I Am the Life: Epilogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

“Mother, what are you doing?”

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

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

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

“Did you finish them?” Nora asked.

“Yes.”

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

“Mother!” two voices cried out at once.

“Filynora!” Nora gasped.

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

My heart actually stopped for a few seconds this time.

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

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

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

“My Lord!” I cried, reaching forward.

“Mother!” I heard dimly.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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I Am the Life: Chapter 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.”

 

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

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

I Am the Life: Chapter 36

The shoes were gone, uncomfortable to run in. I sprinted past the last houses and could hear pursuing feet behind me. I didn’t want to be caught. Just when the lights of the camps around Greensage were disappearing behind me, I heard a grunt. My ankle was caught in a strong grip and I tripped. Immediately I began fighting as the owner of the hand crawled up and flipped me over.

“Filynora!” Elthinor said, panting heavily. “Stop it! Calm down, please!”

I screamed in response. All I could think about was Shaylee. She was so cruel, so hateful. Why couldn’t she just have left Elthinor alone? I sobbed and fought harder, but he hand my wrists pinned to the ground, so I jerked my knee up, hoping to hit his groin. I missed and we fought on. I saw torches being carried towards us so I used all of my strength to get away. Two steps away, another hand grabbed my ankle, this one made of iron. I knew who it was. It was Valtrak. Even though I knew for certain I wasn’t getting out of his grip unless he released me, I screamed again, a wounded sound, and kicked out. Elthinor’s hands grabbed me and picked me up, settling me in front of Valtrak so the Dwarf could put his arms firmly around me and keep me there. We were bathed in torchlight, but it was almost silly for them to bring them. The moon was big and bright tonight. I went limp after another minute of fighting. Valtrak was just too strong.

“Filynora!” Elthinor exclaimed, kneeling in front of me. “What’s wrong?”

I let out another piercing scream then lowered my head and cried. After a moment of silence, I heard movement. A hand was placed on my forehead and my face was lifted up. Before I could force the hand away, or at least snap at it, something cold was splashed on my face. I sputtered as a cloth was wiped across my face. There was another splash followed by another round with the cloth. This happened again and again until Elthinor was satisfied. I was in shock. What was that about? Then I saw the cloth. It was covered in the stuff Laetitia and Melanari had painted my face with. I began crying again. That meant I was my plain, ugly self again.

“Filynora?” Gabrithon asked, lowering himself to get as close to my level as possible; he was holding one of the torches.

“What’s the matter?” Pinnathir knelt down, though he was behind Elthinor. Jaiden hung around behind them, holding the other torch.

I didn’t respond, jerking forward to try to break Valtrak’s grip. He didn’t even move. I moaned and lowered my head again. Elthinor touched my chin and I bit him, hard. He yowled and pulled his hand back toward his body. I had broken skin and bright, fresh blood dripped into the grass. He stared at me incredulously.

“What in the world is the matter?” he demanded suddenly, his voice holding more authority than I had ever heard from him. It was a far cry from the Elf I remembered from Ellavendir.

“Why don’t you just go and be with Shaylee?” I barked, feeling compelled to answer.

Through my hair I saw him freeze. “What?” he asked, his voice holding a funny lilt.

“Go on, get!” I spat. “She’s the pretty one, the one who wants to marry you. Go and fulfill her wish!”

“But Filynora, I don’t want to marry her!” Elthinor said with a laugh.

“You have to marry soon, though,” I said. “Your family will expect you to preserve your line. See if I care if you marry such a little worm.”

“I told you, Fily, I don’t want to marry her,” he said, his voice infinitely gentle.

“Well then who do you want to marry?” I asked, looking him full in the face. “There has to be someone.”

“There is,” he said evasively. “But if I told you who, you wouldn’t believe it.”

“Filynora,” Valtrak said from behind me. “We told you once that Elthinor would always pick you over that Elf girl.”

“You’d be my friend over hers?” I demanded hotly, looking right into his eyes.

Unflinchingly, he nodded. “Of course Filynora. You know, I really don’t like her. She’s much too stupid, and her voice is terribly grating on the nerves. Her designs aren’t very pretty either. The blue is much too light and the pink isn’t nearly as pretty as my sister’s pink.”

I felt a wave of relief and stopped straining against Valtrak. He liked me better than he liked Shaylee. That was wonderful! Besides that, he didn’t want to marry her, which made me even happier. Valtrak released me, but I could sense he was poised to recapture me if I tried to run again. But I didn’t want to run. Not anymore.

“Good, you’re calm. Elthinor said. “Now I have two questions for you. One, what’s the real reason you dressed up? And don’t tell me it was just to ‘look nice’ either.”

I felt my face heat up and suddenly I did want to run again. As if sensing this, Valtrak placed firm hands on my shoulders. I didn’t want to tell them the truth. It was so silly. But I still felt as if it were true. I had never really felt pretty in my life, and now I knew it to be true that I wasn’t. Elthinor reached over and caressed my face.

“Come on, Fily. We’re your friends,” he said softly.

“You’ll think it’s dumb,” I growled.

“No we won’t,” Gabrithon said.

“Fine, you want the truth? I’m ugly and I thought if Laetitia and Melanari made me look fancy, you’d think I wasn’t.”

There was nothing but shocked silence. Then Elthinor began to laugh, which prompted everyone to laugh. Tears filled my eyes and I bit back a sob. It was true then. When my Elven friend had calmed down enough to see my tears, his laughter abruptly stopped.

