I Am the Truth: Chapter 8

The days slowly began to turn to weeks and the weeks to months. As time wore on, I settled into a routine, and from what I could tell, Elthinor and Nolan did the same. I would wake up, eat, go to work, go back to our rooms, bathe occasionally, then go to bed to do it again the next day…or night; I could not tell as we were underground. The first few nights we had experimented with our sleeping arrangements, as all of our supplies, including our bedrolls, were taken when we were captured and we all had to sleep on the one bed. We finally settled on me sleeping as I was supposed to in the middle of the bed with Nolan and Elthinor on either side of me turned with their feet towards the headboard. It worked as well as anything could.

True to his word, Korvict came to visit me while we worked every week or so and he seemed confused as to why I was not producing crystals. He could plainly see the progress we were making by how much different the tunnel looked every time he came, but still no crystals. I could tell he was becoming suspicious of what Valtrak had said about the dry vein, which he had once overheard.

Valtrak did not talk much during my work, for he still just sat and did nothing, and when he did speak, it usually pertained to some matter of importance in the Dwarven world, especially of gems and crystals. I slowly learned about how the crystals were cut and shaped to the magnificent shapes I saw in the houses. The information on cutting, chipping, and polishing of the stones fascinated me. It amazed me that they could take such raw material and make it into something beautiful.

I once told him of God, who I had been praying to about how being slaves tied into His plan for us and how we were supposed to escape and find the scroll, and the mission for the scrolls, but he did not react beyond grumbling and spinning his carving knife. Despite his obvious efforts to rebuff my attempts, I would always carry on a one-sided conversation with him when we took a break, talking about anything that came to mind. I could not tell if he was listening or not, and it made me upset, but I kept talking anyways.

About two and half months after we became slaves to the Dwarves, Firbrawn had finally had enough of his nephew’s lack of proof that he was working, even though every Dwarf knew he wasn’t.

“Nephew!” Firbrawn called from down the tunnel; the others all had their work areas closer to the city than Valtrak and I. We were the farthest down the tunnel.

Valtrak jumped up, grabbed his pickax, and started swinging at the wall. I paused in surprise for a moment before getting back to work. I saw Firbrawn approaching out of the corner of my eye and he stopped and looked around.

“Wow…I am impressed. It looks as if you have made impressive progress.” Firbrawn’s tone sounded a little strange and I realized he was upset. “On widening the tunnel,” he finished, as I stopped swinging. Valtrak, on the other hand, did not stop.

“We widened and heightened the tunnel for me. My knees were raw for the first couple weeks,” I said defensively. “We have been working on this tunnel for months and have found nothing!”

“You must be as bad as Valtrak,” Firbrawn said. “Even your Elf and Human companions have found crystals. I have given you a little leniency as you are of the fairer sex and you because you are my nephew, but no more. You two find crystals or I will send you to the coal mines!”

“You cannot do that!” Valtrak exclaimed suddenly, throwing his pickax down. “It is not our fault the vein is dry!”

“Why should I believe that?” Firbrawn demanded.

“Because it is the truth! They always give me the dry parts of the tunnels we go to!” Valtrak snapped loudly.

“Why would we do that?” Kirrak asked from where everybody was staring at the two fighting Dwarves.

“Because you despise me,” Valtrak snapped.

“Enough!” Firbrawn roared. “Now, you have one week to gather a bucketful of crystals between the two of you. If you do not, you are to be sent to the coal mines.”

He turned and stormed off. I looked at Elthinor desperately and he looked sad. He broke away from his Dwarf supervisor and walked over to me. Valtrak was silent and stared at the Elf, but other than a glance, Elthinor ignored him.

“The vein is really dry?”

“As far as I can tell. I have been digging every time we are down here,” I said bitterly.

“I am sorry, Fily. Maybe you can have some of-”

“No,” I said sternly. “I won’t do that. You need them to stay here. I’ll think of something. You just go get back to work, okay?”

“Alright,” he said. “How about we brainstorm tonight?”

I nodded and made a shooing motion with my hands. “Go on now. Go work.”

Over the next six days, there was no luck for me. Valtrak was not even trying. He had obviously resigned himself to his fate. His face was a little sadder than usual on our last day. He had told me on that second day what the coal mines were like and I was quite reluctant to go there. It sounded like horrid work. Besides, I was used to the mine I was in already.

“Valtrak?” I asked after a few hours on our last day. “Would you please dig a little? Who knows, maybe we will find something?”

“I see no reason to,” Valtrak replied.


“No,” Valtrak snapped.

“Why are you so against working here?”

“Because I never wanted to be down here in the mines. I wanted to cut and polish the crystals. Turn them into beautiful gemstones. To set them into jewelry. Digging for the crystals just does not appeal to me, but does my uncle care? No. All he cares about is how I am viewed by the other nobles. Each noble is required to have a job that has to do with crystals, and mining them is the most desired, so my uncle got me in here so that the other nobles would be jealous and think highly of me, but they don’t because I am a failure at it. Most of the common Dwarves do not really like nobles so they keep the mines full, and they give me the dry veins so I cannot get anything. So I lose both ways,” Valtrak finished.

I stared at him for a moment. That was the most he had ever said to me at one time; he always gave me information in little snippets then would go silent again, and even that little bit of information was never about him. That he would tell me this made me realize that I was probably the closest thing he had to a friend. I smiled at him and his eyes got that distrustful look in them again, but this time I did not mind.

“Who knows? Maybe you will get to work with crystals in that way?” I said, turning and raising my pickax again.

I brought it down and gasped as the wall seemed to crumble away. I stepped back with my jaw open in shock then I turned to look at Valtrak and began to laugh.

“What were you saying about it being no use?”

Valtrak looked at me for a moment then smiled for the first time since I had known him. His eyes darted back to the hollow that had been revealed by my blow and shook his head in wonder. Crystals of every kind decorated the wall and he stood and we began to dig out the crystals together, placing them one by one into the bucket of his that had never had even one crystal in it. Soon it was stacked full and there were more past the brim and we began working on filling mine.

We were so busy that we did not notice the group that was gathering until Kirrak spoke.

“How? We were sure there was nothing there!”

Valtrak shrugged and continued to dig out crystals. “I don’t know. It’s just here.”

“God really does provide,” Elthinor said with a smile.

Valtrak’s head jerked up and looked at me. “I thought it was just a story.”

“I told you that I believe it is true,” I replied, continuing my work.

He gave me a thoughtful look then shrugged and focused back on our task. We could feel them staring at us, but we ignored them. I saw a pair of hands with faint green and silver designs on them reaching forward and I slapped them away.

“Elthinor, go back to your own work,” I said sternly.

He paused and looked at me, frowning slightly. “Fine. Come Nolan, let’s get back to our buckets,” he said, sounding a little irritated.

I watched as the crowd dispersed only to reveal Firbrawn and I froze. Valtrak must have noticed me stiffen because I heard him stop his own movements. We stood there for a few minutes before Firbrawn walked forward and began picking crystals up from our buckets.

“I have heard tell of crystal pockets, but they are rare. You found one?”

“Yes,” I said immediately as Valtrak looked guilty. “It took us forever, but we finally found some crystals in this vein. Looks like it was not completely dry after all.”

Firbrawn looked as if he was about to speak when a blast of a horn sounded through the mine, this one deeper than the one that signaled the end of our shift. Valtrak and Firbrawn both looked alarmed and I heard a scramble from the Dwarves further up the tunnel.

“What is that one for?” I asked.

“Horsemen,” Valtrak whispered.




I Am the Truth: Chapter 7

Two weeks into mining and I had made the tunnel high enough for me to stand straight and swing the pickax over my shoulder. It had taken me all that time plus standing in several uncomfortable positions to get it that way. I was pleased with my work, but Valtrak, who was still carving away, was as apathetic as ever. I sometimes caught him watching me with those strange violet eyes. When I did he did not avert his gaze, but kept staring at me, as if he was trying to understand me. He did not talk much, but his company was pleasant enough.

