Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Twenty Six

Several hours passed. The world was alive with nature’s nocturnal beings. Keara had been flying for some time, trying to clear her head.

She had attacked her brothers; because it was Sharzak’s wishes. She never intended to kill them. It didn’t matter that she was under his control; she would never kill her own family. She had purposely missed their vital organs, in the hope that they would be able to free her from the hold Sharzak had on her. She couldn’t help feeling that she had failed her family. She thought she had gained control over Crucis Salerra, thinking that its emotions would not rule her. But her control had not been truly tested until her days in the dungeon. She never thought that evil would ever be able to break her resolve, but it seems that Keara was not as strong as she once believed she was.
Her soul was crying out for help; it begged to be freed from the grasp of sheer evil, but somehow Keara’s hope had already faded into nothingness. She started to believe that she would never be able to break free.

After contemplating her situation over and over, she returned to the Haunted Castle. She really didn’t have anywhere else to go.
She landed on the window sill, sat down and let her one leg hang down.
‘Glad to see you’re back, Salerra.’ Sharzak stated, ‘I trust you enjoyed your evening out.’
‘Yes.’
‘It seems you have something on your mind.’ he noticed.
‘Not much.’ Keara replied, ‘Was just wondering why the Dark Elves attacked us that night at the stone ring.’
‘Because your little group of friends awakened my most loyal follower, along with all my powers.’
‘Scander was only imprisoned, because somehow, you managed to escape.’
‘Indeed. But I freed him.’
Keara just stared at Sharzak. She didn’t find it hard to believe that the Dark Elves would sentence him to eternal damnation; he was pure evil.
‘You poisoned the ward.’ Keara thought aloud.
‘That’s correct.’ Sharzak replied
‘But the Dark Elves didn’t know what you did.’
‘No. They thought that once my powers were locked away, they no longer had to fear me.’
‘Don’t you mean, hate you?’
‘No.’ Sharzak’s blood pressure started rising, but he kept his temper in check, ‘I am the most powerful being to ever walk the earth. I am invincible; nothing can defeat me.’
‘There’s always a way.’
‘Not this time, Salerra. The Dark Elves will never know how to defeat me, because there is no way.’
‘What makes you so sure of that?’ Keara asked.
‘If they did know of a way, they would have tracked me down and destroyed both me and Scander.’
‘You shouldn’t have betrayed them; then they wouldn’t have hated you so much. And you wouldn’t have been sentenced to eternal imprisonment.’ Keara stated.
‘I did not betray them, Salerra.’
‘Really?’ Keara didn’t believe him, ‘You don’t consider killing the Drow Queen and attempting to take over her rule, betrayal?’
‘I don’t expect you to understand. You’re one of them.’ Sharzak reasoned.
‘Even a Drow has morals.’ Keara stated, with hatred in her eyes, ‘And despite what you might think; there’s always a way to overcome evil, even one as twisted and demented as you.’
‘Now that’s not a nice thing to say to the one who freed you.’
‘Freed me?’
‘This is the real you, Salerra.’ Sharzak gestured to the form Keara had taken, ‘This is your true form; who you really are supposed to be. Crucis Salerra.’
Keara clenched her fists. This was not freedom. This was captivity of the worst kind; a mental prison. Losing control of something that should be a part of her was far worse than being thrown in the deepest, darkest dungeon and being left there to die.

Rather than listen to Sharzak any longer, she climbed off the window sill and took a walk around the castle. Looking around, she found that the castle looked much like her own soul had become; abandoned, tarnished, falling apart. Dust had gathered in every area and despair had settled in every corner.
She touched the walls and felt the souls of those who had died a very torturous death within the confines of darkness and evil. Images of what had come to pass flipped through her mind. She closed her eyes to the sight, even though it would not save her from the horrifying memories.
She slowly removed her hand from the wall, and the images disappeared from her mind.
Lost spirits dwelled in the corridors and passages, wailing and moaning. They wished to be freed from this world. They wished to rest in peace. But they were all bound to this castle. Sharzak had made it so. No one who died here would ever leave. It was another method of torture in Sharzak’s mind. Nothing could be worse than spending the afterlife in the place where you died, watching others die the way you did. The spirits still tried to reach out to Keara; trying to convince her that this is not where she should be. But sometimes it seemed she could not hear them. Without her resolve, there was no point in listening to the pleading of the dead.
She kept walking around the castle until she had seen almost every part of it. She decided to retire to the room that had been given to her. It was not much; tarnished and abandoned, like the rest of the castle.
She had been given the highest room in the castle tower. The red blanket on the bed had almost lost its colour; covered in cobwebs and dust.
The ornaments were old and seemed to dissolve into the walls of the room.
She walked past the bed, past any other furniture that might have provided comfort at a certain stage, and came to a stop in front of the window.
She peered out at the night; darkness that seemed to fill every corner of the earth. She sat down on the window sill, folding her wings around her body, providing warmth in an otherwise icy environment. She went into Reverie, even though it wasn’t much more than an hour or two.

‘I fear she may still attempt to go back to her former life.’ Sharzak said to Scander, ‘I will have to ensure that the darkness never leaves her heart and her resolve never returns.’
And with that, Sharzak began casting a spell, the essence of it lingering in the air. The wind carried it up to where Keara lay in restless Reverie. The spell carried the images of her family, most of all, her brothers. Images of torture, pain, death. Deep inside her heart, she knew none of these images were true occurrences, but it still dragged her into a deeper, darker, evil spiral. With every image, she lost what little resolve she had left.
Keara opened her eyes with a sudden calm, an almost dead look in her eyes. She stood up and looked out the window as she did before. She no longer saw the hidden beauty of the forsaken forest around the castle. Everything looked the same to her now. The old Keara, who cared about the well-being of others, was gone. The one staring through her eyes, was in every way, Sharzak’s pet.

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