Continued from Fictional Story: Doctrine and Covenants 98: 9-10
Ethem absently placed a piece of stale flatbread into his mouth as he watched the old man's shaky hands tap an image out of the stone. The shape of a jaguar's head emerged when the man carefully blew the chiseled dust away. He studied his work for a moment and then raised his obsidian tool and hammer and resumed his tapping.
"Andibmer, your work is the finest in the kingdom." Ethem said, moving closer to the old man and offering him the last few bites of his bread.
"You've known no life but imprisonment since the day of your birth, Ethem. You have nothing to compare my work to." Andibmer accepted the bread and sat down against the wall of the prison workroom.
"No," Ethem pressed on, "but King Riplakish himself seeks you out to carve and chisel the precious ornaments for his towers and buildings. Isn't that proof enough?"
Andibmer snorted. "All that proves is that I'm the most talented prisoner he can compel to do his work for him. Riplakish wouldn't recognize anything of true value if it dropped from the sky and landed in his gluttonous lap."
Ethem sat beside the old man. "Riplakish has ruled in Moron for over forty years, taxing the people to fund his buildings, his towers, and his throne, not to mention all of the prisons to hold those who could not or would not pay his taxes." He rubbed his thumbnail with his finger. "How many of those years have you spent here, Andibmer?"
The old man crumbled the last bit of bread and let it fall to the dirt floor. "Forty-one years and seven months." He turned to face Ethem, the slightest trace of tears sparkled in the corner of his eyes. "I was thirty-two, in my last year of apprentice to a stone carver, betrothed to the most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on. My master lacked the money to pay Riplakish's outrageous tax, so he paid with me instead."
Ethem shook his head and laid his hand on the man's bony shoulder. "Too many similar stories can be found in all of Riplakish's prison's throughout Moron. He has afflicted the people, both within and without the prisons." He took a deep breath. "The time has come to throw off the burdens Riplakish has cast upon us and drive him and his family from the land."
Andibmer offered his young companion a grim smile. "And who will reign in his stead? Someone else seeking power and glory?"
"No. We will govern ourselves, never again to let someone with only his own interests in mind have power over us to afflict us as he has."
"Grand views, Ethem. Very grand." Andibmer rose from the ground, his joints creaking and popping as he did. "I hope all goes as you plan, that freedom and righteousness may be restored to the land." He grabbed his tools and returned to his stone carving.
Ethem gently grabbed the man's arm. "Your freedom shall be restored as well, Andibmer. You will have your life back!"
Andibmer slowly shook his head. "Look at me, Ethem. I am old. I have lived my life; it cannot be restored to me. All that might have been, must remain as might have been."
"No, no, Ethem. Do not sorrow for me. I regained my freedom many years ago."
"How is that possible when you have resided here for so long?"
"Riplakish indeed stole everything from me when he placed me in this prison so many years ago. Although he could deny me my earthly possessions, even keep me from marrying and fathering children, Riplakish could not keep me from having faith in the Lord, from trusting that someday He would free me."
Ethem's face was drawn with confusion. "But the Lord has not freed you!"
"Ah but he has. He freed me the day he showed me how much I still had."
"But in prison!"
"Food to eat, people to talk to and befriend me."
"But in prison," Ethem repeated.
"I got to spend my entire life doing what I loved best, coaxing pictures from plain stone, creating beauty where before was only potential."
"But at what cost?" Ethem shook his head.
"Someday you'll understand. Remember me for this, Ethem, that I lived in peace with the lot I was given. No one can say I yielded to the circumstances forced upon me. Although I am Riplakish's subject, a member of his kingdom, I am not subject to Riplakish for my happiness and joy--that I found through the Lord.