We were heading back to the house we were staying in when we were intercepted by the king. I bowed to him immediately and Elthinor and Nolan grudgingly followed; they were still upset that they were basically slaves. Elthinor had asked me a couple times already how I had withstood his own family’s constant demands on me and I had just smiled at him and told him I did not know.

“Hello Korvict,” I said, using a familiar tone. He smiled at me.

“Greetings Filynora. Are you enjoying your time in the mines?” he asked pleasantly.

“It is bearable,” I replied truthfully.

Elthinor and Nolan both mumbled under their breath about how that was half lying, but the truth was that I did not mind the manual labor as much as they did. Elthinor had been a hunter in Ellavendir, not a farmer or woodcutter or carpenter, which was probably one reason he had not been strong enough to fight off the other Elf boys. He was definitely strong enough, and skilled enough now, I thought happily, to easily defeat any of them. Nolan…was an orphan. The most physical labor he had done was probably running away from men who were screaming that he was a thief; I knew he had most likely stolen to survive in Bushacre.

“Are you ready to put your energy into more feminine tasks?” Korvict asked, though I could tell he already knew my answer by his tone.

“No,” I answered with a smile.

He nodded. “I am not surprised by your reply. You are quite a unique female.”

“What are you doing here?” I asked. “Making rounds or something?”

“I have come to give you a personal tour of the city,” Korvict said with a kind smile.

“Really?” I asked, sounding excited; we had only seen the city between the mines and our residence.

“Yes. Young Valtrak can come with us if he wishes,” the Dwarf king said, addressing the sullen looking Dwarf lad.

“If the king wishes,” Valtrak said in a flat voice.

“I do. Let’s go, shall we?” Korvict said, gesturing for us to walk.

“What are we going to look at?” I queried as we began walking, the king’s guards trailing us.

“Well, you seemed interested in crystals being turned into cut gems, so I thought we might go and see the process.”

Valtrak jerked and his eyes lit up. I glanced at him, and he sank back into his stoic attitude, except for his eyes. His eyes continued to gleam with interest. I smiled, relieved to know that the young Dwarf actually did have emotions. Sometimes I really wondered, but this refuted that idea completely.

I looked around the city as we walked, marveling at the amount of detail that was put into the carved buildings, especially in the richer parts of the city. I recalled the details in Ellavendir that the Elves had painted on the wood of their own buildings. While they had been pictures of plants and animals, the Dwarves had increasingly complex gemstone-looking carvings decorating the walls of their buildings. Unlike the Elves, there was no color to them. No paint had touched the stone of the houses. They were all grey or variations of brown. I found it odd that the Dwarves were so like the Humans in Paxtonvale and Bushacre, at least in their color schemes. In fact, the gems seemed to be the only color in the dull world of Dwarves. I suddenly understood why they were so desperate to find them. I turned and was about to share this sentiment with Elthinor and Nolan when our group suddenly stopped, Korvict looking at me expectantly.

“What?” I asked, feeling a bit stupid.

“We are here, my dear. I asked if you would like to go first.”

“Oh…sure,” I replied and walked into the room. There were stone tables set up in rows of five. The air was just as stuffy down here, smelling of earth, but there was no stench of sweat like there was in the mines. Instead of pickaxes, they wielded strange tools. They were using them to chip and cut the various crystals, forming them into the angled gems that sparkled from the Dwarven houses and statues. The ones being cut—carved was too harsh a word—were dull, though, not clear and sparkling.

“Why are they not clear like the ones I see in the house?” I asked.

To my surprise, it was Valtrak, not the king, who answered. “Because they have not been polished.”

I looked at the violet-eyed Dwarf. “And how do they do that?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“Diamond dust,” he answered with a nod. “Look, they are polishing over there.”

I watched, but more importantly, I listened as Valtrak explained the process of cutting and polishing diamonds with a passion that I respected. It sounded like my passion for God and Jesiah—sometimes muted, but always there just under the surface, waiting for the right words to be spoken to stir it into a fiery blaze. He seemed so eager about it, which contrasted so much with the apathetic view he took on his work down in the mines. I wondered briefly if working in the mines was his choice, or his uncle’s. All too soon, it seemed, the king interrupted us.

“Not to be rude, but I must leave now. Royal duties and whatnot. So, I am afraid you must head back to your lodgings,” Korvict said, a smile nearly hidden by his long beard.

Valtrak’s face went back into apathy as we left and I felt sorry for him. He seemed so withdrawn, and it hurt me. What had made him like this? Mayhap it was him losing his family so abruptly. Maybe it was his being ostracized by the Dwarves down in the mines; Elthinor and Nolan had told me some of what the others said about Valtrak, but refused to tell me the rest because it was, as they said, “Much too vulgar for a lady to hear.” I did not really think that I was a lady, but I respected their refusal and let the subject drop.

Elthinor, Nolan, and I got to our room and Valtrak bade us good night. I watched him turn to go and could not stand it.

“Please, stay for a while. We could use the company,” I blurted out.

Nolan and Elthinor both jabbed me in the ribs at the same time and I shot them both dirty looks, one after the other. Valtrak slowly turned back to look at us, wearing a guarded expression. He gauged our reactions and finally nodded slowly.

“Maybe for a little while,” he said.

I smiled and opened the door, gesturing for him to enter. He did so and looked around at the room. There were not that many personal touches, just an interesting crystal that Elthinor had dug up that he had been allowed to keep. Other than that, the room was just how we had found it that first night.

My thoughts turned to Firbrawn. His attitude toward us had lightened only slightly since he had been ordered to keep us in his home. He still was not happy about the special treatment we received from the king. On a whim, I decided to ask Valtrak about him.

“Why does your uncle despise us?”

Valtrak was avoided looking at us as he answered. “He is jealous. He has been trying to get into the king’s favor for years, then you come in and win it within a few minutes of being in his presence. I can see why, though. You are easy to get along with and there’s just something about you that…”

Valtrak trailed off. He seemed to be embarrassed if the way he was playing with his short beard was any indication. He did not seem to know what to do next so he just stood there awkwardly, shifting his weight from foot to foot. Elthinor broke first.

“So, you seemed to know quite a bit about the cutting process of gems. Have you studied it for very long?”

Valtrak’s eyes lit up again. “Yes. In fact, I have spent many hours perusing the shelves of the small library we have here in the city for information on it. It interests me greatly.”

Elthinor, Nolan, and Valtrak easily got into a deep conversation about the differences between gemstones and crystals and everything else related to them. The young Dwarf seemed to love them, as long as he was not mining them, that is.

My mind began to drift as the conversation turned into what gems were used for, what the colors symbolized, and even how to propose marriage with them. I focused my thoughts on what we were going to do. We had been in Crystalmoor for two weeks. Our mission had been put on hold for two weeks. How would that affect it? I knew that on the surface, winter was fast approaching. What were we to do if we managed to get away and we had to run over ice and through snow? We would not last long, that I knew. I sent up a quick prayer, affirming that I trusted God to take care of us as He had been throughout our journey so far and that He knew what He was doing.

As soon as I thought of God, it made me think of Jesiah. Why had I not been getting dreams from him? Was he done with me? Or was it something else? The last two dreams had been accidentally interrupted by Nolan, who had just been concerned because of my tendency to verbalize my dreams. But since that last dream…nothing. It concerned me, and scared me a little. Was he abandoning me? No, certainly not. He seemed to care for me deeply and I do not think he would hurt me purposefully for the world, even in spite of the death of my mother.

“Filynora, have you been listening?” Elthinor asked, an amused note in his voice.

I looked at him, my train of thought broken. “No,” I answered honestly. Valtrak looked a little disappointed so I added quickly, “But it is probably because I am a little tired. Please, repeat what you said and I shall try to listen this time.”

As I listened, I learned more and more about the importance Dwarves put on gems and gold. They were not just for splashes of color. I did not understand it all, but I did not have to. It was just a different culture. We talked and exchanged our different cultures for a few hours before exhaustion caught up with us all. We said good night and Valtrak left. I swear as he walked away, there was a slight skip in his step. I smiled and closed the door.



