Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Fifty One

She sat down and slowly laid her body along the edge of the pool, dropping her hand into the water.
Moments later, the water started spiraling up her arm, on the inside of her sleeve, moving over her shoulder, before splitting into two streams; one moving down her chest to her injuries and the other spiraling around her neck and head, covering her eyes.

As she had gone almost completely blind, she knew she would have to stay by the water all night, especially if she wanted to regain her sight as quickly as possible.
Korian reminded her that she would still have to explain the last two weeks to Artemis. She simply told him that she would either do it in the morning, or tell Artemis the entire story if he was willing to come and sit outside by the water. Korian understood why Keara had decided on those options, and stated that he would inform Artemis, leaving her in silence and complete darkness for a short while.
She found the silent darkness quite welcoming, feeling every muscle in her body relax as the darkness embraced her. Slowly her headaches started dissipating. She even found herself smiling at the slight relief. She had even had a while to go into Reverie before Korian returned with both Artemis and Deryck. She greeted them before they had even realized that she had heard them approaching. Seeing her in this state had them somewhat unnerved, but both Keara and Korian assured them that she would be perfectly fine.
She then proceeded to explain what had happened during the last two weeks, along with the help of Deryck. Every now and then Artemis would ask a question while Korian rested on a low-hanging branch just above them.

Artemis had listened to their entire story, after which he left them to their own thoughts, bidding them goodnight, while he went over his own thoughts. Deryck stayed with Keara, lying on his side, next to her, propping his head up on his hand. They spent most of the night talking and laughing together. He was relieved to see that she was starting to feel better and he was very happy to see her smiling again.

Deryck had eventually fallen asleep next to her, holding her hand all the while. Korian had climbed down from the branch, lying down alongside the pool, his head resting on his front paws near Keara’s head.
‘Korian?’ she started.
‘Yes child?’ he responded.
‘I have a question.’
‘You know you can ask me anything.’
‘How did you get there so fast?’ she finally asked.
‘I had been there for quite some time, Keara.’ he answered.
‘Quite some time.’ she slowly repeated to herself.
‘For several days.’
‘Several days.’ she repeated again, ‘Why did you only show yourself tonight?’
‘Because it was only tonight that you needed my help.’ he informed her, ‘Remember Keara, my role as your guardian, is not to interfere, unless it is necessary.’
‘There were many other occasions where you could have interfered.’
‘From your perspective, yes.’
‘My perspective.’ she mumbled, ‘What about the night the Shadows killed me?’ she hesitated, ‘Were you there?’
‘I was always there.’
‘Why didn’t you do anything?’ her voice was almost a whisper.
‘I had an idea of what Sharzak had planned for you. Your death was a part of that plan.’
‘So, you let it happen?’ she didn’t quite understand how her guardian could allow her to die, ‘You’re my guardian. You swore to protect me. Why did you let me die?’
‘It was the only way you could start to control Crucis Salerra without being afraid. It was the only way you could learn to take control; something that I could not teach you.’
‘But I don’t have full control.’
‘Not yet. But you’re not afraid of the transformation, anymore.’
‘When I was with Sharzak, Salerra controlled me. I almost didn’t make it this far.’
‘I know, Keara. Your internal struggle was quite great. It almost knocked Michael unconscious, just because he wanted to hold your hand.’
‘That was not my fault. I didn’t have any control over that.’ she defended herself.
Korian chuckled softly, ‘I know, dear one. Michael didn’t blame you for a second.’
She smiled a little, then said, ‘You wouldn’t happen to know what those beings were, would you?’
‘I’m afraid not.’ he answered, ‘Maybe you should ask your friend, Zarra.’

