Keara was still following Zarra; heading towards the castle. She kept her eyes hidden as she didn’t want to attract unwanted attention, but still, there were eyes following them on their route to the castle, as any of them seldom went there.
Soon they were standing in front of the doors to the throne room. The guards requested that Keara hand over her sword. She was somewhat reluctant, but didn’t wish to cause trouble, and so decided to comply; and anyway, they didn’t know of any of her concealed daggers.
Even without her sword on her hip, the security escorting her into the throne room dramatically increased.
A moment later, she stood in front of the king and his entourage.
The tension seemed to be growing. Everyone knew very well who she was and it was clear that her reputation had indeed preceded her. But there was something more. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
The tension kept growing; so much so that even the king started to feel uncomfortable. Keara however, didn’t even flinch.
Finally the king broke the silence, ‘The fabled Raven; Keara Harpstrom.’
‘Yes.’ Keara replied.
‘I am somewhat surprised that you actually gave your real name.’ the king said.
‘I have no reason to lie about who I am.’ Keara stated.
‘You’re an outsider. I would say that gives you a very good reason to lie.’
‘I am who I am. I am not ashamed.’
The king considered her words for a moment, but discarded it, ‘I’ve been told that you requested access to the archives. Is this true?’
‘Yes.’ Keara answered shortly.
‘What business would a Raven have in our archives?’ the king asked, trying his best not to sound interested and afraid simultaneously.
‘None that would concern you.’ Keara answered.
‘You are on my territory now, Raven. It does concern me.’ the king replied sternly.
‘My business is my own.’ Keara replied.
‘We don’t allow access to outsiders.’ the king started, ‘Unless you can persuade me otherwise, it would be wise of you to leave.’
‘I have no intention of leaving.’
‘Then state your business.’
Keara was silent for a moment, hoping that by telling them why she was there, it might make things go a bit smoothly, ’I seek information on the creature you do not speak of.’
The king’s expression grew cautious, ‘That’s treading on dangerous grounds. Why would you want such information?’
‘It doesn’t concern you.’ Keara answered more firmly.
The king’s face flushed red with fury, then slowly calmed again, ‘Very well. At the very least, reveal yourself to us, so we may look upon the renowned Raven.’
Keara hesitated for a moment, then drew back her hood, revealing her dark purple eyes and pitch black hair.
Whispers arose amongst the other Dark Elves. Keara heard some of them say, “The Cursed one”. The king’s face showed fear, his lips moving, uttering the words under his breath, “The Cursed One” and another name she could not make out.
The room suddenly seemed to fall completely silent. The king seemed to have stopped breathing. Finally he spoke, ‘Your access is granted. Get what you need and leave quickly. We do not wish to have the Cursed One in our midst.’
Keara didn’t understand what just happened, but decided not to attempt to find out and left the castle quickly; making sure she grabbed her sword on her way out. The guard, who had taken it, just looked at Keara, but not with hostility or fear.
Zarra was by Keara’s side again, taking her back to the archives. Zarra was completely afraid and fascinated by her.
Once back in the archives, Zarra lead Keara to book shelves in a far off corner, containing several books concerning her particular matter.
The woman behind the desk didn’t seem to react; she only looked upon the pair walking into the archives with disgust.
‘All the information you might need, will be in these books. It contains all the tales of the creatures who lived since the dawn of the Dark Elves.’ Zarra said.
‘Thank you.’ Keara said, her attention already fully on the books before her.
Zarra bowed slightly and took her leave. Keara reached for one book, pulled it off the shelf, sat down at the table nearest to the shelf and began reading.
‘How is this possible?’ the king said, pacing up and down the throne room, ‘I thought my ancestor was the last to carry the Gene. How is it that this girl also carries the Gene of the Cursed One?’
‘I don’t know how it could be possible, my Lord. But if she is indeed what she seems to be, she’s next in line for the throne.’ the king’s advisor started.
‘The only possible way she could possess the Gene, is if she is the next generation of the royal family and so, indeed next in line for the throne.’ the king’s second advisor explained.
‘She does have black hair and purple eyes.’ the first advisor pointed out, ‘It’s the first indication that she carries the Gene.’
‘No!’ the king’s voice bellowed down the halls of the castle, ‘I will not relinquish my throne to anyone! Rule of Velmoura is mine alone; understood!?’
‘Yes, my Lord. My apologies.’ both the advisors apologized.
‘But it’s how the tale goes; it’s how it has always been, Your Majesty.’
‘I don’t care! She cannot have my throne!’ the king exclaimed, ‘The era of the matriarchal rule is over!’
‘Then Your Majesty must deal away with her before she could have such a chance.’ the advisor suggested.
‘That’s exactly what I intend to do.’ the king stated and proceeded to send his strongest guards to the archives to kill Keara before anything could happen to him or his throne.