I Am the Truth: Chapter 6

I felt better than I had in a while even with raw knees and heavy, aching arms. I had not bathed in what felt like forever. Sure the rain had kept us fairly clean, but the Dwarves actually had soap and hot water that a person could scrub themselves clean with. I wore a clean shirt and pants, which I had washed with me, and padded barefoot out to Nolan and Elthinor, who were both lying on the bed half-asleep. Elthinor shook himself awake and sat up to smile at me.

“You look happy,” he said.

I shrugged. “It just feels nice to be clean for once,” I said with a smile. “Oh, and I drained the…whatever you want to call that thing, and filled it with fresh hot water.”

Elthinor poked Nolan’s side. “Would you like to go next?”

“You can go,” Nolan muttered, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. “I can wait.”

“Alright then,” Elthinor said, hopping up and walking into the room, shutting the door behind him.

I sat on the edge of the bed and watched as Nolan slowly woke up fully. He stretched and cringed, rubbing his arms, which had to be as sore as mine.

“How are you feeling?” I asked, lying back and propping my head up with my elbow.

“Sore. Tired. A little angry,” he replied.


“We are slaves, Fily,” Nolan replied dejectedly, mirroring my position. “Aren’t you angry?” he asked curiously.

I thought about that. “No,” I finally answered. “Not really.”

“Why not?” He seemed confused.

I shrugged one shoulder. “I am not really sure,” I answered honestly. “I was a servant in Elthinor’s home before we left Ellavendir. I had the same sense of…I think it is peace, when I was there. It did not bother me then and it does not bother me now. This time I just know to do what they say. I think, and I am just going out on a limb here, that it is God’s will for us to be here and to serve the Dwarves.”

Nolan rolled his eyes and abruptly changed the subject. We chatted about our favorite things and he questioned me about my running, which he had undoubtedly heard about from Elthinor and Gabrithon…Just the thought of Gabrithon saddened me. He had run away, leaving us to our fate. Even though I did try, I simply could not be angry at him. I figured that he had feared the Dwarves for his whole life, and I could not blame him for acting on that fear.

“What are you thinking about now?” Nolan asked after a pause in our conversation stretched on for what seemed like an eternity.

“Gabrithon,” I answered sadly.

“Are you mad at him?”

“I just can’t be, no matter how hard I try. His face, he was just so terrified by the sound of that horn…I would not wish for him to be down here, especially if he was to be branded.”

“But he abandoned us!” Nolan exclaimed, sitting up and staring at me. “Even if he comes back, why should we trust him?”

“Because he is our friend,” I replied, furrowing my eyebrows and sitting up slowly. “Why the sudden passion?”

“I just…back in Bushacre I had one friend when I was younger. He…betrayed me,” Nolan said, looking away from me. “I trusted him one time after that, and he betrayed me again. I do not trust those who run out on me even now. Gabrithon included. I am sorry if that upsets you, but I shall hold tightly to this law. I will never fully trust him again, if he comes back. I doubt he will though. Jacob never came back the second time around.”

I felt sorry for Nolan. At least I had grown up with a mother. He had had nobody except for this Jacob, and he had turned on him. I reached over and grabbed Nolan’s hand. He looked at our hands and back at my face with raised eyebrows.

“I am sorry about what Jacob did, but I just can’t not trust my friends. Before I met Elthinor, I had never had any friends, and none of the ones I now have has given me a reason not to trust them. Even Gabrithon. Fear is a powerful motivator, and he has feared these stone-like Dwarves his whole life. That is a long time to fear something.”

Nolan nodded his head and sighed. “I know. But my distrust still stands.”

“And I will not try to change that about you,” I replied.

The door to the bathing room opened and Elthinor stepped out, his hair plastered to his head, and he looked decidedly happier and much cleaner; we had all been covered with dirt and grime after our time in the mines. It was no wonder that the Dwarves had come up with such an ingenious bathing system with all the dirt and dust they accumulated throughout the day. Even if a Dwarf did not work in the mines, the air had plenty of dust simply from being underground.

Elthinor only wore his pants, which he had obviously washed, and his equally clean shirt was carried in his hands. He jumped easily over me and landed between me and Nolan, bouncing us both in the air. I laughed with them as Nolan and I settled back onto the bed. Elthinor sat up and tossed his shirt onto the bedside table.

I could not help but stare curiously at Elthinor’s designs. The green tree and silver flowers were shimmering in the candlelight. On either side of the tree, roots stretched up from his side and went up to his shoulders where they bloomed into intricate vines that wrapped around his arms and bloomed into silver flowers on his hands. I knew that the starry night above the water scene on his back was just as beautiful. It looked magnificent on his skin and I stared until Elthinor coughed slightly, drawing my attention back to him. I blushed fiercely as he looked at me with one eyebrow arched.

“Sorry,” I muttered, and Elthinor outright laughed.

“I keep forgetting you are not a full Elf and do not possess our unique physical appearance. It’s alright if you study the designs. I don’t mind.”

“They just are so fascinating,” I admitted. “They are as if God took a paintbrush and decided to use Elves as his canvas.”

Elthinor smiled at my words and reached over to poke my cheek. “I wonder why you do not have designs if you are half Elf. You do not have one anywhere?” he queried.

“No. None at all. It seems as if the Human part of me wiped it out.”

“I am sure if you were an Elf, God would have painted you beautifully,” Elthinor said in a soft voice, a mysterious smile on his face.

Nolan suddenly cleared his throat. “If you two do not mind, I believe I shall go and bathe. The water was exchanged?”

“I drained it. The hot water needs to be poured into the basin, though.”

“Alright then,” Nolan said, hurrying into the room and closing the door.

Elthinor looked at me and I shrugged.

“Maybe he’s tired?” I suggested.

“Or maybe he does not like our talk of God,” Elthinor countered.

“Maybe. I still do not know his views on Him. He seems disinterested, even more so than Gabrithon is…was,” I corrected with a sigh. “I am worried about our Centaurian friend.”

“He is better equipped to fight the monsters now than before,” Elthinor reassured me.

“But…will he come back?” I asked, looking at him with unsure eyes.

“I cannot say,” Elthinor said sadly. “He might never come back.”

I closed my eyes and sighed, my heart aching with that thought. Gabrithon had become a close friend in the short time I had known him. He had been as lonely as Elthinor and I had been before we had found each other. I sighed again and leaned back against the bed.

“Father, please. Let him come back. I do not wish to lose a friend,” I said out loud, feeling tears sting my eyes. “But if he does not come back, please protect him.”

I went silent and the only noise in the room was the sound of us breathing. I must have fallen asleep because I jerked awake when the door to the bathing room closed behind Nolan, who was fully dressed in his clean clothes. Elthinor sat up and reached out to the side for his sword, which had been taken by the Dwarves. I stared at Nolan for a moment then yawned.

“We need to get to bed. Who knows when the next shift is anyways?” I muttered.

“Fine by me,” Nolan said quietly, sitting on the edge of the bed.

“How are we going to do this?” I asked, glancing at the one bed then back at the two males; I wasn’t too keen on sleeping with them in the same bed—propriety dictated it was wrong—but it looked as if we had no choice.

“We could sleep on the floor?” Elthinor suggested. “And you could take the bed?”

“No. The floor is stone and I do not think you could sleep too well on it,” I said, shooting down that idea. “We shall just have to find a suitable sleeping arrangement.”

We looked at the bed again and sighed. It looked like we would be getting little sleep as we figured out how we were going to sleep.



I Am the Truth: Chapter 5

The mines were filled with the clang of the Dwarves’ tools against rock and peeking through the walls were covered with what looked like gems. They weren’t, however, shining nearly as much as the ones had set into the statues and homes, and they didn’t hold the same beautiful shapes. As we walked through the mines, the ceilings began getting lower and lower, matching the smaller creatures’ heights instead of ours. We were stooped over by the time we stopped. Every eye was on us, most of them focusing on Elthinor; I was guessing that they had never seen an Elf before.

Firbrawn cleared his throat and every eye was on him immediately. He looked around the crowd and his eyes narrowed.

“Where is he?” he demanded, his voice holding anger.

