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.