Thomas Part 20

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 19

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…)

Thomas Part 19

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 18

Several months passed by. Thomas had not received any more threats and saw Maren on a regular basis. Their love for each other slowly grew and flourished. He and Pat stayed busy as many new customers came to them for their work. They wondered how many were part of the king’s army; they did not know, but were grateful for the business. Pat married his sweetheart, Tsifira, and they started their new life together.

Motega and Dena, among others from Helki’s community, continued to come to the village and speak in the marketplace. They had obtained many followers, many left their homes and families to go live in their community. Shiblon was still obsessed with Dena and went to see her as often as he could, but thus far had remained with his family. His parents were felt constantly on edge, concerned that he would be caught in her web and leave. Dena was a very alluring temptress to Shiblon; she had a strong lustful pull on him, as well as other young men. Unfortunately, Shiblon did not see that; he only focused on her beauty and naively thought she had eyes just for him.

On one beautiful sunny day, a messenger came to the woodshop with a letter from David. Thomas opened it in eager anticipation as it was about time for his mother’s baby to be born. Th baby had arrived! His mother delivered a strong, healthy baby girl. They named her Cherubim as they felt she was an angel sent directly from God. Thomas wept with joy at the news. David requested that he come home as soon as he could to meet his new baby sister.

Thomas told everyone who stopped by the woodshop about his sister. As soon as he was able, he ran to Maren’s home to share the great news with her. He hoped to take Maren and Daniel home with him to meet his parents and new sister and decided that he would discuss that with her and her parents.

When he reached Maren’s home, Satordi eagerly barked and greeted Thomas. They had become best buddies during the last few months as Thomas was able to spend more time with Maren. Daniel came running out, followed by a teary eyed Maren.

Thomas immediately hugged Maren and asked her what was wrong. She took his hand, and led him into the house with Daniel following behind.

When they walked into the main sitting room, Abigail was in tears with Marcus, with a distressed look on his face, sitting next to her with his arm protectively around her. Thomas looked at Maren and Marcus for information. Marcus sadly informed him that Shiblon had run away to be with Dena. Tears continued to stream down Maren’s face; Thomas took her into his arms to comfort her.

Over the last few months, Shiblon went to the marketplace as often as he could. He developed what he thought was a friendship with Dena, as she continued to seduce him into her web. His family, Thomas, and others warned him about Dena and the group but he would not listen. Since he was now 16, he loudly and angrily protested that he was old enough to be a man and to make his own choices to his family.

Levi, one of Shiblon’s friends, was with Shiblon at the marketplace and was the one who came to tell Micco and Abigail what had happened. Levi was also somewhat interested in the teaching of Motega and others that came from the same group, but not as fascinated as Shiblon was. He informed Micco and Abigail that Dena had enticed Shiblon with promises of being entertained by her and other beautiful women, and wealth. She gave him a gold chain with a jade jaguar head, similar to one she wore, and strongly suggested that he come with her. Feeling full of lust and desire, he blindly followed her. Levi said that he tried to stop him, but it was as if Shiblon had been drugged. He described how several men who appeared to be shopping in the marketplace, subtly surrounded Shiblon to be sure he stayed with Dena. Shiblon mounted a horse with Dena and they left with the others following close behind.

Micco asked Levi about the possibility that Shiblon had somehow been poisoned. Levi did not think so, saying that Dena seemed to have some kind of alluring power. He stated that he watched her use this power with other young men, and even almost to him. He expressed his concern and regret that Shiblon did not see through the deception and realize that he was not the only one who was allured by Dena. However, recalled that Dena had given Shiblon a drink or water and guessed it was possible there was poison in it, but he also received a drink and he felt fine.

Thomas asked Micco what he could do to help get Shiblon back. Micco said that he, Rowtag and Marcus were going to Helki’s community to bring him home. Deron, Maren’s 19-year old brother, immediately spoke up and said that he also wanted to go. Levi warned them that they needed to be careful. Even though Levi was young, Shiblon’s age, he had an inner sense of the evil of Helki and his followers, which is why he had not gone with Shiblon.

About that moment, Satordi started barking; Maren and Nastas went to the door. Melchior stood patiently outside, waiting for someone to come and control the dog. Nastas firmly held Satordi as he introduced him to Melchior. Satordi instantly calmed down realizing this man did not pose a threat to his family. After greeting those in the house, Melchior offered his services to help rescue Shiblon. He explained that many other young men, and some young women have been seduced by Helki’s group and were taken away from their families. Because these young men and women left on their own volition, the group could not be charged with forcefully taking them. He went on to explain that once they were at the community, they were not allowed to leave for several months after arriving.

