We travelled for two weeks and two days as we headed to the Southern Mountain. Even though the trip felt strangely long, we were lucky enough that we didn’t run into any trouble along our way there.
One item of annoyance was dealing with the aftermath of our fight with the demon. We weren’t in the worst of conditions after the fight. The demon didn’t use its teeth that had horrible poison on us, so we didn’t have to deal with that.
Artemis was a little shaken by being tossed around like she was, but she was fine after a day. She seemed just like her normal self. An outsider would have never guessed that she just faced a demon. Shade also acted like his normal self too. But I wasn’t sure that a dog would be affected by the same things other creatures were.
Arion had some rather big bruises after the fight that took about a week to heal. He didn’t really seem to mind them too much. He just grunted when Shade would bump up against him, hitting his bruises.
What was strange was other things I noticed Arion doing. His muscles were much more tense than usual, and he was quiet for the first few days. I didn’t know what emotion was associated with that behavior. I thought it could be worry, sadness, being lost in thought, anger, or any emotion really. I didn’t try guessing what emotion it was, and Arion got back to what I thought was normal after a few days.
For me it took the whole time travelling to heal myself. I was the most beat up out of the group. I found out later that I indeed had cracked two ribs in that fight. If I had the normal healing abilities of most elves, I would have healed myself up in an hour. I was at the lowest of healing abilities when it came to elves though, so I just tried to walk the pain off.
I wasn’t sure if my healing abilities were much better than humans or not. I debated asking Arion about it, but decided not to because then they would know that I cracked a couple of ribs. So I stayed quiet and waited for my body to heal itself.
I was slightly annoyed that my time with the people got months longer. I knew it wasn’t their fault, so I couldn’t blame them for it. I stuck to just planning on taking all my frustration of having to work with people out on Tark when I meet him. Then after that, I would celebrate by running off to be truly alone again after so long, especially if I continued to be lucky and they didn’t make any discoveries about me that I didn’t want them to.
After those two weeks, we were actually approaching our destination. I knew that trouble was awaiting us there because we were literally breaking into a place that was cursed. I just wanted to get it done and over with though.
“So, what do you know about the tentrite mines?” Artemis asked us when we were a couple days from it.
I shrugged and answered, “All I heard is from storytelling in the different towns I’ve been in. Good for getting the basic concept of history, but not for getting the details.”
“Oh yes, Raven,” Arion replied. “Because who in their right mind will go and read a history book to get the whole story for themselves.”
“Those who can read,” I replied.
Arion grunted and replied, “Sorry, I forgot that you can’t read.”
I shrugged, since I didn’t find anything offensive in the statement.
“I take it you have read about it though,” Artemis replied, probably to Arion.
He nodded before telling us, “This mine is only existing because of the fact that the builders forgot to mention anywhere in the blueprints how to disarm the spells holding the mine up—which all mines do in order to prevent cave ins. So instead they put two protections in place to keep people from looting the mine. Like we are going to do.”
“So what are those protections?” Artemis questioned.
Arion sighed and answered, “I have no idea. They inconveniently left out that detail. Makes sense, I guess, but it’s still annoying.”
To this Artemis cheerfully stated, “Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to find out.” To which, Shade barked in agreement.
To which Arion grumbled, “Hopefully before it kills us.”
I was leaning more towards Arion’s view at the moment. I kept thinking from that perspective over the next few days as we went into the town nearby to pick up some supplies and then went up the mountain.
It took us five hours that day, but eventually we were facing the entrance to the mine. The entrance was around the size of a doorway, which was not very impressive. I thought that might have been designed like that on purpose in order to make others think it was a normal cave. A lot of people would pass by something rather average looking. I would never know that for, sure since I wasn’t the person who built it.
“We should probably just head inside because there’s really nothing else we can do,” Arion spoke after a few seconds. “If we do that, we can start heading out of here and hopefully get off the mountain by nightfall.”
I thought about it, and, since there was no real way to prepare for what was inside of there, I agreed with him.
“Okay,” Artemis replied. “It helps that we really aren’t that high up the mountain anyway.”
“We actually lucked out there,” I murmured as I thought about my distaste of mountains. But since we were barely on it, I managed to convince myself I was just on a hill to give myself a greater piece of mind.
Artemis then mentioned, “I think that we should go over group rules first. We haven’t really had the chance to yet.” She, Shade, and Arion were then turned to face me specifically. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like what was coming.
“First rule: we stick together at all times,” Arion said in a way that made me think he was talking only to me. “No running off in a fight or under any circumstances.”
“Second rule: no making decisions on spot for the entire group, unless time doesn’t permit discussion because of impending death,” Artemis then announced.