There was dead silence around us, and the Dwarves refused to look up at their angry superior. I looked around at them and noticed they were shifting nervously. Firbrawn repeated the question with more force. A Dwarf finally stepped forward, looking up at the intimidating Dwarf with a slightly fearful expression.

“He slipped away while we were not looking,” he replied.

“No I did not!” a voice suddenly called out and a Dwarf suddenly pushed through the crowd.

His skin was a reddish brown and his hair and short beard were black. His face and build resembled Firbrawn’s, so I assumed the latter was related to him. He was obviously younger by far than most of the other Dwarves present, and even I could tell he was lying.

“Oh really? Then show me the fruits of your labor today,” Firbrawn commanded. “What have you dug up?”

The Dwarf crossed his arms and grumbled a response. Firbrawn sighed. “Valtrak, I am doing this for your own good! Can you not see that?”

“I am trapped in this blasted mine all day and you say it is good for me?” Valtrak demanded, his violet eyes glaring at who I could only assume was his father.

Firbrawn narrowed his eyes. “We shall talk about this later, Valtrak,” he said sternly, ending the conversation with his tone alone. “Now,” he said, changing his demeanor. “These…people will be helping down here with your crew, Kirrak.”

“Yes, sir,” a yellowish brown Dwarf with a grey beard said.

“But one of them is a female!” the Dwarf who had stepped forward to talk to Firbrawn argued.

Elthinor snickered, making the Dwarves all look at us, or more specifically him. I remembered the first time I saw him and smiled at him. He seemed uncomfortable at being stared at by so many people of a race that he had never seen before. At my smile, he relaxed a little and smiled back at me. Firbrawn commanded our attention again.

“Kirrak, you will teach these three to mine.”

“The female, too?” Kirrak asked incredulously.

“Yes. By the king’s orders,” Firbrawn said, none too happily.

“Oh, fine,” Kirrak said. “But if she starts to complain-”

“You will all just have to live with it. Now, back to work.”

“Yes sir,” all the Dwarves chorused.

The Dwarves all eyed me with distaste as Firbrawn left, but it was nothing I had not suffered through before so I ignored them. Judging by the way the Dwarves flocked towards Elthinor and Nolan, none of them wanted to work with me. Kirrak watched me with his strange white eyes to see what I would do. I simply stared back at them, not even bothering to hide my displeasure. Kirrak smirked and called over the young Dwarf.

“Valtrak, you are to show Filynora how to mine.”

“What? Why me?” Valtrak demanded harshly.

“Because your constant avoidance of working with us continues to get us in trouble. Now teach her.”

Valtrak downright glared at me, but instead of glaring back, I gave him my sweetest smile. He was immediately confused and grumblingly led me down to what I assumed was his workspace. There were no crystals showing through the walls down here, attesting, I guessed, to how little work he did.

He showed me how to hold and swing the tool, which he called a pickax. It was heavier than I expected, but I believe the farm work and heavy lifting I used to do helped me to hold it. I took a few practice swings before he corrected my grip and I tried again, finding it was much easier that way. I got into a rhythm for a while before I noticed that Valtrak was sitting on the ground carving something. I stopped and stared at him questioningly.

“The vein is dry,” Valtrak said bitterly when he noticed my look.


“Nobody likes me down here either. They think I am nothing but a spoiled, rich noble’s son.”

“You…are a noble? But why are you down here then?”

Valtrak sniffed. “Because my uncle thinks it is good for me.”

“What about your father?”

“My father’s dead.”

“Oh…so is Firbrawn your uncle?”

“Yes. He took me in after my father died in a tunnel collapse down in the east tunnels.”

“And your…mother?” Even the mention of that word still hurt me.

“She died giving birth to me.”

“I…I am so sorry,” I replied solemnly.

“I do not remember her so it does not matter,” Valtrak said offhandedly.

“Oh…” I muttered.

I was not really sure what to think of that for a moment then thought of my father. I guess I could empathize with him, I thought. I had never known my father, so I could not really miss him. I could miss the idea of having a father in my life, but not the Elf himself.

“Okay,” I finally said then looked back at the wall. “What did you mean when you said the vein is dry?”

“There are no more crystals in this area. That is why they gave it to me,” Valtrak replied, twirling his knife.

“How do you know? You have not dug at all since I came in,” I said, sounding a bit irritated even to my own ears.

“When I first came down here, I mined with all my heart, hoping to make my uncle proud, but that was nearly a year ago. Every day, I moved deeper into the tunnel and still found nothing. Then our group moved into another tunnel. Again, there was nothing in the area they gave me. Each place we move, a couple of the Dwarves listen to the stone to see where the crystals lie, and I am sure they give me the dry veins now. It could have been chance on the first two or three, but we have moved through more than ten and still nothing. My uncle thinks I am a slacker and a disappointment so why should I do anything to try and change his mind anymore? I know it will not help.”

“What do you mean by listen to the stone?” I asked, confused.

“Some Dwarves can, in a way, hear the breaks in earth and stone where the crystals are hidden. I don’t really know how that works as I do not possess that ability.”

I let that soak in and began to mine again. That seemed to confuse Valtrak, as he was suddenly beside me and grabbed my arm before I drew back for another swing.

“I just told you that it is no use,” he said, “so why do you continue to mine?”

“It gives me something to do. Besides, Korvict told me we are basically slaves, and slaves listen to their masters. He told me to mine, so I will mine even if I find nothing.”

Valtrak looked up at me strangely for a moment then shrugged his broad shoulders. “If that is how you feel, then go ahead.”

I smiled at him and his emerald eyes narrowed, as if he did not trust my motives. He finally shook his head and moved to sit back against the wall and began carving again. I quickly got back into the rhythm of chipping away at the walls. I worked until a low horn blasted through the cave and made me jump and drop the tool. Valtrak snickered.

“What was that?” I asked, my eyes wide.

“That was the signal that it is time for the interchanging of the miners. Our shift is over,” Valtrak said, obvious amusement in his voice as he stood.

“Oh. Where am I to go from here?” I asked.

“My uncle will come and lead you to your quarters. If he remembers you,” Valtrak said, a note of bitterness in his voice.

We walked back to where the others were filing out and I made a beeline for Elthinor and Nolan, who both looked exhausted. As soon as I noticed that, I became aware that my arms were heavy from the work that I had done, my knees, which I had been kneeling on the whole time, were raw, and my body suddenly stopped as my head became fuzzy. I shook my head to clear it and when I opened my eyes—which I hadn’t known I had closed—Elthinor was right beside me, holding me up.

“Are you alright?” he asked worriedly.

“I am fine. Just realized how sore I shall be tomorrow,” I said with a gentle smile.

“You should not be working down here,” Elthinor said. “Why must you always insist on doing a man’s work?”

“Because it keeps me close to you two. I do not want to be away from you. Not in this strange underground world,” I said sternly.

“So,” a familiar voice said, “how was your first day, Filynora?”

I turned. “Korvict! You said it would be a few days before you visited,” I said surprised.

“I could not help it,” Korvict said with a smile; the four Dwarves behind him stood there looking shocked that I addressed their king in such a way. “You intrigue me, girl. I shall be keeping an eye on you. So, how was your first day?”

“Tiring. And interesting,” I added with a tired smile.

“That is good, I suppose,” Korvict replied, stroking his beard. “Find any crystals?”

“No,” I said simply.

“That is too bad. Well, there is always tomorrow,” he said cheerily. “These tunnels are filled with crystals, and most of them can be turned into beautiful cut gemstones.”

“Is that why the gems in the city look different than the crystals peeking through the stone? They are…cut?” I asked curiously.

“Yes. They must be cut and polished for their truest beauty to shine through.”

“In that way they are like people,” Valtrak muttered behind me.

Korvict’s sapphire eyes darted to the young Dwarf. “What do you mean, Valtrak?”

“I simply meant that life cuts and polishes a person into being who they turn into, your majesty,” Valtrak said, lowering his eyes.

The Dwarf king tilted his head to the side, scrutinizing his subject. He finally smiled.