Keara’s attention was fully drawn to what she was reading, forgetting about everything and everyone around her. She turned the page and noticed that the picture featured on the page showed exact traces of the mark on her right forearm. She pulled up her sleeve and removed the band she used to cover it and realized that it could be identical. The mark on her arm was not fully formed; until she saw the picture, she didn’t even know what it was supposed to look like. She didn’t understand why, but according to the book, it was the mark of Crucis Salerra. Each Drow cursed with the Gene in the past, had this very mark on their right forearm.
She was still comparing the picture and traces of the mark on her arm when she heard the outer doors of the archives burst open and footsteps hastily heading towards the inner doors where Keara was. Not sure of what was going on, she closed her fingers around the hilt of her sword and waited. But she didn’t have to wait long. A dozen Dark Elves dressed in castle-guard uniforms, weapons in hand, burst through the inner doors and stormed Keara. She barely had time to unsheathe her own sword when the first weapon was swung in attack.
The fight was now underway as Keara battled a dozen ferocious Dark Elves simultaneously. Keara was winning the battle, when another dozen guards entered the archives and attacked. An unexpected wave of magic hit her in the back and pinned her to the ground. She looked around the room, hoping to find the source of the magic and discovered it was coming from a young Dark Elf, presumably, a royal, considering how he was dressed. He was standing there with a smug grin on his face as though he thought he had completely overpowered her. Seconds later, a series of thrashing pains coursed through her body as several Dark Elves thrust their weapons into her skin. She screamed in agony as the excruciating pain reawakened the creature. Her eyes started burning red with fire and her eyelids grew completely black. Again she started screaming as the dark wings began to grow out of her back and her nails started growing longer and sharper. In another moment, the guards around her flew in all directions as her power brutally erupted from her body.
Michael suddenly awoke from Reverie as he felt Keara’s power grow instantly, and he knew that she had turned into the creature once again.
‘Be careful, Keara.’ he whispered.
The young royal Dark Elf staggered backwards as he lost control over the magic he had forced Keara into submission with. As the force of her brutal power seemed to dissipate, so did the fatality of her wounds; as long as she was the creature. She was kneeling, breathing slowly, then stood up majestically and looked at her attackers scattered across the room. The young royal attempted to trap Keara with another wave of magic, but this time she saw it coming and instead, took the magic into her own hands and sent it flying back to the source ten times more powerful, enhanced with her own magic. The young royal duck for cover from the powerful wave and it just barely missed him. Scared as he was, he could not get himself to look away from the sight of the creature he had only ever heard and read about, and stared at Keara with awe and fear. He had only ever heard of the creature and had never had the misfortune of seeing it in its true form; and so closely. Only then did he realize his fear, wishing he had never come upon the creature in the first place.
Keara glared at him, seeing the fear in his eyes, knowing what he might be thinking, for even she felt the same about the creature that inhabited her body against her will.
The woman working at the desk hid in the shadows, keeping her distance from all the Dark Elves who had come pouring through the doors of the archives. Zarra was standing in a far corner, more awe struck than afraid for she had a strange fascination with the creature and knew far more about it than anyone would think wise. She was the only Dark Elf amongst the immediate crowd that did not wish the creature dead.
Some of the guards had scraped together enough courage for a second attack and attempted to end the fight as quickly as they could. Even though they knew very little of the creature, one thing they did know for sure was that Keara was still new to controlling it for it was clear in her eyes and if they did not kill it, destruction would reign upon Velmoura, and much farther than the Dark Elves themselves could take it. However, none of them could manage to get a blow in as Keara did away with them quickly and painfully with her razor sharp nails. As the creature’s power grew stronger, Keara started destroying everything in her path whilst desperately fighting to gain control over her body.
The young royal forced his fear aside and attacked again, but it only ended in death for him.
When a second chance for escape presented itself, Keara quickly took flight and crashed through a window in order to get away as fast as her wings would allow her to travel. The Dark Elves didn’t waste any time in attempting to capture her, but as soon as they poured out of the archives, she had already disappeared.
Keara landed just outside the walls of Velmoura, taking a few steps to hide behind a boulder, just in case the Dark elves left Velmoura to go looking for her. She bent down to her hands and knees and gasped for air as the wings painstakingly retracted, leaving two bleeding slits on her back. Her nails grew back to their normal length, but her eyes started turning a pale yellow and her eyelids took on a shade of nude as the adrenaline dissipated and she again became aware of her fatally injured body. She leaned against the boulder; it was the only way she would not collapse.
The sound of hooves approached. She wanted to turn around and see who was coming, but her body wouldn’t obey her. Then she heard Legacy snort. He trotted up to her and nudged her head upwards with his nose. She looked at him, still gasping for air, feeling as though a giant fist had wrapped itself around her lungs and was squeezing every last bit of air from them. Legacy nudged Keara again and lay down so she could climb on his back.