Had they come up with these when I wasn’t around? I thought.
“Third,” Shade barked. “No picking fights.” Artemis seemed to know that Shade said the third rule because she nodded in agreement.
They got Shade in on this too? I wondered.
“Fourth rule,” Arion loudly proclaimed, “if the group has to talk to ANYONE outside of the group, then Raven ISN’T aloud to say a word to them. Or do ANYTHING, like break their arm.”
I only half listened to that rule because I was very shocked that Arion knew that Shade said the third rule. I was beginning to wonder if everyone could understand what Shade was saying.
“Understood?” Arion asked after a moment.
I stood there as I thought it all through. I was slightly annoyed that they came up with rules for me behind my back. Yet, I felt a bit of—or what I think I felt was—admiration that they weren’t afraid to boss me around. Most people wouldn’t try to boss someone around that they know has the skill to kill them in the blink of an eye. (I had also been told I was rather intimidating.) I was a little impressed by them.
“Understood,” I answered as I, by accident, only let the annoyance show through.
We all headed into the tunnel after distributing the supplies we were taking with us. I was carrying my usual weaponry along with a pickaxe that we had picked up. I was fine carrying it because, if all else failed, I could use it as a weapon also.
It took us about twenty minutes to reach the main tunnel. It was a little larger than the average hallway.
I took the front since I could move around perfectly in the tunnels without light. I was carrying a pickaxe in my right hand and my sword in my left. I would sometimes walk a few yards ahead as I tried to get a good sense of which path to head down when the tunnel diverged, but I stayed relatively close to the others.
Arion was in the middle carrying a torch in one hand and a sword in the other. Artemis and Shade brought up the rear since they had some night vision, but not enough to work in complete darkness. Artemis was carrying some spare equipment, while Shade wasn’t carrying anything.
We were in that tunnel for about five minutes when I got some odd sensations. I felt magic start to work up from within the walls themselves. I tried to see if it was the structural support magic, but, the more I felt it, the more I could tell it was a different type of spell.
“Magic is starting to act up,” I announced just as I heard Arion’s torch went out. It got cold with the warmth of the fire gone. Artemis tensed up as she whispered about how dark it got.
“Well, that’s just great,” Arion grumbled as he tried to relight it with no luck.
I could feel the others draw a bit closer together. They were trapped in darkness with no way to really tell where anything was, blind and lost in an unfamiliar cavern. I felt a little strange as I thought about their predicament. I brushed it off as nothing though, because I didn’t understand what I was feeling.
I couldn’t see a thing, but I had my hearing and touch to guide me through complete darkness. They had no such luck. Or skill. Or whatever someone would want to call it.
I also felt the magic slowly dissipate. I realized that was one of the protections in this cavern. Very few beings can travel in complete darkness (only the blind, demons, trolls, and dark elves), so it was a rather clever way to stop people from getting tentrite by simply stopping them from being able to see the tentrite, or where they were even.
The others were too annoyed to appreciate the pure genius of this plan.
“Umm, Raven, are you still there?” Artemis asked. The others stood close enough to tell that the others were there, but I stood a bit farther off
“Yes,” I answered. “It appears lights don’t work in here.”
“We should get out of here,” Artemis whispered. “Most of us are completely helpless right now.”
“I can lead you people out,” I told them.
“Seems like our best option,” Arion murmured.
Everyone made a sort of train where they had their hand on the person in front of them’s shoulder, except for Shade and me. Shade simply bit the edge of Artemis’s coat and used that to anchor him. I didn’t since I was leading the way.
“It looks like I’ll have to get the tentrite by myself,” I told them as we were slowly moving along.
Arion growled, “Well, there has to be something we can do.”
“Raven might be the best option, since we are stumbling around like blind people,” Artemis replied.
“That’s rather insulting,” I told them. “Blind people move around a lot better than you people are moving right now.”
“I highly doubt that with how rough and uneven these cave floors are,” Arion grumbled.
We continued to discuss the situation, but then everyone came to the realization that the only way to possibly get the tentrite, and not spend months doing so, was if I gathered it.
“What about the second protection?” Artemis asked
“I’ll just have to deal with it when it happens,” I told them, sounding slightly more confident than I felt. I wasn’t invincible, but I could handle myself in most situations.
I could feel their bodies grow less tense when they saw the light at the end of the tunnel. When we walked out, they seemed to be happy to be out in the sunlight.
I just turned around and headed back in the tunnels, where my job laid before me. Once I was in the tunnels, I moved quickly as if I were in daylight still. Most of the time, I thought there was no difference between night and day for me.
