I had never seen Aloron run so fast. He sprinted for us as soon as he saw his grandson and gingerly helped Elthinor off the horse. He immediately began looking him over and shaking his head with a deep frown. He was not pleased by Elthinor's physical state, and he let us know. Eretren came up only to be given the instructions to take Elthinor to the tents, but I stopped him before he could obey.
"Gabrithon, Pinnathir," I called and they slowly approached.
"Yes Fily?" Pinnathir asked hoarsely.
"Go with this kind Elf. He shall take you and help treat you. I shall have food prepared for all of you."
They nodded and Eretren stared at them openly for a moment before turning and walking away, his arm around Elthinor's shoulders. Pinnathir and Gabrithon stared at me for a moment then slowly followed after I gave them a reassuring smile. I watched them go and turned at a touch to my shoulder. It was Laetitia. She smiled at me.
"He led you straight to them, did he not?"
"The Elf? Yes. He seemed to know the castle quite well."
"Yes, well, he had been there for about thirteen years. Poor Elyosius."
I froze. "What did you just say?"
"He had been there for thirteen years."
"No after that." Something in my tone must have tipped her off that I was surprised because she frowned slightly.
"Poor Elyosius?" she asked.
"Are you sure that is his name?"
I felt a little numb. "Where is he?"
"Fily? What is the matter?"
"I need to talk to him."
Laetitia stared at me intently for a moment then grabbed my wrist and led me through the menagerie of servants. Her head moved from side to side as she scanned everybody there, and she tapped one female Elf on the shoulder to ask a question. I did not pay attention to what they said, but she began leading me back through the crowd into the town. I was taken to the tents, and she cleared her throat.
"Elyosius? Are you in there? Filynora wishes to speak with you."
The Elf came out, and for the first time, I really looked at him. On one cheek in deep red he had a rose with a dark purple stem and leaves. On the other he had a purple horse with red eyes, mane, and tail. Vines of the two colors were curling around each other and were wrapped around his eyes and bloomed across his forehead. His eyes were mostly purple with red rims and his hair was several colors of deep purple with red streaks. He smiled when he saw me, and Laetitia dropped my hand. I slowly approached him, not really sure what to do or feel. So I chose suspicion.
"Your name is Elyosius?"
"Yes," he said, his voice serious as he scanned my face.
"Are you my father?"
"Yes," he replied again in the same tone of voice.
"What was my mother's name then?"
"Estelle." He paused, and sorrow entered his eyes. "Was?"
"She's dead. Tikujar and Rattuin killed her last summer."
Tears filled his eyes, so he looked away. "Estelle," he sighed, pain evident in his features. He took several deep breaths then wrapped an arm around me. "Walk with me?"
"I keep the sword," I said pointedly, and he laughed softly.
We walked beyond the outskirts of town and into the surrounding fields. I sat down on a small hill, but he continued to stand. We were silent. I did not know about him but I had no idea what to say. How do you talk to somebody who you do not remember?
"You have grown my little filly," he finally said, lowering himself to sit.
I shrugged. "What did you expect?"
"Honestly? I never expected to see you again."
"Oh. Well, I never thought I would get to meet you. I do not remember you."
"That rock must have hit you pretty hard, but you still managed to get home."
I nodded, though I still did not remember anything. "I miss mother."
"I missed you both."
We sat there awkwardly for a few minutes. Then he sighed and relaxed.
"We should not be like this. It has been years, yes, but you are my daughter and I am your father."
"I do not know what to do around a father," I replied.
"And I have been betrayed by my son. I do not think either of us trusts each other."
"If we deserve each other's trust, we shall earn it."
He smiled and looked at me. "Agreed." He paused. "Can we talk about your mother?"
"There is nothing to talk about. She is gone."
I frowned and glanced at him. "How is she not gone? She is dead. That's it."
"No it is not. She believed in Jesiah's power to save her from her sins. She is still alive, just not here."
"I know who Jesiah is," I interrupted. "What I don't know is how she is still alive. Where is this place and can I get there?"
"Oh. If you believe in Jesiah, trust him with all your being that he can save you from your sins, and repent from them, then yes, you shall be with her again. Just not until you die. It is not a place your physical body can enter. Your spirit can though. It is called 'Heaven', and it is supposed to be breathtakingly beautiful. You spend all eternity with your Creator and your Savior, too, though not just in Heaven. Eventually it will come down here, and all there will live and learn forever, expanding their knowledge of everything, but especially of their Creator and Savior, who are both infinitely fascinating."
"So everybody goes to this Heaven when they die?"
His face darkened. "No. Not everybody. There is an alternative place."
"It is not as good, is it?"