With great appreciation, Micco accepted Melchior’s offer. Feeling a great love and responsibility for Shiblon, Thomas informed Micco that he also wanted to go to find Shiblon. Melchior expressed extreme apprehension reminding Thomas of the threats he had previously received. He expressed concern that Thomas would be walking straight into a trap. Thomas stated that he shared the same concern, but hoped that they all would be safe. Micco suggested that having Thomas along might give them leverage since Shiblon seemed to have a great respect for Thomas and may listen to him whereas he may not listen to others. Melchior reluctantly agreed but on condition of an added precaution to ensure his safety.

Micco informed Melchior of his current plans then asked for suggestions. Melchior shared his limited knowledge about the community. As a group, they counseled together as what they would need to do to bring Shiblon home.

Thinking about his parents and his new baby sister, Thomas quickly wrote a short letter explaining that he needed to help find Maren’s brother and he would need to delay his coming to see them but would come as soon as he could. He found a messenger to deliver the letter.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 18

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 17

Thomas explained to Shiblon the importance of following specific guidelines in woodworking and in metallurgy like his father did. Without following specific guidelines, the work would be inferior and not hold up to regular use. He went to the back of his woodshop and brought out a large bow. He showed Shiblon the bow and asked if he thought it was good bow. He inspected it and mentioned that he would love to have the bow; it was a beautiful bow and looked to be very well made.

Taking the bow back, Thomas shared a time when he was younger and just felled a large hickory tree. He was anxious to use the wood to create a bow. His father warned him about the importance of letting the wood dry completely before trying to shape it into a bow. Thomas remembered how impatient he was and after letting the wood pieces dry for a short couple of weeks, rather than for several months or even a couple of years. He was positive the wood was ready. He spent hours and hours on the bow and it was beautiful. He planned to use it for one of his competitions.

After finishing the bow, he practiced shooting targets with it to assure it was perfectly aligned. He seemed to have needed to adjust it more than most of his bows. Even though he believed he had it adjusted perfectly, his shot would be off. He would readjust the string, it would work for a while, then need realigning. He was beginning to feel very frustrated with the bow since perfect alignment was imperative for his competition. Yet again, he went to great effort to ensure it was perfectly aligned, then took it to a competition. During the warm-ups at the competition, his aim was off again. Finally, he did a thorough inspection of the bow and discovered it was slightly warped, just enough to where he would never be able to use it. He mentioned to Shiblon how grateful he was that he had taken another bow which he knew was made correctly.

He then handed the bow back to Shiblon and asked if he still wanted the bow. Shiblon examined it more carefully and found where the wood was warped. Thomas pointed out a couple other places where the wood slightly warped over several months after the competition.

Continuing his story, Thomas expressed his frustration about the bow to his grandfather who then reminded him about his impatience of waiting until the wood was completely dry before shaping it into a bow. He informed Shiblon that he honestly thought the that wood was dry enough to shape and carve and would be alright. He recalled how his grandfather pointed out to him the importance of the wood being completely dry before using it for anything, that even though it appeared to be dry, there was most likely moisture still in the wood. Even to build chairs, tables, boxes, the wood needed to be completely dry. Thomas acknowledged that he did not want to believe his grandfather, but over time, he learned the importance of only using timber that was completely dry, even if it took a couple years to dry. He explained to Shiblon that he had been tempted several times to begin a bow or a carving with wood that had not been completely dried, but the experience with his bow was a valuable lesson for him that helped lead to his success.

Shiblon asked if that was why he had so much timber in his woodshop. Thomas replied that was why and he was very careful to assure wood was dry before it was used to make something for a customer.

Thomas asked Shiblon about the steps his father used as he created works with metals and if there was any step that he could skip to save him time and effort. Both Shiblon and Pat laughed as they thought about the many times their father tried short cuts that only created more work and inferior products. Pat recalled the one time a sword that Micco made came out of the hilt during a battle because an important step was missed as he was making swords as quickly as he could. Micco was very grateful that this did not cause his customer to die or be severely wounded in the battle. Pat commented that from that time forth, Micco assured all of his products were of the highest standards.

Feeling somewhat frustrated, Shiblon asked what wood crafting and metal work had to do with obeying all the commandments. Thomas explained that when we know the entire picture, then it is easier to understand why we needed the commandments. He reminded Shiblon of the great Plan of Salvation given by our Heavenly Father and the importance of the coming of Jesus Christ in that plan.

