We quickly managed to take care of the situation. I found a healer a lot faster than I thought I would. At first, they were very reluctant to come, but I convinced them by implying I might use force if they didn’t come with me.
The worst damage done in the fight was obviously Eva’s death. Other than that, the worst damage was Tark’s broken wrist and Shade’s broken leg.
The council members were unconscious for a while. It was five hours until the first one woke up. The healer told us the obvious truth that Eva managed to do a lot of magic on them. It was another five hours later when the last council member woke up.
Once they woke up, Arion told them everything that had happened to him, and they were quick to believe his version of events. They immediately wanted to get right down to business on fixing the damage Eva had done. Arion made them wait until they got a good night’s rest though.
The next day Arion moved right back into his element. He gave all the council members each a separate job.
“I want you to go make a list of all the laws, bills, or anything else that Tark and Eva have passed during the last year,” he’d say pointing to a person. “Will you go around and spread the news of Eva’s betrayal and my return? Jarius, how about you go find all the leaders of the Royal Guard and bring the here. Also inform them the person that fits my description who they’re looking for is no longer wanted. Sandra, I want you to track the money from the last year. Eva most likely used it to hire an assassin, so I want to know any other things she could have spent our money on.” He continued on with the others.
When he finished giving orders, they left to go get their jobs done.
Artemis decided to go try to help out the council members. I wasn’t really assigned a job because I didn’t work for anyone but myself. I found it tempting to just run away from all the people, but, for reasons I couldn’t explain, I just decided to stick around there for a few days to make sure the danger had passed, then leave everything behind.
Once the assignments were given, Arion left to go see the healer. Tark still hadn’t woken up last he checked. He had Eva’s magic affecting him for years longer than the others, so it made complete sense. When Arion reached Tark’s chamber, we noticed the healer was leaving.
The healer saw Arion coming and told us, “He’s up but weak. If you visit, try to not tire him out.”
Arion nodded and thanked the healer. He then turned his head in my direction.
After a moment, I awkwardly told him, “I’ll wait out here and make sure no one gets inside.”
Arion snickered at this remark. As he went inside, he told me, “Thanks, Raven.”
I held true to my word and stood there to make sure no one got inside.
I could hear them talking through the wall. I had nothing to do really, so I ended up listening.
“Hello, Tark,” Arion greeted as he entered the room. “It has been a while.”
Tark then faced Arion, sat up a little, and replied, “Arion, it’s been a year, two months, and twenty-seven days not including today.”
“I see you haven’t lost your sense of time,” Arion replied as he pulled up a chair and sat down right next to Tark’s bed. “But yes, that long ago you actually saved my life from Eva, even though I didn’t know it at the time.”
“I tried,” Tark croaked. “I really did try.”
“I know you did, I know you did,” Arion reassured him.
“Arion, I’m so sorry about Zurex—”
“Don’t,” Arion ordered him. “You tried saving him too, so don’t you dare blame yourself for his death. If he heard you doing that right now, he would come and smack you for that.”
Tark let out a weak laugh and said, “Then tell me that I’m too hard on myself and that I need to relax.”
Arion shrugged and told him, “It’s hard to relax when you were basically in charge of helping raise me along with your duties for the kingdom. To be honest, Zurex was a little too relaxed at times.”
“Yeah, but we needed that,” Tark whispered. “We get stuck in our problems rather easily. … Oh my, what are we going to do without him?”
Arion rubbed the back of his head as he informed Tark, “Well, one of my friends that you attacked, the vampire, is very optimistic. She actually knows how to relax. I think it will be helpful for this kingdom, if she sticks around. If not, we might end up in a pit of despair.”
“Oh my,” Tark replied while laughing a little bit. “So, who is she? And what have you been up to this last bit?”
“Get ready for a long story,” Arion announced. He then told Tark everything that had happened to him since they parted. Apparently Arion had a few interesting stories about some escape attempts. He almost got away two times.
Then I came in. It was strange hearing him tell his side of the story. I was a little surprised about how positively he spoke about me. I didn’t think I was half as good of a person that Arion told Tark I was. Arion also left some details out about me, including the fact I was blind. It was interesting to hear those things left out of the tale. But he made his way through his journey.
At the end, Tark whispered, “Oh my. That was rather intense.”
“Yes, yes it was,” Arion groaned. “Too soon will be the day something like that happens again.”
Tark folded his arms as he stated, “Knowing your luck, it will be next week.”
At this remark, Arion broke out into a round of laughter and then replied, “It’s so true it’s both sad and hilarious.”
After a pause in the conversation, Tark told Arion, “I must still be out of it.”
“Why’s that?” Arion questioned.
“Because that’s the first time I heard you laugh since you were eleven. You don’t have a sense of humor.”
