Original Ending of I Am the Way

Here is the original ending of what turned out to be the first book. I wrote this while going off the sketches for what Valtrak and Elthinor were going to be before they became who they are, so the vast majority of book one wasn’t written yet. Enjoy it. 🙂

 

“Mother! Get up!” I shouted desperately, shaking her shoulders.

“Filynora!” Elthinor exclaimed as he and Valtrak hurried over to me.

“She won’t get up, Elthinor! Tell her to get up!” I told him, tears burning down my cheeks.

“Filynora, stop shaking her,” the Elf said quietly.

“Tell her to get up!”

“She’s not getting up.”

“She has to! We have to go home!”

Valtrak grabbed my shoulders and tried to pull me away, but I fought him. I didn’t understand why mother wasn’t getting up. This was just a joke she was playing. It had to be. I shook her harder as thunder sounded in the grey sky. Elthinor grabbed me around my waist and gave a hard tug. Their combined strength finally pulled me away from my mother.

The truth hit me hard. She wasn’t getting up. She was gone. I froze for a moment that lasted forever as I stared at her bloody face then I began screaming. And screaming. And screaming.

Chapter

Elthinor and Valtrak were covered in dirt. It was so thick in Elthinor’s hair that it almost looked like human hair. They were placing rocks on the fresh grave to keep the animals out. I stared at the churned earth that now held my mother’s body. There were no more tears left in me to cry and my throat was too raw for me to speak.

They were tired. That much was obvious. They’d had to hold me to keep me from hurting myself in my pain. Once I had calmed down, they dug the grave for my mother without my asking them to. Elthinor placed the last rock on the pile and stretched, grimacing from what I could only assume were muscle cramps. He walked over to me and sat down beside me, wrapping a comforting arm around my shoulders.

“Fily,” he started, gentle and soft, and for the first time in my life I didn’t hate that nickname. “I…I can’t imagine what you’re going through. To lose your mother like that, right in front of you. It must be devastating.”

“Stop,” I said quietly. “Don’t do this. I can’t handle it right now. I just want to sleep.”

Elthinor watched my face for a moment then nodded. “If that’s what you need. Ember, come here boy.”

The Kindle Wolf came quickly, whimpering and nuzzling at my face. I pet him slowly and he lay in my lap as Elthinor set up my bedroll. He led me over and pulled it snugly up to my chin. He and Valtrak bade me goodnight and I immediately fell asleep, emotionally exhausted.

            I was sitting on a rock beside a stream, wearing a long sleeved black dress with red edging the sleeves and collar. A strong, gentle hand was placed on my shoulder. I refused to look at him, but it didn’t seem to bother him.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.

“She’s dead. She’s gone,” I said, my voice hollow.

“I know.”

“She said she knew you.”

“She did. Your father told her about me. She was a very brave and lovely woman.”

“She called you Jesiah.”

The man’s voice held a smile when he spoke. “That is what they know me as. I rather like the name.”

“Why did she have to die?”

“The same reason you all must die.”

“And what reason is that?”

“You shall learn that later, child.”

            I was silent for a while, letting my misery overcome me. A question came to my lips without thought in my desperation.

“Is she alright?”

“She will be.”

            That simple answer gave me a hope I’d never felt before. I finally looked up at him. He smiled lovingly at me.

“I want revenge, but that’s not the reason I have to go after them, is it?”

“No.”

“I have to go after them because what they’re doing to humankind is wrong and somebody has to stop them. I have to go after them because they’re evil and they’ll keep doing this until somebody stops them. I have to go after them because they’re trying to get the Elves, Dwarves, and other races under their command, too.” I paused for a moment. “I know I have to, but I can’t,” I admitted. “I’m too scared.”

He watched my face for a moment. “You don’t have to. You could go home, rebuild your farm.”

            I was immediately confused. I thought for sure he’s want me to go after them. If he was a part of my mind like Elthinor said he was, he was a part I had no control over.

“But I thought-” I began then cut off. “Why are you doing this?”

            He just smiled.

I looked down and thought about the two options for a moment. “I don’t know. I’m still scared, but that won’t stop them. I can’t just go home,” I decided suddenly. “It wouldn’t help the problem. And the Aswangs will come back for me. I have to go after them.”

There was a look of pride and joy on Jesiah’s face that made me feel good. “Good choice, my child.”

I was staring up at the brightening sky. I sat up, feeling well rested and knowing what I had to do. I stood and packed up my things and waited for my friends to wake up. After about an hour Valtrak stirred. He sat up and looked at me worriedly.

“Filynora?” he asked hesitantly. “Are…are you alright?”

I smiled. “I will be. Get up and pack. We’re going after them.”

He looked worried, but did as I’d told him. His movements woke Elthinor, who gave me the same worried look before getting up and packing as well. I handed both of them some bread and we ate in silence. Both of them were still looking at me with nervous expressions on their faces.

