Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Forty Five

Keara had seen off her best friend, not long after the funeral. And though she would’ve preferred Sicily stay, she knew that the call of duty was now more important than the one of friendship.

‘We might see each other again, before this is over.’ Sicily said.
Keara smiled, ‘Yeah, maybe.’
‘I would like nothing more than to stay and help you. The gods know you need it.’ Sicily joked.
Keara smiled again, and shook her head, ‘Yes, but you have a call of duty to answer.’
They hugged.
‘Take care of yourself my friend. Don’t lose sight of your path.’ Sicily said.
‘You too.’ Keara replied.
Sicily let go of Keara and looked her in the eye, ‘You always know where to find me.’ then she turned and climbed into the saddle.
‘Be safe.’ was all Keara could say.
Sicily nodded, feeling tears well up behind her eyelids. She motioned her horse into a slow trot and rode off, waving goodbye to her friend.

Keara had decided to stay at Varden Castle, helping out wherever she could, insuring that there was no other demon among the people. She had spent more time with her brothers; training with them, among other things. They thought it might be best to keep their skills as sharp as possible, even though things seemed very calm.
Deryck had also joined them in their training. And though he was already very strong, he could not keep up with Keara’s pace; but then again, her brothers also fell short.
Zarra joined them from time to time, but unlike most Dark Elves, she did not have an exceptional skill with weapons. She constantly found herself absorbing new information, about anything and everything she found interesting and possibly relevant. Though she could find very little information that could possibly help them in the future.

Keara and Deryck had started spending more time together, though they knew it might not last. They knew that as long as Sharzak was still alive, they would not be together in complete peace. Deryck had often found himself wondering if they would ever live in peace; wondering if Sharzak would ever be defeated, and what would become of Keara if he could not protect her. But Keara considered herself lucky that she could be with the one she loved, unlike her brothers who were so far away from their loved ones.

Michael, Alexander and Jonathan sent messages through the forest to their spouses and children as often as it was possible. Joseph also tried to send messages to Saresse, who was still at the Home of the Woodland Elves.

Keara had begun to wonder if Korian was still safe and alive. It had been some time since she had spoken with him and she was growing concerned. She knew that he would come looking for her when and if it was necessary; but in light of the circumstances, she thought he would be accompanying them; most of the time, anyway. Obstacles wouldn’t be a concern for Korian, as he was a shape shifter and was capable of scaling the highest wall; he had no limits.
But she still didn’t understand why he was not around, especially since he was her guardian. She could only hope that he would show himself when the time came.

