Two days later I remembered the object I had tied around my wrist while at the bottom of the lake. By that time, I was strong enough to sit up by myself. It was a struggle to feed myself, however, but I refused to be fed by Elthinor or Gabrithon. I was stubborn to the point of exasperating both of them. Finally, Gabrithon held me down so that I couldn’t struggle while Elthinor fed me some rabbit stew, the creature having fallen to Gabrithon’s bow. It tasted amazing as the Elf’s cooking always did; I was so hungry that I ate it with hardly a complaint, but I was humiliated and wouldn’t talk to either of them afterwards.
“Fily,” Elthinor finally said, breaking the embarrassed silence I had imposed. “Please. You can’t feed yourself, and I will not let you starve. I see no reason for this nonsense. We are all friends, yes?”
“I am fully capable of taking care of myself,” I snapped sullenly.
“Usually I would agree but not in this instance!” Elthinor argued back. “You have five puncture wounds in your right shoulder. You lost quite a bit of blood as well. As a result, you can barely lift your right arm, let alone use your hand, and your left shakes so badly that it is a miracle you can hold a bowl of soup at all. I don’t wish it to, but if it embarrasses you, so be it! You need food to help you regain your strength as much as you need rest. And might I remind you that if you don’t regain your strength, we shall never be able to go after your mother or the next scroll?”
Silenced by his speech, I looked away from him, burying my face in my faithful pet’s fur as I thought about what he had said. Ember, as always, was glued to my side. He had lain beside me throughout the two days I had thus far been bedridden, only getting up and wandering off to hunt or relieve himself, then he was back by my side. He trusted the two males with me more since they saved my life in front of him, and I was glad, though he was still a little wary about Gabrithon. Gabrithon had commented on how smart he seemed, instead of being a monster of legend, which had made me smile and laugh.
I sighed, pulling my face away. “You’re right, Elthinor,” I muttered. “I’m sorry. It’s just disconcerting to have you feeding me as if I was a little child. It makes me uncomfortable.”
“I meant no harm, Fily. I just want you to get well again. You were just being stubborn about it.”
“I think no less of you for needing help, though my entire culture screams at me to snub you and laugh at your ‘weaknesses’,” Gabrithon said with a smile. I took that as a compliment.
“Gee, thanks,” I said, though I could not hide my pleased smile.
“I think no less of you either,” Elthinor said firmly. “Now, please cease this ridiculous embarrassment! There is no cause for it.”
I giggled and nodded, sitting up to lean against Ember. He let out a little huff but stayed still. I rubbed my shoulder lightly through my shirt, which Elthinor had allowed me to put on. As the first one had been torn to pieces, it was a fresh one I had packed at the beginning of our adventure. The touch of cloth to the bandages hurt a little at first, but it saved all of us unnecessary embarrassment. I was still forced to remove it when they changed my bandages, but they always allowed me to cover myself before they looked. I was grateful for their considerate behavior.
As I sat there while they moved around camp, doing little chores such as clearing the fire pit and neatly stacking wood, a thought occurred to me. I sat up straight, and they both immediately looked at me. I snickered at their quick reactions.
“Is something wrong?” Gabrithon asked, concerned.
“Not really. I was just wondering what happened to the strap I tied around my wrist under the lake,” I said thoughtfully.
“Do you mean the canister? We tore it off when we tried to staunch the blood gushing out of your shoulder. I believe it landed somewhere over here…” Gabrithon trailed off as he searched the bushes then gave a cry of delight. “Yes, here we are! Hanging from a branch! Considering it has been underwater, it is quite well preserved. I wonder what is inside.”
He absently walked back into the center of camp as he popped the top open and dumped out…
“The scroll!” Elthinor and I shouted at the same time.
Before I thought about it, I was on my feet, staggering over to the Centaur. My legs were shaking, but I ignored that in favor of seeing what secrets lay in the scroll. I stumbled and caught myself by grabbing Gabrithon, who snorted in surprise, but did not reprimand me for touching him as he had before. That wasn’t to say he did not reprimand me, though.
“Filynora!” he said sternly, grabbing my good arm. “You are to lay back down this instant! You are too injured to be up. Now, I shall read this scroll to you if it is so important but only once you lie back down.”
He moved me back to my bedroll and carefully lowered me down, where I lay looking petulant at being told off. The Centaur simply smiled at me and settled in, no longer embarrassed at lying down to communicate with us; he was so much taller than both of us that it made it easier on us. Elthinor scrambled over to sit with me, looking like an excited child about to be told his favorite story.
