The Satyrs arrived just before winter. Laetitia embraced me, while Jestyn looked as if he was in a foul mood. I hurried away without a word and came back with Eilidh, Pinnathir right behind her. I stood her in front of the king and he stopped and looked the Faun over. She had black hair and no stripe and her eyes were brown. Her horns were dainty and graceful.
“Who is this?”
I smiled kindly. “This is your daughter Eilidh.”
His eyes dashed to me and he grew angry. “How dare you joke about that? My daughter is dead!”
“You used to sing a little song to me and Onarir when we were little. They were about twinkling stars and sparkling lakes with colorful fish who could talk,” Eilidh said.
Jestyn slowly gripped her shoulders and stared into her eyes. “Eilidh?” he asked, his face softening. “My daughter!”
He embraced her, holding her tight. Miyana, who had been beside Jestyn the whole time, stroked her hair and smiled gratefully at me.
“Where’s Onarir?” Miyana asked as they pulled away.
Eilidh flinched and looked away. “The Vampires took him. He never came back.”
The king and queen of the Satyrs didn’t bother to hide their tears, but they were mixed tears, tears of joy beside tears of sorrow. I watched for a moment then turned and walked back to where Jairus was standing. Aloron and my father were beside him along with my friends, plus Lolaiken and Korvict. When the Satyrs had finished reuniting, Jestyn wiped his eyes then strode forward, staring distastefully at the Elven king. He stopped first in front of the Dwarf.
“Greetings from my Dwarves and may you be in good health, Satyr king,” Korvict said, bowing low.
“The Satyrs wish you the same,” Jestyn said lightly, then turned and glared at the Elf. “What say you, limbless tree?”
Lolaiken stayed calm. “I wish you a long life and hope we may be friends,” he said; I could almost see the insult hovering on his tongue, but he swallowed it.
Jestyn’s eyes narrowed and he stared hard at the Elf. Then he turned to look at Jairus, who had stepped forward.
“I am Jairus,” he said, bowing low. “I am the leader of this growing city. I welcome you on behalf of the Humans.”
Jestyn did not thank him. “You aren’t half monster, I mean Elf, like that girl over there are you?”
“No,” Jairus said, turning to look at me curiously.
“Thank you for the welcome. Just keep her and those blasted Elves away from me.”
“Father!” Laetitia and Eilidh exclaimed at the same time.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Filynora,” Eilidh continued, sounding a little angry. “She rescued all of the slaves from the real monsters! And those monsters have fangs and claws, and they can drag you screaming into the dark and do things to you. Horrible things! Things you’ll remember until you die a hopeless, probably violent death at their hands! So stop calling Elves monsters! You don’t know what a monster really is! And don’t hate Filynora, thank her. She saved me when you couldn’t!”
Jestyn stared at his daughter. “Eilidh, I-I’m sorry. Please don’t be upset.”
“I shall be upset,” she said, stomping her hoof. “You don’t know what you speak of, yet you speak with confidence. That is something I cannot tolerate.”
She flounced away, leaving us all staring after her.
“Well, we know where she got that from,” I said.
“Probably those creatures that had her locked up,” Jestyn mumbled.
“No dear, I don’t think that’s what Filynora meant,” Miyana said.
“Well then what did she mean?”
“Sire, she was acting like you do,” Pinnathir said, still staring off after her.
“Me? When do I act like that?”
“You acted like that in Stonemere after the Vampires and Naga attacked,” I said blandly.
Jestyn paused. “I don’t act like that,” he said and turned to Jairus as Lolaiken bit his lip, in all likelihood to keep from laughing. “Where do we stay?”
“Elves have settled to the east, Dwarves to the south,” Jairus replied.
“Then we shall take the west,” Jestyn said and was about to turn away when my father dashed forward and grabbed his arm. The Satyr jumped. “Get off of me, Elf!”
“Your men,” Elyosius said. “They each have two swords belted at their waists, along with their spears. Why?”
Jestyn turned and looked over his army. “I just decided to bring them. We emptied the armories. Laetitia said it would be a very difficult war to win. We wanted extra swords for those who don’t have them.”
“Humans? Yes. Why?”
“I’d say God just answered my prayer,” Elyosius said, releasing the Satyr. “Once you get settled, please come find me. We need to equip the Humans, the ones ready for them at least, with swords.”
Jestyn stared at my father, looking him up and down. “You’re different from other Elves,” he said then gestured at Aloron. “And so is that one over there.”
“We just try to follow God as well as we know how,” Aloron said, inclining his head.
“Maybe that is the difference.” He looked thoughtful for a moment then shook it off. “Well, let’s go,” he said to Miyana. Laetitia didn’t follow, choosing instead to stay with us. She sighed as the Satyrs passed and slumped her shoulders.
