We were making good time heading to Nextar. Most of the time it would take a week from where we were at to reach it, but, at the pace we were traveling at, it was taking five days. Things ran rather smoothly for the first four days, and we were about nine hours outside of Nextar when we made camp that night.
We still had plenty of time to think about what would happen once we reached Nextar.
The more I thought about it, the greater chances Arion seemed to have on getting the upper hand in the power struggle in the kingdom. Most of the people either disliked or hated Tark.
The council had been suffering under Tark’s rule. Those who had spoken out against him have gotten punished in their own ways. No one knew how he did it, but whenever the issue had gotten too major to let the council member continue to disagree, they would disappear for a couple of days then reappear all the sudden on Tark’s side of the issue.
The council would want to take any opportunity to take Tark down, but they simply didn’t have a leader. They didn’t have someone out of the seven members (one council member from each district) that stood out as a great leader for this uprising. Arion would provide that.
Tark had actually very few supporters. The only thing that kept him in charge is the fear of what he could do and what would happen after he was out of power, and Arion solved that problem.
So, I couldn’t tell why I felt slightly uneasy about the situation. Something wasn’t adding up in the back of my mind. Despite that, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. It was maddening, so I tried not to focus on the issue, but that just made the issue demand attention even louder.
It didn’t help that the only thing I was doing was keeping watch. When you were staying awake, trying to make sure that nothing was going to sneak up and attack the group in the middle of the night, you were supposed to be on edge during that time to make sure that you didn’t start relaxing and miss the threat until it was upon you.
I tried to pass the time by focusing on my surroundings with my sense of touch and hearing. It was the only way I could sense where anything was. I could feel the animals moving through the trees. I could hear some of them and my companions breathing in and out. I could feel the familiar vibrations of the earth around me. I stayed alert though, as I listened and felt for everything, trying to make sure that there were no surprises that night.
When I felt the unusual vibration, it was faint at first. I could tell something big was moving in the distance. About a mile away was the edge of how far my sense of feeling could go and everything was rather blurry there. But the fact that I felt it all the way out there meant that it was a considerable size. It was in the northeast, the same direction Nextar was.
I had no idea what it was though because I couldn’t tell any specifics from the vibrations it sent through the earth. They were faint, but I could tell they were far away, which meant the thing that created them had to be large. I listened though and couldn’t hear any unusual sounds. I didn’t expect to at that distance, but it never hurt to check.
I debated waking up the others, but I decided to quickly find out which direction the thing was moving in. It only took less than a minute, but it felt like minutes as I waited to see how the vibrations changed. They were increasing slightly, heading near our way.
“Artemis,” I hissed. She snapped awake. Since she was a vampire she doesn’t really sleep as most creatures do. It was more like a light daydream, when a student would zone out of a boring conservation or lecture. She just did it to keep her energy up. The good news about that was that she was very easy to wake up.
“Huge thing heading our way about four-fifths of a mile away right now,” I told her.
She nodded and bolted up. This caused Shade, who snuggled next to Artemis as he slept, to wake up. He seemed to sense that the situation demanded he stayed awake, so he also got up.
Arion just couldn’t get the message though. He was honestly the deepest sleeper I had ever met. Artemis shook him hard and repeated his name.
“What?” he mumbled.
“We’re leaving now,” she answered.
“Okay…” he whispered as he fell back asleep.
I just walked over and pulled him to his feet. He jerked a bit as he tried to wake up.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he whispered as he actually started to walk a bit.
“How far away is it now, Raven?” Artemis asked.
“About three-fourths,” I answered. I was keeping track of it during that whole time. I was starting to pick out a form. It was a four legged and it had a tail, but I couldn’t tell exactly what it was.
We already left camp when Arion still half asleep asked, “Why are we going?”
“A monster coming towards,” I answered, which I later guessed was a rather blunt statement.
“Monster!” he cried out as he finally woke up all the way.
“Yes, nothing like a monster to wake you up in the middle of the night,” Artemis replied. “How far?”