“Fily,” Elthinor began, then caught himself. “I mean, Filynora-”

“You two can call me Fily,” I told him quietly. “It’s not insulting when you say it.”

“Oh…Alright then, Fily, are you sure about this? Revenge isn’t really the best idea, especially against such dark enemies.”

“It’s not just revenge. They’ll keep doing this to others. We have to stop them.”

“You’re not just talking about the Aswangs, are you?” Valtrak asked.

“No,” I said shaking my head. “We’re going after their leaders.”

“Their leaders,” he said blandly. “The ones that rule over the entire human race with an iron fist. The ones that easily defeated armies in combat. The ones whose servants can beat us.?”

“Yes,” I said resolutely. “That is exactly who we’re going after.”

“Did that man tell you to do it?” Valtrak asked uncertainly.

“His name is Jesiah, and he didn’t directly tell me to do it. He gave me a choice. He almost always gives me a choice. The one time he didn’t, he was warning me.”

I realized how true that statement was. No matter what I had done, he’d always given me a choice to go on or go back. And each time he had been proud of me when I went on.

The Original Sketch of Valtrak

Here’s the original sketch I had of Valtrak. As you can see, I had Elves and Dwarves pitted against each other, as they have been since Lord of the Rings. I eventually changed this to Elves vs. Satyrs and Dwarves vs. Centaurs just to switch it up. This is what Valtrak was before he fleshed out into the character that he is now.

 

I floundered desperately, trying to break the surface of the river for air. Every time I did manage to get my head above the water, I was pushed back under immediately. Suddenly I stopped panicking. I was going to die, and it didn’t scare me. Elthinor’s voice faded from my ears and my vision was edged with black. Everything was fading when a strong hand grabbed my shirt and pulled me out.

I must’ve blacked out because when I came to, those same strong hands were forcing water out of my lungs. My throat burned fiercely as I turned and vomited up the last of the water. I lay on my side, gasping in fresh air. When my body stopped fighting me I turned to thank Elthinor. Only, it wasn’t Elthinor that stared back at me.

A short, stocky man was staring at me, his eyes golden brown. He had a long beard that was almost the same color as his eyes. He wore rough clothes, all shades of brown. Beside him was a strange looking tool covered in dust. He continued to stare at me for a while, and I just stared back, not quite sure what to make of him. I was surprised when he spoke.

“Are you a girl?” he asked quietly, his voice deep and gravelly.

I blinked then frowned angrily. “Of course I’m a girl!” I croaked, my voice lower than usual because of my raw throat.

“You look like a boy.”

I would have gotten on to him if I hadn’t been trying to look like a boy. Instead I sighed and flopped back down, covering my eyes with my arm. Everything ached.

“Thank you for saving me,” I muttered.

“You’re welcome. You’re lucky it’s my break,” he said absently. “I have a question. Why aren’t you home taking care of your husband?”

My face turned red and the man looked a bit unsure. I was about to yell his ears off when a frantic voice called out.

“Filynora!”

“Elthinor!” I gasped, forcing myself up. Ignoring the burn in my throat, I began to shout. “Elthinor! I’m over here!”

I heard him shoving through the woods, not caring for once if he made noise. I knew he must be frantic. He probably thought I was dead.

“Oh, is that your husband?”

“He’s not my-!” I began when Elthinor burst into the clearing, saw me, and embraced me.

“Filynora! Filynora! You’re alive! Oh you had me worried, dear one!” he cried, tears gleaming on his cheeks.

“I’m fine,” I laughed, hugging him back.

“How? The current is so strong! I could barely get back out!”

“That man over there saved me,” I said, pointing. I caught the man’s expression and found him glaring at Elthinor. “What’s the matter?”

Elthinor looked at him and let out a shout, dragging me behind him as he pulled out his knife. “How dare you touch her, you evil little child?!”

“You travel with a human, tree demon?! You must have her hypnotized!”

“Hey! What’s the matter with you?” I demanded, grabbing the Elf’s wrist. “He saved me, Elthinor! This man saved me!”

“He’s no man, Filynora! He’s a Dwarf! They’re demented children interested only in shiny things!”

“You’re one to talk! All Elves are carefree demons who terrorize my people!”

I stood back and watched as they called each other terrible names, my mouth hanging open slightly. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Or my ears. Elthinor had always been kind, even if he was a little distant at times, and to see him angry and cursing at the Dwarf who saved my life was bizarre. Even if the Dwarf had insulted me twice, I didn’t think it was fair for him to be cursed at. At the same time, I didn’t like that the Dwarf was cursing my friend.

I walked up to stand in between them, but I was immediately pushed aside. I growled and shoved Elthinor as hard as I could. He yelped and stumbled, falling into the mud on the riverbank. The Dwarf laughed meanly and I turned and slapped him hard. He stopped laughing and pressed his hand to his cheek, obviously shocked that I’d hit him. I glared at him and slapped him again.