Gabrithon cleared his throat, unrolled the scroll, and began. Just as before, I was pulled into a vision:
There was a sense of goodness, of innate purity. I looked around the earth, still full of the bright fresh sense, the novelty that something new gives off. It was beautiful, and I wanted to see more. I was in a different spot than last time so I hesitantly shifted to see if I could walk around. To my delight, I could. I started in surprise when I heard a familiar voice. I turned to see the man in white. He was speaking to himself it seemed, as the males, who were all still buck naked, were still exploring. They still did not seem to notice it. I brought my attention back to Jesiah, who was and wasn’t himself. I felt as if he wasn’t confined to his body but used it to be close to the males. But he seemed too big for it, or his spirit did at least. It was strange. He just didn’t feel the same, but I knew it was him. He was staring intently at the males. He called them together and gave them a job to do: name the animals.
I watched as animals of every kind were paraded by twos in front of the males and I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing as they started naming them. They would discuss amongst themselves what they thought the beasts should be called then named them. They had fun with it, and they had such wonder-filled looks on their faces at each animal. It made me wish I saw the world through such new eyes. I noticed that as they named the pairs of animals that they started to glance at each other. By the time they were finished, they looked confused. I was too: there had been no Elementals.
“Why do these animals come in pairs, when we don’t?” the Human asked the others, but it did no good. None of them had the answer
“It is not good for these males to be alone,” Jesiah said with a nod; he was right beside me and I could swear he was talking to me. “So I shall make them each somebody to complement him.”
Suddenly the males seemed to get sleepy. They were yawning then finally lay down to sleep. I watched as Jesiah went and sliced into the Human’s side and took out what looked to be a rib. I watched in fascination as it was suddenly formed into a Human woman, fully grown and more beautiful than any woman I had ever seen. She had hair as black as a raven’s feathers and eyes of the deepest green. She lay on the ground staring up at the sky, as if she had never seen anything like it. Maybe because she hadn’t. After closing the wound in the man’s side, he did the same to the Elf, cutting out a rib and making a female for him. The Elven female was gorgeous as well. She had long pink hair with red intertwined within it and her designs were of a cat, a beautiful tiger with stripes and eyes of pink, and a tree with stars on it.
The Dwarf was given a female who looked strange, but that was because I thought that the male looked strange as well. She was like the male in stature and had stony skin just as he did, and she had no beard. She looked beautiful, I supposed as I studied her. She had shining orange gems for eyes and her skin was the color of red dirt, while the male’s was dark grey. Her hair was yellow orange and she was the first to sit up and look around. The female Satyr had hair of gold on her head and on her legs and intense eyes of blue, like water. The female Centaur’s horse body was a nice dun, in comparison to her mate’s chestnut color. Her eyes were black and her skin was dark, but she was as fair as the other females. Jesiah helped each of them to their feet just as the males began shifting. The Human was the first to wake, and when he saw the beautiful creature made for him, he cried out to wake the others.
“This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh!” the man gasped, leaping to his feet and running to the woman. He grabbed her hands, pulling her into an embrace. “She shall be called Woman for she was taken out of Man!”
“As your mate was taken from you, mine was taken from me,” the Elf said, caressing his mate’s face softly. “She shall be called Elfina!”
“You, my sweet one,” the Dwarf said to his mate, “are going to be called Dwarfinla, for from within Dwarf you came from.”
The Centaur approached his own mate and nuzzled her face. “You, a creature above my imaginings, was taken from me and made for me. You are to be called Centauri.”
“You are much more beautiful than anything I have yet seen in this world,” the Satyr said to the female Satyr, a soft smile gracing his face as he looked her up and down. “I feel unworthy to give you a part of my name, so I shall name you Faun.”
Each male took his counterpart and began showing her what they had discovered. As I stood there, the world melted like the dream world with Jesiah, and when it solidified again, I could tell time had passed, but how much I wasn’t sure. I saw Woman tending to the garden, the two special trees near her. The others were also tending the garden a short distance away, close enough that they were all talking together. A hissing noise reached my ears. I turned to see a serpent, but it was like no serpent that I had seen before. It had legs. I watched in growing horror as it talked in a sibilant voice, whispering sickly sweet words. It promised her that if she ate the forbidden fruit she would be like God, and it even twisted Jesiah’s words to fit its purpose. I knew it was going to happen, but I screamed at her to stop even as she plucked a fruit, with no shouts for her to cease from the others, and placed it to her lips.
She chewed it slowly, thoughtfully. Then she swallowed and hummed. She turned and held out the fruit to her husband. He had said nothing to her about the serpent’s lies. He had not warned her about eating the fruit. He had just stood there passively and watched. He actually reached out and took the fruit and I watched as he consumed it just as Woman had. Then he passed it around.
