I Am the Life: Epilogue

I placed the quill down on the desk. My aged hands were quivering with relief. I was done. I could go on in peace. It was almost my time to leave. I could feel it. I had lived longer than all of my friends, including my beloved Elthinor. The generation that was now young was forgetting the battle, the great dragon, the way the kings had allied themselves. The demons were getting to them. The physical  battle was over, but the spiritual battle my father talked about was strong upon them. The practice of idol worship still flourished in all the races, albeit in different forms.

I sighed and stood. There was a knock at the door. I walked over to it—my Strangeling nature was still strong within me, to the point that I could still walk instead of hobble or shuffle—and opened it to reveal Nora. I smiled at her.

“Hello my dear. I’m glad you could come.”

“You’re boys are on the way with their wives and children.”

I smiled. Despite Elthinor’s fervent wishes and even more fervent prayers, we had never had a daughter. But all three of our boys turned out to be Strangelings like me. Elthinor didn’t mind at all. The twins, Aloron and Elyosius, were married to beautiful Elf girls, while our youngest, Nolan, married a Human woman. She was beautiful in her own right, though I could tell she didn’t feel that way. I smiled at their names, remembering the ones I knew who originally wore them.

When the rest of my family got here, we ate venison stew and had the sweet bread that Nora had baked. It was getting late when I literally felt my heart skip a beat then slow down. I shuddered and got up.

“Aloron,” I said softly. “You get my sword.”

“What?”

“Elyosius, you get your father’s sword.”

“Mother, what are you doing?”

“Nolan,” I said softly, undoing my belt and handing him my sheathed knife. “You get this. It is very faithful. Don’t lose it.”

“Yes Mother,” Nolan said sadly. I could tell in his eyes he knew what was going on. “Who gets your books?”

“You all can have your pick of them then the rest go into the Oidynhall library. That includes the ones I wrote.”

“Did you finish them?” Nora asked.

“Yes.”

My heart stuttered again and I nearly collapsed, catching myself on the desk.

“Mother!” two voices cried out at once.

“Filynora!” Nora gasped.

“Be quiet!” I said harshly. “It is my time to leave this world. Take to heart what I and your father and our friends have taught you. Keep God and Jesiah alive!”

My heart actually stopped for a few seconds this time.

“No Mother. You just need to rest,” Aloron said fiercely.

“Nolan, you get the house. I know you two are having trouble finding a place to live. You three be good and split the Elementals, and don’t forget to take care of them. Especially Flambé and her pups.”

The picked me up and laid me in bed. I blinked slowly. Everything was becoming dimmer, but that’s because of the light. The bright, wonderful light that I recognized.

“My Lord!” I cried, reaching forward.

“Mother!” I heard dimly.

I strained toward the light until something popped. I turned to see myself lying lifelessly on the bed, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was the unimaginable light that I was chasing. I sprinted, young and energetic again, and suddenly there was an angel, staring at me. He stepped aside and gestured to the city I had seen when Nolan died. Red was poured over me and I was suddenly spotless. I peered at the glory of God happily, just taking it all in. I heard a throat clear.

“Jesiah!” I shouted happily, kneeling and embracing him around his middle.

“Filynora,” he greeted, kissing me. He stood me up and gestured like the angel had. “Enter into the joy of your Lord, my good and faithful servant.”

There I saw Elthinor and Gabrithon, Pinnathir and Valtrak, Aloron and Elyosius, and Jaiden and Nolan all waving at me. I whooped and waved back, but I wanted to spend more time with Jesiah. He laughed and kissed me again. I praised God because there was not one thing that would make me happier.