“A little less than seven-tenths of a mile,” I answered. It was a bit clearer now. I could tell it had multiple tails. I still, understandably, couldn’t hear it.
Arion started to move faster, more like into a light jog and announced, “I think we should probably move faster.”
I agreed and started to.
“It’s quite funny that you say that because you were the hardest to wake up,” Artemis responded in a playful, teasing tone, as she began to move faster.
Arion groaned and replied, “Well, I’m sorry, we can’t all be light sleepers.”
Shade barked in agreement, which I found a little odd, since Shade was a light sleeper.
We were then moving faster away from the creature. It was coming faster towards us though, as if it could sense what pace we were going at.
It was three-fifths of a mile away from us.
At this point of Ranvier the trees are about twenty-five yards tall (which is less than the average size of trees). I could tell that the creature had reduced its size once it hit the smaller trees on this side of the forest so it could move more easily between the trees. It was about eighteen feet tall now. It would take very powerful magic in order for a creature to change size, yet I had a sinking suspicion that this creature could accomplish that feat with ease, like how I moved through the dark.
Not only that, but I could tell that it wasn’t moving in a straight line, which meant it was moving through the forest. This action also suggested it was taking extra care not to make noise, which should have been impossible for a creature that size and my hearing, but I couldn’t hear it despite it getting closer. It may have been the distance, but I didn’t think it was.
A few minutes later, it was a half a mile away from us.
The others just kept moving. I wondered for a moment what it must be like for them, to have to take my word that some huge creature was coming close to us in the middle of the night, instead of them being able to tell for themselves that this thing I was sensing was actually there. It seemed hard for me to wrap my head around the fact this creature existed, and I was the one who could tell it was coming. I know if someone told me something like that, I wouldn’t believe him or her.
“I think we should pick up the pace a bit more,” I told them.
“How far?” Arion asked.
“Two-fifths of a mile,” I answered.
After a minute of our new pace I noticed that the creature had also picked up the pace. It somehow was able to keep pace with us. I still didn’t hear a peep from it, which was strange for something that large and my hearing. Logic told me it was distance, even though my gut didn’t think so.
“It’s moving faster now,” I announced unsure what to do. It seemed like a powerful creature, and I was currently without my knives. I would never admit it out loud, but I wasn’t very fond of those odds. Average guards I could deal with, skilled fighters too. I could also deal with most expert fighters. I could even deal with facing those with magic on their side. But I had an uneasy feeling this was out of my league.
This seemed to arouse concern amongst my fellow travellers also.
“What does it look, or feel, like?” Arion asked.
“It’s in a form similar to a wolf,” I answered as it was now close enough for me to sense the form of its shape. “But it’s much larger. I believe it has three tails. It has some horns on its head and small spikes running down its spine. By the way it’s moving it makes me think that it has night vision and possibly more than two eyes.”
“How do you know that much detail?” he questioned me skeptically.
I shrugged and told them, “The wolf form is easy to tell by the vibrations it gives off. They’re just like a wolf’s with only a few slight differences. The three tails I can tell by the way it balances itself. The horns I can tell because the creature keeps accidentally brushing them against the ground when it ducks to avoid the trees. They’re a lot more sturdy than any other possibility that can be on the head. Also the spine is heavier than it should be with the proportion of its body in comparison with the weight of its other bones, which suggests that the creature has spikes along the back.”
Arion was silent for a moment, as Artemis murmured, “That’s a pretty impressive sense of touch you got there.”
After a few moments, Arion questioned, “How long until sunrise?”
“About forty minutes,” Artemis answered. “Why?”
“Because if that creature is what I think it is, then we can’t afford to have it catch up with us before sunrise,” Arion told us as he moved his head around, as if looking for something. I didn’t know if he was looking for something and, if he was, what he was searching for.
“What do you think it is?” Artemis asked as she also moved her head to look around.
“Demon,” Arion curtly answered.
