I was standing on the edge of a canyon, far enough back to feel safe, but close enough to know that it was a long way down. My eyes were drawn to two figures standing out on the edge of the adjacent cliff. They were dark grey and as I noticed them, they launched into the air, heading toward me, but they stopped over the canyon. I cried out when I saw who they held between them: my mother.
“Silly child,” the taller Aswang said as they dangled my mother over the gaping tear in the earth. “We believed you were self-sacrificing.”
The shorter Aswang laughed as, for the first time, I heard a name to match with the creature. “Tikujar, I do believe that she is afraid of us. Mayhap that is why she has not left the Elf village yet.”
“What do you say, Rattuin, should we show her just what our warning meant?” Tikujar crooned, making me sick with the false affection in her voice.
“Oh let’s,” Rattuin answered, her eyes gleaming.
I screamed in horror as they dropped my mother and she fell down, down, down into the darkness. I screamed louder as they dove toward me, fangs bared—
“Filynora! Filynora wake up!”
I sat up with a yell, lashing out at the voice. There was a yelp of surprise and a thud. I shook my head violently. I knew that voice; it wasn’t one of the Aswangs. I looked around, breathing heavily. I was no longer on a cliff. I was back in Ellavendir in Elthinor’s room. Said room was lit by a candle held by Aloron and he, Gilronin, and Selaniam were standing over me. Elthinor was on the floor, looking up at me with concerned eyes even as he rubbed his right cheek.
“What happened?” I asked, my heart pounding.
Amused, Aloron spoke calmly. “You just punched Elthinor after coming out of a nightmare.”
“This is no laughing matter, Aloron!” Gilronin snapped. “She scared Melanari!”
“What was so terrible that you had to scream like that?” Elthinor asked as he stood up.
I shook my lowered head. “I can’t remember,” I lied smoothly.
“Well, don’t let it happen again,” Gilronin growled, leaving the room.
“Oh you poor dear,” Selaniam crooned as she stroked my hair. “Let me get you some tea.”
Selaniam had realized a while ago that I was almost like an Elf in intelligence and deed. She had started to treat me as if I was her own daughter, which was nice, but a bit strange. She made me miss my own mother more and more each day. Once she hurried off to make tea, Elthinor and Aloron were the only two people left in the room. They stared at me, knowing I had lied about the nightmare.
“What happened?” Elthinor asked gently.
I answered without hesitation, knowing I could trust them. “My mother. They are still threatening my mother. She is not dead yet, but if I don’t follow them soon, she will be.”
“Oh, Fily,” Elthinor sighed, reaching over to press a hand against my shoulder to offer comfort. “It will be all right. Somehow, it will be.”
Before I could respond, Selaniam came back in with piping hot tea. I drank it to get her to leave, scalding my mouth in the process, then settled back and pretended I had not. She made sure I was comfortable before kissing my forehead and leaving. She did try to get Aloron and Elthinor to leave too, but they decided to stay for a short while to comfort me. Aloron said a prayer for me then mussed my hair affectionately. He left Elthinor with me with the condition that he leave in just a few minutes. We were silent for a moment after the older Elf left. Elthinor finally looked at me with sad eyes.
“Please, Filynora. Don’t do it. There must be another way. Let me think about it. Let me see if there is another way.”
“You have two days, Elthinor. Then I leave. Don’t tell anybody,” I said as I lay down, turning my face away from him. Our conversation was over.
Time was up. Elthinor had not given me an alternate plan, so I began packing food and some of Elthinor’s clothes that I had finished tailoring. I had found my pack and weapons hidden in Gilronin and Selaniam’s room. I had them at my side when there was a knock at the door. I shoved the pack and weapons under the bed, standing up, smoothing my dress and putting a smile on my face.
The door opened and my smile became genuine when I saw Aloron. “Hello my dear. Am I interrupting anything?” he asked.
“No,” I lied, though I got no pleasure out of it. “I am just cleaning the room a little.”