“Don’t cry, Fily,” he said kindly. “You misunderstand our laughter.” He pulled me to my feet, held one hand above my head and said, “Give us a twirl.”

Confused, I did so. I could feel the dress I wore fanning out around me. The others clapped.

“What?” I asked. “What are you seeing?”

“Lithe grace,” Gabrithon said, winking.

“Coiled fury,” Pinnathir replied.

“The strength of a thousand Dwarfinlas,” Valtrak rumbled.

“The best archer in the land,” Jaiden said with a nod.

“And I see battle prowess unmatched by any,” Elthinor chuckled. “See? No ugliness.”

“Yes I am,” I said unhappily. “None of what you mentioned has anything to do with how I look.”

“Precisely the point,” the green and silver Elf said. “You’re beautiful no matter the outward appearance. Though I must admit, as both an Elf and a Human, you’re the most fair I have ever seen.”

“Not bad at all,” said Pinnathir. “You know, from the waist up. The legs are weird.”

“For your race, you do seem quite beautiful,” Valtrak said.

“She is. Much better than any Human. And especially that Elf Shaylee!” Jaiden said, causing laughter in agreement.

“Which brings me to my second question,” Elthinor said. “What made you hit her?”

“She called me something,” I said shortly.

“What could she have possibly called you to make you look so, well, scary?” Valtrak asked.

My face got hot again and my designs flared out. It was improper to even say the word to a male, but I had never let that stop me before.

“She called me a whore,” I said, eyes flashing. “She accused me of being with all of you, which would be the reason you kept me around.”

A second of silence was followed by screams of outrage. Elthinor’s grip on my hand tightened until it was painful then he released me and  began pacing. Gabrithon had reared and he came down hard with a squeal of pure rage, eyes glowing eerily in the firelight. Pinnathir bleated, and stomped his hoof, while both Valtrak and Jaiden stared at me with wide eyes.

“That isn’t even physically possible with three of us,” Valtrak stated once things had calmed down a little.

“Once that wretched abomination wakes up, I’m going to have a talk with her!” Elthinor barked. “She is never to even look at you again!”

I didn’t say anything. The way they reacted made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Shaylee was no longer a threat, and they loved me the way I was. Suddenly, I realized I didn’t hate being different anymore. They didn’t care that I wasn’t normal. Besides, normal was such a relative term. What seemed normal to us didn’t necessarily mean normal for anybody else. The Elves’ practices weren’t normal to the Satyrs, just as the Centaurs’ practices weren’t normal to the Dwarves. It was all a matter of perspective. And I had just found the right one. I laughed there amongst my angry friends and they all looked at me.

“Filynora? Are you alright?” Elthinor asked concernedly.

“Yes, Elthinor. I am more than alright. I feel amazing. I love all of you, too.”

They all stared at me for a moment.

“Do you finally understand?” Valtrak asked.

“What?” I turned around to look at him.

“I have watched you struggle with who you are for a while now. You have just come to terms with it. You are just the way God made you. There is no use wishing to be anybody else because if you were different in any way, big or small, then you simply just wouldn’t be you.”

After a pause, Gabrithon said, “You always surprise me when such wisdom passes your lips.”

“I try,” the Dwarf replied with a smile.

The atmosphere was relaxed. Then suddenly, it wasn’t. A scream tore through the night and I immediately looked toward the sound. I saw Human-like figures chasing another Human-like figure. I was guessing the second one was actually Human. We weren’t dressed for battle. I didn’t even have my knife on me, forsaking it for the chance of being ‘pretty.’ I looked around then grabbed the torch from Jaiden before sprinting towards the pursuing figures.

“Filynora! It’s suicide!” Elthinor screamed.

They had pinned the Human to the ground and were tearing at him. I leaped over to face them and they were stunned by the fire. Llugat snarled, and I smirked as I plunged the fire into the nearest Vampire. He shrieked as he was immediately set ablaze. He caught three more on fire and the rest dashed back out of the firelight as their skin started bubbling. Their red eyes stared at me through the darkness.

“We shall be in pain if we do not kill this wretched brat,” Llugat said, his voice holding a tinge of fear.

“Too bad,” I growled. “Go away.”

They hissed and suddenly began to run just as I heard running behind me. I turned and thrust the torch into Jaiden’s hands and knelt down beside the bleeding form. I grunted as I flipped him over and my breath caught in my throat.

Nolan?” I gasped.

“Fily,” he moaned.

Jerkily, he sat up and dropped the pack that he had been shielding from the Vampires to the ground. He stripped his tattered shirt off and I groaned for him. Slashes, gouges, and bites covered his torso and neck. But wait, there was something on his arm. He untied the string and pulled it off. It was the scroll. He handed it to me.

“That’s only a part of it, sister,” he said shakily, lying back down. “They tore the rest of it from me.”

He looked bad. Without question, Elthinor picked him up and we began hurrying to the town. As soon as we got to the came, Gabrithon thundered off to find Aloron and my father. We took Nolan to the only place we could think of: Leah’s house. We lay him on the floor and Elthinor began tending his wounds. Aloron and Elyosius burst into the room and Aloron swallowed, placing a hand on Elthinor’s shoulder. When the green and silver Elf looked up, the red and black one shook his head.

“It’s no use, lad. He’s not going to make it.”

“I know,” Elthinor said, looking at me.

For what seemed like the hundredth time that night, I felt tears well in my eyes. I looked into Nolan’s face, and he was looking directly at me. He used the bedside table to force himself up into a sitting position.

