When I came to myself, I was lying on something hairy and somebody was stroking my head. I sniffled and shifted and the stroking stopped. The thing I was lying on shifted and a soft, warm, motherly voice spoke to me.
“Are you alright, child?”
“Who are you?” I asked, sitting up groggily, wincing at my sore throat and the headache I had.
“I am Miyana, Queen over the Satyrs. Do not worry. You are safe. Now, are you alright?” the voice said.
I turned to see a female Satyr staring at me. Her hair on her head, which was slightly wavy, and on her legs was a deep black that looked soft to the touch and gleamed in the light, as if it was well cared for. Her ears were pointed like an Elf’s, but pointed more sideways like a goat’s, and her face was lovely, not as angled and fair as an Elf’s, but more round, like a Human’s face. She had two horns sticking out right above her ears and they curled delicately upward. Her eyes made me love her and hate her at the same time; they were so like my mother’s that it hurt. She wore nothing but what looked like a strip of cloth across her breasts wrapped twice around to cover her completely.
She reached out a hand to touch my face and in that touch I felt kindness and the urge to spill everything to her. So I did. I told her of my mother and her fate, my farm, my long travels, my friendship with Elthinor and the others, and everything I could think of. When I was done, she just stared at me with her head tilted to the side.
“You are a strong young woman,” she said slowly.
“I do not think I am a woman yet. I am too young. I am only…I guess I am sixteen now. My birthday was in the fall when I was in captivity with the Dwarves, but still, that is too young.”
“You have been through more than most girls your age. I believe you are a young woman. Most girls marry at your age in Human culture, yes?”
“Most of them. Some marry at fifteen, others at seventeen. Why?”
“In our culture, Fauns, which are the female satyrs, are considered fully grown when they marry, no matter their age. My husband and I have performed marriage ceremonies for Fauns as young as thirteen, but the youngest I have heard of is eleven. Some earn their Faun title by marriage, others by deed, though they are becoming few and far in between. Your deeds have earned you, by my standards, the title of ‘woman’, which is an adult female in your culture yes?”
“Yes…how do you know so much about Human culture?”
“We send out spies. We know of Centaurs, of Elves, and of Humans. But I must admit I have no information on these Dwarven creatures. They live underground in caverns, you say?”
“Yes. It’s amazing how they can manipulate stone and crystals,” I replied then paused.
Miyana sensed that it was a pregnant pause. “What is it, my dear?”
“I have never felt such a sense of companionship as I feel with you,” I finally admitted.
“There is nothing like being with a member of your own sex, no matter which side you are on,” Miyana explained.
“It is just a new feeling for me,” I replied, rubbing the back of my neck. “I mean, I was ostracized by my own village and I had no Human friends. My only friend was Ember. I miss him,” I sighed softly. “I cannot help but worry about him.”
I had not spoken of him since I had asked Gabrithon about him. It hurt too much, and I missed him dearly. It was like losing my closest and oldest friend. More tears welled in my eyes at the thought of my Kindle wolf and I wiped them away; I hated being so emotional, but I just seemed raw today. Maybe it was Elthinor’s harsh words.
“So why exactly did the Elf call you a freak?” Miyana asked. “Is it the thing you kept out of your story?”
I looked at her in amazement and chuckled. “You are so perceptive. Yes, that is why he called me a…freak.”
“Mind telling me what it is?” She had a warm smile on her face.
“Maybe when I get to know you better,” I replied.
“As you wish.”
There was a knock on the door to the room and Miyana got up to go and see who it was. I finally looked around the room. The floor was simple dirt, packed down as much as it could be. About half of the furniture was made from wood and the other half was rough hewn stone. The stone furniture was nothing near the Dwarves’ level of carving, but it was nice enough. The single stone chair was adorned with bright red cushions that looked nice, and the wooden couch, which did not reach the carving skill level of the Elves, was adorned with more red cushions. We had been sitting on a large feather stuffed pillow.
The room itself was rather large, bigger than my home in Paxtonvale had been. The roof was plenty high enough for Gabrithon to be in here, and the walls were nice wood. There was a roaring fire in the fireplace in front of me that was again painted red. I was sensing that red was a big color to the Satyrs. Miyana cleared her throat and I looked at her.
“Hmm?” I noticed two other female Satyrs, or Fauns I reminded myself, were staring at me curiously.
“These are my two daughters, Zaharra and Laetitia. My husband Jestyn is busy or he would have come with them. My daughters, this is Filynora. As you can see, she is a Human.”