Interrupting him, Shiblon asked if he actually believed that himself. Thomas hesitated, then slowly said yes. He went on to say that he doubted for so long, he wondered how Jesus could actually come and die for them. He wondered why a savior was even needed. He admitted that at times, he doubted the actual presence of a God, especially a loving God; but suddenly, in his need to help Shiblon understand, he was given the sweet assurance that God does live and that Jesus will come and atone for their sins. He began to weep as he said these words. Pat had tears come to his eyes as he also felt the sweet assurance of the Holy Ghost testifying that what Thomas said was true and right.

Adding to what Thomas said, Pat shared his feelings about God and the Plan of Salvation, and how Jesus Christ was the center of that plan. Even though Jesus had not come yet, Pat shared how he had felt the powerful influence of the spirit confirming to him that He would come, just as all the prophets had testified.

Thomas added that his parents always taught him that it was freeing to obey God’s commandments. Although God gave man agency, man would always be more free by obeying His commandments and sin brought bondage. Just as missing important steps in woodworking and metallurgy results in inferior or damaged products, failure to keep the commandments results in bondage and not being as whole and complete as he could be.

Shiblon felt like he had been trapped in a corner. He expressed that he felt that he had been betrayed by Thomas, the one person he thought he could trust with his feelings about God, one person who he thought would agree with him. He resentfully expressed his disappointment to Thomas that he was suddenly a believer. Thomas reminded him that he had always believed, he had just forgotten for a time that he did believe.

With all the energy of his heart and tears in his eyes, Thomas expressed his love for Nara and the hope that he will be with her forever. He expressed his gratitude and love for Maren and how he hoped to have a great life with her and that somehow in the eternities, his love for Maren would be rewarded and that she and Teetonka could be together forever. He asserted his now firm conviction that God will make everything right in the next life. He testified of his belief in Jesus Christ and the importance of following the prophets.

Pipi, who was laying next to Thomas, quietly got up and licked Shiblon’s hand as if he were trying to tell him that all would be okay. He then went to Thomas and jumped up on his lap as if he were pleased with the words he had spoken. All three laughed as Pipi did this, adding some lightness and peace to a tense situation.

Thanking Thomas for his words, Shiblon told him that he would think about what he said, but still was not convinced about the reality of God and especially of the coming of Jesus Christ. He used the same argument as all the nonbelievers: How could anyone know of something that is to come? Pat stared at him disbelievingly, yet with love, and asked him if he did not feel the spirit that was there. Shiblon replied that he wanted to feel it but did not feel anything different, then added his wonderment of why they were crying; two large, grown men with tears in their eyes.

He then stated that he needed to figure this out for himself; he needed time and space. Pat promptly directed him to talk to the prophets, teachers, and their parents, not those who were trying to destroy their faith and their lives. Shiblon replied that he had listened to those people his entire life, now it was time to hear the other side. Feeling some empathy towards him, Thomas told him he understood his feelings and asked him to at least take his experiences in to consideration. He reminded Shiblon that he would not find joy and happiness in what Motega and Dena taught. While he may find some temporary pleasure and gratification, he would never find the long-lasting joy and happiness that his parents had. He then pled with all the sincerity of his heart for Shiblon to seriously heed his words.

Thomas wished he could warn Shiblon of all the dangers of listening to Motega and his group but knew it would only push him away. He felt as though Shiblon were like a younger brother and desperately wanted to help him but knew he could only do so much. Fortunately Shiblon was still considered underage at age 15, so his parents still had responsibility over him for another year or so. He reflected back to when he was 15 and felt grateful for the competitions that he was involved in that helped to keep him focused. He also felt a strong gratitude for his grandfather who helped him through some tough times. He then thought of Nara; he knew when he was 15 that he wanted to marry her. That decision proved to be valuable to him as it gave him a focus and a very good reason to stay close to God.

Feeling a strong urge to leave, Shiblon abruptly stood up and stated that he was going home. Pat looked at him with skepticism in his eyes; Shiblon responded with a snarky attitude that he would go straight home. Besides, he figured that Motega and Dena were gone. As he walked walk out of the woodshop, Thomas let him know that he could come and talk anytime.

Reflecting on the conversation, Pat mentioned that Shiblon had always been more free-spirited than the rest of the family. He had always questioned his parents more than all his other siblings, especially when it came to matters of religion. Thomas expressed his empathy towards Shiblon as he had his doubts about God; then conveyed his deep gratitude for what he had just experienced, feelings that he had not felt since in his early marriage with Nara. He was so grateful to again know that God existed and to feel his love and mercy for him. Pat thanked him for the powerful witness that he gave of God, Jesus, and the Plan of Salvation. Thomas and Pat then returned to work.

