Chapter Forty Three
Artemis looked better every day. He seemed to be his old self again. He had taken up his duties again and could run the kingdom as he once did.
The people started accepting the Ravens again. They had helped the king and they protected him as best they could.
Though the demon had not appeared again, the Ravens still kept a vigilant watch over Artemis and Deryck. Until they found it and expelled it, the royal brothers weren’t completely out of harm’s way.
‘Any word from Keara, yet?’ Deryck asked Michael.
Michael looked away from the window and the pouring rain, ‘Nothing yet.’ Michael answered with a sigh.
‘She’ll contact us when the time is right, Deryck.’ Jonathan added, ‘Until then, we just have to be patient.’
‘For how long?’ Deryck wanted to know.
‘I don’t know.’ Jonathan answered.
‘But what if she needs our help?’
‘She doesn’t need our help.’ Michael stated plainly.
‘How can you be so sure?’
‘You remember that day the Shadows followed us from the Home of the Woodland Elves?’ Michael started.
‘Yes. You and Keara lead them away so they wouldn’t follow us to your home.’ Deryck recalled.
‘Well, before we headed back home, all six of those Shadows attacked us. Keara practically defeated them single-handedly.’
‘Really?’ Deryck couldn’t believe it, 'But you two looked pretty beaten up, though.'
‘Yeah. I know. But trust me, she can handle herself.’ Michael finished.
‘You should stop worrying about her.’ Jonathan suggested.
‘I can’t help it.’ Deryck admitted, ‘Don’t you ever worry about her?’
‘Of course we do; she’s our sister.’ Jonathan answered, ‘But we know what she’s capable of. And Keara’s been through more than any of us have ever been, combined. We know she’ll be alright.’
The town was buzzing with the story of Keara and how she had saved the family from the bandits. Some people couldn’t believe that it was indeed Keara of the Ravens, but those who had witnessed her deeds, could not deny it.
The people wondered if she was still in the town, but no one had seen where she had gone.
Sharzak had seen what Keara had done to the men who had been possessed by his evil spirits. She didn‘t even seem to hesitate. He now knew where she was, but he also knew she was probably already gone. So he sent out a group of Shadows on their first rampage, searching for Keara. It would be several days before they reached the first town.
They had made their way to another town called Welkwood, trying not to draw too much attention to themselves. And with the spirits that had been drifting around, it would only have been a matter of time before Sharzak found her. She guessed that other towns would also have the evil spirits drifting around, possessing people and trying to draw her out. But she would help every town she came across, regardless of Sharzak’s efforts. She wasn’t about to stand down.
Keara was in Reverie. For the first time; she felt at peace, but it didn’t last long. She started seeing images of Shadows heading towards a town. They were on a mission. They weren’t going to the town for a simple rampage; with Scander leading them, that much was obvious. They were looking for her.
Keara quickly came out of Reverie.
‘What’s the matter?’ Sicily asked upon seeing the look on Keara’s face.
‘Please tell me that getting visions isn’t part of becoming Crucis Salerra.’
‘It’s not. As far as I know.’ Sicily said, ‘Why?’
‘Sharzak sent a group of Shadows towards a town. They’ll be there in about a day.’ Keara recalled what she saw.
‘You saw that?’
‘Yeah, pieces of it, anyway.’ Keara revealed, ‘Could it be real?’
‘Well, I don’t know.’ Sicily was unsure, but she still tried to think of an explanation, ‘Maybe it is real.’
Keara just looked at her; her expression turning to one of concern.
‘Maybe it’s because you and Sharzak used to share the same life-force.’
The thought made Keara shudder, ‘I’m gonna have nightmares for the rest of my life.’
‘But you’re not constantly getting visions of him, are you?’ Sicily asked.
‘This would be the first time.’
‘Maybe it’s because it has something to do with you.’
Keara shuddered again. She just hoped it didn’t go both ways. She wouldn’t want Sharzak to be able to see what goes on in her life.
‘Maybe I should go take a look, just in case. The town looks familiar; I think it might be Onnwal. It’s not too far from here.’ Keara thought.
‘Then you better get going. For all you know, it could be happening right now.’