This was life, pure and true, and it was amazing.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Am-Life-Three-Scrolls-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B01A04N30O?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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I Am the Life: Chapter 43

The battle had left many dead, and many others wounded. It was a horrendous sight to look over the fields, but there was a wide swath of green where the dragon’s blood had touched. We carried Aloron’s body to the fire gingerly, and he was the first we burned, doing it the Elven ceremonial way. Fires were spread across the battlefield, burning bodies. We couldn’t take them back to Greensage. The kings met up with us and they were ecstatic that we’d won. They went on and on about how brave their men had been, how valiantly they had fought. Gabrithon joined in, and he was the first one to praise me. I listened only half-heartedly to them speaking highly of me. I was still hurting from Aloron’s death.

When we had cleaned up the fields, we got ready and headed back. Instead of marching in formation, we all just moved at our own pace. When we got back, we noticed that some people were starting to lose hope on who was coming back. Melanari had been one of them. She tearfully embraced Elthinor, and they spent an entire day together.

A month later found me sitting on a small hill outside of town. Quite a few people had already begun to leave back for their home villages, while the kings were negotiating peace treaties. Even the Satyr king was now hospitable toward his old enemy. And as for the Human king, I had nominated Jaiden. He was young, but smart, and incredibly spiritual. He was still getting the feel of his new occupation. Of course, he had also been the one who was baptizing believers. He couldn’t dunk the Centaurs, but he did pour water over their heads as they were kneeling. He had joyfully baptized me and all of our friends first, then Elthinor had baptized him.

I played with Elthinor’s necklace, which I had worn since he had proposed. The bone on the end was carved in the shape of a wolf. I liked to think it was a Kindle Wolf.

“Filynora?”

I turned to see my friends standing there. “Hello.”

Their faces, save Elthinor’s, had morphed into shock, their eyes glued to the necklace in my hand. They all spun on my Elven fiancé.

“When exactly were you going to tell us that you’re engaged to Filynora?” Gabrithon demanded.

“We’ve been busy,” Elthinor defended.

“Yes,” Jaiden said. “But this is important.”

“When are you getting married?” Pinnathir asked.

“I don’t know. He hasn’t said a word about it since he proposed,” I said, hearing the bitterness in my own voice.

Elthinor suddenly looked sheepish. “I’ve been putting off telling Melanari and the other females. I wanted to spare you that indignity for as long as possible.”

“I’ll never understand why females make such a big deal about a wedding,” I said crossly.

Elthinor laughed. “It usually only happens once in a person’s lifetime. Can you really blame them?”

“Yes,” I said matter-of-factly. All my friends laughed.

“Well, let’s go tell my sister and the other females,” Elthinor said. “But you’re bringing this upon yourself.”

“You’re the one who proposed,” I pointed out with a grin.

“Oh. Right.”

The females we told included Petra the Dwarf, Melanari the Elf, Vincentia the Centaur, Leah the Human, and the Satyr princess and queen. They all were thrilled and started working together to make my dress and shoes, and discussing what they would do with my hair. Elthinor and I didn’t have to worry about planning the wedding at all. Jaiden practiced the Human way of marrying us so that he could get it right when the time came, while Lolaiken agreed to do the Elf portion.

The day of the wedding dawned beautifully. I knew that because my female friends had pulled me out of bed and washed me while the sun was still barely peeking over the horizon. They swept my long hair up into a complicated twist of braids for the Dwarfs and the Centaurs. When that was done, Petra and Vincentia left to check on the preparations, and everybody else left the room to go with them. I was instructed to put on my dress, which was a lovely green and silver, and I did so with a secret smile. Boy would they be surprised! I also put my shoes on, refusing the tight, constricting shoes they had made. I also refused makeup when they got back. I agreed to a tiny bit on my cheeks, but then I drew the line.

They deemed me ready, but when they weren’t looking, I slipped my mother’s bracelet on my wrist. There, now I was ready. We waited several hours until a female Elf came to get us. They walked with me out to a place outside town, hurrying me along so I wouldn’t see the decorations. I did anyway, but ignored them. They circled me around to the side then instructed me to walk up and stand in front of Lolaiken and Jaiden when the flute started. I did so, Elthinor meeting me in the middle. His shirt was red and gold, and it made me smile. He smiled back at me then we turned to face the two kings.