The next day Micco came by the woodshop to express his profound gratitude to Thomas. He mentioned that Shiblon told him about their conversation and that what Thomas expressed to him actually helped, but he still questioned the reality of God and the coming of Jesus and wanted to continue to search. Micco’s deep blue eyes looked sad as he knew that Shiblon would most likely go to the marketplace again to see if Motega and Dena were there, or if any others came to talk to the people. He wished that he could completely prevent Shiblon from going to the marketplace and mentioned his desire to do better to keep him busier at home and in his business, but ultimately knew he could not keep his free-willed son chained up.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 17

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 16

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…)

Thomas Part 16

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 15

The next morning, Thomas hitched his horse to a small wagon filled with empty water skins and took his mother with him to the village well to fill the skins. Despite the looming threats, they laughed and enjoyed talking with each other. David stayed at the woodshop and worked on one of the chairs that Thomas had difficulty with.

While David was alone in the woodshop, Helki rode up and entered. Surprised to find David, rather than Thomas, he offered a cordial greeting. David, feeling apprehensive at seeing Helki, casually responded and stated that he had not seen him for a while. Helki commented that he had been busy building up his community and had not much time to travel home to see his parents. After some small talk about their home village, Helki asked about Thomas. David informed him that he was getting water and should be back within the hour. Helki asked David to tell Thomas that he would be back later in the day. David advised Helki that they would be travelling back to their home the following day and asked if there was anything that he would like to send to his parents. Helki smiled and said that he would think about it and that he would at least write a letter; then he left.

Within the hour, Thomas and Mary returned to the woodshop. David helped Thomas unload the water skins, then showed him what he accomplished. Thomas was clearly impressed at his father’s work and where he added necessary detail. David demonstrated what he did and Thomas immediately followed the instructions on another chair he had been working on. The result was immediate and he was very pleased. Thomas decisively declared to David that he could come and visit anytime he wanted to.

Mary then asked David to bring her canvas, paints, and brushes because she wanted to paint in the woodshop to be near her husband and son. David went to the wagon and brought Mary’s painting items into the woodshop. He helped Mary set up the canvas and organize her materials then went back to watch and help Thomas.

As Thomas showed David the bow he was making for Marcus, David mentioned that Helki stopped by and would come by later in the day. At the mention of Helki, Thomas shuttered, wondering when this whole ordeal would be over. David also informed him that he volunteered to take something back to Helki’s parents. Thomas expressed that he wished that he would not have done that; he did not believe that Helki did not deserve any kindness from them. He reminded his father that he had told Helki never to come to his woodshop again and that he was upset that his commands had been completely disregarded. David reminded him that Helki is still his parents’ son and they continue to love him and have hope for him; this was for his parents, not for Helki. Thomas reluctantly conceded but felt a concern that this left a door open for Helki to continue to come to his woodshop.

Later that morning, Melchior, the member of the king’s army who had ordered a bow a few days previous, rode up to the woodshop. Pipi and Riporty eagerly welcomed him. Thomas, seeing who it was walked over to greet him. He introduced Melchior to his parents without mentioning that he was part of the king’s army. He explained that because of his parents’ unexpected visit he had not been able to start on his bow or dog. Melchior informed him that he had not expected that his order would be complete but wanted to add an additional carving.

As Melchior described his concept for the new carving, he mentioned that he heard about the latest direct threat from Helki. Thomas, with a concerned look on his face, reported the conversation and asked what he should do. Melchior advised him to continue his life as he normally would and assured him that there were many king’s soldiers passing through the cities and villages. Some would be in uniform and some would be dressed as travelers. With a large smile, he informed Thomas to expect his business to increase as many would stop by to place orders and check on him. Melchior suggested that he consider hiring someone to help him with his business and even suggested to think about hiring an apprentice, namely, Maren’s younger brother Pat. Thomas remembered Pat; he looked very much like Micco, however, he was taller and stockier. Melchior explained, with David listening, that Pat was an excellent carpenter and was planning to marry soon and would like to work with someone who could teach him superior woodworking skills. Thomas was very enthusiastic about the idea; he had seen Pat’s work while at their home and was quite impressed. It also occurred to Thomas that Pat’s intimidating size could prove to be very beneficial.

David interjected into the conversation expressing his desire to meet the family. Melchior laughed and stated that though intimidating in appearance due to their size and strength, they were actually very kind, humble, and god-fearing people. Thomas made a mental note of that last comment.

As they were talking, Marcus and Pat entered the woodshop. Melchior acted as if he did not know them in the event that they were being watch. Thomas made the introductions, including his mother. Both David and Mary were impressed with the size of Marcus and Pat and especially the kindness that they showed.

