(Note: This has not been edited, but I wanted to post it anyway for those of you who enjoyed his story and were unfortunately left hanging. It’s going to be interesting to see where this story goes!)
Thomas rode without talking as Helki continued to try to talk to him. Helki told Thomas that he could become his number two person if he wished. He would provide the most beautiful woman in the community for his pleasure. He also informed Thomas that he had a choice, he could willingly comply or they could poison him with mind-controlling herbs and he would want to comply. He reminded Thomas that the herbs were addictive and once he started the herbs, he would forever crave them and would not be able to function without them. Helki bragged how he found pleasure without the herbs and how important it was for him to always have a clear mind.
Thomas did not know what he was going to do. He silently prayed as he listened to Helki ramble on about his community. What did God want him to do? He did not want to comply. He still loved Nara and did not want to be unfaithful to her, and he was growing to love Maren and could see him having a life with her and Daniel. He loved her family and wanted to be a part of it. He had heard about the addictive herbs and that it was possible to overcome an addiction, but the withdrawal pains were severe and many gave up or killed themselves.
As they approached the community, Helki made the ultimate threat to Thomas, something he hoped that Helki would not do. Helki reminded him that he knew he had a new baby sister and if he did not cooperate, they would eventually take his parents and sister and bring them to the community and raise his as a pleasure slave. They would use his parents as slaves. Helki as said that he would bring Maren to the community; many men and women would love to find pleasure with her.
After hearing the threats to his family and to Maren, Thomas jumped off his horse and wanted to go after Helki, but as soon as he was on the ground, he was surrounded by Helki’s men and one stabbed a knife into his abdomen, not enough to injure any organs, but enough to cause pain and bleeding. Helki informed Thomas that he would be given a beautiful woman that night and if he did not please her, someone would go after his parents and sister. Helki grinned and ordered Thomas back on his horse.
Thomas tried to resist but received another knife wound in the back; not as bad as the first but knew he needed to get back on his horse to safe his life. His family’s life. Maren’s life.
Thomas continued to pray as he silently rode behind Helki, pleading inwardly to God to help him to know what to do. He did not want to defile himself, yet he had to save his family. He pleaded with God to protect his family. Even if they tried to leave their village, Helki had eyes everywhere and he would soon find out where they went. He prayed for protection for Maren and her family. He prayed for the king’s guards that they would be able to find him and help him escape.
After praying for most of the journey to the community, an overwhelming peace overcame Thomas and a word came to his mind: love. Love? He wondered what that meant. How was he to love? Who was he to love? He could not love someone he did not know and was not married to. Or, a different kind of love. Peace continued to settle over him so he knew that he had to trust the peace.
After traveling most of the day, they finally neared the community. Thomas was in awe of what had been done there in a few short years. A large thick wall that was about ten feet tall and several feet thick which was made of brick and other materials that Thomas was not sure of, surrounded acres and acres of land. He did not understand how a great wall that looked to be miles long was built in so short of time. He saw many structures inside, including a large pyramid shaped building which appeared to be made of some type of marble. There were many empty spaces and he wondered if more buildings would be built.
Outside the wall, fields of grain and a variety other crops as well as fields for animals dotted the landscape. He saw several men, women, and children working in the fields with what appeared to be taskmasters on large horses watching them. He watched as one woman fell to the ground and one of the taskmasters hit her with a stick until she slowly got up and started working again. Thomas’s heart fell as he saw the woman’s anguish and he wondered how anyone could treat another person like that. Helki told Thomas that they used slaves to build the wall and other buildings as well as to maintain their fields and animals. The slaves were expected to work and if they faltered in any way, they would be beaten. Thomas was speechless. He wanted to jump off his horse to lash out at Helki but knew that would only bring him additional pain and he knew he had to keep his right mind if he wanted to escape and possible help others. Love, that word came back to his mind.