Keara didn’t hesitate. She got to her feet and grabbed her coat.
She made sure no one was watching before she jumped out the window and started heading towards the stables. She saddled Legacy up and lead him outside the town and climbed into the saddle.
‘We have a long way to go and little time to get there.’ she said to Legacy.
In response, Legacy’s wings started growing. He ran a few feet then became airborne.
They made it to Onnwal before nightfall. Legacy landed softly in the middle of the main street, his wings retracted as Keara dismounted. The townspeople looked upon the sight with fear and amazement.
Keara removed her hood, revealing her purple eyes and long black hair, with the flowers braided into it. The people gasped in fear. The rumours spread around the kingdom had made everyone afraid of her.
She looked around, seeing frightened faces, and she couldn’t blame them, but she hoped that she could turn that fear into joy and trust.
‘Eager to see us again, Salerra?’ Scander said in his terrible voice.
‘Just dying to see you, Scander.’ she replied, undoing the buttons of her coat and drawing her sword.
Scander just smiled his terrible smile. Suddenly the Shadows attacked. Keara fought back with diligence, while Scander just stood there, watching as Keara did her best to protect the people against the rampage. Some houses were already set alight, but at least there were no people inside.
She couldn’t protect everyone by herself. That much she knew, but under no circumstances was she willing to give up.
Most Shadows had turned their attention to their rampage, no longer concerned with her. It was useful to her for the moment. She closed her eyes for a moment, opening them again to reveal the red-hot fire as her eyelids turned pitch-black.
Her wings started growing, not as painful as it once was, and her nails grew longer, becoming razor sharp.
In an instant, she became stronger and faster. Flapping her wings with great force, she put out most of the fires and moved with more agility.
‘I see you have better control, though, I can still sense the struggle. You’re not there, yet.’ Scander smirked.
‘I don’t need to have complete control to run you out of town.’
She beat the Shadows back. The wicked smile on Scander’s face slowly disappeared as he realized that Keara was much stronger than he remembered.
Now, even the rampaging Shadows had turned their attention to Keara. Never before did they consider Keara becoming a formidable foe.
Soon, Keara and Scander stood face to face. He was no longer smiling; in fact, he seemed a little afraid; but not because of her strength. He seemed to be frightened by her unexplainable calm. The fire burning in her eyes not as wild as it used to be.
Scander commanded the Shadows to retreat. He took a few steps away from Keara, looking back to make sure she wasn’t following him.
‘Thank you for that display, Salerra.’ his smile suddenly returning, just a little, ‘This is not over.’ he said before disappearing into the forest along with the other Shadows.
When she was sure none of them would return, she transformed back, taking a sudden deep breath, as though she had forgotten to breathe. Her body had been riddled with cuts and burns. At first, she couldn’t feel any of it, but as she calmed down, all the pain came rushing to the surface and she had to hold onto something so she wouldn’t stumble.
It took her a moment to realize that everyone was staring at her; almost suspended in time. She could tell that they were all trying to decide what to make of the events that had just unfolded in front of them. They had heard many rumours, but her actions here, indicated the exact opposite.
Someone finally stepped forward, a man, seeming to be the mayor of this town. Slowly he started to speak, almost too afraid to do so.
‘You, you are Keara of the Ravens, are you not?’ he finally managed to ask.
‘Yes.’ she answered shortly.
‘There have been stories, about you. Bad ones.’
‘Are they true?’
‘Some of them might be.’ there was no point in lying about it.
The people started murmuring around her.
‘Then what are you doing here?’ the mayor wanted to know.
‘I have done some bad things.’ Keara admitted, ‘But I am trying to atone for my past actions. I do not ask for your approval or understanding. I only ask for your forgiveness, or at the very least, the chance to be forgiven.’
Some people seemed to soften their expressions, but still, no one said anything.
‘You have saved our town from a fate worse than death. And for that I thank you.’ the mayor said, ‘You seem different than the person they describe in all those stories. But no matter how many of them are true; everyone deserves a second chance.’
A soft twinkle appeared in her eyes and the corners of her mouth curved slightly, ‘Thank you.’
