I Am the Way: Chapter 3

There were only a few smoldering embers left in the pit that had small wisps of smoke curling up only to dissipate in the air. I tossed another handful of dirt on them to extinguish them then stood up, wiping my hands on my wet dress and streaking the grey material with brown. I was exhausted and soaked to the bone, my loosed hair hanging limply around my face. I had stayed up all night through the terribly cold wind and rain, keeping the fire burning bright and hot. The only sleep I had gotten was in short bouts of about ten to fifteen minutes. Ember’s growls woke me every time I started to fall into a deep sleep. I had finally gotten about a half hour’s worth of sleep when the clouds broke just before sunrise. Now, though, it was a bright morning, the sun shining cheerily in the sky and bathing the world in blessed light.

Blearily, I yawned and rubbed my eyes as I went to the shed and prepared the food for the animals. I was just walking out towards the pens, bags of food hefted over my shoulder, when Ember gave a growling bark and his hackles stood up. I looked over my shoulder at the where he was looking and nearly groaned out loud. Coming down the muddy lane with a very arrogant look on his face was none other than Tynan. I hated him now more than ever. Lack of sleep coupled with the fact that I despised him anyways meant that I was not in any mood, or anywhere near any mood, to be teased by the brute today. I turned from him and resumed walking to the pens. He would never follow me in there, no matter how brave he pretended to be. Just as I knew he would, he stopped several paces in front of the rope, a confident smirk on his face even while he was keeping a careful eye on Blaze and Ember, who had not stopped growling.

“You know, I have to admit I am upset to see you alive,” Tynan said casually. “When I saw the blaze, I hoped to find this place burned to the ground. The entire village did, actually. We guessed it was started by a lightening strike. They sent me to see how bad it was.”

I stayed silent; anything I said would be twisted and used against me. Tynan was the worst out of all the villagers, men, women, and children alike. He, like many men in Paxtonvale, firmly believed that women were nothing but chattel and that they could not take care of themselves. The fact that my mother and I had been doing so successfully for years bothered him to no end. I had once heard him talking to my mother, saying that he would marry me just so I would be his and so there would be a man in the house to ‘take care of things’ that we could not. Needless to say, she said no because, according to the law, he would be in charge of her as well as me if we married. My mother was adamant about not having a man boss her around. Her stories of father were wonderful; he supported her in everything and wanted her to be happy, but never demeaned her like so many men did to their wives. I could not imagine anybody being worse than Tynan when it came to demeaning women and girls. There was no comparison.

After Flare began nosing the bags I held, I whistled for the fire Elementals and they all came to me. From the corner of my eye, I noticed that Tynan backed up a few paces. That made me smirk, and he growled in response. He obviously did not like that I was amused by his fear.

“What’s so funny, Fily?”

Feeling brave, I turned and looked at him. “Do not call me Fily! And it’s funny that you are so scared of these sweet little creatures.”

To emphasize my point, I gently pet Blaze and, to my surprise, Inferno landed on my shoulder. Tynan’s face turned red with anger and he took a few steps forward, looking as if he wanted to try and put me in my place. I felt myself grin even as he stepped over the rope. He seemed to have a very short memory and a great single-mindedness. I watched unafraid and, just as he was about a yard ahead of me, I said the magic word.

“Flaren.”

Fire exploded from every animal in the pen, and they automatically lunged for Tynan. He yelled and scrambled backwards, tripping as he tried to get out. I laughed outright, unable to help myself. I could almost taste his anger in the air at that point. In fact, it was coming off of him in waves. In fact, the anger was so hot that I could almost see the ripples in the air.

“You will regret that, girl,” he spat, his eyes flashing. “You are a monster just like those creatures you raise! So wallow in your little victory. You are still a freak, and always will be.”

I glared at him as he turned and stormed down the road. I hoped he could feel the heat of my own gaze on his back. No doubt he was going to inform the villagers of the unfortunate news that I was still alive and as strange as ever. I turned back to my beloved pets and speedily finished my chores, my eyes heavy with the need to sleep. As I threw the bags into the shed, I looked around to see how much venison we had left and let out a groan; there was none left. That meant I had to go hunting today, or else my Elementals would have nothing to eat tonight. They had been forced to skip a meal last night because of the shadows, and I did not want them to go hungry two nights in a row.

