For a good two weeks, Elthinor stayed in his quarters. I was put in a room near Miyana’s and she would often come and talk with me deep into the night. We discussed everything, from my life to hers, from weather to more personal matters. She repeatedly asked me to describe the Aswangs, the Vampires, and what little I knew about the Naga. I still had never seen them, but I guessed by their hissing voices that they were some kind of serpent creatures. She was fascinated with them and said that some of those features are what she had always imagined Elves to look like.
“Hadn’t you seen an Elf before Elthinor?” I asked.
She replied in the negative. “The last time they attacked, I was but a babe. I imagined Elves to look like the Vampires you described, or maybe even the Aswangs, but not so much like us. From the waist up, at least,” she finished with a smile.
She was fascinated by my, well, my humanity in itself, just as I was fascinated by her…Satyrness. We were very respectful of each other, but we asked many questions about what it was like to be a different species. My friendship with Miyana and her daughters was different than my friendships with Elthinor and my other male friends. It was an intangible difference that I could not explain, but I finally understood why sometimes Elthinor, Nolan, and Gabrithon would sometimes talk together much more freely when they thought I was asleep.
It was sunny, but cold, and there was a good layer of snow the day I decided to go find Elthinor. One of the servants said they had seen him go out for a walk. I found his light footprints easily—they were the only ones shaped like Elven feet—and followed them out of the Satyr village. They led me around the final few houses and out to a field of nothing but flat, white snow. There out in the center of it, before it hit the cliffs, stood Elthinor, his head down as he walked. I called for him and he turned. He raised his hand and waved then suddenly he disappeared. I stared at the spot he had disappeared at for a minute then screamed as I realized something: it wasn’t a field. It was a lake!
I heard a flurry of activity begin behind me, but I was too busy shrugging my coat off and running toward the hole in the ice. It did not matter that I could not swim. All that mattered was that Elthinor was under the surface of the ice probably freezing to death.
I dove into the icy water and it drove the air from my lungs. I sank like a stone, groping for a hand in the dim light streaming in from the hole. A single beam of light fell on a patch of skin and I wriggled towards it. I touched it and emerald eyes flashed open, shock and horror in their depths. The body surged up and I felt strong hands around my waist. We broke the surface of the water pressed together tightly to fit through the small opening and we sucked in air greedily. He looked at me in disbelief.
“G-g-get out of the w-water!” he said through chattering teeth.
I scrambled at the edges and only gathered snow. “I-I c-can’t!”
He went back under the water and I cried out, thinking he was sinking, but he suddenly came up underneath me and I was flung onto the ice. I turned and got on my knees, grabbing his hand and pulling as hard as I could. He slid up out of the water and we skittered away from the weak ice around the hole before standing up. I was catching my breath and shuddering from head to toe when Elthinor suddenly grabbed me and shook me viciously.
“What in the world is wrong with you?!” he screamed. “You can’t even swim and you dive into icy water?! What were you thinking?!”
“I was thinking that I could not watch you die!” I screeched. “And you were going to let yourself die, weren’t you? Well?”
Before Elthinor could answer, somebody grabbed my hand. Thought fled me and I turned around and slapped the Satyr who had touched me. He gasped and took a step back, but there was urgency in his eyes.
“Milady, we must get you two inside!” he exclaimed. “You are going to freeze to death!”
There were suddenly many hands ushering me across the ice to solid ground, but I dug my heels in and grabbed the nearest Satyr, who happened to be the one I slapped. He had reddish brown—more red than brown—hair. It cascaded down to his shoulders, interrupted by two small horns sticking out above his ears. I met his light green eyes with my own and he stopped trying to get me to move. I ignored everyone else jostling me and my own shivering.
“What is your name?”
“Pinnathir,” he replied. “My name is Pinnathir.”
“Listen carefully. You are to take my Elf friend over there and get him dried off and warmed properly. If you do not, you will answer to me, and you don’t want that,” I said in a slow, even voice.
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered immediately, breaking off and going to grab Elthinor, who still stood shivering all by himself.
After making sure Pinnathir was leading him to the palace, which is what the building we were staying in was called, I let the group of Satyrs surrounding me hurry me into said building. I was handed off to a frantic Faun, who somehow seemed to multiply into several Fauns, all fussing over me. I was freezing cold, though, so I did not care.
They led me into Miyana’s sitting room, which was the room she and I had had our first conversation in, and stripped me down in a hurry. They wrapped me in a blanket that had been heated by the fire and ran to prepare a bath for me. One was handing me a cup of hot tea, which was a very popular drink among Satyrs, even matching the Elves in their fervor for it, when Miyana, Zaharra, and Laetitia burst into the room. Miyana was by my side in an instant.
