For the next three days, Artemis, Arion, Shade, and I traveled to Night’s cave. The road was flat ground, rather easy to travel on. We travelled through the forests of Ranvier. I enjoyed the fact that in forests there was plenty of coverage for me to hide from others. But others didn’t have that advantage because I could sense where they were at.
For the most part, I kept on searching for people coming our way. When travelling, I usually kept a watchful but casual way of travelling. However, because I was travelling with people that would be targeted by others, I was trying to be as cautious as possible. Luckily, the roads were rather barren.
The closest we came to people was a group of merchants traveling down the road. We simply hid until they passed. Artemis and Shade hid behind a tree. Artemis petted Shade either to calm Shade, herself, or both of them. I wasn’t sure which. Arion would stand between a tree and a rather large bush, and glance between some openings trying to get a clear picture of what was going on, but exercising caution at the same time in order not to be seen.
Meanwhile, I decided to hide in one of the trees. Few people seldom look up, but, just in case, I made sure that the branches and leaves covered me from view. The merchants didn’t see us, but a bird did land on the branch I was on. It tilted its head at me, and I wondered if it was trying to tell me something by that gesture. I didn’t get an answer.
There was quiet time during our travels. But a lot of it was Artemis and Arion talking. Artemis seemed to be able to hold a conversation, and Arion didn’t seem to mind talking to her. Unlike with Carn how the conversations were short and tense. I listened in but rarely spoke unless spoken to. I didn’t see the need for chatter.
The days seemed to drag on for me. I just wanted to be done with this assignment and back to killing wanted thieves and murderers by myself.
It was the evening of the third day when we approached Night’s cave.
“So, who is Night?” Arion finally asked. I was kind of surprised he didn’t ask earlier.
“Have you heard of the legend of how Night and Day were created?” Artemis asked him.
“Yes, every child has,” Arion stated. “The realm when it was first created was in complete darkness, and only the dark elves lived here. Then a Pegasus named Day, which is a creature of pure light, came, and the world became completely light. Other creatures started to come to this realm then, like humans, werewolves, and dwarves. Some started breeding with the dark elves, creating light/air, earth, fire, and water elves. Some of the other dark elves started to leave because they couldn’t stand the light.
“Then one day, Day got sick and was dying, and the light was dying with her. So a dark elf named Night went and healed Day with elfish healing techniques. While doing so, their souls became connected in a strange way. So now we have both Night and Day. Day has shadows and Night has stars because they are connected. However, the moon is a completely different story altogether.
“So, are you trying to tell me that the legend is actually true, and that we are going to see Night?”
“Yes,” Artemis answered. “Yes, we are. Don’t worry, he’s great.”
He dropped his head slightly before murmuring, “Okay then. So how is he going to prove to you that I’m Arion?”
“Night has many abilities,” I answered. “One is he can look out into the world and see anyone he wants to. If Night looks for Arion, King of Ranvier and Son of Argi, and he sees you, then we know you’re telling the truth. If that’s not what he finds when looking for Arion, then we know you’re lying.”
“What happens when he tries to see someone who’s dead?” he asked. After a short pause, he murmured, “Just wondering.”
“He sees nothing or possibly their dead body,” Artemis responded. “I guess it depends on the dead person for what he sees then.”
“How often have you met Night?” Arion asked.
“I’ve been over three times before for information,” Artemis answered. “He can’t really interfere with what happens in this world. I mean, last time he did the moon happened. But despite that limitation, he likes to help the Society when he can.”
Shade barked, and Artemis translated for him, “Shade has also seen Night three times.”
That was one of those moments when I questioned how well she understood him.
“How about you, Raven?” Arion asked.
“I never met him,” I responded.
I didn’t mention how growing up I heard all about him, and the Society helped me learn that he was real as I simply listened in on their conversations. But I never knew where he was, nor had I been told to go talk to him until that assignment. If I had known where he was, I might have looked for him. When I heard Night was real, I started to think of some questions I was tempted to ask him. Questions that only he could really answer.
“Wait a minute,” Arion spoke. “That would mean he’s over five thousand years old. I thought that saying that elves live really long lives was just a myth.”
“It is,” I answered. “Night isn’t completely an elf anymore. Becoming night changed him.”
“Wait, the elf age is a myth?” Artemis asked, sounding shocked. Most people in the realm thought that elves lived for thousands of years, when, in reality, we just barely managed to get about a hundred and fifty. “Then how old are you?”
I saw no harm in telling the truth, so I answered, “I’m seventeen.”
