Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Forty Six

Somewhere along the coastline, a pub located near the beach, was filled with chatter and a musician playing his lute in the background. The pub was rather busy; almost every table was occupied.

In the far corner, near the fireplace, a rather big group of men dressed in black were sitting at a large table; drinking, talking and laughing. A bag of jewellery and money sprawled over the table. They also seemed to be discussing a plan of some kind. Every now and then, they would look around, making sure that no one was listening, or watching.

‘Keara?’ Michael called down the passage in the Raven barracks.
‘Over here!’ she called back.
‘Where?’ Michael stood in the middle of the passage, looking around as though he was disorientated.
She leaned out the doorway of an unused room, ‘Here.’
‘Oh.’ he walked over to the room. He leaned against the wall, ‘What are you doing?’
‘Just going through all the gifts.’
‘Wow, you made a lot of friends.’
‘I guess so.’
Michael pushed himself away from the wall and started rummaging through all the gifts, ‘What are you gonna do with all this stuff?’
‘I don’t know yet. I’m definitely not gonna use everything.’
‘We can always take some of this stuff home to mom and dad.’
‘Yeah. I’ll probably do that when we get a chance.’
‘Well...’ Michael started.
Keara stopped what she was doing and looked at Michael, ‘Well; what?’
Michael broke eye contact for a moment, ‘Alexander, Jonathan and I have been talking, and we wanna go home for a while.’
‘You do?’ somehow, she was not surprised.
‘Yeah. I mean, I really miss my family, and nothing’s really going on here right now.’ Michael confessed.
‘That’s true.’ she agreed.
‘And when Sharzak makes a move, I might not...’
She interrupted him, ‘Don’t. Don’t even say that.’
‘This is the most dangerous situation we’ve ever been in. I have to consider the possibility that...’
‘Don’t.’ Keara said again, ‘I know we’re in a dangerous situation. But we will get through this. We always do.’
‘But what if we don’t this time?’ Michael questioned; turning Keara to face him, ‘Keara, I almost lost you; more than once. The possibility that some of us could die, is very real.’
‘I know, Michael.’
‘I’m starting to think we might not win this one.’
‘Why are you saying that?’ she couldn’t understand why her brother seemed to be losing faith.
‘Be realistic, Keara. You and I are the only ones even remotely capable of fighting Sharzak. And that doesn’t even mean we have a definite chance.’
‘Michael, stop talking like that. Sharzak is not gonna win this one.’ she said forcefully.
‘How can you be so sure?’ he doubted their abilities.
‘I’ve died, twice. And every time I came back, I came back stronger; and with vengeance. I will not allow Sharzak to gain victory. And I will not allow my brother to lose faith.’
‘I’m sorry, Keara. I don’t mean to sound so negative. But I’m not as strong as you.’ Michael said as he sat down.
She put a hand on his shoulder, ‘You have to be strong, Michael. We need you to be. Not just for your siblings, for your family. They are counting on you to protect them. And we are counting on you to keep us together.’
‘You won’t ever lose faith in me, would you?’ Michael had to ask.
‘Never. You didn’t lose faith in me; even when I almost killed you. You kept believing that I could come back. What kind of a sister would I be if I couldn’t do the same for you?’
Michael just smiled, ‘You should come home with us.’
Keara shook her head, ‘I can’t right now. Artemis has asked me to help strengthen their defences, or at least try. And Zarra still has a lot of information to go through. I don’t think it’ll be alright if I left her here alone.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘I’m sure.’
‘You know you and Zarra are gonna be alone, right? Joseph wants to go to the Woodland Sanctuary.’
‘I know. He told me. He wants to go visit Saresse.’
‘I think he’s quite serious about her.’ Michael remarked.
‘Yeah, he is.’
‘I think we might be having a wedding soon.’
‘Well it wouldn’t be a bad thing. It could restore everyone’s hope, even if it’s just a little.’
‘To show that not all hope is lost.’ Michael knew what she meant.
‘I agree.’
Keara just smiled.
‘So when do you plan on leaving?’ she wanted to know.
‘The day after tomorrow.’ he answered.