“Well, I thought maybe it was time I got one again.”
There was a bit of silence after this, as if Tark was unsure how to respond.
“So, how are you doing physically?” Arion eventually asked.
“I still got quite beat up during that fight,” Tark commented. “That elf is an excellent fighter.”
“Well, you were trying to kill Raven,” Arion spoke on my behalf.
“Yes, I was. I’ve been doing a lot of bad things lately.”
After a pause, Arion asked, “How much do you remember?”
“I’m not sure,” Tark replied. “It all is vague and blurry, like how you remember your dreams. You remember bits and pieces of them, enough so you can get a picture of it, but it’s still not very clear. You know time has passed though. I think I might remember the worst memories though, because I was trying so hard to fight against those … acts she made me do.”
Arion immediately told him, “It could have happened to anyone. It’s not your fault.”
Tark sighed loudly and stated, “The thing is that logically I know that and it makes sense, but my emotions won’t accept it. I still feel the guilt as if I did them of my own free will.”
Arion nodded and commented, “Emotions can be rather troublesome. It will take some time.”
I stopped listening to the conservation for a minute because I sensed an one-and-a-half-year-old male and a woman, probably a babysitter of some sort, coming towards the room.
As they approached the woman asked me, “Is his father in there?”
“Depends on who your father is,” I informed the child.
“Tark,” he answered.
“Give me a minute.” I knocked on the door and waited for the okay to come in.
“There’s a child here who wants to see his father,” I told them.
“Well, send him in then,” Arion told me.
The child didn’t need any more permission. He raced past me to his father as fast as his little legs could carry him.
“Here comes the one great thing from all this mess,” Tark said in a low voice that only Arion and I could hear.
“Hey, Argi,” Tark greeted him. “How’s my little boy?”
Argi shrugged in reply.
Tark tilted his head and asked, “Why’s that?”
Argi also tilted his head as he replied, “Mother’s gone.”
There was a pause before Tark murmured, “Yes, she is.”
Argi looked down as he stated, “Wasn’t nice to you.”
“She was nice to you though,” Tark commented almost to himself.
After a moment, Tark told Argi, “I think we’ll get by on our own though.”
In response to that, Argi nodded and climbed onto the bed next to his father. He then pointed to Arion as if to ask who was that person.
Tark put his arm around his son as he stated, “That’s Arion. He’s your godfather you know.”
“Hi,” Argi greeted Arion.
“Hello,” Arion answered. “It’s nice to see you again, Argi. It’s been awhile. Don’t worry we’ll get to know each other better soon enough.”
“You do seem a little familiar,” Argi whispered. “Do you know any good bedtime stories?”
“I know a few,” Arion told him. “I’ll have to share them with you sometime.”
Arion stayed in the room and talked with them for a little bit longer. Then he told them he’ll give them some alone time. Arion then left the room. I didn’t need to see to tell that he was smiling.
Later that day the council member in charge of spreading the word of Eva’s death came to report.
“Some people have already noticed that Eva is dead,” the man informed us. “Apparently not everyone on her side was controlled. A couple dozen people have fled the place.”
“We need a list of who they are and all their positions,” Arion answered.
The man held out a paper as he stated, “Already prepared it, sir.”
Arion took the list and read through it and told him, “Focus on replacing the three positions in the Royal Guard first, and then Nextar’s sheriff. I believe that Amilia, Melanie, and Tyon would make good officers.”
Arion had already caught up on who was in the Royal Guard and how it was functioning.
“Yes, sir,” the council member replied. “Who do you think out of the trainees should be moved up?”
Arion tilted his head back and forth for a moment before saying, “I have an idea. Raven, would you like something to do?”
“I was thinking maybe you could test out the trainees,” Arion told me. “Find out which ones you think are ready to move up, and those who should stay in training.”
“We’ll see how that goes,” I answered him.
For the next four days, I helped Arion get some tasks done and reorganize the place. He didn’t really need my help, but I thought he was hoping that I would want to stay in Nextar if I had something to do.
As for what I wanted, I decided that Nextar is too crowded for my taste. With my sense of touch and hearing, large cities were nightmares. If I paid too much attention to my senses, I went on sensory overload. It made me feel like I was losing it. I also missed the forests and traveling. Even if most of the time I was traveling in search of criminals. Then there was my solitude that I had been apart from for a long time at that point.
I only stayed this long to make sure that there wasn’t any more danger, and I wasn’t finding any. But Arion was giving a big speech to Ranvier the next day, so I decided to stay for that. Then I was leaving it all behind me.
The only really noteworthy thing that happened that day was when the head of the Royal Guard came in saying he picked out Nextar’s new sheriff.