‘We have to get out of here, Legacy; before they find us.’ she breathed.
He understood her plight and headed quickly but quietly back up the road, heading towards the entrance. They travelled somewhat faster than they had when they first entered, but to Keara it felt like it was taking forever to reach the entrance. She had lain down, resting her head on Legacy’s neck while he carried her. She had tried to keep herself upright, but her body was too weak. Her arms dangled loosely down Legacy’s sides, blood dripping from the tips of her fingers.
Eventually, they emerged into the gleaming sunlight. Keara squinted and held her hand in front of her eyes to shield them from the sudden light. Although she had grown up on the surface world and was accustomed to living in the sun, she never quite got used to the bright light that sometimes burned into her pupils. Legacy kept moving, and Keara tried her best to sit up. She was covered in her own blood. She noticed that she had bled on Legacy’s neck; her blood gleaming in the sunlight on Legacy’s dark skin.
‘I’m sorry boy. I promise I’ll give you a bath if I make it through this.’ she said to him.
He neighed as if to say, “You bet you will”.
She was about to lie back down, when she heard movement behind her. With some effort, she unsheathed her sword and turned Legacy around to face their follower.
‘You will only gain death by following me into the light. Unlike you, I’ve already grown accustomed to the sun and do not have trouble seeing in daylight as you do. Leave now and tell no one you saw me and I will not come back to kill you.’ Keara stated as firmly as her tired, injured body allowed her too.
‘I do not wish to fight you or inform anyone of your whereabouts.’ came the voice of Zarra from the shadows, ‘I want to help you; tend to your wounds and ensure that you live.’
‘And why is that?’ Keara asked, only thinking of getting back to her brothers, alive.
‘You possess the Gene. It means you are to be our queen.’
‘What?’ Keara’s expression was one of disbelief.
‘I would be grateful for that. The king is a terrible man. He does not even possess the Gene, his ancestor did. And she would still be ruler, had she not been murdered. He knows the rules of the Dark Elves concerning royalty all too well; which is why he would rather die a torturous death than hand over the kingdom to someone else.’
Keara wasn’t at all sure what to say. She knew what Zarra was talking about, as she had read it only a short while ago.
‘I know the rules concerning Drow royalty, but I have no interest in ruling Velmoura. I will eliminate the king for you, if that is what you wish, but I will not take the throne.’ Keara stated outright.
‘But you have too.’ Zarra started to protest, but Keara silenced her.
‘Please understand that even though I am a Dark Elf, I cannot live like one. I have no interest in being, like one of them.’
‘I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t you wanna be queen? You could change so much.’
‘I won’t be your queen. I agree the king must be eliminated, and I will do so when I’m able, but I will not rule.’
Zarra wanted to protest again, but Keara didn’t allow her to utter any words, ‘I have to go. The longer I stay here, the more dangerous it becomes for me.’
‘I wanna come with you. As long as the king rules, I do not wish to live in Velmoura.’
‘I’m sorry, but you can’t come with me.’ Keara said, ‘Your situation is most regrettable, but at the moment, I cannot help you.’
‘Please, I don’t have the strength or the time to argue with you.’ Keara finished and motioned Legacy into a slow trot.
Keara drifted in and out of consciousness for some time, until Legacy suddenly stopped, refusing to go any further until Keara was conscious. He neighed and shook his mane.
‘What?’ Keara said, gaining consciousness, looking around, not at all sure what was going on. After a few moments, she finally started to make sense of her surroundings and realized where they were, ‘The Wild Elves’ territory.’
Legacy seemed to nodded his head in agreement.
‘Thanks for waiting until I woke up.’
Legacy neighed again, as if to say “You’re welcome”.
Keara tried to control her breathing and ready herself for what they were about to face, when she heard movement behind her. She turned her head, trying to listen where exactly the sounds were coming from. She felt the aura of someone; not hostile, but rather persistent. Strange. Then after a moment, she realized whose presence it was.
She took a deep breath, ‘Why are you following me?’
The forest fell completely silent, as though it was completely surprised by the question. No more movement; no more sound. But the aura did not disappear or fade.
‘How did you know?’ Zarra came closer, leading her horse out of the shadows.
‘If you were trying to fool me, you should rather have shielded your aura.’ Keara stated.
‘So should you.’ Zarra said, ‘You’re an open target.’
‘I barely have enough strength to keep myself alive. Shielding my aura is really not my first priority right now.’
‘Let me help you.’ Zarra offered.
‘You’re the archivist who couldn’t stop asking me questions, aren’t you?’
‘Yes. Zarra?’ Zarra reminded.
‘Yes, I remember you.’ Keara said, ‘Was it you who summoned the guards?’
‘No. The king must have sent them. He knows his rule is about to end, but he refuses to accept it. He would do anything to remain the ruler.’
‘Yeah, I could tell by the way he looked at me.’
