in Thomas’s eyes, he wisely explained that Maren was a widow. Thomas looked at her with understanding and thoughtful eyes. He happily accepted the invitation and asked if he should bring anything. Marcus replied that he did not need to bring anything and then explained how to get to their house. Suddenly, Daniel, still on Maren’s back, began laughing. They all looked at him in amazement, trying to decide what he was laughing at. They could not figure it out and just laughed with him.

As Thomas approached Maren’s house, he was greeted by a large black and brown dog that began angrily barking, showing his teeth, and acting like he wanted to devour Thomas. Thankfully the dog was tied up on a thick long rope tied to a large hickory tree. Thomas immediately stopped and wondered how he would get past the dog and walk to the house. Almost immediately Maren came outside with a tall handsome young man that looked like he could be her younger brother. Maren commanded the dog to come to her. The dog, Satordi, immediately went to Maren and received a small treat. Maren’s brother, Nastas, went to Thomas and led him by the arm to Maren and Satordi. She spoke softly to her dog telling him that Thomas was okay. Nastas explained to Thomas that Maren had some troubles in the past so their father purchased and trained Satordi to help protect her and Daniel. He assured Thomas that Satordi was a fantastic dog and once they got acquainted, he would be treated like one of the family.

After gently yet sternly talking to her dog, Maren ordered Satordi to sit then asked Thomas to come forward. Nastas stayed right beside Thomas, helping to ease his concern. Maren then commanded her dog to shake hands with Thomas. Satordi held up his right paw, Thomas carefully and gently grabbed it as Satordi licked his hand. Nastas told him that he could relax as now the dog accepted him as part of the family. Thomas scratched him behind the ears and Satordi nuzzled his nose into his hands. Thomas smiled at Maren and she commented that Satordi usually does not make friends that quickly. She assured him that was an evidence of his goodness because Satordi can easily sense who is genuine and who just attempts to make a good impression. Thomas seemed pleased with that answer. Maren then gave him a treat to give the dog which made Satordi rapidly wag his tail in pure joy.

Thomas followed Maren and Nastas into the house. He was warmly greeted by Maren’s mother, Abigail, and her father, Micco. By looking at her mother, Thomas instantly knew where Maren received her beauty. Abigail was taller than most women Thomas knew, with long dark hair with a few strands of gray, and dark brown eyes. Micco was well over 6 feet tall, also with long dark hair, but his eyes were lighter than Abigail’s. Micco was very well-built and looked like he could easily out-wrestle a mountain lion or a jaguar.

Then Abigail introduced Thomas to the rest of the family. There were a total of seven children from the ages of 24 to 13. Maren and Marcus were 22 and Nastas was the youngest at age 13. Maren was the only girl in a family of very large boys. Thomas quickly realized that he did not want to get on the wrong side of this family. No wonder the man who took advantage of Maren did not stand a chance. Their large size could appear extremely intimidating if they wanted to.

Their evening meal was delicious. Thomas quickly fit in with the family as they discovered they had been at many competitions together several years earlier. Thomas never competed with any of the sons as they were not bow and arrow competitors. However, Thomas did race against Rowtag, the oldest son. It had been so long ago, neither remember who won that race. They finally agreed that it must have been another boy.

After spending an enjoyable couple hours with Maren and her family, Thomas announced that he needed to depart for his home to take care of his animals. Maren instantly looked at Marcus who gave her a slight nod. Maren, knowing Daniel was already asleep, asked if she could accompany him and help him with his animals. Stunned, Thomas agreed to let her come. Thomas said his goodbyes to everyone, then he and Maren walked out the door, with Marcus following close behind. As Thomas gave both Maren and Marcus quizzical looks, Maren explained that they rarely allow her to go anywhere alone. Her family was overly protective of her and Daniel. Thomas casually mentioned that she was alone when she first came to his wood shop, but Maren quickly informed him that one of her brothers was a short distance away carefully watching her.

As they walked Maren asked Thomas about Nara, already somewhat knowing about her since most people in the village knew his story. Thomas opened up about Nara, more than he had since Nara passed away. He felt an sense of empathy from her unlike any other person was able to give him. He felt a deep understanding and compassion that enlivened his spirit.

