A couple hours after Pat left Thomas’s workshop, he returned with many handcrafted items made of various types of wood on a small wagon pulled by a single large black horse with a few large white spots. Thomas and David went out to greet Pat. They carefully inspected his work showing signs of open admiration. David commented to his son that Pat’s work was much superior to his when he was young and that he had incredible potential. Pat remarked that it was an honor for him to have his work admired by two people who were well-known throughout the land for their work and shared his deep desire to develop his skills by working with Thomas. Thomas enthusiastically patted him on his back, welcomed him to his woodshop, and informed him that he looked forward to learning from him also.
Mary came out to see the work that Pat brought. She complimented him on his fine work and expressed gratitude that he would be working with Thomas. She also mentioned that she looked forward to meeting the remainder of his family. Pat smiled and said that would happen in time.
While Thomas and Pat worked out the details of the apprenticeship with David offering some suggestions, Helki rode up. He dismounted his horse and walked over to where they were having the discussion. Thomas went to meet Helki and reminded him that he did not belong there. Helki gave David a letter to give to his parents. David assured him that he would give the letter to his parents, then looked at Thomas, who then commanded him to leave. Helki almost left, then hesitated and asked if they could speak in private. Thomas convincingly stated that whatever he had to say, his father and Pat could also listen in.
Helki asked if he had given more thought to coming to his community. Thomas again said, with impatience in his voice, that he was happy where he was and planned to stay there. Helki reminded him that it would be in his best interest to visit his community. Once again, Thomas declined the offer and ordered him to leave and not to come back. About that moment, Malachi rode up and dismounted his horse. Thomas warmly greeted him, then informed Helki that he needed to help a customer and reminded him to leave. Helki, with a look of contempt towards Malachi, mounted his horse and quickly left. Thomas took Malachi into the woodshop and introduced him to his parents and Pat.
Malachi immediately asked Thomas about his conversation with Helki. Thomas reported that Helki was still asking him to join his community. David asked why Helki made such a big deal about joining his community. Malachi informed him that Helki and his people were always looking to recruit new people to add strength to their numbers. He expressed his fear that Helki was power hungry and desired to obtain more and more power until he could successfully challenge the king. He reminded them that Helki did not follow their current laws, did not believe in God, and believed that the devil was his guide.
As David and Mary were preparing to leave the next morning, Thomas presented to them the cradle that he made in hopes he and Nara would have a baby. Mary did not want to take it at first, but realized that if Thomas married again and had a child, they could give the cradle back. She hugged Thomas and thanked him for the beautiful cradle. Thomas pled with her to take good care of herself and to take care of his new brother or sister.
The next several weeks seemed to have calmed down; Thomas did not hear from Helki or receive any more threats. Micco felt that it was safe for Thomas to come to their home to see Maren. They thoroughly enjoyed the time they had to get to know each other, although they were never truly alone.
Pat thrived working in Thomas’s woodshop. As Malachi predicted, Thomas became very busy and was grateful to have Pat working with him. Pat was an eager apprentice and learned quickly. He also taught Thomas several new techniques and skills.
About four months after Helki’s last visit, Thomas was in the marketplace to purchase some food when he heard someone talking loudly attempting to attract everyone’s attention. Many who were in the marketplace walked over to where the voice was coming from. Standing on an elaborate wooden platform were a young man and woman. The man was tall with shoulder length hair and deep blue eyes. His bare chest was exposed showing off his muscular frame. He wore a beautiful wrap around brown silk skirt with gold strands woven into the fabric which covered from his waist to just below his knees. It was belted at the waist with a brown leather belt accentuated with gold and several different types of crystals. He wore several gold and silver chains around his neck with a large jaguar pendant made out of a beautiful green jade at the end of one of the chains. The young woman looked to be about 16 years old and had long dark hair that went down past her waist. Her dark brown eyes were lined with a thin line of black paint. Her luxurious tight-fitting silk tunic revealed her bulging cleavage. She was beautiful to behold. She also wore gold and silver chains, but not as many as the young man. She also had a jade jaguar pendant on one of the chains which landed right in her cleavage, purposely placed to capture the eyes and attention of the young men in their audience. Thomas had to look away as she was made to look like an appealing seductress. Both the young man and the young woman were absolutely alluring and caught the attention of many.
