Chapter Thirty Eight
Her bright purple eyes suddenly opened. Staring up, from beneath the surface of the water, watching it ripple and sway as someone leaped in beside her. A face came close to hers as arms wrapped around her and started lifting her up towards the surface. Still being held tightly, she breathed deeply, taking in the oxygen her lungs so desperately needed. The arms which had lifted her out of the water had scooped her up and softly put her down on the edge. As the water slithered off her body, back into the stream, she quickly dried and felt a cloth being draped over her shoulders and wrapped around the rest of her body. She was helped to her feet, but was somewhat disorientated. An arm wrapped around her waist to help her stand. Nothing made sense, everything seemed a blur. Another pair of arms embraced her. She couldn’t walk. Her legs wouldn’t move. Arms scooped her up and carried her towards a tree, up the stairs and into a house. She was placed on a bed in one of the rooms. A face came into view, a smile was revealed. Words seemed to be spoken, but none were heard. A hand softly touched her face before she was left alone. She sat there for a moment, looking around. Seeing clothes draped over a chair; her clothes. The room started looking familiar. She had stayed here once; a long time ago, when she had just become a Raven.
Raven. That’s what she was. The youngest member of the Ravens. She looked down at her hands. The mark of the Dark Elves. Of course, she had four brothers and one of them was a Dark Elf; like her. Michael. That was his name. He was the one who lifted her out of the water. Her other brothers were Woodland Elves. One of them had draped this cloth over her body. Alexander. Yes, Jonathan had helped him pick her up so she could stand. Someone had helped her stand. It wasn’t her brother. No, it was Deryck. And Joseph had embraced her before Deryck carried her to this room. He had smiled at her and touched her cheek before leaving her alone.
She looked at her right arm. The mark of Crucis Salerra. It was faint, and almost complete. She remembered now. She was in the woods; she had stabbed herself and dragged her dying body into the water. However, she could not remember how long ago. But now she had awakened in the Home of the Woodland Elves. And she had gained control of Salerra, but, she felt, not completely, just yet.
She sat there on the bed. She could remember everything; her past, from when she was still a child; when she had become a Raven; when she died and was brought back to life as Sharzak’s puppet; what she had done and how she had escaped. She survived. She made it through the pain and agony.
Making sure her legs would support her, she slowly stood up and made her way to the chair and started getting dressed.
Her clothes resembled the traditional Woodland style, but were tailored to suit the Ravens.
She finished getting dressed, then left the room to join her brothers. Quite a few people were waiting for her. Deryck quickly got up and embraced her. He held her so tightly as though he had to convince himself that he wasn’t dreaming. After a few moments, he looked at her, softly touching her cheek, smiling at her before finally letting her go. Her brothers all hugged her, before sitting down and asking all their questions.
‘How are you feeling?’ Deryck asked.
‘I’m, okay.’ she answered.
‘It’s good to see you again, Keara.’ Saresse said.
Keara smiled, ‘You too, Saresse.’
‘Alive and well.’ Saresse added.
’I don’t know about ‘well’, but I am alive.’
‘That’s what matters.’ Saresse said.
‘Indeed.’ Michael said, looking at Keara, ‘I’m glad you’re awake.’
Keara just smiled at him.
‘You obviously have questions. So, go ahead and ask.’ Keara spoke.
‘Why did Sharzak want you under his command so badly?’ Michael asked.
‘Because of Salerra.’ Keara answered.
‘Because you’re so powerful as Salerra?’ Jonathan asked.
‘Well, yes and no.’
‘What?’ Jonathan didn’t understand.
‘Yes, as Salerra I am very powerful, but I don’t think that’s the real reason.’
‘Then why?’ Alexander wanted to know.
‘Because I am the only one who can kill him.’ Keara revealed.
‘What!?’ everyone exclaimed simultaneously.
‘Wait; Keara, how do you know that?’ Michael asked urgently.
‘I saw it.’ she answered.
‘You saw it?’ Alexander asked.
‘I think we’re gonna need some context here, Keara.’ Joseph stated, sitting on the edge of his seat.
