Original Planned Outlines

The first book didn’t go the way I originally planned. Here is an old outline I found about how it would go. Needless to say, it changed.

  • Filynora’s problems are introduced. Her mother is gone, she acknowledges that she is different from the other girls in her village but she has no confidence in herself, she is threatened by the boys.
  • Her strengths are acknowledged. She is an amazing archer, outshooting all the boys and most of the men in her village. She has a special relationship with Elementals. She has learned to take care of herself and is very self reliant.
  • Filynora leaves her farm to find her mother, releasing all the animals, except Ember who refuses to leave her.
  • During her travels, she meets various dark creatures, whom she escapes with varying degrees of closeness, with Ember helping her.
  • She gets wounded and is saved by an Elthinor, a shy Elvin lad who has as little confidence as she does.
  • He is running from his past in his own village and they hesitantly begin to travel together without talking much.
  • They run into more problems and discover a clue to Filynora’s mother.
  • While tracking the creatures further, they meet a Dwarf, Valtrak, who saves Filynora’s life, and he joins them, tired of his boring life in the caves.
  • They track the creatures down where a massive fight ensues.
  • The creatures are all wounded in some way or another and Filynora’s mother is saved.
  • They start travelling back, but a couple days in the creatures return and attack during the night and kill her mother.
  • Outraged, Filynora follows them back to a major city and is confronted by many dark creatures in the streets.
  • With Elthinor, Valtrak, and Ember beside her, she declares that she will take down the dark masters who rule the humans.
  • She is branded a dangerous rogue and traitor and a bounty is put on all of their heads.

And here is the original outline for the second book. I didn’t bother to do one for the third book, as the first two didn’t go as planned.

  • Tensions rise between the four members of the group from the rising chill and lack of sleep from being wary of attack from the Vampires or Naga.
  • They skirt around the Centaurs only to be captured by the Dwarves and taken in to be slaves for the noble Dwarves of the city.
  • They meet Valtrak and Filynora befriends him.
  • Valtrak shows Filynora where the scroll is and gives it to her, against the rules of the Dwarves.
  • Filynora convinces Valtrak to help them escape and the get out of the caves and make their way towards the Satyrs in the deep west mountains, where the clue pointed them to, Valtrak trailing them for a few days before revealing himself to them after an attack.
  • Filynora and the others are received by the Satyrs, who have a backwards way of life from all the other races. They have a very matriarchal culture, and are glad to give Filynora and her friends as long as she keeps them in check.
  • They meet Pinnathir, a young Satyr lad who falls in with them while they stay the winter with the Satyrs. Filynora, Nolan, and Gabrithon receive swords forged by the Satyrs.
  • As spring breaks they stumble upon the fourth scroll, which contains the miracles of Jesiah and his death.
  • The next hint points them to the Human capital city of Shadowlyn, more specifically the ‘heart of the city’, which is the fortified castle in the middle of the fortified city. On their way they meet a human boy at nineteen years of age named Jaiden. Nolan immediately distrusts him.
  • They head there and make a plan for Nolan and her to sneak in.
  • Deep in the castle, Nolan turns and shows his true colors. He has been spying on them the whole time and is himself a Strangeling, half-human, and half-Dwarf. He reveals many secret abilities of Strangeling, like their strength and their enhanced abilities, and he also reveals that he had been raised strictly for the purpose of destroying the Strangeling that would defeat them.
  • Filynora is wounded and runs and hides. She is found by the help and tended to. After a week of hiding, she decides enough is enough and leads a revolt of Centaurs, Satyrs, Elves, and Dwarves and breaks out.
  • She breaks down at camp before talking to the group of people she had saved, and discovering the most influential Elf is her father.
  • She is branded a dangerous rogue and traitor and a bounty is put on all of their heads and Filynora decides they will need to attack the city to get the final scroll and fulfill the mission she was given, and in order to do that, they will need help.

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.


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?”


“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.


“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.


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.”


The Original Sketch of Elthinor

When I originally started writing The Lost Scrolls Trilogy, this is part of what I had for Elthinor before he was fleshed out into who he is now. I found the old documents and thought I’d share this with the world.


I came to slowly, my head throbbing. A wet, warm tongue curled up my cheek and I forced my eyes open. Ember’s soft orange eyes met mine and I smiled weakly, reaching a hand up to stroke his ears. I hissed when the movement caused a stinging pain up my side, and I looked down to see that I was shirtless. I was relieved to see that my upper chest was still covered by the cloth I used to make it look flat, but beneath it and across my stomach were bandages, the ones on my side stained rusty red with dried blood. Every movement made pain shoot from my side.

“I wouldn’t suggest moving too much,” a voice said carelessly. A very male voice.

A little scream left my mouth and my arms flew up to hide my scarcely clothed chest. Ember’s ears slid back and he growled at a figure sitting across a fire. I dragged Ember in front of me and pulled him to lie down, using him to hide my top half. I peered over him, trying to see who was sitting there.