“Greetings to all!” Jaiden called. “We have come here to unify these two souls together, in the sight of God Almighty and the assembled congregation. But before we do, we have an announcement to make.”

Lolaiken cleared his throat. “Due to her bravery and cunning, and her all around grand nature, we, and the other kings, have decided to make Filynora an honorary princess of all the races.”

I blinked. “Um, that’s fine, I guess.” I really didn’t know what to say beyond that.

Everybody laughed then Jaiden went back to work. He read several passages from the scrolls, particularly the first one. He talked of the originals and how they had been married by God Himself. It was interesting, but my insides had sprouted wings and were fluttering nervously. I was most nervous about the coming up kiss. I didn’t know how to feel about it. It meant that my life was changing forever. Suddenly I realized it was no longer Jaiden who was talking, but Lolaiken. I gave him my full attention.

He held out his hand toward Elthinor, saying, “Now let us seal this union with a necklace made by the groom’s own hands.”

Elthinor handed the necklace over. “It is an honor to give it to one so strong.”

Was he referring to me? I turned and let the Elf king place the trinket on my neck. I turned back to find the king’s hand suddenly in front of me. I blinked at it.

“Now let us have the precious bracelet crafted by the maiden.”

Elthinor immediately stepped forward and tried to tell him that I had no bracelet to give. While he was distracted, I pulled off my mother’s bracelet and placed it in the outstretched hand. The king pushed Elthinor back and stared at it.

“This is Elven made,” he said quietly. “Did you make it?”

“Nay, my father did. He made it for my mother. It’s the only thing I have left of her.”

“Fily, you really don’t have to give me that bracelet. We can always have you make one later,” Elthinor said.

I smiled. “Take it. Let’s continue, shall we?”

We finished the ceremony, and both kings told us we could kiss. I swallowed nervously as my husband and I turned toward each other. He moved down and captured my lips. The fluttering in my stomach tried to get out of my body as he did that. Then it was over. I stared up at him and he chuckled, leaning down to my ear.

“You look shocked.”

I blushed, shoving his hands away. “Is the ceremony completely over?” I asked the kings.

Lolaiken nodded. “It is. Why?”

I grinned at Elthinor, and he immediately looked wary. I took the bottom of the dress and pulled the entire thing up over my head. I heard gasps and yells from the audience. There was silence a few seconds then Melanari screamed.

“Filynora!”

I had put on my normal clothes beneath the dress and now gave a whoop,  grabbing Elthinor’s hand and pulling him along with me as I began to run back to town. My new husband was laughing gaily at my little trick. We got back quickly and headed for the drinks first. Water quenched our thirsts then we got a little bit of wine. We settled on the ground beside a house. Elthinor pulled me close, wrapping an arm around me.

“Well, my little wife, now we just have to wait until we leave tonight for the cabin.”

“Cabin?” I asked, my stomach tightening.

“Yes. Cabin. It’s where we’ll spend the first few weeks of our married life.”

“Oh. That’s…nice,” I said nervously.

He looked at me. “Are you alright?”

“Fine, fine. I’m fine.”

“You sound frightened.”

“I am not!”

“Then why are you being so defensive?”

“I just…shut up!”

“No. Talk to me, my little unbroken filly. What ails you?”

I sat there for a while then sighed when I realized he wouldn’t let up. “I’m scared of being vulnerable.”

“But you should know that I would never hurt you. Ever.”

“Still. I’m uncomfortable with it.”

“Well, we’ll work on that. We have three weeks. A month if we stretch it.”

My cheeks were hot from talking about such a personal subject. I didn’t like being vulnerable. And that’s what I would be during the consummation, and every night afterward, no doubt. I was jerked out of my thoughts by a strangely textured hand cupping my cheek. I smiled.

“Hello, Valtrak.”

“Greetings Filynora,” my Dwarven friend said with a chuckle.