“It is very nice to meet you, Filynora,” Zaharra said; she was white gold and she had a band of white around her hips where skin met hair, and her eyes were blue, like her mother’s.
“Agreed. We have never had the pleasure of seeing a Human female, let alone meeting one,” Laetitia said. She had brown eyes and was black haired, like her mother, but she too had a white band around her hips.
I smiled at them hesitantly. “Nice to meet you, too,” I said shyly; I still did not trust females my own age, or any age for that matter.
They smiled at me and Zaharra grabbed my hand and frowned. “Your hands are so rough!” she exclaimed.
“That tends to happen when you wield a bow on a regular basis,” I said, amused at her reaction.
“We know something that will get rid of the roughness,” Laetitia said, grabbing my other hand and running her soft, smooth fingers over it.
I suddenly felt self conscious and pulled away. “I…It is…I do not think-”
“She is not the kind of girl as to worry about her appearance,” Miyana cut in. I smiled with relief at her and she nodded at me. “Now, we must prepare for the feast!”
“Feast?” I asked.
“Yes. I decided to have a feast made for you and your companions’ arrival. It is obvious that you will be staying for a while.”
“Yes. Winter this year is promising to be harsh. I will not allow you and your friends to go back out in it. There is no room for argument, so do not bother. Now about your Elven friend…?”
My cheeks flushed in rage and I growled. “I do not want to see him right now,” I said in a low voice.
“As you wish. I shall have him confined to his quarters for now. He might be attacked by some of the Satyrs, anyways. As you might have heard from your Elf, Satyrs and Elves do not get along too well.”
“Why not?” I asked, sounding a little annoyed.
“Because they accuse us of attacking them then attack us without any provocation! Why would we attack them? We just want peace between our races!”
“From my experience with Elves, which is limited to Ellavendir, I do not believe they would just attack without a good reason to. You are sure you did not attack them? Maybe one of the remote villages in your kingdom is doing it?”
“We have thoroughly checked. Nobody is attacking them,” Miyana sighed then shook her head. “Now, enough of this talk! You need to be measured for new clothing then we shall go to the feast!”
I felt my eyes widen. “I get new clothes?” I asked in shock. “B-but I only have Elven coin to pay you in!”
“You do not owe me anything,” she said kindly. “I like you. There is just-”
“Something about me,” I finished for her, smiling.
“Besides,” she continued. “You are now my personal guest. You may have anything you desire. Your friends will also be measured for new clothes, and they are invited to the seats of honor. Or place of honor, in the case of your Centaur friend. I am afraid he will have to lie down to reach the table.”
“You are too kind,” I said, smiling then laughed in disbelief. “I have not had new clothes in almost two whole years!”
“You need some,” Zaharra said, gesturing at my worn clothes. “The ones you wear now are so old and worn that I am surprised they are still whole!”
“Our tailors will work on them and you and your friends will soon be properly clothed. Now, do you want pants or a dress?” Miyana asked.
I made a face at that. “What in the world makes you think I want a dress?” I asked, staring at her incredulously.
“It was a long shot, I will admit,” she said with a laugh. “It is in our knowledge that female Humans typically wear only dresses.”
“What’s typical about me?” I asked bitterly.
“Nothing. And that is what makes you so special,” Miyana said, her voice stern. “And there is nothing wrong with that.”
“Why are Satyrs so lenient with their females?” I demanded suddenly.
The three of them laughed. I frowned at that and waited impatiently for them to compose themselves. Miyana wiped her eyes and looked at me seriously.
“Unlike other cultures, Satyrs have a deep respect for their females. In fact, I would say that Fauns have more say than the Satyrs in our culture.”
She smiled. “Because without Fauns, there would be no Satyrs. We bear the children, keep the race going, and in our culture we are greatly respected for that. It is just the way things are here. We are the opposites of the Centaurs, I believe, if our information on their culture is correct. Now, let us go get you measured.”
The Satyr who measured me was quick and efficient and bowed the queen and princesses out as we headed to the feast. A long table with many chairs set all the way around it was piled with dishes the likes of which I had never seen before! I took in all the delicious looking dishes and noticed one important fact.
“There’s no meat,” I said with a soft hum.
“We do not usually eat meat. Fish is the only exception and there is plenty of it in these dishes,” Miyana said with a soft laugh.
“Mind if I ask why?”