I couldn’t see his features very well; his face was hidden in the deep shadows of the tree. I could see, however, that he was very thin. Pale skin, so pale it was almost unnatural, made itself known on his hands, which were playing with something that was settled on his lap. When my heart came out of my throat, I managed a question.

“What are you doing here?” My voice held more confidence than I had.

“I could ask you the same thing,” the man said quietly. “Your kind rarely comes this far into the forest.”

“I’m looking for the things that took my mother,” I replied. “I tracked them here.”

The man stayed quiet for a moment. “Interesting,” he finally said, his fingers lightly playing along the strings on the thing in his lap.

“What is that?” I asked curiously, crossing my arms on top of Ember’s back; if he was going to hurt me, I decided, he would have done it while I was unconscious.

The man started in surprise and I wasn’t sure why. “This? It’s a lyre. A musical instrument,” he said slowly.

“Interesting,” I replied, mimicking him.

I sensed his gaze on me for a while. “In response to your first question, I’m here because I heard you screaming. I found you bleeding on the ground and bandaged you up relatively well before your Hellhound came back and tried to eat me.”

“Hellhound?” I asked with a frown. “You mean Ember? He’s a Kindle Wolf.”

“You may call him that, but to me he is a Hellhound,” the man said tersely. “He attacked me and would have eaten me had it not been for your being hurt.”

“Ember won’t eat you!” I said and laughed. The man’s body language suggested that he was surprised by me yet again, and a bit offended.

“How would you know?” he asked angrily, clearly not liking me laughing at him.

“I trained him!” I said with a smile.

More surprise. “Really?” he asked in amazement. “You trained a Hellhound?!”

“Um, yes,” I said slowly. “Why?”

“You are a female! A human female! Even the males of my kind do not dare to go near such a creature! You are truly a brave girl!”

My eyes narrowed and I stared hard at him. “What do you mean by your kind?”

The man was still for a moment, his fingers even stopping their dance across the lyre. I suddenly noticed that the back of his hand had something greenish silver on it. I stood up, completely disregarding my state of dress and the flash of pain from my side, and pulled out my knife, my eyes as hard as the blade.

“What are you?” I asked through clenched teeth as Ember bared his.

The man stood up and moved closer to the fire, the flames finally spilling light on his features. I couldn’t believe my eyes. His face was very fair for a male, his eyes soft and bright, his hair past his shoulders, and his lips rather thin, but it was the colors that dazzled me.

His entire color scheme seemed to be based on green and silver. His eyes were a deep, dark green edged with silver that spiked into the green. His hair was various shades of green, silver streaks scattered through it, including in his delicate braids. But his eyes and his hair were nothing compared to his face.

Green and silver designs started at the inside corner of his right eye and swept up and around it before curling in on itself like a vine then blooming into an intricate silver flower on the upper part of his cheek. The left side of his face was a swath of green and silver that traced just along the inside edge of his jaw then branched off into an upside down tree-like pattern with swirls at the tips of the branches.

The colors seemed dull in the light of the fire and I could do nothing but stare. The creature watched me with a sad expression, shifting under my gaze. Once my shock wore off and I could speak, I asked my question again.

“What are you?”

He looked down. “I am an Elf,” he said quietly.

The village storyteller had told me of Elves, what little humans knew of them at least, and he didn’t look anything like what he had said. I stared at him in confusion, lowering the knife slowly. The pain in my side suddenly made itself known and I grabbed my side. The Elf reached over as if to catch me, prompting a deep growl from Ember. He pulled back immediately.

“Look, Elf,” I said after a moment. “I know you’re trying to help, but right now I just want to sleep. I’ll deal with…this tomorrow, alright?” The Elf nodded, reaching down to grab his lyre. “Are you leaving?”

“I disturb you,” he said. “I’m going to go make my own camp.”

“I don’t mind you staying,” I said quietly.

“Why not?” he asked in confusion.

I looked at him and decided to tell him the truth. “Because I’m scared those creatures will come back and, even if you’re not human, I’d like protection.”

This time I knew why I’d startled him, but he did settle himself down in his bedroll. I sat down too, wincing as my side spasmed in pain, and curled my knees up to hide my chest again, aware of being half naked again. The Elf watched me and picked something up, tossing it to me over the fire. It was my shirt. There was a rip in it where the sword had sliced through and I immediately reached for my bag, digging in it until I found the needle and thread.

The rip was repaired in no time and I slipped the shirt on, relaxing as I was covered completely again. I had just put the needle and thread back in the back when leaves crunched in the forest just outside the firelight. I tensed and stared at the fire, curling my hand in Ember’s fur and ignoring the sharp eyes on me.

“It’s just an animal,” the Elf said after a moment.

“How do you know?” I asked sharply. “How do you know it’s not the things that took my mother?”

“Because it doesn’t feel dark.”