Thomas informed Marcus and Pat that Melchior was traveling through the village and had ordered a bow and a dog carving and was checking to see if he had a chance to begin his work. With a twinkle in his eye, he informed them that he was getting behind with his work and wondered if they knew anyone who might be able to help him. Pat, grinning like someone who just received the greatest of gifts, enthusiastically asked Thomas if he might be considered. Thomas, smiling, admitted that he hoped that Pat would respond and asked that he bring some of his work to show him; Pat readily agreed and said that he would do so later that day.

Marcus asked to see his bow which Thomas proudly showed him. Marcus expressed open admiration for the workmanship and how the bow looked better than he expected. Thomas told him that it should be finished later that day and he could pick it up right before the sunset or the next day. Melchior explained to Marcus that it was his bow which influenced his decision to order a bow for himself.

As all prepared to leave, Melchior thanked Thomas for visiting with him and then mounted his horse and rode off. Pat informed Thomas that he would be back in a couple hours with samples of his work. Marcus walked to where Mary was painting and openly admired her work. He discretely told her not to fear, they were watching Thomas. This brought a measure of comfort to her heart.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 15

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 14

The next day started out uneventfully for Thomas. He worked in his woodshop, met with a few customers, then resumed working. After taking a break for a late midday meal, he heard Pipi and Riporty suddenly begin to bark, barking happily like it was someone they knew and loved. Thomas quickly put his tools down on his workbench and walked out to the front of his woodshop to find Pipi and Riporty eagerly jumping and prancing around his parents! He ran to them, lifting Mary into the air and twirling her around, then happily hugging David. It had been several months since he had seen his parents so he was extremely excited to see them, more so than he would have thought. He invited them to the back of his woodshop where there was a small table and a few chairs. He offered them some water and something to eat, which they gratefully accepted.

Thomas asked them what brought them to his village since it was at least a two-day journey from their home. David and Mary looked at each other, gleefully smiling like two young children who had a secret. Mary could not hold back any longer and excitedly revealed to Thomas that she was with child! Thomas, feeling stunned and shocked, gazed at David for confirmation. David smiled, laughed, clapped him on the back and confirmed it was true; Thomas would be a big brother. Tears came to Mary’s eyes as she told him that she had about another five moons until the baby came. She had not told anyone yet because of past experiences trying to have children. She hoped that she was far enough along so the baby would be born healthy without any problems. David mentioned that he was the first person that they told except for the healer that has been helping them and she was sworn to secrecy.

Still feeling dumbfounded by the news, Thomas hugged Mary and told her how happy he was for her and for their family. He could hardly believe that he would be a brother, it was something he wanted his entire life. Even though there would be a large age gap between them, Thomas was definitely old enough to be the baby’s father, he was thrilled. His excitement for his mother was beyond belief. He decided that he was done with work for the day and asked his parents to join him at his house.

Before heading to Thomas’s house, Mary and David openly admired at all the work that Thomas had done. David was especially pleased and commented that his work had greatly improved, especially in the small intricate details in the animal carvings. Thomas beamed with delight at being praised by his father. He expressed his love for carving and became more adept with each piece he carved. He also revealed that he had some training from an expert wood carver who demonstrated to him several techniques to add detail and a more realistic look to his carvings.

Thomas showed David a couple of chairs that he had struggled with; then asked them how long they would be able to stay. David answered that they would be there for about two days and then needed to head back home. He explained that the healer wanted Mary back home as soon as possible. Thomas then asked his father if he could help him with the chairs, David examined them and stated he would be honored to help.

Mary walked to the house, David and Thomas enjoyed a lively conversation while they unhitched the horses from the wagon they had traveled in, put them in the barn, and gave them grain and water. They walked back to the wagon so David could retrieve a few items and handed Thomas a large rectangular item that was covered in cloth. Thomas glanced at him with curious eyes. David smiling and with a twinkle in his eye told him that he could see what was under the cloth once they were in the house. Thomas instinctively knew it was a painting that his mother created, but had no idea of what it could be.

Mary seated herself on a handcrafted chair that Thomas made out of hickory wood, anxiously awaiting her husband and son. As she waited, she admired the quality of the chair and the other items that Thomas had made.

