The days that we were stationary flew by and before we knew it, autumn was here. I wondered whether or not it was a good idea to leave and try and get the Centaurs to join us. Maybe we should wait until spring? I was unsure so I went to talk to Gabrithon. He was busy training the Humans, who were doing much better than before. I waited until he'd stopped and handed the five boys over to Elthinor for sword training before I approached him. He smiled.
"Hello Fily. Come to watch?"
"No, I have a question for you."
"All right. What is it?"
"When should we go to the Centaurs? Should we leave in a few days, or should we wait until spring?"
Gabrithon thought about that for a moment. "I believe we should leave in the spring. If we left in a few days, we would get there when they are going through preparations for winter. Father wouldn't be too pleased to be distracted, let alone be distracted by our, um, odd little group."
"I suppose that's a good reason," I said, feeling a little disappointed.
"Oh, Fily, I don't even know if you'll get them to come with us. My father is not so easily persuaded, especially by a girl."
"They have to. We need every race to fight against the Dark Master."
Gabrithon shook his head, but he didn't bother arguing with me anymore. We watched the boys train with Elthinor. They really are getting good, I thought as one of them held his ground against Elthinor. He did lose more quickly than was really acceptable, but he had done well.
"Filynora! Come look at the archers!" my father shouted.
I bid my friends goodbye then walked over to Elyosius and headed over to the range. As far as I could tell, they were all gripping the bow properly. They each fired arrows at the targets, and they were getting good, just like the swordsmen. I hummed.
"They are learning swordplay, right father?"
"Yes. But I'm not sure where we will find them swords when the time comes."
"If the Satyrs come, we can have them forge swords," I suggested.
"Where would we get the metal?"
"I don't know," I sighed. "Maybe we're just in trouble."
"Don't worry, Filynora. God will provide if this war is in His will."
"I hope so."
I smiled. It was difficult for me to see a way out of this, but my father was right. I had to have faith. God hadn't let me down yet, so what other reaction was appropriate? I watched the archers for a while, reminded of the time that I had spent honing my own skills as a child. They were good memories. I remembered when I had first hit the makeshift target that I had set up. I had danced with Ember in joy then dragged Mother outside to see. I smiled at the memories then frowned when a thought bubbled up.
"Father, what would Mother think of this?"
Elyosius sighed and placed a hand on my shoulder. "I believe she would be shocked by all of this. She never did comprehend just how dark the creatures after me were."
"And are," I said. "Except now they're after me."
"That doesn't mean they don't want to kill me anymore. I am a truth keeper, remember? I am the last one that has the stories of old, stories of the truth."
I thought about it a second before nodding. "I didn't think of that."
We became quiet again, watching the boys retrieve their arrows. After they had started shooting again, I turned and bid my father goodbye then walked over to see how my friends were faring. They were busy, each fighting one boy. No boy would fight me, so I just watched until Elthinor noticed me.
"Fily?" he asked, easily beating the boy back then sheathing his sword and helping him back up.
"Hm?" I asked.
"You look bored. Care to fight a boy? There are plenty of them."
"They wouldn't fight as well as they could," I said. "Not with a girl up against them."
"Oh. I guess you're right," he said, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Why don't you go find Melanari?" Gabrithon asked after triumphing over the boy he was fighting.
"Well it's something to do," I said with a shrug then headed into the growing town.
I was wandering over to the Elven tents when a whistle stopped me. I turned to see Tynan staring at me, a grin on his face. Great, just what I wanted. I started walking away, but I hadn't taken more than five steps when somebody grabbed my arm and jerked me backward. I hit the ground and gasped at the impact. I heard Tynan laughing as he twisted my arm behind my back.
"What's the matter, Fily?" he asked tauntingly.
"Get off!" I growled, trying to free myself. I gasped as he jerked my arm hard and pain began radiating from my shoulder.
"No. What are you going to do about it? You're pet isn't here, and neither are your friends." He paused and pushed harder. "You're just pathetic without a body guard. Aren't you, girlie?"
Anger made my face break out with my designs. Tynan pressed his foot on my back and began pushing down. I could see the feet of the audience that was gathering. Another wave of pain had me crying out. That was it. I lost my temper and that Strangeling strength of mine returned. I stood, causing Tynan to fly back, then twisted and freed my arm. He looked shocked. I saw red, wanting to cause pain, and the next thing I knew, I had wrenched Tynan's shoulder out of joint. He took a swing at me with his other arm, and I jerked him forward, getting pleasure when he landed hard on his dislocated shoulder wrong. He rolled onto his back and, still feeling vindictive, I stepped hard on his groin.
"If you ever pick on me again," I began, pulling out my knife. "I will personally stick this somewhere unpleasant, understand?" Tynan was moaning, but he nodded, looking frightened. I turned and looked at Ackley and the other Paxtonvalians. "That goes for all of you, got it?"
I removed my foot from Tynan then walked away, sheathing my knife. Pushing past the crowd, I went off to search for Melanari.
That night I was sitting beside a fire by myself when there was a rush of movement in the dark. I stood and unsheathed my sword. It was a false alarm. All of my friends, plus Aloron and my father, came bursting into the firelight. I put my sword back and was about to say hello when Elthinor grabbed me and began looking me over. I let him, a little confused.
"Are you all right?" he asked worriedly.
"I'm fine. Why?"
"It's all over town," Valtrak said.
"What is?" I asked.
"That you and that bully of yours had a fight," Gabrithon said, his blue eyes piercing.
"Oh. My shoulder is a little sore, but other than that, I'm good."