Once they arrived at Thomas’s home, Maren followed Thomas as he fed the animals. Thomas continued to talk and open his heart about Nara and his faith, or lack of faith, in God. He had not remembered opening up to anyone like that since Nara’s death. He felt a unique depth of caring and compassion from Maren.

After feeding the animals, Thomas apologized for monopolizing the conversation, but gratefully admitted that it had been therapeutic to open his heart and express feelings that he had kept inside since Nara’s death. He expressed to Maren that he felt that an inner healing took place and felt a bit lighter. He put his arms around her and gave her a hug of gratitude.

After hugging for a short time, Marcus, watching from a distance, suddenly whistled. Maren pulled back, turned around and glared at Marcus with her dark eyes, then smiled and laughed informing Thomas that her over-protective brother signaled to her that it was time to go. Thomas with a big smile waved at Marcus.

Then Thomas asked Maren if he could spend more time with her; he wanted to know her story. Maren replied that she and Marcus would come by his wood shop in the next couple days with an answer. She assured him that she wanted to see him again and that she genuinely enjoyed his hug. Marcus approached Maren, took her by the elbow and led her away.

It took a few hours before Thomas was able to fall asleep as he contemplated the conversation he had with Maren and the awakening feelings that he was experiencing. He felt a deep desire and yearning to discover more about Maren, a desire he had not felt since Nara’s death.

The next morning while Thomas worked in his wood shop, Helki rode up. Pipi and Riporty were in the wood shop with Thomas and after seeing Helki, they growled quiet enough that only Thomas could hear them. Thomas was surprised because usually the dogs eagerly greeted those who came to the wood shop.

After Thomas greeted him, Helki mentioned to him that he had heard that he moved to this new village. Looking around, he expressed admiration for the new wood shop and house. Thomas informed him that so far he was quite happy in the village. After spending a few minutes catching up since they last saw each other, Helki reminded Thomas about his community for those who were unsure about their faith. Thomas thanked him for the information and informed him that he was not interested right now. Helki urgently pressed him, trying to convince him to come just to meet some of the people there. Thomas continued to decline the offer, however Helki maintained his persistence. Finally, Thomas expressed that he needed to get back to work and reluctantly thanked him for the visit and the information. Helki would not take no for an answer and insisted that Thomas visit his community. Finally, Thomas looked him in the eyes and firmly advised him to leave. Helki stated that he would return, that he had not given up on him. As he mounted his horse and started to leave, he turned to Thomas and softly but firmly mentioned that it would be in his best interest for himself, his business, and the girl he saw the previous night to visit his community. At that comment, Thomas commanded Helki to leave and not to return. Helki promised that he would be back.

After Helki was gone, Pipi and Riporty came to Thomas and nuzzled their noses into his hands. Thomas glanced at his dogs, scratched behind their ears, and thanked them for their keen observation; and they were exactly right, Helki was not a good man.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 11

Thomas Part 1

Several weeks passed since Thomas and Gabriele realized that they would only be able to have a brother-sister relationship. When Thomas told Tadi he was free to get to know Gabriele, he was ecstatic and quickly left to gather some flowers to give to her. They had been practically inseparable since then and were planning on marrying.

Although Gabriele was not the right match for him, Thomas felt a dull ache in his heart after they stopped spending time together. Gabriele awakened feelings in him that died when Nara died. He was grateful for this awakening, yet it reminded him of how desperately he missed Nara; how he longed to be with her and hold her again. He began to wonder if it was time to move to a different village so hopefully, he would be able to move on with his life. He could easily build a wood shop somewhere else and his reputation was well-known throughout the land, so he knew he could easily make a living anywhere his lived.

One cool autumn day, Thomas invited David and Mary to his home for an evening meal. It was a simple meal which consisted of some boiled beef, bread, cheese, and tomatoes from his garden. Thomas really did not enjoy cooking, but while spending time with Gabriele, she taught him a few vital and time-saving tricks. Mary was actually quite impressed with his cooking skills.

After they finished eating, Thomas nervously announced to his parents that he was considering moving to a village that was about a two-day journey from them. He confessed that he felt like he was not able to progress where he was at and wanted to be able to work through his grief and start fresh in a new area. He expressed his appreciation for Gabriele and how she renewed hope in him and gave him courage to again open his heart. He informed his parents that he felt he needed to move to a place that was not filled with memories of Nara, a place where he could heal and then make a clean start, and then maybe consider opening his heart again.