Everyone in the world has heard about demons. Creatures from a world that was so dark and dangerous, we would have no chance of surviving there. Demons were so powerful, bloodthirsty, and nearly impossible to kill that their realm was closed off. The punishment for summoning one was death. Only people with really powerful magic could summon them with the help of dangerous artifacts.
Once in our world, the demon was then bound to the person who summoned it. The demon had to do one job that the summoner saw fit for it to do. Once that job was done, then the person had the choice to either keep them in this realm or send the demon back to its own realm.
Once that was finished, the demon once again had its free will. If the demon remained in our realm, it would then cause destruction because it was necessary for them; like humans needed water, demons needed to destroy.
Demons had only had two weaknesses. They couldn’t see in the sunlight, so they didn’t move in the day. Their other weakness was a rare metal tentrite that was the only thing that could kill them. One other thing was a drawback for a demon under control was that when someone summons a demon the demon has to stay in a certain amount of space or the spell breaks. After the spell was broken, the demon could go wherever they wanted to.
“Unfortunately, I agree with you,” I replied. “More unfortunate is that it’s one-third of a mile away from here now.”
“Let’s try to stay ahead until morning,” he suggested. “Then the demon wouldn’t be able to see, so it can’t pursue us.”
We all agreed by moving faster. It was tiring trying to outrun a creature that moved so effortless after us. I started to feel a bit sick as I realized that the only reason the creature hadn’t caught up to us yet was because it was playing with us.
When I realized that, it was one-fourth of a mile away.
I tried to come up with a plan, but nothing was coming to me. An old feeling, that was in my opinion the worst that was possible ever to feel, slowly crept in. The feeling of helplessness came in, as the creature was one-fifth of a mile away.
Then I realized that we still had about twenty-five minutes until sunrise. I knew we would never be able to outrun it. It was now at a distance of one-seventh of a mile away.
Then we came near one part where the trees were beginning to thin out to an open (or as open as most things get in this kingdom filled with forests) space that stretched on for about a mile then got denser again (if I remembered correctly which I usually did).
At that point, it was one-tenth of a mile away.
That’s when I thought about what I was going to do. It was stupid, insane, impulsive, and downright suicidal (for me, not anyone else), but I was going to do it. Sometimes I hated my ideas, but I felt strangely calm at the prospect of it.
When we reached the largest clearing that I could find, I got my bow which I always kept on my right shoulder out. I strung it within seconds and then pulled some arrows out. The creature was one-twentieth of a mile away now.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Arion demanded.
“The beast will be here in about two minutes,” I answered. “If any of us have a chance of surviving, one person has to distract the creature while the others get away.”
“Oh no, you don’t,” Artemis informed me. “I’m not going to let you get yourself killed.”
I simply told her, “It’s bound to happen one day.”
“No, it isn’t,” she snarled. “You don’t have to die like this, so I don’t know why you act like you will.”
I sighed and answered, “It’s obvious that Tark had someone summon the demon to get rid of Arion. He’s the best chance that not only this kingdom has, but also this whole land. No one says it out loud, but everyone knows if Tark’s reign is allowed to continue there will be war within the next year, and we all know that he will gain the upper hand. So, are you really going to be so stubborn to not let one person take the punishment so others have a chance?”
“Don’t I have any say in this?” Arion questioned.
“No,” I quickly answered.
“This is my fight more than it’s yours,” he snapped back. There was a little more than a minute left until the demon got here. I could hear now its nearly silent footsteps. I had to distract this thing for about fifteen minutes.
“Get out now,” I told them.
“NO!” they both shouted at me. Shade even growled at me.
“You drive me crazy,” I grumbled.
“I can say the exact same thing about you,” Arion commented.
We then stood there. Arion had his sword out, Artemis let her fangs out, Shade was staring forward growling, and I notched an arrow on my bowstring.
I heard the others let out an involuntary gasp when the demon came out from the tree line. It probably was a horrible sight for them to see.