“You know, you sometimes show amazing wisdom for one so young.”

“Thank you, sire,” Valtrak intoned listlessly.

I was struck with just how true Valtrak’s statement was, and the king’s for that matter. I turned and smiled at the red-brown Dwarf. He just stared at me with those violet eyes of his and frowned. I finally turned away, a little disturbed, and noticed Korvict staring at me expectantly. I smiled at him and he actually smiled back at me before calling Firbrawn, who was standing back away from the king, to him.

“Yes sire?” he asked respectfully.

“I would like Filynora and her friends to stay in your home instead of the slave quarters. They may walk to work with Valtrak next shift.”

“But…They are…Yes, sire,” Firbrawn finally conceded, bowing again. “Will that be all?”

“For now,” Korvict replied then turned and walked away, his guard following.

“Well, follow me,” Firbrawn said irritably. “I do not understand why the king demands such special treatment for you slaves. What is so special about you? The only difference I can see is that Filynora is with you.”

I was, quite frankly, confused. Firbrawn had seemed so cheery and, well, friendly to us, me in particular, earlier. Now he was, to put it kindly, disagreeable. As we made our way back through the city, I wondered what had changed his attitude. From what he had said and the way he had said it, I finally assumed it was the attitude of the king towards me. Mayhap he was jealous?

We were hurried through the streets and into a grand looking house, not nearly as grand as Korvict’s, but still bigger than most of the houses in the city. I did notice, however, that the closer to the king’s home, the bigger and more amazing the houses became, and the farther away, the smaller and more plain.

We were guided through several hallways decorated with glowing crystals and gemstones set into more beaten gold. In one room we passed, I noticed a fountain leaping from the floor itself! I could not believe that I could feel so much amazement in one day. This underground city seemed to hold constant wonder for me. I was so lost in my thoughts that I ran into Elthinor when he suddenly stopped walking. He grabbed me to steady me; my legs were weak from kneeling the whole time I had worked.

“Are you sure you are alright?” he asked.

“I am fine, Elthinor,” I replied with a smile. “Or I will be once I rest a little.”

“Well, here is your room. You three can share,” Firbrawn said, sounding too sweet. “There is a bathing room connected by the door on the right side of the main room, and on the other side is a place where you can relieve yourselves. Enjoy.”

He left us standing there and we just stared after him for a moment before Elthinor hesitantly opened the door. The room was furnished with a good sized, plush looking bed, a few chairs carved out of wood, and a small table off to one side carved out of stone. I imagined they had snuck the wood down here when the Centaurs were not looking. All three of us walked into the room and just gazed around. When the door suddenly shut, I jumped and spun around, clutching at my knife, or where it should have been, before I realized it had only been Nolan.

Elthinor walked over and flopped on the bed, sighing tiredly. Nolan chose a chair and I just stood where I was. I noticed a door to the right of me and opened it to see a large depression in the middle of the room and what looked like a lever off to the side that led into a stone basin set over a stove. I pushed the lever down and gasped as water gushed from a spout and into the stone basin.

“Elthinor! Nolan!” I exclaimed. “You must come see this!”

“What?” Elthinor asked, in the doorway in an instant.

I pushed the lever down again, and they both exclaimed as more water rushed into the basin. We took turns experimenting with the lever until the basin was full.

“Now what?” Nolan asked, swirling a finger through the water.

I stared at the curved stone slab that connected the basin with the depression and an idea popped in my head.

“It is like the baths I took when I lived in Paxtonvale except you do not have to carry the water. See? We light the stove and the water heats up. We pull that string and that wooden slat lifts and the hot water will go down into the depression of the floor.”

“You mean it is like swimming? We do not just scrub ourselves clean?” Elthinor asked confusedly.

“It seems like it, does it not? And look at the bottom of the depression,” I said, jumping down into it. “There is a stopper. Pull it up and I assume the water will drain out.”

“What a strange invention!” Elthinor exclaimed.

“Who will try it out first?” I asked and both of the males looked at me with raised eyebrows.

“We, well I, thought you would want to,” Nolan said slowly.

I shrugged. “I do not really care,” I replied and got a strange look from Nolan and a soft chuckle from Elthinor.

“You really are not a typical female. You go first, Filynora, then I shall look at your knees.”

“Alright then,” I said as I grabbed the sparkstones on top of the stove.

I stared at the strange black rocks inside the stove for a moment before humming and experimentally striking the stones together. Sparks flew and the black rocks flared up. I laughed and turned to look at Elthinor and Nolan, who were both just as tickled as I was by the unusual rocks.

“These Dwarves are strange, but interesting,” I said as I stood and placed the sparkstones back where they had been. “Now tell me of your adventures while the water heats up.”

We walked back into the main room and settled down as my Elven friend began to relate his time with the Dwarves.



I Am the Truth: Chapter 4

We walked for a good half an hour before we went into the forest. We continued for another fifteen minutes before we came to a well-concealed opening. The Dwarf who had said he liked me walked up to it and gestured.

“Well, go on,” he said gruffly. “Before the horsemen come.”

I swallowed and walked into the hole to find an incline that led deeper into the earth. The farther and deeper we went, the darker it got. Just before my vision disappeared completely, there was a pale blue light that came from ahead of us. I picked up my pace to see where the light was coming from and paused when I could finally see what was causing it.

“What are they?” I asked as the Dwarf with red-brown hair came forward to see what was keeping us from moving.

“Crystals. They retain sunlight for long periods of time. They are what light our world down here in the caves.”

“They’re beautiful,” I said, a smile on my face.

The Dwarf looked pleased that I was so obviously impressed. “Come now. Keep moving, wen- I mean, Filynora.”

We began walking again, this time following the Dwarf, whom I assumed was in charge of this group by his demeanor. It took another ten minutes of walking before the tunnel ended. I gasped as the cavern came into view. There was an entire city carved from the rock and was lit up by enormous crystals stuck in the walls around the entire cavern, as far as I could see. I could also see other tunnels branching out in the walls between some of the giant crystals.

“Amazing,” I said softly, and I heard Elthinor and Nolan express similar sentiments.

“It is, isn’t it?” the Dwarf in charge said proudly. “It took years and years to carve it. It is the Dwarves’ pride and joy.”

“What is it called?” Elthinor asked.

“Crystalmoor. It is our capital,” another Dwarf answered.

“Come. That is enough admiring. You will have plenty of time to look at it when you are slaves.”

I sighed again, but started walking again; the Dwarves had taken our weapons as soon as they had found them and I did not want them to get rough with us. I was almost sure they would not hurt me, at least not too badly, but I knew they would not hold back with Elthinor and Nolan. This was one time I was glad to be a female.

We moved down the path to the city and walked through the straight, pristine streets to the center where a giant house stood. The houses that we had seen throughout the city were miniscule compared to this one. They all had some of the glowing crystals set around the outside doorway and they all had beaten gold designs on their doors with jewels decorating them, pointing to just how rich the Dwarves were in things that were so rare on the surface.

The outside of the giant house was magnificent. It was intricately carved stone with great attention given to the tiniest detail. The inside was just as beautiful. It contained more of those glowing crystals set, not into the walls, but into the high ceiling. They revealed jewel-encrusted stone statues set around the rooms we went through.

We were led to a room with a large stone seat, also jewel encrusted. The Dwarf who sat upon the throne, the only word appropriate for the chair, had skin that was a dark, dusty grey and his beard and hair were thick and black. He wore the same kind of clothes that the Dwarves who had captured us wore, but he had many jewels woven into his beard and on his fingers were many golden rings. He stared at us with gleaming sapphire eyes, which were focused on a point behind me. I looked to where he was looking and realized it was Elthinor that was being stared at.

“What kind of man is that?” the Dwarf king asked in a deep voice.

“Answer him!” One of the Dwarves holding Elthinor shook him.

“I-I am no man. I am an Elf, sir,” Elthinor managed, looking rather disoriented.

He was given another shake and I let out a growl. “Stop that! He is doing what you ask!”

“Quiet,” a Dwarf holding me said, shaking me lightly.