“You-You hit me!” he gasped. “Why?”

“The first one was for arguing with my friend. The second one was for insulting me.”

“How did I insult you?!”

“You told me what I should be doing. Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean every male gets to tell me what to do.”

“Ha! Not the smartest thing to say to her,” Elthinor crowed in joy.

“Do I have to remind you that you did the same thing when we met?”

Elthinor looked properly chastised and the Dwarf looked a bit angry, but seemed to concede. They both were obviously embarrassed about their actions, probably their words, too. I’ve discovered that most males find it improper to curse in front of the ‘delicate’ sex. Sure enough, Elthinor began to apologize.

“I’m sorry, Filynora,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry you had to hear that. I don’t really know what I was thinking.”

The Dwarf nodded, refusing to look at me. “Sorry for the language, miss.”

“It’s fine. I’ve heard worse,” I said. “But I don’t want you fighting. The Dwarf saved my life, Elthinor. And you, um…”

“Valtrak,” the Dwarf supplied.

“Valtrak, Elthinor is my friend. So stop fighting and get along.”

“Why should I listen to a girl?!” Valtrak demanded harshly.

I narrowed my eyes and whistled. Immediately Ember burst from the trees where he’d been hiding and bounded over to stand at my side. The Dwarf looked like he was going to run. He backed up and tripped over his tool, shaking like a leaf in a wind.

“D-D-Deathbringer!” he shrieked. “Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me! I’ll listen! I’ll listen!”

I stared at him for a moment then turned to Elthinor. “Does every race have a different name for them?”

“I wouldn’t know. We Elves keep to ourselves. In fact, all the races keep to themselves,” he said, trying to wipe the mud off his pants.

I turned back to the Dwarf. “This is Ember. He’s mine and he listens to me. He won’t hurt you if you don’t hurt me or my Elf friend.”

“I don’t have time to hurt you. I-I have to get back to work,” Valtrak stammered, grabbing his tool and running off as fast as he could.

I watched him run and frowned. I liked the Dwarf, as gruff as he seemed. He was almost the exact opposite of Elthinor and it interested me. I wished he’d stayed. Elthinor must have known what I was thinking and didn’t comment on the Dwarf as he began cleaning the clearing, realizing that I was too tired to keep walking today.

I just sat beside the river, thinking on the Dwarf. I smiled suddenly, knowing without a doubt in my mind he’d be back. The feeling I got when I looked at him was the same I had with Elthinor. He belonged with us. I don’t know why, but we belonged together.

Chapter

When darkness began to fall, I finally moved to gather wood. Elthinor was pulling bread out of his bag. I couldn’t help but frown. I was getting sick of nothing but bread. Not that I wasn’t grateful for the food, but bread just got repetitive. If we couldn’t get meat tomorrow, I’d go looking for berries to add to the bread. A rustle in the bushes had Elthinor pulling his knife. I just smiled.

“Come on out, Valtrak,” I said smugly. “We’re just about to eat.”

The Dwarf walked hesitantly out of the bushes, eyeing the knife warily. He reached into his bag and pulled out two cloth-wrapped lumps. He tossed one to Elthinor, refusing to get too close, and handed me the other. I raised my eyebrows and unwrapped it, giving out a delighted cry when I saw it was dried meat. I embraced the Dwarf, who gasped in surprise and stood stiffly until I pulled back.

“I was just thinking how nice meat would be! Thank you!” I said happily, tearing off a chunk and chewing it with delight.

Elthinor wasn’t about to give the Dwarf bread, so I broke off some of mine and gave it to him. He took it and chewed it thoughtfully, staring into the fire and not looking up. He seemed uncomfortable, as did Elthinor, but I was completely at ease. This time I wasn’t bothered by the seeming familiarity I had with this stranger. Elthinor broke the silence, his eyes boring angrily into the newcomer.

“What are you doing here?”

The Dwarf shifted under Elthinor’s sharp gaze. “I don’t know,” he admitted in a low voice. “I just had to come back.”

“You’re welcome to be here,” I said cheerfully, my eyes daring Elthinor to protest. He didn’t.

Valtrak looked at me and smiled. “Thanks.” There was silence for a while. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m looking for my mother, and Elthinor is accompanying me,” I replied.

“Your mother? Isn’t she with-” he cut off abruptly.

“Say it,” the Elf murmured, his eyes sparkling with glee.

The Dwarf wisely rephrased what he was going to say. “Where is she?”

“The Aswangs took her.” The Dwarf shuddered in fear. “So you know them?”

“I know of them,” Valtrak said, his voice quivering. “Our fires burn constantly if they are seen anywhere near our towns.”