“I cannot believe you took your dress off!” Pinnathir laughed behind him.

“I was wearing my clothes underneath it,” I said, though I smiled uncontrollably.

“But still,” Gabrithon said, settling down onto the ground. “It was a classic Filynora move. A move that even we didn’t expect.”

“At least I can still surprise you.” I paused. “Gabrithon, you wouldn’t happen to be the one who suggested I become a princess, would you?”

Gabrithon smiled. “Indeed. But you deserve it. Now you have a reason to order most people about.”

We all laughed at that. The feast was great. It had lots of great food from every race, and we filled up on it. The party was obviously going to last way into the night, so Elthinor and I snuck out just after sunset. We took Flame and Rainstorm, despite my husband’s protests. Elthinor was ahead of me, following a mental map in his head. Two days later, we entered the forest where Ellavendir had been. A day after that, we came to a nice little cabin beside a lake that was fed by a river. I immediately set out on catching some fish and he stoked the fire up high. We ate around sunset on the third day. When darkness fell, I could feel my stomach tighten yet again.

“Fily,” Elthinor said softly, grabbing my hand. “I won’t hurt you.”

“I know.”

He kissed me softly several times then tried to deepen the kiss. I pulled away immediately.

“Elthinor,” I said softly. “I need to hear something first.”

My Elven husband sat back on his heels and looked thoughtful for a second.

“Of course!” he exclaimed. He kissed me again, a long, slow kiss, then pulled back. “I love you Filynora. I will always love you. You are the princess of my world, and it’s because of you that I follow Jesiah. Thank you.”

I relaxed and we kissed again. “Elthinor?” I asked one more time.

“Yes?” He was being incredibly patient.

“Can you teach me how to swim while we’re here?”

He brightened. “Definitely. And then I’ll teach you to read and right. But for now…”

He kissed me again. This time we didn’t stop.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Am-Life-Three-Scrolls-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B01A04N30O?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

I Am the Life: Chapter 42

I moaned softly, though no pain assailed me. I knew I would be in pain when I woke up. If I woke up, that is. Stones could have crushed me, or the dragon’s blood could have scalded the flesh off my bones, or I could have simply broken my neck in the fall. So was I dead? If so, dying felt familiar. I opened my eyes to see Jesiah standing above me. He held out his hand, and I took it. I stood, looking around.

“So…” I trailed off and observed the familiar forest around me. “I’m not dead,” I finally finished.

“No, my dear,” Jesiah said with a warm smile.

“I don’t see God’s glory like I did when Nolan died. When will I get to die?”

“When our Father calls you home.”

“And I’m not to know the day I die?” I asked, shaking my head with a soft smile.

“Just know that a day will come when you shall.”

We paused and there was a sense of finality in this vision. I began to cry softly.

“What is wrong, child?” Jesiah asked, though I knew he knew.

“I won’t see you again until I die!” I sobbed. “Why haven’t you appeared to me more so I can savor my time with you?”

“You did not need face to face encounters with me as much later in your journey,” Jesiah said. “And though I might not always give you what you want, I shall never stop giving you what you need. But you didn’t need me like that then.”

I bowed my head and hugged myself. “I love you. How can I love you if I don’t see you?”

“Blessed are those who have faith yet have not seen me, Filynora. And if you love me, then follow my commandments.”

I glanced up and sniffled. “If that is what I am commanded to do, I will try my hardest. I will fail sometimes, I fear. I’m not perfect.”

“You are made perfect in me, though you will struggle while you live. Now, this is my advice to you. Once everything settles down, go to Oidynhall and get the rest of the scriptures. And remember to tell all about the Good News and make disciples of them. I love you, Filynora. I shall be with you through my Spirit.”

“See you in Heaven,” I said softly as everything began melting around me.