“Surprisingly, I ended up interviewing a lot of people,” the head informed Arion. “There were about thirty-five that showed up. So I decided which one was best qualified.”
“What experience had they had?” Arion questioned.
“They have served as sheriff for several small towns and counties, served a previous king, and a few other jobs,” he answered. “She always was given the highest praise for her work.”
Arion nodded and asked, “Who’s this person?”
“A vampire named Artemis,” the guard revealed.
Arion almost had a heart attack at this comment. I took it he wasn’t expecting that. Of course, that was when Artemis walked in.
“Is something wrong here?” Artemis asked.
“I’m not sure,” the guard answered.
Arion the replied, “No, everything is fine. By the way, you got the job as sheriff.”
“That’s great!” she responded with her usual energy. “When do I start?”
“Does tomorrow work for you?” the guard asked.
“Sounds good,” she answered. “We’ll probably need crowd control at Arion’s speech.”
The guard nodded and told us, “If that’s all for now, I think I’ll head out.”
Arion dismissed him.
He turned to Artemis and stated, “I forgot that you were looking for a job.”
Artemis answered, “I lost mine due to the fact I’m a vampire right before I went to join up with Raven and you. So, I saw the opening for the sheriff and decided to apply. I’m rather glad I got it because I love Nextar, but I haven’t lived here in awhile.”
Arion folded his arms and told her, “Well, we’ll see if you can keep up with this city and its rulers.”
Artemis chuckled and commented, “I think I can keep up. I have been running around with you and Raven for the last few months.”
Arion nodded and replied, “True. So you probably want to go inspect your men and work space. Unless you want to be surprised by what you find tomorrow.”
Artemis waved as she announced, “Heading out right now. See you later.” With that Artemis went around the corner.
“You know whoever works with Artemis is going to have to get used to Deputy Shade,” Arion commented.
“Are you going to have to pay both of them?” I asked Arion.
He shook his head as he replied, “No, I don’t think Shade expects wages.”
We both nodded in agreement before we went back to work.
The next day the courtyard was overflowing with people. Most of Nextar was there with other people from other parts of Ranvier there.
Arion walked out to the stand to address his people. Once again he held himself in a high way that seemed to radiate authority. When he did this, it was easy to believe he was the king.
Arion spoke as loud and clearly as he could to the audience (fortunately for him some warlocks set up a spell that amplified his voice so the whole audience can hear), “Citizens of Ranvier, fellow countrymen, I thank you coming to hear what I have to say today.
“Many of us have faced hardships this past year and a half. All the sudden we found that our lives were rapidly changing. Everything that had been done recently for the betterment of the kingdom was being undone and thrown in the opposite direction under Eva’s rule.
“Her betrayal of our country was a surprise for all of us. Despite what some may believe, there was no way that we could have seen this coming.
“However, we have managed to make it past Eva’s rule and defeated her. She can never plague Ranvier again, unless we let her. Unless we don’t take the action to undo all the misfortune she wrought upon us.
“Some laws have been made to put others at disadvantages. Let the rich get richer as the poor get poorer. Let others be oppressed while others walk on their backs to undeserved luxury. Those will be set right immediately. Changed back to what they were beforehand.
“So let’s begin to once again strive to make a kingdom where we all strive for fairness and equality. That everyone can be treated decently whether they’re human, enhanced human, gnome, dwarf, werewolf, vampire, familiar, or any other creature. That we don’t cast out others because they’re different.
“Aren’t we all different? Are any of us exactly the same? We aren’t, so why should some of us decide which difference is better than another? That answer is simply that differences should coexist together. There is much good that comes from our differences and our uniqueness that we can bring into the world.
“We will make sure the government completes its job of protecting the people. So that no one will have to live in fear. Our top priority will be to stop those that wish to inflict harm upon others. When someone does so, then they will be punished according to the law.
“As we move forward though, if we’re to put Eva’s reign completely behind us, we have to let go of the pain, the sadness, the anger, and the bitterness that was caused. It’s impossible to move forward, if you hold onto what’s holding you back.
“All I want to say is let’s move forward. Those responsible have been punished. Under Eva’s reign great people were forced to make the wrong choices, but they’re still innocent. Instead of directing anger and hate towards them, acknowledge that they couldn’t choose otherwise and move past that.
“If we all do this, I know we can achieve the version of Ranvier that we all want to live in. Let’s work to make Ranvier the best place it can be. Thank you.”
Arion then walked off the stage with a round of applause. When he got back into the palace, he immediately set to work.
“Has the council decided where to lower the taxes to?” Arion asked Tark. Tark had barely managed to get back on his feet, but his health still seemed near the same place. It would take him time, but he could recover.