“I knew I wouldn’t survive,” Nolan said hollowly. “If the monsters didn’t get me, then Fily would. But I don’t mind. Not anymore. I read the last scroll and it…it doesn’t make sense. But it’s so wonderful, so fantastic, that it must be truth. I confessed my sins and trusted in Jesiah. He forgave me. He forgave me because he said he would.”

“Nolan—” I began, but he cut me off.

“No, let me speak. My time is limited. Father,” he said, turning to the purple and red Elf. “I am so sorry. I let my feelings get the best of me. I betrayed you and turned against you. Please forgive me.”

“Of course, son of mine. I’m sorry, too. If I had taught you better—”

“No. You did nothing wrong. Filynora, I did the same to you. Please forgive me?” his voice was getting softer and he looked like he was fighting to stay conscious.

“Yes brother. I forgive you,” I said with a nod. “It was a pleasure traveling with you. Now please stay alive.”

“I believe God is calling me home, Filynora,” Nolan said with a smile. “Oh how I wish you could remember those stories father would tell us before this whole mess started. There was the one about the sheep and the shepherd. I like that one. When just one goes astray, the shepherd goes after it, leaving the rest of the flock. The Great Shepherd finally caught me, Fily. I was a naughty little sheep, but he forgave me and is bringing me to the rest of the flock.”

His voice was so quiet now and suddenly the flesh on half of my body burned fiercely. I gasped and doubled over, pressing my hands and forehead against the floor.

“So cold,” Nolan moaned.

“So hot!” I cried out.

Nolan opened the pack that he’d brought and motioned me toward him. I crawled to his side, cursing the dress I wore. On his face, chest, arms, and feet, there were his designs. They seemed incomplete, as they only went across half of his body. Nolan pulled out a book. It was thick and black and had a cover on it that had a leather strip and a clasp that kept it closed. He handed the book to me.

“This contains the strengths and weaknesses of the creatures you face. Use it. The battle shall be very soon. Within the month. If you don’t attack by then, the Dark Master shall bring the battle to you,” he said then shivered. As soon as he did, the burning intensified. I moaned low in my throat at the pain.

He reached up and stroked my cheek. “You are the bravest, smartest girl I have ever known. You’re going to like what’s in the scroll. But you have to fight to get the last part. I love you, sister. We could have been best friends.” He turned to look at Elthinor. “You take good care of her, you hear? When she gets to Heaven I want to hear only good things.”

Elthinor smiled faintly. “Certainly. Now, you save a spot for us.”

“Yes. Of course,” Nolan fell sideways onto the ground. “I love you father,” he groaned, looking desperately to Elyosius.

“I love you, son, forever and always,” our father said, tears gleaming on his cheeks.

The burning reached a fever pitch and I saw the color on Nolan’s designs fading to a dull grey. He looked at me and just as the pain overwhelmed me, his eyes lost focus and widened. A flash of blinding light filled my vision…

I saw Nolan, clothed in black. As I watched, what looked like blood gushed over him. As the blood oozed off him, the garment beneath turned white. I stared. That wasn’t possible. But it happened. As I watched, Jesiah walked over to him. Nolan fell on his face at the radiant glory that spread from Jesiah’s form. I looked up to where they were walking and saw the most awesome sight I had ever beheld. It was light and color so brilliant that I couldn’t fathom it. Was that God? I suddenly knew that it had to be. Jaiden had it right, but it wasn’t strong enough. God was so pure, so holy that I knew I should cease to exist. I was wretched and I deserved the sin stained garment that covered me. Tears poured down my cheeks as I realized how unworthy we all were. Nothing we could do could ever give us the privilege of walking before such amazing holiness. We were doomed. Unless…Jesiah. There had to be some connection with Jesiah. He was God’s son. What was the connection? I had to find out. My soul ached for the companionship of that One Being. It was if I were made for it.

“Filynora!” called a voice as for the second time that night I was doused in water.

I yelped and sat up, blinking at the darkness around me. I groped in front of me and Elthinor grabbed my hand.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“I’m blind.” I said calmly.

“No you’re not,” Valtrak said.

“I can’t see. Everything’s just not there,” I said. “What happened?”

“You collapsed with your eyes open then you started crying. Were you seeing something?”

“The most amazing Something there is,” I said, lowering my head.

“What’s that?” my father asked.

“I saw a little bit of God,” I said simply.

They pressed for more information, and I began telling them what I had seen and felt and thought.

 

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I Am the Life: Chapter 15

The ones from the final city offering up Dwarves had arrived two days ago. Droves of the stone-looking creatures swarmed the city of Crystalmoor, the streets packed all the time. The morning we were to depart (I knew it was morning because I had spent the night outside with Gabrithon) I packed my bag then sat and waited. Gabrithon folded up the tarp that he had made into a sort of tent then set it up in the branches of a tree along with the ropes. He looked eager to set out, but he kept stomping his feet, one after the other, like he was nervous. I frowned.

“Is it that there will be many Dwarves traveling with us?” I asked quietly.

He started and turned to look at me then relaxed and offered me a small smile. “You know me too well. Yes. The only one besides Valtrak that I would trust, if I absolutely had to, would be the king. There are going to be what, three hundred Dwarves coming with us?”

“Four hundred twenty three. The king did the count yesterday and gave me that number.”

“And all of them hostile towards Centaurs,” Gabrithon said, looking down.