Tears easily came to Mary’s eyes as Thomas spoke. They were tears of sorrow and joy; sorrow at the thought of her son moving away from his home town and joy that he was finally thinking about moving on with his life. She would fiercely miss seeing her son several times a week, but felt a peace within her that brought her joy and understanding that moving was a step in the right direction for her son.

David congratulated Thomas on the decisions that he was making and encouraged him to move forward. He conveyed that he would also greatly miss his daily associations at their wood shop and the expertise that Thomas brought to their business. Many tears were shed and hugs shared as they contemplated the changes about to take place; peace and certainty filled their hearts. Even Thomas wondered if Nara was in the room bringing them peace and encouraging him to move forward.

Within just three weeks Thomas was ready to move to his new home. Immediately after Thomas talked with his parents, he, along with Pipi and Riporty, traveled to the new village in search of a new home. Several people in the village already knew Thomas and were pleased that he was moving there. With help, he quickly found a place to live, a home that was vacated by a small family who chose to move closer to the wife’s family. It was practically perfect for Thomas as it had a nice barn and coral his animals and an area for a large garden. An abandoned shop sat near the house that Thomas would be able to quickly and easily transform into a wood shop. He felt amazed at how everything fell into place and how easy it was to find everything he needed.

David, Mary, Gabriele, and Tadi helped Thomas move his belongings, tools, and animals to the new village. They borrowed three wagons with extra teams of horses to pull the wagons filled with his tools and equipment. Thomas’s chickens were extremely displeased about being stuck into cages and loaded in a wagon. They noisily clucked and cackled their disapproval to the amusement of Thomas. Gabriele road Flora while Tadi road his horse to help herd the animals. Pipi and Riporty were especially helpful at keeping the goats and a cow on the right trail.

Due to the wagons and the animals the journey took three days. At one point, they had to stop to find a missing goat. David was ready to move on and just to leave the goat, but Thomas intently insisted that they find her. The goat was one that Nara handfed as a small kid and was her prized goat. Thomas did not have the heart to leave the goat behind. The group, all but Thomas, knelt in a circle and prayed to God that they would be able to speedily find the goat. Shortly after the prayer, Pipi began enthusiastically barking toward an area off the trail where they previously looked. Riporty headed in the direction that Pipi was barking and soon herded the missing goat back to the wagons. Thomas, filled with relief, hugged the goat and warned her to stay with the group (as if the goat would understand his words).

When they arrived at Thomas’s new home, there were warmly greeted by many of the villagers. They helped unload the wagons and put the animals in the barn and coral. A kind family that Thomas met on his previous visit, invited them to eat their evening meal with them. David was impressed with the hospitality of the people in the village. Most were believers in Jesus Christ which gave him hope that Thomas might rediscover his testimony of Jesus. Even though Thomas recently felt more peace, he still struggled with his faith in God.

Thomas quickly settled into his new life. He loved this new village as the people were warm and friendly. His business continued to prosper, although he greatly missed being with his father. Several of the single young women in the village came by his wood shop to purchase his carvings, with the intent to capture Thomas’s attention. Thomas laughed inside and not completely sure he enjoyed the attention. Sometimes parents of single young women anticipating an eligible match for their daughters came to the wood shop.

Thomas did make an effort to get to know single women in his village. He went to parties and celebrations with the intention of getting to know more people, especially single women. Gabrielle had awakened an inner yearning, a yearning to have a relationship again.

Four months after Thomas moved to the new village, a strikingly attractive tall young woman with dark hair and dark eyes came to his wood shop. Thomas had seen the woman before at one of the village celebrations and was impressed with her beauty. She carried a boy that looked to be about two years old in a back pack. The boy shared her dark hair and eyes and smiled at Thomas with a mischievous grin, immediately capturing his attention.

She introduced herself to Thomas revealing that her name was Maren and her son’s name was Daniel. Thomas was immediately intrigued with Maren’s beauty, but assumed since she had a child, she was married. Maren told Thomas that she heard that his bows and arrows were the finest made and she wanted to purchase a customized set. Thomas felt excited and pleased to help her, then realized that he had to bridle his excitement for her. She gave him her specifications for the bow while Thomas listened and took notes. He informed her that the bow and arrows would be ready in two days.