The old Elf looked at me with wise eyes and a knowing smile crept onto his face. “I see. Well you have certainly done a good job.”
“Can I help you with something?” I asked shortly, shifting uncomfortably under his gaze.
“I have come to pay you the wages you have earned working for us,” Aloron said, handing me a bag of Elven money. “Gilronin would not be happy that I am paying you, but it is money I earned myself.”
I stared at the small bag in my hand then looked up at Aloron, shocked and touched. There was no doubt in my mind. He knew. I felt my eyes tear up. I embraced him, and he placed his arms around me to hold me gently.
“I saw greatness in you the moment we found you on that water horse,” he said softly. “I knew you would leave us when you got here, and I knew it would be for a good cause. Promise me something. Keep the beliefs we shared with you. Pray to God for strength in your journey. I am sure that it will be long and difficult, but you will find it leads to an amazing place.”
I stayed in his embrace for the duration of this speech then pulled back, wiping my eyes. I still didn’t like to cry, but it didn’t bother me at that moment. Mainly because it was Aloron. He was kind enough not to point it out, but he did push my hair back from my face.
“Thank you, Aloron,” I said sincerely. “I will miss you.”
“I will miss you, too, Filynora. Maybe I shall see you again in the future, but for now you must leave. Take my blessing with you.”
I teared up again. To have the blessing of such a wonderful Elf meant so much to me, so I told him as much. He smiled kindly, kissed my forehead, and turned to leave. I wiped my eyes and moved to finish packing, my heart full of joy and sorrow.
Late that night, when I was sure everybody was in bed, I slipped out of the house. I wore a set of Elthinor’s clothes turned mine with my own shoes, which were my only belongings the Elves had not thrown away when they brought me to Ellavendir. Running from the village, I was just entering the trees when a shadow moved at the edge of the forest. My bow and an arrow were at the ready without a thought. Elthinor stepped into the moonlight, the designs on his face glimmering, and I relaxed immediately.
“If you think I am going to let you go alone, you’re crazy,” he said with a warm smile.
I smiled and embraced him briefly, chuckling at the shocked look on his face. “Then we go together.”
“We must hurry. My father will try to catch us,” Elthinor said urgently.
I grinned, taking off at a light run with Elthinor catching up quickly. He seemed unaccustomed to running with a pack on though, so we soon slowed to a walk, but I did not mind. We walked through the darkened forest, the shadows bringing fears to the surface. I pressed close to Elthinor several times when I was frightened, and once I screamed and hid behind him when I saw a shadow move. He watched it for a moment before assuring me that it was only an owl eating its dinner. He seemed amused by my fear, teasing me a couple times.
The first occurrence was when we had paused to drink. I had just capped the water skin when I felt something lightly moving across my back. I shrieked, spinning around to see Elthinor’s shadowy form shaking with repressed laughter. The second time, we were hurrying along when he gave a shout and pushed me forward. Yelling, I scrambled up the tree I had landed against. His laughter made my cheeks burn with a blush. The third time, though, I got him back. He had growled like an animal, and when I panicked again, he laughed. So I slugged him across the face. We spent the next hour in awkward silence as he kept rubbing his sore jaw. He finally apologized sheepishly, and the silence following that was much more companionable.
By the time the sun was fully in the sky, my feet were sore, and I was exhausted. Elthinor seemed tired too, though he was holding up better. We stopped for breakfast, a small meal of an apple apiece and bread, then began again. We were trying to outrun Gilronin, who was a persistent Elf, Elthinor told me. We had talked about it during the night, agreeing to travel either until the next evening or until we could go farther.
Now that there was light, my fears were alleviated, and I started pointing out things in the forest. I brought Elthinor’s attention to little details, like squirrels staring at us curiously, birds flitting around us, and brightly colored flowers peeking out of the green foliage and dead leaves on the forest floor. He seemed to be humoring me, but he grew interested when I casually mentioned my dream with the man in white.