The others literally stopped moving. I turned around to face them.
“What?” I asked.
“I thought you would be at least in your twenties,” Arion murmured. “And you’re really tall for a seventeen-year-old. Although I guess you are only slightly taller than the normal elf.”
Elvish aging process was a bit different than humans. We reached adulthood quicker and then aged a lot slower. Because of that, humans always told me while growing up that I looked older than I actually was. I guessed there was some truth in that statement.
Then the average height for elves was above six and a half feet, and I was more around seven feet tall. Which was tall for humans, who never seemed to get far above six feet, if they were on the tall side.
“Didn’t expect me to be the same age as you, did you?” I asked him.
Arion just shook his head and started to move forward. This seemed to snap Artemis out of it because she started walking again with Shade right beside her.
“We’re almost there,” Artemis cheerfully announced. We then headed at a slightly quicker pace to Night’s cave.
We were almost there, as it only took about twenty minutes to reach Night’s cave. The sun set right before we got to Night’s cave. His cave rested behind a waterfall. I wasn’t surprised to find he was already out.
“He looks just like the legend describes him,” Arion murmured underneath his breath.
Legend said that Night still looked like a dark elf. He was tall and skinny, his features sharply defined, and ears pointed as all elves’ ears were. His skin dark ebony and eyes black like dark elves had. His hair marked him different from other elves though. For the most part, it was a wavy black that went past his shoulders except for a big white streak outlining the right side of his face.
I could feel his aura. It had parts of dark elf in it with a darkness that lived inside him, but it was infinitely more vast and powerful than a dark elf’s aura. Also, there was a thin layer of powerful brightness that dark elves didn’t possess.
“Greetings,” he welcomed us. His voice was deep, and seemed to stretch on until eternity. “Artemis and Shade, it’s nice to see you again. Arion, King of Ranvier, it’s great to meet your acquaintance. Also, Raven, the last dark elf left in this realm. Well, if you exclude me, but I’m not exactly an elf anymore.”
“You already know who I am?” Arion asked.
Night sighed and stated, “Yes. You see, after being alive for thousands of years, I tend to need distractions to keep me sane. One such distraction is to use my abilities to look to see what’s happening in the world, since I can’t go out.”
“Why can’t you go out?” Artemis questioned.
The man gestured for us to come inside as he told us. “I’m Night, and wherever I go is darkness. If I venture out in the night, it’s no problem, but, in the daytime, I will cause the place to go completely dark where I am and cause the lightness and darkness to go out of balance. It’s better if I don’t. Also, sometimes when Day and I ended up having to become involved in the affairs of others, it caused some unfortunate things to happen. So I use my abilities at night to see what’s going on and to check on people who fascinate me. You can take a seat if you want.”
Instead of a regular cave, Night actually had furniture, lots of blankets, some food, and basically all of the essentials of home within his cave. We all began to sit down in his chairs. As we did, Arion started to tense up as if he were concerned. I didn’t really think of a reason why he would be.
“Don’t worry, I don’t see any private moments,” Night continued once he noticed Arion’s actions. “I watched things like your coronation, you passing the Equality Act, and when you signed the treaty with Tardon allowing free trade between your countries. You’ve done so much for someone so young. All of you have, except Artemis. You’re not that young anymore, even though you still look young.”
“So, how long have you known Arion is still alive?” I asked, wanting to change the subject. I would rather discuss that sort of thing later alone with him.
“A few months,” he responded. “But no one from the order has come to see me lately, so I couldn’t inform them of what I knew. I should really find out a way to tell you when I have information that I believe is valuable.”
“That would be good,” Artemis agreed. “So, do you have any idea how to prove Arion is the actual King of Ranvier?”
“Get the real crowns of Ranvier,” Night whispered.
The crowns of Ranvier were forged when the kingdom was created, one for the King and one for the Queen. They had the power where only the rightful rulers could wear them. If any others tried to wear them, then the crowns would heat up to the point where they burned the wearer. This magic helped make it so imposters couldn’t take the throne.
“Tark has created a fake set of crowns,” Night continued. “He made it with less powerful magic than the actual crowns, but they appear to do the same thing the other crowns do. In reality, it only burns when anyone but Tark or Eva touch them. Find the real crowns, then present yourself before the council. They will have the crowns tested and find that the crowns Arion has are the real crowns.”
“Do you happen to know where these crowns are?” I asked.
“Unfortunately, I do not,” Night mumbled.
“Maybe your society has a way to find them?” Arion suggested.