 

I Am the Life: Chapter 44

Autumn and winter passed, though we were safely back at Greensage for them. Spring came and with it, a surprise I honestly thought would never happen. And it scared me. I avoided everybody for two weeks until my father finally caught up with me.

“Daughter of mine, is something wrong?” he asked as he settled beside me on the grassy knoll. “Even Elthinor hasn’t seen you much.”

I muttered something and placed my head in my hands. My father stared at me intently for a few minutes.

“You’re pregnant,” he finally said.

I jerked my head up. “How did you know that?” I demanded.

“You’re acting like your mother did when she got pregnant with you and Nolan,” Elyosius said with a laugh. “Let me guess and surprise you even more. You don’t think you’ll be a fit mother, you’re not ready for a child, and you’re scared out of your mind because it’s going to happen anyway.”

I nodded. “It’s horrible. How can I raise a child? And will the child be Elf or Human? Or some combination of both? What will Elthinor think? What will my friend think? What do I do?”

“Do you really want my advice?” I nodded. “Tell them. Especially Elthinor. They’ll be thrilled and they probably will even help you raise the child.”

“When?”

“How about now? They sent me to find you. They’re talking about clearing the Oidynhall library in the Satyr’s pavilion.”

I took a deep breath and nodded. “Being pregnant is horrible,” I said.

“Throwing up?”

“Not yet, but I’m nauseated all the time.”

“My deepest condolences.”

We walked to the pavilion and slipped inside. Everybody turned to look at me. Elthinor looked thrilled, hurrying up and grabbing my hand.

“There you are! Here, this is our plan.”

I listened quietly. They planned to start in the summer. I swallowed and glanced at my father. He nodded encouragingly.

“I can go, but I can’t work,” I said tersely.

Elthinor looked shocked. “Why not, Fily? You love working the mines! How is this any different?”

“It’s not,” I said. “But I have a slight problem.”

“What?” Valtrak asked.

I swallowed and guided Elthinor’s hand up to rest against the area just below my navel. He stared for a few seconds then comprehension flooded his face.

“Oh Fily!” he cried. “Are you really?”

I nodded, keeping my eyes on the ground. He scooped me up and twirled me around.

“Oh I hope it’s a girl!” he exclaimed.

“You’re pregnant?” Gabrithon asked, a little slow on what I had meant by that action.

“Yes,” I said bitterly.

Everybody stopped celebrating.

“Filynora?” Elthinor asked. “Don’t you want a daughter? Or a son?”

“I don’t know!” I snapped. “I hate being a girl again, that much I do know!”

“But Filynora, this is joyous news,” Pinnathir said softly, taking my hand. “Why are you unhappy?”

I asked my questions again, rephrasing a little.

Jaiden snickered. “You’re worried about what we think? We’re happy for you! Pinnathir is right. This is wonderful news. Only you seem to be down about it.”

“As for how you raise a child,” Vincentia said, pulling the growing Nora closer. “I’d say start with one day at a time.”

I smiled. “I suppose you’re all right.”

Elthinor got a tray and held it out to me. It was some kind of sweet bread. The smell hit me and I gasped, turning and sprinting out of the tent to heave up what little breakfast I had eaten. Elthinor looked guilty as I came back in. The offending food was gone.

“Sorry, Fily,” he said apologetically.

“I’m going to have to get used to that,” I said weakly.

“Now, we obviously can’t do it within the next year, but how about next summer?” Valtrak said.

“Sounds good. Right Fily?”

“Right,” I said, going to stand by him.

He held my hand. “I love you Filynora,” he said seriously.

“I love you, too,” I replied happily.

 

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

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.

 

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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 Life: Chapter 41

“He’s alive!” I shrieked then opened my eyes.

I gasped and quickly slapped my hands over mouth. A second later, Jaiden’s joined mine. Fire suddenly shot above our heads and the dragon was suddenly staring at us, his long neck hovering over the remainder of the walls. Smoke poured from his nostrils, which were narrow and set above his mouth on the arch of his face. His mouth curved around his elongated face, but ended just before a row of deep blue spikes that ran down his neck. His eyes were mildly curious as he stared at me. Suddenly we were grabbed, faster than a beast that big should be able to move.

“So you are the annoying little freak that has been causing so much trouble,” Satan purred, holding us tightly.

“What do you want?” Jaiden demanded.

The dragon looked a little irritated and dropped the Human boy at his feet. He looked me over, turning this way and that. He snorted, and this time, cold air blasted out, tinting the air white with snowflakes. I shivered, and not from the cold.

He tilted his head. “You’re so young, but older than the pesky little worm that birthed Jesiah. So strange that some of the greatest hindrances to my plans have been females. You are the weaker sex, so you shouldn’t pose so much of a problem. I have many males on my side to force you into submission, but every time it looks like I’ve won, you females break what I have set down. And if it’s not females, it’s young people in general. Challenging the cultural prison—yes prison for sin and I direct most of it—and bringing to people’s attention that they could possibly be wrong about how they see the world.”