“If anyone hurts you, I’ll hurt them back,” I said, patting the sheathed sword in my lap and shifting the quiver strap on my shoulder.

That made him smile. “Oh Fily,” he laughed. “Thank you.”

“You’re most welcome. You’re my friend, Gabrithon. I don’t want you to get hurt. But if you do get hurt, they’ll regret it for the rest of their natural life, which won’t be very long if I have a say in it.”

Gabrithon laughed again and shook his head, but I could tell he was grateful. He lay down on his belly beside me and we talked for a little while until there was a noise. It was loud. Gabrithon surged to his feet and Dwarves started pouring out of the tunnel. My Centaurian friend and I began backing up, and we didn’t stop for a long while. There was an enormous crowd of Dwarves and I realized just how many were coming with us. I had a feeling Greensage was going to grow exponentially.

Every Dwarf was had a pack on his or her back, because there were some females. There were axes beneath the packs on the male Dwarves. Petra came up to me, smiling brightly. She greeted me and I offered her a smile, but I was too busy scanning the crowd for Korvict. I noticed Elthinor, Pinnathir, and Jaiden making their way through the crowd. I thought I saw Valtrak, but I wasn’t sure. My friends were easy to see, and I was too, because even the tallest Dwarf was shorter than all of us. Except for Valtrak, of course. They got to me, including Valtrak, and they were looking more rested than they had been in a while. Even though the verdict had been reached, the council still convened every day to discuss the plan and how they were going to handle the journey and the roughness of war. I still wasn’t allowed in, so Elthinor was in charge of making the decisions—in all likelihood, he would have been anyways as he had studied the Satyr-Elf wars—but he told me everything that he decided and I agreed with all of it.

Korvict got to me and we greeted each other warmly. He looked excited as he turned and greeted each of my friends. The Dwarves had all stopped talking and were looking towards their king, most of them straining to see. They were all watching and listening as the Dwarven king bowed to Gabrithon.

“And greetings to you, my Centaurian friend,” he said loudly.

There was immediate whispering amongst the assembled Dwarves, but no angry calls or jeers. All of the faces I could see, however, were twisted into anger and distrust as the stonemen eyed the Centaur. Gabrithon’s princely nature showed in that he appeared perfectly composed, though I knew he had to be scared.

“Greetings to you, your majesty,” Gabrithon replied, putting an arm across his chest with his fist clenched and bowing his torso as low as he could go.

“Well, now that that’s out of the way, I have one announcement before we leave,” Korvict said then stood on a boulder (not a Dwarf) and spread his arms wide. When he spoke, it was more of a yell. “Any Dwarf, male or female, who harms the Centaur or plans to harm him shall be punished severely. And I’m certain he will have to deal with an angry Filynora. Even I would not like that, so please behave. If this goes as planned, we will be working with Centaurs soon. Now, let’s move out!”

We began heading towards Greensage. There was nothing big that happened for two days. Then on the third day, I saw Ember, down low in a valley to the left of our trajectory. I gasped in joy and ran down to him. He was facing away from me and I threw my arms around his neck, kissing it. Then he did something he had never down in his entire existence except in play. He growled at me. I hesitated then released him, and he turned his head slowly. His eyes, instead of the wonderful orange I was used to, were blood red. Something was terribly wrong, and I had a feeling I knew what it was. I had been trailing at the back of the group of the Dwarves, so nobody had noticed me slipping off. They were moving at a swift pace and I couldn’t see them anymore. They had no idea I was gone. I began backing away, holding out my hands.

“Ember,” I began, but got no further as he gave a bark and lunged at me. I screamed and turned to run, but Blaze, my old Tindre Tiger, was in my way, his eyes as red as Ember. There was a whistle and I turned to see none other than Nolan standing there beside a grove of trees, leaning against one of the trunks.

“Hello sister,” he said leisurely.

“What have you done to my Ember?” I demanded; I might have been scared of my Elementals because of their deadly qualities, but I was not afraid of Nolan.

“Me? I’ve done nothing. It was one of the Dark Ones. You know something? I want you to meet him. Oh Mngwa!”

Out of the trees came the biggest looking tiger I had ever seen. It was grey with black stripes and two and a half times the size of Blaze. Its eyes were red like my two beloved pets, and it opened its mouth and it roared at me, revealing enormous teeth that could bite my arm off with no problem. But the scariest thing of all was the feeling that surrounded the beast. It was the darkest thing I had ever felt, worse than the Aswangs, the Vampires, and the Naga combined. Nolan grinned.

“Mngwa, this is the beastly girl that’s against our Master. She’s the headache that our minions have been facing,” he said, acting like he was talking about the weather.

“Foolish girl,” the Mngwa growled, his voice grating. “I shall put an end to that. And what better way to do that than with your own pets? They shall love you to death, as it were.”

When I turned to look at Ember, I realized this Mngwa must be skilled in illusion, because every single pet I had owned had appeared behind me in a half circle. Every eye was red. They were all under the control of this Dark One. With a growl from their controller, they all began advancing on me.

“Filynora!” Elthinor shouted. I looked up at the hill and saw a crowd of Dwarves and my friends. The latter began racing down the hill, weapons drawn.

“Kill them while she watches,” the Mngwa commanded and they all took off towards them. They all stopped and grouped together.

“Stop!” I bellowed as they were closing in on my friends, knowing that it would do no good.

But it did.

