I looked around my room one final time, making sure that I had grabbed everything I would need. The room was immaculate thanks to the Satyrs that swept through them every single day to clean. I realized that I would miss this room and the peace that came with it. Other than the Vampire and Naga attack, this had been, without a doubt, the most peaceful time in my life. I had not been harassed by villagers. I had not been made a servant or a slave. It made me sad that I had to leave.
After determining that I had left nothing of utter importance, I turned and walked down to the entrance hall that we had originally arrived in. Gabrithon and Valtrak were the only two waiting for me. The air between them was tense and they stared at each other, not hostilely, but warily and, it seemed to me, a little curiously. Maybe they were finally done with the silly feuding, I thought as I greeted them.
“Filynora,” Valtrak said, hurrying over to me. “How are you?”
“Ready to go?” Gabrithon asked, shifting his weight from side to side on his front feet and making a dull clip-clopping noise against the floor.
I smiled at the both of them. “I’m fine, and I suppose I’m as ready as I will ever be. Where are Elthinor and Nolan?”
“Still getting ready, I believe,” Gabrithon said with a nod.
“Great,” I sighed, hoisting my pack higher onto my shoulders.
“Wait Filynora!” Laetitia exclaimed as she ran into the room.
I jumped. “What?” I asked as my heart tried to beat out of my chest.
“I thought you were leaving. That is what Zaharra told me and I did not want to be left behind. Mother would not be happy if I was. She would be very cross with me.”
“Do you even want to go with us?” I queried.
She suddenly looked nervous and began playing with the pack in her hands. “Of course I do. It is the best thing for my people.”
I was confused by her answer. “What do you mean?”
“It is simple. My mother believes you are an important person who will change the course of the world. She wants the Satyrs to have a part of that. I am the one she selected to go, as Zaharra is about to settle down and start a family.”
“But you told me before that you want to do that, too,” I argued.
“It can wait,” she said with a soft sigh.
She obviously did not want to come with us. I could tell from her body language and the reluctant tone of her voice. I felt sorry for her. Miyana was obviously making her do it. I was brought out of my musings by Elthinor and Nolan arriving. Elthinor was chuckling at something Nolan had said, and they both smiled when they saw that we were all ready to go.
“I cannot wait to get started!” Elthinor exclaimed excitedly, absolutely beaming. “Do not get me wrong, our stay here was nice, but I am positively itching to get back to our travels. I want to find that fourth scroll.”
“I just want to get out of here,” Nolan said, stretching his arms over his head. “Nothing exciting seems to happen.”
“What about the Vampire attacks?” Valtrak asked, tossing his axe up in the air and catching it easily.
“Besides that,” Nolan said with a roll of his eyes. “That was a fluke. A onetime thing. They would not attack us in such a well protected city twice, especially not now that we are on edge. I sincerely doubt they will ever come back here after we leave, anyways. They were just after Fily and once we leave they will be following us.”
I nodded, agreeing with Nolan. Valtrak looked a little uneasy.
“So, these…things attack you a lot?”
“Why? Is the little Dwarf nervous?” Gabrithon teased.
I frowned as Valtrak bristled at the insult. “I am ten times as brave as you are, mule!”
I jumped in between them, well aware that that insult was a bad one. “Now that is enough!” I snapped. “We are about to start out on a journey where we will be attacked by horrid creatures. Our lives will be in each others’ hands, including both of yours. You need to be able to trust each other to have your backs, don’t you understand that?”
“Calm down Fily,” Gabrithon said. “I will fight for the little maggot.”
“And I will fight for the mule,” Valtrak assured me. “But do not expect us to become best friends, like you and Elthinor.”
“I never expected you two to be close friends. But I do expect you to get along and stop insulting each other every chance you get!” I said firmly.
They both glared at each other then nodded. That solved—as well as it could be for now at least—I turned back to Laetitia to talk to her about going when Pinnathir suddenly appeared, hurrying towards us with a big smile on his face.
“Milady,” he said bowing first to Laetitia then to me. “I have splendid news.”
“Oh? And what news would that be?” Laetitia asked, eyebrows raised.
“Well, my father and I have been appointed to your little group to help you! My father has gotten our queen to allow us to protect the princess. She is not very good with a sword yet, and my father and I are more than willing to go with you.”
Before I could stop myself, I groaned. “Great,” I spat.
He looked surprised. “What is the matter? I thought you would like that news!”
“There are just too many people with us now,” I replied despondently. “How are we going to make good time now?”
“We won’t slow you down, Filynora,” Terryn reassured me as he walked into the room with Miyana.
It was not really Terryn and Pinnathir I was worried about. It was Laetitia. She wasn’t like me, and I doubted she was ready to be away from her palace lifestyle. I looked up at Miyana and forced a smile.
