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.