I lowered my head as they each ate of the fruit. No sooner had the last one eaten of it than there were cries of shock. I watched as their eyes dimmed, as if a veil had descended upon them, and they started to cover their nakedness, suddenly aware of themselves. The shame I saw in their eyes made me hurt for them, and I watched as they moved to cover themselves in leaves. After they had fashioned leaves into makeshift clothing, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil started to shake and the serpent laughed as he moved to the ground. Thick and dark clouds began covering the sun and a fog rolled in to cover the ground.
The fruit of the tree suddenly started expanding. When they were as big as or bigger than the Elves and Humans, the fruit started to split open. What dropped out of them were creatures, covered in juices and seeds. They were dark, like shadows, and I could not see them properly as the fog got thicker and thicker. From the darkness I heard the first of the races scream and saw them run. They did not get too far before they were surrounded by the shadow creatures who were screeching and moving closer.
“God! Please help us!” the man screamed as they were circled by the horrid multitude of ugly creatures, some of which could fly. The darkest of them all was the serpent, who stood up and stretched out into his full form. As I watched, the inky shadows seemed to be solidifying into something hideous that I probably did not want to see.
“You disobeyed him!” the serpent one taunted. “If he would not give his most beautiful ones a second chance, what makes you think he would give you, who are made of earth and wood and stone and grass and wind another chance?”
An explosion of light blinded everyone there, and the dark ones scattered. Through the light, which had never blinded them before in their long walks with Him in the garden, a deep voice, full of sadness and disappointment, yet laden with authority spoke to them. It was Jesiah’s.
“Have you eaten of the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
There was a chorus of denial from all of them, ending in everyone’s story tracing back to Woman. She immediately directed the blame at the serpent creature. There was a flash, and the serpent suddenly appeared just as the woman had seen him.
“Because of what you have done, you are cursed above all animals and shall crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. And there will be hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.”
God then directed his voice at the Woman and her female companions. “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”
To the males, He said, “Since you listened to the woman and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from the elements, and to the elements you will return.”
Then the man, Adam, named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of the Human race. The Elf named his mate Aisha, the Centauri was called Chaya, and the Dwarfinla was christened Vida. The Satyr also gave his mate a name, calling her Myisha. Then the Lord took animal skins, which was the first blood sacrifice, and clothed the ones who needed clothed.
The Lord God then said, “Look, they are like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it! Then they will live forever!”
I saw Jesiah, whose light was still blindingly bright, call down one of the creatures I had seen at the creation. They were taller than even the Centaur with eyes of fire, and Jesiah sent them to the east as he drove out the first of the races from the garden into the harsh world. The last thing I saw was a flaming sword drop down and hover in front of the tree of life.
Gabrithon stopped, and I sat up to look at him.
“That is it?” I asked, desperately. “Nothing more?”
“Well, there is something, but…it does not look like it is a part of the story.”
“The next clue!” Elthinor and I both cried out again.
“What does it say?” the Elf asked excitedly.
“In caves of stone the next one hides
Far away and beside the tides
The water rushes in and out
Amidst Dwarvish creatures short and stout.
Beware the monsters, my diverse friends,
For at their hands many a life ends
Your journey shall be rougher still
Far over many a high hill.
North so far you have gone
And so you must continue on
Until Seagrove forest is in your way
Then before you are kept at bay,
To have more revealed to you.
It is west you must travel to.”
“West?” I asked in confusion. “How far west? And west from here or somewhere else?”
Gabrithon looked at me and sighed. “There…is a Centaur village about a day and a half north of here through the forest. If I were to go to the village I could get a map, though you would have to stay away.”
“What if the Aswangs or Vampires attack you?” I asked immediately.
“I don’t know. We shall figure something out while you heal. In the mean time, rest. You shall need it if we are to go that far.”
I stared at the sky and, after a thought occurred to me, suddenly began to cry. Alarmed, Elthinor questioned me vigorously about my shoulder, but I shook off his worry.
“It is not that. They carried my mother southwest, back toward your village.”
Elthinor looked at me sadly and stroked my forehead. “Then we must make a choice. The scroll or your mother.”
I began to cry harder and turned over on my left side. “I can’t just pick like that!”
“We have some time, just like Gabrithon said. Now rest. Rest your weary mind and body. Contemplate the story. Maybe pray about it.”
I did as he asked and sent up a prayer.
Dear God, what do I do? If I go after the scroll I follow what you have told me to do, but if I don’t go after my mother, they will kill her. Which do I choose? I suppose I could always go after the scroll after I find my mother, but…I don’t know. I am confused and tired. Thank you for listening and I pray that you give me some clarity in what I need to do. Please?
Afterwards, I fell into a deep, uneasy sleep without dreams.