Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Fifty Four

The Ravens soon reached the castle gate. Though they were happy to be behind the safety of the gate, they were surprised that Keara wasn’t there to greet them. Zarra and Deryck were there, but they had expected their sister to be there first.

Later in the Raven common room, Michael started a fire in the fireplace. The winter chill was becoming more noticeable each day.
Once the fire was blazing and providing warmth, Michael sat down and relaxed into his chair before asking about Keara.
‘So, where is Keara?’ Michael finally asked.
‘She went to see the Night Elves.’ Zarra answered.
‘What?’ Michael exclaimed, ‘And you let her go?’
‘She was very determined to go. There was no way we would’ve been able to stop her.’ Deryck explained.
‘Yeah. I didn’t even know about it until she was gone.’ Zarra added.
‘But she’ll never find them. Night Elves won’t be found unless they wanna be. She’ll be searching for them for months.’ Michael was very unhappy.
‘She didn’t blindly go off searching for them, Michael.’ Deryck started, ‘She’s not stupid.’
‘I didn’t say she was. And that’s not what I meant.’ Michael was a little offended, ‘What I meant was, Keara can often be very impulsive.’
‘They came to her in her dreams.’ Deryck informed, ‘They had requested her presence at a predetermined location.’
‘Oh.’ was all Michael could say.
‘Keara has wanted to see them for some time. She thinks they could provide some answers.’ Deryck stated.
‘It’s strange that they would request the presence of a Dark Elf, especially that of the Drow Queen.’ Alexander pointed out.
‘I’ll admit, I had my doubts. I didn’t think they’d ever make contact with her.’ Deryck admitted.
‘Why didn’t you go with her?’ Joseph asked, holding Saresse’s hand tightly.
‘She wouldn’t let me.’ Deryck said, ‘And considering what had happened the night before then, I decided I’d rather not argue with her.’
‘What happened the night before?’ Michael asked, sitting forward.
‘Deryck kind of lied to her.’ Zarra said, before Deryck could provide a proper explanation.
‘So did you, Zarra.’ Deryck was suddenly on the defensive.
Zarra was silent for a moment, ‘We’re not talking about me right now.’
‘What did you two lie about?’ Michael was getting a little irritated, ‘Deryck?’
‘She asked me about the secret archive. She wanted to know if I could tell her where it was, but I told her that I didn’t know anything about a secret archive.’
‘So did Artemis.’ Zarra added.
Michael just shook his head, ‘What secret archive?’
‘It’s hidden deep below the castle. It contains every piece of information you could possibly want.’ Deryck said.
‘Why did you lie to her?’ Jonathan wanted to know.
‘Should that information fall into the wrong hands, it could be catastrophic.’ Deryck said.
‘So you decided to lie to my sister?’ Michael hissed.
‘It was a direct order from my brother.’ Deryck defended himself.
‘He doesn’t trust her.’ Michael realized.
‘No, he does. He’s just, confused.’
‘She saved his life. There’s nothing to be confused about.’ Michael said forcefully.
‘They found it by themselves, anyway.’ Deryck informed.
‘She didn’t believe that neither of you knew about it.’ Zarra stated.
‘I figured she wouldn’t.’ Deryck added.
‘Okay, whatever.’ Michael said before an argument could develop, ‘What did you lie about, Zarra?’
Zarra fell silent.
‘Zarra?’ Michael asked again.
‘I kept certain information from her. Even when she asked about it, I kinda, lied to her face. I told her that I knew nothing about it.’
Michael sat back and rubbed his face.
Deryck and Zarra sat there like children who had gotten in trouble with their parents.

Using her ability to control the element, she made a small fire, just to provide a little heat to her and Legacy.
'It's getting easier.' she said to herself, then looked at Legacy, 'You see that? I didn't even have to transform.'
She undid the bedrolls and threw the blankets over Legacy’s back. He neighed as if to thank her. She smiled and sat down on the ground, stroking his mane before lying with her back against him.
‘I’m sorry that you have to be out in the cold, Legacy. Hopefully it will be over soon.’
She was still wearing her coat and scarf and pulled the hood a bit further over her eyes. With Legacy at her back and the fire in front of her, she didn’t really notice the nip in the air. The dragonfly that was leading her to the Night Elves had settled on her shoulder for the night. She stared into the fire, watching the purple flames dance until she finally went into Reverie.