After spending all that time next to the water, she stayed in her room, in complete darkness for a few short days. She was glad to have her vision back and very happy that the headaches had gone away. But as much as she would’ve loved to stay in the darkness, she knew she would have to face the daylight sooner or later.
When she had finally mustered the courage to face the light again, she headed to the library where she knew she would find Zarra. She had barely walked through the doors when Zarra practically attacked her with so much information that her head was spinning within just a few short seconds.
‘Wait. Stop. Stop. Stop.’ Keara threw her hands up, ‘Start from the beginning; talk slowly.’
‘Sorry.’ Zarra finally realized what she had been doing.
‘I take it you found something.’ Keara said.
‘Well; no. Not really. Not about the Dark Elves, anyway.’ Zarra admitted.
‘Okay.’ Keara said at length, ‘So you practically attacked me, because?’
‘There are stories of these groups of men riding mostly along the coastline, all dressed in black. Moving from village to village, town to town. Their numbers growing as they go along.’
‘Is this a current event, or history?’
‘Well, right now, it’s history. From what I can tell, they would appear out of nowhere, disappear for some time, then reappear again.’
‘So they won’t attract so much attention?’
‘In a manner of speaking.’
‘How is this relevant?’ Keara wanted to know, folding her arms.
‘Well, according to the stories, they had a very interesting name. One that had always drawn a lot of attention.’ Zarra started.
‘What interesting name?’
Zarra held up a finger, ‘Before I tell you, I thought you might like to know a little more about them.’
‘Not really.’ Keara said, ‘But I have nothing else to do, so, go ahead.’ she gave a fake smile, but Zarra didn’t seem to notice.
Zarra smiled, ‘Now, according to some of the history books, these men mostly consisted of thieves and bandits. Though some of them were forced to become part of the group.’
‘Forced?’ Keara looked up from the books laid out in front of her.
‘Yes. The whole, “do it or else” kinda thing.’
‘Ah.’ was Keara’s only response.
‘Anyway, the leader and his closest, most trusted men, were never out of contact for too long. Once they decided to get back together, they would meet up in a predetermined area and start discussing their plans for the coming weeks, months, years.’ Zarra explained.
‘That’s pretty standard, Zarra. It’s not really out of the ordinary. Bandits have a tendency to do that, even when they are in constant contact with each other.’ Keara tried to keep the sarcasm out of her voice, but failed.
‘Thank you for the sarcasm.’ Zarra commented.
‘You’re welcome.’ Keara gave a big smile, ‘Do go on.’
‘For some reason, they always travelled along the coastline.’
‘There are more towns along the coastline.’ Keara informed.
‘Oh.’ Zarra reacted, ‘Well, as they travelled, they asked people to join them.’
‘Okay. We’ve already covered that.’
‘They didn’t often travel in such big numbers or even allow their group to grow that big. Unless they were planning something that big.’
‘Like what?’ Keara wanted to know.
‘Like, a hostile takeover; overthrowing the monarchy.’ Zarra answered.
‘Did they ever manage to actually do something like that?’
‘Yeah. Quite a few times, as a matter of fact.’
‘How?’ Keara didn’t understand how that was even possible.
‘Strength in numbers, I guess.’
‘If they managed to pull off such a huge feat, several times; why did they suddenly disappear?’
‘They were always, almost completely wiped out. And then they would go into hiding.’
‘Wiped out? That’s an interesting way to go.’
‘Almost wiped out.’ Zarra corrected, ‘You see, from what I could tell, they became so powerful that they could conquer kingdoms as powerful as this one; or, at least, that’s what they thought.’
‘Obviously that wasn’t the case.’ Keara pointed out.
‘No, it wasn’t.’ Zarra agreed, ‘Many of the people they had forced to join, had turned against them as soon as a slight opportunity presented itself; enabling the opposing monarchy to ready his people for battle.’
‘How long ago was this?’
‘Several thousand years.’
Keara raised her eyebrows, ‘Several thousand?’
‘Yes. They’ve existed almost as long as your father’s bloodline has.’ Zarra stated.
Keara frowned, ‘Why do I get the feeling they’re somehow connected?’
Zarra held up a finger, ‘I’m getting to that.’ she seemed to be getting excited.
‘Oh no.’ Keara closed her eyes and bowed her head.
‘The last time anyone ever heard anything from these bandits, was about two centuries ago.’
‘Okay.’ Keara started getting an idea of what Zarra was building up too, ‘Why did they disappear?’
‘Well, in the last few hundred years, they started using other people’s names whilst doing their dirty work; creating quite a bad reputation for those people.’
‘Uhuh. Not very original on their part.’
‘Indeed. Now, the people they impersonated...’
Keara interrupted Zarra, ‘Wait, impersonated?’
‘I thought they just used their names.’
‘I thought so too, but they tended to dress like the name they stole, too.’
‘Okay; go on.’
Zarra hesitated for a moment, trying to remember what she was saying before she was interrupted, ‘The people they impersonated, obviously found out about it, and did something about it. The last time this happened, the bandits got beaten pretty badly. That’s probably why they haven’t been heard of since.’
‘What did they call themselves?’
‘Well, they didn’t just call themselves anything, they impersonated. You see...’ Zarra corrected, but Keara interrupted her.
‘Who did they impersonate?’
‘The Ravens.’
Keara rubbed her face with one hand, ‘No wonder we’ve had such a bad reputation for so long.’
‘Look at some of these pictures.’ Zarra said as she placed books in front of Keara, ‘They duplicated the Ravens perfectly. The markings, the clothes, the weapons.’
Keara looked at the pictures, but immediately saw flaws in every one of them, ‘These are not perfect duplicates.’
‘All of these are wrong. In fact, this is not even the Raven marking.’ Keara pointed to one of the pages.
‘How do you know?’
Keara looked at Zarra as though she was a complete idiot, ‘Honestly Zarra? I am a Raven.’
‘Right.’ Zarra realized, ‘Of course.’
‘So this is actually the reason why most people don’t trust us.’ Keara said more to herself.
‘Yes. It seems many people didn’t know about the real Ravens and so just assumed that they were a bunch of bandits. It took your family quite a while to regain their good reputation.’
‘And the fact that this generation of Ravens consists of a bunch of elves, is not exactly helping.’ Keara stated.
‘No. Especially since one of them, happens to be the Drow Queen.’
Keara sighed, ‘Please don’t remind me.’
‘You still haven’t accepted your duty.’ Zarra remarked.
‘My duty is to my family and other people in this kingdom who rely on me. Nothing more.’
‘You have a duty to your kin, Keara. You are their queen.’
‘Don’t start, Zarra. We’re not having this conversation again.’
‘Very well.’
‘By the way, could you find anything concerning the Dark Elves?’
‘Nothing. Every trace of the Drow have been removed.’
‘And the dragons?’ Keara hoped she would at least get information regarding them.
‘The only time they were mentioned, was when it had something to do with dragon slayers.’
‘Great.’ Keara was growing increasingly hopeless.
Everything she was relying on, seemed to become more unreachable with every passing moment, ‘I though this library had all the information we could possibly need.’
‘I think it might have.’ Zarra started.
‘You went through every book in here. I think it’s safe to say that it does not.’ Keara looked suspiciously at Zarra, ‘What are you talking about?’
‘Several books, especially the history books, mention a secret archive, somewhere on the castle grounds.’
‘A secret archive?’ Keara didn’t seem to believe her, ‘Here?’
‘Well, I don’t know. It’s a secret.’
‘Is it mentioned as a myth or a fact?’
‘Well, it doesn’t say, but it has to be a fact.’ Zarra said, ‘It is said to contain information of the dangerous kind.’
‘Yeah, that sounds like a fact.’ Keara said sarcastically.
‘If this kingdom does have information on the Dark Elves or the Dragons, it will be there.’
‘Okay. So; they didn’t happen to mention its location?’
Zarra shook her head, ‘No. All I could find, was that it’s located where no real light ever reaches.’
‘Real light, as in, sunlight?’
Zarra nodded, then she had an idea, ‘Isn’t there a dungeon in the castle?’
Keara shook her head, ‘The dungeon was closed off centuries ago.’
‘You don’t suppose they turned it into an archive, do you?’ Zarra wondered.
Keara considered that possibility for a moment, ‘No, that would be too obvious.’
Zarra thought about that and she had to agree. It would’ve been the first place where people search for the archive.
‘Do you think Artemis would know about it?’ Zarra wanted to know.
‘I don’t know. He should. He’s the king.’ Keara replied.
‘Maybe you should ask him.’ Zarra suggested.
‘I seriously doubt that Artemis is going to entrust such valuable information to two Dark Elves.’
‘Yeah, maybe. But he does need your support. We’re the only ones in this entire kingdom who is actually doing something to help him. So, maybe he will give you the location of the archive.’
Keara sighed, ‘Alright, I’ll ask him.’