Zarra was silent for a moment, then it seemed as though she was starting to plead, ‘Please let me come with you. I can help you, and with your current state, you could use the help.’
‘I’m about to pass through Wild Elves territory. Are you gonna be able to keep up?’ Keara asked.
‘I have a good horse. He is fast. We will not slow you down.’
Keara just looked at Zarra, knowing that she didn’t have any more energy to try and convince her to stay where she was.
‘You do realize that you’ll be shunned by everyone on the surface world if you come with me. And other elf species will hunt you simply for what you are.’
‘I can defend myself well enough. And I can be of great use to you.’
‘How’s that then?’
‘I know everything there is to know about the creature; and I know that knowledge will be invaluable to you.’
‘Very well. But keep up. We have a long way to go. I have other business to attend to as well.’
‘Of course, but first we need to dress your wounds. You won’t get far with those injuries.’
‘Get on your horse. We have to go.’ Keara ordered.
‘Get on your horse, Zarra. I’ve had worse injuries than these and the Drow could already be following me. So if we don’t put some distance between us and Surendorn, there’ll be no point in dressing my wounds.’ Keara was getting impatient, ‘And my name is Keara, not “My Lady”.’
‘But, my Lady...’
‘If you call me that one more time, I will leave you here.’
Zarra didn’t say anything. She got on her horse, and attempted to say something again, but Keara had already passed through the Wild Elves’ ward. She quickly followed, feeling suspended in time for a moment as she passed through the ward herself. Once the horses were completely warmed up, they were travelling at a fast pace.
The sun started setting when Keara pulled the reins back on Legacy. He slowed down to a trot. Zarra followed. They travelled like this well into the late hours of the night. Soon they passed through the other side of the ward, marking the end of the territory of one group of Wild Elves. They travelled quietly. As they continued to travel, Keara became weaker and with each ounce of energy dissipating from her body, her hair curled a little bit more.
‘We have to find a place to rest for the night.’ Zarra started.
‘Not for the night, just an hour or two.’ Keara muttered.
‘You need rest; a lot of it.’ Zarra pointed out.
‘We don’t have time for a lot of rest.’ Keara paused, then added, ‘The only reason I’m stopping, is my injuries. If I don’t see to them now, I might not make it back to my brothers.’
Zarra immediately dismounted her horse, untying her bag that was fastened to the saddle. She removed some items to dress Keara’s wounds. By the time she got to Keara, she had already dismounted and was leaning against a tree, slowly sliding down to sit on the ground.
‘Why are you not healing?’ Zarra asked.
‘I’ve lost too much blood. I can’t heal on my own. I need water.’ Keara answered.
Zarra first started tending to the wounds on Keara’s abdomen; they were after all, the worst. Zarra was about to start stitching, but Keara stopped her.
‘No. No stitching.’
‘I have to. Just bandaging it will not help.’
‘There’s no time for that. Just need to slow the bleeding.’
‘Bandaging won’t stop the bleeding.’
‘I didn’t say stop it, I just said slow it.’
‘Don’t, start. Please Zarra. Just bandage it. We still have a long way to go.’
Zarra decided not to argue. She knew she would not be able to change Keara’s mind. So she just bandaged her wounds and hoped that she would at least sit still for a while.
Keara did indeed sit still for a while. She closed her eyes and went into Reverie. But she was only in this state for a short time when she felt a presence some distance away, in the direction they had come from. She opened her eyes and got to her feet as quickly as her injuries would allow her too.
‘Let’s go.’ Keara climbed back into the saddle.
Zarra looked up at her, ‘You haven’t been in Reverie for an hour.’
‘There’s something in the forest. A presence I have never felt before. It feels dangerous.’
Zarra climbed onto her horse, ‘More dangerous than you?’ she didn’t believe that something could be more dangerous than Keara, especially in her transformed state.
‘In my current state, yes.’ Keara answered, ‘Now, let’s go.’
‘We shouldn’t go too far. The horses need rest as well.’
Keara eyed Zarra’s horse and noticed that just like Legacy, he was built for long distance running without much rest. They would be able to travel more than half the distance before requiring rest.
‘We’ll be able to cover quite a lot of distance before the horses need rest. I would prefer to cover as much ground as we possibly can.’ Keara motioned Legacy into a slow trot.
Zarra knew that Keara didn’t wait for her to say anything else, because she wanted to avoid hearing another contradiction.
Zarra just followed Keara. The horses kept up a steady trot during the early hours of the morning and through the long day. Rays of sunlight filtered through the trees, just enough to shed proper light on their path ahead.
They travelled in silence; partly because they didn’t want to draw unwanted attention to themselves and also because Keara simply did not have the strength to keep herself awake and carry a conversation at the same time.
By the end of the second day, they had travelled just over half the entire distance to Varden Castle; too slow for Keara’s liking. She had intended to be at the castle within three days, not four. And it seemed as though she might take four or five days, instead.