As soon as Thomas and David entered the house, Thomas set the rectangular bundle upright on the floor; then eagerly asked if he could now remove the cloth cover. David and Mary excitedly told him he could. He pulled off the cloth and stared in amazement at what he saw. It was an exquisite painting of him in his woodshop. It depicted him with an unfinished bow in one hand and a carving tool in his other hand. He was looking forward steadfastly. In the background was a faint image of his beautiful Nara, dressed in a pale white dress with her hands out, appearing as if she were encouraging him to move forward. The painting was framed in a light maple wood that David crafted specifically for it. Thomas appreciatively gazed at the many elaborate details in the painting—carved animals in the background, tools scattered on a tool bench, Pipi and Riporty laying on the floor, Nara’s long beautiful hair flowing behind her, among so many other details. Thomas, with tears flowing down his cheeks, went to Mary and held her in his arms, crying into her shoulders. David joined the hug. Once he regained his composure, he told he mother how much he loved her and expressed as much gratitude as he could for the painting. They examined the painting together and identified many of the small intricate details imbedded in the painting, including Jesus Christ in the top left corner with his hands outstretched to Thomas. The image of Jesus was so subtle, Thomas did not see it at first. Mary disclosed to Thomas that she felt Nara’s hand as she created the painting; ideas of the small intricate details came to her as dew settles on grass in the morning.

After spending several minutes admiring the painting, Thomas retrieved some bread, cheese, and deer jerky for an early evening meal. While they ate, Thomas asked more questions about the baby and how Mary was doing. She reported that she had a couple weeks where she felt sick, but for the most part, she felt good, just tired. After all, she stated, she was not as young as she used to be! They all laughed. Thomas complimented her, stating that she still looked beautiful and did not look a day older than 25. Mary laughed and thanked him for the compliment.

Becoming more somber, Thomas informed his parents that he had some news to share with them. He first talked about Maren and Daniel, only mentioning that her husband had died. Both Mary and David looked at him with hope in their eyes; they wanted him to move on with his life and find someone he could love. They both expressed interest in meeting Maren and Daniel before they left to go home. Thomas mentioned that right now would not be a good time to meet her. He then reluctantly recounted Helki’s visits and the threats made to him, Maren, and her family.

Feeling like he was stabbed in the heart, David expressed remorse in the actions of Helki. David and Mary knew Helki’s parents well and knew they were good people. They were well aware of the problems Helki had created for them and expressed that they had hoped he would have changed as he matured, but declared that it seemed to have worsened.

Thomas recounted the details of how Maren’s husband died. Mary’s face paled as her heart went to Helki’s mother and the grief and pain she must be feeling. She commented that Helki’s mother, even though she attempts to put on a happy face, looks as though she is deeply burdened. Now that Mary had a greater understanding she resolved to spend more time with her once they were back home.

David and Mary expressed deep concern for their son. They suggested that he go back to their village. Thomas mentioned that he considered that but did not feel it would be right to run away from the problem.

About that moment, there was eager barking from Pipi and Riporty and a knock on the door. Thomas opened the door to Micco and Rowtag filling the space with their large bodies. Thomas excitedly welcomed them into the house where he introduced them to his parents. They all shook hands and Thomas invited them to sit on cushions, since he did not have enough chairs for everyone. David and Mary moved their chairs so they were facing Micco and Rowtag.

Micco and Rowtag’s eyes immediately turned to the painting. They carefully and admiringly studied it as Thomas explained some of the details. They turned to Mary looking at her with awe and admiration at her astounding work. Micco expressed the desire to have Mary paint something for him in the near future. Mary replied that she would be happy to create a painting for him.

Micco conveyed his appreciation to David and Mary for raising such an amazing son. He recounted Thomas’s experiences with Satordi and that he knew he could completely trust him. David agreed that Thomas was trustworthy declaring that he was honored to call him his son.

Micco then asked David if Thomas had informed them about the recent happenings and threats. Thomas answered saying that he told them part of the threats, but had not had the chance to finish. Mary expressed concern for Thomas’s safety as well as Maren’s. She added that she looked forward to meeting Maren and Daniel. Micco smiled and told her that he hoped that it would be sooner rather than later. He also mentioned that Daniel was pretty smitten with Thomas and constantly begged to see him again so he could fly. They laughed as Thomas explained how he held Daniel in the air like he was flying. Mary put her hands to her heart and expressed how she longed to meet him.

Thomas spent a few moments informing Micco and Rowtag about his encounter with Helki the previous day. Concern spread over both Micco and Rowtag’s faces as Rowtag explained how a few men, and even women, had been taken against their will to Helki’s community. Mary immediately gasped and asked how Thomas could be protected, and again brought up the possibility of him returning home. Because Helki made a direct threat to Thomas, David asked if that wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him. Rowtag answered that it probably was not, since no one else heard the threat, but reminded Thomas to tell a member of the king’s army next time they stopped by.