He pressed a kiss to my head…

Pain hit me. The back of my head hurt quite a bit. Somebody had their face pressed into my chest to stifle sobbing. I opened my eyes to see my friends standing, or lying in Gabrithon’s case, around me, crying. Elthinor held me tight, and he was the one sobbing into my shirt. I frowned. What was wrong? I tried to talk three times before I actually succeeded.

“Elthinor, why are you crying?”

Elthinor jolted and looked at my face. “You’re alive?

“Yes,” I nodded, wincing at the throbbing the action incurred. “So why are you crying?”

“You were dead,” Gabrithon said, sounding confused.

“Yes, you had no pulse,” Pinnathir said.

“And you weren’t breathing,” Valtrak added.

“What did Jesiah say? Will you ever see him again?” Jaiden asked, kneeling down right in front of me.

I slowly sat up, slipping off Elthinor’s lap to land in the grass. “Grass?” I yelped, looking down at the ground around us.

“Yeah. When the dragon burst, plants began growing wherever his blood touched. You were covered in it, but it soaked in to you,” Elthinor said.

Could that be why I was alive? I wondered, worrying my lower lip. Oh well. It didn’t matter. What did matter was answering Jaiden’s question.

“He said to go to Oidynhall and get the rest of the scriptures. And that we’d see him again in Heaven,” I said, turning to the Human boy.

“Nice,” Jaiden said. “Now what?”

“We should search for survivors,” Valtrak said. “The battle out here was as fierce as ours.”

We agreed and we took off in different directions, searching the bodies of our soldiers. I was impressed they had managed to get so close to the stronghold. I heard a noise behind me, and I spun, reaching for my sword, but it wasn’t there. It didn’t need to be. Elthinor was following me. He held my sword and offered it to me.

“Thank you,” I said, placing the sword into the sheath at my hip.

Turning back, I began searching the bodies again. I could tell Elthinor was still following me, so I faced him again.

“Why don’t you go that way?” I asked, pointing.

“Oh. I suppose that would be the most productive,” he said, but when I started walking again, he still trailed behind me.

I figured he was still scared from nearly losing me, so I didn’t say anything about it. I suddenly saw the arrow I had fired out the window embedded in the ground. I gasped and rushed forward to get it, but a hand caught mine when I grabbed it. I inhaled sharply then followed the arm to see Aloron. He was not in good shape. Blood soaked his shirt. He had foregone armor, too, and he was actually paying for it.

“Elthinor!” I shouted.

He was by my side in an instant.

“Filynora, what’s…Grandfather?” he asked, suddenly looking frightened.

“Elthinor, Filynora,” he breathed. “I fought hard to defend this arrow. I’m glad you’re here to retrieve it. I can now pass on in peace.”

“No!” we both gasped, and Elthinor continued. “Grandfather you’ll be fine.”

“No I won’t,” Aloron said weakly. “Now please, read the scroll.”

I untied it and handed it to Elthinor. He shook his head. “You read it, Fily.” He sounded broken.

“I can’t read Elthinor,” I said firmly, a little embarrassed at admitting this to two Elves I respected and looked up to.

They both stared at me. Aloron finally smiled. “Promise me, Grandson, that you will remedy that.”

“Of course,” Elthinor said, taking the piece of the scroll from me.

He read it with feeling, and when he was done, both he and Aloron were crying. Only Aloron was smiling though.

“In all my years,” he said softly, “I never thought I would get to hear the end of that story. And now I find it is the beginning of something even greater. Thank you Filynora. Thank you so much.”

“For what?” I asked.

“For staying with your mission. For obeying Jesiah. For being such a wonderful girl.”

We lapsed into silence, waiting, as strange as it felt and sounded, for Aloron to ‘pass on’ as he put it. A sudden thought hit me as we sat there, my hand wrapped around Aloron’s. Elthinor placed his own hand on ours, and I looked at him.

“Elthinor, what was it you wanted to tell me before the battle started?” I asked.

His eyes suddenly flashed. “Grandfather! You can’t die yet! I need your blessing! Father certainly won’t give one to me.”