“What’s wrong with that?” I managed to say as he held me down. My thick braid was dangling behind my head, swinging with me as he move his hand, or whatever the clawed appendage was, back and forth to examine me.

“Show me your designs,” the dragon said in a bored tone of voice.

I frowned. What? Why in the world did he want to see my designs? I glanced over to see the battlefield. I squinted. Who was winning? There was a deep growl and the dragon snapped his teeth, bringing the sharp white spikes inches from my face. I swallowed.

“What goes on out there is none of your concern,” he spat, tossing me in the air and catching me. I yelped as I landed in his palm. “Your battle is with me. You chose it, not I. Now, show me your designs.”

There was a threat in that voice, so I brought them forth and he snorted out smoke and small flames again.

“Fascinating,” he said. “Your kind has always been pesky. The Son likes appearing to you.”

I decided to test something out. “You mean Jesiah?”

The dragon didn’t even flinch, but he changed from hot to cold in a second. “Bah, he is ridiculous, coming down to die for you worthless maggots. What could that possibly accomplish?”

“I could tell you, if you like,” I said, leaning back on my hands.

“You, a little pest, has figured it out?” he asked then tossed his head back and roared with laughter. “Well, little squishy, tell me.”

“He was the perfect sacrifice,” I said with a nod.

“What?”

“Like the animals they used to sacrifice. Animals were good enough to keep the sins away. It would take one perfect physical being, and since that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, God came down in Human form, as Jesiah, to sacrifice Himself for those who repent of their sins and turn to Him. I mean, we can’t just sin all we like now, but we need to live like Jesiah did, which was perfectly, or strive to live like that anyway.”

I fell silent and the dragon stared at me, shock in his eyes. Suddenly he flung me down to where Jaiden was, and I landed hard. Jaiden helped me up and pressed something into my hand. It was an arrow with the scroll tied onto its shaft. I grabbed it and slunk over to the lowest point in the wall. The dragon was breathing fire into the air in his rage, so I slung my bow off my shoulder, seated the arrow on the string, aimed at where I thought was our allies were, and fired. Satan stomped behind me.

“What did you just fire out there, you wretched creature?” he screamed then his eyes searched Jaiden. “The scroll piece! You horrid beast! You rotten girl! Abomination! Half-made, sewn together combination of Elf and Human. A being against our Maker’s creation! How can you even follow him, especially so loyally? He doesn’t want you!”

“If He didn’t want me, why did He make me?” I asked.

“Why did He make the ones He isn’t going to save?” the dragon roared.

“I don’t have an answer for that,” I said quietly. “But He has to have a reason. He always has a reason.”

He growled. “So you’re telling me that my fall, my bringing with me a third of the stars of  Heaven, was known to Him the whole time? Yet He still made me?”

“You know it was,” Jaiden said suddenly. “You’re just testing how much we know. And how much we’ve surmised.”

The dragon’s laughter rumbled in his chest. “Very good boy. But now that you have discovered my ruse, I’m going to have to kill both of you.”

“Before that, I have one question,” I said, looking the beast directly in the eye.

He hummed. “What?”

“Have you been in this little area since you took over the Humans?”

The dragon snorted fire again. “Yes. It was very tricky to get my body small enough to fit in here, so that was a feat in and of itself. You know something, Strangeling? I should really thank you. You’ve been releasing us from our bodies, making us spiritual beings again. We have been prevented from doing that to ourselves or each other.”

I noticed his tail moving closer to Jaiden. Grabbing my friend’s arm, I jerked him out of the way and drew my sword with the other hand. I brought the blade down on the blue underside of the appendage, and cut it clean through. The dragon’s roar was of pain this time, and Jaiden drew his own sword, though his hands were trembling slightly. Satan looked at us, rage plain in his eyes.

“Enough talk!” he growled. “Let’s end this.”

He turned, the rest of his long tail sweeping most of the inner walls down, and reared, breathing fire into the air. He thudded back onto his front feet and I thought how miraculous it was that the floor didn’t cave in and send us tumbling to our, at least Jaiden’s and my, deaths. The dragon began breathing fire again, this time at us. We ran underneath his belly to avoid it. Suddenly, he switched from hot to cold and snow began to cover the floor as he breathed out on it. Snow would be difficult to fight in.

“Come little Strangeling. You wanted a fight, now fight me,” Satan taunted.

“Big talk coming from such a little lizard,” I said without thinking.

There was another roar of anger, and Jaiden and I ran out from under him as he began stomping around trying to crush us. We struggled to get away from him in the foot of snow that he had laid down on the top of the building—well, actually it was the new top of the building, I thought as we got far enough away. I sheathed my sword and, as he turned to us, quickly got my bow ready and fired. It glanced off him. No. No way. He had armor? That wasn’t fair! How were we supposed to beat him?