I weighed my options and decided to sleep first. I was in no state to stalk surefooted animals in my exhausted state, so I stumbled back to the house, kicked off my filthy shoes, and fell into bed, not caring if I stained the covers with mud. Ember leaped up and lay down on my legs. He was heavy, but I was much too tired to even say anything so he stayed there. He was actually a nice blanket, despite his weight. I looked around the small two room house that was my home then my eyes closed and the darkness dragged me down.

A face. Soft, gentle, smiling a caring, loving smile. He wore a long-sleeved, white dress-like garment that fell to his ankles. His eyes were warm caramel brown and his shoulder-length hair and short beard were black. I realized I was lying down, so I sat up and he offered me a hand. I took it and stood. I immediately noticed that my clothes did not fit me right.

I looked down to discover I wore a dress of sorts. It fell to my ankles just as his did, but mine was red, not white, with black designs on the long sleeves. I did not like the colors of the dress, though I was not sure why; I rather enjoyed the color red most of the time. It was such a contrast to the same old colors of browns and grays that permeated Paxtonvale. A gentle touch to my face brought my attention back to the man in front of me. I felt inadequate around this man, but boldly met his eyes. His eyes sparkled and his smile brightened and I felt proud to be me for the first time in my life.

I looked around after a moment and saw to my delight that we were in a forest, but it was a forest unlike the one near my home. The trees were not just one or two shades of brown, but many, many shades of brown and grey and yellow and white and other colors that were more beautiful than all of those, but that I had no name for. The leaves were just as beautiful, with all the shades of green and orange and red; it looked as if autumn and summer had become one with the multitude of colors that were splashed throughout the trees.

The ground was just as beautiful, with odd looking plants that curled upward in strange patterns. Soft green grass, with no thorns or rocks to pierce my bare feet, blanketed the ground around me. Exotic looking flowers grew around the clearing in which we stood. The colors of the flowers were even more astounding. There were blues of every possible shade, from light to dark, and more reds and yellows and oranges, and there were purples and pinks and shimmering gold and silver. Some of them looked like the rare gems that the traders put on display—though nobody in Paxtonvale had nearly enough coin to buy even the smallest of them. Their petals were sharply angled and shimmered in the multicolored sunlight that filtered down from the canopy of brilliant leaves, but I could tell that even those were alive and growing from the earth.

Amazement filled me at the sight of such unique beauty and I was dazzled by all of it. To see such astounding colors made me realize just how colorless the world I lived in was. Nothing other than the Elementals had offered me much color in my lifetime. I found that, despite the joy that I received from the beauty, I found myself saddened by it as well. Nothing I had ever seen compared with it, and I wished that I had my mother, or even some friends, to share it with. At the thought of my lack of friends, I looked at my feet and felt anger and hurt well up in me. A gentle hand touched my chin and I looked back up at the man in white, who looked as if he felt what I felt. He smiled tenderly at me again and wiped away the tears that had snuck out of my eyes. I was awed at the soft light that seemed to come from his very center. I longed for whatever it was that made him so bright, that had made this beautiful world around me, and I longed for the love that shone from the man’s eyes. Not lust, like the way the boys’ eyes looked at the pretty girls in the village, but true love that seemed endless and mysterious and wonderful. I was afraid to speak, afraid that my voice would shatter everything, including that love, but curiosity overwhelmed me.

“Who are you?” I asked, my voice soft and quiet.

He looked saddened suddenly. “I AM,” he said simply.

I waited for the rest of the answer, but felt that there wasn’t any more to it. “Um, alright.”

“You do not understand.” It was not a question.

I shook my head. “No.” I noticed suddenly that the forest we were in seemed to be melting around us. “Hey! What is happening?”