“We’ll have to check,” Artemis answered. She then went on to tell Night about when to release the signal informing the rest of the Society of the answer. He said he’d do it.
Night, Arion, Artemis, and Shade continued to talk and get acquainted with one another. I sat nearby and listened but didn’t participate much in the conversation. I didn’t really have much to offer to it, so I saw no point.
“Does anyone have any questions for me?” Night asked the group. “It doesn’t have to relate to business at all. I just know that some people have some, and I like to answer them. If I was in their shoes, I would want to ask a few questions.”
Artemis shook her head and told him, “I think I already asked any questions I had for you.”
After a pause, Arion stated, “I kind of have some history questions to ask you.”
“Hmm, I don’t get many of those,” Night mused. “This could be entertaining.”
“I read that the twelve territories used to have many portals open that allowed people to come in and out rather easily,” Arion told him. “Why is that not the case anymore? Why is it almost impossible to leave the realm now when it wasn’t at one point?”
“Well, that one is a little tricky to answer,” Night answered as he rubbed his hands together. “But you seem like the person to ask the hard questions.”
Arion crossed his legs as he replied, “Easy questions don’t give you hard answers, and hard answers are necessary to learn if you’re going to survive this life.”
Night nodded as he stated, “True. Well, your question involves a lot of explaining how travelling between the realms has worked for this dimension.
“There are portals in each realm that can lead you into other places, each realm has a different number of portals. The number of portals increases as the amount of life decreases.”
Artemis tilted her head as she commented, “Really? That’s kind of strange.”
“Why is that?” Arion questioned.
“No one knows,” Night answered. “It’s speculated that the life force drains the realm’s energy that’s needed to make portals. But no one knows for sure.
“So, for centuries, the only life here was the dark elves, a few small mindless animals like goblins and trolls, and what few plants that could survive in absolute darkness due to its magical makeup. This allowed many portals to work during that time. But, no one really used them because the dark elves didn’t want to leave the darkness, and other species didn’t want to live in the dark.
“One day, Day came and brought light unintentionally. She had no idea the realm was dark before she came, so she just thought that this place looked nice and stayed.
“But now that light was in the realm, people started using the portals. Many dark elves wanted to leave and find a place with more darkness because they couldn’t stand the light, but others came into the realm through the portals to settle here.
“People came from many places. Humans came from Earth. Earth seems like a rather large realm though because many different cultures came from Earth.
“Ranvier was settled mostly by humans coming from… Europe. Europe was the name of the place. They also brought animals with them like dogs, sheep, and birds. They tried bringing horses, but that didn’t work. All the horses died.”
“What’s a horse?” Arion asked.
Night paused for a while and rubbed his head. Eventually he stated, “Imagine a pegasus without wings, and you got a horse.”
“That sounds like a nice animal,” Artemis commented as she rubbed Shade behind the ears.
“They were rather nice animals,” Night told her. “But other humans came from different places. I can’t remember where on Earth the people who settled the tribe lands came from. Also, other creatures came. Familiars came from a realm near Earth—can’t remember the name of it. They had animals similar to Earth there, because of their proximity to Earth. Vampires, gnomes, and trolls came from the plains of Initgard. A whole bunch of other living beings came.
“This was good in some aspects, I guess. This realm really flourished. But shortly after I became the night, portals started disappearing. This realm was sustaining too much life to keep that many portals running, so they disappeared. The population grew inside of the realm, and people stopped travelling. Now, there are barely any portals left. If you look hard enough you can find them, but no one bothers. Instead they stay here.”
“Do you miss the portals?” Arion questioned.
“Sometimes,” Night replied.
They then continued to talk quite a bit about the past. I didn’t find out how long because I fell asleep before they stopped talking.
I woke up later. At that point Arion, Artemis, and Shade were asleep, so I got up and quietly walked away from them. It felt weird for me to be around sleeping creatures.
I made my way out of the cave and found where Night was at. He was standing with his head turned towards the sky. I briefly wondered why he was still looking at the sky after being able to see it for as long as he had, but then shrugged the question off as unimportant.
“Hello, Raven,” Night greeted as I drew near.
“Hello,” I replied. “I take it that you can still sense as a dark elf does.”
“Yes,” he answered, not bothering to look at me as he spoke. “Or else I wouldn’t have been able to tell that you were coming. Even for a dark elf, you’re rather quiet.”
“I try to be, but I wouldn’t know,” I commented. “I haven’t met that many dark elves.”
“And probably never will,” Night sighed. “They’re all gone except you.”
