We were nearly to Greensage, with no real complications, when we heard screaming. I immediately broke away from the mass of soldiers and sprinted in the direction of the screams. My friends followed me—I could hear them behind me—and Lolaiken called a halt. I scrambled to the top of the hill, and froze at what I found. It was a group of Humans attempting to fight off a few Aswangs. So Tikujar and Rattuin hadn’t been the only ones. I looked up to verify, and it was true: there were thick clouds covering the sun. I was about to charge down there when I saw somebody I recognized. I relaxed and sat down. Elthinor poked me, confused.
“Aren’t we going to help?” he asked.
“No,” I said simply.
“Why not?” Valtrak asked.
“I don’t like them.”
“Filynora, that’s ridiculous! I don’t like Dwarves, yet I would save them,” Gabrithon said.
“They hurt me,” I growled.
“Wait a minute,” Elthinor said slowly. “Are they your-”
“Why are you just standing there?” Lolaiken asked; we hadn’t heard him and some of his Elven soldiers approach. “Attack!”
I snarled. “Fine.”
I stood and grabbed my bow and an arrow. I aimed for the one lunging for Tynan’s head, firing swiftly. The arrow went through her wing and she shrieked in pain. She turned to glare at me then realized who I was and let out a howl, shooting straight towards me. I fired again, catching her cheek. She ignored the arrow and I glanced at Valtrak who met my gaze with a nod then I ducked. As she grabbed me, there was a rush of air above me and something fell to the ground and rolled down the side of the hill. I shoved her body off me before blood could get on me, and before it disintegrated. Blood exploded across the grass and killed it off, more than it was in the summer heat, then disappeared with a puff of smoke.
Tynan was staring up at me, pure disbelief on his face. I ignored him and hurried down the hill, my friends and the Elves following me. We drove back the creatures, killing several more before the rest shrieked and scattered. When the battle was over we turned to the Humans. Jaiden was helping Tynan to his feet while the rest of the villagers huddled together, staring wide-eyed at my friends, namely Gabrithon, Pinnathir, and Valtrak. Tynan walked over to me, eying my three friends warily. He stopped in front of me and snickered.
“Well, well, well,” he said lazily. “The freak is still alive.”
“You must be Tynan,” Elthinor said; up to this point, none of the Humans had been afraid of the Elves.
“Why she’s told you about me?” he asked with a laugh. “Poor stupid Filynora.”
Elthinor grabbed Tynan roughly and shoved him back. “You know, Tynan. You really shouldn’t make an Elf mad.”
“You’re no Elf! Just look at those pretty little painted on designs.”
“Funny, Filynora thought they were paint, too, when we first met.”
“Of course it’s just paint,” Tynan said, starting to sound a little nervous.
He reached out then I saw his eyes lock onto Elthinor’s; there is no way an Elf’s eyes can be mistaken for Human, what with the two colors. He gave a yell and launched himself backwards, right into Lolaiken. He raced back to the Humans while my friends and I laughed at him. There was whispering amongst the Humans and suddenly they looked even more scared than they had been before.
“Why are you here?” I asked, moving closer to the huddle. “Why aren’t you back in Paxtonvale?”
Tynan’s face was pale, but he did answer. “Paxtonvale was destroyed in the night by some dark creatures. We’re all that’s left. The traders came by and gave us some news that there is a place where an army is being formed to fight off the creatures.”
“Well it just so happens that we’re headed to that very place,” Valtrak said, leaning on Gabrithon’s leg.
“You are?” Ackley asked; of course he’d survived, too.
“Yes. In fact, that’s why there are so many Elves with us, detestable as they are,” Pinnathir said, winking at Elthinor. “We’re gathering forces for war, forces from all the different races.”
“What are you?” a girl asked suddenly.
“I’m a Satyr,” he replied.
“Um, what’s that?”
“You’re looking at it.”
They stared at each other for a few moments, then she quickly hid behind Tynan, shying away. Tynan stepped forward bravely to protect her from what they perceived to be a monster. I stepped in front of Pinnathir and narrowed my eyes at my bully. Most of the younger villagers laughed, Tynan included.
“You’re not going to have your big, scary friends take care of me?”
“You’re a jerk,” I said evenly.
His face grew red. “Shut up, girlie.”
Anger bubbled up inside me, nice and hot. I didn’t try and stop my face and eyes from changing. Tynan jolted and stared at me, then looked around at the Elves.
“So, you’re a red-eyed, devil freak because you’re part Elf, right?”
“Yes. Now, if you’re coming to Greensage, get in line with the Elves. If you’re not, go away and live a useless life, got it?”