“You are waking up. I shall tell you this, though. You are what I have been waiting for, child, and they know it. That is why they took your mother. That is why they captured your father. Their union is the one the enemy has feared for years. You are the one to reunite them all.”

“What does that mean?” I asked desperately.

“Your journey will be hard, but fruitful. Leave soon, for many enemies close in upon you. Those who do not understand you will come to try to destroy you. Those who follow the Dark Ones will come to take you for study then death will follow. If they cannot take you, they will kill you.”

“Enemies? What enemies? The Dark Ones? Do you mean the ones in charge of us?”

“Be careful, dear one. This is a dangerous journey. And always remember that I love you.”

“Wait!” I exclaimed, sitting up.

I looked around, gasping for breath. The beautiful, surreal forest was gone, replaced by the dull familiarity of my home. I tucked my hair behind my ears and massaged my temples, feeling strangely shaky and undone. That dream had seemed so real. He had seemed so real. I felt like I knew him, or that I should. I noticed that my bottom lip was trembling and I knew that I was crying again. I did not understand why, but I did not stop it either. His warm, kind gaze had seemed to pierce my heart to look at every bit of me. I knew he must have found horrible things, like lies and cruel words and such horrible things (though I did not know why I suddenly felt they were so horrible, as everybody did those things). Despite all those things, he had still looked like he loved me. I felt wretched and horrid after being in what felt like such a pure presence, but he still had spoken the words I had not realized I wanted, no needed to hear. “I love you.”

Ember’s head was up and he stared at me, his ears twitching, no doubt listening for whatever had awakened me. I reached down and stroked his head, my hand trembling. I suddenly grew angry at the way I felt, defensiveness rising up within me, and I was especially angry at my tears, more specifically the weakness it displayed, and I wiped them away harshly. I stood and stripped my damp dress off, quickly putting on my blood stained hunting clothes and my shoes. Grabbing my bow and quiver of arrows, I stormed outside and called Ember to me, scanning the tree line and breathing in deeply, letting the fresh, clean scent that followed a rainstorm calm me. Hunting was something I understood and something that did not make me feel so….strange.

I sprinted into the forest, using the physical exertion to forget the strange dream and the man in white. Hunting always made me forget everything and everybody that hurt me. It was a great way to relieve the anger I felt, because I could channel that anger into something constructive. I suddenly came across tracks and studied them with skilled eyes. The deer had just passed through here less than an hour ago. I grinned, feeling anticipation mount. This was going to be an easy hunt.

I began to run again, my footsteps light and silent. I had always had the ability to be silent. It was one of the things that made me a good hunter. The other was the fact that I could kill a mouse with an arrow at thirty paces. I knew because I had done it before. When I had the chance to aim, I almost never missed. Within about twenty minutes I came to the herd, nocking an arrow with practiced ease and sliding through the fallen leaves as quietly as I could. The fact that they were wet and sunk into the wet earth beneath them helped greatly. The entire herd had their heads up, sensing I was near. Their ears were up high, twitching this way and that, trying to pinpoint my exact location. They would know exactly where I was in a few seconds. Smiling, I aimed then let loose the arrow.

The buck I had in my sights went down and the rest of the herd bolted. When they had scattered, I walked forward on nimble feet and knelt by the graceful creature a feeling of pride filling me for killing it. I did not feel sad for it. Once a herd was in the village and the boys went after them. I still do not understand why the girls cried when they saw the dead creatures. Sure they are beautiful and they look dreary when they fall, but they are food, plain and simple. It is just a fact of life that they die for us. A sense of wrongness filled me. Why should anything die? Isn’t death itself wrong? I had no idea where those thoughts had come from and I shook my head to clear them away, but the feeling stayed.

