Late Night Pondering

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      It was still dark out; that was the first thing that came into Raven's mind when he awoke. There was no sunlight filtering thorough the tree branches. On the contrary, through the thick clumps of leaves, Raven could see the silvery glow of the moon.

      The second thing that the young man noticed was that someone was laying uncomfortably close to him, and he had an idea who. That same someone choose that moment to breathe right in his ear, which annoyed him more than he had the energy to show.

      Slowly, and carefully, Raven sat up, hoping not to disturb his ribs too much. To his surprise, he succeeded in doing so..in fact, he felt no pain at all. This, however, disturbed Raven more than it relieved him. After all, even with Emmelyne's healing abilities to speed his recovery, he'd been in pretty bad shape only a few hours before. What had happened to him?

      Raven exhaled sharply and ran his fingers through his hair. Momentarily setting his strange, 'miraculous' recovery aside, he looked next to him and saw the person who had disturbed him. It was Raine. The blond-haired pixie girl was sleeping mere inches away from where he had been laying.

      Raine was an odd girl. She'd hardly told them anything about herself, but from what Raven could tell, she was a fairy of some sort. The girl had bright reddish wings, that looked deceptively delicate; almost crystalline by appearances. Her hair was blond, and her skin, pale. It was hard to tell just how old she was, but she seemed like a hormonal child. But Raven knew that it wasn't that simple. Somewhere in there, he sensed pain..almost as if she was acting as she did to try and cover over that pain. She reminded him of himself in a way. She just coped with her problems differently.

      Not that it really mattered, Raven concluded.

      The sprite girl had, in her own way, invited herself to tag along with them. Raven didn't really care if she did or not. Just as long as she stayed out of his way.

      He continued to watch Raine for a moment as she slept on her stomach. Her wings would allow for nothing else. One of her pointed ears twitched, causing her earrings bump against one another and ping softly.

      Raven surveyed the campsite. The fire, nearly out, was now little more than a burnt out pile of cinders. Emmelyne was asleep on the other side. Her slumber seemed much more peaceful than Raven's had been.

      He considered for a moment if she could have tried to heal him again, but Emmelyne appeared to be in perfect health. He'd have to talk to her in the morning about it.

      Emmelyne was a mystery to Raven, even now. She was distant, yet Raven felt he knew her pretty well. There were a lot of things Raven liked about her. She was strong for one. That was one thing that was definitely put to the test during their travels, but Emmelyne seemed to adapt very quickly. Emmelyne had proved to be very trustworthy as well. The Elvin girl knew how to keep her cool, and her secrets. And for that, Raven was grateful. She hadn't mentioned Naomi once to Blind.

      Naomi.. What was it about Emmelyne that reminded him of her? He still couldn't quite put his finger on it. She was.. just different, like Naomi was different. Emmelyne was calm, sincere, and intelligent. Emmelyne, like Naomi, had a gentile spirit that made Raven stop and think whether or not his way of thinking was the best..Sometimes he had to admit that it wasn't; sometimes he didn't care.

      But that was Emmelyne. It was hard to believe that they'd only known each other for a little over a week. She seemed to grow on you though, her optimism was refreshing, especially when Raven couldn't see the way out of a situation right away.. maybe he'd tell her that someday..

      As far as Emmelyne's similarities with Naomi, that was it. Raven thought about that some more..yes, that was probably all. He'd probably put some more thought into it another time.


      There was a sudden flash of memory..


      "Jason..I - I'm hurt bad.." she looked up at him, both pain and sadness in her eyes. She didn't have to say much more.

      He looked down at the girl, and knew she was right, "No!"

      A lie! That's not how it happened; not how he remembered it! What were those?

      Raven shook the images off as quickly as he could, and began to look around for Chaos Devil, but quickly found that the man wasn't there. The blond man stood silently, and took another glance around himself, but Blind was nowhere to be seen.

      "Hmm.." Raven considered this for a moment. Where could he have gone? After picking up his sword, Raven walked over to the edge of the clearing, but paused at the border. After thinking it over, Raven decided not to call out for him. He had no idea what kind of creatures might answer if he did. It was almost enough to make Raven wonder why someone hadn't stayed awake to watch, but Emmelyne had seemed less than concerned about anything attacking them.