‘Do you think she’ll be okay so deep in the forest by herself?’ Saresse asked as she sat in front of the mirror in Joseph’s room, brushing her hair.
‘She’ll be fine.’ Joseph said as he came closer to Saresse, ‘One thing that you can say for sure about Keara, is that she can take care of herself.’ he leaned down and kissed her cheek.
‘But what if she needs help?’
‘The Night Elves are capable of powerful magic, making it possible for them to protect people over vast distances. They wouldn’t request her presence without providing her with some protection on her journey.’
‘So, what you’re saying is, she doesn’t need our help.’ Saresse said.
Joseph chuckled, ‘Yes, that’s what I’m saying.’

The black-clothed bandits were still riding along the coast; still adding members to their gang. Many tried to resist, either refusing to be part of the bandits or trying to defend their loved ones and belongings, but it all proved futile.
They had finally settled for the night, taking up all the space at an Inn. It seemed as though the Inn keeper was a member of the bandits as they had been provided with lodging free of charge and no one seemed to be afraid of the bandits’ presence.
It didn’t seem as though the bandits had a distinct plan at the moment. They were just adding members as they went along.

Keara was awakened by an icy chill running through her bones. She opened her eyes and found that her fire had died during the night. She got up and stretched, trying to drive the stiffness and the chill out of her body. Legacy stood up and started grazing. Keara picked up the food sack Deryck had given her, reaching in and producing a small loaf of bread, as well as a bottle of water. She sat down again, watching Legacy graze as she ate. The dragonfly flew around her head and settled on her nose.
‘What?’ she said, squinting her eyes to look at it.
It softly batted its wings.
‘I don’t have any food for you.’ she said, taking another bite of her bread.
The dragonfly batted its wings a little harder.
‘This is bread. You won’t like this.’ Keara said, holding up a piece of it in her hand.
The dragonfly batted its wings again. She frowned, then crumbled a piece in her right hand, holding it up, waiting to see what the dragonfly would do. The dragonfly got off her nose and flew over to her hand. It landed and started eating the crumbs.
‘Well, I’ll be.’ she said as she watched the dragonfly eat the crumbs.
After a less than perfect breakfast, she rolled up the blankets she had used to keep Legacy warm during the night and fastened it to the saddle. She climbed into the saddle and watched the dragonfly choose a direction, slowly flying away from her until she followed.

Michael and Zarra were in the archive. Zarra had tried more than once to disable the traps, but she simply had no idea how to do it. And to make matters worse, the sequence of the traps changed every time they entered the archive. And because they still hadn’t received any help from Artemis, she had no way of knowing if the traps could even be disabled.
She was explaining the details of the Mortags to Michael. He had immediately asked her about them after the commotion of Keara’s sudden departure died down.
‘From what I can tell, they are quite formidable opponents, but they are not invincible.’ Zarra explained.
‘So they can be beaten?’ Michael asked, looking at the pages, describing these beings.
‘Yes. But there are so many of them. We alone won’t be able to beat them.’ Zarra answered.
‘I know.’ Michael knew. He paged through the book in front of him, ‘These books don’t say where they come from. But you know, don’t you?’
Zarra slowly nodded her head. She had managed to escape Keara’s scrutiny, but now Michael was asking questions and nothing was going to save her from explaining what she knew. And he wouldn’t allow her to skip any details.

Deryck had suggested that the soldiers receive the same training as he did. And though they would probably not reach his level, the Ravens decided it would be a good idea. At least then, the humans’ chances of survival would be increased, even if it wasn’t by much.

Keara kept following the dragonfly through the forest. It was the first time she had completely let her guard down. She was admiring the beauty around her; taking in the different smells; considering the different colours; listening to the various sounds. For the first time since Scander escaped from his eternal prison, she felt at peace. Though she knew it wouldn’t last, she found herself forgetting about everything that had gone wrong in her world.

The Rorins and Golden Crests were still carrying out their duties, as scary as it seemed to some of them. They no longer travelled after dark; not even the Ravens would leave the gate after nightfall.

Michael had not yet joined his brothers to assist with the training of the soldiers. He was still in the archive with Zarra. And she was still explaining everything to him.
‘The Mortags were failed experiments. They were not created with the knowledge of the queen. Had she known, she would not have allowed it to continue. Especially since they were created for war.’ Zarra explained.
‘Does anyone know who created them?’ Michael asked.
‘No. History stated that he had been executed immediately, without consulting the queen and his name was never recorded.’
‘That doesn’t help much.’ Michael said.
‘Why not?’ Zarra wanted to know.
‘Without the one who created them, we don’t have an easy way of destroying them.’ Michael stated, ‘Right now, at best, we could maim them, or slow them down, but that would only be temporary.’
‘I’ve been through all these books, but they only give a fuller description of what the Mortags are and what they do.’ Zarra replied.
‘That doesn’t help us at all.’
‘I’ll keep searching for something. But there isn’t even a description of how they were created.’
‘Just let me know when you find something.’ Michael said, getting up from his chair. He decided to leave Zarra to her task.