Somewhere deep in the forest, between the mountains, the Night Elves were conversing inside a building that seemed to originate from the mountain itself. They stood around a fire, each of them seeming to discuss the same thing.
A Night Elf named Adriel walked through a great archway, addressing everyone in the hall.
‘All of you know why we are here.’ Adriel stated.
Everyone looked at her. She was a slender, dark-haired elf. Pale skin with a hint of blue in the pigment. She wore a long, flowing midnight blue gown and no jewellery. Her eyes, like every other Night Elf’s, was metallic blue which was accentuated by white shaded eyelids.
‘The Raven Drow is looking for us.’
‘Are we really going to help them?’ a Night Elf asked from within the crowd, ‘This war they are getting ready to fight, is not ours.’
‘That is true. But if we do not help them, their war would become ours as well.’
‘Do you really think the war could reach this far?’ another Night Elf in the crowd asked.
‘Sharzak’s powers have been unleashed.’ another Night Elf walked in through the archway, ‘And Scander also walks free. Remember what destruction his twisted ideas caused.’
His name was Kydriel, the brother of Adriel. The same coloured skin as his sister, though his hair was lighter. Tall and lean, he seemed the perfect leader.
‘She’s the Drow Queen. She can handle it.’ another Night Elf in the crowd said.
‘She is powerful, yes, but that does not mean that she can do this alone.’ Kydriel said, ‘Sharzak and Scander mean to wage war against the entire world, and there will be nowhere we can hide, if we don’t help the people who can beat them back.’
‘I propose we send her a message, so she knows that we are indeed aware of her situation. And that we are willing to help.’ Adriel suggested.
‘Are we willing to help a Drow?’ a Night Elf in the crowd wanted to know.
‘She is the last hope this world has. And yes, her kin has been a great enemy to many other beings, but she has done nothing to earn our hostility.’ Adriel stated.
‘She unleashed Crucis Salerra on so many people throughout the forest. She is a threat to all of us.’ another Night Elf said.
‘And she has been atoning for her mistakes, ever since. She might not have earned everyone’s trust, but she has certainly earned our willingness to help.’ Adriel stated.
‘I agree.’ Kydriel added, ‘Her thoughts have travelled quite far, and I think it would be rather rude, if we did not answer them.’