      Raven shrugged mentally, and began to walk down one of the nearby paths in search of his companion.

      Chaos Devil.. probably one of the more interesting characters Raven had ever met. Blind was an honorable man, but his arrogance - his confidence on his own abilities - was enough to get on Raven's nerves at times. The blind man certainly was good with a sword though.

      Raven smirked. Blind was very levelheaded, and seemed to be able to see any situation from many angles. And that, Raven almost envied. Though Chaos had claimed not to have a soul, Raven highly doubted that. A Skeletal Warrior - that had no soul..a monster was all it was. No life. No feelings.

      Blind was nothing like that. He seemed to be becoming more and more 'human' as each day passed. Maybe more than Blind himself would want to admit..

      Raven stopped dead as he heard a noise behind him. It sounded like someone carelessly stepping on a twig. Without hesitation, Raven brandished his sword and spun around to face whoever was following him.

      Raven scowled.

      Standing there, with her face just inches from his blade, was Raine. She cried out in surprise and stumbled back into a nearby tree. Raine looked up at Raven with fear in her eyes, as he looked down at her, continuing to point his sword at her.

      However, the fright quickly turned to anger, "What did you do that for?" Raine hissed as she got back to her feet, "Why do you people keep trying to kill me?"

      Raven continued to look at her coldly, without word or waver.

      Raine on the other hand very quickly became impatient, "Well?" she prompted.

      Once again, Raven was silent. He continued to ignore her for several more seconds before he finally sighed loudly and sheathed his sword.

      "Why did you follow me?" he questioned at last, "No more secrets, girl. What are you up to?"



      Raine gave him an offended look. She sighed, "What do you care? Maybe I just wanted to be around people for a change.."

      "What am I supposed to do now?" Trile huffed. The harpy had taken refuge in a large cavern on the outskirts of the underground labyrinths.

      She felt like smashing something with her fist, however she somehow managed to restrain herself. Trile clenched her hand, causing her claws to dig into the palm. She stopped just short of drawing blood.

      Trile made a deep hiss of disgust, and glanced back at her injured wing. She still couldn't so much as straiten it out, and was probably broken. Trile hated her weakness - that she could be injured so easily. She had wanted to be strong, but now she felt weak.

      The dark elf had trained with the finest fighters since she was a small girl. It seemed being the daughter of an elder had its benefits. Whatever Trile wanted, she received. And whatever she received, she would master.

      And what she wanted more than anything was to be as courageous and honorable as her father. Delgon, her father, was one of the most respected members of the Unseelie court. He was strong, and unlike so many others that she knew, he would not oppress the weak. Delgon would always be the voice of reason, the one who pointed out the better way.. or at least the craftier way.

      Like her father, Trile overcame the primal rages which burn in the heart of all dark elves. And like Delgon, she overcame them at an early age. Unlike so many dark elves, Trile mastered herself and her emotions. Through many years of tutelage and training, she became stronger and smarter than almost every one of her contenders. All except one, that is..

      Trile had seized the opportunity when the great Baneheart came to the Unseelie Court looking for soldiers, and impressed even him with her abilities. He'd chosen her to lead many, and lead them she did.

      She led her troops to many a conquest, and her name was shouted more loudly than any of Baneheart's generals. The "Dark Angel" they would call her. For her father was a harpy, and her mother was something else entirely. She had never met her mother, and doubted that she was still alive. But between her father and mother, Trile had come out to be.. something in between; her feathery wings and mottled, blue skin served as testimony to that.

      However, the louder her name was shouted, the more and more jealous the others became. Many whispered behind her back, and tried to find a weakness in her command. Canon, Baneheart's third in command was the worst.

      And of course they found a weakness: Trile abhorred attacking the innocent.

      Baneheart would usually avoid sending her on missions that he thought she would object to. But on occasion, he would ignore her sentiments and test her by having her attack a strategically unimportant village. And they would always be there to watch, and see if she'd carry out her orders or not.

      Trile shook her head in disgust. Had all her ambition come to nothing? Had she, without realizing it, become a slave?

      Doubtlessly, that was what Baneheart wanted; to keep her under his thumb..

      The dark elf felt suddenly felt a presence behind her. This didn't surprise her though. She knew who it was - the only one who would come up to her unannounced. The only one who she trusted enough to confide in.

