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.
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Original Ending of I Am the Way

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

 

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

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

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

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

“Tell her to get up!”

“She’s not getting up.”

“She has to! We have to go home!”

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

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

Chapter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.

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

“I know.”

“She said she knew you.”

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

“She called you Jesiah.”

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

“Why did she have to die?”

“The same reason you all must die.”

“And what reason is that?”

“You shall learn that later, child.”

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

“Is she alright?”

“She will be.”

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

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

“No.”

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

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

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

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

            He just smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Original Sketch of Valtrak

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

“You look like a boy.”

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

“Thank you for saving me,” I muttered.

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

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

“Filynora!”

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

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

“Oh, is that your husband?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You-You hit me!” he gasped. “Why?”

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

“How did I insult you?!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Valtrak,” the Dwarf supplied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you doing here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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?”

“No.”

“Do you wish to sleep?”

“No.”

“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.

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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.

“Ow.”

“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?”

“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 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.

 

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I Am the Life: Chapter 44

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

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

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

“You’re pregnant,” he finally said.

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

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

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

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

“When?”

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

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

“Throwing up?”

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

“My deepest condolences.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” Valtrak asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” I said bitterly.

Everybody stopped celebrating.

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

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

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

I asked my questions again, rephrasing a little.

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

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

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

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

“Sorry, Fily,” he said apologetically.

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

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

“Sounds good. Right Fily?”

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

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

“I love you, too,” I replied happily.

 

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I Am the Life: Chapter 43

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

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

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

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

“Filynora?”

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

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

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

“We’ve been busy,” Elthinor defended.

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

“When are you getting married?” Pinnathir asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh. Right.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You look shocked.”

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

Lolaiken nodded. “It is. Why?”

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

“Filynora!”

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

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

“Cabin?” I asked, my stomach tightening.

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

“Oh. That’s…nice,” I said nervously.

He looked at me. “Are you alright?”

“Fine, fine. I’m fine.”

“You sound frightened.”

“I am not!”

“Then why are you being so defensive?”

“I just…shut up!”

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

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

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

“Still. I’m uncomfortable with it.”

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

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

“Hello, Valtrak.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes?” He was being incredibly patient.

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

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

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

 

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