Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Fifty Nine

Another week had passed and the Ravens had still not found the bandits. It was already after dark when they reached another town; only it seemed to be abandoned. The wind was blowing strongly, adding to the already freezing weather.

‘Isn’t there anyone here?’ Jonathan asked, mostly to himself.
‘No. We’re alone.’ Michael stated.
Keara looked around. The entire area seemed very eerie, making her feel uneasy, ‘Maybe not.’ she said softly.
‘There’s an Inn over there. We’ll stay there for the night.’ Adin said, pointing in the direction of the biggest building in the town.
They all headed towards the Inn, dismounting their horses just before entering, leading the horses inside as well.
‘Shall we all stay down here tonight or in the rooms upstairs?’ Alexander wondered.
‘I think we should stay together.’ Keara replied.
Michael looked at his sister as she scanned the inside of the Inn, ‘Is something wrong, Keara?’
‘Can’t you feel that?’
‘Feel what, sis?’ Michael wanted to know.
‘Don’t you feel uncomfortable here?’
‘Well yes, I do. It doesn’t feel safe here. But we needed to get out of the cold weather and our horses need rest.’ Michael said.
‘I know. I just think we should stay alert tonight.’ Keara suggested.
‘I think so too.’ Michael agreed.
Keara turned her attention back to the Inn, while her brothers took care of the horses. Her father had inspected the immediate area and found a mountain of dried wood next to the dark fireplace.
‘We should start a fire to ward off the cold.’ Adin said, picking up an armful of wood and placing it in the fireplace. He stood up and started rummaging through his pockets for something to start the fire with. Keara stood behind her father and watched him go through his pockets, with no success. Her eyes flashed with fire for a moment as her left hand became engulfed with flames. She whirled a ball of fire onto the wood in the fireplace and it all instantly burst into purple flame. Adin got a fright from the sudden eruption of purple light. He turned to look at Keara as the flame engulfing her hand slowly faded away.
‘Well, it’s purple, but it’s warm.’ Keara said with a little smile.
‘I don’t care what colour the flames are, heat is heat.’ Jonathan said as he walked up to the fire.