For some reason, Thomas felt a strong eagerness to work on Maren’s bow and arrows. He chided himself for even having such feelings of excitement for a married woman. He reflected on times when he had previously seen her, remembering that he never saw her with a man and wondered about her husband. As he contemplated, one of the villagers, Myron, who was one who first greeted Thomas when he moved to the village, rode up on his large brown and white horse. He dismounted and tied the horse to a post. With a cheeky grin, he walked over to Thomas and stated that he observed that Maren finally came to see him. Thomas stared at him with confusion in his eyes. Myron, seeing the confused look, explained that Maren was a widow who usually took her time getting to know new young men who came to the village.

Myron reported to Thomas how her husband, Teetonka, was tragically killed by a ruffian before Daniel was born. He had joined a group of people who lost their faith in God and in Jesus and so did not follow the basic laws set up by most villages. One of the men in the group wanted to take advantage of Maren because of her exquiste beauty and offered Teetonka a large sum of money. However, he was not going to allow anyone to touch Maren and told the man no. The man increased the amount of money he was willing to give him. Teetonka actually felt tempted, and contemplated about how that amount of money would allow him to build a larger home for Maren and to purchase many items that she desired. The man, sensing his hesitation, quickly added more money to what he was willing to pay. Then, Teetonka, remembering his love for Maren unequivocally told him that he would not take any money for Maren and would not allow another man to touch her. The man became very angry, pulled a knife and silently stabbed Teetonka in the heart killing him instantly. He then hid his body.

The man went to Maren and took advantage of her, after confessing to her about the conversation he had with her husband and revealing that he killed him. Myron said that Daniel was definitely Teetonka’s son, as he has his mischievous smile, turned up nose, and square jawline. Also, Maren already knew she was with child when the man came upon her.

Thomas was stunned at Maren’s tragedy and asked if the man ever took advantage of her again. Myron informed him that Maren’s father, uncles, and brothers hunted for the man until they found him and brought him to the judge. He was convicted and sentenced to a prison in another village.

Myron smiled at him and informed him that he had seen the way Maren looked at him at a village celebration and thought he should know the complete story. Thomas thanked him for the information and gave him a small wood carving of a squirrel for his son who Thomas knew liked squirrels. Myron thanked him and departed.

With this new information, Thomas was excited that he did not need to bury the eagerness that he felt towards Maren. He then searched through his wood pile and found one of his best pieces of hickory wood and began carving her bow.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 10

Thomas Part 1

Several weeks after Helki left, Tumu and Rebekah, along with eight-year old Noah, and 19-year old Gabriele, Nara’s younger sister, arrived to visit Thomas and his parents. They had been corresponding since Nara’s death, but had not yet visited in person.

It had been almost a year since Nara’s passing and Thomas continued to feel grief-stricken. He did have many good days, but more than not, days were filled with debilitating depression and anguish to the point where he struggled to arise from bed in the mornings and work in his wood shop. Usually, once he arrived at his wood shop, he lost himself in his work. He genuinely loved carving hardwoods and using his hands to create exquisite works of art. He received many commissions for his carvings and thoroughly enjoyed the creative challenge each commission provided. However, at the end of many of his days, after Thomas left the wood shop, the depression set back in. To see Tumu, Rebekah, Gabriele, and especially Noah was a bright spot in Thomas’s day.

Rebekah was eager to see the exquisite painting given to Thomas by the prophet Sam. As she gazed up it, tears flooded her eyes. She saw her daughter in the little girl that was lovingly surrounded by angels. Tumu put his strong arms around her to love and comfort her as tears also came to his eyes. As soon as Noah saw the painting, he jumped up and down excitedly pointing to the girl and said Nara! He told his parents and Thomas that was Nara in the painting and Nara was standing with them and smiling at them at that very moment. Thomas, wanting to pick Noah up, but knowing that he was now too big, knelt down in front of him and informed him that the girl in the painting was the little sister of the prophet Sam. Noah, knowing the story of the painting, informed Thomas that he knew that, but the girl looked very much like Nara to which Thomas readily agreed.

