Everyone helped carry the injured family inside and laid them down on beds where their healing could begin. Keara, Michael, Deryck and Zarra could not assist with the healing, but Alexander had gotten some help from the woods. He had gotten the help of other Woodland Elves.
Michael stayed with his wife and children. Keara had trouble looking at her parents so vulnerable, so she decided she’d rather go clean up the house. Deryck was helping her. And so was Zarra. Deryck wanted to talk to Keara, but wasn’t sure what he should say. She didn’t even look at him.
By morning, the house was clean and Keara had nothing more to do to keep her mind occupied, and though she tried, she was unable to go into Reverie. She was sitting at the table in the kitchen with her arms crossed on the table and her head on her arms. Deryck, out of pure exhaustion, had fallen asleep in his chair. Zarra was sitting by the fireplace where she had made a fire during the previous night and was now staring at the remaining smouldering coals.
All the Woodland Elves who had helped the previous night were now coming down the stairs along with Keara’s brothers. She saw them and sat up, hoping to hear some good news.
One of the Woodland Elves walked up to Keara, and said, ‘Your family will be fine now. Every single one of them will live.’
‘Thank you.’ Keara said sincerely.
‘You should get some rest yourself.’ the Woodland Elf suggested.
Keara just nodded her head. Resting. Easier said than done.
‘Sharzak will never stop, Keara.’ the Woodland Elf started, ‘You are our only hope.’
‘I’m not sure what to do.’ Keara admitted.
‘We will help you.’
‘Crucis Salerra can command all the elements. Everything is at your disposal.’
‘But I can barely even command my own element.’ Keara stated.
‘We will help you.’ the Woodland Elf offered, ‘We command earth and air. We’ll teach you what we can.’
‘Thank you.’ Keara said.
‘I’ll teach you how to manipulate water.’ Michael said behind them, ‘However I cannot help you with the fire element.’
‘I can.’ Zarra said as she stood up from the fireplace. ‘I cannot command the element, but I can teach you from what I know about Crucis Salerra.’
Keara just nodded her head.
‘But for now, you must get some rest. We will be back soon, then your training will begin. Get all the rest you can. We don’t have a lot of time.’ the elf left the house with the other Woodland Elves.
Joseph sat down at the table next to Keara, ‘So, any idea how Sharzak managed to attack our entire family without dad being able to protect them?’
‘Shadows.’ Keara answered.
‘How’s that possible? The Shadows were all wiped out decades ago.’
‘Yes, they were. But Sharzak most probably performed a resurrection ritual. Though it would have taken a lot of his power.’ Michael said.
‘But he grows stronger every day. Soon there will be no limit to the amount of Shadows he could resurrect.’ Keara stated.
‘That’s true, Keara. But that’s why we have to stop him before he becomes that powerful.’
‘I’m all for it, Michael, but how are we gonna do that?’
‘I’m not sure.’ Michael admitted, ‘But you mastering the elements as quickly as possible will definitely be to our advantage.’
Keara managed to go into Reverie for a few hours, but even then she was restless. She got up and on her way out, she first checked up on her family to see how they were doing. None of them had woken up yet, but they already looked better than the previous day.
Her training began shortly after they had breakfast.
‘Hello Keara. I’m Elodin. I will be assisting you with your training.’
‘Uh, nice to meet you, Elodin.’
‘Now, first you need to be able to command Salerra. You have to be able to summon it at will.’ Elodin stated.
‘How am I supposed to do that?’
‘How did you summon Salerra before?’
‘I didn’t. Salerra kinda took over by itself.’
‘How did you feel before Salerra took over?’ Elodin asked.
Keara considered his question for a moment, ‘I felt, rage. I felt helpless as though I was going to have to watch my brothers die and there was nothing I could do.’
‘Then perhaps you need to learn to control that rage first.’ Elodin said and quite suddenly slapped Keara across the face.
Keara was not as angry as much as she was shocked.
‘What in the five hells are you doing!?’ Michael shouted.
‘I’m attempting to bring out the rage.’ Elodin stated and slapped Keara again, making her spin around.
‘And you think this is the way to do it?’ Michael asked.
‘It’s the easiest way.’ Elodin said as Keara turned to face him.