"It is the exact opposite. You are forever separated from God and Jesiah. You get what you rightly deserve, burning in torment all alone for the rest of eternity with God's wrath being poured out on you forever and ever. It was the place made, not for our races, but for the devil and his angels, though after sin all races go there. It is where all paths lead to if you do not repent and trust in Jesiah. It is called 'Hell', and it is a place nobody wants to go to, though many choose it."
"Choose? Why would anybody choose to be in such a horrible place?" I asked, appalled.
"There is a great choice put in front of every member of all five races. The choice is whether or not to choose Jesiah and spiritual life, or to reject him and, ultimately, salvation, leading to spiritual death. Now, I do not know entirely how it works, but it is said that even if the Message is not given to them, the Message that Jesiah saves, they know by the Creator's handiwork, which is to say, everything, like the plants and the animals and the sky and the stars and the sun and the moon, well you get the idea. Anyway, they know by His handiwork that He is real. I do not know how it works if they do not get the Message, but it is not my place to know. All I know is that we must spread the news that Jesiah saves to as many as possible to save them from Hell or at least give them knowledge of the choice."
"I still do not see why anybody would choose to reject Jesiah," I replied.
"Stubbornness. Not knowing what the outcome is. Not caring about the outcome even if they know what it is. Not wanting to be held accountable for their actions while they are in this world."
"At the end of your life you are to stand before the throne of God and give an account of everything you have done in your life, good and bad. Sin is no laughing matter, especially because of who it is against," he said with a nod.
"What do you mean? And what did you mean about us deserving Hell?"
"Well, let's use Elthinor in the example. He slapped you, which I do not approve of, but I digress. You are good friends so the consequences were very little, correct?"
"Yes," I said slowly, unsure of where this was going.
"Say he slapped his father. The consequences would be more severe, yes?" I nodded, and he continued. "Now say he slapped a royal guard. More severe?" I nodded again. "Now, imagine he slapped the king of the Elves. What would the penalty be?"
"At best? He would be thrown in the dungeon," I replied, a little surprised at the thought.
"Now, sinning is worse than that. You are pretty much slapping God, the Creator of everything, including you, in the face every time you lie, even a little one. Every time you use his name in vain, another slap. Every time you dishonor your parents, another slap. Every time you lust after another person, another slap. Every time you put something before God, another slap. Every time you hate, which Jesiah said was basically murder in your heart, another slap. I could go through all the Commandments, but you get the point?"
"Yes," I said, feeling chilled. I had done plenty of things to slap God in the face. I suddenly did not feel like a good person anymore, and I mentioned that.
He smiled, though it was sad. "Nobody is a good person. We have all sinned against God. Now before you start comparing yourself to other people, compare yourself to the Perfect One. God is sinless. So is Jesiah. Compared to them, you fall immensely short of the goal. Even the best person in the world is horrible compared to the perfection that is our Creator."
I sat there in silence, disturbed by the thoughts. If that was true, then every single person needed a Savior. I wondered about the accountability, too. Wouldn't that mean we were all in trouble? But then he said that Jesiah was not just a Savior, but the Savior. Was there something that qualified him to be our Savior other than his being the Son of God? I was curious so I asked. Elyosius frowned.
"There is something else. A great sacrifice he made, but I am not sure what it is. We never got that far in the story before they were all killed. Either that or I cannot remember what the rest of the story is."
"Who are 'they?'" I asked curiously.
"Nomads. I am the last one, but I gave up that lifestyle when I met your mother. They were a mismatched group of people from every race that kept the stories of Jesiah alive. I was a child when they were attacked by the Dark Ones' minions. I was hidden by my mother and saved because of her actions. They were destroyed, but I continued to go around and tell of Jesiah's saving grace and the story of God as far as I knew. Then I met Estelle. We got married and had you and Nolan. I was captured when you were three and was tortured then enslaved for thirteen years." He reached over and touched my shoulder. "Thank you for saving us. You did not come in to do that, yet you did."
I shrugged. "I could not just leave you all there!" I exclaimed. "Being a slave is no life."
"You are a very kind soul, daughter of mine. I do believe trust will not be a problem for long."
"I hope not. I wish I could remember you."
"It is all right, Filynora. I do not mind. You have changed quite a bit since I saw you last. I have to get to know you as much as you have to get to know me. We are even, yes?"
I smiled. "Yes."
I turned to see Laetitia standing there, a smile spread across her face. I arched my eyebrows, and she laughed.
"That was sweet," she explained, her eyes sparkling.
"What do you want?" I asked, rolling my eyes at her words.
"The boys are here. They traveled all night, and they have maybe a hundred people with them."
I stood. "Come, Ely…Father. I need to see Kelvin and Colton. We need to go hunting. There are so many new people, and I know there is not nearly enough food."
Elyosius smiled and stood. I hoped he was right about the trust because he seemed like an interesting individual. And he knew so much about God. I would have to let him read the scrolls. I think he would like that.