“Blessing?” Aloron asked, smiling knowingly. “What, pray tell, would you need a blessing for?”

Elthinor reached up to his neck and unclasped his necklace. He was so nervous that his hands shook as he held it up to me. He opened his mouth to speak several times, but he snapped it shut each time. I was confused.

“Elthinor, what’s wrong?”

“I have a question to ask you, Filynora Raeloc.”

I stiffened; he had never said my name like that before. “Um, yes?” I asked getting nervous as well.

“I’ve known you for over two years and each moment has been better than the last. I would like to spend the rest of my life with you.” My eyes widened before the question passed his lips, but he said it anyway. “Will you marry me?”

My world seemed to tunnel. Marry him? I just couldn’t picture myself getting married. I was too odd for anybody, Human or Elf, to want to marry me. How could he even ask that?

“But Elthinor, you could have any Elf maiden you want. You just helped me bring peace to the land. They’ll be surrounding you. Like that awful Shaylee did.”

“I told you before, I don’t want to marry Shaylee. And I don’t want to marry any Elf maiden. You asked on that night if there was somebody I wanted to marry. The answer is a definite yes. I want to marry you.” He suddenly looked extremely bold. “I love you, Filynora. And I will until the end of time.”

I blushed at the intensity of his gaze. “But you can’t want me!” I exclaimed after a few seconds.

“Why not?” Elthinor demanded. “Because you’re a Strangeling? Because you’re not a typical female? Because you’re rough around the edges?”

“Because you can do better!” I snapped, my cheeks flaming hot.

“I don’t think so,” Elthinor said. He transferred the necklace cords to one hand and pressed his free hand against my cheek. “You’re beautiful, smart, resourceful, caring, and you have the most lovely personality of anybody I’ve ever met.”

I felt the heavy and light feelings return to my stomach. Could I marry Elthinor? Did he really want to marry me? I looked in his face and saw sincerity. I bit my bottom lip and took a deep breath. The real question was, did I want to marry him? I looked him over. He was an amazing friend, a brilliant leader, and I could talk to him about anything. I hummed. He was beginning to lose hope. Just when he started lowering the necklace, I reached out and took it.

“If you think you’re going to be fine with being stuck with me for the rest of your life, who am I to stop you?”

Elthinor whooped in joy and embraced me, kissing my cheek several times. “Oh Fily! You just made me so happy!” We both turned to Aloron, who looked worse by the second.  “Grandfather?” Elthinor said tentatively. “Would you bless us?”

The old Elf reached out both of his hands, gripping all of our hands together. He looked as if he was in a lot of pain, and his breathing was uneven. Still, he smiled at us.

“I bless you,” he said quietly. “I hope you and your future children are wise in the ways of the Lord and that you would walk in His ways for the rest of your lives. May the Lord bless you and keep you forever. And Elthinor? Please don’t cut your hair because of me. I love you both.”

He fell back and I saw the color drain from his face. His eyes dimmed. Suddenly, a look of wonder flashed across his face. Then he stopped breathing. Tears leaked from my eyes down my cheeks and I buried my faced in Elthinor’s neck. He held me close as we both cried. Our joy at our engagement was lost amidst our sorrow.

“Elthinor?” I said softly.

“Yes, Fily?”

“We’ll see him again.”

“I know. I know.”

 

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I Am the Way: Chapter 28

I ran for as long for as I could, knowing they would come after me as soon as the sun had set, but after a couple of hours, I had to stop. I dropped to my knees, panting heavily. I might be a little bit faster, but they seemed to have much more stamina and less need for air. I breathed in deeply, trying to get my breath back quickly, but I finally gave up, flopping back against the grass. When I was as rested as I dared to be, I set out again. Instead of running myself into the ground as I had done the first time, I ran for about an hour, then rested, and continued to do so. Even though it worked out pretty well, by the time the sun set, I wasn’t there yet. How long had we gone last night? It must have been farther than I thought. I stopped resting and just ran beneath the moon and the stars, across fields and over hills.