Keara was walking down the hallways, looking for Artemis. She had decided to ask him about the secret archive as soon as she could. They desperately needed the information that they had been seeking for so long.
‘Keara!’ came a familiar voice, from another direction.
Keara stopped, turning to the direction the voice had come from. She smiled as soon as she saw Deryck’s face.
He hugged her tightly, ‘Hey.’
‘Where are you off too?’ Deryck asked as he took Keara’s hand and started walking with her.
‘I’m looking for your brother. I wanna ask him something.’
‘Oh. Well, he’s probably in his study. What do you wanna ask him?’
‘You know that we’re looking for information regarding the dragons and my kin?’
‘Yes.’ Deryck frowned.
‘Well, in the past month, Zarra has been through every single book in the library, and she couldn’t find anything.’ Keara remarked.
‘I thought for sure you would find something.’ Deryck started getting jittery.
‘She says that the history texts mentioned something about a secret archive, somewhere on the castle grounds.’
‘Yes. But it obviously doesn’t mention where.’ Keara started, ‘You wouldn’t happen to know where it is, would you?’
‘Uh no. No. Sorry, my love.’ Deryck avoided eye-contact with Keara.
She frowned, ‘Okay.’ she said at length, ‘I’ll ask Artemis.’
‘Sure, but I doubt he’ll know about it.’ Deryck said.
‘I’ll try anyway.’
‘Okay.’ Deryck said uncomfortable, ‘I have to go. I have a training session to get too.’
‘Have fun.’ Keara said.
Deryck leaned in and kissed Keara, and quickly walked away. She watched him leave, wondering why he was suddenly in such a rush. But rather than ponder his actions any further, she shook her head and continued to look for Artemis.