The young man called himself Motega and told the people that he and the young woman, Dena, were there to call the people to a new and better life. He confidently and decisively declared to the people that there was no God in heaven, they needed no longer to offer animal sacrifices, and obey outdated commandments. He announced a better life of ease, luxury, and beautiful people while pointing to Dena. He encourage everyone to come to their community where they would live in luxury and peace.
Most of those who listened to Motega knew exactly where he came from and did not want anything to do with him. All in the village knew of the plunderings committed by members of the community, including the murder of Maren’s husband. However, a few of the younger generation were smitten with the beauty of Motega and Dena and desired to listen to them.
As Thomas walked back toward the marketplace, he saw Shiblon, one of Maren’s younger brothers. He was just older than Nastas. Shiblon eyes were lustingly fixed on Dena. Thomas knew that look and that got his attention. Thomas quickly walked over to Shiblon and greeted him. Shiblon seemed pleased to see Thomas and asked what he thought of Motega’s message. Thomas expressed his observation that it was shallow, full of promises that could not be kept, and completely denied the existence of God. Shiblon, still with stars in his eyes for Dena, reluctantly agreed but lustingly commented that Dena appeared like she was a beautiful goddess. Seeing the strong attraction that he had for Dena, Thomas put a hand on each shoulder, turned him away from Dena and face him squarely then somberly reminded him that this was the group that killed Maren’s husband. Shiblon, trying to deny that, replied that it was just one member and that was his problem, not the entire group’s problem. Thomas glared at him incredulously and asked if he thought there was merit to the group and their teachings. Shiblon answered in the affirmative, then asked Thomas if he believed in God.
That question caught Thomas off guard. He had to stop and think about it for a couple moments. Shiblon, observing Thomas’s hesitation, immediately stated that even he did not believe in God. Thomas pulled Shiblon aside and asked him to come to his woodshop to talk. Shiblon hesitantly agreed. Thomas expected that they would leave right then until Shiblon informed him that he wanted to listen to Motega and Dena a while longer and then he would go to the woodshop. Thomas stared at him for several seconds then agreed, but sternly advised him to be at the woodshop within an hour. Thomas finished his purchases then went back to the woodshop to await Shiblon’s arrival.
When Thomas returned to the woodshop, Pat was busy working, looked up and noticed the concern in his face. Thomas recounted what happened at the marketplace and Shiblon’s seeming infatuation with Dena. Pat gave a low whistle and explained that his parents struggled with Shiblon more than any of his siblings. He explained that Shiblon had always been more rebellious and struggled with his beliefs in God. He was not surprised that Shiblon gravitated toward Motega and Dena’s message. Feeling incredulous, Thomas wondered aloud at how Shiblon could even begin to entertain their message when they were part of the group that killed his brother-in-law. Pat wondered the same thing, but explained that Shiblon did not see it that way; in his mind, it was a single person who killed Teetonka, not the group.
True to his word, Shiblon arrived at the woodshop within the hour, greeted by Pipi and Riporty. Thomas invited him to the back of the shop where he had a couple of chairs. They sat down and Thomas asked him if it would be okay for Pat to join them. Shiblon reluctantly agreed.
Thomas immediately divulged his feelings about God to Shiblon. He revealed his feelings about not being able to have children and how he wanted to blame God. He openly admitted to his struggles, especially after Nara died. Shiblon seemed eager to listen as here was another person who struggled with his faith. Thomas expressed his observation that Shiblon came from a family who taught their children about God and to look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ. Shiblon agreed, but argued that how could anyone know that someone would come and redeem them from their sins. He also did not understand the importance of the commandments—he felt they took away his freedom. Thomas agreed with him, that was how it appeared to be. Then Thomas took a surprising turn in the conversation.
(To be continued…)