They had decided to rest in a dense area where bushes would provide them with some seclusion.
Keara dismounted and Legacy then proceeded to lie down. Keara sat down and rested her back against Legacy’s side and closed her eyes.
Zarra also dismounted and sat down across from Keara, ‘Where exactly are we going, Keara?’
Keara opened her eyes, looking at Zarra, ‘I was wondering when you were gonna ask.’ Keara spoke, ‘You wanted to come with me without knowing where I’m going?’ it was more a statement than a question.
‘You wouldn’t have told me before permitting me to come with you.’ Zarra acknowledged.
‘So?’ Zarra asked again.
‘Varden Castle.’ Keara answered.
‘The human kingdom?’ Zarra enquired.
‘Why do you find that so hard to believe, Zarra?’
‘Well, it’s, humans. Drow aren’t welcome there.’
‘I am.’ Keara stated, ‘Mostly anyway.’
‘Really? They accept you?’
‘I wouldn’t exactly say they accept us. It’s more like, they tolerate us.’
‘My brothers and I. The Ravens.’
‘Oh yes. I’ve heard about your brothers.’
‘I would expect so, especially since you know so much about me.’
‘Of course.’ Zarra realized she had bombarded Keara with many questions, ‘But why would you go to Varden Castle? Why not go home to your brothers?’
‘Because my brothers are at the castle.’
‘I see.’ Zarra replied, ‘Well, if my calculations are correct, we should be there within the next two days.’
‘We’ll be there by tomorrow evening.’ Keara informed.
‘If we keep up with the pace we are at now, it will take us two days.’
‘We’re not gonna keep this slow pace. Rest while you can. Tomorrow we severely pick up the pace.’
‘Our horses need some rest too, Keara.’
‘They will be able to rest when we reach Varden Castle.’
’Keara...’Zarra tried to argue, but was interrupted by Keara.
‘If we keep our current pace, this time tomorrow night, we’ll be in very dangerous territory. I won’t risk that. And you obviously don’t know what Legacy is capable of. Don’t underestimate him.’
Legacy seemed to agree, neighing in response.
Zarra didn’t say another word. Instead she decided to rest as much as she possibly could before daybreak.
Michael was lying awake in his bed, unable to go into Reverie; sensing that something was wrong with Keara. He wasn’t sure what had happened to her, but he could feel her life-force getting weaker. He could only hope that she would make it back to them alive.
They were on their way, just as the sun started rising. Warming up the horses as they went along. The horses were still in a slow trot when they passed through a ward.
‘What was that?’ Zarra asked.
‘Yes. Another tribe of Wild Elves.’
‘Another tribe?’ Zarra wasn’t aware that there could be more than one tribe.
‘Yes.’ Keara replied, ‘This tribe is particularly dangerous.’ then looking at Zarra, ‘Don’t fall behind.’
They motioned their horses into a fast paced trot. They wanted to make their way through this territory as quickly as possible, but didn’t wanna draw unnecessary attention by racing through the forest; unless it was necessary, of course.
Zarra seemed to have grown bored with their silent journey, so she started talking; and simply would not stop, even after Keara had silenced her several times, telling her that her talking could draw attention to them. But she eventually gave up trying to keep Zarra quiet as she just opened her mouth again the moment Keara looked away from her.
Keara heard something, but she wasn’t completely sure as Zarra still hadn’t stopped talking.
‘Quiet.’ Keara muttered as she pulled Legacy’s reins, coming to a slow stop.
Zarra did the same, but still would not stop talking.
‘Shh.’ Keara shushed her, but still Zarra just ignored her, thinking that the only reason Keara was trying to silence her, was because she was annoyed.
‘Will you shut up!’ Keara hissed.
Zarra finally fell silent, realizing that Keara wasn’t just simply annoyed with her.
Keara strained her ears, listening for any sounds around her. She gripped the hilt of her sword and slowly unsheathed it. Zarra looked at Keara, not understanding what she was listening for. Keara looked around, realizing that there were many eyes watching them, knowing that her sword would not do her much good, not with the number of Wild Elves gathering around them.
‘This is exactly why I told you to stop talking.’ Keara hissed.
Zarra looked around; she didn’t understand.
‘We have to get out of here, really fast.’ Keara said softly, looking around cautiously.
‘Why?’ Zarra couldn’t sense what Keara was sensing.
‘They’re already watching us. Getting ready to attack.’
‘Who is?’ Zarra asked, suddenly alert.
‘Stop asking questions and start moving.’ Keara insisted and motioned Legacy into a slow run.
Keara was still listening for movement, as she couldn’t see the Wild Elves around her.
Suddenly, a jagged-edged arrow whirled towards her. Just before it hit her, she brought up her sword to block it.
‘Run!’ Keara shouted and Legacy immediately broke into a fast run.