Her three older brothers spent the following day sorting through some of Keara’s gifts. They decided to take as much as possible, without overloading the horses.
Soon, morning came, and Keara and Joseph were saying their goodbyes to their brothers.
‘Say hi to mom and dad for us.’ Joseph requested.
‘I will.’ Michael replied.
‘Be safe.’ Keara added.
‘Of course, Keara. We’re the Ravens.’ Jonathan winked at her.
‘Will you at least send us a message when you arrive home?’ she asked.
‘Yes. I will send it.’ Alexander stated, ‘So you can be sure it will be done.’
Keara smiled.
Her brothers climbed into their saddles and rode through the gate, leaving Keara and Joseph behind. She watched them make their way to the forest, hoping that they would reach their destination safely.
Michael looked back at Keara one last time. He found himself wondering if he was doing the right thing; leaving his brother and sister behind in such dangerous times. She had told him to go of course, but he was still unsure of his decision.
Joseph put his arm around Keara’s neck, ‘Guess it’s just you and me for a while.’
‘Yeah.’ she agreed, putting her arm around Joseph’s waist as they started walking back to the Raven barracks, ’Until you leave. Which is when?’
‘Not for a while. I’m waiting for information from Zarra.’ Joseph informed.
‘Information? About what?’
‘About us.’
‘As in, the Ravens?’
‘Yes, the previous generations.’
‘Oh, what about it?’ she wanted to know.
‘Don’t know yet. Apparently it has something to do with our loyalty.’ Joseph assumed.
‘Our loyalty?’
‘Yeah. I tell you when I know more.’
‘Sounds... interesting.’ Keara wasn’t really sure what to say.
Joseph smiled, ‘You’re not really interested in our history, are you?’
‘Of course I am. Was not the first thing on my mind.’
‘Of course. Finding a way to defeat Sharzak is more important right now.’ he stated.
‘It’s not that it’s more important; it’s just that it’s kind of the only thing I keep thinking about.’ she admitted.
Joseph smiled, ‘You know, just because we’re siblings, doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be interested.’
‘If it bores you, just say so.’
She couldn’t help but laugh, ‘Joseph, when have I ever pretended to be interested simply for the sake of family? I don’t recall any of us ever doing that.’
‘True, true.’ he nodded his head in agreement.
One of the reasons they were such a close family, is because they never lied about what they were thinking or feeling.
‘I really am interested in finding out more about our history. It’s just, with everything that’s going on, I hadn’t really thought about it.’
‘Don’t worry, I understand.’ Joseph knew that she had a lot of other things on her mind, ‘If you want, I’ll let you know of any new information.’
‘Sure.’ she smiled.
Joseph smiled back.

By nightfall, Michael and his two brothers had arrived home. Somehow, their trip had been completely uneventful. They were grateful, of course, but somehow it unnerved them, just a little. But they tried not to think too much of it. They were happy to be home with their families. Though their parents were somewhat disappointed at Keara and Joseph’s absence, they understood why they decided to stay behind.
Before sitting down to dinner, they first unloaded the horses, taking Keara’s gifts inside, leaving their mother and father to decide what to do with it while they took their horses to the stables and groomed them.

