Abigail and Maren gathered food for the men to take with them on their journey to rescue Shiblon. They filled water skins and helped to prepare the horses. They also prepared Shiblon’s favorite horse for him to ride home. The men gathered bed rolls and weapons. They each had swords and knives, as well as bows and arrows. They did not want to use any of the weapons, but brought them to hunt and for their own protection. Melchior warned them that at times, members of Helki’s group had used violence to accomplish their purposes.
As the group prepared to leave, Malachi rode up and announced that he would also like to go on the journey. Micco shook his hand and thanked him for coming along; they could use all the help that they could get. Thomas, Melchior, Micco, Rowtag, Marcus, and Daren packed their food, water, and bedrolls on their horses, then before mounting them, Micco offered a sincere, heartfelt prayer asking for protection and that Shiblon would be protected and desire to come home. They mounted their horses and departed, with Micco guiding Shiblon’s horse. They set out on a well-traveled road towards Helki’s community. It was about a one and a half’s day journey.
As they neared the community, both Melchior and Malachi commented on how the community had grown since the last time they were there. Then Melchior gave them some final instructions. He strongly reminded them not to use their weapons, unless it was in self-defense. He told them that most likely Shiblon would be hidden from them and most people in the community would be very wary of them and would not give them any information. He also instructed Rowtag and Marcus to stay on either side of Thomas to help protect him.
Suddenly, they saw five horses with riders quickly riding from the community to meet them. Thomas immediately recognized one of the riders as Helki. Nervousness and a sense of foreboding overshadowed him, but he brushed it off as an irrational fear.
Helki stopped as he reached Micco’s group. Thomas noticed that Helki was dressed differently than he had been when he previously visited his woodshop. He wore a skirt similar to the one Motega wore with an elaborate leather belt, an embroidered purple cape made from very fine silk wrapped around his shoulders, and his bare chest was decorated with gold and silver chains with a jade jaguar head attached to one of the chains. He wore several rings on his fingers made of gold and precious crystals. Even though he was not nearly as big as Micco and his sons, and even Thomas, he had a forbidding arrogant presence about him that unconsciously demanded respect and honor from those he met, even if it was not deserving.
Helki warmly greeted the travelers and welcomed them to his community. He offered to take them in and show them around and invited them to stay. Micco thanked him for the offer and told him that they were there to take Shiblon home. Helki momentarily stared at him with disdainful control and confidence and laughed. He calmly informed Micco that Shiblon was happy in his community and had no desire to leave. He complimented Micco on how well he taught Shiblon in his trade. Shiblon’s skills in metal work would be put to good use as he was already beginning to design and create knives and spears. Micco, wanting to jump off of his horse and attack Helki, mustered up as much calm in his voice as he could manage and ordered Helki to take him to Shiblon; he desired to see him and talk to him. Helki smirked and replied that he could not do that since he was still in community training and was not allowed to see outsiders for another several weeks.
Dismounting his horse, Micco walked over to Helki and demanded to see his son. Marcus and Rowtag also quickly dismounted and followed their father, one on each side of him. Helki also dismounted along with two of his companions, who were almost as large as Micco and his sons. They carried large curved knives on their waistbands which were plain to see and were easily accessible.
Helki stood in front of Micco exuding complete self-assuredness and control, even though he was several inches shorter. Smiling sinisterly, he informed Micco that Shiblon took an oath and covenant of allegiance to the community and to break the oath could result in death. Micco, with control, yet with an angry edge in his voice demanded to see Shiblon. Helki convincingly told him that would be impossible. Melchior spoke up and reminded Helki that Shiblon was still only 16 years old so was technically still under the charge of his parents and informed him that he could be charged with kidnapping if he did not allow Micco to see him. Helki, with continued arrogant cockiness, reminded him that Shiblon came on his own will and had already thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Dena. Micco angrily asked what they poisoned him with, asserting that according to a witness, Shiblon was not quite himself when he left. Helki assuredly responded that their community was so appealing to many that they did not need to poison anyone to get them to come. Again, he arrogantly invited them to take a tour and see the community for themselves. He confidently assured them that they would be greatly impressed and desire to stay.
Dismounting his horse, Thomas walked to Helki and asked what they could do to bring Shiblon back home. Marcus and Rowtag immediately rushed to his side. He reminded Helki that they could press charges of kidnapping and that would bring the King’s army to the community. Completely unmoved and full of haughtiness, Helki reminded them that the king’s army had been there many times and could not find evidence of any wrong doing. Micco, ardently and assuredly declared that he would bring his son home, even if he had to file charges of kidnapping and bring in the king’s army.
With a calm confidence in his voice, Helki smugly assured Micco that Shiblon was fine, he was there because he wanted to be there, he would deny any charges of kidnapping, and that he could not see anyone, except for a few select people, including Dena and some other beautiful girls, for several weeks.
Thomas calmly asked what they could do to bring Shiblon home. Helki, the corners of his mouth moving into a nefarious smirk, suggested that they could possibly work out a trade: Thomas for Shiblon. Thomas’s heart about stopped; his foreboding feeling flashed back to him as Helki informed him that he had heard about his new baby sister and asked if he had seen her yet. Recognizing a threat to his family, Thomas told him that planned to visit his parents as soon as they brought Shiblon home. Melchior gave Thomas an odd look; Thomas informed him that he and Helki they were from the same hometown.
Helki immediately interrupted affirming that he and Thomas grew up in together and then spitefully accused Thomas of cheating at all the competitions that he became so well-known for. Micco immediately came to Thomas’s defense and replied that Thomas was a good man, and always had been good and honest.
Melchior and Malachi, moving towards Helki, calmly and determinedly demanded that Shiblon be brought to them. Helki emphatically denied their request, unless Thomas took his place. In his manipulative arrogance, he attempted to entice Thomas with promises that the most beautiful women in the community would be standing in line to be brought to him to satisfy his desires. He would have the best food and clothes and that he would enjoy far greater success in his business.
Micco, with disgust on his face, calmly and passionately stated that was not an option, that if he and the group were not allowed to go into the community to get Shiblon, he would personally file charges of kidnapping and send in the king’s army to retrieve him and any others who were held there without their consent. He then remounted his horse, told the others to mount their horses and informed Helki that they were going to find his son. Helki informed him that may not be a good idea as they were armed and they trained the men in the community to fight to the death; it could be a strong possibility that they would not leave alive. Melchior spoke quietly to Micco and counseled him to take Helki’s warning seriously.
Helki again, with deceptive kindness, invited them to come into the community to see where Shiblon would be living, but it would be under his terms and his guards would follow close behind them. They would not go anywhere close to where Shiblon was staying.
(To be continued…)