“An Elf?!” they all exclaimed at once then silence reigned for a few minutes.
“How is that even possible?” Elthinor asked, pressing his hand over mine.
“I don’t know,” I replied bitterly. “My mother just told me my father is an Elf and is, in all probability, still alive, but she does not…did not know where or what he is doing.”
“What did you mean by ‘like the Elementals?’” Nolan asked quietly.
I looked down in my lap as I explained what Lugat had told me about the Elemental beings. How they were twisted versions of the original creations of God. I also told them that Lugat had said I should not dare to call on Jesiah because of what I was.
“That implies that it is wrong,” Nolan said thoughtfully.
“I have no doubt it is. I don’t believe God created the races separately just to have them merge together. No offense, Fily,” Elthinor added quickly.
Shrugging listlessly, I felt misery settle into my chest. I was a freak, I realized sadly, and a bigger one than everyone had made me out to be. I was pretty much against nature itself. Because of the separation of the races, I was, in all likelihood, the only one of my kind in existence. I felt like it, but I just could not cry, not anymore. I had exhausted my tears. Elthinor gave me a drink from his canteen from Ellavendir. The bittersweet taste surprised me; I had expected water. I looked at him with an arched eyebrow.
“What is that?” I rasped, the drink stinging my throat a little bit.
“Wine,” he said with a smile.
“Wine? Why did you bring wine?” I asked with a frown.
He shrugged. “I figured we would need some eventually. You need some now, right?”
“I am not going to get drunk,” I said sternly.
“I did not say you were going to get drunk. Just take a couple of sips to relax a bit.”
I did as he said and lay back, letting the little bit of drink lull me into a state of deep relaxation. My mind wandered aimlessly for a while as Elthinor and Gabrithon sat talking quietly. Their words made no sense to my emotionally exhausted mind, and all I could hear was garbled speech. I closed my eyes as the question came into my mind for the first time.
How could God let this happen to me?
The question caught me by surprise, but I truly began contemplating it. If he loved me, why would he let my mother die on me? Why, in fact, would he let anyone die? Was it because of the sin that we committed? It was the only logical answer I had, but it did not make me feel any better. Did he love me?
“Of course I love you, Filynora.”
As I sat up in surprise, I realized I must have fallen asleep again because I was staring at Jesiah. I looked away, ashamed of the anger that had slowly bubbled up inside of me.
“Filynora, you are allowed to be angry with me. Tell me about it.”
“She is dead,” I said harshly. “My mother is dead. Why? Why did you let that happen?”
“It was her time to die,” Jesiah replied, approaching me and offering a hand.
I did not take it.
“It simply was.”
“Why do you never answer me?”
“It is not in my will for you to know these things.”
Jesiah smiled tenderly. “I know what I have planned for your life. Trust me, Filynora. You shall learn in time what you need to know.”
“I…don’t know anymore. How can I trust you? My mother is dead. Dead!”
“She is in a better place now. Her journey was over. Yours has just begun.”
“You mean there is more I must do?” I asked incredulously.
“Find the scrolls, Filynora. That is your mission.”
“How am I supposed to go on? I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to travel. I don’t care if the scrolls are found,” I said dejectedly. I paused, meeting his eyes. “Why did you choose me, anyway? I’m a Strangeling, a half-breed. I don’t belong anywhere.”
“You belong with me, Filynora, and my Father’s will is that you are the one to do what you are to do. While it is true that my Father never made the races to mix, He knew it would come to pass and has a purpose for it.”
I stayed silent after that and just stared miserably around the forest we were in. It felt as though something had shifted inside of me, and I knew my relationship with God and Jesiah would never be the same again. I just did not know where it stood now. I still held anger at them for my mother’s death, but I could not stop believing in them.
“I am confused.”
“Each person’s journey with me is unique. Yours is as well.”
“How do I proceed with our relationship then?”
“Talk to me.”
I suddenly woke up with a start. Nolan was bent over me, looking concerned.
“You were mumbling in your sleep. I thought maybe you were having a nightmare,” he said uncertainly.
“I was talking to Jesiah.”
His eyes widened. “You talk to Him? Face to face?”
“In dreams. Sometimes He whispers to me.”
He said nothing to that and sat back on his heels, staring at me intently. He shook his head and smiled lightly.
“You seem to be full of surprises, Fily.”
There was no talk of the scrolls for over a week. They let me mourn for my mother. I would sporadically burst into tears, unable to stop myself. My friends never commented; Nolan would awkwardly pat my shoulder and smile tensely while Elthinor would embrace me and just let me cry against him. Gabrithon occasionally embraced me as well, but it was stiff and obviously made him uncomfortable; I understood how hard it was for him to ignore the culture in which he had been raised, so I did not judge him for it.