‘The people really seem to like Keara.’ Caitlyn said with hope in her voice.
‘Yes. She’s made quite a name for herself.’ Michael said, before taking a bite of his food.
‘That’s good.’ Adin said, ‘That means the people of Edlenna no longer have any reason to doubt any of you.’
‘Yeah.’ the three brothers said simultaneously.
Caitlyn watched her sons enjoy their food, all the while, giving attention to their loved ones. She couldn’t help but smile.
‘So, did you find out what was going on with Artemis?’ Adin asked.
‘Oh yeah.’ Alexander said, ‘We took care of it.’
‘What was the problem?’ Adin wanted to know.
‘A demon had invaded his mind.’ Alexander answered.
‘How is that possible?’ Adin couldn’t believe it, ‘No evil can pass beyond the castle gates.’
‘It was hiding in a human body.’ Michael informed.
‘Someone was possessed?’ Caitlyn asked.
‘In a manner of speaking.’ Jonathan said.
‘The demon had killed someone and used their body as a shield.’ Alexander explained.
‘Dead possession.’ Michael added.
‘Because of that, the demon could pass through the gate undetected.’ Alexander finished.
‘And, where is this demon now?’ Adin asked.
‘It’s dead.’ Michael answered.
‘How did you manage that?’ Adin’s curiosity got the better of him.
‘We drew it out.’ Alexander answered.
‘How?’ Adin asked again.
‘Every demon’s greatest desire is to have the power of Crucis Salerra. They believe that eating the heart of Salerra, will grant them that power.’ Michael explained.
‘You put your sister in that kind of danger!?’ Caitlyn exploded.
‘Calm down, mom. It was her idea.’ Michael said defensively.
‘Why would she do such a thing?’ Caitlyn was very puzzled.
‘She’s a Raven. She will always risk her life for the sake of others.’ Jonathan stated.
‘And she’s a Dark Elf. She doesn’t fear death.’ Michael added.
‘Well, I fear death for all of you.’ Caitlyn exclaimed.
‘Mom.’ Michael started.
‘You’re my children. I’ll always worry about you, whether you like it or not.’
‘I know, mom. But you shouldn’t worry about us.’ Michael said softly.
Adin smiled, ‘She’s your mother. She will always worry about her children. The five of you have a very dangerous job.’
Michael didn’t say anything else. He understood his mother’s point of view.

Joseph was still at the castle, waiting for Zarra to find more information regarding the Ravens. But so far, she still hadn’t had any luck.
‘Why don’t you just go visit Saresse?’ Keara started, she could tell her brother was getting restless, ‘Once Zarra finds something, I’ll send you a message.’
‘But are you gonna be okay without me?’ he asked.
‘I’ll be fine.’
‘But it feels like I’m abandoning you.’
Keara just smiled, ‘As opposed to me always abandoning you.’
‘You don’t abandon us. You leave to keep us and everyone else safe.’
‘I’ll be fine, Joseph. Go see her.’
Joseph didn’t know what to say. He really wanted to go, but he also didn’t want to leave Keara alone. He picked at his clothing, trying to decide what to do.
‘You really care about her, don’t you?’ Keara asked.
‘Of course I do.’ Joseph answered.
Suddenly she realized, the look on his face was the exact same she had seen before. It was the look her other brothers had when they had first fallen in love w. She started smiling before she realized it and said, ‘You’re in love with her.’
His eyes widened and his cheeks burned red.
Keara’s smile grew bigger as he blushed even more.
‘I am.’ he finally admitted.
‘So then, go. I think she’ll be very happy to see you.’
‘You think so?’ he asked nervously.
She smiled again, ‘Go get your stuff, and go. Just think of how Saresse will smile when she sees you.’
‘You’re right. I should go. I’ll leave first thing tomorrow morning.’
Joseph started walking down the passage towards his room, still talking to himself.
Keara looked at him as he disappeared down the passage; she couldn’t help but smile.