‘Okay.’ Keara took a deep breath, ‘Well, after I fled from Sharzak, I found a place to hide, and I fell into Reverie; and I started dreaming.’
‘You started dreaming?’ Joseph asked, ‘Keara, we don’t dream.’
‘Well, I did; more or less, anyway.’
‘What did you dream?’ Jonathan tried not to sound too curious.
‘About Queen Ethera, and her reign; before she was murdered.’ Keara started explaining everything she had seen.
Even Michael was surprised by this new information. Keara told things that even he didn’t know. She also explained that the Dark Elves attacked them at the stone ring that night, because the ward had died when they decided to spend the night, which awakened Scander, releasing him and all Sharzak’s powers.
Later that evening, most elves had gone into Reverie. Joseph was spending time with Saresse. Keara was down by the stream, wandering up and down the edge, thinking about everything that had happened and everything that might happen in the future. Explaining everything to her brother, reminded her again of Salerra, she knew that she was capable of doing what she had to, but somehow she still worried that she might fail.
Deryck had seen Keara down by the stream and decided to follow her there. He slowly came to a stop near her. She hadn’t noticed him standing there, until she almost walked into him. She looked up in surprised, but was happy to see him. Deryck reached out both hands, softly touching her arms, lightly stroking them.
Looking deep into her purple eyes, he said, ‘I’ve been so worried about you.’ he paused for a moment, the continued, ‘There were so many rumours being spread about you; I wasn’t sure what to believe.’
‘I think most of those rumours might be true, Deryck.’ Keara admitted.
‘That doesn’t matter, Keara. It’s not who you are.’
‘Nevertheless, I’ve wronged a lot of people.’ Keara paused, ‘People who depended on me. No one trusts me anymore; and honestly, I don’t blame them.’
Deryck pulled her closer, folding his arms around her, letting her rest her head against his chest; softly stroking her hair. She wrapped her arms around his waist, closing her eyes, listening to his heartbeat.
‘We’ll show everyone that they can still trust you. You are after all, their only hope.’ Deryck promised.
‘But will I be able to save everyone?’ Keara doubted herself somewhat.
‘I believe you will, Keara. You’ve managed to control Salerra. You’re powerful enough to do what you have too. And you won’t be alone, we are all here beside you.’
‘You sure have a lot of faith in me.’ Keara noted.
‘Of course I do. I know who you are, and I will never lose faith in you.’
Keara looked up at Deryck. He softly touched her cheek, then leaned in and kissed her. For the first time, in that quiet, intimate moment, Keara could forget about everything. In that moment, the world and everything in it was in perfect harmony; all that was bad had disappeared, and the only people who existed in this perfect world, was the two of them.
The following morning, Keara was sitting on the floor in their temporary home, talking to Saresse who was sitting on a chair behind Keara, braiding her long black hair with thin vines and small flowers. They were talking about everything and nothing. It was a sweet reprieve from everything Keara had on her mind. Her brothers were still in Reverie and Deryck was fast asleep in Keara’s room. They had stayed up late, talking, wrapped in each other’s arms. He hadn’t intended to fall asleep, but unlike Keara, he couldn’t really go too long without rest.
‘Now, these flowers you’re braiding into my hair, how long are they gonna last?’ Keara asked Saresse.
‘Forever.’ Saresse answered, ‘These flowers are enchanted by the magic of the Woodland Elves.’
‘Really? That’s nice.’ Keara said with a little smile.
‘The magic feeds on the goodness of your soul.’ Saresse informed.
‘Then they won’t last very long.’ Keara was no longer smiling.
‘You’re not evil, Keara.’ Saresse realized what Keara was thinking, ‘You have a good soul. What happened during your time with Sharzak, was not in your power to control at the time. But you have control now, that’s what matters.’
‘Thank you, Saresse. But the person who did all those terrible things is still me. I am Crucis Salerra, after all.’
‘Yes, but that was before you gained control.’
‘But doesn’t that still make me evil?’