I managed to elbow his nose and he yelped and did not shake me again. I looked back at the Dwarf king, who was staring at me with interest. I was hoping that the special property I possessed that the other races liked was still with me. It seemed to be, I thought gladly as he smiled at me.

“What is your name, girl?” he asked, sounding amused.

“Filynora,” I replied, meeting his eyes boldly.

He seemed to get great joy out of that and laughed.

“Take the Elf and the boy outside and make them stay there. I would like to talk to this Filynora alone.”

As soon as they were gone, the king stepped from his throne and became much less formal. He stroked his beard thoughtfully as he walked around me, watching me. He stopped when he had circled me twice and stood in front of me.

“Why do I like you? I do not like any from the other races. Especially Humankind.” The question was asked harshly.

I shrugged my shoulders. “Everybody but mankind seems to like me. Well, except Nolan. He likes me, I suppose. He has traveled this far with me,” I said thoughtfully. I looked at the king after a moment. “If it does not offend you, what is your name? I think it is only fair that I know.”

“My name is Korvict,” he said after a thoughtful pause. “You know, not many people ask my name. They just call me ‘Your Majesty.’”

I smiled. “That does not mean you do not have a name though, correct?”

He smiled back then frowned again. “I still like you.”

I arched my eyebrows. “What do you want me to do about it?”

Korvict tilted his head curiously. “Can you do anything about it?”

“Not that I know of,” I said, inwardly laughing at the silly request.

“Oh well,” he sighed, playing with one of his rings as he looked at the ground. “What am I to do with you and your friends?”

“Well…you could let us go,” I said hopefully.

“You know where to find our caves and it was reported to me earlier that you traveled with a horseman. It is against the Dwarves’ best interests that I let you go, therefore you are staying here. As what, though, depends on how I feel about you. Right now, it is looking very good for you.” He paused and stared at me. “What do you have to offer? You are not like a normal girl. My scouts reported they saw you fighting like a man.”

I bit my bottom lip and looked up at the ceiling as I tried to think of what I knew how to do. The king came forward and untied my hands while I thought, and I rubbed my wrists when they were free.

“Well,” I said eventually. “I can hunt, skin animals, make leather, disembowel and cut up most animals…I can do a lot with animals. I was the one doing the chores around my farm,” I finished with a small smile. I thought and then added, “I can also sew, but not very well, and I can clean.”

“Well, I already have plenty of servants to clean and sew, and we have hunting parties that go up to the forest that do the skinning and such. I do not know what to do with you, let alone your friends. I suppose the boy and the Elf could go and dig for crystals that are to be cut down to gems, but as for you, I do not know.”

“I could go down with them,” I suggested.

“Females do not deal with such things,” Korvict said firmly.

I sighed. “I thought that might be your answer,” I said with a frown.

He looked surprised. “Digging for crystals is hard and filthy work. How could you want to do it?”

I shrugged listlessly. “I just do not want special treatment.”

“It is not special treatment. It is the way things here are done. In fact, it would be special treatment if you did go down there, but if you want to go and work in the mines, then fine,” the Dwarf king said with a wave of his hand. “But you will not last down there. It is a male’s work.”

I smiled at him. “Did any of those things I listed sound like a female’s work?”

“No,” Korvict admitted, scrutinizing me. “You don’t act like any female I have met before either.” His eyes met mine and we stared at each other for a minute or so. “Very well then,” he said finally. “You and your friends shall work in the mines. I shall check on your progress in a couple days. If you wish to change jobs then I will allow it.”

I smiled. “Thank you.”

“For putting you in the mines?” he asked, looking confused.

“No, for keeping me with my friends,” I replied and embraced him briefly.

I had never seen anybody look as shocked as Korvict did in that moment. He tossed his head back and laughed gaily, patting my shoulder.

“I really do like you, girl. You are probably the most extraordinary being I have ever met!”

“Likewise,” I said, with a bow; I couldn’t very well curtsy without a dress on. “Dwarves seem to be interesting creatures. You are like nothing I have ever seen before. You kind of look like living rocks.”

The Dwarf king chuckled. “We live amongst the rocks, we harvest crystals from rocks, and we build our cities from the rocks. So it only makes sense that we look like them.”

“True,” was my reply.

“Masnork! Hivton!” Korvict shouted and two Dwarves appeared.

“Yes sire?” the coal black one asked.

“Please tell the hunting party they may bring in the Elf and the Human.”

“Yes sire,” they both said, bowing low.

Elthinor and Nolan were dragged back into the room, looking uncomfortable. Korvict took his place back on his throne and looked like he was about to say something when he looked at me.

“Is something wrong, my dear?”

“Could you ask your Dwarves to stop manhandling them? Pardon the expression,” I added, looking at Elthinor, who snickered.

“Let them go. They will not run,” Korvict ordered, and the Dwarves stared at him in shock.

“B-but your majesty,” the lead Dwarf protested.

“Firbrawn, do not argue with me. They are going to join your son down in the mines. Yes the girl, too. Make sure they are on the same crew as Valtrak. Now, untie their hands and lead them down to the mines.”

“Yes sire,” Firbrawn said, bowing his head.

Elthinor and Nolan rubbed their sore wrists and Firbrawn began walking towards the door. I bowed to Korvict again and he smiled and shook his head.

“Go on, now,” he said with a chuckle, his gem-like eyes gleaming.

With a happy smile, I went, marveling at the many different kinds of creatures God had created and wondering who else I would meet on my journey.



I Am the Truth: Chapter 3

We were awakened that night by Ember, who was growling and looking in the forest. Gabrithon’s nostrils flared and he was up in an instant. By the faint light of the embers in the fire pit I could see his panic. He was frightened.

“We need to leave. They are coming!” he said, his voice betraying his emotions.

The fear in his voice persuaded us to do as he said and we packed up in record time. Once our bedrolls were firmly tied to our separate packs, Gabrithon had us moving swiftly along the edge of the forest with Ember’s markings glowing orange to light our way. There was suddenly the sound of hooves and the poor Centaur squealed and shot off. We gasped and ran with him, his fear spreading to us. We ran and ran until we—well, they—could not run any further, and all three of them stopped, panting heavily. I was a bit winded myself; the longer we travelled, the fitter the rest of them got and the longer and faster they could run.

“We cannot stop,” Gabrithon whimpered. “They will catch us and father will be awfully angry at me. I do not like my father in his best temperament. Anger is worse. Much, much worse.”

“What do you propose we do?” Nolan asked, still sucking in air greedily. “We are not Filynora. We cannot run until sunup the way you would like. We must walk!”

“Yes,” Elthinor agreed readily. “Besides, we must be far enough away from them by now. They are probably still searching our camp.”

“How did they find us so fast if Cyrene is deep in the forest?” I asked quietly as I caught my breath.

Gabrithon blinked. “I forgot you are not Centaur and do not know the land. Right inside the forest about a mile or two is Woodspell. It is a small community, but home to some of the fastest Centaurs in the world. They are also some of the most unforgiving of trespassers as they live close to stone men…or Dwarves as you call them. Dwarves are rather cruel creatures. They enjoy roping and branding us, and a branded Centaur is considered useless and it is a shame just to look at him.”

“That’s not fair,” I objected. “He did not choose to be branded.”

“Nonetheless, he or she is damaged beyond repair, according to our culture.”

“That’s about as fair as the arranged marriages, eh, Fily?” Nolan asked as he stroked Ember’s head.

I made a face and the three of them laughed, albeit nervously. They were wary of my temper when I spoke of those subjects, and I could not blame them. I ignored the comment to the best of my ability, looking up at the stars and the sliver of the pale moon that was high up in the night sky. The stars twinkled, ever so far separated from the desperate race against time and Centaurs that we were going through. It made me envy them just a little bit.

“Shouldn’t we start walking again?” I asked with a deep sigh then began walking without an answer, Ember following without question.

