The Shadows seemed to be enjoying their latest rampage. The villagers fought back, but their bravery was only rewarded with death.
For the first time since serving Sharzak, Crucis Salerra didn’t seem to have a thirst for blood. Keara observed the massacre, but for the first time, didn’t want any part of it. She spread her wings, and flew off, leaving the Shadows to their dark game.
She had found a quite stream. She landed on her knees, right on the edge, leaning over. For the first time, Keara had seen her reflection. It was not how she remembered herself. Her eyes were blood red and her long hair had faded to grey. She had cuts all over her body and her skin looked even paler than she remembered. Keara opened her mouth, and found that she had grown fangs; something she did not remember acquiring during the first time she had experienced the transformation. She touched her face, still not believing that the reflection could really be her. Feeling all the cuts on her skin, she reached down into the water, wanting to heal her body. But as soon as her hand touched the water, it began to burn. Keara screamed in pain, and quickly pulled her hand out the water. Her mind could not comprehend what just happened. Water was her healing source. How could it burn her? She tore a piece of cloth from her clothing and wrapped it around her burned hand.
Before flying away, she took one last look at her reflection, which was rippled by a single tear falling from her dead eyes. Keara had finally realized what she had become; a monster.
Alexander flung the door open, rushing into Michael’s room, ‘Did you feel that?’
‘It’s Keara. I think she’s starting to fight back.’
A split second later, Joseph and Jonathan were also in Michael’s room.
‘Was that Keara?’ Joseph asked frantically.
‘Yes.’ Michael answered, ‘Our sister might re-emerge soon.’
‘What are we gonna do?’ Jonathan asked.
Michael looked at Jonathan for a moment, then said, ‘Nothing.’
‘Nothing!?’ Jonathan exclaimed.
‘Keara is, only now, starting to fight back; we can’t intervene.’ Michael stated.
‘Why not?’ Joseph was deeply upset.
‘Because this is a battle she must fight on her own. Seeing us again, before she’s ready, might not be such a good thing.’
‘Why wouldn’t it be a good thing!?’ Joseph argued, ‘We’re her brothers.’
‘Yes we are.’ Michael agreed, ‘But we were also her first opponents after she turned.’
‘Which means, that if she sees us before she’s ready, the creature might just take over again.’ Alexander explained what Michael was trying to say.
Joseph’s spirit seemed to dwindle instantly. How could he just do nothing when his sister needed him most?
Michael could see what Joseph was thinking, ‘She’ll win this battle, Joseph. Keara is a lot stronger than any of us might think she is; than even she thinks she is. We will see her again. We will get our sister back.’
Joseph just nodded his head. He knew that Keara was capable of much more than they thought. But he still wished he could help her.
It was almost dawn when Keara arrived back at the village the Shadows had destroyed the previous night. No one had been spared. Not even the houses were left standing. Fires were everywhere; some still burning strong; others, a mere pile of smouldering wood. Everything had been destroyed and though she did not take part in the rampage the previous evening, she knew that it was her fault; she allowed herself to be corrupted; she allowed this to happen.
Not knowing what else to do, Keara turned and walked away.
The sun was already high in the sky when she stepped through the gates of the castle. The Shadows glared at her as she moved past them. Ignoring all the hostile looks, she walked up the steps and entered the castle.
Keara had barely closed the door, when several bone-like knives flew towards her, pinning her up against the door. After recovering from the shock, slight pain and surprise; Keara considered all the knives which had pinned her entire body, as well as her wings, to the door.
Out of the gloom, Sharzak approached. As he drew nearer, the air grew thicker; his dark aura filling her lungs, smothering her with evil.
‘I’ve been hearing some rather disturbing things about you, Salerra.’ he uttered in a low, dark voice.
Trying to ignore him, Keara attempted to free herself, very subtly trying to get at least one limb to move.
‘Scander has informed me that you disappeared last night, and never returned to assist them.’ he fumed.
Keara said nothing; she was still trying to free herself; all the while, feeling rage build up inside her.
Without looking at her, Sharzak asked, ‘Why did you leave, Salerra?’
She looked at him, and without hesitation, answered, ‘I was bored.’
‘You had a job to do. Why did you abandon your comrades?’