For the first time Zarra didn’t wait to ask questions, only did as Keara ordered. Arrows were whirling past them. One managed to scrape Zarra on her right upper arm, but Keara wasn’t so lucky as to get away with a mere scrape. And as she was the target and not Zarra, it was almost impossible to dodge every single arrow that came at her. Just before they reached the border of the Wild Elves’ territory, a jagged-edged arrow lodged itself in Keara’s right arm and left thigh with the tip sticking out on the other side. She screamed in pain, but put it out of her mind. The only thing that mattered to her now was getting back to her brothers alive. It turned out that even Zarra wasn’t so lucky. An arrow pierced her right shoulder. She clutched her shoulder for a moment, trying to avoid thinking about the pain. Finally they made it out of the Wild Elves’ territory and the ferocious attacks ceased.
Keara stopped for a moment to consider the painfully wedged arrows in her limbs. She lifted her arm and took hold of the shaft, forcing it to break with a slight wince. She lowered her arm again and pulled the remaining broken arrow from her arm with another wince, doing the same with the arrow lodged in her thigh. Her hair was curling more and more and she knew she had to get back to her brothers before her time ran out.
She looked at Zarra who was clutching her own shoulder. She motioned Legacy over to Zarra. And breaking the arrow and removing it from Zarra’s shoulder, she reported, ‘This wound is minimal. It will heal quickly.’
Zarra just nodded, feeling a bit sheepish because she had refused to listen when Keara had told her to be quiet and that had given away their position.
‘Come on.’ Keara breathed heavily, ‘We’re almost there.’
After what Michael had told them, Keara’s brothers grew more and more worried by the hour. For, the longer she stayed away, the more they feared she might be dead. Little did they know that she was fast approaching with a new companion.
By the time the sun started setting behind the mountains that same evening, her brothers were on their way to the stables. They couldn’t wait any longer and had to know if their sister was still alive, so they decided to ride out and find her. Whilst heading towards the stables, a guard announced two riders were approaching the castle walls. As they drew closer, it was announced that it was Keara with an unknown companion.
Her brothers immediately ran towards the gates just as they opened. Keara and Zarra rode through the gates just as her brothers reached it. She looked at Michael who came to stand at her side, waiting for her to dismount.
She started swaying, her consciousness started to fail her. Before Michael could say a word, Keara fell off Legacy’s back and collapsed into his arms. He knelt down quickly; nervously looking her up and down.
‘Keara? Keara?’ he started saying her name with dread in his voice.
Zarra stopped in front of Michael, ‘She was badly injured in Velmoura. And she wouldn’t rest. She was very anxious to get here.’
Michael frantically looked up at his brothers, ‘We have to get her to the surgeon.’ scooping her up and running towards the castle’s hospital wing. His brothers followed, closely followed by Zarra.
Minutes later, Michael placed Keara on a bed in the hospital wing. The surgeon started examining Keara, disappeared and quickly returned with his instruments. He started to sew up Keara’s grave wounds while one nurse assisted him and another cleaned Keara’s blood off her body. Michael kept telling him to not allow Keara to die. He seemed to be taking Keara’s fatal appearance worse than the others. Alexander was standing behind him, keeping a firm hand on him, should Michael get impatient with the surgeon’s pace.
Deryck came running into the hospital wing, not sure what to expect of Keara’s state and pushed past Jonathan and Joseph and almost screamed when he saw Keara’s battered body. He knelt down next to the bed and started stroking Keara’s curly hair, taking up Michael’s freaked out behaviour.
The surgeon turned and looked at Michael, ‘I did the best I could, but it will be a miracle if she survives. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing more I can do.’ he said with genuine remorse, ‘But I have to know, why didn’t you just take her to the water?’
‘What?’ Michael was surprised.
‘I know water heals Dark Elves at great speed. Why didn’t you just take her to the water?’ the surgeon asked.
‘How do you even know that?’ Michael asked flabbergasted.
‘I’m a healer. It’s what I do.’
‘I don’t know of a pool of water in the immediate area.’ Michael admitted.
‘There’s the fountain.’ the surgeon suggested.
‘That won’t work. It needs to be more natural.’
He put a hand on Michael’s shoulder, ‘I’m sorry.’ he left the brothers, Deryck and Zarra with Keara. The nurses followed him out.
Joseph slowly moved over to Deryck and with some effort, moved him away from Keara, then turned to Keara and placed his hands on her body. Jonathan and Alexander followed his actions. Keara’s body started glowing a faint green as they’re healing powers started working, though very slowly. They were busy through the night.
By the time, the first rays started peeking over the mountains, Alexander stood up, leaving Jonathan and Joseph to continue Keara’s healing; walking over to Michael, he started explaining something to him in a soft tone, ‘Our healing will not be efficient enough for Keara’s survival. She must be in her own domain. We are keeping her alive for now. But that will not be enough.’