Those simple, sincere words had me relaxing and I finally lie down, curling up in my bedroll. The Elf watched me for a little while before getting into his own bedroll. I felt strangely safe around this creature despite him not being human. I sighed softly and closed my eyes, falling asleep quickly.

            Eyes. Sickly yellow-green eyes set in an inky shadow. Beside it was my mother, pale and ill-looking. I reached for her, but she was dragged away. A cool breeze blew over the back of my neck. I spun around to see another shadow behind me. Its eyes gleamed wickedly as it swooped down…

I woke up screaming. Strong hands were pressing into my shoulders, shaking me. I stopped screaming, tears sliding down my cheeks as I stared at the Elf’s wide eyes. Forgetting that I just met him, forgetting that Elves were supposed to be dark, horrid creatures, forgetting that I didn’t like crying, I leaned forward, buried my face against his chest, and started sobbing.

The Elf seemed shocked at first then wrapped his arms around me, gently squeezing me and murmuring soft little reassurances in my ear. I cried myself out then just stayed there, breathing in his musky forest scent. He stroked my back for a moment then pushed me away slightly and looked at me.

“I take it was a dark vision?” he asked softly. I nodded and his face, darkened by deep shadows, softened. “That is why Elf-maidens stay away from the dark parts of the forest.”

Without thinking, I slapped him. Hard. He reeled back, what I could see of his eyes widening in shock. He released me and nearly sat in the smoldering fire as his hand reached up to cup his abused cheek.

“You hit me!” he gasped.

“Don’t you tell me what a girl should and shouldn’t do, Elf boy,” I growled.

“Well, that’s the thanks I get for comforting you?” he demanded.

I stared at him for a moment. “Thank you,” I said coldly. “But don’t do that again. I know I’m not like other girls. Get used to it and don’t tell me what to do. I’ve travelled miles and miles, most of it through the forest, fighting dark creatures. I’ve been tracking the creatures that took my mother for weeks. I’ve hunted my own food for that whole time and I haven’t gone hungry yet. I’ve done things my sex isn’t supposed to be able to do, and I’ve done it with flying colors. So think about that before you try to degrade me.”

The Elf looked abashed. “I didn’t mean to degrade you. I’ve already mentioned that you are a brave girl. I have to respect you because of your Hellhound. I was merely stating a fact.”

I blinked. “You’re forgiven.”

“So what was the dark vision about?” he asked after an awkward silence.

“My mother and those things,” I said shortly.

“I take it you do not wish to talk about it?”


“Do you wish to sleep?”


“Would you like me to play my lyre for you?” he asked after a long moment.

I thought about it. “If you wouldn’t mind. I haven’t heard music in a while.”

The Elf stoked up the fire then sat down and picked up his lyre. I watched him fascinated as his fingers began to dance across the strings, producing beautiful music. I lost myself in the dulcet tones.


I opened my eyes to see the early morning sun shining through the trees. I blinked as I realized that I must have fallen back asleep listening to the Elf’s lyre. As soon as he popped into my mind, I sat up and looked over to him, ignoring the complaints of my side. He was sleeping peacefully on his side. I could do nothing but stare for a moment as the sunlight caught his peaceful face and made the designs on his face shimmer.

Entranced, I crawled over to him quietly and just sat there staring. He shifted as if sensing my gaze, but stayed asleep. Before I realized what I was doing, I reached out and pressed two fingers onto the shining silver flower, stroking it. The Elf surged up, his deceptively thin hand grabbing my wrist in a grip of steel, and a knife flashed out from his wrist. He pressed the cold metal to my throat and glared at me, fright in the depth of his eyes.

“What…are you doing?” he asked slowly after he registered it was me.

I blinked. “Seeing if it’s paint.”

The Elf lowered the knife and looked at me funny. “Seeing if what’s paint?”

“The green and silver.”

“Oh. No. It’s a part of my skin,” he said as he placed the knife back into the sheath on his wrist. “I forgot that humans don’t have such decorations.”

“Are you born with it or does it grow or something else?”

“They bloom out of our skin as we mature. I’m still in the middle of my maturing.”

“There’s going to be more?” I asked in amazement.

“Not on my face, girl. The face is usually the first thing to finish. It’s the rest of my body that’s not done. The decorations are there, they’re just not completely there.”

“Oh. So that’s why I didn’t notice the colors on the back of your hand at first.”

“Yes. They fade in and out.”

“Neat,” I said. “Sorry if I scared you, by the way.”

“Ha! I am never scared, girl!” he said as he puffed out his chest.

I frowned. “I have a name, you know.”

“Oh? And what would that name be?” he asked, still acting as if he were the bravest thing in the world.

“Filynora Raeloc,” I said sternly.

“Filynora?” he asked looking startled. “But that is an Elven name!”

I shrugged, ignoring the jolt in the pit of my stomach. “What’s your name?”

“Elthinor,” he replied. “Elthinor Cyzaen at your service.”

I snickered as he bowed, feeling a bit strange at being given such a gesture. “Um, thanks?”

He chuckled. “You are quite welcome.”