My misery had me pretty much sleeping most of the time and crying the rest. I needed to show my mourning, but I had no idea how to. It was a desire that ran deep that I could not suppress. I finally decided to ask the question that was buzzing in my mind.
“Elthinor? How do Elves mourn?”
“We cut our hair. Why?”
“How much of your hair?”
He stared at me for a moment, his brows knitted together. “Up around the ears.” He paused. “Do you want me to cut your hair?”
I ran my fingers through my golden brown hair. It went to around the middle of my back and was the one feature I was most proud of. My friends were watching me closely. I took a deep breath to steady myself then boldly met the Elf’s eyes.
“Cut it to my shoulders,” I said quietly. “That’s where my mother always cut it to when it got too long.”
Elthinor carefully measured it out and tied it off right above where he was planning to cut it. He borrowed my knife, freshly sharpened, and I felt him grab my hair to steady it.
“Are you sure?” he asked gently. “You can’t take it back.”
“I am,” I said, holding my head high to make it easier for him.
The sound of the knife cutting smoothly through my hair reached my ears, and I stared at Gabrithon and Nolan as it happened. They were watching me—the Human with pity in his eyes and the Centaur with understanding and sadness. Elthinor handed me my knife back and took the band out of my hair. I felt it brushing the top of my shoulders.
I finally felt a little better. Making a physical show of my pain actually had me smiling, if only a little. Gabrithon looked relieved, and so did Elthinor when he came around to look at me.
“You look a little different without your long hair,” Nolan said, tilting his head to the left.
“That is the whole point,” Elthinor said with a crooked smile. “Elves discovered long ago if you physically show your mourning, it helps the whole process go faster.”
“What are we going to do now?” I asked, feeling so much lighter that I wanted to do something.
“Well, Gabrithon and I can’t heal as fast as you, which I am guessing is a side effect of you being a Strangeling, just like your incredible running ability. We can’t do much until we heal. After we heal enough, I figured we would go after the next scroll.”
I sat silently, and Elthinor noticed how uncomfortable I seemed to be at the mention of the scrolls.
“You…still believe in God and Jesiah, correct?”
“I can’t not believe them,” I said uncertainly. “I just am unsure of everything right now. I don’t understand why God would let my mother die like that. Even after Jesiah spoke to me, I am still uncertain.”
“So are we not going after the scrolls?” Nolan asked with raised eyebrows.
I looked up at him. “We are going after them,” I said decisively. “Something inside me says that even though I don’t feel God was right, I should follow His instructions.”
“How could God be wrong if He made everything right?” Gabrithon asked suddenly, as if thinking out loud. His cheeks colored slightly as we all looked at him, Elthinor and I with raised eyebrows.
“I thought you did not believe in God,” I said slowly.
“I, well, I don’t, but I have been listening to your conversations and comments about it. You said once He created everything and if He is good—what you say feels like complete goodness—that means He did not create anything inherently bad. We made what I shall call badness ourselves, seeing as how we must have been created with the capability to sin, though they also had the ability to not sin. From that first scroll story, you said the Firsts were told ‘If you eat of it, you shall surely die.’ They surely ate of it, so death, overall, is their fault, or as it seems, our fault also, for they represented us. It is our punishment, along with the fact that we are unable to not sin, but I don’t believe, theoretically of course, that God would make that the end of everything. Going off the fact that they were told they would die, it can be naturally assumed that they were never meant to die. At least, this is my understanding of all this.”
I stared at the Centaur with my mouth open in shock then I laughed, tilting my head back to look at the heavens.
“You are amazing, God. You always know what I need. And you used just the right messenger. Thank you. Things will probably still be a bit weird between us for a while, but I am sure it will be resolved eventually. Thank you for my amazing friends.”
My anger remained at the end of the spiel, but I knew He had heard me. Gabrithon and Nolan looked a bit uncomfortable at my praying out loud, but Elthinor only smiled at me then looked at our Centaur friend.
“Thank you,” he said with a nod.
Looking away from our gazes, Gabrithon pawed nervously at the ground. “So what do we do now?” he asked, breaking his self-imposed silence.
“We wait for our wounds to heal. Then we continue our mission,” Elthinor replied.
“We are going to be bored, aren’t we?” Nolan asked teasingly, the note of an honest question in his voice.
“Quite,” the Elf replied with a chuckle, rubbing his wounded side tenderly.