It was midday, the darkest one this land had ever seen. As blood was shed on the fields of Munster, the golden sun hid itself from it behind the dark clouds, for such a terrible battle was too much for her to bear. The only one remaining in the sky was the moon, as calm and neutral as ever. Nothing that had happened on Earth, however terrible it had been, had not made it change its stony face. As the moon was gazing at the battle below the clouds, so were the two male riders who were sitting on white horses on the side of a cliff. They were in a safe distance from the fight, so far that even a large arrow sent from the battleground would not have reached the ground beneath them. This fight that would soon be called the Battle of Munster, was the biggest battle that had taken place in decades, as such a great kingdom like Munster had never been completely destroyed. What had once been the palace of Munster, the monument of the whole civilization of elves, was now becoming a pile of rocks. When hundreds of elves were fleeing the city, the two black dragons with silver patters painted on their horny backs were tearing the castle apart, robbing it of its glory as they tore away one brick after another. Most of them fell on the soft grass, yet some flew against the stone wall which immediately broke them. Some even hit a few elves who were fleeing from the burning city. Most however managed to get farther from the castle, only to be greeted by the army of human soldiers surrounding the castle who ended their lives without one single thought of remorse. One of the two riders watching the battle laughed coldly every once in awhile, clearly enjoying the bloodbath they were both witnessing. Yet the other rider stood beside him with a stone cold face like the moon in the sky itself, quietly observing the battle without a single sound.
Both of those men looked a lot like each other. Had one of them not looked considerably older than the other, one would not have been able to tell the difference between them. They were Olvius and Niveus, the king and prince of Ariw, the kingdom of men in the west. Many stories had been told about their land amongst the elves, for many feared it because the sun never came out there. The moon was as constant in their sky as the sun had been here: it was the source of light and life for them in general. Therefore all ariwians just like their king and prince were pale skinned, as many of them had not seen the sun during their life. Both Olvius and Niveus were wearing an iron helmet before their face to protect them from the sunlight, as were all the ariwian soldiers fighting for them in the battle. They like many other people from their land thought that the light of the sun was dangerous, especially for their kind. Legends of ariwian men who had been burnt by the sunlight were common in Ariw, Soon the castle of Munster collapsed and the dragons left, being guided by a group of ariwian men. These were no ordinary dragons: their wings had been cut off at a young age and they had been trained to completely obey the ariwian dragonmasters ever since. After the massive escape of dragons centuries ago, all of them now lost their wings at a young age to make sure that none of them could fly away again. Ever since their birth they were kept hidden in cellars and tied to the wall by the shackles around their neck. The dragons were one of the main reasons Ariw was feared throughout all the twenty kingdoms in Emeras. Although they could not be used to fly, they were very valuable in battle, and could be used to crush large groups of warriors and destroy buildings very quickly.
After the dragons had left, a large army of ariwian soldiers ran into the city, slaughtering every elf they came across. When the helpless screams of the elves was hearable from the distance once again, Olvius spoke. „What an enjoyable scene!“ he said and laughed coldly. His voice was deep and a bit husky. „I always enjoy a good battle!“ „So do I.“ Niveus responded, his voice a bit more light and clear than his fathers and not nearly as amused, „Although I still do not understand why we need to have a bloodbath as big this. Why cannot we imprison them, make them work as slaves for us? Or simply execute their leaders? We do not need to kill them all like this! “ „The elves need to be taught a lesson.“ Olvius responded and looked Niveus directly in the eye, sounding a bit annoyed by his sons response. „They need to see that we, humans, are the stronger race. They have to fear us, so that once we rule Emeras again they will not even think of overthrowing us!“ „Do not underestimate them, father.“ Niveus said. „We might have a war on our hands much sooner than you think.“ „Are you speaking of Helyn, their leader?“ Olvius asked and laughed loudly again. „Much more has to happen for him to crawl out of his cave. He has been hidden for many years and I doubt we will see him return during our lifetime. And what could he alone do against a mighty army such as ours?“ „I suppose you are right.“ Niveus replied. „But I still do not understand why you brought me here. To simply witness the battle? I have seen many battles all my life! What use am I if you do not allow me to run to fight with our knights?“ „Who are you to question my authority?“ Olvius asked „You are witnessing a moment of history! Humans all over Emeras will be telling stories of this for hundreds of years! This is the beginning of the Age of Men, and we, ariwians, have the chance to start it, to destroy one of the strongest and mightiest elven kingdoms! It is a great honour!“ He paused for a moment. „But as it seems, you might be of more use to me than I thought,“ He pointed his finger on the forest far away where a few elves were running. „See those elves escaping? It will take time before our knights reach them, so I will go and make sure none of them make it there alive! I want you to guard this side of the forest. If you see any trying to run here, eliminate them!“ „Consider it done.“ Niveus said as his father rode away. „Do not fail me.“ Olvius said as he was preparing to leave, „If any of the elves escape, your punishment will be severe.“ He then rode away towards the battleground. He was a very good rider, much faster than most soldiers in the Ariwian army. He was also very highly skilled in the art of swordfighting and had been a deadly weapon in the hand of his own father who had used him for many years. Being a man with a frozen heart, he did not hesitate to eliminate his enemies without one thought, and expected his soldiers to act like this as well. For that he had earned the nickname The Monster King amongst many elves, and had become a character that often appeared in the stories they told their children at night. As the years passed, Olvius had grown accustomed to the ways of his father. Soon he did not see another way to live. With each kill his heart became colder, and was now as hard as a stone that will never be melted by the sun. To please his father he had done many terrible things. And now he was doing to the very same thing to his own son his father had done to him many years ago. As he was nearing the forest, Olvius looked at what had once been the palace of Munster and smiled. Now it was but a pile of stone, yet til this very day it had been a beautiful castle and the monument of the civilization of elves. Many of them had come all over Emeras to visit it, to see this glorious place with their own eyes for at least once in their life. How quickly it all had been destroyed! This was but one of the signs that the elves did not stand a chance against the humans! Riding towards the forest, he saw many escaping, trying to spare their life at all costs. As they noticed the king riding on his horse with his sword raised and his face as serious as death, many screamed loudly as they feared for their lives. But they were not able to escape his deadly hand: as he rode by them as fast as the wind itself, he quickly pierced his silver longsword through their hearts. With the trail of dead bodies following him and his sword soon dripping of blood, he was like death itself that had come to claim the life of the ones still alive.