Thomas asked Noah how he knew that Nara was there. Noah responded as if everyone could see her, and asked Thomas why he did not see her. Tumu explained that Noah was blessed with a gift to see spirits and angels. It was such a common occurrence for Noah to see angels that he easily forgot that most others did not see them. His explanation pricked Thomas’s heart that he could not see he his beloved Nara like Noah did, but was equally touched at the sincerity and love from the young boy.

Tumu then suggested that Gabriele take Noah outside to care for the animals. Noah loved Nara’s animals so he willingly ran outside with Gabriele hurrying to catch up.

Tumu and Rebekah asked Thomas to sit down as they had an important matter that they wanted to discuss with him. They reminded Thomas of their love for him and that he would always be a son to them. They also told him that they wanted him to be happy and have someone to love. They encouraged him to move on with his life and consider marrying again. Thomas hesitantly told them that deep down, he knew he needed to move on, but he still deeply missed Nara and found it hard to accept the possibility that there could be someone else for him to love. Tumu empathized with his feelings then carefully suggested that he contemplate getting to know Gabriele. Thomas looked at him incredulously! Gabriele had always been a cute little sister to him and he was not sure he could think of her in any other way. Tumu informed him that he understood his feelings, and requested that he at least ponder the idea. Thomas assured Tumu and Rebekah that he would give the idea thoughtful consideration.

At that moment, Riporty began barking loudly and intently, so Thomas and Tumu quickly ran outside. Gabriele had been feeding and playing with the goats when suddenly one of the male goats head-butted her and knocked her down. Riporty, acting protective of Gabriele, started to bark. Thomas immediately went to Gabriele, used his right leg to push the billy goat away from her and then gently picked her up and took her into the house. Gabriele, though lightly crying from the pain and embarrassment, also laughed at the situation. She would have a large bruise on the back of her leg, but other than that, she was fine. Thomas asked if she wanted the healer to come look at her leg, but she declined stating that her mother would know exactly what to do. Rebekah announced had brought some herbs with her that she could use on Gabriele’s leg; then laughingly escorted Thomas out of the room.

As Thomas walked out of the house, he reflected on when saw Gabriele on the ground and had carefully picked her up and carried her into his house. He felt incredibly protective of her, but was that because he thought of her as a little sister or maybe because there could be deeper feelings to explore. He was not certain but thought that maybe, just maybe, he could pursue a more romantic relationship with Gabriele; he wondered if would she feel the same way.

Thomas’s parents joined them for their evening meal and they enjoyed their time to catch up on the events in their lives. As they ate, Thomas studied Gabriele. He saw some similarities in her features to Nara, yet she was completely different. Nara was quite adventurous while Gabriele, though somewhat adventurous, enjoyed staying home. Like Nara, she was a master weaver and unlike Nara, she was a master cook.

After the evening meal was cleaned up, the family visited and enjoyed watching Noah’s antics.. After some time passed, Thomas mentioned that he needed to go outside to check on the animals. He invited Gabriele to help him and to make peace with the billy goat. Noah quickly stood up and declared he would go out with them, but Tumu kindly asked him to stay inside and help his mother clean up from the evening meal. Rebekah promised him a delicious treat. Noah begrudgingly complied with his father’s wishes, looking forward to a delicious treat.

Outside, Thomas led Gabriele to the billy goat and safely held his horns so Gabriele could pet him. The goat nudged his nose into her hands, hoping for a treat, but settled for her scratching between his horns and behind his ears. They laughed at the goat’s shenanigans and Gabriele again felt comfortable around him. Thomas hesitantly brought up the conversation that he had with her parents and asked if she would be willing to spend time with him to see if there might be something more in their relationship. Gabriele looked at him in astonishment and informed him that her parents spoke to her about a possible relationship, but she did not think Thomas would ever choose to pursue one with her. She knew how much he had loved, and still loved Nara and expressed that she was not sure he was ready for another relationship. She also told him that he was a great big brother to her and would always love him for that. She indicated that she was unsure if they would be able to put aside their brotherly-sisterly love but informed him that she was willing to explore the possibility.