I smiled at him warmly then it hit me. I just met this Elf; how did I know I could trust him? Yet, we were talking as if we had known each other for years. He seemed to realize this too and we spent a few minutes in awkward silence, glancing up at each other. We just seemed to be too comfortable, and it made us uncomfortable.

“So…how’s your side?” he asked eventually.

“It aches,” I replied, looking at him.

“Would you like me to look at it and change the bandages?”

I shifted at the thought of being shirtless, but I nodded; my shyness wouldn’t help the wound heal. I slowly stripped my shirt off, my face reddening. Elthinor noticed my discomfort and smiled at me, reassuring me. For some reason, it relaxed me and I allowed him to unwrap the bandages. The cut was vicious, but shallow. It stretched from just blow the cloth nearly to the edge of my pants. I winced as I saw if for the first time.


“What did this to you?” he asked as he pulled an oil flask out of his bag and began rubbing it into the torn flesh.

“I don’t know. They’re dark things. Glowing yellow-green eyes. Sharp white teeth. It clawed me.”

His face paled and his hands quivered. “Aswang,” he whispered harshly.

“Aswang? What’s an Aswang?”

“That creature you described. It’s a cross between a vampire and a Furie, so they are mostly female, but there have been a few males sighted. They’re bloodsuckers and meat eaters. Death personified. Their skin is a dark smoky grey. They’re vicious and it’s a miracle you’re alive. They can move so fast that it’s like magic. Their bite is poisonous and fatal if not treated. Their claws are disease ridden and if I hadn’t found you and treated you, you’d probably be dead.”

The barrage of information stunned me. They sounded horrible, but I didn’t know what a vampire or a Furie were. I was afraid to ask him another question, but he registered the confused expression on my face.


“What’s a vampire?”

He smiled. “A vampire is a night creature. They are pale and have two fangs on the top set of their teeth that they use to suck the blood of their victims. Their eyes are completely one color, usually red, with no pupils or irises. Their ears are pointed like an Elf’s, but they always have black hair and deep purple circles under their eyes. They usually prey on a single village, usually a human settlement because we Elves are too alert for them. They sleep in caves because the sunlight burns them and makes them catch fire.”

“And a Furie?”

“A Furie is hideous and disgusting. They look like old human women. They have pure black skin, their hair isn’t hair at all, but black snakes that constantly hiss and writhe. They smell terrible, like death warmed over. Poison often drips from their mouths and, occasionally, their eyes. When they call to each other, it’s a dog’s bark that is dark and sinister sounding. They, like most dark creatures, prefer night.”

I swallowed, glad for the sunlight pouring down through the trees. Even in the bright morning light, the very mention of those creatures frightened me. And, from the look on the Elf’s face, they frightened him too. The Elf broke the silent spell we had fallen into.

“Breakfast?” he asked, forcing a light tone into his voice.

I nodded, forcing my mind towards lighter things. “Sounds nice.”

Elthinor pulled out a loaf of bread and a small drawstring pouch. He broke the bread in half, handing me my piece, and opened the pouch.

“Hold out your hand.”

I did as he asked and he poured out several red balls into my hand. I stared at them in confusion, having never seen anything like it. I looked at him expectantly and he smiled.

“It’s a cherry. A type of fruit. It’s quite sweet.”

I examined one and the red color was appealing, so I popped one in my mouth. The flavor stunned me and I chewed slowly, enjoying every single drop of the juicy fruit.

“This is amazing!”

“They are one of my favorite fruits,” he stated with a smirk. “I am surprised that you haven’t had one before.”

“My village isn’t on the traders’ normal route. We grow all our food and there are no fruit trees or bushes around us. We only get fruit when the traders come down every five years or so. They’ve never had cherries. Only apples and strawberries and grapes.”

I Am the Truth: Prologue

I had lost everything I had considered important: my home, my Elementals, and my mother. I was a girl on the cusp of her sixteenth birthday and I had lost it all. My home had been burned by the people from my home village of Paxtonvale for a reason I did not understand. My Elementals, animals twisted by the Dark Ones and their minions to bend earth, air, water, or fire against the original creation, I had released into the wild for fear they would be murdered by the angry villagers. And my mother. My mother was murdered herself by hideous creatures known as Aswangs, servants of the Dark Ones who rule Humankind.

Though I had lost all I had considered important, my travels had given me new things to consider important. Friends in the form of an Elf named Elthinor, a Centaur named Gabrithon, and a Human named Nolan. A belief in an all powerful creator called God and His Son Jesiah, whose role I was not sure of, but I was certain it was important. And finally, a mission. A mission to collect the scrolls which tell the story of a forgotten history where the now-separated races actually knew each other and belief in God was common. At least, that is what we assume the scrolls say. The first two scrolls explained the creation and fall of the races. We can only hope the others explain more.

