The people of Greensage welcomed the Dwarves, though the stonemen were stared at constantly, especially the females. The Dwarves had tents with them, and they paired up, two to a tent. That added to the number of tents spread around Greensage, the ones from the rescued servants and the young people from Shadowlyn. I went into town and purchased one large tent and a small one with some of the remaining Elven coin that I had. I handed the large one to Elthinor, who looked at it then at me.
"What am I to do with this?"
"Pitch it. We are staying here for two weeks to rest and prepare for our trek to the Elven capital. You, Pinnathir, and Valtrak can sleep in it. I have this one for me. Gabrithon is on his own."
Elthinor raised his eyebrows. "Did you think we would have no objections to this?"
I looked at the Elf, the Satyr, and the Dwarf one after the other. "Do you have any objections?"
"I have none," Pinnathir said.
"I trust them both to not slit my throat while I sleep," Valtrak added.
"And you, Elthinor?" I asked.
"No. I was just wondering if you had considered it," he said, his face breaking into a smile.
We moved about a hundred feet away from the crowd and pitched the two tents; mine a little way away from the boys' for the sake of propriety. Gabrithon came over with his own contraption of four wooden poles and a tarp that was shiny, as if it were waterproofed. He set it up beside the larger tent, Valtrak helping him to dig the holes then fill them in again around the poles. The wooden shafts were slightly taller than Gabrithon, and he tied ropes around the cloth so it would hold tight to the poles. It was a Centaurian equivalent of a makeshift tent, we were told, and Gabrithon was pleased with it.
"Now I can sleep easier," he said happily.
We sat together for a while, resting our weary bodies and reveling in each others' company. We went to bed early and woke up the next morning when the sun had been up for hours, but we didn't care. It had been nice to sleep in. We went into town for a real breakfast, not jerky and bread. I knocked on the door at Jaiden's house; Leah opened the door. She gave us a huge smile.
"I have breakfast prepared for you all," she said.
We went into Jaiden's room to find him reclined on his bed. He sat up and smiled, swinging his legs off and placing his bare feet on the floor.
"Greetings. I trust you slept well?"
"Well and long," Pinnathir said gleefully, going to the corner and squatting down, holding his plate in one hand and eating with the other.
I opened the window for Gabrithon then sat on the end of Jaiden's bed. Elthinor sat in the back near the corner next to Pinnathir. Valtrak moved to lean against the wall on one side of the window. Silence reigned as we ate, Jaiden just sitting there watching us. When our plates, which had held rice, fresh bread, and fresh rabbit meat, were empty, I stacked them and took them into Leah, then returned, sitting where I had been before.
"Your mother makes excellent rabbit," I said to break the silence that had descended once again.
Jaiden smiled. "I know. She enjoys eating meat, so she has figured out how to cook it well."
"What were you thinking about, Human?" Valtrak asked, crossing his arms.
"The scrolls. What do you think it was like before sin? You know, before they ate of the fruit."
I answered without thinking. "It was peaceful, complete, and innocent. I saw wolves and lions eating grass, so I'm guessing no creature ate meat. The garden they were in was paradise. Every kind of fruit was at their disposal, save the tree that led to our downfall. No animal fought, no blood was spilt, and I don't believe there was any death. Death came after the fall. 'If you eat of it, you shall surely die.' That's what Jesiah said to them. Death is a consequence of our sin, not a natural process, which answers some questions that I had before this all started."
"I forgot that you see visions when we read the scrolls," Elthinor said after a moment or two.
"You see visions?" Gabrithon asked.
"Yes," the Elf replied. "She told me once, long ago when we had just started from Ellavendir. I just now recalled it. It seems like a lifetime has passed since then, doesn't it Fily?"
"Indeed," I said, smiling wistfully. "Only Aswangs were after us then, and even then, they were mainly after me."
"Ah, if it were only that simple now," he sighed. "Now we have Vampires, Naga, and the Dark Ones themselves coming to capture or kill us all."
My voice turned icy as I added, "And my traitorous brother."
"Yes, Nolan, too, and he's the worst of all. Not the most dangerous, but the worst."
"Pardon me, Gabrithon. Is my daughter in there?" a new voice said.
I turned to see my father's face appear besides Gabrithon's, who leaned over to make room for him. His designs seemed to shimmer a little bit more when he saw me.
"Daughter! You are back, but you didn't even come to see me!" he said playfully and, if I wasn't hearing things, a little bit cautiously.
"Father," I greeted with a hesitant smile. "We just finished breakfast."
"Very good," he said. "If you're not busy, I would like to show you the progress I have made training the young ones and the former slaves." To Gabrithon he said, "I kept most of the exercises, and I added a few of my own. They've made terrific progress, though they aren't ready for battle just yet."