‘I didn’t like my job, and those so-called comrades are just a bunch of evil, walking corpses; just like you.’
Suddenly enraged, Sharzak stormed Keara, and dug a bony-discoloured hand into her stomach. Keara’s face twisted in pain, but she didn’t scream. He bent down to look her in the eye, his face mere inches from hers.
‘You will not dare insult me again. You belong to me. You’re no longer welcome anywhere else in the world. No one will accept you. You’re worthless. You’re just a puppet and you are nothing without me.’ Sharzak babbled and straightened up again.
In that moment, Keara’s left arm came free; her hand shot up, fingers wrapping tightly around Sharzak’s neck; his evil aura no longer invading her lungs.
Pulling him down so his face was level with hers, she looked him directly in the eyes, hers red, yellow, green and blue with burning fire, ‘I belong to no one.’ then with a sudden eruption of her spirit-force, every knife pinning her down, shot off in different directions. She removed Sharzak’s hand from her stomach and flung him towards the other side of the room, hitting the wall before he collapsed on the floor.
Strangely though, Keara didn’t walk out the door; instead she headed for the dungeons, seeming quite determined.
Deryck had decided to take a horse-ride out in the fields. He could not listen to another negative word about Keara. He refused to believe that she was evil.
He pulled the reins and dismounted. Walking towards the nearby tree, leaving the horse to graze. He sat down, leaning against the tree; he started fiddling with Keara’s ring. He had faith in her, yet felt completely hopeless.
He had fallen asleep against the tree; when he awoke, the sun was high in the sky. Deryck stood up and approached his horse, stroking the neck before mounting and returning to the castle. Before long, he was among people again. Ignoring their glances and avoiding any possible conversation, as every conversation consisted of questions and Keara who turned her back on all that is good.
‘Deryck!’ a familiar voice called from the crowd.
Deryck turned his head to see Jonathan approaching him.
‘Hi Jonathan.’ Deryck greeted.
‘Could we talk?’ Jonathan asked.
‘Sure. I’m just heading towards the stables.’
‘I’ll walk with you.’
Deryck handed the reins over to the stable boy who lead the horse to its own pen and started removing the saddle to groom the horse.
‘Trying to get away from the negativity, aren’t you?’ Jonathan started, as he walked with Deryck.
‘Sort of.’ Deryck sighed, ‘Ever since word reached the castle about Keara attacking the villages, I’ve constantly been asked questions like; why has Keara turned her back on us and all that is good; why did she attack the villages; how long has Keara really been under Sharzak’s command; why would she betray us.’
Deryck couldn’t continue; every word he said, broke his heart even more.
‘I understand how you feel, Deryck. My brothers and I, we really do understand. But at least you only get asked questions; we get threatened as well.’
‘You get threatened?’ Deryck was not aware of the fierce hostility.
‘Yeah.’ Jonathan answered, ‘She’s our sister, remember? And Michael is also a Dark Elf. People seem to think that because Keara became Salerra, Michael also has the potential for it.’
‘Does he?’ Deryck was curious.
‘No. Michael is very powerful. But he is not royalty, or a woman. That means he doesn’t possess the Gene.’ Jonathan explained.
Deryck looked surprised, ‘Does the gender of the Gene carrier actually matter?’
‘Of course it does.’ Jonathan answered.
‘Well, you see, in the Realm of the Dark Elves, the supreme ruler is always female; and that female always possesses the Gene. And that is also why the creature only appears once every thousand years.’ Jonathan explained.
‘Um, Jonathan, I’m afraid I don’t know why the creature only appears once every thousand years.’ Deryck admitted after a moment of silence.
‘Oh.’ Jonathan realized, ‘Well a queen rules for a thousand years, until the new carrier of the Devil Gene is ready to inherit that responsibility. She simply steps down and allows the new queen to take over.’
‘Okay.’ Deryck started, ‘But it still doesn’t explain why the Dark Elves attacked us that night by the stone ring; it doesn’t explain why the current ruler of Velmoura wants Keara dead and it certainly doesn’t explain why Sharzak wanted her under his control.’