Arion told me that the only thing that seemed to improve was his mood. Each day I’ve seen him he seemed to be a bit less weighed down, it wasn’t huge steps but small ones. Sometimes that was all a person could take though.
“They decided to change it from thirty percent off most people to ten percent off everyone,” Tark replied. “Good speech by the way.”
“Thank you,” Arion responded. “So what time is this dinner thing tonight?”
Tark thought about it before replying, “An hour before sundown.”
Arion groaned and mumbled, “I guess we have to go. They serve way too much food there. I’ll have to make sure we tip the cooks.”
Tark immediately commented, “I take it you want to have the leftovers taken to the poor as usual.”
Arion nodded and told him, “Make sure the children get it first.”
“Yes, sir,” Tark answered. “So, are you ever going to take a break?”
Arion turned to look at him while he stated, “Isn’t that what dinner is for?” I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not.
Tark sighed and questioned, “Why did I even ask?”
Arion chuckled a little and replied, “I don’t know. You really should stop asking such questions though.”
The rest of the day went by without a hitch. Arion was settling back into running the kingdom. Artemis started her job as sheriff and was beginning to impress a lot of people with her organization, determination, and, of course, optimism. Shade was beginning to recover from his broken leg, once recovered he’d take his place by Artemis’s side, as he always did.
The next morning right before sunrise, I was ready to set off. That life wasn’t for me. I debated saying goodbye to Arion, Artemis, and Shade, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. I had casually mentioned on the day Eva was killed that I would head out when I was ready, which was enough for me. I hated farewells.
I was about to head down the staircase when I realized Artemis, Shade, and Arion were standing at the bottom of it. Those sneaky people put me in the part of the palace that only had one staircase in it.
I sighed and made my way down the steps.
“Thought you could just sneak off didn’t you?” Arion commented when he noticed me coming down.
“Should have known better,” I mumbled.
Arion folded his arms as he informed me, “You got that right.”
Artemis stated, “We know you too well for you just to slip off without saying a word.”
Shade barked that she was right.
“Are you just here to make me feel stupid?” I asked them.
“You don’t need us to make you feel stupid,” Arion commented.
“And how long was it before you figured out I was blind?” I snapped.
There was a pause before they broke out into a short round of laughter. I just tried to make it look like I was staring at them, waiting for them to answer my question, but they didn’t notice.
When the laughter died down, Artemis asked me, “So where are you headed?”
“Well, it so happens that the Royal Guard managed to find all of Eva’s coworkers,” I replied. “They do have some level of skill apparently. So, I won’t be heading after the traitors. I think I’ll head east. Heard there’s trouble starting to brew over there.”
“Haven’t you had enough trouble?” Arion questioned. “Are enchantresses, demons, and other things not enough for you?”
After a moment, I shrugged and stated, “Not really.” I didn’t know what was enough for me though, and I doubted that I would ever know.
Arion sighed and told me, “Well, you better take the back door. It’s the fastest way out of the city.”
“Thanks.” I started making my way out.
“Raven,” Artemis called. “If you ever need help just contact us.”
I was a little shocked at that statement. I only really had four people in my entire life who were actually concerned for my well being before that moment. But, as I stood there they were basically saying they wanted me to be safe.
Instead of telling them how shocked and honored I felt at their reply, I simply nodded and told them, “If you need me, I’m available. But, I don’t want you going around and telling everyone about me. I stay in the shadows.”
“We won’t,” Arion answered. “We’ll just take all the credit for you.”
I nodded and commanded, “You better keep it that way.”
Artemis then hugged me and whispered, “Don’t be afraid to visit.” After a moment, she let go.
Shade whimpered, and I knelt down next to him. He started to lick my hand, and I took that as his way of saying his affectionate farewells.
Arion then shook my hand (not the one that was recently licked). Then he stopped, as if thinking about something. Suddenly, much to my surprise, he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into a hug. I awkwardly somewhat hugged him back, while I felt unsure what to do at the time. Hugs didn’t make sense to me. He let go after a moment though.
“It’s going to take some getting used to, not having you around,” Arion told me. “Even though it has been only ninety-four days including today.”
I then paused for a moment, trying to come up with something to say, but I didn’t know what. I couldn’t think of anything. All I did was wave a goodbye before turning around and heading out.
They didn’t see how I had a strange time breathing as I was unexpectedly hit with an emotion that I didn’t like and didn’t know what it was. I didn’t react further than that though. I wasn’t the one to display his emotions freely.
Once I made it out of Nextar, a sense of peace and openness filled me that I haven’t experienced in ninety-four days. But, I couldn’t sense if I was still feeling a little of that strange emotion or not.
As I travelled on through Ranvier’s forest, I didn’t hesitate though. I just moved on, as I always did.
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