“But if you think this forest is interesting, then you should have seen the one with man in white. There were flowers that looked like crystals and so many different colors. There were colors I had never seen before!”
“Man in white? The same one my grandfather and Eretren saw?” he asked curiously.
“I suppose so,” I said with a shrug.
“What was he like?”
“The first thought that comes to mind is that he seemed to be pure light contained in a Human body. He was more real than anything I have ever experienced. He had so much love in his eyes, his face, his being that it shone out of him with the light. It’s hard to describe, but being in front of him made me realize how I’m so…I think the word I’m looking for is impure.”
“I don’t know any other word for it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be in his presence, yet he did not tell me to leave.” An idea popped into my head. “It was as if there was a barrier between us. It was like a chasm.”
“Was there any way across?” Elthinor asked.
I had to think hard on how it felt. What we were talking about had seemed instinctual, my understanding unquestioned until Elthinor asked about it. Now that I had been asked, I had to explain a feeling from a dream. Not only that, but it was not an ordinary dream. It felt more real than life felt, so it had not faded, but it was so hard to verbalize. I finally started talking, but the words surprised me.
“At first, there was no way across, though those who looked forward to the coming bridge were allowed across in some way. Then there came a carpenter who actually built the bridge. The bridge is crossable, but there is something you have to do to get to the other side. At one time how to get across was being taught across the land. However, there is almost no understanding left in people now about how to cross, but there is hope. The scrolls show us the way to get across the bridge. That is why we must find them. If people don’t cross the bridge, they try their own way to get across; but they inevitably fail and fall in, where they are swallowed by darkness and consumed by the fire that burns at the bottom of the pit.”
Elthinor and I had stopped walking, and he was gawking at me. I felt my cheeks warm at his shocked stare. He finally managed to speak again.
“How in the world do you know that?” he asked incredulously.
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Elthinor shook his head as we started walking again. “Maybe it is a message from God,” he said, though I could tell he was being sarcastic. I, however, thought he had an excellent point, and it brought a smile to my face even as silence descended upon us again.
Around noon we stopped for a lunch of jerky before continuing to walk. We pushed ourselves, continuously aware of what we had to outrun. The forest was aflutter with small animals moving around us. Sometimes they startled me, so I would grab Elthinor’s arm. My jumpiness embarrassed me, but exhaustion seemed to make it worse. The thick trees meant it was impossible to see too far ahead, which did not help my nerves. When the sun finally set, which we only knew by the pure darkness around us, we stopped to set up camp, past exhaustion. We ate just enough to satisfy our hunger, got into our bedrolls, and fell asleep as soon as we were settled.
I was in the same red and black dress as the first time. Elthinor was sleeping beside me, his own clothes red and black, which stood out against the soft green grass. The man in white sat beside him, stroking his head and smiling lovingly. I looked around at the beautiful forest for a few moments, taking everything in with delight. Even if I didn’t understand them, I knew these dreams were special.
“He does not quite believe it yet. The only reason he is going on this journey is to keep you safe,” the man in white said softly.
I was just as disoriented about this as I was the first time, but now I believed that this was real. I also believed that somehow this man was tied in with God. My curiosity was piqued; I wanted to know more.
“Believe what, exactly?” I asked as I sat up.
“He does not quite believe in the Father. He is at the edge, his mind open, but he needs more to push him over.”
I was confused. “Your Father?”
He smiled. “You shall learn more on your journey, child.”
“Are you going to leave me with that?” I asked as the dream started melting; this one was even shorter than the last one.
“No. Continue east, dear one. When you reach the great river and can go no further, travel upstream.”
“What then?” I asked swiftly as he began to dissolve.
There was just another smile.
I woke to see the moon peeking through the leaves above us, which were rustling in the wind. After blearily watching the few visible stars for a few minutes, I fell back asleep. If I dreamed anymore that night, I did not remember it.