Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Thirty Five

In her healing state, Keara kept seeing images of Queen Ethera and her short-lived reign. She knew she would have to take Ethera’s place, and though she was considered an unwelcome outsider by her own people, she had a duty to them; one that she could not escape.

The Ravens arrived at the Home of the Woodland Elves by midday. Elodin had already been waiting for them and greeted them solemnly.

They followed Elodin as he walked over to Korian who was still sitting by the stream.
‘Hello Korian.’ Michael greeted.
‘Hello Michael.’ Korian greeted back, ‘It’s good to see you again, all of you.’
‘Likewise.’ Michael said.
The others just smiled as a greeting to Korian.
‘How is she?’ Michael asked.
Elodin waved his hand over the cocoon around Keara. The vines retracted enough to cradle her inside, but also reveal her to her brothers.
‘She’s been in this state for some time.’ Elodin informed them.
Michael walked to the edge of the stream, bent down and put his hand in the water, feeling her heartbeat.
‘I don’t suppose you know when she might awaken.’ Elodin enquired.
‘I’m afraid not. But her heartbeat is already quite strong. She should awaken soon.’ Michael said without looking up.
‘Come, I’ll show you where you’ll be staying.’ Elodin said after a moment.
The Ravens followed him up stairs, leading to a rather comfortable setting in one of the tree tops.

Korian had joined the Ravens in their temporary home, still glancing down to Keara from time to time. He felt more relaxed now that her brothers were there with him.

‘I can’t believe she’s alive.’ Caitlyn remarked.
‘Neither can I.’ Adin agreed, ‘But I am glad that she is.’
‘So am I. I can’t wait to see her.’ Caitlyn said with a smile.
‘We’ll see her soon enough, my love.’ Adin said as he embraced his wife and placed a soft kiss on her head.

Michael had stepped into the water. He had the need to be in his sister’s presence again. She was still cradled in the vines. He looked down at her, stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. Even though she was motionless in her healing state, he sensed that she was somewhat restless.
He reached down and took hold of her hand, hoping to possibly see what was making her so restless and at the very least, calm her down. However, the moment he gripped her hand in his, he was dragged underwater. Images started flashing in his mind. Images of forms, of her brothers, of Deryck and other people around her. Images of something that seemed to be a demon, fighting. The demon seemed to be considerably stronger than him and her. Images flashed of Queen Ethera; during her battle to gain control of Salerra. He saw images of Keara attacking them; images of what Keara had done during her service to Sharzak. He felt her confusion at times and experienced the dark images Sharzak had poured into her mind in order to keep her under his control. He saw how she had opposed Sharzak and abandoned him. He felt as though he was about to lose his mind with all the confusion, when suddenly an image of Keara showed in his mind’s eye. She seemed to be badly injured. The demon stood over her, triumphantly. She got to her hands and knees, dagger in her hand, driving it into her body. He wanted to scream, but no sound was uttered. The black, yellow, red substance tore itself from her body; the demon let out a terrible cry, seeming to be in great pain. Keara started fighting back, her resolve slowly growing. Her emotions were running rampant through his mind. He immediately let go of her hand, bursting out of the water, gasping for air. He leaned against the edge, breathing heavily. He finally realized what was going on. Keara was fighting to regain control of her body and mind, and Queen Ethera’s spirit was helping her do so. She was no longer under Sharzak’s command, but she had not gained complete control over herself, yet.
Alexander had seen Michael burst out of the water and rushed over as Michael lifted himself out of the water.
‘Are you okay?’ Alexander enquired.
Michael looked at Alexander. It took him a moment to respond, ‘Yeah, yeah.’
Deryck walked over to Michael and Alexander, ‘What happened?’
‘I think I finally understand what’s going on with Keara.’ Michael said, ‘She expelled Sharzak’s life-force from her body.’
‘How do you know that?’ Alexander wanted to know.
‘I saw it.’
‘What?’ Alexander and Deryck said simultaneously.

A short while later, the Ravens, along with Deryck and Korian were lounging in their temporary home. Michael had put on some dry clothes and was now explaining what had happened in the water.
‘Keara’s mind is running rampant.’ Michael started, ‘When I touched her hand, I saw so many things.’
‘What do you mean, when you touched her hand?’ Deryck didn’t understand.
‘I was standing in the water, next to her. I could sense that she somehow felt restless, so I held her hand in hopes that I could maybe calm her down. But as soon as I touched her, these images started appearing in my head. Keara’s free of Sharzak, but she’s still fighting to gain control of Salerra.’ Michael said, ‘At least it seems as though she’s winning.’
‘She let you in.’ Jonathan noted.
‘I think she needed someone to understand what she was going through.’ Korian responded.
Michael looked at Korian, ‘But I do understand what she’s going through, we all do.’
‘You may think you do, Michael. But the fact is, none of you do. None of you know the battles that Keara is fighting.’
‘How can you say that, Korian?’ Michael felt quite offended, ‘She’s my sister. As her brother and fellow Dark Elf, I know very well of the battle she’s fighting.’
‘Michael, I think Korian’s right.’ Joseph said after a moment of silence.
‘What?’ Michael felt even more offended, even betrayed.
‘I don’t think Keara’s fighting to stay alive.’ Joseph started, but hesitated, ‘I think she’s fighting to stay sane.’
Dead silence ensued. They realized that Joseph might be right. No one had considered that Keara might lose her grasp on her sanity.
‘I hadn’t considered that.’ Michael solemnly admitted.
‘I don’t think any of us did.’ Alexander added.
‘That would explain why you sensed that Keara was so restless.’ Jonathan spoke.
‘Yes, as her oldest brother and a Dark Elf, you’re the one person who needed to see what’s going on in her mind.’ Korian stated.
‘I wanna help her, but I don’t know how.’ Michael admitted.
‘That’s alright, Michael. I think you’ve already helped her just by taking her hand.’ Korian replied.

Sharzak paced the floor in the throne room impatiently. The Shadows had been searching for Keara for weeks, but each time they returned empty-handed.
‘How hard can it possibly be to find her!?’ his voice bellowed through the throne room; even the walls trembled.
‘We cannot find any trace of her, sire.’ Scander reported, ‘She has completely disappeared.’
Sharzak lost his temper and let loose a powerful wave of magic, sending the three Shadows bowed in front of him flying in all directions. The Shadows slowly composed themselves, crawling back to once again bow at Sharzak’s feet.
‘We will keep searching for her, sire. We will find her.’ Scander said.
‘You had better. I’m growing impatient with your incompetence.’ Sharzak barked, his voice still bellowing through the throne room.
‘We will not fail you.’

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