Since Tumu and Rebekah needed to return to their home in two days, they decided that Gabriele would stay with Thomas’s parents. Noah also wanted to stay, but Tumu reminded him of his responsibilities back at home, part of which was preparing for a bow and arrow competition. Noah argued that the best teacher and coach would be Thomas, but Tumu explained to him that Thomas would be busy and his prized bow and arrow set (made by Thomas) was at their house; Noah reluctantly agreed.

During the next two weeks, Thomas and Gabriele spent as much time together as they could. While Thomas was at work in his wood shop, Gabriele took care of Thomas’s animals, took painting lessons from Mary, and began weaving a beautiful blanket. In the evening, they would talk, ride horses on the trail to the waterfall, target practice with bows and arrow, and enjoyed many other activities while spending time together.

One evening while Thomas and Gabriele were in a field target shooting, Thomas’s cousin, Tadi, who was out for a ride, decided to join them. Tadi was a very handsome 22-year old who was not yet married. He broke many hearts of many girls in the village who would have liked to marry him. Tadi and Thomas were close while growing up. They would often compete in target practice. Thomas loved competing with Tadi because he was almost as good as him. Because of Tadi’s skill, Thomas became a stronger competitor. Thomas usually won, but Tadi was always close behind. They often traveled to shooting competitions together.

When Tadi was introduced to Gabriele, he unexpectedly felt his heart leap in his chest as he was captivated with her deep blue eyes and cheerful smile. He knew he absolutely could not pursue those feelings as he was aware that Thomas and Gabriele were purposely spending time together. However, he could not get her beautiful eyes out of his mind. For the next several days, he purposely stayed away from Thomas and Gabriele, desperately trying to ignore the feelings that had so deeply and suddenly struck him.

Four days after meeting Gabriele, Tadi was in the marketplace to purchase rope. Gabriele happened to be in the marketplace at the same time, a few vendors down looking at yarns. As soon as Tadi saw her, he tried to find a way to quickly escape before she saw him, but was too late. Gabriele called out to him and rushed over to him. Tadi was instantly entranced by her eyes and it took a moment before he could respond to her simple question of how he was doing. He finally responded and they talked for several minutes discussing their plan for their purchases. Gabriele invited him to join she and Thomas for dinner. He regrettably declined stating he had a previous commitment.

At that moment, Thomas came over to them. He hugged Gabriele, then Tadi. He also invited Tadi over for dinner. Gabriele informed Thomas that he had a previous commitment and would not be able to make it. Tadi put an arm around Thomas and Gabriele, told them it was great to see them, but he needed to leave to meet with someone. They expressed their good-byes and Tadi left. Thomas told Gabriele that he enjoyed seeing her at the market and that she looked radiant. He gave her a quick hug and left to return to his wood shop.

That evening, after a meal of beef, vegetables, bread, and cheese at David and Mary’s house, Thomas took Gabriele by the hand and suggested that they go for a walk. Gabriele protested stating that she needed to help Mary clean up from the evening meal. David gave her a big smile and assured her that he would help Mary.

As soon as they walked out the door, they were eagerly greeted by Pipi and Riporty. They laughed and the four of them walked away from the house and towards the creek that flowed close by.

After walking and talking for several minutes, Thomas gazed into Gabriele’s beautiful blue eyes and expressed how much he really did love her, but indicated that the love he felt for her was still just a sisterly love. He assured her that he had thoroughly enjoyed their time together during the last couple weeks. He explained that a part of him that basically died after Nara’s death and that Gabriele helped to bring life into him again for which he would be forever grateful. He expressed how he always wanted to be a part of her life and always be her big brother.

Gabriele, with tears in her eye, told Thomas that she felt the same way. She loved him too, but only as a big brother. She assured him that she tried to love him in a romantic way, but those feelings just did not come.

Thomas, mischievously looked into Gabriele’s eyes and surprised her by informing her that she needed to locate Tadi. She appeared puzzled that he would even bring up Tadi. With a big smile on his face, Thomas explained to her the look he saw in Tadi’s eyes each time he saw her. Then, there was the look he noticed in her eyes when she looked upon Tadi’s handsome body. Gabriele desperately tried denying any type of look or feeling that she had for Tadi, but Thomas, laughingly, would not buy it! Smiling, she finally admitted that she thought Tadi was extremely handsome and would not mind getting acquainted with him. They affectionally hugged for a long while, knowing and accepting that they would be forever brother and sister.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 9

Thomas Part 8

As David and Mary walked back to their home, they marveled at the miraculous change in Thomas. Although it was a slight change, they would take any change they could get. They were filled with hope, a pure hope for Thomas that they had not felt since Nara died.