“What happened my dear? Everybody is saying you fell through the ice! I should have warned you about the lake! I didn’t think of it!”
I smiled shakily at her and told her what had happened. Zaharra was the one who spoke after I had recounted the tale.
“But you cannot swim!”
“And you dove into a frozen lake to save an Elf?”
“Not just an Elf,” I said firmly. “My friend.”
“Why do you care so much for Elves? Laetitia asked.
I sighed; it was time to tell them. “Because I am not fully Human. I am a half Elf.”
The two younger Fauns stared at me in shock, but Miyana just smiled. I could not believe it. Somehow, she had known!
“But…how did you know?” I asked.
“You were pinning the Elf to the wall when I first met you, yes? Well you had all these decorations on your face like the Elf did. They faded while you slept. I figured you were either part Elf, or that Humans were more closely related to Elves than we thought.”
“Part Elf,” I sighed.
“So that is why that word bothered you?”
“Yes,” I murmured.
Before any more could be said, a Faun with brown hair appeared and pulled me to my feet.
“Your bath is ready,” she said.
Miyana and her daughters followed me into the bathing room, and I was amused to see that they had had to carry the buckets of warm water; the Dwarves were geniuses. They unwrapped me from the blanket and lowered me in. I wanted to scream as soon as I touched the water. Even though it was just warm, it felt scalding. I forced myself to submerge completely and came up with a groan. My skin was flushed from the heat and it was all tingling, though I knew for a fact it was not from my ‘decorations’, as Miyana had put it.
The servants would not let me out until they believed me to be thoroughly warmed up. When I finally was allowed out of the tub, they wrapped me in two blankets until they could get some clothes from my room. Miyana kindly helped me into my clothes then led me to the fireplace and set me on the giant pillow with a blanket over me. I was so comfortable and tired from my ordeal that I fell asleep for an hour or so. When I woke, Miyana and her daughters were talking over in the chairs. When I shifted, Zaharra looked at me and her eyes brightened.
“Are you feeling better?” she asked, causing the other two to look at me.
“Yes,” I said stretching. I froze when a thought occurred to me. “Where is Elthinor? Is he alright?”
“The Elf? We have heard no news about him,” Laetitia said.
“I demand to see him! I need to know that he is alright!” I gasped, surging to my feet.
Miyana stood and hurried over to me. “Please calm yourself. I shall send for him.”
I nodded, but did not calm down. The last time I had seen Elthinor he had been shivering horribly and was being led to the palace by that Satyr. He could be ill or even dead by this point if Pinnathir had not listened to me. I was nearly panicking by the time a servant opened the door and Elthinor followed him in. I cried out and ran over to him, embracing him. He gasped—I had run into him pretty hard—but placed his arms around me and hugged me back.
“So,” he began quietly. “You are not angry at me anymore?”
“How could I be? You nearly died, Elthinor!” I said, pulling back and staring at him. “Were you really going to let yourself drown?”
His cheeks warmed and he pushed me away then moved towards the fire. I could tell he was not really cold, but he was trying to hide his embarrassment.
“You were,” I said, feeling a little numb. “Why?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, placing his hands behind his back and rocking back and forth. “I suppose it was that I have been so lonely for the past couple of weeks. Nobody has really come to visit me. I know you are mad at me, but the others? Even Gabrithon did not come to visit.” He sounded so sad that it hurt me.
“I was mad at you,” I corrected. “And I am sorry. I should not have stayed so angry for so long. It was just…you calling me a freak hurt. Really bad.” My voice had become smaller as I had spoken until it was just above a whisper.
Elthinor turned and walked over to me, enfolding my hands in his. “I do not really believe that you are a freak. The only reason I said that was because I was panicking. Satyrs scare me, or they used to anyways, and I was afraid they would kill us all. I just wanted to protect you, but I should not have tried to do that by hurting you. You are not a freak. In fact,” he said with a smile, “you are the most normal person I know. And I am sorry for hurting you.”
I smiled back at him. “I am sorry I…you know, hurt you, too. That was not right. My mother said I was only supposed to do that if I was in trouble.”
Elthinor winced. “I kind of deserved that,” he admitted with a shrug. A growling noise came to my attention and he placed one hand on his stomach with an embarrassed little smile. “Sorry. I am quite hungry. I have had nothing to eat today.”
I smiled and turned to Miyana. “Can we have a little dinner for me and my friends?”
“Certainly,” she said with a smile.