Looking at the battlefield from the distance, Niveus soon noticed that a red haired girl wearing a long blue dress was running towards the Sleepy Forest nearby, getting already very close to its trees. It was a location that was perfect for hiding, as the light there got dimmer much faster than anywhere in all of Emeras. It lied right in the middle of Munster and Ariw, separating the light from darkness, happyness from sadness, goodness from evil. The forest itself contained both. Knowing how treacherous it was and that the sun was not far from setting, Niveus knew he had to act fast. He took the bridles of his horse to his hand, lightly touched the side of his horse and galloped towards the forest.
Within minutes, Caitilin entered the Sleepy Forest. Within minutes that seemed to fly by sooner than she could notice, Caitilin entered the Sleepy Forest. It was the strangest place she had ever seen in her life: a forest with such tall trees that were always surrounded by a mist, so thick that even the sun was not able to shine through it. It was a place she had always feared as a child, for many tales were told of the elves who had gotten lost there and had never returned. But her life was at stake, and she had nowhere else to go as the human soldiers were guarding all the other forests that surrounded Munster. She was still wearing the blue dress she had before, only now it was ruined, ruptured and dirty – not at all as as beautiful as it had been just a few hours ago. She tripped a couple of times because of its longness and wished that she had had time to change. But there had been no time, not for those who wanted to escape alive. In her right hand she was holding a large iron lantern, which moved up and down as she ran towards the forest. She tried to be as careful with it as she possibly could, as she knew that if the candle in it would stop burning, she would be lost. The forest around her was getting darker and darker, and she had to get away as soon as possible. Still, although she had to flee to stay alive, all she really wished she could do was to sit down and cry, to mourn at least for a moment for her loss. All of her family had died today, and although she had not seen all of them being killed, she knew in her heart they were dead. It had only taken one day for her to lose all her family, just one day to eliminate the biggest royal family in all of Emeras! This made Caitilin ask herself: if such a strong kingdom could be destroyed so easily, did the elves stand a chance at all? And would Ector, the nearest kingdom be the next one to suffer? And was Arel still alive or had he perished like the rest of her family? As painful as it was for her, she has to admit that the chances of him surviving were very slim. This day she had lost all that she cared for, and because of that she did not want to live anymore as well. She longed to leave this world with all of her loved ones, as even the thought of living without them was too much to bear. Yet one thought still kept her from leaving was this: she knew that being the one of the few survivors of this tragedy or perhaps even the only one, she had the responsiblity before her people and her race to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. She was more than sure that the attack of the humans had only begun, and if she did not warn the others, Munster would not be the only elven kingdom to be destroyed. She decided to start with Ector, the kingdom nearby where Arel was from. Caitilin was more than sure that their kingdom would be attacked next, as it was one of the strongest elven kingdoms in all of Emeras. In its strength it could only be rivaled by Munster. But Munster had fallen and because of the mighty ariwian dragons, Ector would not have stood a chance either. But people still could have stayed alive if they knew they had to leave beforehand. And so Caitilin ran as fast as she possibly could, to the East where Ector lied.
