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…)