“We just do not eat it. It does not appeal to us. Fish is delicious, but of the land animals we do not eat.”
The explanation was simple enough and I took it at face value. Gabrithon, Nolan, and Valtrak were led into the room. I thought about Elthinor alone in his room, probably hungry, and I felt bad, but my anger still stirred, so I did not feel too bad.
“Filynora! They took Elthinor to a room all by himself!” Nolan exclaimed, hurrying up to me.
“I figured,” I said, my voice taking on a hard edge.
Gabrithon stared at me. “You are not honestly that angry at him are you?” he asked, seemingly surprised.
“He called me a freak,” I growled through clenched teeth. “Yes, I am that angry at him.”
Valtrak stared at me. “You are very sensitive on that,” he commented.
“Drop it,” I warned and they did so.
The feast began with a toast to us as the queen’s guests then we were allowed to gather whatever we wished from the dishes being passed around. The fish was nice to have, as we had been catching little game recently and had been going hungry most of the time, but the various vegetable dishes were interesting and very diverse. I had never had so much to eat before in my life, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Gabrithon lay at my left and Miyana was at my right. Valtrak and Nolan sat across from us, both of them eating all they could get their hands on. Gabrithon was a little more tactful, eating slowly and looking very satisfied by what was served.
“I believe this is the finest feast I have ever been to,” the Centaur said to me over the buzz of conversation by the other Satyrs.
“You have been to feasts before?” I asked then snorted. “Oh yeah. You are a prince of the Centaurs! So how does this feast compare?”
“What it lacks in meat dishes, it certainly makes up for in fish. It is very difficult for Centaurs to catch fish.”
“I can imagine,” I said with a laugh, glancing at his horse body; sometimes I thought they were too tall for their own good.
Valtrak hailed me from across the table and I looked at him.
“I owe you an apology, Filynora.”
I smiled at him. “You are welcome to call me Fily,” I said.
He shrugged. “I still owe you an apology.”
“For what?” I asked, nibbling on a piece of well-seasoned fish.
“For losing my belief and thinking that God was not with us. Just yesterday we were freezing and half starved in the elements and now we are warm, safe, in good company, and well fed. I am sorry I doubted you.”
“It is not really me you need to apologize to,” I said gently.
“How do I…?”
“Just talk to him.”
“Talk to whom?” Miyana interjected, her voice curious. “The Elf?”
“No. God,” Gabrithon said with a little snort.
“Please try not to be so derisive,” I sighed.
“Who is this God?” Miyana looked genuinely curious.
It was then that I noticed that the Satyrs all along the table had stopped talking and was staring at me expectantly. My mouth went dry when I saw how many there were and I swallowed nervously. Gabrithon looked at me with a smirk and raised eyebrows, Nolan just rolled his eyes, and Valtrak stared at me, obviously watching to see what I would do. It was not that I did not know the story—that was burned into my memory—but I had never told so many people at one time.
“Well?” Miyana asked after a long pause.
I prayed silently for God to give me strength then began with the words that started the passion within me.
“In the beginning, God created…”
I told the story of the first of the races, of the creation of females, and of the fall. I fell silent once I had recounted all that I knew in the story. Miyana’s face twisted in confusion.
“Well, go on,” she said, sounding a bit impatient.
“That…is all I know. The next scroll was supposed to be found in the Dwarf caverns near water. We never found it.”
“What?” she exclaimed.
“Scroll…Is that the parchment I mentioned before?” Valtrak suddenly asked.
“Yes, of course. Why?” I asked, sounding a bit upset; thinking of our mission being on hold made me testy.
“Do you remember when I left you at the holding room?”
“Yes,” I said slowly, staring at him across the table.
“Well, I went to check the stone shrine and found something that sounds like your scroll. I must say, the story makes more sense now that I know all that happened before.”
I shoved my chair back and it clattered to the floor and gaped at him. “Are you telling me that you had the scroll this whole time and you kept it to yourself?!” I demanded.
“I can go and get it if you would like me to,” he said, looking a little taken aback.
“Well then go! I have waited ages to hear what happens next!”
He scampered from the room, his cushion, which he had been sitting on to reach the table, went flying. I stared after him then laughed. I turned to Miyana.
“Would you please have somebody get Elthinor? He needs to hear the story, too, no matter how angry I am at him.”
Miyana nodded and had one of the servers go retrieve Elthinor. I set my chair back upright and sat down, waiting for my friend, and the Elf at whom I was still angry.