I glanced at my friends, and they all looked eager, so I nodded. The next thing I knew, we were going across the town to a large, flat field. Some of the males of every race, though there were more humans at this point, were using makeshift swords to fight. Others were shooting arrows at targets. More were throwing spears at different targets. Some were very accurate, some were not. They were in no way ready for a fight. I walked over to one boy and tried to correct his grip. He jerked the bow out of my hands.
"Go away, girl! Go clean or something. Leave the fighting to the men."
My friends were silent. My lips were pressed together as I walked back to my tent, retrieved my bow and quiver, and walked back to the makeshift archery range. Elthinor pulled the boy aside, and I stood ten paces further back than he had been. My father watched me do this, but stayed my hand as I was reaching for an arrow.
"Boys!" he called loudly, and all movement stopped. He let all of them gather around him before he continued. "I would like you to watch my daughter. She will show you what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. Filynora."
Looking at the boy who had offended me, I placed the arrow against the string, pulled it taut, then looked briefly at the target and fired. It was a perfect shot. I turned my eyes to the boy. He was slack-jawed, and he rotated his head slowly towards me.
"When I correct you, boy, you had better listen. I'm much more skilled than you."
"I-I didn't know you were the Filynora," he said in a small voice then started to rationalize. “I mean, I’ve never seen you before. Nobody told me what you looked like. I-I’m sorry…”
"The Filynora?" I asked.
"Gabrithon was very boastful about your skills," my father said. "He put you at one of the highest levels of archery achievement possible. He said that you were also a skilled swordsman. I guess what I taught you as a child stuck despite the memory loss."
I smiled at him. "I guess so."
I went over to the boy and brought him over to his previous position. He placed his hand on the bow, and I corrected him. I went down the line, making corrections where needed, then took a walk with my father. We stopped on a small hill, and I sat down. He followed suit. We sat there, staring across the rippling grass.
"Father?" I asked softly.
"What are the Dark Ones?"
He turned to look and me, and I met his eyes. "Fallen angels."
"What are angels?"
"Servants of God Most High," he replied.
"How did some of these angels fall?"
"It is said that pride took root in Lucifer, a heavenly being, whose name means 'light bringer' or 'morning star.' He grew proud of his own beauty, of his abilities. When he fell, it is said that he took a third of the angelic host with him. That's where demons come from, with Lucifer, also known as Satan, at their head."
"So the Dark Ones are demons?"
"Demons who have somehow acquired physical bodies."
"Were those the creatures popping out of the fruit in the beginning?"
He looked confused, so I filled him in that I had visions when the scrolls were read. He looked curious but continued the conversation.
"Yes, from what it sounds like, they were those creatures, but there are not enough of them in existence to be all of the third who fell."
"So where are the rest?" I asked.
"They are around us. They blind the minds of unbelievers and fight against those who do believe. A spiritual battle is raging around us all the time. I would say all are not aware of this battle, save me because of my knowledge. And now you. Prepare yourself for battle. Live every day fighting for truth, for God and Jesiah. Read the scrolls. Commit what they say to heart. It is the truth. I don't know the religious status of all the races, but I know they are all wrong."
I immediately rattled off what I knew. "Satyrs worship a goddess of fertility and love. Dwarves worship a stonemaker through a giant jewel called the heart of the earth. Elves worship a great tree who gave them life and who shapes their lives. Centaurs worship a god in the form of a stallion, the epitome of masculinity. And Humans? Humans worship stone and wood carvings, terrifying images that are dark and scary."
"They know demons exist, though they don’t know that is what they’re called, and they are choosing to worship them as gods. Most likely out of fear," my father said, his face downcast.
"What can we do?" I asked desperately.
"Speak the truth. Hope they listen and repent of their sins, turning to Jesiah, trusting in him alone." Father was silent for a moment. "I hope you find out the cost of this. We need that last scroll. I wish I had heard the end of the story. Or maybe I did, and I cannot remember it."
I placed my hand on his arm. "Even though you don't know, you are still full of knowledge and wisdom. Thank you for explaining this to me."
He smiled. "You are most welcome, child of mine."
We sat for a little while longer before a thought occurred to me. "I haven't heard from Jesiah in a while. I wonder why."
"Heard from Jesiah?" he asked.
"Yes. He comes to me in dreams, explaining events or telling me where to go."
Father's eyes were wide. "Oh, to be as blessed as you!" he exclaimed. "I have desired to see him, to hear his voice since I could understand what was offered. Now I find out my daughter has seen him, talked to him! You must explain every dream, every word. Please, Filynora, all you can remember."
I remembered everything from those encounters, as well as the visions from the scrolls. With a smile, I began telling him all I knew.