They listened to me. They stopped running and just stood there. I stared in surprise and decided to see if it was a fluke. I yelled for them to sit. They did. I told them to lie down, and they obeyed. I had more control over them than the Mngwa. I didn’t know why or how, but I did. I turned to look at Nolan and the giant cat. I narrowed my eyes at them, ignoring the shocked looks on their faces. Then I gave my command.

“Kill the Mngwa!” I shouted.

I heard them coming and they suddenly rushed past me. Ember was the first one to attack, leaping on the creature’s back and worrying his scruff. The rest of the creatures followed suit. I turned towards Nolan, who looked angry.

“You’re a bigger freak than I thought. You shouldn’t be able to do that,” he growled, drawing his sword.

I drew mine, and we stood there, poised to strike. I moved first, bringing my blade towards his head. He blocked and countered and the dance that we had done together with sticks so many times become deadly and ever so real. We stuck and dodge. I slashed his right arm and he got my leg, but no other strikes hit their marks. I brought my sword down from up high and as he moved to block it, I kicked his chest. He dropped his sword and tumbled backwards.

Just as I was going to go in for the kill, I heard a whine. My Ember’s whine. I spun towards the noise and saw the Mngwa pinning my Kindle Wolf down. I saw the beast’s jaws open and I screamed in anger, rushing him and slashing him in the face. He backed up two steps, which was enough for Ember to leap up. He and Icicle flipped the great monster and held him by his neck on his back. I wasted no time and plunged my sword into his chest where I figured his heart would be. He gave a deafening roar and spasmed so that Ember and Icicle were thrown loose, but he did get up and attack me. I had hit my mark. He struggled weakly and spoke his final words.

“Even if the Dark Ones die, you must deal with our Dark Master. If no one else does, he will end you.”

“Not with God on my side,” I said with a nod and withdrew my blade.

My friends reached me as the twitching ceased. The Dark One was dead. We just stared at the carcass and Elthinor put his hands on my shoulders.

“Are you alright Fily?” he asked gently.

I nodded. “Yes. He’s dead.”

“Indeed he is,” Valtrak said.

Ember staggered over to me, looking as if he was having trouble staying on his feet. He sat down at my feet and looked up at me with his eyes. They were orange again. I dropped to my knees and embraced him. He licked my face, nudging me with his big head, and I drew back, kissing his nose before standing. Ember suddenly barked and lunged for the spot that Nolan had been standing, keyword being ‘had.’ He was gone. Ember was sniffing the ground then sat and snorted, shaking his head.

I cursed right there in front of my friends, but I only got the first half of the word out of my mouth because I was bowled over by my Elementals. The only ones not there were my horses, and they were down in Greensage. I was being licked and nuzzled all over, and despite the anger that made my face burn and tingle, I laughed. I had missed them. They were all here, even Misty, floating on her cloud. My friends laughed with me and Elthinor moved to help me up, but Blaze bit at him. He yelped in surprise, drawing his hand back as he and the others backed up a few paces. Blaze walked around me and I tried to get the others off of me to stop him, but they were too excited. Before anything bad could happen, Ember gave a bark and stood in front Elthinor. All my pets stopped touching me and went and sat in front of him. It looked as if he were communicating that they were friends. Indeed once Ember stopped growling they pounced on my friends and began licking them. Gabrithon was the only one not rolling around on the ground, though Misty was rubbing against his head along with Raine. The only ones missing were my Muddmoles, and they couldn’t have helped Nolan’s purposes.

“Fily! M-make them stop!” Pinnathir gasped.

I whistled, and my Elementals came running. I heard a throat clear in behind me and I turned to see Korvict. The only other Dwarf anywhere near him was Valtrak. I looked up at the Dwarfs that were watching.

“Where are your guards?” Valtrak asked as he stood, voicing my thoughts.

“They were too afraid of the strange creatures and the great beast you slew. The air was charged with darkness, literally paralyzing us all. I am the first to move,” Korvict replied with a shudder.

Ember growled at him and I placed my hand on the Kindle Wolf’s head. “Behave Ember. This is Korvict. He’s my friend,” I said gently. “Korvict, please hold out your hand.”

Korvict looked hesitant then glanced at me before doing as I asked. I pointed at it and Ember faithfully sniffed it. He considered it, then placed his head under it and bumped it, telling Korvict what he wanted. The king looked fascinated and scratched his head.

“Oh come on!” Elthinor exclaimed.

“What?” I asked, looking up at him.

“He’s more excited about him than he was about me!” he complained unhappily.

“But you’re the first one he ever trusted besides my mother or me,” I said, smiling.

He looked thoughtful. “Well, I guess I can live with that.”

“He is so soft,” Korvict said, petting Ember’s ears.

“He’s my Ember,” I said tenderly then looked back up at the Dwarves. They were starting to shift around and they were no doubt talking about what had happened. “We should go. We need to get to Greensage.”

Korvict took his hand off Ember’s head. “Very well. Let’s-”

He stopped and looked behind us, his eyes widening and his mouth dropping open. I turned to see what he was gaping at and I tensed immediately. The carcass of the Mngwa looked like it was bubbling beneath its skin. I grabbed Korvict’s hand and began dragging him up the hill, my friends shooting ahead of me. The king was surprised and took a moment to get his feet under him, but we got up the hill and turned around just as the entire body exploded, smoke permeating the air around where it had been. A fountain of thick, black blood shot high into the air before falling to the ground. Some of it missed us by a mere three feet. The grass it touched didn’t just die, it disintegrated, along with some of the dirt on the ground, leaving streaks of ditches and patches of holes. The grove of trees was no more, everything having been utterly destroyed. It was nothing short of devastation.