These beliefs are what have kept me going through the long weeks of attack after attack by the Aswangs or their blood-sucking superiors called Vampires. The last attack we suffered from was the one where my mother died. As my mother died, she revealed something I had never known: my father was an Elf and that was the reason the dark creatures called me Strangeling. I did kill Tikujar, the Aswang that murdered her, and no creatures have been stupid enough to come near our little group in a while. That’s not to say we do not have our difficulties.

Being so wary of attack has left us all tired and irritable, and with the autumn chill permeating the air, we have been fighting with each other. Gabrithon and Elthinor are the worst. Nolan is too hesitant to fight and I just stay silent most of the time. Because of my mother’s death, my relationship with God and Jesiah is awkward. I am angry with them, and am ashamed of it, so I am not talking to them, nor have I had any more dreams come to me. I know in my heart it was not right, but I could not help it.

We were all confused on the specifics of what we were to be doing. We did not know when they next attack would come. We did not know whether we would be captured by the servants of the Dark Ones. We did not know where our travels would lead us. There were two things we did know: our journey had only just begun, and that the scrolls were our primary mission, no matter what we had to do to get them. That mission was burned on my heart, and I knew that where I would go, my friends would follow. Or at least, that’s what I hoped.


Here is the link to buy the second book if you can’t wait to see what happens next. 🙂


I Am the Way: Chapter 20

I awoke to the sound of a crackling fire which was warming my left side. My eyes flickered open, and I found myself staring at a perfect night sky strewn with stars that looked like diamonds. I shifted slightly which forced a groan to leave my lips at a sharp, stabbing pain in my right shoulder. There was frantic movement and suddenly Gabrithon’s face hovered over mine, worry etched in every tired line of his face. He slowly smiled, his bottom lip quivering as he reached down as if to stroke my cheek.

“You are awake,” he whispered happily. “Oh little filly, you are finally awake! One moment and I shall get Elthinor.”

I lay there in a daze, staring up at the sky. I didn’t understand what was happening. Each breath I took in burned slightly, and my body felt strangely heavy. There was a rustling noise, an exclamation, and the sound of a scramble of quick footsteps hurrying toward me. An exhausted looking Elthinor was suddenly peering down at me. Tears immediately started streaming down his cheeks then he bit his lower lip as he tried to staunch the flow.

“You are awake,” he said, emotion coloring his voice. “Oh, how I thank God that you are awake! Oh Fily, I was so worried. You have been asleep for three days. I prayed for you every minute. As sure as I was that there was no God, that is how sure I am now that there is one! You are alive and awake, and that is all I asked for. I am sorry I ever doubted you about Him.”

I smiled weakly at him. “I am sure our Father and Jesiah are pleased that you believe.”

“Oh Fily,” he murmured. “I thought I would lose you. After coming this far, it would be devastating to see you die. I would not know what to do with myself.”

“If I die, look for the scrolls. Look for the truth within them. It is imperative that they are found by our generation. Promise me this. Please? The world is dark enough as it is,” I said with an odd note of strength in my voice.

The Elf looked miserable at the thought of my death, but I saw something in his eyes stir as he replied. “I promise, Fily. I promise.”

“Good,” I sighed and relaxed again; I had not even noticed I was tense until that moment.

“Elthinor,” Gabrithon said quietly, interrupting our moment.

The Elf looked at him calmly, an air of peace about him. “Yes?”

“It is time to change her bandages.”

“Ah…yes,” Elthinor answered, a note of embarrassment working its way into his voice. “Well then, I suppose we had better.”

I arched my eyebrow at him and he blushed.

“What?” I asked, confused.

“Well, Fily, your shoulder was wounded. Quite badly I might add. It is…I mean…Well…”

He gestured at my shoulder, so I turned my head to look at it. I stared at it blankly for a moment before realizing that I wore no shirt. My face turned redder than Elthinor’s, and I hid it behind my hands as I wished I could disappear. When I finally gathered the courage to remove my hands, Gabrithon and Elthinor were looking at me sheepishly.

“Might I say that if we had a female traveling companion other than yourself, she would be the one tending to you?” Elthinor asked with an awkward attempt at a smile.

“Yes,” I said weakly, looking away from his eyes. “But that does not help at the moment.”

There was a deep, awkward silence, in which Elthinor and I avoided each other’s gazes. Gabrithon just stood there, staring at the two of us. He finally could stand the silence no longer and walked over to stand above me.

“Well, let’s get this over with,” Gabrithon said, kneeling down in front of me to help me sit up.

I kept the blanket firmly clasped to my chest, but the Centaur kept his gaze on my eyes. The kindness I saw in the depths was mesmerizing; I relaxed unconsciously. Elthinor had me move the blanket just enough to get to my bandages and began to work, carefully unwinding them and setting them in a pile. He treated my wounds with the same paste he had rubbed on Gabrithon when he had been hurt, which eased the pain quickly, and then began wrapping my shoulder skillfully with fresh bandages. He patted my whole shoulder when he was done then helped ease me back down.