I sighed and asked, “Off to the other realms?”
Night nodded as he faced forward. His posture seemed to suggest that he was trying to look much further than his eyes could see.
“Can you see any other realms?” I questioned.
He shook his head and told me, “Only this one.”
“And you can see anyone?”
“Anyone and any place, as long as the person has a shadow and the place has some bit of darkness in it.”
“Interesting. So, you can see people and places and not objects?”
There was a pause here. Night didn’t answer for a solid few minutes. I started to wonder if I said something wrong, like I was a professional at doing.
Then Night quietly answered, “I never tried to find an object before.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes,” he told me in a loud voice, almost a yell. “The need never came up, and I never had the want to. I find people interesting enough.”
I shrugged, finding that I didn’t really care that he never looked for objects in the past. I then suggested, “Could you try it by looking for the royal crowns?”
Night nodded, and I could feel him gathering his magic. He then was using it. I couldn’t tell almost anything because to me it appeared that he just stood there while his magic was working, but he was probably seeing far away places as his magic was being used.
After a minute, Night’s magic stopped working, and he informed me, “They are in the Royal Vaults. Good luck with that because that will be difficult to break into.”
I shrugged and stated, “We’ll see.”
“Anything else you want me to look for?” Night inquired. “Or just any other questions? You didn’t really get the chance to ask before you fell asleep last night.”
I thought about it for a moment, and then asked, “How’s Levarven?”
There was a pause as he was using his magic, but then he stopped using magic and told me, “She’s doing well. The light elf is at the top of her studies and is thriving, just like always.”
I nodded while feeling a little grateful that she was doing well.
“Is there anything else that you would like to ask me?” Night asked me as he turned to face me.
I didn’t react at first, but eventually I told him, “I do wonder how much you know about me.”
He didn’t answer me for a bit, He just seemed to be staring at me as I stood there.
About thirty seconds later, he told me, “Your voice sounded like you were trying to threaten me right there. It was so weird.”
“I did?” I questioned. “I didn’t mean to.”
“I didn’t think that you did, but it was a weird sensation,” Night stated. “Anyways, I would probably also be curious about how much someone who kept an eye on me would know about me.
“To answer that, I will yet again state that being alive for centuries can drive someone crazy easily. So, I try to see what’s going on in the world to help me handle this life. I always liked to see what dark elves were doing and people who I find interesting, and you fit into both of those categories.
“I would check up on you, but not too often. I probably haven’t even come close to seeing a hundredth part of your life, but I’ve seen different parts of it since your early childhood. So, I have a general picture, but no specifics.
“From what I know about you, I probably have more of a general understanding about you than most people ever get. But I personally feel like I don’t know you at all.
“That’s not the best answer, but it was the best I could come up with.”
I nodded slowly, feeling like I got a fairly adequate answer to my question.
“I don’t think I really have any more questions for you,” I told him.
“You were probably the person with the easiest questions to answer,” Night told me. “All simple to answer and not too many of them.”
I didn’t know how to take that comment, so I just didn’t say anything in response. I didn’t know if there was something to say.
Night and I stood together as dawn came. Arion, Artemis, and Shade eventually woke up. Night told them what he learned about the crowns when they woke up.
“I know the layout of the vaults and how to get past most of the security charms,” Arion mentioned. “I just don’t know how we can get past all the guards first.”
“I might have a solution for that,” Artemis replied. “There’s an object called the lynphoma that allows people to pass through solid objects. If we use that, we can slip through the walls to get into the vault, grab the crowns, then slip out. I don’t have it in my possession, but the gnome who does have it is close by and is my friend.”
“That could possibly work,” Arion commented. “What do you think, Raven?”
“Why are you asking me?” I questioned.
Arion folded his arms as he told me, “Because you are a part of this group, and we want your input.”
I immediately commented, “You didn’t want my input when I was telling you I shouldn’t be travelling with you.” He shook his head as he responded, “No, it’s not that it wasn’t wanted. It was just that it wasn’t helpful, so we then disregarded it once we had it.”
Night burst out laughing at Arion’s comment. Artemis joined in shortly after, and Shade also seemed to be panting as if he was laughing.
After a moment, I murmured, “Don’t encourage him.”
“Sorry, it was funny,” Night told me.
I grunted and told them, “Let’s just get this artifact and the crowns, so that I can get rid of you all.”
No one objected to my statement, so instead we made plans on what to do as we ate breakfast. Then we left Night to set off on our journey that kept growing longer and longer just to annoy me.