Elthinor caught up with me and smiled hesitantly in the half light. I sighed and smiled back. I could not stay mad at any of them, especially Elthinor. We were just too good of friends. I enjoyed having friends. It made my life a lot more interesting than raising my wild Elementals ever had. The fact that we were on a mission that seemed like it was of dire importance was just a bonus. My life had turned from boring and plain (well, as plain as an Elemental raiser’s life could be) to an exciting adventure that had no end in sight. Despite all that my life had become, I had begun to yearn for the safe days back at the farm with my faithful Elementals and pets by my side. The long days I spent hunting in the wood where nothing seemed to be against me was in stark contrast to today when everything seemed to be after me. Ignorance, I thought to myself as we walked, is something I would pay dearly to get back.

We traveled the rest of the night and well into the morning before we decided to unroll our bedrolls and sleep a bit. Gabrithon volunteered the watch; he just could not sleep being so close to Woodspell, and we decided not to argue with him. I woke first to find him dozing. As soon as I moved, his head shot up and his eyes locked onto me. As soon as they did, he relaxed and rolled his head back.

“Anything from Jesiah?” he asked.

“No,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Still don’t believe?”

“No. Just making conversation,” Gabrithon replied.

“You should sleep. We don’t want you being irritable again. We do not need more fights,” I said firmly.

“I cannot sleep,” he sighed. “I am too worried about my father. He’s not a forgiving stallion, and I fear he is livid about my leaving.”

“You said that he was trying to make you be something you aren’t. What was he trying to do that was so bad?”

Gabrithon chuckled softly. “You will think it is ironic.” I looked at him questioningly. “He arranged a marriage for me with a shy filly from one of the noble families. I did not like her so I…ran away.”

I felt that my jaw had dropped and I quickly covered my mouth to muffle the laughter that I could not repress. Gabrithon looked properly abashed, but smiled as he let me soak up the irony.

“So I guess you understand being female more than I thought,” I said when I could stop laughing.

“In some ways, yes. Being the youngest prince, I did not have the responsibilities my brothers have, but I was restricted by the same rules. Sometimes they were stricter rules. It is quite boring being royalty, and my father had complete control over everything I used to do. When I ran away, there was such a sensation of freedom that I could hardly believe it. I could do what I wanted. When I met you, believe it or not, I was a bit irresponsible. I had nothing to really live for, so I took ridiculous risks. That’s how I got in trouble with the Vampires. I followed their noises out from my campfire, even though somewhere in me I knew better,  and…well, you know what happened. I still have a couple scars to prove it.”

“By the time we get done with this adventure, I am sure we all shall have many more scars,
I said softly, rubbing my shoulder; even though it had healed fast, there were still several pale scars there.

He looked at me with a strange look on his face. “How can you talk about that so calmly?”

“Talk about what so calmly?”

“Getting scars. That implies pain and pain implies more dark creatures and it does not seem to bother you like it should.”

I shrugged and looked away even though I knew the answer. Evidently, he did, too, because he frowned when I didn’t answer.

“You used to be so confident about Him. Now…” the Centaur trailed off. “You seem to have lost a part of your glow.”


“It is a little hard to explain. Your face just used to have this glow. Like you were always happy or…I don’t know, joyful, even when you were in pain, or times were hard.”

I looked down. I had felt a little empty since my mother’s death, but I had just assumed it was from her, not God. Now that I thought about it, it made more since that it seemed to be a greater hole than even my mother could have left. I began to cry and Gabrithon looked alarmed.

“I don’t know what to do, Gabrithon. I don’t know how to tell Him I am angry at Him or that I don’t understand why He took my mother. I know he had to have a reason, but that does not help the pain. I miss her.”

“How do you tell anybody you are angry at them?” he asked.

“I yell at them and, well,” I paused for a second, embarrassed. “I hit them if they are close enough.”

“It won’t really do if you hit Jesiah. Elthinor told me the last time you were angry at Him you tried to hit Him and it upset you terribly.” He tilted his head at me. “Is that what you fear? Losing control like you did the first time?”

I thought about it for a few minutes. “Yes,” I finally said, wiping my cheeks.

“I would say you have much more self-control now than you did then,” Gabrithon said with a smile. “How do you know you cannot control yourself if you do not try to talk to Him?”

I hummed, realizing he was right. I decided the next time I dreamed of Jesiah, I would try and explain my feelings to Him. It would not do to be separated from Him. I knew that the best place to be was with Him, no matter what my circumstances were. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but when had my life been easy?

“You know, for somebody who does not believe in Jesiah and God, you certainly help me with my problems involving them.”

Gabrithon looked uncomfortable. “I just think that your belief in Him is interesting and-”

The rest of his excuse was drowned out by a horn. Gabrithon yelped and was up and running away before I could register what was happening. The horn had woken Elthinor and Nolan up and they sat up in surprise. Gabrithon had disappeared, and I called for him. Instead of the Centaur, a short, bearded creature came out with an axe held in his hands. His beard was a reddish brown and his dark eyes stared distrustfully at us.

Without warning, we were all grabbed from behind and held by strong hands. I yelled and struggled, Nolan and Elthinor doing the same, but we were subdued by more of the creatures, which I assumed were Dwarves.

They were just as unusual as any of the other creatures. They looked just as I remembered from the scroll readings, but judging by the looks on Elthinor’s and Nolan’s faces, they had never imagined anything like that. Their skin and hair looked textured like rock with different colors for each Dwarf. Their eyes sparkled like the gemstones I had only caught glimpses of in the traders’ camp, each color taking up the entire eye, with no iris or pupil to mar the jewel-like perfection. They were stunning beings, like the Elves and Centaurs were, but in a different way. The one with the reddish brown beard approached us. His skin was brown and I could see his eyes were black as he approached us.

“Why do you have a fire wolf with you?” he asked, and I noticed that Ember was pinned to the ground by a long wooden staff with a curved end that fit around his neck.

My eyes widened and I commanded him to flame up. He did so and the Dwarf holding him down yelped as the staff caught on fire. Ember leaped up and I said the only thing I could think of.

“Run! Find Gabrithon!” I gasped, and Ember looked at me with somber eyes before doing as I said.

The Dwarves growled amongst themselves then the leader grabbed me. He seemed angry, but not worried, that Ember had gotten away. He seemed to have a more pressing question on his mind, and he did not mince words. He looked at my Elven friend and asked his question.

“Why do you trespass on our land and where is the horseman that was with you?” he asked curtly.

“We did not know that it was your land, and I do not know where he went. He fled when he heard your horn,” I replied.

“Silence, wench,” the Dwarf commanded.

I growled at him and he looked surprised. “Do not call me that,” I snapped.

He frowned slightly at my apparent boldness but eventually shrugged. “Very well, what am I to call you then?”

“You could call me by my name,” I said with raised eyebrows. “That is what most people call me.”

“What is your name?” asked the Dwarf holding my left arm behind my back.


“Odd name,” one of the  Dwarves pinning Elthinor to the ground said; I suddenly noticed that though the Dwarves just held me, they had both of the boys against the ground.

I snickered. “To you.”

The Dwarf actually smiled a little and his eyes softened. “I like you, girl. You are bold. You and your companions are to come with us to our king.”

“Then what?” Elthinor asked, his voice strained.

The Dwarf’s eyes hardened again as he looked at the Elf. “Our king will decide what is to happen to you.”

“In all likelihood, you will become slaves,” the second Dwarf holding me said.

My head fell forward and I sighed. “Again?”



I Am the Truth: Chapter 2

I woke early the next morning and, despite my body’s soreness, decided to take a walk in the woods. I knew I would be nearly silent so any Centaurs, if there were any this far away from Cyrene or whatever the nearest town was, would be unable to tell it was a Strangeling. I debated on waking one of the others up, but decided against it; I wanted everybody to get as much sleep as they could so there would be no more irritability. As I walked, I took in the sheer beauty around me and just felt awed.

The trees seemed to become bigger and bigger the farther I went. Sadly, with autumn so close, the flowers that had been so bright the day before had already begun to die, and I wished for their colors to brighten up the dying greenery on the forest floor. Even though the ground plants were losing their beauty, the trees were just beginning to show theirs. The leaves were just starting to turn and there were hints of red and yellow and orange everywhere. Almost subconsciously, I redirected my awe up to God, who had created such wondrous beauty. I knew it was strange, but I still talked to Him; I just did not say anything about my feelings to Him.