“Oh my,” Korvict whispered.

“The darker the creature, the more potent the blood,” I said quietly.

There was no noise until the king composed himself and he turned. “Time to go.”

Everybody turned slowly and we began heading to Greensage, shocked by what had happened. One question came to my mind. What could possibly be worse than the Mngwa?

 

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I Am the Life: Chapter 14

I shifted my weight as I waited impatiently for the verdict. They were coming out today to give the answer of whether they were coming with us or staying in Crystalmoor. It had been fifteen days since Gabrithon had arrived; the poor Centaur was up all alone on the surface. Suddenly the door opened and the king came out, the council following. Elthinor, Valtrak, Pinnathir, and Jaiden came out last. They were all staring at the king, not smiling, not looking downcast, just staring intently. The king had not shared his decision. Korvict stood there with his hands clasped in front of him, scanning leisurely over the faces in front of him.

“Filynora,” he said with his deep voice. “Come stand with me.”

I moved through the enormous crowd to stand with him. There were so many Dwarves that it was difficult; they were all packing the streets to hear what the outcome was. Before the king had come out they had all been murmuring about whether or not they were to go to war. I finally got to Korvict and bowed respectfully. The Dwarf inclined his head and I straightened. Then he held out his hand. I stared at it. Dwarves didn’t shake hands. They exchanged pipes to greet one another, or when pipes were absent, they press an open hand onto the right cheek of the other Dwarf. I stared at his hand for a few moments then extended my hand and shook it. He squeezed lightly, showing off his strength and I squeezed back, knowing my own strength was nothing compared to his. He laughed and placed his other hand on mine.

“I have decided to go to war, for the sake of my friend Filynora and the trouble her race is in. In case you decide to argue, our race is soon to be taken captive by the same monsters if we do not hurry.”

There was an explosion of noise as the Dwarves took all this in. I felt my face break into a smile as Korvict looked at me. His expression grew serious.

“Do not make me regret my decision, Filynora. We are going to trust Centaurs at some point and that is a lot to ask,” he said with a nod.

“I know. Thank you, Korvict. I sincerely mean it.” I paused. “What are we going to do now?”

“I am going to send runners to the other Dwarven cities to relay the message that all Dwarves who wish to fight the enemy are to come to Crystalmoor with their weapons.”

“What about females?” I asked. “Wouldn’t it be prudent to have them with us for sewing and cooking or even as warriors? Even your females are immensely strong by Human standards.”

“Maybe you’re right. I shall include Dwarfinlas in that as well,” he said with a nod.

“Dwarfinla? That’s what you call female Dwarves?” I asked.

“Yes. It is a little used word anymore, but your scrolls called the first female Dwarf a Dwarfinla. I suppose, if the scrolls are true, that is where that term came from.”

I smiled. “I did not know that any of the races still used the original terms, save Humans and Satyrs.”

“It used to be quite common, but over the years it has faded,” Korvict admitted. “I believe I’m going to try to bring it back.” He paused and looked around. “Quickly! Let’s go tell Gabrithon before the guards notice me leaving.”

I was startled by what he said but willing to comply. We hurried through the crowd towards the tunnel. When we came out of it, it was afternoon, and a rainy one at that. Korvict stared up through the branches of the trees and didn’t seem to mind the droplets dripping down on him.

“Is this rain?” he asked, sounding fascinated.

Gabrithon was up against the trunk of a large tree a little ways away. He was staring at the king in confusion.

“Of course it is rain! Haven’t you ever seen it before?” he asked, trotting over.

“No. I have been up to the surface so few times I can count it on one hand. This is only my fifth trip up here. And it was never raining on any of the other times.”

“Sounds like a horrible life. As much as I hate the weather sometimes, it’s something I wouldn’t like to go without. I don’t understand how you can live underground all your lives. There’s no sun, no rain, and no wind. That’s not really a life.”

“Some Dwarves are content with it, but may I tell you a secret?” Korvict asked and waited for us to nod. “I never have been. I want to be in the parties that explore the world, that spy on the Centaurs, that get to be out of those blasted tunnels and caves! When you have lived in darkness your whole life, sunlight is one of the most amazing things you ever experience. Rain is, too.”

He caught a droplet with his tongue, and Gabrithon and I just stood there watching him enjoy the rain. After a few minutes when we were properly soaked, Gabrithon turned to look at me.

“What did you two come up here for? Are the negotiations over?”

“Yes. They’re going to war with us,” I said.

“Really?” Gabrithon asked.

“Yes,” Korvict said, coming out of his daze. “We go to war when we have all of our volunteers. It will take a couple more weeks to gather them then we leave.”

“It’s because of Filynora, isn’t it?” Gabrithon asked knowingly.

“Partly. And partly because they will come after us soon. If the stories are to be believed that your friends have told us, those creatures will no doubt find out caves. I fear that they would cave in the tunnels to the surface or come down them to attack. Either way, we would be trapped. I shudder to think of what would happen after that.”

“If we can destroy them, it won’t happen,” I said confidently.

“What if they destroy us, Filynora?” Korvict asked solemnly.

“They will only if it’s God’s will.”

“You truly believe that story? Don’t you have other gods in your culture?”

