The next part of our journey consisted of a five-day travel that headed, once again, toward Nextar. We were fortunate in the sense that we ran into no trouble along the way. We only had to focus on the fact that we were going to attempt to kill a demon. All I hoped for was that we live past that and wouldn’t have something else come up that would cause a detour that will end up being weeks long again. Especially since we barely made it through the last detour we took.
We were about two days away from Nextar when we decided to stop for the night. Arion was on watch, but the rest of us had trouble sleeping because we didn’t know if we had made it into the demon’s boundaries yet. By the time Artemis was taking watch, I only had about an hour of sleep, and that sleeping time wasn’t connected at all. By the time I took watch, I only slept for a little over three hours.
When I took watch, I was on the alert searching for the demon. It was only thirty minutes after my watch when I felt something coming toward us. I listened and felt intensely for it. I could tell it was the demon after a minute. That time, instead of heading more slowly towards us so it could play with us, it was charging in fast.
“Everyone up,” I announced. “We have a visitor coming.”
Artemis and Shade woke up immediately. Arion was having trouble sleeping, so he was already up. I found this rather fortunate because it was always a pain to wake him up in the middle of a crisis.
Everyone stood around as we waited for it to come. It was three minutes away.
“Should we do the same tactics as before?” Artemis questioned.
Arion shook his head and answered, “We don’t know if demons can learn to adapt like most creatures can. It might be able to formulate a plan to counteract our last method.”
I thought about this quickly and found that it made sense. So I formulated a new plan.
“We’ll team up,” I told them. “Artemis and Shade go a bit west while Arion and I head a bit the other direction. Stay close, but not too close. The demon will most likely head for us. I’ll try to kill it fast, but, if we need help, then you come in. Understood?”
There were some nods and yeses as Shade and Artemis slightly separated from Arion and me.
As I thought about the situation, I asked Arion, “Do you think the campfire will give you three enough light to see from?” We had risked having a fire going all night for in case we were going to have to mess with the demon.
“From some angles,” Arion answered. “Better than nothing.”
I nodded in response, finding that there wasn’t much else I could do for that.
I prepared myself for the battle by shoving my emotions in the corner and getting my weapons ready. I held my sword in my left hand and the tentrite knife in the other. I checked myself: heartbeat regular and breathing normal.
It wasn’t long before the demon came charging into the small clearing we had. The demon was at its smaller size that could fit in the forest, but it was still rather massive compared to me. The first thing the demon did was slow down as if to analyze the situation. It actually came to a stop and turned its head in all directions, as if deciding what to do.
Then the demon charged forward in Shade and Artemis’s direction. I quickly sheathed my weapons and pulled out my bow and some arrows. But by that time, the demon was attacking Artemis and Shade. Artemis was using her vampire speed to dodge the creature’s claws. She was struggling to keep up though. Shade was running around and at times biting the demon to very little effect other than annoying it.
I shot some arrows at the demon. That distracted it long enough in order for Artemis and Shade to back out of the way.
The demon then backed off and studied us again. I realized that it was taking on a different fighting style than last time. It wasn’t allowing itself to get angry or lose focus on the big picture like it did last time. Arion was right by saying that the demon could learn. I could tell the demon wasn’t going to get close to me, the one who caused it the most pain and irritation.
If both of us were in a more cramped environment, then I could get near it in order to kill it, but this forest might as well be a prairie it felt so open.
The whole group managed to group back together.
“Any plans?” Artemis asked. I shot another arrow the beast’s way, but the beast ended up dodging it. The situation was turning out to be very complicated.
The demon then charged toward us. I pulled out my tentrite knife and readied it. Once it was in throwing distance, I threw the knife at it, but it jumped so quickly the knife soared right underneath it.
The demon was then going to land on top of us, so we scurried out of the way right before it landed. Arion plunged his sword into its side. The demon reacted by trying to flatten Arion into a tree. He dropped down quickly though and managed to avoid being crushed. His sword was still stuck in the demon though.
During those events, I managed to run back and grab my tentrite knife again. My breathing was starting to get a bit hard, so I willed it to become more regular again.
Artemis ran at the demon from the side, but the demon saw her coming and scurried in a diagonal path away from everyone, including me. It then stopped and turned back around, once again studying us.