As the group discussed the situation, they determined that Thomas’s returning home would not change their situation or the threats. Thomas assured Mary that the king’s army were discretely working with him and Micco’s family to help protect them and to find those who were making the threats. After discussing the situation for several more minutes, Micco and Rowtag announced that they needed to head back home. Before leaving they expressed to David and Mary what a pleasure it was to meet them and that they hoped to see them again in the near future.

After Micco and Rowtag left, Mary, with tears in her eyes, hugged Thomas and made him promise to be careful. Thomas promised her that he would.

(To be continued…)

Thomas Part 14

Thomas Part 1

Thomas Part 13

The next morning, Thomas woke feeling like he had a pit in his stomach. He wondered how he had gotten himself in this web of intrigue. One thing he knew for certain, he wanted to get to know Maren better but did not want to cause any safety concerns for her, her family, or himself.

After eating some bread and cheese, Thomas fed his animals, then followed by Pipi and Riporty, he walked to his woodshop where he resumed work on Marcus’s bow. He was grateful for the diversion that working with wood brought to him. He always felt a deep sense of gratification as he utilized wondrous materials from nature to create works of art.

Later that morning, Pipi and Riporty began eagerly barking; Thomas knew that bark meant someone was approaching his woodshop. He put down the bow he was working on and greeted the visitors. There were three men who were with the kings army. They were dressed in light weight armor and carried swords and shields with them. All three were taller than Thomas with bulging muscles. Two of them had dark hair and eyes and looked like they could be brothers. The other one had short light-colored hair, a lighter complexion with blue eyes. Thomas looked outside and saw three beautiful mares that the soldiers must have rode up on. They were subtly decorated to identify that they belonged to the king’s army.

The lighter-complected of the soldiers informed Thomas that Micco sent them to him to learn about the threat to him and to Maren. Thomas led them to his house to retrieve the note that was sent. They read the note and asked if they could take it with them. He agreed. They asked Thomas to keep an eye out for anyone who may be watching him. Thomas chuckled as he informed them that he usually became so engrossed in his work that he almost became oblivious to his surroundings. He laughingly expressed his gratitude for Pipi and Riporty to let him know when someone approached the woodshop. He proclaimed that he did not even notice that Micco’s sons were watching him; however, he promised that he would pay better attention.

The soldiers assured Thomas that they wanted to capture those who threatened him and have been plundering communities. They remarked that it has been a very difficult process as highly respected members of the communities are secretly part of Helki’s group. Thomas inquired as to why they did not just travel out to the community Helki and his followers built up. One of the darker-complected soldiers responded that various soldiers had been there several times but they could not find any evidence of wrongdoing. They had several soldiers disguised as travelers in many cities, including Thomas’s village, but were not convinced that Helki’s group were not aware of what they were doing.

They informed Thomas that they would leave the village for a few days. They surmised that Thomas could possibly receive another note as someone in Helki’s group was most likely aware that they had been there. They warned Thomas to be careful and advised that it would be best not to see Maren for a few days. He agreed with them and expressed his desire to help them in anyway he could. The fair-complected soldier then showed Thomas a leather band with an identifying mark that all the soldiers carry. The band is to identify actual soldiers in the army. Thomas studied the marking carefully and curiously asked if others could reproduce it. One of the soldiers stated that some have tried but pointed out the leather which has a different look from the processing which is something that only a couple of people know how to do. Thomas had other questions, but chose to wait until another time to pose them.

After their departure, Thomas felt a sudden relief sweep over him with the knowledge that the king’s army was working on capturing Helki and his group.

Later that afternoon, Marcus came by the wood shop. Thomas showed him the bow that was almost complete. Marcus inspected the craftmanship with the wonder of a small child receiving a new toy. He inquired about the visit with the soldiers. Thomas expressed his gratitude that the king was aware of what was happening and attempting to stop all the plundering and threats. He also told Marcus that they agreed it would be best for him not to see Maren for a few days. Marcus concurred and assured him that their family supported that decision. He did say, with a big grin, that Daniel had been asking to see him. Thomas smiled as he remembered holding the young boy in the air, pretending to fly.

The next day, Helki showed up at Thomas’s wood shop. Thomas was not happy to see him and surprised that he came. Helki eagerly greeted him as if everything was fine and as if he had no awareness of the recent threats to Thomas. He asked to see the bow Thomas was currently working on. Thomas let him look at it and Helki admired his fine artistry; then bluntly told Thomas that he wanted to purchase it. Thomas declined stating it was being made for someone else. Helki then asked if Thomas would create a bow for him, pulling several coins out of his pocket, more than Thomas would normally make from a custom bow. He had no desire to do any work for Helki, let alone have anything to do with him. He informed Helki that he was quite busy and would not have time for another few weeks. Helki pulled out a few more coins. Thomas held firm to his decision, not even tempted by the extra coins.

