They whirled around just in time to see a young man on horseback come galloping out of the trees, a massive branch in his powerful hands
he trees split apart and the golem appeared. Everyone scrambled for safety as his giant feet stomped on the ground, flattening the carriage like an eggshell. Sylvester’s soldiers drew their crossbows and began to fire upward. The golem roared in anger and pain, stumbling backward. Slowly, like a giant tree trembling in the wind, the Golem’s enormous body rocked back and forth, finally landing on his back.
The forest floor shook violently from the giant fall, and everyone was knocked off their feet. In the mayhem, as everyone scrambled to regain their footing, Sylvester raced forward, climbing over the Golem’s giant legs, until he reached Reb Shabsi.
“Let me go! Pinchas! Pinchas! Help! He’s taking me away!”
But the golem could only groan in pain and shake its head in confusion as Sylvester dragged Reb Shabsi backward, disappearing into the trees.
Shimshon and Jorin stood up, but they were soon surrounded by two of the soldiers who were still conscious.
“Don’t… move…” The soldiers pointed with their swords.
Suddenly, a horse whinnied behind the soldiers. They whirled around just in time to see a young man on horseback come galloping out of the trees, a massive branch in his powerful hands.
Baruch swung the branch and both soldiers went flying into the trees, their swords clattering onto the forest floor.
“Baruch!” Shimshon raced forward to greet his long-lost friend.
Jorin watched the reunion nervously.
“This is Jorin, Baruch. He’s a fellow Jew.”
Baruch turned and looked at Jorin.
“I’m sorry. I — I was consumed by greed. I’m sorry I ever thought to return you to the castle, just so I could receive a reward.”
“Forget about it.” Shimshon waved his hand. “Everything is ordained from Above. And look what happened. You led me, though you didn’t mean to, right to my good friend, Baruch.”
“Reb Shabsi… Did you find him?” Baruch looked up as the golem let out a loud groan. It was trying to lift its head off the ground, but each time it tried it collapsed onto the ground.
“Yes, but now he’s gone. Sylvester has him. And… he has the scrolls.”
“We must find him!”
“Yes, we must try, but neither one of us is familiar with these forests. It’s like trying to find—”
“I can help you.” Jorin cleared his throat. “I know these forests like the back of my hand. I’ll lead you to that evil, pale-faced man. But we must move quickly. Every minute he remains ahead of us means another minute he gains to hide his tracks. Let’s move!”
“Thank you. But what about Pinchas the golem?”
“That creature? Leave it. It will find us. Or the old man you’re trying to rescue. Either way, it will catch up.”
Sylvester led Reb Shabsi somewhere nearby, hiding the old man inside a large cave.
“He’ll find us, don’t you think for a moment that he won’t. And when my Pinchas gets his hands on you….”
“You know what I really miss about civilization?” Sylvester spoke as he moved around the cave, collecting rocks to form some sort of bed. “Heat. The cold is killing me out here. I hate every moment in this wretched forest. Yet I’ve left behind a beautiful home, a tower of magnificence, all for one purpose and one purpose only….”
“And what’s that?”
“To find you, old man. To find you, and force you to decipher the scrolls. You are going to build me an army. An army of golems that can change the face of the earth. Golems that will render armies completely useless and defenseless. You are going to change everything, my friend.”
“Ha! I’ll never do it.”
“Yes. Yes, you will.”
“What makes you so certain, eh?”
“Because I know what you’ve done… I know what happened in the past. Why you left the civilized world and went to live by yourself, secluded in some hut with a mute and brainless giant creation.”
“How do I know? Because I know a lot of things, old man. I know that you were always jealous. Oh, so jealous. The brilliant Shimshon, your best friend, yes, but always the object of your fiercest jealousy. You always wanted to be like him — no! To be better than him!”
Sylvester removed his cloak, rolled it up, and tucked it at the head of his rock bed. He lay down, his long, skeletal frame seeming to float on top of the rocks because he weighed so little.
“So, you did something to show the world, to show yourself, that you could do something he could not. But then everything backfired, didn’t it, old man? Instead of accolades, you received scorn, anger, and rebuke. You were considered the bane of your people, a reckless, impulsive, bad little boy.”
“Stop… Stop talking.”
Reb Shabsi put his hands over his ears and rocked back and forth, tears springing to his eyes.
“Oh, don’t be like that. I’m not saying these things to hurt your poor little feelings. Don’t you get it? I’m just like you. I understand the frustration. I really do. A genius, but the world simply does not appreciate me for the glorious human being I am. So evil beckons, calling us both into its shadows, to use our power and recognition in other ways… ways society will never allow us.”
“I’m nothing like you! I’m not evil at all!”
“But aren’t you?”
Sylvester yelled, eyes flashing, as he leaped up, grabbed Reb Shabsi’s collar, and dragged him to his feet.
“What about those two boys, eh? What about them? And the river! Never forget what you’ve done! I know who you truly are! And that’s why I know you will help me! Because you are just like me, you just need to recognize the truth!”
“I can’t… I can’t….”
Sylvester pulled the scrolls from his pocket and unwound them before Reb Shabsi’s eyes.
“Yes, yes you can. And you will… Tonight.”
Reb Shabsi’s eyes traveled across the scrolls, his face lighting up.
“I remember. These are the ones I used once before, long, long ago….”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 974)
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