The tunnel winded down deeper into the earth towards the tentrite. I wanted to find it quickly. The longer I was down there, the greater chance I had of triggering the second protection, which I still had no idea what it was.
I found the tentrite in thirty minutes. It was combined with a bunch of other metals but there was still plenty of tentrite. I decided to get some extra just in case something went wrong, which it probably was going to. That took me another half an hour to get it out. Once I was done, I had enough for two swords. Luckily enough, tentrite was a very light metal so I could still lift it rather easily, as I would have to for weeks..
I turned around ready to go back. I was walking at the same pace that I was before.
About five minutes later, things started going wrong. I sensed it right away about fifty yards away from me.
A troll was waking up, just my luck. I couldn’t sense them, since when they rested they appeared to be just rocks, even their auras seemed to meld in with the underground rocks.
Trolls were living beings that were blind and lived in tunnels and caves. They had a massive shape of animal with four legs, giant muscular body, and a round head. They didn’t deal with others unless you entered their cave and tried to take stuff, as I was doing. They could move around perfectly in the dark like I could. They were gifted with speed and strength, a lot of strength. Their skin was hard enough in most places to break metal, even elfish blades have difficulty piercing it. The skin had no cracks in it. Their only major weakness was they couldn’t survive above ground, only below (no one knew why).
All the sudden, leaving the tunnel got a lot harder. I made sure the bag with metal was strapped on tightly. I had a pickaxe in my left hand and my sword in my right. I hoped I wouldn’t have to do a lot with them.
I was sprinting to the exit, but the troll had sensed my presence and ran after me. The troll was too fast for me and was gaining ground on me. I was going at my top speed instead of the walk that I did earlier, but it would still have taken me three more minutes to make it out of the mine. I didn’t have that time.
The troll caught up with me. I ducked to avoid the troll’s paw-like hand from smashing my head against the tunnel wall. The troll’s hand instead smashed into the wall causing a slight tremble to echo throughout the entire mine. The troll let out a roar that sounded like grinding rocks.
I continued to try and race out of the mine. I ducked each way I could to avoid being hit. I was more coordinated than it was, so that helped.
At one moment though, the troll managed to graze my side. I stumbled into the wall, which knocked me off balance and caused me to get more bruises. I had gotten a lot of bruises during that journey than usual. The troll started trying to swing its hand down on top of me. I rolled to the side and used the pick ax the push the troll’s hand away. The ax shattered on impact with its skin, but it managed to move the hand just enough in order to prevent it from hitting me.
I jumped up to my feet and started running again. I felt that the pickaxe shards gave me a few small cuts, which made me feel a little annoyed.
The troll and I continued our rounds of it trying to hit me and me managing somehow to avoid it. Then the entrance to the outside world was actually in my reach. The troll slowed down as the surface drew near, and I sprinted in order to get out of there.
I managed to make it out. My breathing and heart rate were crazy, but I found that I couldn’t have helped it in that situation. Artemis, Arion, and Shade were waiting near the entrance for me. Arion immediately asked me as I ran out what I did in that cave.
We all then heard the troll howl from the inside, in what sounded like fury. I was definitely not heading back in there.
“We’ll talk about this later,” Arion stated after a short pause. We all agreed by heading away from the mine, even though the danger was most likely past.
“So, now that we have the tentrite, where are we going to get it forged?” Arion questioned us. “Unless you want to try and throw it at the demon, and hope the tentrite causes enough damage.”
“There’s another member of the Concealed Sun who’s a blacksmith,” Artemis answered. “Her name is Arianna. She’s a fire elf and is one of the best blacksmiths in the land. She’ll be able to make a tentrite knife, and we’ll be able to trust her.”
Arion tilted his head for a moment before saying, “I remember hearing about her. Where is she?”
“She lives in the Elven Lands. She really just makes weapons and hands along information to our group.”
“That will take us a while to get there,” Arion murmured.
“No better option,” Artemis replied.
“I know,” he sighed. “Do you think we should tell the Concealed Sun to send in more reinforcements?”
“No,” I answered.
“Why?” Arion and Artemis both questioned me at the same time.
I told them, “So far, we ran into quite a few problems, and we’re not even a large group. Large groups attract attention, so by staying small we can hopefully not run into even more problems than we already will.”
There was a pause before Artemis replied, “Makes sense to me.”
Arion then nodded.
“What route should we take?” Artemis asked.
“I think we should head into Tardon,” Arion replied. “Tark can tear this kingdom apart looking for me, but he has little, if any, influence in Tardon.”
We started off in the direction of Tardon to continue our rather long journey.