‘No Keara. Salerra is a part of you as much as you are a part of it.’ Saresse said to Keara, ‘You are in control; and you have chosen your path.’
‘You seem very sure that I’m not completely evil.’
‘None of us are completely good or bad, Keara. It all just depends on the path we choose to take, and the intentions we have.’
‘But Sharzak is completely evil.’ Keara stated.
‘Yes, but the difference between you and him, is that when he chose that path, he allowed the evil to consume him completely. That’s why, for as long as he has existed, no pure, living thing has been able to survive in his presence. If you hadn’t escaped his clutches when you did, the good part of you; this part of you, would’ve died completely.’ Saresse explained.
‘That’s a good way to look at it.’ Keara admitted.
‘It’s the only way you should look at it.’
‘I’ll do my best, Saresse.’
Michael came out of his room, rubbing his eyes, ‘Hey little sister.’
Keara looked up, ‘Hey big brother.’
Michael sat down on the ground next to Keara, taking her hand in his, ‘How are you feeling?’
‘Better.’ Keara smiled.
‘Can we maybe go for a walk?’ Michael asked.
‘Sure.’ Keara said, ‘When she’s done.’
‘It’s okay, Keara. I’ve just finished.’ Saresse reported.
‘It looks nice.’ Michael remarked.
‘Thanks.’ Keara said again.
Michael smiled, then stood up, helping Keara to her feet. They walked over to the door. Michael opened it and waited for Keara to walk out. He followed her out and closed the door behind him. They casually walked down the stairs in silence, and wandered quietly among the trees, until Michael said,
‘I’m really glad you’re okay.’
Keara just smiled at him.
‘I have to be honest, Keara,’ Michael hesitated, ‘I didn’t think I would see you alive again. Don’t get me wrong, I always did my best to believe that I would, but some part of me started doubting.’
‘I understand, Michael.’
‘I’m sorry for doubting you, Keara.’
‘It’s alright, Michael. Considering everything that had happened, even I didn’t think I would survive.’ Keara paused for a moment, ‘When Sharzak’s life-force left my body, I really thought that I was gonna die. I was ready to die. I wanted to.’
‘Why?’ Michael was appalled to hear his sister say that.
‘I’ve done some terrible things. And people hate me for it. I wanted to die, because I was afraid that I might not gain control again and that I would just keep hurting others.’
Michael looked at his sister, tears rolling down his cheeks, ‘I’m so sorry I couldn’t protect you, Keara. I have failed you.’
‘You have not failed me, Michael. If anything, I have failed you.’
‘How could you possibly have failed me?’
‘I abandoned my principles. I nearly killed you. I lost myself.’ Keara explained.
‘That’s not your fault, Keara, that’s my fault. You died that night, because I couldn’t protect you. When you came back to life, you weren’t you. Everything you had done was Sharzak’s will. You would never have done those things, if it weren’t for him.’
‘Michael, I don’t blame you for what happened. Some battles I just have to fight alone.’
‘But I wanna help you.’ Michael started, ‘I can help you.’
‘No, you can’t, Michael. If I want people to trust me again, I’m gonna have to earn that trust myself.’ Keara stated.
‘There’s no way I can change your mind, is there?’
Michael just nodded and enjoyed the rest of the walk with his sister in silence.
After a while, Keara was walking among the trees by herself. She saw horses in the distance and headed towards them, soon discovering that they were the horses of the Ravens and Legacy was among them. He trotted over to her and put his neck on her shoulder, very happy to see her. She rested her head against his neck and softly stroked his mane.
‘We’ve got a lot of work to do, Legacy.’ Keara said.
‘Michael has just sent us a message.’ Adin said as he walked into the house, ‘They’re leaving the Home of the Woodland Elves tomorrow. And they’re coming home with Keara.’
Caitlyn’s face lit up, ‘Really!? Oh, I can’t wait to see them.’
‘Neither can I.’ Adin shared her excitement.
Adin hugged his wife, smiling, happy that his children would be coming home soon.