Legacy approached her and taking the reins, she lead him out of town.
These so-called “visions” kept plaguing her mind. Every time she closed her eyes, she would see the Shadows on a rampage through another town. Sometimes they even attacked small villages. Some of the towns they attacked were so far away and by the time she saw where they were, it was too late. She hated that she couldn’t save everyone. And knowing that some people would die, simply because she couldn’t make it in time, was more than she could take. But still she continued to help those she could.
The stories of her deeds started spreading even faster than before. And though most of them were still afraid, they were grateful.
Some of the stories eventually made it to Varden Castle. Many people were confused and weren’t sure whether they should believe what they heard or simply disregard it. But the stories kept coming, and soon, most people started believing it.
‘When do you think she’ll return?’ Deryck asked, wishing desperately to see her again.
‘I’m not sure.’ Michael admitted.
‘People are starting to see her in a different light. Isn’t that what she was trying to achieve?’ Deryck asked.
‘Yes, but I suspect she might feel that many still need her help.’ Michael answered.
‘I can understand that, but we have a demon running around on the castle grounds. We also need her help.’ Deryck pointed out, then he looked at the door and fumbled with a button on his shirt, ‘And I miss her.’
‘I miss her too.’ Michael replied, ‘And for now, we’ll have to find a way to deal with the demon ourselves. At least it’s not pestering your brother anymore.’
‘Yes, but how long will it keep its distance?’
‘I don’t know.’ Michael admitted.
Keara had made herself comfortable in a chair near the window. She had lost track of how many towns they had already been in and at how many Inns they have stayed. As far as she could remember, this town’s name was Illien. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the soft sun rays trickling in through the windows and curtains. After so much rain, she was grateful for a bit of sunlight, even with her sensitive eyes.
Sicily was lying on the bed, paging through one of her books, then looked up at Keara.
‘For a Dark Elf, you really seem to be enjoying the sun.’ Sicily remarked.
‘I am.’ Keara replied.
‘That’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever said.’
Keara put a hand over her eyes to shield them from the rays and looked at Sicily, ‘Just allow me a few minutes in the sun before my eyes start to hurt.’
Sicily threw her hands up in defence, ‘Sorry, sorry.’ then she said, ‘I would’ve thought that you would be used to the light by now.’
‘Growing up on the surface doesn’t make my eyes any less sensitive to light.’ Keara finally got up and sat in another chair, away from the sun.
‘Too much?’ Sicily asked as she watched Keara move.
Sicily looked confused, ‘I don’t get it.’
‘You have travelled in light with your brothers almost every day, and during our travels you’ve been out in the light quite often.’
‘Yes. But at night we’re in darkness. And that keeps me from going blind.’
‘You could go blind if you spend too much time in the light?’
‘Yeah. Well, not completely. The longer I am in light the farther it would progress.’
‘And then what? You’d learn to fight with your other senses?’
‘Seriously? We’ve been friends since we were kids.’
‘Well, it seems I don’t know everything about you.’
‘Well, you should know that anything that ails me can be healed by water.’ Keara pointed.
‘That’s so cool.’ Sicily said with a smile.
Keara smiled and leaned back in the chair, closing her eyes again.
There came a knock on the door. Keara just opened one eye as Sicily opened the door. She quickly closed her eye again. Sicily was speaking to some of the townspeople standing outside the door. After a short while, she closed the door, holding was small box in her hand.
‘More gifts?’ Keara asked.
‘Yes.’ Sicily said, ‘Any idea how we’re gonna get everything home?’
‘The townspeople will probably think of something.’ Keara said.
Sicily laughed, ‘Probably.’
Keara opened her eyes and sat forward in her chair, ‘I think it’s time we leave.’
‘You mean head back to the castle?’ Sicily knew.
Keara nodded, ‘I haven’t had any visions in a while, so maybe it’s time we go.’
‘You didn’t happen to have any visions on how to defeat Sharzak?’
‘No. I believe the visions were only to taunt me.’ Keara said.
‘Yeah. But we have to find a way.’
‘We can worry about that when we get there.’
Sicily just nodded.