"Well that's good," Aloron said, though there was something off in his voice.
"Aloron?" I queried.
"Fighting is not the answer," he replied.
"We fight those dark creatures all the time."
"Yes but this is a different kind of fighting. Remember what your father said. 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' I believe that is a very good idea. Fighting with that boy was not the answer to your problem."
"But I sincerely think he won't attack me again," I argued.
"Attack you?" Aloron asked, his demeanor changing. "So it was self-defense?"
"Yes! I didn't just walk up to him and throw a punch! He hurt me first!"
"I'd say that's a little different," Elyosius said. "We can't just expect her to be humiliated."
"I agree," Aloron said with a nod. "But I don't want you to fight anymore, Filynora. Not if you can help it. The enemy is one thing, but not those on our side."
"But Tynan is my enemy."
My father cleared his throat. "Jesiah once said 'Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.' Now he didn't mean the fallen angels, but those who are of the five races. I know it is a difficult thing to do, but you must try." He paused. "I want to say 'Look at all God did for us,' but I can't remember why I should say that."
"That's an odd thing to say," Aloron said.
"The pinnacle of the stories, the culmination of everything, of Jesiah himself, is the story I either cannot remember or did not hear before the truth keepers were destroyed. I wish…" he trailed off and sighed. "It is no use wishing. I simply do not know. That is why I hope we get the last scroll. Maybe that will help me remember. If not, it will be good to hear how the story ends up."
"I agree. I have waited most of my life to find out how this story unfolds. It would be nice to have an end to it before I end," Aloron said wistfully.
Aloron and Elyosius talked together as we all lowered ourselves around the fire. Jaiden hurried away, bringing four rabbits back for us, already skinned and gutted, and we cooked them one by one over the fire. We each ate heartily and just as we had finished, Ember appeared. He immediately lay beside me, chomping on the bones. He had been borrowed by Jaiden to go hunting with him that day. I didn't know where he had been in the time that Jaiden had been back, but it was probably with the other Elementals. They weren't used to so many people passing by, and it made them nervous. I pet my beloved Ember and his tail began wagging, pausing in his gnawing long enough to lick my hand once.
"Ember," my father suddenly said. "Do you remember me boy? You were just a pup when I last saw you."
Ember looked up at his name, looked detachedly at my father, then went back to his bone. My father got up and walked around to kneel beside Ember. Ember growled possessively and pulled his bone closer to his body. My father suddenly stuck his hand down in front of Ember's nose as I cried out for him not to. I watched helplessly as Ember snapped at him, his teeth sinking into flesh and his markings starting to glow slightly as he heated up.
"Ember! Release!" I shouted, grabbing him around the neck; he cooled immediately and released the hand.
My father was remarkably calm. "I say he remembers me," he chuckled, his voice holding pain. "He would always nip at me when he was a pup. He never liked me."
Aloron led Elyosius to sit then hurried away into the night. He came back with a bag and started pulling out medical supplies. First, he washed the wounds, then spread Raysiam over the teeth marks. My father grimaced.
"Ouch," he said weakly.
"Well that’s what you get for sticking your hand in front of a Kindle Wolf with a bone," Aloron scolded, wrapping bandages around the injured hand.
"He never does that," I said, then, to prove my point, took the bone from Ember, who had started chewing on it again.
"You could take anything from him and he wouldn't do that," Elthinor pointed out.
I frowned. "Still, he doesn't do things like that." I paused then stood and walked over to my father, calling Ember.
"Filynora, it most assuredly is all right," my father said, looking wary.
"Sit," I ordered and my pet obeyed.
I took my father's good hand and slowly moved it towards Ember, who began growling. I pulled it back and he stopped. I did it again, same results. Elthinor was up and beside Ember.
"He didn't do that for me," Elthinor said, confused.
"I told you, he doesn't do that kind of thing. He usually doesn’t bite unless I tell him to or I'm in danger," I said.
"He never liked me," Elyosius said, pulling his hand from mine. "Like I said, he would always nip at me when he was a pup. He liked your mother and loved you, but he hated me."
"Ember, he is my father," I explained, staring into my Kindle Wolf's eyes. "You cannot bite him. Or growl at him, for that matter. You don't have to like him, but please tolerate him."
I paused and he just stared at me then snorted and looked at Elyosius. I could feel everybody watching us as I took my father's hand and led it to Ember. He didn't growl. I bumped the hand up against his nose. He sniffed it, considering, then licked it once and went back to his bone. Silence reigned. I looked around and saw that a couple of the audience I had was slack jawed, including my father.
"How in the world did you do that?" he asked incredulously.
"Elementals just listen to her," Elthinor said then looked at our friends. "Remember what happened with the Mngwa?"
"What is the Mngwa?" Aloron asked.
My father answered him. "One of the Dark Ones. A tiger as big as a horse. He can control animals and Elementals with his mind."
"Could," I said. "He's quite dead now."
"You killed him?" he asked in shock.
"My Elementals helped me."
"But the Elementals would listen to the Mngwa!"
"That's the funny thing," Valtrak said slowly. "When she ordered them to stop, they stopped. Their eyes were still red, but they listened to her, not the beast."
"Interesting," Aloron said and everybody stared at me.
"We should be getting to bed soon," I said, looking at my Ember.
Aloron and Elyosius bid us goodnight while the rest of us spread out our bedrolls. I pretended to go to sleep right away, Ember at my side, and listened to my friends whisper about how interesting I was. I would have used the word freak, I thought as I began drifting off to sleep, or Strangeling. After that, I was asleep.