Amazingly enough, Zarra was still in the library, despite having gone through every book, even the story books. She was still trying to find a clue as to the location of the secret archive. But no matter how many times she re-read the books, she couldn’t find anything that might help them find the secret archive.
Zarra hadn’t been alone in the library for very long when Keara shuffled in. She leaned against the table where Zarra sat, her arms folded; her expression one of disappointment.
Zarra looked up from the books she had read so many times already, ‘How’d it go?’
Keara glared at her from the corner of her eye, then just shook her head as she sighed.
‘It doesn’t exist?’ Zarra’s spirits started dropping.
‘It does. But they’re not telling.’ Keara said.
‘I ran into Deryck on my way to Artemis.’ Keara started, ’I figured I’d ask him. He is royalty after all, and the king’s brother. But he claims to never have heard of it.’
‘And Artemis?’ Zarra wondered.
‘Same reaction.’
Zarra put her head in her hand, leaning on the table.
‘They’re lying.’ Keara said after a moment.
‘How do you know?’
‘They both seemed to get quite uncomfortable when I mentioned it.’
‘As though they know something.’ Zarra said.
‘They do know something.’
Zarra was silent for a moment, ‘So, your boyfriend,’ she started, making Keara give her a funny stare, ‘and his brother, the king, are keeping secrets from you. Secrets that could mean their death. But they’re keeping it all the same.’
‘Yes.’ Keara said with a sigh.
Silence filled the room for a moment. Zarra paged through a book, for no reason. Keara stared at her feet.
‘So, now what?’ Zarra asked.
Keara sighed, rubbing two fingers against her forehead, right above her left eyebrow, ‘We start looking for it; ourselves.’
‘You mean, snoop around?’
‘So, where do we start?’ Zarra wondered, ‘The castle grounds stretches for miles. We won’t be able to search all of it, and we can’t just start in a random place.’
‘I know. But the archives wouldn’t be built in a random area.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘They wouldn’t build the archive in the middle of nowhere.’ Keara stated.
‘Okay, so, somewhere near a building, then.’
‘Or within a building.’
They thought about where they should start looking first.
‘You said the dungeon was closed off centuries ago, right?’
‘Yes, but they wouldn’t have turned it into an archive.’
‘Maybe it’s below the dungeon.’
‘That’s a bit weird.’ Keara admitted. The thought of an archive below the dungeon, made her skin crawl, though she would never admit it.
‘I agree.’ Zarra said, ‘But maybe we should go have a look.’

‘When will you boys be heading back?’ Caitlyn asked as she served lunch to the family.
‘I don’t know, mom.’ Michael said, ‘I was actually thinking that we should head back soon.’
‘Why? Keara hasn’t sent us any distress messages.’ Alexander said.
‘I know. But she hasn’t sent any to assure us she’s fine, either.’ Michael pointed out.
‘That’s true.’ Alexander thought.
‘You think she might have found something by now?’ Jonathan asked.
‘I don’t know. Maybe.’ Michael answered.
‘Maybe she’s just trying to confirm what she found before she sends us a message.’ Jonathan thought.
‘Maybe we should go back.’ Alexander though aloud.
Adin looked intently at Michael, ‘But that’s not the only reason you wanna go back, is it son?’
‘No.’ Michael hesitated, ‘There’s a disturbance in the forest. Unlike any I’ve ever sensed. I thought I’d ask Zarra if she knows anything about it.’
‘What makes you think Zarra would know about it?’
‘I saw a figure in the forest the other night. It looked quite familiar, from stories I’ve heard. But only Zarra will be able to confirm my suspicion.’
‘I see.’ Adin said.

Joseph had never stopped patrolling the perimeter of the sanctuary, but he had grown more relaxed at Saresse’s request. He had relaxed enough to think about other things, such as his love for her and his desire to always be with her. He had even fashioned a ring out of thin vines and a huge emerald stone.
Upon asking her to marry him, she threw her arms around his neck and he spun her around, both with big smiles on their faces. He put her down, slipping the ring onto her finger, looking into her beautiful eyes before she flung her arms around his neck again. Kissing her softly, he could not help smiling from ear to ear.
She told him that he would have to go back to his sister soon. Keara’s constant silence seemed to bother Saresse much more that she would’ve admitted. But he shared her concern. It was unlike Keara to stay out of contact for so long. He knew he would have to go back to Varden castle soon, but he didn’t wish to leave his new fiancée behind. Saresse, however, had no intention of staying behind. She would go with Joseph and he would not be able to change her mind. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about her while he was away.