“Now, you need rest,” Elthinor said firmly, picking up the used bandages and moving to set them in the pot of boiling water over the fire. “And I don’t want to hear a bit of argument.”

“You shall anyway,” I said stubbornly even though I was exhausted. “I want both of you to rest as well. You look like you have been up the whole three days I have been unconscious!”

“We have,” Gabrithon said as he stood and moved to lay down beside me. “You worried us.”

“I thought you did not care for me?” I blurted out before realizing how cruel that sounded.

Gabrithon flinched as he settled down. He still seemed a little self-conscious of the act, and he leveled his gaze on me.

“I do care for you. I realized that these last few days. There is just something about you that makes me feel comfortable around you. I feel less pressured to be what I am expected to be in my own race. As you are a female, I don’t feel threatened by your skill and prowess with the bow and with the knife, though I would if you turned on me. Because of your passion for God, of whom I am still not sure, I know you possess loyalty and would never do that. Because of your understanding nature—even if it takes a while for you to understand—I don’t fear relating my own culture to you. Because of your seemingly natural compassion and lack of judgment, I don’t fear letting my barriers down.

“You are, quite simply put, quite an interesting individual. You seem to be the perfect companion for both me and Elthinor, as he has told me stories about your time with him, and we are both perplexed at that. We do enjoy your company and I, like Elthinor, would not know what to do with myself if you were to die. I don’t wish to go back home where I would be treated like the outcast I have always seemed to be. I suppose I would help Elthinor in the quest for the truth. But it would not be the same without you, Fily.” He paused then looked a bit embarrassed at his speech. “I hope this disperses any negative thoughts you believed I had against you. We are still different, but I hope you will accept this extended offer of friendship.”

“I do accept it,” I said with a smile and no hesitation. “I am sure we shall be good friends.”

“I’m so glad you accepted,” he sighed. “Elthinor did as well, but I was more nervous about you. Like I said before, there is just something different with you. I can’t place what it is. It’s just so, I don’t know, alluring?”

“I am not sure that is the right word for it,” Elthinor said, lowering himself to sit on his bedroll. “But I can’t think of a better one. I do know what you speak of though. It is what first drew me to her side. It is what made me rescue her from the Aswangs and what drew me into this dangerous journey. It is what made me her friend.”

I forced myself to sit up, still holding the blanket firmly against myself, and stared intently at both of them. What were they talking about? I thought about it a moment, and all I could come up with to explain what they were describing was the impression that had made the people in Paxtonvale avoid me like I had a plague.

“Is something the matter, Fily?” Gabrithon asked.

“No,” I said immediately. Ember growled at my side, catching my lie, and I glared at him as I told the truth. “Yes. I don’t understand your fascination with whatever it is that you are talking about. I think what you are talking about is what my village despised about me.”

Elthinor stared at me. “Well, we are not your village. We are not even the same race as they are.”

“That might be the only reason you like me,” I said, suddenly nervous. “What if I lose it?”

Gabrithon laughed. “Oh Fily, the chances that you would lose your personality are…” He trailed off thoughtfully then laughed again. “There is no chance of that! Now put those ridiculous ideas out of your head.”

I lay back down slowly, wincing as I jarred my shoulder. I could not help but feel insecure about my friendships, though I didn’t know why I was suddenly so uneasy. As I thought about it, the answer came to me. I did not want to lose the only friends I had ever had. Even though Gabrithon was a relatively new friend, I cared about him. The battle had naturally brought the three of us closer because we had to trust each other. I could feel the nearness in the air even between Gabrithon and I and we had not been too friendly before. This feeling was something that I did not want to lose. Elthinor must have been watching me because he laughed softly.

“Females worry over so much. I don’t believe I shall ever understand it,” he said then paused for a moment. “Fily, if it makes you feel any better, we shall still be your friends no matter what. Right, Gabrithon?”

“Right,” Gabrithon replied, also sounding amused. “Always.”

“Always is a long time,” I replied, looking at the stars. “And our lives will not be easy for a long while, if ever. Are we strong enough to take it?”

“Maybe not alone, but we are not alone, are we?” Elthinor asked.

I ignored Gabrithon’s snort and smiled fondly at the Elf. That he would acknowledge Jesiah and God like that made me feel happy. It gave me joy that he was aware of them and that it pleased Jesiah, because I knew it would please him. We settled into silence; I yawned as sleep began descending on me. My mind was aflutter with thoughts, but my body was taxed by the little bit of moving I had actually done. Elthinor noticed, and he yawned himself.

“Now that that’s over with, shall we get to bed? I am sure we are all tired,” Elthinor said, tucking himself into his bedroll.

I nodded and turned over, snuggling down into the pleasant warmth. “Good night.”

“Sleep well, friends,” Gabrithon said, and I could hear the joy in his voice at that word.

“Aye, sleep well,” Elthinor muttered then the only noise to be heard was the crackle of the fire.