I wasn’t sure how long that game of ours continued with it attacking and us struggling to all make it out alive, but eventually the demon ran off after giving the rest of us a whole bunch of scrapes and bruises. On the bright side, Arion’s sword eventually fell out, which helped slightly.
“It’s about an hour until sun up,” Arion announced as he massaged his shoulder that ended up with a few massive bruises. “Apparently the demon isn’t going to risk being caught in sunlight again.”
“Well, you were right about adapting,” Artemis replied. “I can’t seem to think of a way to defeat that thing.”
“Unless we can sneak up on it in the daytime, I have a hard time seeing how this is going to work,” I told them.
Shade whimpered in agreement.
During this time, I was examining the demon, feeling what it was doing. It was heading southwest, but it was heading more westward than it was heading towards the south. I lost track of it once it got about a mile away. I informed them about its movements.
Arion then mumbled to himself, trying to figure something out. I only tuned in about halfway through.
He mumbled, “In order to avoid daylight, the demon needs to have some hideout to escape the sun, but the only thing around is some caves. They are far too small for it to go very large, and also no room for us to maneuver also. In fact, all of us going inside would increase our chances of one of us being killed since we won’t have room to dodge. Judging by the size of the caves I remember, one person seems to be our best option if they are to move around well enough to dodge attacks.”
At this moment Arion turned towards me, and I could tell that he was studying me at that moment.
“I can easily find the cave,” I told him.
“I know you can,” he replied. “I also know you can move around perfectly in the dark as if it were the light, which will be an advantage there. That you can fight very well in an enclosed space.”
“So, what’s the problem then?” I questioned him.
There was a slight pause before Arion whispered, “What kind of person would stand by and let their friend fight their problems for them?”
There was a slight pause in the conversation as I took in what Arion stated. I thought through the statement several times. No matter how much I thought it through, it didn’t make sense.
“What?” I asked eventually.
“What do you mean by that?” Artemis asked me.
“He said friend as if he was talking about me, but I’m not his friend,” I answered. “So I’m trying to figure out who he’s talking about.”
Arion told me, “Raven, you are my friend.”
“Is this a joke?” I questioned. “Are you actually trying to joke around, because this is not very funny.”
“I’m pretty sure he’s being serious here, Raven,” Artemis told me. “You are our friend.”
“Are you in on this too?” I asked her.
“Raven, there’s nothing to get in on,” Arion told me with his voice raising in volume.
“Not a joke,” Shade barked.
“Seriously, Shade, you’re in on this also?” I asked in utter disbelief.
Arion then grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me as he said, “Raven, we are dead serious here. No jokes. You are our friend.”
I then grabbed Arion by the shoulders and shouted, “NO, I AM NOT!”
There was a pause. Everyone was silent for a moment.
Artemis then put one hand on my shoulder and told me, “Raven, you have absolutely no say in the matter. So, shut up, because you are one of my best friends!”
There was a brief second of silence, then Arion burst out laughing. Artemis and I took involuntary steps away. I don’t know why Artemis did, but I did because I was shocked. I never heard Arion laugh before. I just kind of stood there in shock until the laughter died out.
Artemis eventually let out a chuckle and told him, “If I knew that was what I needed to do to make you laugh, I would have done that a while ago.”
“I didn’t think I would laugh at that,” Arion stated. “But your unexpected statement and the look of complete confusion and disbelief on Raven’s face was too good.”
“Yeah, I’m still confused here,” I told them.
“We’ll break it down then,” Arion told me. “Raven, when two or more people start getting along with each other and build a relationship with each other, we call this friendship.”
“Over our time together, we got to know you, and you got to know us,” Artemis then interjected. “We strangely are able to work with each other and get along with each other. I would say even have fun together.”
Shade barked that he agreed.
“So, through these interactions, we became friends,” Arion explained. “I think I know you fairly well at this point, so I think that we are your friends, even though you’ll never admit it. But that’s okay. We know we’re your friends.”
I didn’t like what Arion was telling me right then. I didn’t like the fact that he knew me that well to know if I ever had a friend in my life I wouldn’t know it. I didn’t even realize that was true until he told me that. It disturbed me.
“Stop, I can’t handle this right now,” I whispered.
“Handle what?” Artemis questioned.
I paused as I tried to figure out the right word. I didn’t know exactly what it was that I couldn’t handle at that moment.
In the end, I just grumbled, “Friendship.”