      "Why do you ask questions to the winds?" came an airy, almost wheeze of a voice, "You know as well as I that it won't answer."

      Trile chortled ruefully, "Hello, Dora. You are surprisingly light-footed today," Dora made no response to Trile's remark, to the harpy went on, "I suppose I ask because I don't think I'll like the answer."

      Trile turned to greet the bone dragon with a wry smile, but winced involuntarily when her wing was jostled. She shrugged it off, hoping Dora wouldn't notice.

      However, she was not so lucky..

      "You're injured," Dora said calmly; although there was a tinge of concern in her voice. The undead creature fluttered her own bony wings, and then craned her head down to inspect Trile more thoroughly, "What happened to you?"

      Trile took a step back from Dora's massive skull, and huffed angrily, "Baneheart is what happened to me." A moment later she added, "It'll heal."

      Dora cocked her head to the side and lifted it back up to its normal level, "You're no light elf, Trile. You cannot heal as fast as they."

      Trile smiled to this, exposing her fangs, "I may not have the powers of the Seelie, but I can take care of myself, old friend."

      Dora nodded, but seemed unconvinced, "I will..of course..take your word. So tell me. Why was Baneheart so angered with you?"

      The harpy sighed, "I think that blasted vampire told the master that I would not kill the children of that town. So now Canon's in charge. He's even colder than Baneheart himself. I hate that - that creature."

      The undead creature nodded, "Canon has always been very spiteful."

      "I told Baneheart that I found no honor in murdering children. He didn't care though. And now he's sending me off back to my hometown."

      Dora looked puzzled, "You have been dispatched?" she questioned.

      Trile nodded, "Rumor has it that some of the pendant bearers are heading toward the Unseelie Court. He wants me to intercept them."

      If Dora had flesh, she most certainly would have frowned, "Hmm..which pendant bearers?"

      The dark elf shrugged, "A boy, a young elf, and a blind man."

      Dora growled, "Both Astra and myself have had a run in with them.."

      "Then I'll give them one for you.."

      "If you go, you will have signed your own death warrant."

      Trile brow furrowed, "I have been ordered, I will go; I'm not afraid to die."

      The undead dragon once again lowered herself down to eye level. And in a near whisper, she said, "Listen to me, and listen well. You and I are friends, and so I must tell you: You are the only one who has become a general of Baneheart willingly. You are the only one whose soul was left intact. Do not give that up, Trile. That would be foolishness.

      "It doesn't matter with me. I will simply fade away some day..but you. You are alive and healthy."

      "I know.." Trile interrupted. Suddenly Dora gave off an aura of guilt. It was subtle, and hard to distinguish on Dora's expressionless face, but Trile sensed it none the less. The dragon kept silent. However it was enough to arouse Trile's interest, "What is it? What is troubling you?"

      Dora remained abstinent, "What makes you that something is bothering me?"

      "I've known you long enough that I know when you're troubled."

      Her companion nodded, "Perhaps it is true.. you are correct. Something is indeed bothering me. There is something you are unaware of. Something that has horrible implications for you and all of your kind."

      Trile became concerned, "What is it? What is this horrific thing that has you so upset?"

      Dora hesitated, "I have been forbidden to share this with you.. but I cannot help but do so.. Trile. The Seelie Court is no more.."

      Nothing came to Trile; she was wordless - speechless. Sudden pain entered her heart. So much confusion; so much anguish. She had no idea that such a thing could happen. Who? Who could do such a thing? Who would be so ruthless as to attack the light elves? They who were the most innocent and blameless of all the peoples of Dragon's Breath had been targeted for destruction.

      "W-who," Trile stuttered, barely able to breathe the words out, "Who has done this?"

      The answer was immediate, "Baneheart."

      Trile gritted her teeth, "I'll kill him," she fought for control, resisting the temptation to actually do so, "Why did he do it? How?" her anger had already begun to subside, only to be replaced with sadness.

      "Baneheart replaced the Elvin Council with his own doppelgangers. As for why, I don't know, but.. I believe that he wishes to break the great Seal. But to do that, he would need to gain control of Dragon's Breath's elemental spirits..forgive me, but I can tell you no more. Baneheart will know if I do. He keeps too tight of a reign on me..Trile.."