Night had come once again, bringing with it a chill in the wind. She pulled the hood over her head, trying to keep the cold from her body. The dragonfly hovered overhead, seeming to have reached its destination. Keara looked around, but nothing looked different from what she had already seen during her journey. She wasn’t at all sure what she should do. Truth be told, she wasn’t even sure if the dragonfly had lead her in the right direction.
It had now gotten completely dark. Of course it didn’t bother her in the least, but she couldn’t just stay there, waiting for something to happen.
Suddenly, a fire erupted between the trees just in front of her. Her head jerked to the side and almost backwards from the sudden light attacking her sensitive eyes. After spending so much time in the light dome, her eyes had never quite readjusted to any kind of light.
She slowly brought a hand up, covering her eyes, waiting for the pain to disappear. She slowly moved her hand away, looking in the direction of the fire. She was a short distance away, but she could feel the heat of the fire warming her body completely.
The branches of the trees surrounding the fire started growing in an arch, interweaving with each other to form a roof. Other branches started growing downwards, forming walls and a doorway. Though she was quite used to seeing plants get manipulated in such a way, because of her Woodland brothers, she had not yet seen a construction such as this.
She dismounted and took Legacy’s reins in one hand, leading him inside. The dragonfly rested on her shoulder as she entered. She removed her hood and loosened her scarf a little. She was busy removing her gloves when roots started growing upwards out of the ground, forming chairs all around the fire.
Soon the Night Elves started walking in through the doorway. Each of them taking a seat around the fire. Keara also sat down, noticing that there were enough chairs for all of them.
‘Hello Keara.’ Adriel said as she stood up.
Keara looked in her direction, immediately recognizing her, ‘Adriel, right?’
‘Yes.’ Adriel said with a smile.
‘This isn’t another dream, is it?’ Keara needed to know.
Adriel just smiled even more, ‘No, this is very real.’
‘So; you obviously know why I was looking for you.’ Keara pointed out.
‘You seek the dragons.’ Kydriel said, slowly standing up.
‘This is Kydriel, my brother.’ Adriel said.
‘Okay.’ Keara didn’t know what else to say.
‘The dragons haven’t been seen for hundreds of years, Keara.’ Kydriel stated after bowing his head slightly.
‘I know. That’s why I was seeking your help.’ Keara remarked.
‘You just expect us to give you their location?’ another Night Elf next to Keara said.
She looked at him and simply answered, ‘Yes.’
‘We can’t do that. We won’t give such valuable information to the Drow Queen.’
‘Bareth!’ Adriel exclaimed, for a moment losing her perfect composure. She took a moment to gather herself.
‘I do realize that my kin is the enemy of many. But I doubt that even the level-headed, all-seeing Night Elves would bring me all this way, just so they can deny my request.’ Keara stated, growing quite tired of the hostility of others, simply because of the blood flowing through her veins.
Bareth opened his mouth to speak, but Adriel started speaking before he could utter any words.
‘You’re right, Keara. We will not bring you all this way to deny your request. Then this trip would not even have been worth our time.’ Adriel said, ‘We are willing to help you.’
‘But?’ Keara waited.
‘But you will face a lot more hostility from the dragons. They have their reasons.’ Adriel explained, ‘And trust me when I say it will not be easy to convince them otherwise.’
‘I know.’ Keara said.
‘Do you even know why they would be so hostile towards you?’ Bareth asked with an unreasonable amount of hostility in his own voice.
‘Dragon slayers.’ Keara stated.
‘Drow, dragon slayers.’ Bareth added.
Keara gave Bareth a deadly stare, ‘My kin assisted in slaying only one dragon, wrongly; and they weren’t the only ones in existence marked as dragon slayers.’
‘True Keara, but that’s not the reason for their hostility.’ Adriel said.
‘Then what is?’ Keara wanted to know.
‘It’s a story that is not ours to tell.’ Adriel informed.
‘Are you trying to tell me that you don’t know what happened?’ Keara thought.
‘We do.’ Kydriel said, ‘But it’s not our place to tell you of their history.’
Keara considered his statement. The expression on her face showed that she did indeed understand what he meant.
‘We have a great responsibility, Keara. We have many secrets to keep.’ Adriel stated, ‘Knowing everyone’s story; knowing them inside and out. We had to learn what was acceptable to reveal.’
‘And as it is, the dragons only reveal their history to those who have earned the right to know it.’ Kydriel added.
‘Please bare in mind that they might try to kill you before you even have a chance to get close to their home.’ another Night Elf said from across the fire.
Keara’s eyes widened. She realized that if the dragons attacked her, she would most probably not survive the assault. Keara’s complexion became even paler than it usually was.
Kydriel noticed the expression on Keara’s face, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t be so bluntly forward about that kind of information, Ilsa.’
‘I apologize. I just thought it necessary for her to know.’
‘She didn’t have to know.’ Bareth grunted, implying that it would be better if she was destroyed.
Keara looked at him, trying her best to keep her anger in check. She had the urge to hurt him, just one quick punch to knock him out for a few minutes. That way, if she didn’t survive the next few days, at least he wouldn’t easily forget her.
‘Bareth!’ Adriel shouted at him, a bit more forcefully.
Pointing in his direction, Keara asked, ‘Why is he even here?’
‘He insisted on coming along. And would not give us a moment’s rest until we allowed it.’ Ilsa reported.
‘Ah, of course. You were planning on meeting with a Dark Elf. He wanted to be in as close proximity to me as possible. Should it be necessary to attempt to kill me with the weapon hidden underneath his coat.’ Keara stated.
Bareth’s eyes widened. The others couldn’t believe what they had heard. They looked at Bareth.
