The rest of the winter passed us by swiftly. Nolan and I were busy honing our skill with the sword. Elthinor and Gabrithon were teaching the Satyrs their ‘rudimentary’ ways with swords, sometimes teaching us as well. Valtrak was with the Satyr blacksmiths, showing them how to forge axes; the weapon still fascinated them. I was with them on that; I had never thought of an axe as a weapon before I had met Dwarves. The peaceful days seemed to melt away before us and our impending departure started weighing heavily upon us.
It started to affect me, and I began avoiding Miyana and her daughters. Well, I started avoiding everybody really, needing to be alone for a reason I could not place. Spring was so close I could almost touch it, the sharp chill in the air and the rapidly shrinking piles of snow in the shade of the buildings the only remnants of winter. Elthinor caught me alone outside one day, sitting beside the thawing lake and rubbing my arm. The scratches from the Naga had healed very slowly, and my fight with Terryn had not helped. None of my fighting helped, but they had finally healed into long pink scars.
“Hello, Fily,” he greeted cheerily.
“Elthinor,” I acknowledged, looking up as he lowered himself to sit beside me.
“Something wrong?” he asked.
“We have to leave soon,” I said quietly after a moment. “The peace here, it is like nothing I have ever experienced in my life. Besides the attack,” I added as an afterthought.
“It is nice. Especially now that the Satyrs have accepted that I am here,” Elthinor agreed. “But is that the real reason you are so upset?”
I sat there, playing with my hair, which had grown out to past my shoulders since we had cut it, and sighed. I refused to look at him as I replied.
“I am scared.”
I felt his demeanor soften. “Of what?”
“Them,” I said softly, turning to look at Elthinor. “The enemy.”
“I mean, first there were the Aswangs. Then the swarm of Vampires. Now there is the Naga! What is more powerful than them? The Dark Ones, what are they? I mean, we can barely win now, and that was after you and the others surprised them! What are we going to do if there are more that are even stronger and faster? How will we survive?”
Elthinor was silent for a moment, his brows drawn together as he thought. A smile suddenly spread over his face and his eyes began to glitter. His answer was one word and very matter of fact.
I laughed softly. He was right, though. God was all-powerful. If anybody could keep us safe, it was Him. But there was still no guarantee. Even so, Elthinor had made me feel better. Our mission was to get the scrolls, no matter what happened. I was a little better prepared for the possibility of the death of my friends because of my mother’s death. At least, I was prepared for any of them to die, except for Elthinor. The thought of losing my Elven friend was too much to bear, so I quit thinking about it. Instead I smiled at him.
He smiled back and placed his hand on mine. “We will make it through this. Somehow.”
“Hey, Fily, I…Oh. Am I interrupting something?” a meek voice asked.
Elthinor and I turned to see Nolan standing there. He was staring at the Elf with a strange look in his eyes, but quickly glanced away when their eyes met. He seemed embarrassed. I wondered why.
“No, we were just talking,” I answered honestly as I stood. “Do you need something?”
“Huh? Oh, no. Not me. The king and queen want to talk with us about our departure next week,” Nolan said, smiling shyly at me.
I blinked, a little surprised at that, but shrugged it off. “Lead the way.”
Elthinor and I followed Nolan into Miyana’s sitting room; I had a feeling she was the one who had picked the place we were meeting. The queen was reclined on the couch, a sense of ease surrounding her. Jestyn was standing in front of the lit fireplace with his hands behind his back, staring into the flames. I found that it suited him. He was a mystery to me and my friends. He did not seem to like us so he had avoided us all he could.
That was the complete opposite of Pinnathir’s father. Ever since I had beaten him, he had definitely tried to get to know us as well as he could. It turned out that Terryn was a wonderful father, but when he thought he was right, it took a lot to get him to change his mind. Like getting beat by me. He even got to know Elthinor, and encouraged his son to spend time with all of us. Pinnathir liked Terryn, but he did wish that his father’s job took less time so that he could spend more time with him.