The thing came close at what I assumed was a relaxed pace for it. I felt like something dropped in my stomach. This thing is going to try and play with us. It was at the advantage. It was purposely slowing down in order to try to make us more afraid.
It was then when I thought that there was no way to survive fifteen minutes with that thing.
I then came up with a very weak plan. I never fought a demon, so I had no idea what to expect. However, I knew fighting, and, if this creature was anything like the people I fought before, then I knew how to prolong fights. I started to move away from the group.
“What are you doing?” Arion asked.
“Fan out now,” I answered. “Stay out of the way as much as possible, but when you see the opportunity to strike, you strike at it fast and hard. Get it annoyed.”
Arion shook his head and murmured, “Why would you want to get the powerful demon annoyed? Do you have the death wish?”
“When you get someone annoyed while in a fight, it turns to anger, and then they will make more mistakes. Let’s hope the demon is like that because then I believe I can draw out a fight until sunrise.”
Artemis responded in a tone that was strangely cheerful, “Well, that makes sense to me. Let’s go.”
Her and Shade then went off in one direction.
Arion then grumbled softly (he probably thought I wouldn’t hear it), “Why are all these crazy things happening now?”
He headed off in the opposite direction that Artemis did.
I allowed myself to momentarily let go of my emotions. They easily clouded judgment in a fight, so before I battle I always pushed them to the side. I learned to sort of shove them in the corner during fights. But after fights they always returned with a devouring force.
I then quickly played out the beginning of the fight in my head. My main goal for the fight was to annoy the demon the most and try to keep it from hurting the others. Especially Arion, who I was certain it was ordered to kill. I just hoped that it was more like us in the sense that it will pause to try to kill something attacking it, instead of them to keep moving at its initial target.
I lifted my bow. The thing would come into shooting range in five seconds. I drew back my arrow and judged the beast’s path. It was heading for Arion, but I was ready to change that. I released the arrow, and it hit the demon right as it came into shooting range.
In a few heartbeats I sent another arrow after it. I repeated the process over and over again. In the middle of my fourth shot the demon started to change trajectory to my position. I had thirty-six arrows left and about twelve minutes until sunrise.
I thought to myself, If I survived these twelve minutes, it’s going to be a very long twelve minutes. Possibly the longest twelve minutes of my life.
At first I searched for one of my knives, and then received an unfortunate reminder that I didn’t have any. I got my sword out and held it in my right hand while swinging my bow on my shoulder.
I started to run towards the demon. It was thirty seconds away. Neither it nor me would change our course. We were twenty seconds apart from each other. The demon was growing to eighteen feet tall, which was about two and half times my height. I was ten seconds away.
When it was eight seconds away, I jumped up the highest I could, which was about twenty feet high. This caught the demon off guard, which allowed me to land on the top of its head. As the demon started to race, I plunged my sword into its skull to the point where only the hilt was sticking out. That wound would have killed any other creature, but it only managed to make this creature very, very annoyed.
I clung onto my sword as the demon picked up speed. I was once again glad I was an elf because if I wasn’t, then I wouldn’t have been able to hold on. It was only by my elfish strength I wasn’t thrown off immediately.
Still, it wasn’t a fun ride. The wind roared past me. The creature then decided to mix it up by changing speeds abruptly. Going faster then slower to try to get me off. It started making sharp turns and zigzagging. It then tried to change sizes, but that only caused it more pain, so fortunately it stopped that. It still wasn’t fun. I got tossed around so much, got a bunch of bruises, but I managed to cling onto my sword.
It felt like I was on that thing for ages, but I was later told I lasted about seven minutes (which was very impressive in my mind). But then the beast made a sharp left turn, and my sword finally came loose.
Curse it all, I thought as I fell down to the ground.
I landed with a huge thud. I thought I cracked a rib. I let out an involuntary groan.