Keara and Zarra were making their way to the utmost lower area of the castle; the dungeon. They were making simple conversation when Keara stopped.
‘What’s the matter?’ Zarra wanted to know.
‘There are guards standing at the entrance to the dungeon.’
Zarra looked at the dungeon entrance, realizing for the first time that there were actually people standing there.
‘The dungeon was closed off.’ Zarra stated the obvious.
Keara gave Zarra a sarcastic look, ‘I know. I told you.’
‘There shouldn’t be any guards here.’
‘I know that too.’ Keara said as she looked at the guards.
The guards couldn’t see them as they were standing in the shadows out of the light of the burning torches’ reach.
‘Then why are they here?’
‘I don’t know, Zarra. You’re “Miss Information”. You tell me.’
Zarra was silent for a moment, ‘Maybe the archive really is down there.’
‘Yeah, I think so.’ Keara agreed, ‘But we’re gonna have to find another way in.’
‘Why don’t we just walk in through the front door? It’s not like they can do anything to us.’ Zarra thought.
‘That may be true, but I don’t wanna cause unnecessary friction.’
‘They already caused friction by lying to you about the archive.’
‘Yes, but this is their kingdom, and we have not yet confirmed whether it’s a lie or not.’
‘True, but everything leads towards that.’
‘Whatever. Let’s just see if we can find another way in.’
They started searching for a possible way to get in, making sure they stayed in the shadows. They didn’t want to attract any unwanted attention. They looked like two children, playing hide and seek and they even seemed to be enjoying it.
‘Ouch.’ Zarra suddenly restrained a loud whisper.
Keara quickly turned to look at her.
‘I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going and I bumped my toe.’ Zarra complained.
Keara tried her best to smother her laugh, ‘I uh,’ Keara found it hard to speak. She found it very funny that a Dark Elf, a being who lived in darkness, could bump her toe, ‘I think I have found an unattended door.’ she pointed toward faded outlines against one of the dark walls.
They walked up to it, examining it. The door had not been used in, at least a few decades. The hinges were rusted and there was no handle. Roots had grown all over it, making the door almost completely invisible to the human eye.
‘Amazing.’ Zarra uttered, ‘This really is a door. And I think we could open it.’
‘Well, of course it’s a door. Though I’m not quite sure how we’re gonna open it. There’s no handle and the hinges are rusted.’
For the first time, Zarra was not sure what to say, then suddenly she had an idea, almost like a light went on. She looked at Keara with a funny smile on her face.
Keara looked at her and immediately realized what she was thinking, ‘No. No.’
‘Salerra has the magical ability, at the very least to open the door.’
‘My transformed state, is not available to you to help you open rusted doors.’
‘Oh, come on, Keara.’ Zarra pleaded.
‘In order for me to use that ability, I have to transform. And I’m not going to transform outside a closed-off dungeon door.’
‘A secret closed-off dungeon door.’ Zarra said, ‘Wait, you can’t use the other elements without transforming?’
‘I don’t have full control of Salerra yet.’ Keara explained, ‘And the answer is no.’
‘Keara.’ Zarra pleaded like a little girl.
‘No.’ Keara said without looking at Zarra.
‘Come on, Keara. There’s no other way for us to get inside.’
Keara knew Zarra was right, and as much as she would’ve preferred to just go look for another way in, she knew it was important to find the place sooner rather than later.
‘Fine.’ Keara finally gave in.
‘Great.’ Zarra took a few steps away from the door.
Keara just looked at her, ‘What are you doing?’
‘Aren’t you gonna use the fire element to open the door?’
‘No.’ Keara looked at Zarra as though she was an idiot, ‘That will definitely attract attention. I’m just gonna use the roots to lift the door out of its frame.’
‘You can do that?’ Zarra was fascinated.
‘I think so.’ Keara answered, taking a dagger from her boot, knocking the hinges out of their sockets.
She closed her eyes and started concentrating. Slowly her wings started growing. A moment later, she opened her eyes again. The iris of her eyes and her eyelids had turned green as she started commanding the element. The roots started glowing a faint green, growing thicker and stronger by the second.
Zarra was absolutely fascinated by the sight, her mouth hanging open.
Suddenly the door started moving, slowly emerging from the frame, like a puzzle piece. The door swung to one side as though it was still on its hinges. It stopped moving as the colour of her eyes turned back to purple and her wings retracted.
Zarra was still standing there with her mouth hanging wide open, ‘Wow. You just; just; you... wow.’
Keara just smiled, and gestured towards the entrance, ‘Shall we?’
Zarra still wore the smile of an excited little girl on her face, ‘Yes.’ she stepped inside.
Keara followed her inside. She didn’t bother closing the door again. This entrance had been forgotten. She doubted that anyone would suddenly come strolling in.