I didn’t wait for a response, turning and hurrying up the hill. I was so angry at finding him. Why did Tynan have to survive the attack, just to find me? Is this some kind of sick joke? I asked God. Tynan is so mean! Why couldn’t you just strike him down? He deserves it! I got no response. I actually had half expected one. I stood there and watched as everybody down in the valley, the Humans included, started walking up the hill. I huffed and walked back to the Elves, standing there with my arms crossed. The Elves watched me curiously. I realized that most of them hadn’t seen my designs, but I didn’t feel like showing them off. A hand touched me, and I spun around, ready to slug the self-centered jerk…Oh, it was Elthinor. He looked shocked and took a step back.
“Relax, Fily,” he said, putting his hands up.
“Sorry,” I muttered as Tynan passed us, laughing at my actions; a fresh wave of anger washed over me.
“Filynora, why does he bother you so?” Gabrithon asked.
“He has intimidated me, hurt me, and humiliated me all my life. I hate him.”
Jaiden spoke up. “Do you really think God would want you to hate him?”
“Yes!” I spat.
“Now Fily,” my Human friend scolded. “You’re breaking the second commandment! You’re making God suit your agenda! That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”
“Shut up, Jaiden,” I growled.
He did, though I could see how right he was. I didn’t want to forgive Tynan or be his friend, for that matter. With our past, how could they blame me? I didn’t respond to any of the conversation starters or questions my friends threw my way. When Greensage was in sight, I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to see Ember. I hated that he couldn’t come with us, but it would have been hard to keep him with us the whole time. I took off at a run, passing the king, who jerked in surprise, and making my friends take off with me. Despite all of their time with me, Pinnathir and Valtrak fell behind quickly. Jaiden hadn’t stood a chance. But Elthinor and Gabrithon stayed with me, I slowed near the town and they ran up to stop beside me, panting heavily. I was winded, but less than they were. I started walking and they fell into step with me.
“What was that about?” Elthinor asked as we began passing tents; Dwarves walking around began nodding in greeting.
“I want my Ember.”
“Oh,” Gabrithon said. “I didn’t think about him. He’s probably really missed you.”
We hurried to the Elemental pens and there was Ember, still tied up to the pole I had left him at. He was a good boy. I rushed over to him and knelt down. He was sleeping so I stuck the back of my hand up to his nose. He breathed in and his eyes flew open. He let out a barking howl and pinned me to the ground and licked my face all over. Elthinor and Gabrithon laughed and Elthinor went to pet him. Ember jerked his head up and looked Elthinor up and down. Then he flamed up, the rope around his neck burning off, and pounced on him, licking his face all over. Elthinor gasped and moved his head back and forth, trying to get away from him, but it was to no avail. Gabrithon knelt down and whistled softly. Ember hurried away from Elthinor and placed his front paws on my Centaurian friend’s chest then licked his face.
“He likes me,” Elthinor said with a smile, wiping his face and standing up.
“Of course he does. He knows you,” I said with a smile.
“Shouldn’t we go and meet the Elf king?” my Elven friend asked. “I mean, it would be the right thing to do.”
“Fine. But I’m not going to deal with Tynan.”
“You don’t have to. I’ll deal with him for you if you really want me to.”
“I-I don’t know,” I said as he helped me up. “That might make things worse.”
Elthinor shrugged. “It was just a suggestion.”
Gabrithon stood up and Ember dropped down and came to my side. I pet his head, scratching behind his ear, and he barked happily, wagging his tail. We walked to the place we had come into the camps around Greensage, which by this point was technically a part of Greensage, and got there in time to meet Aloron, my father, and the Dwarf king, along with a Human man I’d never seen before. He nodded at me.
“Filynora!” my father exclaimed, embracing me.
“Father,” I replied, squeezing him back.
“How are you, my dear girl?”
“I could be better,” I answered honestly.
“Then what ails you?”
Elyosius looked thoughtfully. “I seem to remember one of the village boys named Tynan.”
“Good memory,” I said dryly.
“Well I’m sure if you want to marry him, I could-”
“No!” I yelled. “I wouldn’t marry him if my life depended on it! He’s a jerk and a bully, and made my life miserable every time I went into town! I hate him!”
Both Aloron and Elyosius jolted at the word hate.
“Now Filynora, God does not want you to hate anything but what He hates, and He does not hate Tynan,” my father said, Aloron nodding along with what he said.
“Why not?” I demanded.
“Because…” Elyosius’ face scrunched up. After a moment he found the thought he’d been looking for. “Because He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.”
“He’s not dying.” I paused then palmed my sword. “Yet.”
“Filynora,” Aloron sighed. “He does not hate anybody, as far as I know.”