“Fily,” Jaiden said quietly.

“Yes Jaiden?” I asked hollowly.

“We’re in trouble.”

“Yes. Yes we are.”

I put away my bow and drew my sword again, swallowing hard. There wasn’t really anywhere we could run. I closed my eyes. God? Help us. We can’t do this without you. I— I yelped as I was scooped up again.

“Don’t bother praying. He doesn’t love you. You’re a freak of nature, against His original design. What would he want with you?” Satan asked, lazily tossing me up and down to amuse himself.

My anger flared, and my designs, which had to have been fading at that point, tingled back to life. I had dropped my sword when he had abruptly picked me up. But I had my knife. I drew it, plunging it into his blue tinted wrist. He roared and jolted. I was thrown up high in the air and I gasped, too shocked to scream. I fell for what seemed like forever, but was suddenly caught in strong arms. I heard a strange noise as we landed and looked up into the face of Gabrithon. He smiled at me and set me on my feet. The dragon snorted fire and was staring at us.

“Centaur,” he said, then looked over to my other friends, who were pointing their weapons at him. “Elf boy! Tell me, how well did your wounds heal? Nolan had quite a bit of fun punishing you.”

“My wounds have healed fine,” Elthinor said with a nod, his eyes cold. “And all is forgiven between Nolan and me.”

Satan growled. “Forgiveness is overrated. I shall just kill you all. Now die!” he roared, spewing fire around and melting all the snow.

We scrambled away in all directions, leaping and ducking as the spray of flames followed first one then another of us. He cornered Gabrithon and was toying with him, bringing the fire closer then taking it away. When my Centaurian friend tried to run, the dragon would chase him back into the corner. I bristled and Elthinor caught my eye before I could do anything. He pointed at the dragon then touched his eye. I took out my bow, positioning myself quietly. The dragon blinked and I fired. He screamed, his voice rumbling as he stumbled backward. Gabrithon shot away, joining us where we all standing and breathing heavily; he was obviously scared. When he had lowered his clawed hand away from his face, I saw that I had hit my target. The mess from the popped eye was leaking down his cheek.

“Dratted girl!” he shouted, trying to ease his pain.

“Any ideas?” I asked.

“Cut off his head?” Pinnathir suggested.

“How? His body has armor on it.”

“Only the red scales,” Jaiden said softly. “You cut through the blue on his tail and on his wrist.”

I dashed forward onto the dragon’s belly and he snatched me up. I heard cries as Elthinor, Jaiden, and Valtrak leaped up and began slicing through the coarse, but weak, blue scaled belly. When Satan tried to stand up, Gabrithon and Pinnathir, who couldn’t climb up on him, sliced through the weak part of his feet. The dragon tumbled backward, releasing me as he tried to get my friends off of him.

I crawled up to the base of his long neck and plunged my sword into it. He roared and went for me, but Jaiden sliced through his wrist, and the hand fell down to the ground below. The red scales were only tough on the outside, I realized. I pressed the sword until it popped through the other side then began to cut through tough muscle. I bit my bottom lip and had only gotten a little way through when I was snatched up by the other hand.

“Wretched little thing! Abomination before God Most High!”

“I’m not an abomination!” I shrieked. “He loved me enough to die for me! He didn’t do that for you! So that would mean you’re the abomination!”

The dragon froze and I saw Jaiden run forward and, with a tremendous effort, manage to remove the head from the body. The eyes dimmed as the head fell to the ground and the hand released me. We all quickly got away from the body. I walked over to the edge of the building, stepping over what was left of the tail. As I watched, all the dark creatures began to disappear, popping and melting all over the place, until our side was all that was left. A touch to my shoulder had me turn to see Elthinor. His face was joyous.

“We won!” he said excitedly. “We won, Fily!”

I smiled and was about to reply when there was a loud crack. I looked down to see the side of the stronghold crumbling. My mind raced. There wasn’t enough time to move me. I was too far in. I stepped forward and shoved Elthinor as hard as I could. The floor beneath me crumbled as I saw Elthinor land safely away from the weak points. I didn’t scream as I fell, instead I closed my eyes. There was a crack against the back of my head then blackness.

 

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I Am the Life: Chapter 40

The entire army halted as the five leaders raised their hands. I looked forward and stared at what remained of Shadowlyn. There were only charred outlines of most buildings. The only one that had remained whole was the stronghold. I shivered. We were about to go into battle against a demon army. True, they were stuck in physical forms, but that was of little consolation. They were stronger, faster, and more lethal bodies than what I, my friends, and the rest of the races had. And they could do tricks. I swallowed and turned away. Elthinor tenderly took my hand and nuzzled it against his cheek.

“Sure you don’t want armor?” he asked.