      She turned away to hide her tears. If Baneheart had was after the powers of Forest spirit, he'd likely target the Unseelie Council next. Trile suddenly felt that she should get home quickly - before it was too late! "I'll be alright. I..I know someone in the Unseelie court, and I have another friend in a high position. They'll help me if I need it."

      Dora nodded, "When are you going?"

      "Soon," Trile replied, "I'll begin tracking the pendant bearers in a day, but first, I think I'll go visit an old friend of mine. My former classmate, Alzara.."

      "And that's what happened." Raine concluded, "And I'd appreciate if you kept it to yourself.

      "Oh, I swear," Raven replied, making a mock salute. He laughed a bit to himself, "So tell me, do other people see this dragon, or does he only come around when you've been drinking?"

      Raine immediately became indignant, "What's that supposed to mean?"

      "Really. Do you really expect me to believe that you're over a thousand years old?"

      "It's the truth," Raine insisted.

      "Mmm-hmm. So let me get this strait. You were trapped in a cave for a thousand years without food and you come out looking fine. Then some mysterious stranger shows up with some girl and breaks you out. You get drunk, wander off, and then you spot us."

      Raine nodded.

      "You're completely crazy."

      The fairy-girl frowned, but then smiled. She considered that with an amused statement on her face, "Crazy? I like it. You can get away with a lot of stuff when you're crazy," But the girl's statement quickly changed. She crossed her arms and turned away, "So I'm crazy, huh? See if I ever tell you anything again." The girl's wings began to flutter in a way that seemed to express annoyance.

      Raven hesitated for a moment. He realized he probably shouldn't have said that. Even if she was lying, he shouldn't insult the girl for no reason, "..I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. So..um, why did those people trap you in that cave anyway?"

      Raine said nothing.

      The blond man waited, but eventually became impatient, "Did you do something wrong?"

      "No!" Raine shouted, "They said I murdered someone. I didn't! But I was sealed in that cave as punishment. They always had hated me because I was different," she paused, then changed the subject, "I don't know where my dragon is. He's probably nearby though."

      Raven sighed, "Your dragon.."

      Suddenly Blind stepped out from the shadows, "..Is right here."

      Both Raven and Raine turned to look, and called out in unison, "It is?"

      On Blind's shoulder, was a small, red dragon. It was probably about the size of a hawk, and was covered with ruby and emerald-like scales. It's eyes were the color of tarnished gold, and reptilian in nature. It had a pair of bird's wings on its back, and very sharp looking claws and fangs.

      "Java!" Raine exclaimed, "Where have you been?"

      The dragon immediately flew over and landed on the girl's shoulder. It began to hiss and click its answer to her. However, there was something else. Raven heard it in the corner of his mind. It was a voice..

      *I've been searching for you, young lady. You know I like to keep my eye on you.*

      Raine laughed, "Sorry to disappoint you, Java, but I'm fine."

      *You always say that, right up until you screw something up royal,* it made a laughing sound, but then regained its seriousness, *You weren't thinking about robbing these people too, weren't you? I think that that blond man over there looks like the type who might take offence to that.*

      "And you'd be right," Raven interrupted.

      Java suddenly spun around and hissed, while Raine simply got a puzzled statement on her face. "You can hear him?" she questioned.

      Raven nodded, "Seems like it. So you were planning of robbing us, huh?"

      Raine shook her head, "No. Not..you anyway," she said sheepishly.

      "Listen. You do anything to me or my friends, and you'll need that dragon for protection."

      "Is that a threat?" asked Raine, angrily.

      Blind stepped forward, "Quiet! Both of you!" When he was sure everyone's attention was on him, he continued, "Raine. You and Java go back to camp. I want to speak to Raven alone."

      Raine sighed with frustration, and reluctantly headed back towards the clearing.

      When they were alone, Blind approached Raven, "So you and I are friends, huh?"

      Raven arched a brow, "A slip of the tongue," he clarified, smiling slightly, "It'll never happen again."

      "Of course."

      "How long were you there?"

      Blind seemed to consider this, "Long enough," Blind replied simply.

      Raven nodded, "So what did you want to talk to me about?"

      "We need to get moving early in the morning. I have the feeling that we should get our business done in Vellion as soon as possible. The Unseelie Court isn't a place where even I would want to say for long."


Raine and Java
Character © Jacki Eralin
Art © Matthew Handy

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