Helki persisted and asked Thomas if he wanted to do some target practice. Thomas thanked Helki for stopping by, declined the offer, then informed him that he needed to get back to work, that he had several deadlines approaching. Lingering, Helki started looking at some of the already finished wood carvings and began asking him about them. Thomas, feeling annoyed with Helki’s persistence, but with some pride in his voice, showed him a few of the animals. Helki admired them and asked if he could purchase one. Thomas took a few coins from him and gave him a beautiful carving of a bear. He thanked him for his purchase and firmly reminded him that he needed to get back to work.

Helki did not take the hint and continued to dawdle. While Thomas was trying to convince Helki to leave, another man rode up to the woodshop. Thomas greeted the  man who appeared to be a few years older than Thomas, with long dark hair and light colored eyes. The young man, Melchior informed Thomas that he was traveling through the city and had heard about his talent and wanted to stop by to meet him and see his work. Thomas showed him the bow he was currently working on and some of the other carvings he had done. Melchior seemed quite impressed and asked if he could custom order a bow. Because Helki was still there and listening to the conversation, he told Melchior that it would be another couple weeks before he could finish the bow, but could take his order now. He gave Thomas his specifications and also ordered a carving of a dog. He said that he would be passing through the village again in about two weeks. Thomas would have liked to guarantee that the work would be done, but was hindered because of the presence of Helki. Melchior turned to Helki and asked if had purchased any of Thomas’s work. Helki showed him the bear carving that he just purchased and said that he had also bought a bow from Thomas about a year ago. He then informed him that he had just offered many coins to purchase another bow to be made immediately, but Thomas did not take the offer. Melchior smiled as he looked at Thomas and declared that he must be really busy to pass up that generous proposition. Thomas asked him if there was anything else that he could do for him, he replied that there was not and went on his way.

Watching Melchior leave, Thomas hoped that he was one of the king’s soldiers trying to distract him from Helki, but after he left, he concluded that he wasn’t. Thomas, again, reminded Helki that he needed to return to his work, said good-bye, and started to walk back into his woodshop. Helki followed and encouraged him to go out to his community, adding the enticement that there would be a place for him there where he could make much more money than he was earning in this village. Thomas looked directly into his eyes and commanded him to leave, emphatically informing him that he did not want any part of the group. He felt tempted to express his annoyance about the threatening note, but thought it would be best not to discuss it at that moment.

Helki walked towards the door strongly implying to Thomas that it would be in his best interest to visit his community. He shrewdly added that it would be in his best interest for himself and for the girl if he came willingly and not by force. At the mention of Maren, Thomas’s heart began to pound so hard, it felt as though it would come out of his chest. He forcefully ordered Helki to leave and not to come back. Helki arrogantly sneered as he departed.

Thomas wanted to run to Maren’s home and let her family know what just occurred but felt constrained, assuming that someone was probably watching him. While talking to Helki and the man that came by, he did remember to look around for anyone that could have been watching, including one of Maren’s brothers, but he saw no one.

Later that day, another tall, well-built man with a light complexion, hair and dark-blue eyes entered Thomas’s woodshop as Pipi and Riporty barked to greet him. He introduced himself as Malachi and quietly informed Thomas that he was part of the king’s army. He then quickly changed the conversation and asked to look at some of his bows. He informed Thomas that he had heard about the quality of his bows from many who owned them. Thomas picked up the bow he was working on for Marcus. Malachi whistled in amazement as he admired the beautiful craftmanship. While inspecting the bow, he discreetly showed Thomas a leather band that was inscribed with the army symbol to assure him that he was who he said he was.

While discussing the bow and perusing some of Thomas’s animal carvings, Malachi asked about the conversation he had with Helki earlier in the day and informed him that the man who visited him while Helki was there, was also part of the king’s army; they had been watching the exchange. Thomas looked at him incredulously and wondered how and where they could have been watching. Malachi just smiled at him, showing his straight white teeth, and said that they learned to be very clandestine.

While talking about the carvings, Thomas gave as many details about the conversation as he could, including the threat made by Helki. Malachi placed an order for a bow, but Thomas explained to him that it would not be ready for another two weeks. Malachi informed him that would be acceptable and that he may stop back before then to see how the bow was coming along and to see how Thomas was doing. They shook hands, Thomas thanked him for the business, then Malachi left the woodshop.

As Thomas scratched Pipi and Riporty’s ears, he reflected on the visits of the day, grateful to know that the king’s army was diligently searching for Helki and his group to again bring peace and order to their village and in hopes that he could see Maren in peace.

(To be continued…)