Artemis also received a message from Michael, saying that Keara had awakened and that they would return to the castle within days. He was very happy to hear that his brother would be returning soon, however he kept the information to himself. He suspected that there might be a spy in the castle, but he couldn’t be completely sure as everyone seemed to be very loyal to him.
Deryck held Keara’s hand tightly while they were walking among the trees. They were near the edge of the sanctuary. Deryck couldn’t help smiling. He was enjoying his time with Keara so much that he had forgotten about everything that was going on. Keara also seemed more relaxed. She enjoyed having Deryck at her side; he was the only person who never spoke of everything that had to be done.
‘Wanna see what’s up there?’ Keara asked, looking up one of the huge trees at the edge of the sanctuary.
Deryck looked up, ‘You wanna climb the tree?’
‘Then let’s do it.’
They started climbing the tree, feeling like children again. Once they were high enough, Keara leaned against a branch, just staring out at the forest. Deryck leaned his back against a branch near Keara and just stared at her.
‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it?’ she said, still staring out at the landscape.
Deryck looked at what she was looking at, ‘It is.’ he agreed, ‘But not as beautiful as you.’ he said looking back at her.
She looked at him, completely surprised. She started smiling involuntarily, feeling her cheeks turn red. He smiled softly, biting his lip, then reached out his hand, taking hers and pulled her over to him, letting her lean against his chest. She laid her head on his chest and closed her eyes.
A few moments later, she opened her eyes, pushed away from him and peered through the branches, down at the forest floor.
‘What’s wrong?’ he whispered.
She quickly looked at him, putting her finger to her lips, hushing him. She looked back down at the forest floor. He came closer, wanting to see what she was looking at. Six figures gathered below. They seemed to be looking for something; or rather, found it, and were now looking for a way in. They wandered around that area for a moment, then moved on.
‘What was that?’ Deryck whispered.
‘Shadows.’ Keara answered.
He looked sharply at her, ‘As in the myth, Shadows?’
‘Yes.’ she looked at him, ‘As in the Shadows who killed me.’
‘Right. I just figured they were monsters.’
‘But what are they doing here?’
‘They’re looking for me.’ she knew.
‘My guess would be that Sharzak either wants to enslave me again, or kill me in the worst possible way.’ she answered, ‘But how did they even know I’m here?’
‘Maybe they sensed your aura.’ Deryck thought.
‘That’s not possible. The ward around this sanctuary hides all auras within.’ Keara informed, ‘We gotta tell the others.’
‘We have archers watching them now.’ Elodin stated upon hearing Keara’s news, ‘Any idea why they’re here?’
‘They’re looking for me.’ Keara stated, ‘So I would suggest we leave here as soon as we can.’
‘We’re leaving tomorrow morning.’ Michael informed.
‘You’ve already decided?’ Elodin asked.
‘Yes. We decided it would be safer for you if we leave.’ Michael stated.
‘And with Shadows creeping around, it’s growing increasingly dangerous for you, and we can’t allow anything to threaten your safety here.’ Keara added.
‘Thank you. All of you.’ Elodin was sincere. And though he didn’t want them to leave, he knew it was necessary for the safety of the sanctuary.
The Shadows kept circling the sanctuary, hoping to find a way in. Fortunately for the Woodland Elves, their magic was too powerful for mere Shadows to destroy. Everyone was safe, but growing more anxious with every passing minute. The Shadows seemed quite sure that they had found what they were looking for, because they weren’t leaving.
The Ravens hastily got their things together; they couldn’t afford to waste much time.
Keara and Michael were standing among the horses, saddling them up and preparing everything for their journey home.
Michael looked at Keara, while he absentmindedly fastened a strap on his horse’s saddle, ‘I know you have a lot on your mind, Keara.’ he started, making her look at him, ‘But you can’t leave us just yet. At least give mom and dad the chance to see you, before you disappear again.’
Keara just nodded her head. She understood what Michael meant. The last time she saw her parents, was the night before she died. She missed them terribly. And she really did want to see them; before she set out to put her name back in the people’s good graces. There wouldn’t be much time for family once Sharzak was ready to strike.