After arriving home, David immediately wrote a short note to Sam, thanking him for sending the painting and requesting the name and whereabouts of the artist. He would like to have more paintings created by the artist.

After being left alone, Thomas stared at the painting awhile longer then put on his warm tunic, took his bow and arrow and knife, went outside, mounted his horse and headed to the waterfall trail. Pipi and Riporty, seeing Thomas mount his horse, excitedly followed along. There was some snow and ice on the ground, but not enough to be concerned about his horse slipping. They traveled to the rock where Nara was found. Thomas dismounted his horse, sat on the cold ground and wept—again. Pipi and Riporty nudged their noses into his lap, seeming to offer comfort.

After sitting on the ground for a short time, Pipi and Riporty began furiously barking down the trail. Thomas picked up his bow, nocked an arrow and commanded the dogs to stay by him. He listened carefully to a sound coming from a distance up the trail. Because the leaves had fallen, Thomas could easily see through the trees and eventually saw a rider on a horse. Relieved, he put away his bow and arrow, but kept a hand on his knife until he knew who it was.

The rider was Helki, a childhood friend of Thomas, not a close friend, but someone he knew and had competed against in many different shooting competitions. Thomas did not spend much time with him as he seemed to have a propensity to find trouble. He had not seen Helki in several years as he moved away from their city.

Helki has always been a very handsome child and grew to be an even more handsome man. He always had girls following him around. His eyes were deep blue, his hair was light colored, and had perfectly high cheekbones. His built was practically perfect as his well chiseled muscles were the envy of almost every young man and had the admiration of the young women. Not only was he physical handsome, but had a strong charismatic personality. He could entice just about anyone to follow him. So, not only did he find trouble, he led others into trouble. His parents were heartbroken that he used his God-given gifts to lead others away from Jesus, rather than to Jesus.

Upon seeing Thomas, Helki stopped his horse and dismounted. Thomas apprehensively greeted each Helki, as Helki enthusiastically greeted him. They began chatting, catching up on their lives since they last saw each other. Helki expressed his condolences for Nara; Thomas mentioned that it had been difficult for him since her passing.

Helki informed Thomas that he would be visiting with his parents for several days and they ought to get together and do some target practice or hunting. Thomas cautiously agreed, really not wanting to be involved too heavily with him.

Two days later, Helki stopped by Thomas’s wood shop and suggested that they do some target shooting when he was done. While there, he examined some of the impressive bows that Thomas made and purchased one. Now, he was anxious to try out his new bow. They decided that Thomas would ride to Helki’s house when he was done for an evening meal and then to a nearby field to target shoot.

Thomas ended his work early so he could enjoy a delicious meal with Helki’s family and have time to target shoot before the sun went down. He had always liked Helki’s parents and they were quite generous with him after Nara’s passing. He did not understand why Helki had created so much trouble and heartache for his parents. He perceived that they taught their children about Jesus Christ and taught them to be good people. So, what happened to Helki? What made him different and what made him want to rebel against his parents?

Right after eating, Thomas and Helki walked to the field which was a short distance from Helki’s house. They set up a couple of targets on some large hardwood deciduous trees and began to shoot. Helki loved his new bow as he discovered the workmanship of the bow greatly helped his accuracy. Helki was already a master shooter, but generally was unable to beat Thomas in the competitions they had when they were younger. He informed Thomas that he wanted to buy a couple more bows from him.

Thomas, still a master marksman, outshot Helki, but not by much. Soon, the sun went down and by moonlight, they walked back to Helki’s home.

On the walk back, Helki boldly questioned Thomas how he felt about God after not being able to have children and Nara’s death. Thomas, surprised at the question, was honest in his feelings, that he was still quite angry with God, wondered if there really was a God, yet because of the message of Sam’s painting, he still had hope that somehow, God was there and still loved him. Helki cautiously laughed at his assessment of God and then asked why he still wanted to believe in God. He questioned, since God could not be seen, how could anyone know that there was a God? Thomas suddenly looked at him incredulously and asked him with his parents and siblings having such a strong faith in God, why didn’t he share the same faith?