He knew he wasn’t quite strong enough to bring out Keara’s rage through violence, so he summoned the assistance of the forest around them. Suddenly Keara was lifted into the air, swung around, bashed against tree trunks, dropped and swooped up again by the forest that had come alive around her. For several moments Keara was not quite sure which way was up, trying to free herself from tumbling around like a ragdoll. Then all of a sudden, without any warning, the forest ceased its attacks and Keara landed hard on the ground.
Elodin looked on at his handiwork as Keara pulled her body up onto all fours. She had indeed started to feel rage. She stood up slowly and faced Elodin again, with fire burning in her eyes once again. Elodin attempted to hit her again, but this time, she caught his hand before the blow could land and tossed him to one side with such force that he crashed hard into a tree. Keara fell to her knees again as the transformation started to take place. She was struggling to control Salerra; everyone could see it.
‘Calm the storm, Keara.’ came a familiar voice.
Keara recognized the voice and for a split second she looked up, but the struggle became harder. Korian padded over to Keara and stopped directly in front of her.
‘Look at me, Keara.’ Korian said.
But Keara found it hard to lift her head.
‘Look at me!’ Korian said again.
Keara looked up and looked straight into the dangerous eyes of the panther.
‘I will not accept failure from you. Control it, summon it yourself.’ Korian said very harshly.
Crucis Salerra started fighting back as Keara was attempting to take control. When the rage suddenly flared up, Korian swatted her across the face with his razor sharp claws. Thin strands of blood flowed from the scratches.
‘Control it!’ Korian shouted.
Keara’s fingers were digging into the soil as she desperately tried to gain control. Suddenly the dark wings shot out of her back and a dangerous fire burned in her eyes. Korian yelled at everyone to step back as Keara launched herself forward to attack him just as he transformed into a variety of different creatures, battling for his life but trying hard not to harm Keara; at least not too much.
Michael noticed that Korian somehow found it very easy to keep up with Keara, though he tried to avoid harming her, which proved difficult as she, in her transformed state left no room for error.
Finally Keara started fighting back for control of her body and she started pulling her attacks back, giving Korian a chance to knock her unconscious. In this state, her wings retracted. Michael scooped her up and carried her inside up to her room where she would be until she regained consciousness.
She was awake within an hour, with Deryck sitting by her bed.
‘Hey.’ he started, happy to see Keara open her eyes.
She sat up and looked around, ‘I attacked Korian, didn’t I?’
Deryck just nodded his head, ‘But he’s fine. Not even a scratch on him.’
Keara rubbed her face in shame.
Deryck could tell that Keara didn’t like the news, ‘He said that he had expected you to react that way the first time. He didn’t expect complete control right away.’
‘I was afraid that this might happen.’ Keara said, ‘I didn’t hurt anyone else, did I?’ she suddenly asked frantically.
‘Elodin took a hard knock when you tossed him into a tree.’
Keara’s eyes grew wider.
‘He’s fine.’ Deryck quickly added.
She put a hand over her eyes, ‘Oh no.’ she felt too ashamed to look at him.
‘But no one else got hurt; you were too preoccupied with Korian to notice anybody else.’
Keara relaxed a little. At least no one else got hurt, though that didn’t make her feel any better.
She came down the stairs with Deryck following closely behind her. Korian was sitting by the fireplace with Michael, in human form, having a seemingly deep conversation. He turned his head to look at Keara.
‘How are you feeling?’ he asked in a soft, sincere voice.
‘Alright. I didn’t hurt you, did I?’
‘Not at all, Keara.’
‘Good. I’m sorry.’
‘No need to apologize.’ Korian said with a smile, then he got up, ‘Take a walk with me.’
Outside Korian again took the form of the black panther. He could tell that Keara was more than just upset with how her first attempt to control Salerra turned out.
‘I did not expect you to get it right the first time, Keara.’
‘I know. Deryck told me.’
‘But that’s not really what’s bothering you, is it?’
‘What if you can’t defend yourself next time? Or I attack someone else?’
‘Every person around you is perfectly capable of defending themselves.’ Korian pointed out.
‘I know, but I don’t wanna do that again.’
‘Next time you might have more control, and you won’t do that again.’
‘No, I mean, I don’t wanna transform again.’
Korian stopped in his tracks, ‘You have to Keara. The survival of this world depends greatly on you.’
‘But I don’t know if I can do it.’