“How did you do it twice?” she asked.
“Do what twice?” Elthinor asked, placing a hand on her shoulder and squeezing lightly to comfort her.
She turned and looked at him. “Help decide a race to go to war. Father was stubborn and angry the whole time. Every time I presented an argument, he ignored in, and so all of the Satyrs who wanted to be on his good side, ignored it, too. I still have a headache.”
Elthinor placed his hands on her shoulders. “I don’t know Laetitia. We just took it one day at a time. The Dwarves were much worse than the Elves.”
“We were not!” Korvict suddenly exclaimed, hurrying up to us.
“Yes, my king, you were,” Valtrak said, chuckling softly. “The Elves were much more respectful about it. They did not shout endlessly, trying to have one opinion heard over another, but heard every one of the gathered Elves, and us, in turn.”
“Ha! Sounds like Dwarves are quite uncouth,” Lolaiken said with a smile.
Korvict frowned. “And I suppose you consider yourself couth?”
“Why, yes. Yes I do.”
“A couth creature knows when he should shut up, like young Elthinor over there. Besides, you have done battle as much as we Dwarves have. And even you must agree that battle is not couth.”
Lolaiken looked stunned at that. “I suppose you’re right,” he said. “Battle is the epitome of uncouthness. I had never thought of that before.”
The Dwarf nodded sharply and I suddenly noticed something. “Where are your guards?”
“They have finally left me alone.”
Korvict grinned. “I reassigned them to battle training. I gave the annoying ones the younger Dwarves.”
I laughed. “Well that’s one way to solve that problem.”
“Indeed,” he said.
“Guards? Like the ones that guard our gate?” Lolaiken asked, stepping closer to the Dwarf king.
“Why did they guard you? Do they not trust your subjects?”
“It wasn’t my subjects they didn’t trust. It was them,” Korvict said, gesturing at me and my friends. “And then they brought a Centaur to the caves, though he stayed on the surface.”
“The guards at Starrydale aren’t nearly as paranoid.”
“Maybe not about you, but they were paranoid against Satyrs,” Pinnathir said. “They shot at us as soon as we were in range.”
Lolaiken sighed. “I’m sorry about that.”
“Well, they didn’t kill me, so it’s fine.”
Laetitia had watched and listened to all of this without a word. She looked exhausted. I touched her lightly, jerking her out of her daze.
“What?” she asked.
“You need a hot meal and some sleep,” I said sternly, then turned to Elthinor. “Mother, would you come and help me?”
Gabrithon roared in laughter, and Valtrak, Jaiden, and Pinnathir chortled. Elthinor glared at me.
“Not funny,” he groused.
“I’m afraid we’re not in on the joke,” Lolaiken said, gesturing to himself and Korvict.
As Gabrithon cheerfully began explaining how Elthinor liked to mother me when I was injured, my Elven friend and I took Laetitia to Leah’s. Leah prepared a plate of chicken, rice, and beans. I began to eat the chicken when Laetitia tentatively poked me.
“I know this is going to sound odd, but may I try some?”
“Certainly,” I said, holding the meat out.
She took a small bite and chewed it thoughtfully. “It does not have the texture of fish.”
“That’s because it is chicken,” I replied.
She took another bite. “It isn’t bad,” she said. “Mind if I have the rest?”
“Not at all. I just didn’t want it to waste.”
“Why don’t Satyrs eat meat?”
“We are part goat. That is an animal. Animals are made of meat.”
“I see no problems with eating meat as long as you don’t eat goats,” Elthinor said.
Laetitia shrugged and finished off her meal. I was taking her to my tents when Miyana stopped us. The queen then led us to where the Satyrs had set up.
“What do you think?” Miyana asked, gesturing at a rather large red tent.
“I think I’m ready to collapse,” Laetitia said with a yawn.
“Well, the inside’s not ready yet,” Miyana said.
“I was taking her to my tent. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of this place.”
“Very well. Carry on.”
When I had settled her into my bedroll and bid her to have a good rest, I walked out to find my friends gathered together. I gestured them to be quiet.
“We have all winter to rest,” Valtrak said. “We need to make good use of the time.”
We need to start pitting the soldiers against each other in different ways,” Elthinor said. “So they’ll get used to various styles of fighting.”
“We should get the kings together to discuss strategy,” Gabrithon said.
“We need to start rationing food. Mother says we’ll bleed the town dry otherwise,” Jaiden said darkly.
I listened to their different ideas, but my attention was focused on the Centaurs. I knew they were as bad as Gabrithon said, because I knew Gabrithon back before he respected me. He told me once that he only did that to fit in. I was scared of the ones who already did, because they would be much, much worse.