Artemis and Arion then acted strange. It took me a moment to realize that they were holding back laughter.
“I’m so done right now,” I told them. “I’m going to go kill a demon because I can handle that right now.” I then walked off to pack up the campsite. It didn’t take them long to follow after me.
We headed out within the next hour. It felt weird as we moved on, where I just felt like something was off. It concerned me, so I just tried to ignore it as we moved forward. Eventually I was successful at leaving that experience behind me.
Arion, Artemis, Shade, and I managed to trek that way for about three-fourths of the day when I finally sensed the cave the demon was hiding in. I started heading in that direction, and the others followed.
The others did decide that their best option was for me to go in alone, while it was daytime. I knew they didn’t like it, but it was the best option.
When we finally approached the outside of the cave, the others stood around uncertain of what to do. I then pulled out the tentrite knife and another knife. The others turned to face me. I could tell that they wanted to help me somehow, say something to me, and, well, just do something. But there wasn’t anything that they could do that would do anything of importance really. So instead, I quickly entered the dark cave, stepping into what seemed at that time to be a separate world.
As I suspected, the cave wasn’t that large. It was just big and deep enough for the demon to fit in, what I presumed to be, its smallest form. Any bigger and then it wouldn’t have been able to stand straight inside the cave because the ceiling was too low. The cave may have seemed small on the outside, but it went deep enough to open to a rather large chamber on the inside. The top never went very high, but that suited my purposes better.
As I crept forward to the chamber the demon was in, I felt it wake up from its own version of sleep. I still moved forward as it stood up, its head almost touched the ceiling. It slid to the back of the chamber. It was about fifteen yards back in a chamber that was twenty yards in length. The chamber was about thirty yards in width.
I realized it would be a bad idea to throw the tentrite knife because, even though my knives were forged for throwing (this meant they were heavier than normal knives and had a bit of magic welded into them also), it would be difficult for me to get the knife back if I didn’t hit the demon. I would be vulnerable to attack, if I was trying to pick up my knife every time I missed.
I checked myself to find my heartbeat and breathing were regular. I was going to have to try to finish the fight fast.
I entered into the chamber and sent one of my knives (not the tentrite one) flying towards the demon. It then ran out of the way, and the knife thudded against the wall. We then circled each other. For a few minutes, I might send a knife its way, but it would always avoid it. During that time, it came closer and closer, waiting to strike on terms that worked better for it.
I then formulated an idea. I charged at it, like I did the first time I fought it when I jumped on top of its head. Since it remembered my first time I charged like that, the demon crouched down ready for me to jump on its head, like it thought I was going to do.
When I got to the point where I jumped the first time, the demon leaped up on its hind leg, its fur scraping the ceiling.
However, that time I didn’t jump up. Instead I slid down underneath the demon and threw the tentrite knife right into its rib cage.
The effect was instant. It roared out of pain as it crashed into the floor right above my head. It slid a bit which caused the knife to be buried even deeper. It attempted to get up and pull the knife out, but it was too weak. Within the next ten seconds, the demon stopped breathing, and its heart stopped beating.
Meanwhile, I collected my knives and moved out of the cave with my heart still beating and my lungs still breathing. They were regular.
The others sighed with relief as I walked out of the cave. There was about three hours of sunlight left.
“We won’t have to worry about the demon anymore,” I informed them.
“Now all we have to worry about is Eva, who is queen and currently commands thousands with and without her magical help,” Arion commented. “I guess we have to take our success where we can get it.”
“That was slightly more optimistic than usual, coming from you,” Artemis replied. She then patted him on the back as she told him, “I like it.”
In response, Arion just shrugged.
We all then started heading towards Nextar again.
“Judging by the path we’re on now, we’ll have to cross the Nextan River,” I informed them.
“We can take the bridge,” Artemis replied. “If not, I always liked to swim.”
I thought that it would be a bad time to mention I couldn’t swim. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to swim. It was just that I couldn’t swim.
“Knowing our luck, we’ll get soaked,” Arion replied, losing the more positive outlook from earlier.
I debated on telling them my swimming status, but decided against it.
I’ll tell them when it becomes relevant, I thought. If things run smoothly, then I won’t.
So we travelled towards Nextar for the next three hours before stopping to camp for the night. We were moving closer to the turning point in this competition for the throne of Ranvier. Right then, it was in Eva’s favor, but that could be changed.