“I’m sure,” I said. “I’m only a little scared.”

“Without armor, we could die,” Gabrithon said; my friends had decided to forgo armor as well, mainly because of me.

“If it’s our time to die, no armor can save us,” Jaiden said with a nod.

There was a sudden ruckus and I turned to see the opposing army gathering on the remains of the town. The long stretch of plains would be our battlefield then. Suddenly, I felt the overwhelming sense that I had seen this before. Yes, I remembered, it had been a dream that I’d had before this adventure started. I turned to tell my friends when I noticed them all gesturing for Elthinor to do something. His cheeks were red as he approached me.

“Filynora, there’s something important I need to tell you before this mess begins,” he said slowly and quietly.

“What?” I asked. Then I remembered what happened next in the dream.

I heard the screech and dove to the ground just as the Aswang passed over me, claws missing me by inches. I rolled and pushed myself up. The roars and calls of the other army grew louder as they mocked me. It was that noise where I finally understood the term demonic; it was just so otherworldly and evil. I’d show them, I thought as Elthinor helped me up. Seeing the dream in my head, I pulled out an arrow and loosed it as she came down a second time. I must have gotten the heart because the monster dropped dead onto the ground. It burst into smoke and its blood stained the ground.

I could hear swords being drawn from their sheaths. I turned to Elthinor and grabbed his hand as he opened his mouth to speak.

“Elthinor, please. Trust in God for this. If you don’t tell me now, and if I don’t survive, you can always tell me in Heaven.”

“But Fily, I—”

I shook my head and turned away, taking out my own sword. He sighed and followed suit. Gabrithon snorted and I looked at him. He was giving Elthinor the most exasperated look I had ever seen, but I couldn’t worry about that. I glanced at the kings, who nodded sharply, and gave the signal for the charge. We moved swiftly, but the creatures were swifter. Aswangs were already picking off people from the middle of the charge. It was utter chaos as soon as the two sides met, the din getting louder than ever. I saw swords piercing creatures on both sides, and blood, red and black, spilled onto the ground.

Everybody suddenly froze as the loudest noise I had ever heard burst forth from the other side of the army. It was a roar. What creature sounded like that, I wondered fearfully as I sliced through a Vampire. My friends and I were heading straight toward this sound, because it seemed to be coming for the stronghold. The stronghold had to be where the last part of the scroll was. It was the only thing left standing. So we cut through the enemies, one after the other, sometimes having to gang up on a Rakshasa or a particularly strong Naga.

The Rakshasa weren’t even bothering to trick us, simply turning into animals with painful, and possibly poisonous, bites. Suddenly a howl went up that sounded like my Ember. I paused only long enough to look and see that it was indeed him, and he was charging with my Elementals towards another larger group of Elementals. I sent up a quick prayer for my precious pets. As I did, Elthinor was suddenly sent sprawling by a Naga. I cried out in fear for him then he rolled to his feet and we, rather viciously, took down the Naga.

When we finally got to the door of the stronghold, there were no guards, like we had anticipated. Before we could get too close, there was another roar, this one making my ears ring. My dream came back to me, and I hugged the building just as the top two stories exploded upward and outward. My friends, trusting that I knew what I was doing, pressed close to the cut stone wall, too. They looked utterly terrified. We backed up and stared up at the ruined part of the building. Horror filled me as I saw what unfurled from the top of the building.

“A dragon,” Valtrak breathed.

It was the legendary dragon! I couldn’t believe it. The beast was rumored to be bigger and stronger than thousands of men. It certainly was big, and no doubt just as strong. We hadn’t even considered it to be a viable option for this Satan to have taken for a form. We hadn’t even thought about it. It was much too horrible to consider fighting that thing, but we had to. For Nolan and the poor souls that had died in his grip or trying to escape it. For the original members of the races. For our own hope. And most of all, for the full knowledge of salvation for the whole world so that they could know God. Its glowing red eyes told me that that’s exactly what he intended to stop us from doing. But we had God on our side, so though I was a little scared, the terror did not overwhelm me like it was doing to my friends.

I pointed at him. “You’ll never win, Satan! Give us the scroll piece!”

Another roar sounded out, this one making my head hurt. That sound seemed to bolster the rest of the dragon’s army, and they all sounded out their calls.

“Do you think that your God would care about a creation as broken as you, Strangeling?” the dragon asked.

Anger flooded through me as he sank back into the ruins. Every time I thought I’d conquered my doubt about what I was and how it related to God, one of these foul beasts would bring everything back up. I stormed into what remained of the stronghold and my friends followed me. The hallways were dimly lit, and we ran through them, expecting enemies at every turn. But there were none. We slowed as we approached a wide arena on the second floor. Across the room was the stairs that led up to the level of the dragon. As soon as we entered the room, there was a thud behind us. It was an Aswang bigger than any I’d seen. Llugat appeared to our right, Lupine in front of us, and a huge Naga on the left. I didn’t know who to point my sword at, so I settled for Lupine; Rakshasa seemed more dangerous than the other three.