Zarra practically skipped down the corridor like a child, not paying any attention to her surroundings, until she almost fell down a hole with razor sharp rocks at the bottom. Had Keara not been close behind her to grab her arm, she would most likely have fallen to her death, or at the very least, experienced excruciating pain.
‘Thanks.’ she said as Keara pulled her back to safety, noticing the expression on Keara’s face.
‘This is the first time we’ve ever been in here. Please pay attention to where you are walking.’ Keara said sternly.
‘Of course,’ Zarra nodded her head vigorously.
Keara looked at the passage on the other side of the hole, ‘I think this might be a direct passage to the archive.’
‘That would explain the hole in the middle of nowhere.’
‘Yes, but this is far too wide for any human to jump.’ Keara pointed out.
‘There’s gotta be a switch somewhere.’
‘Well, obviously. But where?’
Zarra thought about it for a moment, then suddenly got excited, ‘You could...’
‘Don’t even go there.’ Keara interrupted Zarra before she could finish her sentence. She already knew what Zarra would suggest and she had no intention of transforming in a dark corridor.
‘I was just thinking.’ Zarra defended herself.
‘Well, stop thinking about Salerra and start thinking about a way we can get down there.’ she pointed down the corridor, ‘Cause this will not be the only trap.’
‘These traps will probably be active on our way back as well.’ Zarra said to herself.
‘You don’t say?’ Keara said sarcastically, ‘These kind of traps usually are, especially if they're magically rigged.'
‘Maybe there’s a way to disable them once we get down there.’
‘Okay, but in the meantime, how do we get down there?’
‘We could jump.’ Zarra suggested, ‘We’ll definitely make it.’
‘After you.’ Keara gestured to Zarra, with a sarcastic smile.
Zarra looked at Keara, then looked at the other side of the hole. Taking a few steps back, she ran and leaped over the hole, landing on the other side with a tumble or two.
‘You really should train with us more often.’ Keara remarked.
‘Your turn.’ Zarra said, still sitting on the ground in the passage on the other side.
Keara also took a few steps back before running and easily leaping over the hole, landing on the other side on her feet with ease. She barely had time to settle herself when she jerked her upper body backwards as a spear launched out of the wall, straight towards her throat. It hit the other side and remained lodged in the wall. Keara looked it back and forth.
‘I think it would be a good idea to watch out for traps as we go along.’ she duck under it and helped Zarra up.
They kept moving down the passage, though Zarra did not use any kind of caution and Keara usually ended up dodging the traps and also pulling arrows out of her body. Finally they reached the bottom of the passage. It ended in a single iron door.
‘This is it.’ Zarra gasped.
‘How can you tell?’ Keara said just staring at the door.
‘It has to be.’ Zarra said.
‘So how do we open it?’ Keara wanted to know.
‘With a key, obviously.’
‘Obviously. What key?’
‘There has to be one around here somewhere.’ Zarra started looking around.
Keara turned her back towards the door and started leaning against it as she watched Zarra scurrying around, looking for some kind of key. Before her body could relax into the position, the door gave way just an inch.
‘Well now, would you look at that.’ Keara said, standing up straight, looking at the door.
‘What?’ Zarra said without looking at her, still searching for a key, but getting nowhere.
‘The door’s open.’ Keara reported.
Zarra sighed and stood up straight, ‘Don’t be silly,’ she said as she turned around, ‘They won’t leave a door like this…’ she looked at Keara who was pushing the door open while looking at her with a raised eyebrow, ‘open.’
‘Shall we?’ Keara allowed herself a little smugness.

Michael could no longer avoid the evil lurking in the forest. He hardly ever looked away from the window. The evil had become so apparent that even Jonathan and Alexander started noticing it. There were more figures standing outside the warding around the house. Michael figured out what they were, but he didn’t understand how they could be in this part of the forest, or even this part of the world.
‘We’re gonna have to go back to Varden Castle.’ Alexander stated, ‘If these creatures have managed to find our home that is so secluded, they would certainly have made their way to the castle by now.’
‘I know.’ Michael replied.
‘Do you think Keara’s alright?’ Alexander asked.
‘I think she can handle herself.’ Michael remarked, still not looking away from the window.
‘She might need our help.’ Alexander thought.
‘Not unless the ward around the castle walls gave in.’ Michael said.
‘You’re not gonna let her fight this war alone, are you?’ Alexander asked, a little concerned.
‘Of course not.’ Michael started, ‘I’m not gonna let her face this alone.’

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