I whistled and Ember came out from his hiding spot, standing beside me obediently. Setting my bow and quiver of arrows aside, I braced myself and lifted the deer onto my loyal wolf’s back. I couldn’t help but giggle when I stood back. The deer was sprawled over his back, its head on his. I kissed Ember’s nose then took up my bow and quiver again and stood. We began the trek back to the house, the birds singing the only sound to be heard.            There were only a few smoldering embers left in the pit that had small wisps of smoke curling up only to dissipate in the air. I tossed another handful of dirt on them to extinguish them then stood up, wiping my hands on my wet dress and streaking the grey material with brown. I was exhausted and soaked to the bone, my loosed hair hanging limply around my face. I had stayed up all night through the terribly cold wind and rain, keeping the fire burning bright and hot. The only sleep I had gotten was in short bouts of about ten to fifteen minutes. Ember’s growls woke me every time I started to fall into a deep sleep. I had finally gotten about a half hour’s worth of sleep when the clouds broke just before sunrise. Now, though, it was a bright morning, the sun shining cheerily in the sky and bathing the world in blessed light.

Blearily, I yawned and rubbed my eyes as I went to the shed and prepared the food for the animals. I was just walking out towards the pens, bags of food hefted over my shoulder, when Ember gave a growling bark and his hackles stood up. I looked over my shoulder at the where he was looking and nearly groaned out loud. Coming down the muddy lane with a very arrogant look on his face was none other than Tynan. I hated him now more than ever. Lack of sleep coupled with the fact that I despised him anyways meant that I was not in any mood, or anywhere near any mood, to be teased by the brute today. I turned from him and resumed walking to the pens. He would never follow me in there, no matter how brave he pretended to be. Just as I knew he would, he stopped several paces in front of the rope, a confident smirk on his face even while he was keeping a careful eye on Blaze and Ember, who had not stopped growling.

“You know, I have to admit I am upset to see you alive,” Tynan said casually. “When I saw the blaze, I hoped to find this place burned to the ground. The entire village did, actually. We guessed it was started by a lightening strike. They sent me to see how bad it was.”

I stayed silent; anything I said would be twisted and used against me. Tynan was the worst out of all the villagers, men, women, and children alike. He, like many men in Paxtonvale, firmly believed that women were nothing but chattel and that they could not take care of themselves. The fact that my mother and I had been doing so successfully for years bothered him to no end. I had once heard him talking to my mother, saying that he would marry me just so I would be his and so there would be a man in the house to ‘take care of things’ that we could not. Needless to say, she said no because, according to the law, he would be in charge of her as well as me if we married. My mother was adamant about not having a man boss her around. Her stories of father were wonderful; he supported her in everything and wanted her to be happy, but never demeaned her like so many men did to their wives. I could not imagine anybody being worse than Tynan when it came to demeaning women and girls. There was no comparison.

After Flare began nosing the bags I held, I whistled for the fire Elementals and they all came to me. From the corner of my eye, I noticed that Tynan backed up a few paces. That made me smirk, and he growled in response. He obviously did not like that I was amused by his fear.

“What’s so funny, Fily?”

Feeling brave, I turned and looked at him. “Do not call me Fily! And it’s funny that you are so scared of these sweet little creatures.”

To emphasize my point, I gently pet Blaze and, to my surprise, Inferno landed on my shoulder. Tynan’s face turned red with anger and he took a few steps forward, looking as if he wanted to try and put me in my place. I felt myself grin even as he stepped over the rope. He seemed to have a very short memory and a great single-mindedness. I watched unafraid and, just as he was about a yard ahead of me, I said the magic word.

“Flaren.”

Fire exploded from every animal in the pen, and they automatically lunged for Tynan. He yelled and scrambled backwards, tripping as he tried to get out. I laughed outright, unable to help myself. I could almost taste his anger in the air at that point. In fact, it was coming off of him in waves. In fact, the anger was so hot that I could almost see the ripples in the air.

“You will regret that, girl,” he spat, his eyes flashing. “You are a monster just like those creatures you raise! So wallow in your little victory. You are still a freak, and always will be.”

I glared at him as he turned and stormed down the road. I hoped he could feel the heat of my own gaze on his back. No doubt he was going to inform the villagers of the unfortunate news that I was still alive and as strange as ever. I turned back to my beloved pets and speedily finished my chores, my eyes heavy with the need to sleep. As I threw the bags into the shed, I looked around to see how much venison we had left and let out a groan; there was none left. That meant I had to go hunting today, or else my Elementals would have nothing to eat tonight. They had been forced to skip a meal last night because of the shadows, and I did not want them to go hungry two nights in a row.