It took me a couple seconds to regain my senses. I would have been killed then if it weren’t for Artemis. I felt her run up behind the creature and bit one of its hind legs. She was sucking the blood (if it has blood) out of it, when it kicked her hard really hard against a tree. She managed to cling on the first time, but the second time she became unhooked.
Artemis’s fangs had venom that would had brought anyone else to their knees and caused them to begin the painful process of becoming a vampire, but all it did to the demon was cause it to get angry as pain shot up its leg.
Shade then came to his friend’s help by also biting that same leg. He backed off before it could then strike him, and he then stood in front of Artemis, growling at the beast that dared touch his friend.
The demon had forgotten about me and charged after Artemis. By then, I was back on my feet. I ached everywhere, but I just decided to walk, or run, it off.
I was running towards it, but Arion beat me to it. He was concealed behind a tree. When the demon was charging past him he stabbed it’s other hind leg, that, yet again, caused the demon to then roar as its patience was coming to an end.
I decided to make it worse by slicing at its three tails causing it even more pain.
It turned around in order to face Arion and me. I pushed Arion out of the way off one of its paws that had rather sharp claws. I then ducked as one of its paws tried to rip me to shreds. It managed to graze my leg sending pain shooting up it. I quickly backed away. I studied the wound to find it was rather superficial, but it certainly hurt.
Oh well, I guess I’ll have to walk that off too, I thought.
“It’s starting to get light,” Arion murmured as he stood up. “But it appears it needs to be full daylight to blind this thing.”
“I wish day would hurry up then,” I growled as I tried to plan my next attack.
The beast was going to go after Arion. I pulled out my bow and notched an arrow. I started to shoot it from a distance of fifteen yards. That definitely grabbed the creature’s attention. It was now facing me. Even I could tell it was furious.
I then shot it in one of its eyes. The demon roared so loud I thought that my bones shook at the sound. It was going to come attack me. But I found out Arion had a plan. He used his sword to reflect some light into the beast’s other eyes, and that caused the beast to lose vision.
The beast was roaring in pain now. The sun was coming out. I was amazed that we were able to survive those twelve minutes. I knew the beast wouldn’t be able to see until tonight.
As an unspoken agreement, Artemis, Arion, Shade, and I all ran away from the beast.
As we ran though, my senses were able to tell what the demon was doing. It was trying to move through the clearing, but it couldn’t see. It stumbled and crashed into trees. It whimpered at its inability to see. It sounded lost and scared.
As this occurred my emotions came out of the corner and demanded that I feel an emotion that I had never really experienced as strongly as I did in that moment: pity.
“We have to get out of the demon’s territory,” Artemis announced about an hour later as we were taking a rest (and bandaging ourselves up). She was right. The demon had to be set within boundaries by the person who summoned it, or else it wouldn’t be able to do the person’s will.
“It’s driving us away from Nextar,” Arion commented. “Tark must have engineered this. I can’t get the kingdom back without the council that never leaves the capital except for special occasions. But if I try to get to the capital, I’ll be brutally killed. Solves all of his problems.”
“Not unless we kill it,” I commented.
Arion slightly shook his head as he murmured, “One problem with that is there’s no weapons left that can kill a demon. Tentrite has been banned throughout all the twelve known territories because it’s too powerful.”
“You can still find some in the Tentrite Mines in the Southern Mountain near the Boundary Forest,” I told him as I examined my ribs.
Arion sighed before saying, “It will have some very powerful protections on it. Probably get ourselves killed trying to get it like everyone else who has tried.”
“Better than nothing,” Artemis commented.
After a pause, Arion answered, “You’re right. But let’s get out of the demon’s boundaries first.”
We continued to move forward, and, for the entire rest of the day, we moved on. When night came, we didn’t dare stop. We moved all through the night. We were tired, but desperation made us continue on.
I was sensing around for the demon all night, but I didn’t get a feeling of it.
Only when morning came did we dare stop to rest. We were all exhausted but also relieved that the demon was for a good distance behind us.
My last thoughts before sleeping were that my journey had gotten a lot longer.