I Am the Way: Chapter 19

Just as Gabrithon had described, there was only a narrow path beside the river that led into the tunnel. The water was flowing faster now that we were at the source, and I was worried about falling in. I could not swim, and the current was so fast that I knew I would drown unless they caught me quickly. Elthinor was much less nervous than I was. In fact, he seemed excited. On the other hand, Gabrithon was obviously extremely uncomfortable about being so close to the forbidden place he had grown up hearing about. His tail was swishing and he was shuffling his front feet, stomping the ground, one after the other. He finally looked away from the rocky structure and leveled his eyes on me and Elthinor.

“This is where we shall part. I shall wait for you here,” Gabrithon said, backing up a little. “Or maybe back at the camp. Yes, back at camp.” He nodded his head a little too hard, obviously eager to get as far from this place as possible.

Elthinor nodded, and when he spoke, his voice was full of sympathy. “We shall see you there.”

The Centaur turned, quickly trotting away, looking back over his shoulder at the half-circle of rocks with a frightened expression. He disappeared into the forest, and I swallowed hard as we turned back to look at the tunnel. My eyes were immediately drawn to the water rushing out of the tunnel. The bottom of the riverbed couldn’t be seen; the river was simply too deep. Elthinor placed a hand on my shoulder and I jumped, my gaze leaping from the water to his face.

“You look scared,” he commented, trying to sound casual.

“Yes, well, I can’t swim,” I mumbled quietly, embarrassed at the admission. “I mean, we had a stream by our house, but it was too shallow to learn how to swim in.”

Elthinor looked surprised. “Is that all? Well, when we get the chance, I shall teach you how, but for now, be wary of every step. If you like, I shall go first to show you the slick spots.”

I smiled, relieved he had not laughed at my inexperience. “That would be perfect,” I replied.

“Very well then, on we go!” Elthinor said dramatically.

He set out, each step filled with purpose. I followed, placing my feet exactly where Elthinor’s had been but still getting more and more frightened of falling in the water. The light quickly became dimmer, and the echoing sound of the rushing river assaulted my ears. There was no question about my fear when I started to panic. My breathing became shallow, and I grabbed the wall for support as my legs grew weak. The place where I set my hand was slippery, not helping my state of mind. I was sinking to my knees when strong hands grabbed me.

“Fily!” Elthinor exclaimed in a low voice, sounding alarmed.

“I don’t want to drown!” I moaned, looking into his eyes, hoping to find purchase on reality again.

“Hush, you shan’t drown. Hold my hand and we will be out soon. See the light? We are almost there.”

I clutched his hand desperately, afraid that if I let go, I would fall. I forced myself to focus on each step individually and began to pray mentally that I would not fall in. Before I knew it, light leaped up into my eyes and I looked up to see one of the most beautiful sights that had ever graced my eyes. My first impression was that it was bigger than it looked from the outside. Next, I noticed the wide grassy sweep of land with a few trees here and there. Many flowers of all colors bloomed around the edges where the grass met the bottom of the rock formation. In the middle, next to the cliff edge was a lake, shining blue in the sun, fed by a waterfall that tumbled from a hole on the cliff side. Something moved beside the lake just as the sun went behind a cloud, and I reached instinctively for my bow.

I inched closer. It was certainly alive, whatever it was. The sun decided to show herself again, and I gasped. It was a Human with sleek black hair down to her shoulders and naturally olive toned skin, darker than mine by a few shades. I would know that form anywhere.


My mother looked up and made an unhappy muffled sound. I hurried to her, embracing her before I did anything else. Wiping my tears of joy from my eyes, I pulled my knife to slice the cloth gag away. She gasped and shook her head as if trying to discourage me.

“Filynora! What are you doing here?” she asked, her blue eyes searching mine for answers.

“I came after you,” I replied with a smile, cutting the ropes binding her hands and feet.

“You must leave before they come back!”

“Who? The Aswangs?” I asked, trying to pull her to her feet.

She balked, refusing to stand. “You know their names?”

“Tikujar and Rattuin? Yes.”

“Hush child. You must go. You and your Elf friend. They want to capture you!”

“I know that, but why?” I asked, exasperated at her unwillingness to cooperate.

“It is because of your father. He is—”

There was an ear-shattering shriek of fear that sounded more animal than Human, and the clatter of hooves as Gabrithon suddenly came charging out of the tunnel into the clearing, his newly finished bow out with an arrow nocked. I brought my bow around and pulled out an arrow, aiming at the tunnel. The sun disappeared behind suddenly thick clouds again, and the temperature dropped sharply as the two aforementioned creatures flew through it. They stopped for a single moment to look around then flew straight at me, claws outstretched, teeth flashing.

I dove to the side, so they missed me by a narrow margin. I rolled, stopping on my stomach, and shoved myself up with my elbows, firing an arrow as they turned to face me in the air. Gabrithon loosed his own arrow, and we watched as they both cried out in shock as the arrows struck them, even though they were nonlethal hits. They tore the arrows out of their flesh and flung them back at us. I dodged and scowled at them, unease rushing through me at the black substance that dripped from the fresh wounds. It looked unnatural.