“Those of stone and wood. Their carved into fearful images that we pay homage to. Some people even sacrifice the first of their newborn lambs. Those are mainly the farmers who have flocks to do that with. The ones in my village are inside homes. It’s considered bad luck to leave them outside, save the images carved on the doorposts. But I don’t believe they have any power. My mother always taught me they didn’t, and she never allowed any of those idols in our house or on our farm. I know now that she knew of the one true God, but she never told me of Him or of His son Jesiah. I don’t know why, but she didn’t.”

“So you really believe in God,” he said. “Well what about the great stonemaker? Is he fake?”

“Let me ask you this. What if the great stonemaker is actually your twisted image of God and you’ve been worshipping not just the false god of the heart of the earth, but the false god of the stonemaker, too? What if that’s what has been going on the whole time?” I countered.

Korvict’s eyes widened and he stared at me for a minute without saying anything. He slowly composed himself, and he began running his fingers through his wet beard, thinking.

“I never thought of that,” he admitted. “Maybe there is some truth to that story.”

“It’s not just some truth, Korvict. I believe it is all truth.”

“I’ll certainly think about that, Filynora. Thank you for that insight.”

“Why don’t you have your guards with you?” Gabrithon asked after a short silence.

“Because I snuck away with Filynora while they were distracted,” Korvict said, his eyes gleaming with mischief.

“They aren’t going to be happy with you,” the Centaur said with raised eyebrows.

“I don’t care. I have been stuck in those caves for too long and can go nowhere outside the mansion without guards. They can panic for a while if they want to. They deserve it.”

“You must trust me,” Gabrithon said slowly.

“Not really. But I trust her,” the king said, gesturing at me.

“I agree.”

There was silence again then a scramble at the tunnel and some guards came out. I stared at them, amused, and Korvict outright glared at them. Gabrithon just watched with detached interest as they ran over and began looking their king over. I reached over and pulled him out from their circle and put him behind me.

“Leave him alone. He’s fine,” I said calmly as axes were drawn threateningly.

“He is our king! He needs protecting!” one of them said.

“He was doing just fine without you.”

“But the Centaur!”

“Gabrithon won’t hurt him. Will you?”

“No,” Gabrithon replied. “That would upset you.”

“See? He’s fine. Now go away.”

“No!” that same guard said.

“Oh Filynora. I’m going back down. Stay up here as long as you like,” Korvict said sadly.

“May I ask the king something?” Gabrithon asked.

The Dwarf looked up. “Yes.”

“Do you have any rope and a large waterproof tarp?”

“Yes. Why?”

“I would like to make a Centaurian dwelling. It would help to keep me dry.”

“Certainly. I shall send a servant up with the items. Now I bid thee goodbye Gabrithon.”

“Goodbye.”

I watched angrily as he descended into the tunnel. How could he live like that?

 

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

I Am the Life: Chapter 13

I hurried to the tunnel, ignoring the Dwarves looking at me strangely. It had been eleven days since we had arrived and I was sick of being underground. I missed the sunlight, the weather, and knowing whether it was night or day. It was day, I discovered as I was nearly blinded when I burst from the entrance to the tunnel. When I had waited for my eyes to adjust, I found Gabrithon staring at me, looking surprised. Jaiden was beside him, tying up the horse. Several large rocks were around us and I snorted.

“You’re surrounded,” I said blandly.

“We are?” Gabrithon asked.

“Yes,” I said and pushed against one of the rocks. It unfolded to reveal Firbrawn.

“You are annoying,” he spat.

“I don’t care,” I said sweetly then turned back to Gabrithon. “I know you are going to say no to me, but I need you to give me your weapons. The king is coming and he will not take too kindly to you having them.”

Gabrithon looked at me. “If you know the answer, why even ask?” he asked flatly.

“Please, Gabrithon,” I begged. “They will never trust you otherwise!”

“They won’t trust me anyway,” the Centaur said, crossing his arms. “So why should I give them a chance to hurt me?”

I placed my hand on the hilt of my sword. “I might disarm you, but nobody is going to hurt you. I won’t let them,” I said fiercely.

He lowered his arms and studied me. “I’m not going down into those caves…But I will let you take my weapons. Honestly? If I were them, I’d be more afraid of you than me.”

He took off his belt with his sheathed sword attached and handed it to me. It was much heavier than my own sword and I was surprised, but I turned and set it down behind me. He handed me his bow and quiver of arrows, and I did the same thing. He stared at his weapons for a moment, a flash of fear filling his eyes, then looked away.

“So how has your stay in the Dwarf halls been?” he asked.

“It’s been nice,” I replied. “Korvict is most hospitable.”

“Why do you get to call him by such a personal name?” Firbrawn demanded.

“That’s his name. You usually call people by their names,” I said dryly.

“Not if they’re a king,” Firbrawn spat.

“He doesn’t seem to mind. Only you do.”

Firbrawn moved to grab me, but I leaped away, shooting behind Gabrithon, who reared with a squeal and slammed down in front of the Dwarf, shielding me with his body. The Dwarf drew an axe and I ducked under Gabrithon’s belly and spread my arms out protectively. It looked like no matter what we did, one of us would be in trouble. A spark of anger flared in Firbrawn’s eyes and he raised the axe. The other Dwarves did nothing to stop him as he began to swing it. I struggled to get my sword out of its sheath, but just before I was hit, another axe flashed in front of it and Valtrak was there, wrenching the axe out of his uncle’s hand. The king stood there behind him with six guards around him. He looked livid.

“Firbrawn! How dare you try to kill my guest!”

“She disrespects you, my king,” Firbrawn said, looking abashed at being caught.