“What about the fallen angels and Lucifer?” I asked.
“And besides that, He hates sin doesn’t He?”
“Then shouldn’t He hate all of us, because we’re all sinners?” Gabrithon asked suddenly then added, “You know, if I believed in any of that.”
I couldn’t answer. He had a good point. Yet Jesiah had told me he loved me…How was that possible?
“There is an answer to all of this, but I cannot remember it. It has something to do with grace. Let me think a moment.” He walked away and stood there pondering the subject.
He was still thinking when Lolaiken got to us. He was introduced to Jairus, the Human male that I hadn’t met before. I had seen him around though, and he had been elected the leader of Greensage; when I asked, they said that they just hadn’t appointed a new leader since the last one had died childless.
“And this little Dwarf is?” Lolaiken asked.
“He’s not little!” Valtrak snapped. “He’s actually pretty tall for our kind.”
“That’s not saying much,” Gabrithon teased.
“I am Korvict, king of the Dwarves. You are?”
“Lolaiken, king of the Elves.”
“It is a pleasure. I hope to work well with you.”
“Well, you’re not a Satyr.”
“And you’re not a Centaur.”
“Aha!” my father suddenly exclaimed.
“Grace! Common and saving,” he said happily. “In a way He does love everybody, because he visits common grace upon all those living.”
“Common grace?” Lolaiken asked.
“Yes! You know, the sunrise, the rain, the seasons, things like that. That’s common grace. He gives good things to all.”
“But…?” I asked.
“But He doesn’t love the wicked. Saving grace is that which God gives only to those He has chosen to redeem.”
“So I can hate Tynan?”
“No. You are to love your neighbor as yourself.”
“That’s not in the Ten Commandments,” Jaiden said; the other three had waited for the group.
“But I distinctly remember a story that my mother told me. It was an expert on the religious law who tried to trap Jesiah with this question: Which is the most important commandment in the law of Mioshye? Jesiah answered: This is the first and greatest. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is equally important. Love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the demands of the prophets come from these two commandments.”
“How do you know your mother was right, Elyosius?”
“We were keepers of the truth!” my father exclaimed, starting to look angry. “The Dark Ones killed off the rest of my family and friends. Everybody was dead but me! It is a miracle I remember these stories at all!”
“Well what gives a bunch of Elves the right to say you know all of these stories that are probably not true?” Jaiden asked.
“But there weren’t just Elves,” I said.
Aloron paused. “What do you mean?”
“Father told me that they were ‘mismatched people from every race.'”
“Wait a moment…You were the little Elf boy!” Aloron exclaimed joyously. “Your group gave us the clue to finding the first scroll!”
“We did?” Elyosius asked. “Hm. I suppose we did. I couldn’t pronounce the name of the Elven town we stopped in. My mother said to remember it sounds like ten…no eleven deer. But I do remember your black and red eyes. I had never seen the combination of those colors before. It reminded me of those Vampires that hunted us in the night. ‘That’s why you keep the fire burning hot and bright every night, son,’ mother used to say. ‘They’ll get you if you don’t.'”
“We must talk! You’re group told many, many stories about many different things. But they promised they were all connected. You must tell me all you remember,” Aloron said excitedly, grabbing my father’s arm.
“If you wish it,” father said with a nod.
“Do these stories you speak of have to do with the scrolls and their stories?” Korvict asked.
“As Aloron said, they are all connected.”
“Then I believe I would like to hear these stories,” Lolaiken said.
“Aye,” Korvict agreed.
“Have your Elves settle where they wish, but warn them to keep fires burning,” Jairus said. “There have been attacks recently.”
“Shattered-eyes!” I shouted and everybody looked at me. “Tell everybody, Human, Dwarf, and Elf, to start looking in the eyes of strangers. If they are shattered-eyed, kill them. Cut off their head or plunge a blade through their heart.”
“But Filynora, shattered-eyes are-” Aloron began.
“Old friend, they are not what they appear to be. They are shape shifters,” the Elven king replied. “They have been the cause for our hatred of the Satyrs, and have provoked all the wars.”
Aloron narrowed his eyes. “Then dead they shall be. What name do we call these new beasts?”
“Rakshasa, Grandfather,” Elthinor said with a nod.
“Rakshasa it is then. I shall spread the word amongst the former slaves.”
“Father?” I asked as everybody began to disperse. “Do you know a Faun named Eilidh and a Satyr named Onarir?”
“Why yes, but Onarir is dead.”
“What about Eilidh?”
“She is alive and well. Do you wish to meet her?”
“Then let’s go. I’d like to show you how the training is going anyway.”