It was long after nightfall when the sound of a bell woke Midnight up from her dream. She sat bolt upright, startled, her breathing uneven as she struggled to take in what was going on. She tried to get out of bed, but when she moved her legs a sudden sharp pain went through her muscles.
She massaged her thigh gently, every touch causing her even more pain, until it finally subsided. She succeeded in getting out of bed the second time around, but it just caused her whole body to ache. The fight with Aidan had drained her of what little strength she still had and now it seemed like she was sleep-walking more than anything else. Stumbling across the room, she reached out for the door and patted down until she could find the knob. Outside in the corridor, there was no movement, but even though the noise from the bell was loud, Midnight could still hear voices at the end of the hallway. Unsure of what she was supposed to do, she closed the door behind her and walked to where she thought she could hear people talking. She had never gone farther down the corridor than her own room, so she didn't really know what was in that part of the castle.
What she found when she got to the end would have left her with her mouth hanging wide open, had it not been for all the Creatures walking around. The corridor opened up into a large, circular room below her feet. A widespread stone staircase connected the two levels and there was a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
Midnight put her hand on the beautifully sculpted railing and looked over the room: it was full of tables and everyone there seemed to be having dinner. At that moment, her stomach made a low, grumbling sound and the delicious smell of soup made her mouth water. She realized she'd had nothing to eat all day, but before she could do anything about it, someone called out to her. Xyleena was waving from the bottom of the stairs.
"Okay, you're here. I was worried you wouldn't make it," she said when Midnight was next to her.
"Where is everyone else?"
"Oh, not here, no," Xyleena said, pulling Midnight away to a darker part of the room. "The Keepers and the Patrons eat over there," she added as she walked, pointing to a secluded group of five tables where Midnight recognized Aidan, Lamilay, Valrya and Brohand. They were seated at separate tables, except for Lamilay and Brohand who ate together quietly.
"You have to sit there," the elf girl said, looking over at Valrya's table.
"But..." Midnight started to say, a hint of panic in her voice. She stopped short and controlled herself before speaking again. "But why can't I just sit with you? Or..."
"Oh no, Keepers and Patrons sit together like this. I have to sit with Brohand and Octric and you have to stay with your Patron. I really am sorry," Xyleena said, looking at her friend with genuine regret on her face.
"I know Valrya can be...difficult, but she is your Patron and...Well, if you're Faerie, then you must have something that connects you. You just need to find it."
The serious note in Xyleena's voice came so unexpected to Midnight she had trouble coming up with something to say. But the Elf Keeper just nodded and became her old self, running up to Lamilay and giving him a playful hug. Midnight sighed again, forcing herself to walk towards Valrya. She stopped next to a chair across the table from the Faerie Patron and looked at her, but she had no reaction, so Midnight pulled it up and sat down. Immediately, a tall, black-haired girl with a purple flower behind her ear appeared next to them with a bowl of soup in her hand. She put it down in front of Midnight and disappeared just as quickly into the crowd.
A few moments later, Cynon walked in next to Arragus, both laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes. They were immediately served by a girl and a boy about Midnight's age but instead of sitting at their table, which would have been quite difficult in their case, they took their food and went outside. Moments later, Octric came in and sat at his table with Brohand, Xyleena and Lamilay. He started talking to Brohand louder that it was probably necessary but the latter simply nodded, not even attempting to hide his annoyance. Aphariel came next, followed by her Keeper, and Midnight noticed, with somewhat of a surprise, that they didn't seem to interact much more than she and Valrya did. The Mermaid Patron walked ahead and Aimess came behind her in a way that made Midnight think of a serving girl and not the proud Keeper she had been earlier. She pulled a chair for her Patron and sat only after she did, without ever breathing a word, and ate her dinner silently.
Suddenly, the whole crowd became silent as Marcus walked in. Everybody stared or pointed and they all whispered among themselves, but the Dragon's Patron seemed oblivious to all of it. He smiled and greeted familiar faces and carried his own food to the table, next to Aidan. The boy stood up respectfully, then sat back down and continued to play with a dagger, not bothering too much with the food in front of him.
"If you don't stop staring and start eating anytime soon, I will take your food away," a cold, icy voice said.
Midnight started and looked at Valrya. She blushed and lowered her gaze into her own plate. Valrya stood up.
"Meet me in the Library House when you're finally finished here. I hate waiting."
With that, she turned and walked away. Midnight watched her go, her sword dangling back and forth at her waist. With a shudder, she ate the last spoon of her soup and almost immediately the black haired girl came up and took it from her.
"Time knows all but speaks none."
Midnight turned around, confuse, only to stare into a pair of large blue eyes. The girl was looking at her with a serene expression on her face.
"I'm...sorry?" Midnight whispered, unsure if her head was playing trick on her or if someone had really spoken to her.
"Time..." the girl spoke again, the same serene look in her eyes. "It is a constant with people, to judge and think that they know everything right. It never occurs to them to ask those that have known everything, since the beginning of Time..."
With that, she left Midnight looking dumbfounded and walked out of the room.