“Let me guess,” I said, glancing around. “You’re the leaders of the monsters.”

“Of our own kinds,” the Aswang said leisurely.

“And the kinds below us,” Lupine said while he grinned at the Naga, who hissed angrily.

“Now now, we have no time for fighting. The Dark Master wishes for them to be dead. Let’s actually do that this time. Then maybe Lupine’s pride won’t be so wounded,” Lugat said.

“Be quiet, you—” And the Rakshasa said a series of words that made even the boys shift uncomfortably. I was a little embarrassed to be in the same room as they were.

The monsters surged forward, but not to fight us. They met in the center of the room, arguing, cursing, and insulting each other. So this is why they hadn’t attacked us together very often, I thought as I began creeping around the room. They didn’t notice, so I continued. Jaiden slipped ahead of me and began walking up the stairs. As soon as I was three steps up, and before the others had even touched them they were caught in vicious grips. I stood there frozen. There weren’t enough to get me and Jaiden, but to go and face that monster without my friends?

Llugat was teasing Gabrithon about the taste of his blood and fear. Valtrak was facing the Naga, having hit him once to break the grip, and blood stained his axe. Pinnathir had the Aswang, and she looked delighted, saying how she would enjoy ripping the flesh from his bones and wetting the ground with his blood. Lupine, who was facing Elthinor, was silent, his eyes dashing up and down for weakness before becoming his little sister again. My Elven friend looked up, his eyes commanding us to go. So we sprinted up the stairs and up into a little hallway. I stopped when we passed a room, having the sudden urge to go in.

“Fily?” Jaiden whispered, following me.

“It’s the scroll,” I hissed when I had gotten to the desk. I slowly picked it up and stared at the words.

“Well, go on. Read it.”

I felt embarrassed. “I can’t read, Jaiden.”

Jaiden stared at me incredulously for a moment then his face softened, and he took the paper from me.

There was the tomb, but something was wrong. It was open. Could that mean that I had been right in my guessing? I began walking over, but a hesitant question stopped me.

“Fily?”

I turned to see my friends all standing there, with clothes of black on them—even Gabrithon and Pinnathir had them on.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, glancing back at the tomb.

“I’m not sure,” Gabrithon asked. “What is this place?”

“This is one of my visions of the scrolls.” I turned and pointed at the tomb, with the rock rolled away from the entrance. “That’s where Jesiah’s body was buried. But it was closed at the end of the last one. How did it open again? Very little time has passed. It’s the day after the Sabbath.”

“Hey, there are some females,” Jaiden said.

“They carry anointing oils,” Valtrak said, and I turned and approached the tomb.

I gasped. Jesiah’s body was no longer there. Instead, there were two angels, some of those terrifying beings that had been present at the creation of the races.

“Why are you looking for the living amongst the dead?” one of them asked. “Jesiah is not here, but is risen! Recall his words, those he said to you concerning these things.”

They raced off and I tried to follow, but I soon saw Jehan racing toward us, followed by Pyotr. I noticed that the cloth that had been around Jesiah’s head was neatly folded, before Pyotr or Jehan even got there. They went in the tomb and looked around then left.

“Come on Mia. Let’s go,” Pyotr said, placing a hand on one of the women’s shoulders. She didn’t move, just stood there crying.

I felt something buzz in the air and I gasped, stepping back. She turned, too, keeping her eyes down.

“Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Jesiah asked, a hint of a smile on his face.

“Please tell me where you have laid him, then I will take him away,” she said brokenly.

“Mia!” Jesiah said fondly.

He told her to go and tell his disciples about him and she turned and ran.

My friends and I were transported to a closed off room. They all yelped at the abrupt change in scenery, followed by gasps as they saw the group assembled. We had looked around at every face when suddenly there was Jesiah, dressed in his customary white robe, standing right in the middle of the room.

“Peace be with you,” he said, looking around at his disciples.  “As the Father has sent me, I too send you.” He let out a long breath and something wispy and white rushed out to fill the room, lighting on every one of his believers. “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

We were suddenly outside, away from Fairwick. There stood Jesiah.

“Go and make disciples of all, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to follow all that I have commanded of them, and remember that I am with you to the end of the age.”

I watched as he ascended into Heaven and I blinked. Inexpressible joy bubbled up throughout my being and I spun around and grabbed Elthinor’s hands. He looked surprised. I pulled him forward and pressed a kiss to his cheek. He yelped covering the place I had kissed with one hand and staring at me with wide eyes.

“Filynora!” he gasped, his cheeks coloring slightly.

“He’s alive!” I shouted and everybody else began to smile as they realized this. “He’s alive!” I cried out again and laughed for joy.

 

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