“Elthinor!” I shouted, turning to look at him for help as the Aswangs shrieked again.

“My bow is at the camp! Bring them to the ground if you can!” he called as he drew his sword, his eyes locked on the creatures.

As they began to descend again, I sprinted toward the Elf, ducking beneath the gleaming sword. The two creatures shrieked and pulled up, but not before the shorter Aswang, Rattuin, was slashed by the blade, but it was another nonlethal hit; they were just too fast. She wailed in anger and pain and flew high above the reach of Elthinor, Tikujar following. As they glanced down, I suddenly realized that I had left my mother alone. I whistled sharply and pointed at her. The two creatures were heading at her, and Ember rushed from where he had been crouching as he followed my command. He got to her just in time and burst into flames, growling at the now cowering creatures as they flew up again. Gabrithon pulled out another arrow and aimed it at them and stood at the ready even as one of the Aswangs started speaking.

“Come, Strangeling! Come with us, and we shall leave your friends alone,” Tikujar said.

“No! Whoever your Masters are, I don’t wish to meet them!” I shouted, keeping a steady hand.

“Come now, girl. You can’t hope to escape the forces our Masters shall send to capture you,” Rattuin growled.

“Yes, they will be too numerous for you and much too powerful, especially for a mere girl to beat by herself!” Tikujar said.

“Not if she is backed by Jesiah and the Father!” my mother said sternly, her eyes gleaming.

I frowned for a few moments, confused about who Jesiah was before it hit me. Could the man in white be this Jesiah? Was that his name? I had never asked if he had a name before. It had not seemed necessary. Then a more important question popped into my head. How did my mother know him, and why had she never shared it with me? I could tell my expression showed my thoughts when Rattuin and Tikujar laughed.

“Oh, Estelle,” Tikujar said in a jovial tone. “It seems as if you have kept much of your life away from your Strangeling daughter. You haven’t even told her the truth, have you?”

“What truth? And why do you keep calling me Strangeling?” I snapped, glaring at the Aswang.

They simply laughed again, and my mother actually looked a little ashamed. I watched in shock as my own mother turned her face away from me, moving away. I began walking toward her, ready to demand she explain whatever they were talking about even in the midst of battle, when Tikujar dove for me yet again. I ducked and fired an arrow up at her. She dodged it, changing angles so suddenly that I could not react fast enough. I cried out as I was suddenly scooped up in her talons and carried up effortlessly. Ember charged for me, and Rattuin grabbed my now unprotected mother, who let out a shout of pain. I noticed blood welling up on her face from fierce-looking scratches.

“Mother!” I gasped, moving to fire an arrow.

My shoulder was pierced by four sharp talons in the front and one in the back. They sunk in deep and I screamed, doing what they wanted, dropping my bow, which fell with a splash into the lake. I heard three voices simultaneously call my name, so I forced my eyes open, gritting my teeth, fighting off the pain. I looked at my mother with tears in my eyes, knowing I could get away, and she could not. She nodded at me, and I knew that she knew, too. I reached down to my hip and jerked my knife out before digging it into Tikujar’s shriveled flesh between her ribs. The horrid creature shrieked and dropped me. I fell farther than I thought I would, slamming hard into the lake’s surface.

The impact took my breath away, squeezing it out of me into little bubbles that floated up to the surface. I sank like a stone, deeper and deeper into the chilly waters, my knife still in my hand; I had pulled it down and out of Tikujar when she had dropped me. I moved slowly through the water and put it back in my sheath, out of habit more than anything, as I reached the bottom. I was starting to see blackness on the edge of my vision when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I reached forward and grabbed the floating leather strap, wrapping it tightly around my wrist. Just as my vision went completely black, I felt strong hands grab my wounded shoulder and I used the last air in my lungs to scream in pain.

As I sat up gasping for air, I saw the strange trees and the man in white standing beside me. I looked into his intense caramel brown eyes and the name my mother had uttered came unbidden to my lips.

“Jesiah,” I said, and I knew immediately that was his name. It just so naturally fit him.

“Yes, precious one?” he asked, his lips curving into a smile.

“I’m drowning. Is it all over for me?” I asked, so calm that it surprised me. I had expected to be much more panicked.

“No, child. Not yet. You have much to do still,” he said warmly. “Now rest your weary mind and body. I shall speak with you again soon.”

“Wait! Does prayer work? Am I doing it right?” I asked, insecurity coloring my tone.

“The Father hears you, Filynora. He hears and knows all. He loves it when His children talk to Him. It is only sad that so few do in these dark days. As for your second question, yes, you are doing it right. God wishes for you to talk to him as you would anybody else but to also keep in mind that he is holy and perfect.” The background began melting, and I felt my mind being sucked into a deeper sleep. Before I left, Jesiah smiled at me, kissed my forehead, and whispered softly into my ear. “I love you, child.”