A shriek sounded above me, and I looked up to see the Aswangs. Their sickly glowing eyes scanned over me as I hit the ground, but they did not come after me. Instead they laughed cruelly and continued on their way. A wind rushing over me sent a shudder up my spine. Nothing good was going to happen for the next while. I leapt up and ran harder than I had before, following the flapping of their wings, which seemed to grow louder the farther away they were. They stopped as I was scrambling up a hill, and I realized where I was. This was the hill I had been kidnapped on! That meant…

A howl from Ember rose up, and the Aswangs descended upon the grove. I screamed, and to my horror, another scream echoed me from below in the valley. I moved to go down but was stopped by strong hands. As they dragged across my skin, I noticed the texture was strange. It almost felt scaly.

“Now now,” a hissing voice whispered in my ear. “You will reap what you have sown. You chose to escape Lugat. You will suffer for it and then we shall take you before our Masters.”

“Naga!” I growled.

Another hissing voice came from behind me. “From what the underlings have told us, you and your little friends are quite persistent. A bit annoying, they say.”

A woman’s scream had me struggling against the hands, and the Naga laughed. I fell to the ground, my limbs already exhausted from all the running. I sat there, listening to the growls and howls coming from the valley and I got angry. I twisted on the ground until I was on my back, forcing the snake-like creature to release, and then, using all my strength, kicked at where I guessed his leg was. There was the crack of bones breaking and he let out a cry and dropped. I pulled my knife, which up until this point I could not reach, and was on my feet in a second, slashing beneath the second one’s hood. He cowered back away from me, hissing.

“It is already too late,” he said, his voice holding a smile, as a howling roar of triumph came from down below.

I turned and sprinted down the hill, bursting into the grove as fast as I could. I froze at what I found in the dim light of the dying embers of the fire. Rattuin was in front of Elthinor and Gabrithon, who were cowering in front of Nolan and Ember. My beloved pet was lying motionless on the ground.  But the worst was my mother. She was in a heap on the other side of the fire pit, the grass around her glistening with what I feared was her blood. Tikujar stood above her, blood on her lips. I screamed, a sharp sound that had everybody turning to look at me. The Aswangs laughed.

“Still feeling resistant, little Strangeling?” Tikujar laughed.

“What did you to my mother?” I demanded, my bottom lip trembling.

“You did not heed the Vampire lord’s warning. I was simply fulfilling my part of the plan. We knew you would run, so we decided to break you.”

I glared at her, and a voice whispered in my ear to go to my mother. I would have to go through Tikujar for that. I began to mutter a prayer under my breath, asking for God’s protection and guidance and practically begging him to let my mother be alive. Tikujar and Rattuin melted away before me at the words, and I could hear their garbled curses every time I said ‘Father’ or ‘God’ or ‘Jesiah.’ I knelt down beside my mother, turning her onto her back and immediately wishing I had left her where she had been. It looked like Tikujar had eaten her entire stomach out. I gagged at the sight, and instead looked up at my mother’s face, which was very pale. She was still breathing, which meant she was alive. That was good, right?

“Filynora,” she rasped, her voice barely there.

“I’m here, mother,” I said gently as I cradled her head.

“There’s something I must tell you…about your father,” she said, gesturing me closer. I leaned in, and she whispered softly into my ear. I felt my eyes widen and I jerked back.

“W-what?” I asked incredulously, my voice shaking.

“I am dying, Filynora. I’m going to be with God,” she said softly. “I know that you are the one your father always spoke about with hope. The one who could defeat the Dark Ones. You are God’s child and He will use you to bring back what was once common knowledge about Him and His Son. I love you, Filynora, and so does He. Even if you are a Strangeling.”

She reached up with a bloodstained hand to gently stroke my cheek. Her breathing hitched. As she let a long breath out, I felt her grow cold. I was numb, not believing what had just happened. My mother was…dead? No. No, she wasn’t! She could not be! Outrage filled me. I saw Elthinor’s blade gleaming in the light, lying in the grass.