She asked a servant to have several dishes prepared then turned to look at Elthinor curiously. I realized that this was probably the closest she had ever been to an Elf. I smiled and tugged Elthinor over to see her. Her eyes lit up with delight.
“Hello, Elthinor is it?” she said. “It is good to meet you at last. I am glad you and Filynora are not fighting anymore. She was rather morose when not engaging in an activity and, I presume, brooding over the fight you two were having. ”
Elthinor glanced at me with raised eyebrows and I shrugged. He looked back at Miyana and gave a bow.
“If I have my information correct, then you are the queen,” he said, straightening up. “And it is an honor to meet a leader of such an interesting race. I apologize for my judging you before I got to know you. By this point in our journey, I should have known to at least give you a chance before saying that you are evil.”
“From what Filynora has told me, you have seen real evil,” Miyana replied. “And I suppose I owe you an apology, too. I always imagined Elves to be dark and disgusting, maybe like the Aswangs or Vampires she described.”
“What all have you told her?” Elthinor asked, sounding impressed that she knew about the creatures we had faced.
“Everything,” I said simply.
“Including about you?” he asked, being vague on purpose.
“Yes. I told them today that I am a half Elf. Miyana already knew, but she did not tell me until after I revealed what I am.”
He thought for a moment. “She was the one that came out when you were attacking me, right?”
“I attacked you?” I asked with a gasp. “You attacked me.”
“Oh really?” he asked, an amused twinkle in his eye.
We argued playfully for a while until a servant came in and announced that dinner was ready. Elthinor had a surprised and hungry look on his face when we came into a small dining room with a table set for five with four chairs around it. Gabrithon, Nolan, and Valtrak—who was standing a ways away from the Centaur but closer than I had ever seen him stand before—were already there. I smiled at them as they looked over. Relief was in my Centaurian friend’s face and he trotted up to us.
“You’re friends again, yes?” he asked hopefully.
“Yes,” I said with a smile. “We are friends again.”
“That’s good. Maybe now they will tell us where his rooms are,” Gabrithon said.
I felt my smile fade. “Is that why none of you went to visit him?” I queried.
“How could we? His rooms are not near ours,” Valtrak said. “And every time we asked, they said that they were under orders to not reveal where he was.”
Miyana frowned. “I did not order that.”
“Perhaps father did,” Laetitia suggested.
“Jestyn?” Miyana hummed. “That is very likely. He very strongly dislikes Elves. Let me go talk to him. You all enjoy your meal. Come, girls. Help me find your father.”
The three Fauns left us and we looked at each other for a moment in complete stillness. Elthinor broke first, moving to the food. I laughed and followed him. He heaped his plate full with at least a sample of every dish and began eating without another word. We followed his example and ate our fill. We ate every bit of the food and were just settling back when two more dishes came out, both of them dessert. I laughed at Elthinor’s eager face and we ate the sweet bread and tarts until we could eat no more.
“Boy, that was good,” Elthinor sighed, licking the tart filling off his fingers. “I’ve honestly never had a meal like that.”
“You were not at the feast,” I remembered somberly.
“Now that was a meal,” Nolan said with a laugh.
Elthinor seemed to be too full to be upset about that and he let out a smile. “I cannot be too upset that I missed that. I get too many bad looks from the Satyrs as it is. Mostly the males. The females just look at me curiously. And warily,” he added.
“Fauns,” I said lazily. “The females are called Fauns.”
“Really?” Gabrithon asked, shaking his head to stop himself from dozing off. “Like Mares in our culture, right?”
“Yep,” I replied. “And they call their young Kids.” At their looks I smiled. “I have been talking a lot with Miyana and her daughters. Especially about culture. They are confused by the lack of respect for women in Human culture, and I must say that I rather like the respect Fauns get from Satyrs in their culture.”
“They seem to be our opposites,” Gabrithon observed.
I laughed. “Miyana thinks so, too. You two should talk some time. Maybe she could help you respect females other than me.”
Gabrithon cleared his throat and looked away. “I am trying, but Satyrs are the ones that serve us here. Fauns seem to stick with the queen and princesses. And you.” He paused and smiled at me. “Besides, I can respect you because you are one of the best bowmen I have ever seen, and you are not too bad in close combat, though you do need to learn to use a sword. And acquire one, for that matter.”
I hummed. “Satyrs use swords,” I said. “At least some of them. I have seen them practicing in a room of the palace. I can look into it and see if somebody can train Nolan and me in swordplay. Why is it called swordplay anyways?” I asked.
The males all laughed at that comment. I smiled at them and laughed along with them. Now that we were all together again, there was no stopping our conversation, and we talked throughout the rest of the day and into the night.