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, so 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. 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 after a while."
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, sniffling. "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.
"Weird, isn't it? 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.
"Oh," Jaiden said. "Now what?"
"We should search for survivors," Valtrak said. "The battle out here was as fierce as ours."
We agreed. We went in different directions, searching for 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, but 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. 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 will 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. 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.
"We'll see him again."
"I know. I know."