It did not take long for her to realise that someone was following her. Although the forest was as death itself, there was still an eery sound in the wind, quiet like a whisper, warning her that she was in danger. Yet each time she looked behind her, she did not see anyone approaching or hear any sound but her own breath. It was as if she was the only living soul in the forest. But she had heard many stories of those who had gone mad here after they had seen terryfying visions: the realisations of their own worst fears. Soon it was hard for them to tell the difference between what was real and what was not which eventually drove them mad. As more moments passed, Caitilin herself feared that she was a victim of the same terrible fate. Yet now there was no turning back: all she could do was to try to find Ector and this forest was the only way there. And even though her chances of finding it were quite slim, she knew she had to try for all her loved ones who had lost their lives today. She could not bear the thought of dying whilst knowing she did not try to save the other elven nations. This was now her only hope, her only purpose, the destiny she had created for herself. Yet whilst this hope remained with her, so did the eery feeling that someone was following her. After that, it did not take long for her to hear a horse galloping in the distance. Convinced that this was yet another illusion, she tried to think of happy memories of her time in Munster, but the more she thought of them, the more it depressed she got as it was all now gone. Yet whoever was riding a horse in these woods was coming closer. She now knew she had to flee, run even faster than before, whether this was an illusion or not. Her life was at stake after all. As she ran as fast as her long legs could take her, the forest around her was getting darker and colder, making it soon impossible for her to soon see aynthing around her. The forest was now as black as everything inside her, and this frightened her than anything had ever before. Still holding her lantern in her right hand, she accelerated, now running faster than she ever had in her life. Yet after a few minutes she ran against a tree whilst her lantern slipped from her hand and fell down, becoming a pile of glass and iron pieces in front of her feet. She could feel something warm flowing accross her forehead and soon realised it was blood. But she was still not about to give up. She kept going, slower than before to make sure she did not hit any more trees. Now completely exhausted, she had to pause quite a lot to catch her breath. As she paused for yet another time, she noticed something strange in the distance. At first it seemed like a bright light, yet as it came closer she realised it was a white rider on a white horse, coming closer by the minute. Scared for her life, she continued running, only to soon trip behind a large root of a tree. And as she fell against the ground, she hit her head once more, now against a large stone that was laying on the ground. As more blood flowed across her face, Caitilin saw how the world around her was beginning to collapse. She tried to fight it and stay awake, but with each passing moment the sleepy feeling took ahold of her, soon holding her completely in its grasp and making it impossible for her to flee again. All she could do now was to wait with a great fear in her heart as her chaser got closer to her. It did not take long for the rider to arrive. It was a person unlike anyone she had ever seen before. A man with long white hair and clothes of the same color, more handsome than most elven princes she had met in her life. He was both a ghost and an angel to her: his coming had scared her, whilst his arrival suddenly calmed her down. There was something easy and confronting about his smile and yet something tragic about his light blue eyes, which were the saddest ones she had ever seen in her life. He must really be an angel then, she thought to herself, as those eyes must have seen too many evil things in this world to ever light up again. And as he took her in his arms without a word, Caitilin let the sleepyness to finally take ahold of her. She had passed out, without even knowing if her saviour was a friend or a foe. The prince put her unconsious body on the back of his horse. He knew well what his duty was: to take his black longsword and pierce it through her heart, coldy and without even one thought of remorse. The elves were all evil after all – that was believed by all the humans. They were the conquerors, the dominators and they all had to be annihilated as his father had taught him since he was a little child. But how could this elf possibly be evil, Niveus thought to himself as he looked at Caitilin for a short moment. This girl, although an elf, was one of the most beautiful creatures he had ever seen: no royal princess in any of the human kingdoms was like her. And the expression on her face was somehow so peaceful, as if she trusted him completely although she had never met him before and did not even know who he was. And so in those short moments of pondering he realised that he did not have the heart to kill her. But he simply had no other chance: according to the laws of his people this was the way elves were to be handled, and although he had never really agreed with it he had no chance to escape it. And his father surely would have been very angry if he would ever have find out. As he had said himself, his punishment would be severe. Yet a moment later he noticed something as the bright moonlight shone on her unconscious body. It was a very small golden necklace around her tiny neck with the pendant formed of a crescent moon and three stars. This was without a doubt a symbol of a royal dynasty, yet which one exactly he did not know for sure. Still, this changed everything, as he knew very well how much the elves valued the royalty of each of their kingdoms, and how much they were prepared to pay for their freedom. Here was a chance he simply could not ignore, especially since his people had suffered a lot during this last year. Getting the silver from the elves and helping his people would definitely have made him a favorite amongst them, and raised the chances of him becoming their king one day. He had been in the shadows of his brothers a long time, fought them for power all this life. If he could make a bargain with the elves in secret and save his country from financial ruin, he surely would be the new hero. And his father never even had to know how he saved his country.
Although Munster was gone, it would not mean that the other elven kingdoms would not pay handsomely for her freedom. In fact, it was possible that they would pay even more than her weight in gold, considering that she was the last survivor of Munster. And this was reason enough for Niveus to keep her alive. He would take her to his fortress where he had lived alone for many years. His father never visited him there, and for this reason it was the ideal place where to keep her. He took his leather white belt and fastened Caitilin to the stallion so she would not fall off during the ride. Then he got on himself, and lightly touched the side of the horse with his left foot. The stallion started to move straight ahead quietly, towards the darkness thay lied before them. Niveus looked around in the forest that was around them and then at the sky above. It was the darkest night he had seen in his life, as the moon itself was covered with thick black clouds, stealing the sky of its radiant glow. With this black day, the world itself had lost some of its beauty, and this made the prince feel a bit sad. Still, one thing was true: he would not admit this to anyone.