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.
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.