“Filynora,” Miyana greeted in a loud voice and I jumped. There was laughter from Valtrak, Gabrithon, and Laetitia, whom I had not noticed before.
“Did you get lost in your thoughts again?” Elthinor asked, trying to hide his smile.
I shrugged and bowed to Miyana, who waved her hand dismissively. “You know you do not have to do that,” she said pointedly.
“Yes,” I responded with a smile then turned and bowed to Jestyn. He barely glanced at me.
“What is it that you wanted to talk to us about? We already know you cannot wait for us to go,” I said, not offended by his apathy.
“You have a member of every other race in your little group, yes?” Miyana asked, smiling.
“Yes,” I replied, immediately knowing where this was going. The only question was who.
“Well, we want Laetitia to go with you and represent our kind.”
“Laetitia?” I asked and had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. I managed to keep a calm face as I asked a crucial question. “Can she fight?”
“She has been learning since you and Nolan began training, but she did so in secret so we could surprise you,” Miyana said happily, her face aglow with her delight.
Elthinor stepped forward and gave a little bow. “Not to be presumptuous, but would she be able to handle the nomadic life we have to live out there?”
Laetitia cleared her throat. “I’m right here. I would appreciate it if you did not talk about me as if I was not here.”
“My apologies,” Elthinor said, turning to her. “The question is directed at you, then. Would you be able to handle our nomadic lifestyle? It is quite different from the lifestyle you are used to.”
Laetitia smiled, but I could see something strange in her eyes. “I will most certainly be alright.”
“Well then, it is settled. You shall leave in a week with my daughter!” Miyana exclaimed.
Her tone left no room for argument and we were dismissed. I walked out with a heavy feeling in my stomach. We were leaving. In only one week. Elthinor’s attempts to make me feel better earlier started fading and I sighed. A hand was placed on my arm and I looked down at Valtrak. He was sometimes overly perceptive, and I both enjoyed and despised that fact, depending on what it was. He said nothing to me, just offered me a reassuring smile and I smiled back, in spite of myself.
“Thanks, Valtrak,” I said quietly as Elthinor, Nolan, and Gabrithon walked ahead, talking excitedly about our departure; they had started to act as if they were trapped here and seemed glad to be finally leaving.
“You know, it’s okay to be afraid,” he replied back just as quietly. “I was afraid when I left my home to join you. Elthinor told me you were forced into this journey, but the rest of us? We chose to join you. Keep that in mind. Our choices were all guided by something different. Mine was a desire to get out of my safe zone. What the others’ choices were from is anybody’s guess.”
I was confused. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you are afraid, not for yourself, but for us. We chose to join you. We chose and still choose to follow you and risk our lives. It is not your choice.”
I was speechless. I had not even known that was what was bothering me, but now that it had been vocalized, it made perfect sense. I did not like putting my friends in danger. That is what had me so fearful. Sure I was afraid to die, but it was their lives I was terrified for. I suddenly realized that I had stopped walking and was just standing in the middle of the hallway, staring at Valtrak. He watched me with soft eyes, but a blank face.
“How?” I asked.
“My father used to call it my gift. I just know these kinds of things,” Valtrak responded with a shrug.
No matter how hard I tried, I could think of nothing that was a good response to that. So I simply embraced him. He stiffened, but almost shyly returned the embrace. Feeling much better, I straightened and began to follow the voices of my friends. I looked back to see Valtrak still standing there looking thoughtful. He looked at me and I gestured for him to follow.
“We need to discuss this new turn of events with the others,” I said as he reached me.
“What? Your fears?”
“No,” I said, “though that is a good idea. I meant about Laetitia joining us. I do not think she truly wants to go with us.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Just the way she reacted,” I replied. “She just looked reluctant. Maybe her mother and father are making her go.”
“Probably. What are we going to do about it?” Valtrak asked as we walked.
“What can we do? We cannot just tell them no. Not after all they have done for us. We have to bring her with us. It is just a question of if she can adjust to our nomadic lifestyle.”
“We shall see, won’t we?”