“How has she disrespected me?” Korvict demanded.

“She calls you by your name!”

“That does not disrespect me. Nor does it offend me. Besides, it is my business whether or not I let somebody call me by my name. Do you think she would be calling me that if it bothered me? Don’t I have enough power to stop her?”

“No,” Gabrithon said under his breath. Valtrak and I both snickered.

The king looked briefly up at him then back at Firbrawn. “You are to go to the jail until I can think of something better for you to do.”

“Why not send him to the coal mine?” Valtrak asked coldly. “That’s where he planned to send me and Filynora if we didn’t meet his set quota of crystals.”

Korvict glanced at him. “That’s a good idea. How about I send you down there for the rest of Filynora’s stay here. Mayhap that will teach you some manners. And to mind your own business as well.”

“What?” Firbrawn exclaimed then his shoulders slumped. “Yes your majesty.”

“Good,” Korvict said then gestured two of the guards. They went and each grabbed an arm, leading him back into the tunnels.

“Are you alright, Filynora?” Valtrak asked, handing his uncle’s axe to one of the remaining guards.

“I’m fine,” I said, leaning back against the front of Gabrithon’s body; he put his hands on my shoulders.

“I cannot believe he took a swing at you!” Valtrak exclaimed.

“Neither can I,” said Jaiden, who had been quiet and, from the look on his pale face, too scared to move.

“Dwarves cannot be trusted,” Gabrithon growled.

“What about me? ” Valtrak said, raising his eyebrow.

Gabrithon stared at him thoughtfully. “Well, I suppose not every Dwarf is bad. But for now, it’s just you, stonehead, that isn’t completely untrustworthy.”

“Thank you, mule,” Valtrak said with a smile. “But the king is not bad either.”

“He brought guards.”

“Wouldn’t you if you were king?”

“If I were king, I would not be on this journey.”

There was a lull in the conversation as we thought of somebody else in Gabrithon’s place. That did not sit well with me. I rather liked Gabrithon. He was a good traveling companion and an even better friend. Korvict suddenly shifted and cleared his throat.

“So you are the Centaur prince. I did not know that she was referring to the youngest.”

“How did you know I am the youngest?” Gabrithon questioned.

“The older princes are all chestnut colored. You’ve got your mother’s golden coloring.”

Gabrithon stared at him incredulously. “How do you know that?

“Do you honestly think we don’t have spies watching you Centaurs? In fact, we have some spying on Cyrene now. They are from the city of Oidynhall. We have runners who come and tell us if anything important happens.”

My Centaurian friend looked angry. “It is not fair! We cannot spy on you at all! You would know immediately!”

The king chuckled. “That’s the whole point of living underground. Can you blame us when our war has raged for so long?”

Gabrithon hummed and the anger drained away. “I suppose I cannot blame you. If my father had his way, the entire Dwarven population would be decimated.”

“I know. What is your opinion?” Korvict asked, staring intently at Gabrithon’s face.

“I have learned that Dwarves are not all that bad. Some of them at least. As much as it would anger my father, I would have to say that you have just as much a right to live as we do. You’re an interesting race with a culture as rich as ours. Valtrak has told me of your way of life. I am intrigued by it. He has also told me of your religious beliefs. They are quite unique. That you worship the great stonemaker through the heart of the earth is, well, different.”

“And what do you worship?”

“Masculinity through the great stallion who created us. Though I have never really worshipped it. I’ve only gone through the motions.”

“You can’t settle on anything, can you?” I asked seriously.

“Not really. Though I am more drawn to your beliefs than my people’s beliefs.”

“So you believe we should live?” Korvict said before I could respond.

“Yes, your majesty,” Gabrithon said, sounding, to my surprise, completely respectful.

The Dwarf king looked surprised as well. “Well, my young prince, I will certainly keep this conversation in mind when I talk to the council tomorrow.”

“I hope you will join us. This means a lot to Fily. We need that final scroll. The story is too interesting to remain unfinished. Maybe it will even convince me that this God she speaks of is real. And this man in white, too.”

Valtrak nodded in agreement. “I do actually believe the story, but my faith is much weaker than hers. Perhaps that scroll will solidify it.”

“Why else are you doing this, Filynora?” Korvict asked.

“We need to get rid of the Dark Master, the Dark Ones, and all their minions. Humanity is under their yoke in fear and ignorance. We need to change that. Besides, they will soon move to the other races now that they know some are willing to rise up against them.”

The king nodded. “I see. Well this is more serious than I thought. I must assemble the council at once and share this new information with them. If you’ll excuse me.”

Korvict turned and rushed down the tunnel. The guards were surprised by his abrupt departure and quickly turned and followed him. I was left  with Gabrithon, Jaiden, and Valtrak. I sighed and rubbed my temples.

“I hope it helps,” I murmured.

Valtrak put his hand on my arm. “It’ll be alright. If you really believe in God and his sovereignty, do you really need to worry about anything?”

I smiled. “I suppose you’re right. Thank you. Now you and Jaiden had better get to the council room, or they will start without you. I shall get some food for me and Gabrithon then come up here to sit with him.”

They both bid my Centaurian friend and I goodbye then headed down the tunnel. I smiled and moved towards the entrance of the tunnel.

“I’ll go get the food. Will you be fine alone?”

“Give me my quiver and bow at least and I will be.”

I grabbed the requested objects, handing them to him, then turned and went down the tunnel to find a servant to get us food.

 

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