I loosed the arrow and grinned as the deer went down. Three others fell with mine, and the rest of the herd bolted. It was the third time we had hunted them down. We had several hunting parties out to gather food for the town plus the two hundred or so other people that had come with us from Shadowlyn. I was with Kelvin, Jaiden, Colton, and the other boys. We had been field dressing the deer and had several sacks full of meat. We were heading back the next day. We went and began to dress our latest kills. I finished first and watched the others as I bagged the meat, fighting back a wave of nausea. I was starting to feel sick, but I did not understand why. I smiled at Jaiden as he heaved a bag over his horse's back.
"Nice shot," I commented, and he beamed.
"Thanks," he said proudly.
"Try not to get cocky. That was your first takedown of the trip," I reminded him, and his face fell slightly.
"Yes, I know," he sighed. "But at least I got one!"
"And you did a good job with that, but you need to keep in mind that you are just a beginner when it comes to archery. Yes?"
He nodded. "Okay. Boy it is difficult for somebody to be proud around you!"
"Be proud of what you have, not something you think you have," I said quietly.
Jaiden nodded solemnly, and we began to set up camp. We were officially done hunting on this trip. The horses were loaded down with as much as we dared to have on them with room enough for us to ride. I only had a bridle on my Flame, and he was stronger than a normal horse so I had loaded him down more. We took the sacks off of the horses and hung the meat from trees to keep it overnight. I was winded by the time I was done which was not normal. As time passed, I started feeling more ill. I refused food at supper time. They grew concerned, I could see it in their faces, but they did not say one word. As Jaiden and Colton settled into their watch, the rest of us slipped into our bed rolls. I quickly fell asleep.
I did not sleep long.
I suddenly found myself turning over and vomiting. I heard a cry, but could not respond as I continued to purge everything in my stomach. I finished then I was hit with pain. It felt like my skin was burning. I screamed. Somebody caught me before I could hit the ground. I was lifted out of my bedroll and set near the fire, the heat making the pain much worse.
"Fily! What's wrong?!" Jaiden asked.
"H-hurts!" I exclaimed.
"Everything," I moaned.
"Something is wrong! I will take her back to town! Get my horse ready. I am not getting on that fire monster."
I lay there for an undetermined amount of time before I was finally picked up and placed on a horse. Jaiden got on behind me, his arms on either side of me as he grabbed the reins. The horse took off at a run with Jaiden spurring him on as fast as he could go. I lay there, numb to the world and time itself, but not to the agony coursing through me. I was dry heaving throughout the journey, and Jaiden kept murmuring that we were going to be there soon. I moaned softly, managing to open my eyes to see the lights of the town in front of us. There was a shout and movement, but Jaiden called out who we were. I whimpered as my stomach lurched again and I closed my eyes.
"What is going on?" a man asked after the horse was stopped.
"Something is wrong with Filynora. Get Aloron!"
Jaiden got off the horse, and I almost fell off without his arms supporting me. He caught me and lowered me to the ground. After another eternity of pain, I felt a cool hand pressing on my forehead. I moaned, forcing my eyes open again to see Aloron's kind face hovering above me.
"She just woke up and started vomiting and screaming. I got her here as fast as I could," Jaiden replied quickly.
Elthinor's face was suddenly beside Aloron's, his expression very worried. "Fily? Can you hear me?" I nodded slightly, trying to fight the agony coursing across my skin. "Is your skin on fire?"
"Yes," I croaked.
Horror flickered across his face. "Get Laetitia now and tell her about the skin fire!" he shouted. I felt my consciousness slipping away, and Elthinor grabbed my hand. "Filynora, do not go to sleep on me!"
"Hurts," I whimpered.
"Stay with me," he ordered and I began fighting to stay awake.
"What is wrong with me?" I asked.
"Nolan cut you." It was not a question, but I nodded anyway and his next words made my blood run cold. "His knife is poisoned. Where did he cut you?"
Hands shaking, I reached down and lifted my shirt up slightly to reveal the cut on my side. In the firelight I could see the cut properly for the first time in two days. It was blackened and oozing something that stained my shirt. I began dry heaving again, and Elthinor stroked my hair. Aloron picked me up and carried me hurriedly to Leah's house. I was set in the bed; a cool cloth was pressed against my forehead. I moaned, fighting off sleep as best I could. It was so hard because my body hurt so much. I knew sleep would make the pain disappear, but I was guessing it would also mean my death. Elthinor was squeezing my hand every few seconds. I squeezed back weakly to let him know I was still awake and alive.
I was falling unconscious when Laetitia suddenly rushed into the room carrying a bowl. I was pulled up to sit, leaning heavily against the wall behind me for support. I struggled to keep my eyes open as Laetitia leaped easily onto the bed and knelt on either side of my outstretched legs. She held the bowl to my lips, and I gagged at the smell alone. In the bowl was a thick green liquid that was bubbling and radiating heat. I turned my head away and shook it. Elthinor turned my face to him, and his eyes held such worry that I softened a little.
"It is going to taste and feel terrible in your mouth, but you must swallow it. All right?"
I winced, but nodded weakly. I closed my eyes and opened my mouth to allow her to pour it in my mouth; I was so weak I knew I could not hold the bowl. He was right. It was the worst-tasting thing that I had ever put in my mouth, and it was thick; it continued to bubble as I forced myself to swallow. It burned my throat on the way down, and I could trace its progress down to my stomach. I kept my mouth closed tightly after that, afraid I would throw it up. I looked at Elthinor, still fighting to stay awake.
"Good. Now keep it down, and there is a good chance that you will live."
"Elthinor?" Laetitia asked, sounding scared.
"The poison has been in her system longer than it was ever in mine. She should be dead by now. It is her Strangeling blood that has saved her this far. I would bet my own life on it. All we can do it wait."
"S-sleep…" I murmured, losing my battle.
"Yes. Sleep now. Rest. I shall pray until you wake up."
I relaxed my body, noticing as I drifted into sleep that the pain was going away…
"Jesiah?" I asked, blinking up at the clear blue sky peeking through the trees in the red, orange, and green leaves above me. I sat up and stood slowly, expecting to feel pain from my injury, but there was nothing but peace. "Am I dead?"
"Not yet," Jesiah laughed.
"Yet. That is such a comforting thought," I said, and I meant it. "My…father told me about Heaven. It sounds lovely. Are you really there?"
"He is everywhere, but yes, Heaven is considered his home by Human standards."
"That’s wonderful…Jesiah? He told me my mother is in Heaven. Is that true?"
"Yes," he replied. "She watches each step you take and is completely on your side. She still loves you dearly, Filynora."
"Tell her I miss her?" I asked, a little hesitant; I did not know how this worked.
"I will. You are doing a good job, child, but the enemy grows ever stronger. His anger is mounting and his efforts to capture you will increase tenfold. Trust in your friends and allow them to help you, male and female alike. Trust in the Father and trust in me. Be careful, Filynora, and watch yourself."
I smiled at him as the dream began melting away and then all I remembered was blackness.