I weighed my options and decided to sleep first. I was in no state to stalk surefooted animals in my exhausted state, so I stumbled back to the house, kicked off my filthy shoes, and fell into bed, not caring if I stained the covers with mud. Ember leaped up and lay down on my legs. He was heavy, but I was much too tired to even say anything so he stayed there. He was actually a nice blanket, despite his weight. I looked around the small two room house that was my home then my eyes closed and the darkness dragged me down.

A face. Soft, gentle, smiling a caring, loving smile. He wore a long-sleeved, white dress-like garment that fell to his ankles. His eyes were warm caramel brown and his shoulder-length hair and short beard were black. I realized I was lying down, so I sat up and he offered me a hand. I took it and stood. I immediately noticed that my clothes did not fit me right.

I looked down to discover I wore a dress of sorts. It fell to my ankles just as his did, but mine was red, not white, with black designs on the long sleeves. I did not like the colors of the dress, though I was not sure why; I rather enjoyed the color red most of the time. It was such a contrast to the same old colors of browns and grays that permeated Paxtonvale. A gentle touch to my face brought my attention back to the man in front of me. I felt inadequate around this man, but boldly met his eyes. His eyes sparkled and his smile brightened and I felt proud to be me for the first time in my life.

I looked around after a moment and saw to my delight that we were in a forest, but it was a forest unlike the one near my home. The trees were not just one or two shades of brown, but many, many shades of brown and grey and yellow and white and other colors that were more beautiful than all of those, but that I had no name for. The leaves were just as beautiful, with all the shades of green and orange and red; it looked as if autumn and summer had become one with the multitude of colors that were splashed throughout the trees.

The ground was just as beautiful, with odd looking plants that curled upward in strange patterns. Soft green grass, with no thorns or rocks to pierce my bare feet, blanketed the ground around me. Exotic looking flowers grew around the clearing in which we stood. The colors of the flowers were even more astounding. There were blues of every possible shade, from light to dark, and more reds and yellows and oranges, and there were purples and pinks and shimmering gold and silver. Some of them looked like the rare gems that the traders put on display—though nobody in Paxtonvale had nearly enough coin to buy even the smallest of them. Their petals were sharply angled and shimmered in the multicolored sunlight that filtered down from the canopy of brilliant leaves, but I could tell that even those were alive and growing from the earth.

Amazement filled me at the sight of such unique beauty and I was dazzled by all of it. To see such astounding colors made me realize just how colorless the world I lived in was. Nothing other than the Elementals had offered me much color in my lifetime. I found that, despite the joy that I received from the beauty, I found myself saddened by it as well. Nothing I had ever seen compared with it, and I wished that I had my mother, or even some friends, to share it with. At the thought of my lack of friends, I looked at my feet and felt anger and hurt well up in me. A gentle hand touched my chin and I looked back up at the man in white, who looked as if he felt what I felt. He smiled tenderly at me again and wiped away the tears that had snuck out of my eyes. I was awed at the soft light that seemed to come from his very center. I longed for whatever it was that made him so bright, that had made this beautiful world around me, and I longed for the love that shone from the man’s eyes. Not lust, like the way the boys’ eyes looked at the pretty girls in the village, but true love that seemed endless and mysterious and wonderful. I was afraid to speak, afraid that my voice would shatter everything, including that love, but curiosity overwhelmed me.

“Who are you?” I asked, my voice soft and quiet.

He looked saddened suddenly. “I AM,” he said simply.

I waited for the rest of the answer, but felt that there wasn’t any more to it. “Um, alright.”

“You do not understand.” It was not a question.

I shook my head. “No.” I noticed suddenly that the forest we were in seemed to be melting around us. “Hey! What is happening?”

“You are waking up. I shall tell you this, though. You are what I have been waiting for, child, and they know it. That is why they took your mother. That is why they captured your father. Their union is the one the enemy has feared for years. You are the one to reunite them all.”