‘But I don’t know where to find a natural pool of water.’ Michael started.
‘I’ll ask around and see if I can find one.’ Alexander suggested.
‘But she’ll be vulnerable that way.’
‘I know. But there really isn’t any other option.’ Alexander started, ‘We can all guard her around the clock. No one will get near her unless we allow it. But we have to do this, now.’
Michael nodded, knowing that Alexander was right. He didn’t really wanna risk it, especially since they would have to leave the safety of the castle walls if they couldn’t find a natural pool on the grounds. Keara’s pale eyelids and curly hair was evidence of her weakening state. Soon the little life-force she had left, will fade away if they didn’t do something fast.
Deryck still sat beside Keara, stroking her hair, ‘I don’t remember Keara’s hair being this curly.’
‘It’s because she’s been gravely injured.’ Jonathan informed.
‘Beg your pardon?’ Deryck didn’t understand.
‘When an elf becomes as badly injured as Keara, their hair will start to curl, the eyelids become very pale; even the iris changes colour.’ Jonathan explained.
‘Really?’ Deryck was surprised.
‘Yeah. The colour of the eyelids and the eyes themselves can usually change according to the elf’s moods, emotions and wellbeing.’
‘But Keara’s eyes are always purple. Well, every time I’ve seen her eyes.’ Deryck stated.
‘That’s because she was born with purple eyes. The colour only changes when the feelings are very intense, like now.’ Jonathan said, opening Keara’s one eye, revealing an extremely pale yellow iris.
‘Wow. There really is more to you elves than anyone thought.’ Deryck admitted.
Jonathan gave a wry smile, ‘That’s because no one has ever been interested in getting to know an elf.’
Alexander turned from Michael and took Jonathan by the shoulder, ‘I’m gonna see if I can find a natural pool of water on the castle grounds. She won’t survive without it.’
‘You’re looking for water?’ Deryck asked, looking up.
‘Yes. Not the fountain if that’s what you were thinking.’ Alexander responded.
‘I know of a natural spring. It’s quite secluded.’ Deryck informed.
Michael’s face lit up, ‘Please take us there.’
Without hesitation, Deryck got up as Michael proceeded to scoop Keara up into his arms and carried her outside following Deryck to the water. Here at least, she would be left undisturbed by the people in and around the kingdom until she was healed. Keara’s clothes had been removed and she was covered in a sheet of linen. Michael slowly walked into the water until he was about waist deep, where he then lowered Keara into the water. As her body neared the water, it seemed to form fingers, reaching out to the injured elf, curling around her arms and legs. As she went deeper into the water, it wrapped itself around her like a long-lost loved one. Once completely submerged, the linen sheet faded away and a strange liquid silver substance covered her breasts and pelvis as well as her many injuries.
Deryck stared at the spectacle in amazement. He could not understand what was going on, but assumed that it was a normal thing amongst the elves.
Michael walked out of the water and said, ‘ I’ll take first watch.’
‘I’ll stay with you.’ Joseph added.
‘Very well.’ Michael said satisfied, ‘In the meantime, you two should get some rest. You worked hard on Keara’s healing.’
‘As you wish, Michael.’ Alexander sighed, ‘But first, there’s something we must do.’
Alexander, Jonathan and Joseph gathered around the pool, lifted their hands with their palms facing outward. Their palms started to glow a faint green. For a moment, nothing happened, but then the edges of the pool started moving until vines started growing from the ground. A network of plants was growing around the pool, creating a dome. The dome glowed for a moment, then the light faded. They let their hands down.
‘This way she’ll remain undisturbed.’ Jonathan spoke.
‘We’ll take the next watch after sundown.’ Alexander stated.
Michael just nodded. Alexander and Jonathan left, leaving Deryck with Michael and Joseph. He stared longingly at the dome and into the water, wishing he could reach down past the forest vines and the glassy surface and hold Keara in his arms.
Michael looked at Deryck and noticed the weariness on the young prince’s face, ‘You should get some rest too. Keara wouldn’t want you to sit here and torture yourself until she is healed.’
‘But I wanna stay.’ Deryck said even though he knew his body was begging for rest.
‘I know. But it will only be a few days before she awakes. And I really think you should get some sleep. Once Keara is healed, there will be a lot of things we have to take care of.’
‘Whatever you say.’ Deryck said and walked towards the castle.
Evening came and Alexander and Jonathan took over the watch. It was already very late when they heard movement coming from the direction of the castle. They unsheathed their swords and readied themselves for whatever was coming. But Deryck wasn’t expecting them to be quite so cautious and nearly impaled himself on the tip of Alexander’s sword.
‘Announce yourself next time.’ Alexander told Deryck.
‘Right. I definitely won’t forget that.’ Deryck said nervously.
‘So what brings you here?’ Jonathan asked.
‘I just wanted to see how she was doing. I was too worried to sleep.’