It was just after sunset. The Ravens had finished their training and each of them were now doing their own thing.
The activity around the castle had grown almost quiet.
Keara was lying on the edge of the fountain, staring at the stars as they slowly appeared in the sky. She seemed to be completely calm, though Michael knew that looks could be deceiving.
‘Hey.’ he said, sitting down on the edge of the fountain, a few feet from Keara’s head.
She tilted her head back, ‘Hey.’ then looked up at the sky again.
‘What are you thinking about?’
‘Trying not to think about anything.’
‘Oh.’ he looked down at her, ‘Why?’
‘It’s easier.’
‘Easier than what?’
‘Trying to figure out what to do.’
He considered that for a moment, ‘Speaking of which, what’s next?’
‘What do we do now?’ he wanted to know.
‘I don’t know.’ she admitted.
‘Okay.’ he said slowly, ‘Why not?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Is that gonna be your answer to everything?’
‘I don’t know.’
Michael laughed and shook his head.
After a few minutes, he said, ‘You know, everyone’s waiting to hear what you’re gonna do.’
She tilted her head back, ‘What do you mean?’
‘A war is coming. We must prepare for it.’
‘I know.’
‘The soldiers of Edlenna will follow you in battle; even if it means death.’
‘Don’t; don’t say that.’ she sat up.
‘But it’s the truth.’
‘I’m trying to avoid that, Michael.’
‘You can’t keep avoiding it, forever.’
‘I mean, I’m trying...’
Michael interrupted her before she could begin to explain.
‘I know what you mean, Keara. And I do understand. But we have to consider that we won’t be able to end this war without some form of bloodshed.’
‘I’m aware of that.’
He looked at her as she turned towards the fountain and sat cross-legged on the edge.
‘But that’s not really what’s bothering you.’
She put her head in her hands, ‘No.’
‘What is it?’
‘I don’t know what to do.’ she admitted, ’Why is everyone waiting for me to make the first move? Why does everyone want to know what I intend to do?’
‘Well, there are a couple of reasons.’
‘Please, enlighten me.’ she said sarcastically.
‘Well, you are a Raven. We are natural-born leaders, you know.’ Michael joked, with a serious face.
Keara chuckled.
‘You are a Dark Elf, and the Queen, no less; even if you don’t want the throne. And you’ve also spent some time in Sharzak’s presence.’
‘So that automatically makes me the person to turn too.’
There was silence between them for a short while, then she said, ‘You know, usually when I feel this lost, Dad or Korian would give me some guidance, so I could figure out the rest.’
He looked at Keara, and for the first time in years, he realized that Keara was still too young to be making such important decisions. He understood that the burden she carried was heavy. But he also knew that she was capable of it.
‘I understand how you feel. And I wish I could say everything will be okay. I wish Dad or Korian were here to help you. But this time, we’re going to have to figure this out by ourselves.’
‘The problem is that I don’t know what I’m supposed to figure out.’ she admitted.
‘Just give it a little time.’
‘Time is something we don’t really have, Michael. We have no idea what Sharzak is planning. But I do know that he has a big army, and it’s only getting bigger. He had a lot of followers before he betrayed the Dark Elves. And honestly, I don’t know if the soldiers of Edlenna will be able to stand against them.’
‘I know, Keara. But right now, they’re the best we’ve got.’
‘I know, and I do have faith in them.’ Keara said sincerely, ‘I just don’t know if it will be enough.’
‘I understand.’ Michael admitted, ‘But it’s better than nothing.’
She nodded in agreement.
He turned to look directly at her. His little sister was not as calm as she seemed. He took her hand and closed both his hands around it.
‘We’ll figure this out, together. We always do. Even when it seems like all hope is lost.’ he said with a smile.
She smiled at him.

‘Are you ever not reading?’ Joseph asked as he sat down at the table in the Raven common room where Zarra was busy reading from various books, simultaneously.
‘It’s what I’m good at.’ Zarra said, smiling a little, ‘Gathering information has always been my strong point. I’ve never been very good with a weapon.’
‘You should train with us more often. We’ll get you there.’ Joseph suggested.
‘Thanks, but I’ll be more helpful this way.’
‘You never know.’
Zarra just smiled.
‘So, what have you found so far?’ Joseph wanted to know.
‘Well, nothing that explains the strange happenings around Edlenna. I can’t find anything regarding Sharzak, and any information about the Dark Elves seems to have been omitted.’
‘Wait. You’re saying the surface people actually had information about the Dark Elves?’ he was surprised.
‘What do you think it was about?’ he was more curious than he’d like to admit.
‘I don’t know.’ Zarra shrugged, ‘Probably the usual stories they have about us.’
‘But not all those stories are true.’
Zarra just shrugged.
‘I’m still going through the library. Hopefully I’ll find something they have overlooked, but so far, every possible mention of the Dark Elves have been omitted.’ Zarra sounded very disappointed.
‘I still can’t believe they have information about the Dark Elves.’ Joseph started.
‘Stories travel, Joseph.’
‘That’s not what I mean.’ he said, ‘My brother and sister are very private people. I can’t imagine them telling any strangers any stories about themselves.’
‘Maybe the situation was different then.’ Zarra thought.
‘Maybe.’ he agreed, ‘Well, I’ll leave you to it.’ he got up and walked towards the fireplace when Zarra spoke again, ‘By the way, how long have the Ravens been in Edlenna?’
‘For over a millennia.’ he answered.
‘And, for how long have the Ravens been providing their services to the Varden kingdom?’
‘A few generations. Why?’
‘There’s information on the Ravens dating back several hundred years; just over a millennia, in fact.’
‘Really?’ he was surprised, walking back to the table and sitting down again.
‘Yes.’ she turned the book so Joseph could see, ‘It says here that the Ravens were always the most dangerous, but they were also the most trusted.’
‘Really?’ Joseph found that hard to believe, ‘Then why do they find it so hard to trust us now?’
‘That I am still trying to find out. But it seems, whatever it was, it was pretty big.’
‘Well, let me know if you find something.’ he asked.
He got up again, walked over to the fireplace and sat down in one of the chairs, relaxing a bit, allowing the tension to flow out of his muscles.

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