‘Keara Harpstrom, I’ve never known you to back down from a challenge.’
‘I’m not backing down, I’m just uncertain.’
‘That’s very much unlike you as well.’ Korian pointed out.
Keara rubbed her face. She was quite frustrated with her current circumstances. There was so much she had to learn in such a short time; she was beginning to doubt herself, something she did not often do.
‘You must continue your training, Keara. You will gain control.’ Korian acknowledged.
‘Just as long as you don’t scratch me again.’ Keara started.
‘That was necessary, Keara, to help you gain control.’
‘It didn’t help. I attacked you.’
‘Only because you haven’t learned to control the anger.’
‘That wasn’t anger, that was blind rage.’
‘It can be your strongest alley or your worst enemy.’ Korian stated.
Keara considered that for a moment, ‘Anger or rage?’
‘If you learn to control the anger, it will never turn to rage. And if you can channel that anger, you will be unchallengeable.’
Everyone helped Keara train; helped her gain control, which proved more difficult than anyone had anticipated at first. Keara grew tired of constant failure. She was determined to succeed, even though the odds were stacked against her. She couldn’t let the people down who depended on her.
She barely went into Reverie; the need for success outweighing the need for rest. She had been training so hard for so long that everyone thought she was going to collapse, and they forced her to get some rest.
After being in Reverie for quite some time, she got up and went down stairs to see that her family had awakened and they were all completely healed. She was so happy to see them, that for a short time she was able to forget of the burden she had to bare. They all had breakfast together and talked about everything except the bad things going on in the world.
But this perfect moment couldn’t last forever. She still had training and she was yet to control Crucis Salerra.
Keara and her brothers were already outside, training, when Korian approached. She knew she would have to attempt the transformation again, with her entire family standing around her. She had never feared the transformation as much as she did now.
She closed her eyes and started concentrating on the transformation, trying hard to keep Crucis Salerra at bay. Suddenly she sank to her knees; the power of Salerra was still too overwhelming to control completely.
Michael knelt next to her; she clenched her fists so tight that her knuckles turned white, ‘You can do this, Keara. I know you can, we all know you can.’ he said softly.
She looked up at him, but the wild flames in her eyes had not yet calmed.
Korian padded over to her, ‘Calm the storm, Keara.’
Keara gave Korian a look before dropping her head again. She was struggling, her entire body trembled. After a several moments had passed, she looked up; the dark energy omitting from her body had vanished. The fire still burning in her eyes, and though it wasn’t completely calm, it wasn’t completely wild, burning a deep, dark red instead of bright red and orange.
‘Stand up, Keara.’ Korian told her.
She stood up slowly, the sweat dripping from her body.
‘Complete the transformation.’
Keara’s wings started growing from her back and she watched as her nails grew to lethal weapons. She looked at Korian.
‘Very good, Keara. You’ve done it.’ Korian said.
Keara couldn’t help but smile; she had finally done it.
‘Now change back.’ Korian said again.
She kept looking at him, then a moment later, her wings and nails started to retract. Her fiery eyes changed back to the calm purple they had been before.
‘Well done, dear one. But that was only the first obstacle.’ Korian said later during the day when Keara sat down next to him on a log.
‘I know. I’ve managed to transform at will, but my control is still hanging by a thread. And I still have to control the elements.’
‘I have no idea how I’m gonna do that.’
‘A few days ago, you had no idea how you were going to transform into Crucis Salerra at will.’
‘I know. It’s just another obstacle.’
‘And one you will overcome.’
Keara just smiled, then the smile faded, ‘Shouldn’t I gain control properly before I start messing with the elements?’
‘I would prefer it that way, yes. But we just don’t have the time.’
For the next few weeks, Keara was learning to control the elements. She had to learn fast, as their time was short and they didn’t know when Sharzak might attack the Ravens’ sanctuary again.
Keara struggled but she refused to give up. Keara had decided in her heart that she would have to show power that she had never known if she was to protect her family.
The moment she learnt to control the earth element, small plants started growing around her, as it did with all Woodland Elves. Upon managing the air element, butterflies and dragonflies surrounded her and the wind twirled around her. Whenever she manipulated water, it would dance around her in spirals and move with her body. Though none of it was perfect, she managed to control it to a certain extent. But it would be a while before she mastered it.