After Reverie, Michael went looking for Zarra. Since Keara’s arrival, he hadn’t had the chance to find out what she was doing there, but now he wanted to know. Zarra was looking for him as well. They ran into each other in the hall.
‘Michael.’ Zarra started.
‘Zarra.’ Michael started, ‘I was just looking for you.’
‘I wanna ask you a few questions. Do you mind?’ Michael stated.
‘Not at all.’ Zarra answered.
They started walking together.
‘Why are you here?’ Michael asked.
‘I’m here for Keara. She has the Gene. I wanna help her to control it.’
‘How did you know that she has the Gene?’ Michael immediately asked.
‘She transformed while she was in Velmoura.’
‘She was attacked, by the guards. I guess it was a reflex.’
‘Why was she attacked?’ Michael was actually starting to get angry.
‘Keara is the rightful heir to the throne. She’s royalty. The Gene has marked her so. You know this.’ Zarra was aware that Michael had not told Keara of her lineage, ‘But the king refuses to give up the throne; so he tried to kill her.’
‘He almost succeeded.’ Michael said through gritted teeth.
‘If she had not transformed, he would have succeeded, yes. But lucky for us all, he did not.’
Michael didn’t say anything.
‘Why didn’t you just tell her?’ Zarra asked.
‘I was trying to protect her.’ Michael answered.
‘Because of your reluctance, she almost died.’ Zarra stated, ‘Had you just told her, you would’ve saved her a lot of pain.’
‘I’m well aware that her current state is my fault.’ Michael admitted, ‘But telling my little sister that she’s a monster and the Drow Queen, was not something I could bring myself to do.’
‘She’s not a monster. She just needs to learn how to control the Gene.’
‘That’s not how she feels about it.’
‘That’s only because she hardly knows about it.’ Zarra stated, ‘And also, learning to use powers you never knew you had, is a little scary. But I can help her.’ she added as an after-thought.
‘And how are you gonna teach her that?’ Michael wanted to know.
‘I was an archivist in Velmoura. I know everything there is to know about the Gene. When I saw her turn into that creature, I knew I had to help her.’
‘How do you expect to help her?’
‘I was also a teacher. I taught young magicians how to control their powers.’ Zarra informed.
‘Teaching her how to control the elements and a creature that lives in her subconscious is a little different.’
‘I am aware of that. But you won’t be able to teach her.’
‘But why do you wanna help her?’
‘Because she is meant to lead the Dark Elves into a new age. It is her destiny.’ Zarra explained.
‘Knowing my sister the way I do, she probably told you that she has no interest in ruling Velmoura.’ Michael said.
‘She did. But it’s only a matter of time before she realizes it’s something she must do.’ Zarra insisted.
‘I’m sorry Zarra. But you clearly don’t know Keara the way I do. She won’t lead a race who wants her dead and is single-handedly responsible for the gravest destruction towards others.’
‘Isn’t there any way to convince her? Velmoura needs a ruler like her. The king doesn’t even have the Devil Gene. He has no right to sit on the throne.’ Zarra pleaded.
‘Well, I’m sorry. I’m sure if we can find a way to help you, we will. But Keara won’t take the throne.’ Michael explained to Zarra.
Zarra’s expression became one of hopelessness.
‘But right now, we’ve got other things to worry about. If you can indeed help Keara gain control, it would be much appreciated.’
‘Of course I’ll help her. She can’t take control on her own. Not if she only has a short time to develop her strength.’ Zarra said.
‘Thank you.’ Michael said, relieved on Keara’s behalf, ‘You know Zarra, living on the surface world is not as bad as the Drow make it sound. Now, we’re not exactly accepted by the surface people, but we don’t get shunned by everyone either. Well, that was until Sharzak and Scander appeared.’
‘I like Velmoura, Michael. It’s where I grew up. Now it’s not the best place to live in, but it’s not bad either, provided that the right person is on the throne. Which is why I want Keara to realize that she belongs in Velmoura, on the throne.’ Zarra explained.
Michael was silent for a moment, then said, ‘Keara has other priorities, Zarra. And I understand your situation, but Keara is not gonna give up everything she has on the surface world, for a race that would rather kill us than accept us. And trust me, they have tried.’
‘There isn’t any way I can convince any of you, is there?’ Zarra already knew the answer.
‘I’m afraid not, Zarra.’ Michael answered, ‘I gotta go. I’ll talk to you later, okay?’
‘Sure. I hope Keara will be alright.’ Zarra said.
A while later, Michael arrived at the pool where Keara was still healing. Alexander and Jonathan were still standing watch, with Deryck staring into the green dome.
‘How is she?’ Michael asked.
‘It’s been a full day. She’s not awake yet. It seems she was injured worse than we thought.’ Alexander reported.
Michael put his hand through the vines and dropped it into the water. Her heart was still beating; just faintly. With every beat of her heart, the water reverberated around her.