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…)