Zarra was in the library, buried under mountains of books, still trying to find information on both the Ravens and the Dark Elves. So far, she had had no luck, and she was starting to feel as though she might never find it. She crossed her arms over the many open books and rested her head on her arms. Before long, she started drifting away, until someone touched her shoulder. She sat up with a fright, suddenly completely awake.
‘Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you.’ Keara said, pulling her hand back.
‘It’s okay.’ Zarra said.
‘Shouldn’t you consider taking a break?’ Keara asked.
‘After I find what I’m looking for.’
‘Which is?’
‘Information regarding the Ravens or the Dark Elves. I’ve been through so many books; but I can’t find anything.’
Keara leaned against the table, folding her arms, looking at the covers of some of the books, ‘No offense to your research skills, but aren’t you maybe looking in the wrong place?’
‘Well, none taken.’ Zarra paused.
Keara gave a one-sided smile.
‘I’m not sure anymore.’ Zarra sat back in her chair, rubbing her face with both hands.
Keara wasn’t sure what to say. She looked around. To one side, a bunch of shelves were nearly bare. Pointing at it, she said, ‘I take it, those shelves contained all these books.’
‘Yes. It’s mostly history books, about the kingdom. They documented everything from the very first day they settled here.’ Zarra stated, ‘But everything about the Dark Elves have been omitted.’
‘And the Ravens?’ Keara wanted to know.
‘Nothing of importance. Though there was a time when the Ravens opposed this kingdom. But there’s no mention of what happened, how it happened, or even why it happened.’
Keara didn’t understand. If they’re loyalty was questioned or they supported another kingdom at some stage, there had to be at least one story; telling of the misfortune.
Suddenly she got an idea. She looked at the other shelves, still full of books.
‘Maybe history is not the place to look.’ Keara suggested.
‘What are you talking about?’ Zarra was too tired to try and understand.
‘What about the story books?’ Keara thought.
‘Come again?’
‘Yeah. We might find something there that is not in the history books.’
‘I think you’re losing it.’
‘I’m not the one who went through almost every history book in the library.’ Keara pointed out.
Zarra considered that statement for a moment, ‘Fair enough. So what’s your idea?’
‘Well, people seem to have a very radical, almost unreal idea of the Ravens, and the Dark Elves. Maybe our stories were fictionalized. Maybe it became a campfire story, or even a bedtime story.’
‘That does make sense.’ Zarra said after a moment of consideration.
Keara smiled, knowingly.
Zarra got out of her chair, heading towards the other shelves, ‘Well, guess I should get started.’
‘Woah.’ Keara quickly grabbed Zarra’s arm, ‘The only thing you’re gonna do now, is take a bath and get some rest.’
‘But Joseph asked for the information.’ Zarra complained.
‘Joseph is going to visit Saresse. I don’t think you have to worry about giving him the information right now.’
‘Oh. Okay.’ Zarra said with some relief, ‘Then I’ll get some rest.’
‘Take a bath first.’ Keara said as she watched Zarra leave, then started packing all the history books back on the shelves.

Joseph left the castle grounds just after the sun had started rising, heading towards the Home of the Woodland Elves. Keara had said goodbye and watched him leave, hoping his journey would be a safe one.

After quite a few hours of Reverie, Zarra returned to the library and found Keara sitting by a window, with a book in hand; reading by candle light.
‘What are you doing?’ Zarra asked.
Keara looked up for a moment, ‘Reading.’ then looked back at the page.
‘Okay. What are you reading?’
‘A book my mom used to read to me when I was a child.’ Keara answered.
‘What’s it about?’ Zarra wanted to know.
‘It’s kind of the same situation we’re in now, but with a happy ending.’ Keara said with a soft smile.
‘How is it the same?’
‘Good versus evil.’
‘Except we don’t have a happy ending.’
‘You don’t think we’ll have one?’ Keara asked, putting her book down.
‘It’s not that. I’m just concerned.’ Zarra admitted.
‘About what?’
‘Sharzak’s army is growing without a doubt. And we only have human soldiers on our side. The entire surface world is divided; even the humans. Not even the Dark Elves want any part of this. What if we don’t survive this?’
‘Our story is not yet over, Zarra. Our fate is in our own hands. We will dictate what happens in the end.’
‘We’re not in control of our own fate, Keara.’ Zarra believed.
‘What makes you think we’re not?’
‘We don’t have control over what happens in the world.’
‘No, we don’t. But we do have control over our own lives.’
‘What makes you think we’re in control?’
‘I’m here, aren’t I?’
‘What do you mean?’ Zarra didn’t understand.
‘I overcame every obstacle that dictated me as the evil one. I was in the service of Sharzak, until I decided to follow my own path. I created my own path; my own fate. If I didn’t take control, I wouldn’t be here today.’ Keara explained.
‘Do you think we’re gonna survive this?’
‘I don’t know. But I’m not gonna give up without a fight. My fate is in my hands until my very last breath.’
‘Then I will stand with you, until my last breath.’ Zarra stated.

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