As time wore on, I found it was more and more natural just to thank Him for all the things around me, like my friends, whom I knew were loyal; I supposed we were loyal simply because we had never had friends before. I was happy to praise God. It was like I was made for it. As I thought about it, I realized we all probably were made to praise Him and love Him. Maybe that’s why life was so empty without Him. All my hard work on the farm really amounted to naught in the grand scheme of the world. Now, with God guiding me, I had a mission, something that I knew would matter in the grand scheme of things.

My musings were interrupted by a soft sound. I immediately froze and ducked behind a tree. After a moment, the sound was repeated and I realized it was a sob. I crept forward until a little stream was in view and, lying beside it, was a female Centaur. She had her face down and her long black hair hung in a large braid down her back. She wore a single garment: a red-brown shirt that covered her chest, but left her stomach exposed so that it was easy to see where the tanned skin ended and the black horse’s body began. She was quite beautiful and I didn’t like to see such a magnificent creature so sad. She sobbed again, her whole body shaking, and I was just about to go out and talk to her when a snort sounded and I tensed. A male Centaur came out and of the woods across from me and walked straight towards her. She looked at him, quickly wiped her face off, and stood.

“Bellana,” he said in a deep voice. “What are you doing out here all by yourself?”

She did not answer and kept her head down.

He sighed. “You mares are all the same,” he sighed. “You should be happy a suitor has chosen you. Now you can serve your purpose and bear foals for him.”

“But Tailsan, I do not wish to be married to him,” Bellana said, sounding miserable.

“Sister,” Tailsan sighed. “Father has already accepted the bridal price. You are to be wed in a week. We cannot change his mind. I know you do not like Hidasor, but you must marry him. Father will not be swayed. He thinks Hidasor is a suitable stallion for you.”

“But brother,” Bellana started.

“No more talk. Father awaits. You must make lunch anyways. Come.”

I watched as Bellana followed him, her head lowered again. I felt sorry for her. From the tone of her voice, this Hidasor was not a pleasant stallion. In fact, she sounded as I would if I were forced to marry Tynan. I felt my lip curl in disgust at the thought and turned and walked back towards our camp on the edge of the forest. By the time I got back, the others were awake. As soon as Elthinor saw me, his face lit up in relief. He embraced me, then hit me lightly. I winced, suddenly aware of how sore my body was from the sparring the night before. He did look a little sorry at that, but his face also held a bit of anger.

“Tell us when you are going somewhere. If Ember hadn’t been so calm, we would have thought some dark thing had snatched you away in the night!” he scolded.

I was about to give a sharp retort, but it died in my throat when I saw how serious he was. I realized that my disappearance probably had worried them all greatly. I sighed softly and hugged Elthinor, obviously surprising him.

“I’m sorry,” I said quietly.

“What’s wrong?” Elthinor asked immediately.

I explained to them what I had seen while in the forest. Elthinor had a slight frown on his face, Nolan looked surprised, and Gabrithon looked a little sad.

“If the bride price has already been accepted, there is no turning back for her,” the Centaur said with a resigned air. “It is an unspoken law.”

“What if her father found him to be an unsuitable match?” I asked.

“Then he would give the bride price back and keep his daughter,” Gabrithon replied. “But it sounds like he approves.”

I felt sad for the young Centaur lass, but dropped the subject. At least I stopped speaking of it, but my thoughts raced around and around the subject. I did not think it was fair that she had no say, at least no say that I could see anyways, on who she was to be wed to. I would never wed somebody I did not want to, and nobody could make me. Not even with the threat of death.

“You know, when you think really hard, you have an odd expression on your face,” Nolan said, and I looked at him in surprise.


“You must still be thinking about the Centaur girl,” Gabrithon said, amusement obvious in his voice. “Your face sometimes betrays your thoughts,” he added when he caught sight of my confusion.

“Oh. Is it that easy to read me?” I asked absently as my mind kept going back to the unfairness of being a female.

“When one gets to know you, yes,” Elthinor said with a smile, which disappeared as he became serious again. “I am serious about you not running off without telling us, Fily. You have so many creatures after you that it isn’t safe for you to go anywhere by yourself.”

“Especially if you are right and they get darker and more powerful,” Gabrithon added.

I stared at them irritably then glanced at Nolan. “Is there anything you would like to add?”

He smiled. “No. I think they pretty much said it all,” he said, laughter in his voice.

“Great,” I said softly, looking back at Elthinor. “Look, I appreciate your concern, but I will be fine. If you haven’t noticed, I can fight just fine.”

Elthinor’s eyes were hard and I suddenly knew I would not be able to talk him out of this. With a speed that I had only seen when we were in danger, he grabbed the sparring sticks and tossed me one. I caught it easily and glanced at it for a moment. When I looked back up, the Elf was charging me!

I yelped and leaped aside, spinning around to face him with the stick at the ready. I did not have to ask what he was doing; I knew he was trying to prove his unmentioned point that I couldn’t fight as well as he would like. I was determined to prove him wrong.  I quickly found out that I was the one who was wrong. He was not hesitant like Nolan and he was much more skilled. I found myself constantly on the defensive, and suffered from several well timed strikes. I was sore enough from the night before, but I knew after this I would not want to move. I suddenly stumbled back and saw a streak coming at me.

The next thing I knew, cold water was being poured onto me. I sat up, breathing heavily and looking around. My head was throbbing and I lightly pressed my hand against my temple. I felt something sticky and pulled my hand away to see blood. I looked up to see Elthinor kneeling in front of me, looking guilty.

“I expected you to block that,” he said sheepishly.

I frowned and a burst of anger flooded through me. I swung my own stick, which had fallen right beside me, and hit his as hard as I could. His body jerked as the stick made contact with his head and he fell back limply. I felt smug satisfaction as he lay there, which quickly faded as blood began pouring out of a cut on his forehead. I winced and crawled over to sit beside his head; I wasn’t sure if I could stand without falling over again, so I decided to stay as close to the ground as I could. There was a titter of laughter and I looked up to see Nolan trying not to laugh. Gabrithon was wide-eyed with surprise, his mouth slightly agape, and was staring at me.

“You knocked him out,” the Centaur finally said.

I blinked and blushed. “Yes.”

“How about I go get more water?” Nolan asked.

I nodded and he disappeared quietly into the forest. Gabrithon was still looking at me, seemingly impressed by my act of anger. I shifted under his gaze and pressed my hands against Elthinor’s forehead, trying to staunch the blood flow. Nolan returned quickly and poured the water over Elthinor’s lifeless-looking body. The Elf sat up gasping and sputtering, looking bewildered.

“What happened?” he asked after a moment of gathering his wits.

“Fily hit you back,” Nolan said, laugher in his voice.

Elthinor looked at me, confused. “Did you knock me out?”

“Do you remember anything after staring at her?” Gabrithon asked dryly.

Elthinor’s face scrunched up as he tried to remember. “No,” he finally said then looked at me. “I didn’t think a female could hit hard enough to knock anybody out. No offense, but I just didn’t think it could be done.”

I felt irritation at that, but pushed it down. “Sorry. I did not mean to hurt you.”

“Nor I you,” Elthinor said with a smile then lifted his hand to his forehead. “I’m bleeding,” he said in surprise. “And so are you.”

I chuckled. “A cut for a cut, yes?”

He laughed softly. “Yes. Seems appropriate.”

Nolan gently tended to my temple while Gabrithon did the same for Elthinor. Against the Centaur’s advice, we decided to stay for another night. I was too sore to want to walk, and both Elthinor and I were a bit dizzy from the blows we had dealt each other. We knew it was dangerous to be so close to the Centaur city, even if we were a ways away; because of their horse bodies they could travel longer distances than most of the races could. Despite that fact, we were staying put. Another day of rest would help us a lot. Gabrithon was exceedingly nervous, but didn’t comment. We all knew of his reluctance to see his father again. I silently hoped that it wouldn’t come to that, for his sake.