As they neared the gates of the community, the setting sun’s brilliant colors filled the sky. Thomas wondered if the stunning sunset was a sign that God knew who he was and the trouble he was in. Three young men stood guard at the gates and Helki ordered one of them to find the healer and to meet him at his house. He informed Thomas that he did not want Thomas’s wounds to become infected, he had much work for him to do.
One of the guards grabbed the reins of Thomas’s horse and led him to Helki’s large house. It was definitely the largest building in the city, besides the pyramid structure. The guard helped Thomas down and pain shot through him from his knife wounds causing him to buckle to his knees. Helki laughed at him and reminded him that his wounds were not that deep and he would be okay.
A beautiful woman dressed in a deep red revealing tunic, walked over to Hermes and helped him stand up. She introduced herself as Leah and that she was one of the community’s healers. She helped walk Thomas to a room with a mattress that was on a wooden frame so it was off the floor. The room contained several small urns that Thomas wondered if they contained herbs. She helped him to lay down and then looked carefully at his wounds. She informed him that he was fortunate that the wounds were not any deeper. She took a small linen cloth and dipped it in a vase of water and cleaned the wounds as Thomas flinched from the pain. Next, she took some of the herbs from three different urns and mixed them together with a small amount of water, creating a poultice and placed them on the wounds, wrapping them in place with a long linen cloth. Leah informed Thomas that was a temporary poultice as he would take a warm healing bath later. Thomas questioned her about that and Leah assured him that the bath would greatly benefit him and his healing. She would stop by his room later to reapply the poultice.
Thomas wondered if Leah was the woman that Helki told him that he had to spend time with tonight. The thought came that she would be a beautiful woman to find pleasure with, but immediately thought of Nara and Maren and inwardly prayed for forgiveness for those thoughts. The word Love came back to his mind and he still did not know how he was supposed to love in this place.
Without warning, Leah suddenly laid down next to Thomas and began kissing him. He was shocked at the sudden passion and immediately pushed her away as he was certain that was not the type of love that the thought referred to. Leah expressed deep disappointment because she was extremely attracted to him. She told him that most of the women in the community, and many of the men, would want to find pleasure with him because of his well-shaped body. Thomas almost threw up at the thought of women and men wanting to use him. What kind of community did Helki have here? How was he going to get out before he got into trouble? Would he even make it out without being poisoned, or even alive?
After Leah left the room, Helki came in and sat on a chair next to where Thomas lay. He expressed his disappointment that Thomas turned down Leah, as she was one of the most beautiful women in the community, but he would have another chance with her in the morning. He reminded Thomas of what was expected of him that night and it was his choice if he was going to comply or not. Thomas wanted to kill Helki right then and there but knew it was futile. He did not like those feelings as they were hatred, not love.
Two of Helki’s men came into the room and helped Thomas up and walked him to another room in the house. This room had a large mattress on a wood frame like in the previous room. A large white marble bath with steam rising from the warm water was at the side of the room. Two young scantily dressed girls who looked to be about 16 years old were preparing the bath with flowers and scented oils. Both longingly looked at Thomas until Helki nodded to them to leave the room. The room sweetly scented room smelled like roses and something else which Thomas did not know and the scents momentarily eased Thomas’s heart. He hoped that Helki would also leave and allow Thomas to enjoy his bath alone.
Much to Thomas’s approval, Helki said that he was leaving Thomas for the night. With an ominous grin, he encouraged Thomas to enjoy his bath and to get good rest as he would have a busy day tomorrow. He also mentioned that guards would be posted outside his room all night so he should not try to leave and that he just needed to comply. The hairs on Thomas’s neck bristled at Helki’s words. What did he mean?
Shortly after Helki left, Thomas took off the herbal poultices and eased into the large hot bath, feeling the comfort of the scented water after a long hard day. After he had been in the bath for several minute, the door to his room opened and in walked the one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. She had long wavy light-colored hair and wore a deep purple silky robe. She smiled at Thomas as he looked for something to cover himself with and thought about the word Love.