“Come Strangeling and we will not kill your friends,” Tikujar cooed in a mocking voice. I felt the promise that everything would be fine if I obeyed and followed her. I could also feel just how false the promise was.

“No!” I shouted, lunging for the hilt of the sword.

I heard Tikujar leap at me as I grabbed the sword and twisted onto my back, holding the blade up. I watched with wide eyes as Tikujar impaled herself on the sword. A black bloodlike substance began oozing from out of her wound and down the blade. I did not want it to touch me. I raised my legs up and kicked as hard as I could. Our positions were suddenly reversed, and I jerked the blade out and raised it above my head.

“This is for my mother!” I vaguely heard myself scream, swinging the blade down and across the Aswang’s bared neck.

Rattuin’s shrieks sounded as if she was being murdered herself as the black substance exploded outward and soaked the grass. Wherever it touched, death followed. The grass surrounding us was dead, and even a bush that had been splattered with it was rapidly turning brown. I stumbled back, blade in hand, and sat on the ground as Rattuin’s moans and gasps of horror and…pain?…sounded out. She spread her wings and took off. I noticed her eye was missing and that a scar went across the empty socket as she looked directly at me.

“You will, die, wretched abomination! You are no better than we fallen angels! And we come in many more kinds than you do! You have only met a few of us!”

I took in a breath at the insult, but she shot up and out into the night, making a strange, garbled howling noise in misery. There was silence for a moment after she was out of hearing range then Elthinor leaped  over the dying fire to me. Before he got to me, the body of Tikujar burst into a puff of black smoke that dissipated quickly. There was nothing left, even the bloodlike black stuff had evaporated, and all that was left was the dead plants.

“Fily,” Elthinor said softly, hesitantly approaching after that surprise.

“S-she’s dead,” I whimpered, looking over at my mother’s body. “Tikujar killed her.”

“Fily, I…we tried. They surprised us.”

“She’s dead!”

“I…I’m so sorry,” Elthinor whispered, kneeling down beside me and taking the sword away from me.

He gently wrapped his arms around me, and I began screaming and beating his chest. He gasped but did not move. I lost track of what I was doing for an unknown time, but I found myself waking up to the sound of thumping. I opened my eyes to find myself in my bedroll. My throat was sore, and my body felt heavy. I sat up slowly to see Nolan patting down some loose dirt. He and Elthinor looked filthy and exhausted, and Gabrithon was watching them, looking extremely guilty.

“What’s going on?” I rasped, wincing at the sound of my voice.

Gabrithon answered. “They buried your mother. I could not reach the ground, so I couldn’t help.”

I felt misery swamp me, but I was too drained to cry. Elthinor stood up and grimaced, rubbing his chest. I remembered beating on it. I looked at him guiltily, but he smiled, shaking his head.

“You somehow managed to avoid hitting my wounds, so I don’t really mind. It’s sore, but manageable. More so than the claw marks.” He paused. “You are strong,” he admitted with a small nod.

I remembered what my mother had whispered in my ear, and I lowered my head, feeling more like an outcast than I ever had, but, at least this time, I had a reason for it. How could she have kept this from me? Her daughter?

“Fily? What is the matter?” Gabrithon asked, moving to lie on his belly near, but not too near, me.

“I know why I am different,” I said blankly, rubbing my hands together nervously.

“Is it what Estelle whispered to you before she…you know,” Nolan said.

“Yes,” I said softly.

“What is the reason?” Elthinor asked, sitting down tiredly beside me; for some reason, he was within arm’s length of me.

I muttered the answer softly and they all leaned forward, straining to hear it.

“What?” Elthinor asked.

I took a deep breath and looked up to meet his eyes.

“My father is an Elf. That’s why they call me Strangeling and abomination. I’m a half-breed. Something that wasn’t meant to be, like Elementals.”

 

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