“Then I suppose there is nothing to worry about,” I replied.
“You are not gone yet?” Jestyn asked as he entered.
“No. We are almost ready, though,” I replied, smiling kindly at him.
He stared at me strangely for a moment. “Alright then,” he said slowly. “I hope your journey is safe.”
“It will not be safe, I can promise you that,” I laughed. “But thank you for the sentiment anyways.”
He shrugged and turned to the three Satyrs that would be accompanying us. “Terryn, I expect you and your son to protect my daughter. Is that clear?”
“Yes my king,” Terryn said as he and Pinnathir bowed.
“Laetitia, please be as safe as you can, yes?”
“Yes father,” Laetitia replied, giving a strange curtsy-like bow herself.
“Before we go,” Terryn said suddenly, snapping his fingers.
Two Satyrs came out with sheathed swords. One was handed to me. I stared at it then looked back up at Terryn.
“What is this for?”
“I had them forged for you and Nolan,” he replied with a smile. “You both needed swords.”
Nolan was already looking at his blade. I pulled mine out and stared at the beautiful metal. It reflected my Human looking face. The handle of the sword was made for my hand and the blade was surprisingly light. I gave it an experimental swing. It was perfect.
“Hey Fily!” Nolan called out.
I swung around and our two swords met with a clang. I laughed softly and we pretended to fight. A few strikes in and I could tell Nolan was getting serious about the fight as his blows became heavier. Terryn stopped the fight before we could hurt each other.
“That is enough. You shall have more practice once we meet those creatures you spoke of,” he said.
Nolan and I sheathed our swords and I bowed to Terryn. “Thank you,” I said earnestly. “This will help us greatly in our battles.”
Nolan thanked him, too, then Miyana cut in.
“I believe it is time for you to go,” she said, gesturing for us to start walking.
We were led out of the city in a procession, Satyrs shouting and waving, excited that their princess was going to make history with us. I did not really think our journey would be that important in the grand scheme of things, but they would have insisted on doing it anyways, so I just watched it with a smile plastered on my face. When we were finally out of the city, I relaxed and stretched.
“Finally,” I sighed then stopped.
“Okay, Nolan do you have that map we got back in Bushacre?” Elthinor asked.
“Yes,” Nolan said, slinging his pack forward and digging in it until he pulled out a map. He handed it to the Elf.
Elthinor studied the map thoughtfully and I noticed that it only had Human cities on it. He pointed suddenly to a triangle on the map.
“Here it is. It is near some city…”
“That’s Shadowlyn,” I said without thought. “I knew that there was a mountain near it.”
“It is not just ‘near’ it,” Nolan said. “The mountain is directly behind it! The city is built into it. There is a labyrinth of tunnels that go through the mountain and…” he trailed off.
“And?” I asked.
“I am not really sure. That is all that I know about it. I only know that much from eavesdropping on conversations at the market.”
I could sense something was off in his tone of voice. It was probably embarrassment. He usually was so reserved that speaking up must have been hard for him. I smiled at him to reassure him and he smiled back hesitantly.
“Okay, so we need to go southeast,” Elthinor said decisively, his fingers delicately running over the map. “If we run into this village here, then we know we have gone too far south.”
I felt anger building in my stomach. “That’s Paxtonvale,” I said tersely. “So we are not going too far south.”
Elthinor looked up at me, something dark in his eyes. “I would like to meet your village. Especially that Tynan boy. I believe if you just introduce me as an Elf, we could watch the fun unfold.”
“Not to mention, they would also get to meet me,” Gabrithon said with a wicked smile.
“I do not want to go back to Paxtonvale. That’s final!” I snapped, my face beginning to tingle.
I turned away, rubbing my warm right cheek. I knew without looking that my designs were back. Elthinor placed his hands on my shoulders.
“Fine, we will not go to Paxtonvale if we can help it,” the Elf promised.
I calmed slightly, but I was pretty sure my designs would not fade for a while. I could feel Pinnathir and Terryn staring at me and realized that they had not been told about my…condition. It did not help me feel better.
“I am half Elf,” I said, rather gruffly.
Terryn raised his eyebrows and Pinnathir looked very curious, but I noticed Elthinor making some gestures out of the corner of my eye and the young Satyr did not question me about it. Instead he nodded and smiled at me.
“Interesting,” he said quietly, then looked away. That did make me feel better and I relaxed.
Elthinor cleared his throat and all eyes were on him again. “So,” he said with a nod. “Let’s go, shall we?”
We turned and began trekking southeast, content to silence for the time being. I kept reaching up and touching my cheek. I could not help but feel again how different I was. Elthinor nudged me and I looked up. A simple smile and I stopped thinking about my markings and how different I was. In my friends’ eyes, I realized, I was normal. Who could want any more than that? Or a better question was, was there anything better than that?