’I agree, Deryck; it doesn’t explain why the Dark Elves attacked or why Sharzak so desperately wants her under his control. But I think the reason why the current ruler of Velmoura wants Keara dead, is because he will have to step down and he refuses to give up the power without a fight.’
‘But he has to step aside; it’s Keara’s throne.’
‘Regardless, he won’t give it up that easily. He took the throne after the queen was murdered, and he intends to keep it.’
‘He won’t stand a chance against Keara.’ Deryck said confidently.
‘No he won’t, but that depends on whether she wants the throne or not.’ Jonathan stated, ‘And as far as I know, she doesn’t want it.’
‘Why wouldn’t she want the throne?’ Deryck asked.
‘I don’t know. I don’t think Keara’s ever been interested in ruling anyone.’
Keara pushed open the huge, rotten dungeon door. Trying to ignore the stench, she walked in. All around, lifeless Shadows lay; puppets Sharzak had not yet resurrected. She knew that soon, all these Shadows would be sent after her.
The spirits dwelling in the dungeon looked upon her as she moved with determination.
She reached the area where she had been chained down during her resurrection. All her belongings were strewn about the dungeon floor. Deryck’s necklace also lay between the rubble; she picked it up, rubbing her thumb over the pendant. She stared at it for a moment, then draped it around her neck. She looked around for something else; her bracelets; one for each of her brothers, uniquely decorated as a description of each one’s personality, and one for her. She put them on, then stood up; staring into nothingness for a moment before turning to leave.
She was now on her way to the weapons chamber. She knew that Sharzak would not destroy her weapons, even though she was the only one who could wield it. He knew the weapons contained a level of power that only the true wielder could control as it adapted to the abilities of its owner.
Upon reaching the weapons chamber, Keara found two of the Shadows guarding the entrance.
‘You cannot enter, Creature.’ one Shadow uttered.
Keara, however ignored the Shadow, and kept approaching.
‘You are not permitted in the weapons chamber.’ the second Shadow commented, ‘Leave at once.’
Keara still kept approaching, ‘I’m Keara Crucis Salerra Harpstrom. I do not take orders from insects like you.’
The Shadows attacked, but Keara dealt away with them very swiftly, as though they were just mere insects.
She entered the weapons chamber and moved towards the wall where her weapons had been hung. She didn’t dare touch them as she didn’t know what reaction the power contained within them, would have; instead she picked them up by the holsters and flung them over her shoulder.
With pure determination, she walked back to the throne room, where Sharzak had regained his composure, and readied himself for an attack. Keara had barely stepped out of the hall when a sudden burst of dark magic flung her up against the wall; then hitting the ground hard, she was surprised that she had allowed herself to let her guard down. She got to her feet, ignoring the blood streaming over her left eye. Without putting down her belongings, she readied herself for another wave of dark magic, crossing her arms in front of her face; warding off most of the force, by flinging it out to her sides. As she did, the cracks in the walls grew deeper, and started crumbling a little. Before Sharzak could attack again, he was flung to one side with the air element. Keara didn’t give him a chance to stand up; using air again, she flung him around the room then, then without warning, she dropped him.
She knew he wasn’t dead, unconscious maybe, but hardly even injured. She only had a few seconds to leave before he stood up again; and she used those few seconds. She started running and burst out the front doors, just before Sharzak got to his feet.
‘Kill her!!’ Sharzak shouted as he came running out the door.
The Shadows immediately started shooting at her. Most of the arrows missed her, however several did hit her and she spun around before regaining control and tried to ignore the pain.
Sharzak looked on as Keara disappeared into the distance. He had failed to control the single most powerful being to walk the surface of the earth. Now his rage knew no bounds. The clouds grew dark; thunder and lightning struck; heavy rain started falling.
Keara flew low under the branches. Her breathing was getting heavier. The pain was becoming too much for her. Her wings had been pierced by several arrows. She could no longer keep herself in the air. Crashing into the rain-drenched earth, she tumbled and tumbled before eventually coming to a stop against a boulder which had broken her momentum. Laying there in the dirt, the rain falling down on her; her breathing became heavier still. Keara was in great pain; mind-numbing pain. She couldn’t move. Her eyes grew heavy. No longer being able to stand the pain, she fell unconscious.
As Keara fell deeper into unconsciousness, she began to dream.