“What does that mean?” I asked desperately.

“Your journey will be hard, but fruitful. Leave soon, for many enemies close in upon you. Those who do not understand you will come to try to destroy you. Those who follow the Dark Ones will come to take you for study then death will follow. If they cannot take you, they will kill you.”

“Enemies? What enemies? The Dark Ones? Do you mean the ones in charge of us?”

“Be careful, dear one. This is a dangerous journey. And always remember that I love you.”

“Wait!” I exclaimed, sitting up.

I looked around, gasping for breath. The beautiful, surreal forest was gone, replaced by the dull familiarity of my home. I tucked my hair behind my ears and massaged my temples, feeling strangely shaky and undone. That dream had seemed so real. He had seemed so real. I felt like I knew him, or that I should. I noticed that my bottom lip was trembling and I knew that I was crying again. I did not understand why, but I did not stop it either. His warm, kind gaze had seemed to pierce my heart to look at every bit of me. I knew he must have found horrible things, like lies and cruel words and such horrible things (though I did not know why I suddenly felt they were so horrible, as everybody did those things). Despite all those things, he had still looked like he loved me. I felt wretched and horrid after being in what felt like such a pure presence, but he still had spoken the words I had not realized I wanted, no needed to hear. “I love you.”

Ember’s head was up and he stared at me, his ears twitching, no doubt listening for whatever had awakened me. I reached down and stroked his head, my hand trembling. I suddenly grew angry at the way I felt, defensiveness rising up within me, and I was especially angry at my tears, more specifically the weakness it displayed, and I wiped them away harshly. I stood and stripped my damp dress off, quickly putting on my blood stained hunting clothes and my shoes. Grabbing my bow and quiver of arrows, I stormed outside and called Ember to me, scanning the tree line and breathing in deeply, letting the fresh, clean scent that followed a rainstorm calm me. Hunting was something I understood and something that did not make me feel so….strange.

I sprinted into the forest, using the physical exertion to forget the strange dream and the man in white. Hunting always made me forget everything and everybody that hurt me. It was a great way to relieve the anger I felt, because I could channel that anger into something constructive. I suddenly came across tracks and studied them with skilled eyes. The deer had just passed through here less than an hour ago. I grinned, feeling anticipation mount. This was going to be an easy hunt.

I began to run again, my footsteps light and silent. I had always had the ability to be silent. It was one of the things that made me a good hunter. The other was the fact that I could kill a mouse with an arrow at thirty paces. I knew because I had done it before. When I had the chance to aim, I almost never missed. Within about twenty minutes I came to the herd, nocking an arrow with practiced ease and sliding through the fallen leaves as quietly as I could. The fact that they were wet and sunk into the wet earth beneath them helped greatly. The entire herd had their heads up, sensing I was near. Their ears were up high, twitching this way and that, trying to pinpoint my exact location. They would know exactly where I was in a few seconds. Smiling, I aimed then let loose the arrow.

The buck I had in my sights went down and the rest of the herd bolted. When they had scattered, I walked forward on nimble feet and knelt by the graceful creature a feeling of pride filling me for killing it. I did not feel sad for it. Once a herd was in the village and the boys went after them. I still do not understand why the girls cried when they saw the dead creatures. Sure they are beautiful and they look dreary when they fall, but they are food, plain and simple. It is just a fact of life that they die for us. A sense of wrongness filled me. Why should anything die? Isn’t death itself wrong? I had no idea where those thoughts had come from and I shook my head to clear them away, but the feeling stayed.

I whistled and Ember came out from his hiding spot, standing beside me obediently. Setting my bow and quiver of arrows aside, I braced myself and lifted the deer onto my loyal wolf’s back. I couldn’t help but giggle when I stood back. The deer was sprawled over his back, its head on his. I kissed Ember’s nose then took up my bow and quiver again and stood. We began the trek back to the house, the birds singing the only sound to be heard.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Am-Way-Book-Scrolls-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00W4I8ZEY?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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