Helki laughed at Thomas. He reminded Thomas of the outstanding education that they were both given. He asked how with such knowledge how a person could believe in God. Thomas wondered out loud if they were taught the same things. He remembered learning about God and how God was involved in everything, in the earth, plants, stars, the moon, animals, and especially people.

Helki asked if a loving God would deny him children and take his beautiful wife away. Thomas responded that we all have challenges to overcome and it is part of our life’s journey. Helki laughed again and sarcastically congratulated Thomas for giving the answer his teachers and parents taught him and expected him to give. Thomas, feeling a bit sheepish, pondered Helki’s pronouncement and then responded that the most kind and loving people that he knows believe in God and trust Him to help them. There had to be something worth knowing about God.

Balking at his answer, Helki asked Thomas if he really believed all the nonsense about God, alleging that he thought Thomas was much more intelligent than to believe in God. At that point in their conversation, they arrived at Helki’s house. He told Thomas to consider his words and carefully examine his beliefs, trying to convince Thomas to doubt the existence of God.

Arriving at Helki’s house, his mother invited Thomas to come in, but Thomas politely declined, stating that he needed to get home to care for the animals.

On the way back to his house, Thomas stopped to visit with his parents. David and Mary eagerly let him in and offered him something to eat. Thomas explained that he was not hungry because he had eaten with Helki’s and his family, then did some target shooting with him. David immediately had a barely noticeable expression of worry on his face that Mary quickly picked up on. They knew the problems that Helki caused and especially the torment and grief that his parents suffered due to because of his open disbelief in God and his actions because of the open disbelief.

Even though Thomas said he was not hungry, Mary handed him a piece of sweet bread. Thomas’s face lit up! He loved his mother’s sweet bread.

Thomas spoke openly about his conversation with Helki, his concerns, his doubts, and his observations then expressed to his parents that even though Helki spoke to his thoughts and inner turmoil, he felt something was not right about his beliefs. Helki was very charismatic and easily attracted people to him, yet he did not have the light in him that others who believed in God and had faith in him had. David reminded Thomas that although he loved Helki’s parents, he had always cautioned him about Helki because of his behavior, even as a young boy. Thomas thanked his parents, gave each of them a hugged, then returned to his home and cared for the animals. Pipi and Riporty excitedly wagged their tails when they saw Thomas come home, eager for their evening meal.

When Thomas arrived at his woodshop the following morning, Helki was already there, anxious to buy more bows. With David listening, Helki excitedly informed Thomas that he could take the bows that he made to other cities to sell and make a large profit. Thomas smiled and inwardly laughed at how Helki’s heart was so set on money. He politely declined as he informed Helki that he already had buyers come from all over to purchase his bows; besides, he was more focused on wood carvings than bows. Helki thoughtfully examined some of the carvings and again told Thomas that he could take those to other cities and make a significant amount of money for him. Again, Thomas respectfully declined saying that he already had enough work to do and had plenty of money and really did not need more. Helki continued to persist, trying to convince Thomas into allowing him to sell his creations, imploring that he would make both of them a lot of money. Thomas, shaking his head, again declined the offer.

The ever-persistent Helki asked Thomas if he would like to target shoot again after his workday was complete. He was determined to beat Thomas and wanted another chance. Thomas laughingly agreed assuring him that there was no way he would be able to beat him, but he could always try. So, after work, they walked to the same field and began to shoot. Although Helki’s accuracy significantly improved with the bows Thomas made, he was still outshot by Thomas, though not by much.

Again, Helki subtly asked Thomas about what he thought of God. Thomas repeated the same answers as he did the previous day and determinedly, but politely, asked Helki to stop asking him about his relationship with God. Helki, a bit defensively informed Thomas about a community that he started for those who did not believe in God. He called it a support community because many of those who belonged to it came from families like his and Thomas’s families where they had strong beliefs. Thomas informed Helki that he was not interested in moving to his community and excused himself to go home and take care of his animals. Helki, not giving up, followed Thomas and told him where the group met and gave an open invitation to come if he changed his mind. Thomas thanked him and excused himself, again, then quickly left for his home.

(To be continued…)