Bareth looked at Kydriel, then to Keara, then back to Kydriel, ‘She’s just a demon. She’s the reason this world has been divided for so long.’
‘She is not the reason for such division, Bareth.’ Adriel started, ‘And neither is her kin.’
‘But the ones who caused it were part of her kin.’ Bareth argued, standing up.
‘Those who had a part in it, were subjective. And even then, it wasn’t just the Dark Elves.’ Adriel stated, ‘No race is infallible, not even ours.’
‘You should leave, Bareth.’ Kydriel ordered.
‘What?’ Bareth could not believe that his own kin didn’t want him around.
‘You should leave.’ Kydriel repeated, ‘This conversation cannot continue without your absence.’
‘I am as much a part of this counsel as you are.’
‘Yes, but I am your prince, and you were chosen to be part of this counsel by me. Now if you want to remain a part of the counsel, you will leave now.’
Bareth did not like Kydriel dangling his stature in his face, though it was not something he often did. Bareth made it clear that he was not happy with Kydriel’s decision, but he walked out, not wishing to be part of the conversation any longer anyway.
‘I have a question.’ Keara said after a moment, ‘How did you not know of his intentions?’
‘Like I said, we have a great responsibility. We do not look into each other’s lives; we don’t even look into our own futures. Since the beginning of our kin, it has been forbidden. We must respect the privacy of everyone around us. That’s why we only looked into your future and intentions when your thoughts reached us.’ Adriel explained.
‘I see.’ was all Keara had to say.
‘How did you even know he had the weapon?’ Ilsa asked.
‘I’m a soldier.’ Keara said, ‘I’ve been trained to look for such things.’
‘Ah.’ Ilsa replied.
‘So where can I find the dragons?’
‘I must warn you, it will be a long journey.’ Adriel warned.
‘Yeah, I figured.’ Keara replied.
‘It won’t be easy.’ Ilsa added.
‘I didn’t think it would be.’ Keara simply said.
Everyone was silent for a moment, ‘Are you absolutely sure you wanna do this, Keara?’ Kydriel asked.
‘If I don’t, the world as we know it could very well come to an end. This is the last chance to preserve the world and its people as it is. It’s not perfect, but it’s all we have.’ Keara answered.
‘You’re trying to save a world that shunned you.’ Kydriel stated, the tone in his voice becoming a bit deeper.
‘That still shuns me. But that doesn’t matter. If pure evil takes over, my kin will also perish.’ Keara spoke.
‘Why would you wanna save your kin, when you don’t want any part of that world?’ Kydriel became curious.
‘Despite the fact that I don’t agree with their values and don’t see life as they do; they are still part of this world, and of my blood.’ Keara explained, ‘When I became a Raven, I took an oath to protect this world and everyone within it, from those who would seek to destroy it.’
‘So you are really willing to risk your life for those who care nothing for you.’ Kydriel concluded.
‘Is this an interrogation, or a counsel?’ Keara asked.
‘We just wanna know how far you are willing to go to defeat your nemesis.’ another Night Elf said, sitting next to her.
Keara was silent for a moment, staring deeply into the fire, ‘In the months since Scander escaped his eternal prison, everything has gone wrong. I died, twice. Attacked my brothers; rampaged the towns; made many enemies. Some people still fear me because of something over which I had no control. And Sharzak is still trying to destroy me. As long as he roams free, we will never have peace. So I think it’s safe to say that I would go to any length to defeat my nemesis.’
The others were silent. Keara had a good enough reason to do what she was planning on doing. And the very least they could do, was help her.
Adriel looked at her brother, who looked her in the eye. Kydriel simply nodded his head. They both walked around the fire on either side, coming together in front of Keara. Kydriel held out his hand to Adriel, who placed her hand delicately in his. Each of them placed a hand on Keara’s head. Images rushed into her mind and her eyes grew wider. The Night Elves were showing Keara the location she had wanted so badly. Keara seemed to stop breathing as the images flooded her thoughts.
It only took a moment, but in that time, she had seen every leg of the journey that now lay ahead of her. She heard the name of every place in her mind and though she did not see any danger, she knew that it would most certainly be waiting for her.
Kydriel and Adriel lifted their hands off Keara’s head and she gasped for air. Keara breathed heavily. She did not expect to see such vivid images; she had not even expected to receive the location in such a way.
‘You mustn’t go now, and you mustn’t go alone.’ Adriel informed.
Keara just looked at her. That was, in fact what she had planned to do, but hearing Adriel contradict her plans, immediately gave her seconds thoughts.
‘Joseph and Saresse are to be married. But they will not proceed without you.’ Adriel said.
Keara had not expected to hear that her youngest brother was going to be married soon. She was happy to hear it, though.
‘Your brother has already informed the rest of your family. They will arrive at the castle tomorrow afternoon.’ Adriel continued, ‘You should head back first thing in the morning.’
The other Night Elves stood up and walked out, shortly followed by Adriel and Kydriel.
Before Kydriel disappeared into the dark, he turned to Keara one last time, ‘You have chosen to do what we all are too afraid to do. The path you have chosen will not be an easy one, and I suspect you would feel like giving up more often than not. But you must not give up. The survival of all of us depends on you. We all have faith in you, Keara.’
‘But you won’t be there when I need you.’ Keara said, still staring at the fire.
‘We will come to your aid, when you really need us.’ Kydriel didn’t seem to be offended by Keara’s opinion.
‘You are Night Elves. You’re not natural born fighters. It’s not your nature to come to the aid of a Dark Elf.’ Keara said, still not looking at Kydriel.
‘The coming struggle will test the resolve of us all. You never know what might happen.’ Kydriel knew that most of what Keara was saying about his kin was true. They weren’t fighters. They lived in complete peace and tried to avoid conflict at all costs.
‘Yeah.’ Keara said.

