Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Twenty One

‘I can feel its energy. The Gene is growing stronger. You must find the one who possesses it. With the Cursed One at my command, nothing will be able to stop me, not even the Ravens.’ Sharzak said, ‘Go now. Find him and do not come back if you fail.’

The Shadows left Sharzak’s castle following the scent of the Gene carrier’s aura. This time they knew where to find it and this time they would not fail. They feared Sharzak enough to ensure success.

Keara was sitting cross-legged on the floor by the fireplace with her family. They were telling Deryck stories of the Ravens, both as comrades and as siblings. He listened intently to everyone and enjoyed every story. Keara, on the other hand, hardly heard any of it. Michael noticed Keara’s mental absence and scooted over to her.
‘What’s on your mind?’ he whispered, so as not to interrupt the story-telling.
Without looking away from the fire, she said, ‘An evil presence is drawing near.’
‘I feel it too.’ Michael admitted.
‘I think it might be the same one that attacked our home.’ Keara was clearly worried.
‘The Shadows?’ Michael asked.
Keara just nodded her head.
‘But that’s impossible, Keara.’ Michael said, straining to keep his voice low.
‘I think by now you should know that nothing’s impossible.’ Keara stated, finally looking at him.
‘Yes, but they’ve already been here. They won’t come back.’
‘I think they’re coming back.’
‘How do you know?’ Michael wanted to know.
‘A dream’.’
‘You never dream.’
‘Well, I did last night. And in the dream they were looking for me.’ Keara paused, ‘Because Sharzak wants me.’
Michael’s face went pale, ‘What?’
Keara just looked at Michael.
‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier?’ Michael demanded.
‘I’m still trying to make sense of it myself, okay?’ Keara said in a strained whisper.
‘But why does he want you?’
‘I don’t know.’ Keara shrugged.
‘This time we’ll be ready for them. They won’t hurt our family again.’ Michael sounded quite confident at this statement.
‘They’ll be here by morning.’ Keara confirmed.
‘We’ll be ready.’

Keara could not go into Reverie that night. Knowing what was drawing near, she could not relax. She got up and went downstairs to go sit by the fireplace again. She found her brothers there as well.
‘We won’t let them take you, Keara.’ Joseph said.
Keara couldn’t help smiling. She sat down in one of the chairs, trying to get as comfortable as her tense muscles would allow.
‘The sun will start rising soon.’ Jonathan said.
‘That means they’re close.’ Alexander assumed.
Keara didn’t say anything. She already knew what would happen, yet she hoped that by not uttering the words, it would not come to pass.
A moment later, they were all alert, every one of them feeling the evil presence approaching with great speed.
‘They’re very close.’ Alexander said.
Keara looked directly at Alexander, ‘They’re already here.’
Alexander looked directly at Keara with slight surprise as she stood up and gathered her weapons. Her brothers proceeded to do the same.
‘You didn’t tell mom and dad, did you?’ Keara asked Michael without looking at him.
‘No.’ Michael answered.
‘Good. It’s safer if they don’t know.’ Keara replied.
‘I think we should try to lead them away from the house.’ Jonathan started.
‘That’s exactly what we’re gonna do.’ Keara replied.
The Ravens stopped outside the back door, hearing the leaves in the trees rustling with unnatural movement. Without saying a word, Keara started running away from the house, being immediately followed by her enemy. A split second later, her brothers did the same, each of them being chased in different directions by their own foe. After covering a decent distance, Keara came to a brute stop; in that exact moment a Shadow landed in front of her.
‘Strange.’ the Shadow, Scander said; it’s terrible voice making Keara shudder.
‘What is?’ she asked.
‘You possess the Gene.’
Keara went pale for a second, immediately realizing that her dream was indeed coming true.
‘Why is that strange?’
‘I admit I had not expected so much power to come from such a tiny body.’
‘Why does Sharzak want me?’ Keara asked abruptly.
‘You’ll know soon enough.’
Before Keara could reply, the Shadow attacked with brute force. The fight was now underway. Elsewhere, her brothers were defending themselves against other Shadows, but there was no time to worry about them. Defending herself against the Shadow before her required all her attention.
The fight went on for several minutes, when Keara heard Joseph scream in pain. She looked away from the Shadow and in the direction of Joseph’s scream. Her biggest mistake. That single moment was all the Shadow needed. He launched forward and in an instant, plunged a thick, razor sharp blade into Keara’s ribs. Her body contorted as she gasped hard for air, surprised at what had just happened. She didn’t look up. Before she could react, the Shadow twisted the blade. Keara could no longer breathe. Her muscles would not respond. The Shadow tore the blade from her body, leaving her to collapse and lay in the fallen leaves, motionless. Her life-force left her body.
Keara was dead.
Her brothers immediately sensed her life-force draining away. In that moment, the Shadows abandoned their fights and joined the victor as he picked up Keara’s lifeless body and flung her over his shoulder. They quickly dispersed. The remaining Ravens followed, but only as far as their injured bodies allowed.
The Shadows were gone, and so was Keara. Michael let out a scream that echoed through the forest. He had failed to protect his sister.

The Ravens walked back to the house, not knowing how to tell the family that their sister was no longer alive.
The house was full of morning activity. No one was aware of what had occurred only a short while ago.
Deryck was playing with the children by the fireplace when he looked up and noticed the grim expressions on the Ravens’ faces, ‘Are you guys okay?’
Michael slumped into the nearest chair, as did Alexander. Joseph leaned with his back against the wall, sliding down until he sat on the floor. Jonathan was standing near the fireplace, just staring into the flames; like they would burn away the agony.
‘Where’s Keara?’ Deryck asked, fearing the worst.
‘Why don’t you kids go upstairs and play in your rooms?’ Michael addressed all the children.
The children gathered up their toys and slowly proceeded upstairs to their rooms.
‘What’s going on?’ Adin asked as he sat down in a chair across from Michael.
None of them could look at their father, they couldn’t even look in his direction.
‘Where’s Keara?’ Caitlyn asked.
Still none of them answered.
‘Michael?’ Adin started.
‘Shadows came.’ Michael found it hard to speak, ‘They; they...’
‘They what?’ Adin asked.
Tears started rolling down Michael’s cheeks, ‘Keara’s dead.’ Michael forced the words from his mouth.
Everyone stopped breathing. Had they heard him correctly? One look at the Ravens and it was clear that no lies were being told. Their world had been completely shattered. For the first time, the Ravens had experienced loss.

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