Rolling hills had slowly turned into wild grasslands. At first, bright splashes of colors that were flowers were few and far in between. But after a few miles, there were more flowers than grass. Between red and yellow flowers were sparse blue flowers. The dark blue blooms smelled amazingly sweet and little yellow and black bees were hovering around them.
All too soon the fields of beautiful flowers ended and soon there was nothing but grass again. The green fields were sloping gently upward and a nice, soft breeze was blowing every day, so we did not get too hot.
We had only been traveling a few days, and already Laetitia was showing signs of missing her palace life. It seemed she detested everything we did, from the walking to the hunting to even our camping at night. By the fourth day I could no longer stand it.
“Laetitia!” I exclaimed after a muttered complaint of “bread again.”
“What?” she snapped back.
“If you are so tired of bread, you, Pinnathir, and Terryn are welcome to the rabbit I caught,” I said, forcing myself to stay calm.
“But rabbit is meat,” she argued and the other Satyrs looked a little off put. “We do not eat meat.”
“Then stop complaining,” Elthinor replied irritably as he pulled the rabbit off the fire. “You are worse than Gabrithon was when winter came upon us.”
“I was not that bad,” Gabrithon argued half-heartedly.
“Yes you were,” I said flatly. “You started fights and were altogether disagreeable to be around.”
Gabrithon looked sheepish. “I’m sorry,” he said solemnly. “I did not realize I was that bad.”
I shrugged. “It’s in the past.” I said with a smile.
“But we are presently with Laetitia,” Nolan muttered, glancing up at her. “And her complaints.”
“Nolan,” I said with a sigh.
He looked up. “You are just as annoyed as I am, and do not try to pretend otherwise.”
“I know, but we must be patient with her,” I said gently.
“This is a big transition for her, even more so than the transition for Valtrak.”
“Oh, no it was not! He just did not complain about it because he was afraid to intrude on us. He was just as uncomfortable as she is. In fact, he is still uncomfortable around us. Especially you, Filynora.”
I blinked and turned to looked at Valtrak. “Are you really?”
He shifted and avoided my eyes, shrugging. I continued to watch him as he played with his short beard until he finally spoke.
“Yes. You never seem to include me. You and Gabrithon and Elthinor are very close, but I feel like an intruder on your friendship.”
I thought about it and realized the only words I had ever really heard him utter were words of wisdom. He had never really had a friendly conversation with me like Gabrithon and Elthinor did. I suddenly felt really bad.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “I did not mean for you to feel left out.”
He smiled at me. “It’s alright, Filynora,” he replied.
“No it isn’t,” I said sternly. “We should have been including you. You just have always been so quiet that I thought that you did not like to speak.”
“Honestly, I do not wish to offend any of you…except for maybe Gabrithon,” he said hesitantly, teasing our Centaurian friend.
I smiled. “Sounds like you and Gabrithon are starting to get along,” I said, suggesting it more than stating it.
“He is the only one I really talk to. Do not get me wrong, I still do not like him. His kind has hurt my kind for years.”
“Only because you attack us first,” Gabrithon argued, a spark of anger and defensiveness in his eyes and voice.
“We do nothing without provocation!” Valtrak snapped, moving towards the Centaur, and palming the handle of his axe.
I sighed; I should not have said anything. “Please stop fighting,” I begged, rubbing my temples.
“He started it,” they both grumbled.
“No, I started it,” I replied. “And I should have left well enough alone.”
“What do you mean?” Laetitia asked.
“All they do is fight,” I said bitterly. “They are the worst out of all of you. Everybody seems to get along fine with me, but Gabrithon and Valtrak cannot seem to be close together without trying to destroy each other with words. It makes me realize how well you Satyrs get along with Elthinor.”
“We are used to him. He is not so bad once you get to know him,” Terryn said.
“He is nothing like the Elves I grew up hearing about,” Pinnathir pitched in. “They attack and kill Satyrs without reason.”
“Once I gave you a chance,” Elthinor said between bites of his rabbit, “I found that you were kinder than the Satyrs that abducted me.”
“Abducted?” Laetitia asked, nibbling on her bread, her irritation forgotten.
“Yes. When I was much younger, my sister and I were taken by a group of Satyrs with crystal eyes. They tied us up with ropes that bit into our skin and talked in dark voices about what they were going to do to us. I remember only a few words, but ‘slaves’ is one that sticks out. And ‘Dark Master’ comes to mind, too. I fell asleep and woke up to the sound of Grandfather and a group of Elves fighting them. As far as I know, nobody was killed on either side, but my Father was furious at Satyrs. I fear he would be even less receptive of Satyrs than I was.”
“And you were bad,” I said with a grin.
“And you let me know that,” Elthinor said with a grimace.
“Sorry,” I apologized, yet again.
“It is alright. I still believe I deserved it. I was being unreasonable. Very unreasonable. I needed a good reminder that I need to be tolerant of other races, no matter what has happened in the past.”
“Caution would have been fine. You just overreacted.”
Valtrak snickered. “That was quite the overreaction,” he put in, albeit a bit shyly. “You insulted her mother.”
Elthinor started and gasped. “I did not realize it was that bad,” he admitted. “I was so angry that I do not remember it. Other than us fighting,” he added as an afterthought. “I truly am sorry that I brought your mother into our fight. That was inappropriate.”
“It is fine, Elthinor,” I assured him. “We were both angry at the time and did things that we did not really mean.”
Laetitia snorted. “Why is it that simple for you to apologize? Mother has to force it out of Zaharra and me.”
I shrugged. “I would rather not be angry at or offended with him. It just doesn’t seem worth it. It did back when he hurt me originally, but it doesn’t now.”
“The same goes for me,” Elthinor agreed.
“You know something?” Pinnathir asked, finishing off his bread. “Mayhap if Valtrak and Gabrithon apologized to each other for what their races did to each other, maybe they would get along a little better.”
“I am not apologizing to that mule!” Valtrak said gruffly.
“And I am not apologizing to that boulder!” Gabrithon snapped, crossing his arms and glaring at the Satyr.
“It was just a suggestion!” Pinnathir said defensively. “I just thought-”
“Keep your thoughts to yourself!” Gabrithon said heatedly. “I do not wish to get along with that stone-skinned abomination!”
“Well then pretend to!” I said tiredly. “For my sake?”
Gabrithon softened. “For you? Yes.”
“Valtrak?” I asked, sincerely wanting his opinion.
“I shall try,” he said with a nod.
We settled into companionable silence for a little while then began talking about light subjects. Night fell quickly and we stoked up the fire, which we fueled with the sparse trees that dotted the hilly grasslands we were passing through. Nolan and I sat up for the first watch as the others fell asleep. I watched him carefully.
“What?” he asked me finally, sounding a bit hesitant.
“Why are you so hard on Valtrak?”
Nolan sighed. “He never says anything and that worries me.”
“You were quiet, too,” I argued softly with a smile.
“Yes, but I began to talk soon after I found my shyness was unwarranted around you and our friends. He has been with us for months and still does not speak. I am worried about him.”
“Maybe he just feels like he does not fit in?” I suggested.
“Maybe, but I am going to keep an eye on him,” Nolan said firmly. “It is always the quiet people that turn out to be dangerous,” he added. “And he is beyond quiet.”
We stopped talking after that as Gabrithon and Elthinor shifted and mumbled in their sleep. Ironically, Valtrak slept like a rock.