A short while later she was completely alone. The dragonfly was still sitting on her shoulder, and the fire had become much smaller. Legacy had made himself comfortable next to the fire, seeming to have fallen asleep. She kept going through the images in her mind. The images showed her places she had never been before; circumstances she had never faced before. She wasn’t sure what to expect, but she did know that it would indeed be a tough journey. But she knew that if she didn’t do it, no one else would.
Eventually she lay down on the grass that had been warmed by the fire, facing Legacy who had woken up with her movement. She lay on her stomach, resting her head on her arms, looking at Legacy while he stared back at her. She reached out a hand and stroked his nose.
When the images in her head finally subsided, she went into Reverie.

Legacy nuzzled Keara’s cheek the next morning. The fire had died in the middle of the night, allowing the cold to set in. Her skin was cold to the touch. Slowly she opened her eyes, looking at the ashes of the fire. For the moment, nothing went through her mind. For the moment, she was in perfect peace. Legacy nuzzled Keara’s face again, breathing on her face. She got a fright from the sudden hot breathe on her face, lifting her head and shaking the grogginess out of her mind.
‘Guess we should head back.’ Keara said, slowly sitting upright. She rubbed her face, blinking a few times to get the sleepy feeling out of her eyes.
Legacy pressed his cheek against Keara’s cheek. She lifted her hand and stroked his nose. Then, putting both her arms around his neck, he pulled her up to her feet. The dragonfly was still hovering around her. She stretched a little, then took Legacy’s reins and lead him outside. She squinted and covered her eyes with one hand; the sun shining brightly through the trees. She had not expected it to be quite as bright as she was in a very dense part of the forest.
She climbed back into the saddle, and motioned Legacy into a trot. When he was properly warmed up, she motioned him into a fast run, wanting to get back to the castle as quickly as she could.

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