It had already been dark by the time they arrived at the abandoned town, but it only seemed to be getting darker. The moon and stars were hidden behind clouds and the wind hadn’t died down; in fact it had only gotten stronger and a thick mist had rolled in.
They all sat inside the Inn, huddled close to the fire. They had placed blankets over the horses to provide them with warmth. Jonathan and Alexander had taken the first watch. They had decided it would be safer if they didn’t let their guard down. Keara had curled up and gone into Reverie in one of the broken armchairs closest to the fireplace. Michael was sitting on the floor, resting his head against her thigh. He was also in Reverie. Adin had taken up a chair between Jonathan and Alexander, and Keara and Michael.
All the windows had been broken and despite the blazing fire, it could not keep out the cold entirely.
To stave off boredom, Alexander and Jonathan decided to play card games, all the while keeping an eye on their immediate surroundings.
Keara opened her eyes and lifted her head from the backrest. She tapped Michael on the shoulder vigorously. He quickly opened his eyes, looking around.
‘Wha?’ Michael had come out of Reverie so quickly, that he didn’t even finish uttering the word.
‘We are not alone.’ her voice was almost a whisper.
Michael’s face grew serious. He reached out and picked up his sword, unsheathing it. Alexander and Jonathan also reached for their weapons and proceeded to wake their father. Keara picked up her sword laying beside the chair, unsheathing it as she stood up.
‘What’s going on?’ Adin quietly asked.
‘Something’s outside.’ Michael answered.
‘It’s all around us.’ Keara answered.
‘What is?’ Adin wanted to know.
‘Mortags.’ Michael said.
‘Demons.’ Keara added.
‘What?’ Adin could not believe what he was hearing.
‘They’re after me.’ Keara said matter-of-factly.
‘Sharzak’s only true nemesis.’ Michael realized she was right.
‘Are we actually gonna fight these things?’ Alexander asked.
‘Of course we are.’ Keara answered.
‘What about dad?’ Jonathan asked.
‘I can stand my ground.’ Adin said firmly.
‘These are not your usual opponents, dad.’ Keara pointed out.
‘Even so, you don’t need to worry about my safety.’ Adin said again.
‘Just stay close to us, okay?’ Keara said, paying no attention to her father’s statement.
Adin had considered arguing with Keara, but the fact was that his children were a lot stronger than he was, and their opponents were not the enemies he used to face when he was still a Raven.
They finally turned their attention to the broken door. There was nothing outside the door, except for the thick mist and eerie atmosphere. Despite the uneasy feeling that swept through the Inn, they slowly moved towards the door, treading as quietly as was possible, waiting for a being to reveal itself through the dark doorway. But nothing happened.
Outside in the mist and darkness, the abandoned town had become a ghost town. Old, torn curtains swayed in broken windows as the breeze touched them. Ghosts seemed to be lurking behind broken walls, hiding in the darkness, peering out of holes and slits. Long, black, shadow fingers seemed to curl around the corners, waiting to drag someone into the darkness.
Keara was the first out the door. The cold breeze instantly swept her hair up behind her and out to one side; her coat flapping around her legs. She had removed her scarf, not wanting to risk the chance of it being used against her.
Her brothers all gathered around her and readied themselves for a fight. The wind pulled their hair and coats this way and that, but it didn’t seem to concern them. Adin stood behind them all, knowing he would be safer there.
They started hearing movement all around them. The night seemed to be getting darker still, even though it didn’t seem possible. The only light in the devouring darkness was the fire still blazing in the fireplace. But the darkness seemed to crowd around them, closing in on them, until it almost engulfed them.
The Ravens took up their battle-stances a mere instant before demons and Mortags leaped out of the darkness, seeking to crush them. And for a moment it seemed as though they would succeed, piling up on top of the Ravens. But a great explosion of purple light erupted, sending demons and Mortags flying in all directions, very quickly followed by the four young Ravens. They battled in mid-air, on the ground, on broken roofs, even inside some of the buildings, all the while, keeping an eye on their father, in case he should need their help. But he seemed to be holding his ground well enough.
More demons were crowding around Keara; unlike the Mortags who were just attacking blindly. She was able to defend herself well enough, but these demons were very powerful, and they all uttered only one thing, ‘I want your heart, Drow Queen.’
She simply couldn’t understand how the demons could still believe in such a primitive myth, but she didn’t have the time to consider all the possible answers. Thoughts kept running through her head; split-second decisions that kept her alive. Taking a quick glance at her brothers, she noticed that they had improved since their last battle.
Demons were all around her, in every direction, even above her. She had become almost completely defensive, trying to keep them all from trying to cut out her heart.
It seemed like more enemies were pouring into the abandoned town. Adin was being overpowered. Jonathan and Michael were being overpowered. Michael could no longer hold his ground. Keara could no longer defend herself against so many demons. Quickly, the Ravens disappeared under the heavy wave of enemies.
For a moment, the chaotic atmosphere seemed to die down. Abnormally long fingers, pierced skin. A scream erupted from somewhere deep below the evil wave. An aura erupted, followed by a massive wave of Drow magic. Demons flew in all directions, knocking over many other demons and Mortags in the process. Keara was standing amongst the chaos in her transformed state, scorch marks on the ground around her feet. Her long locks were burning with purple fire, but didn’t get scorched. Flames danced around her hands, climbing up her forearms. The fire burned in her eyes and her eyelids were darker than black.
Her brothers emerged from beneath the many bodies that had been strewn about; all of them battered and bruised, but still very much alive. Their father however, was not so lucky.
Keara looked around at her enemies, waiting for them to make a move. The entire scene seemed to be frozen in time. Even her wounds stopped bleeding, because of her great flow of power.
The demons started muttering amongst themselves.
Finally the scene came back into motion when the demons started attacking again, now more determined than ever to cut out and eat the heart of Crucis Salerra. But Keara didn’t allow them a chance to get near her. She took flight and watched as the demons followed. But they couldn’t get near her. She started blasting them with fire. One by one they fell to the ground. The Mortags’ immense fear of light made them retreat; fleeing into the darkness, towards the forest just beyond the town. The Ravens left the Mortags to flee; they had other things to worry about at that moment. As each burning demon fell to the ground, her brothers did away with them quickly, stabbing them through the heart, turning them to nothing but ash and dust.
Keara’s flame grew longer, engulfing her sword. The magic of the sword fused with the purple flame and became dark blue. With her sword now engulfed in blue flames, she started slicing through the demons, making them turn to dust before they could even be burned by the flames. But she wasn’t completely invulnerable. She was still being attacked, and though she was stronger, she still couldn’t keep all the demons at bay. Jonathan and Alexander saw that she might need a little help and by laying their hands on the ground, commanded the roots beneath the earth to grow at great speed, wrapping around many of the demons. The great roots dragged the trapped demons back to the ground where Michael helped dispose of them.
Before long, the fight was over. They had left no demon alive.
Keara had descended and landed without making a sound. The flames in her hair and around her arms disappeared. She looked around; everywhere in the town, flames were threatening to burn everything down, despite the moist, heavy mist. She looked at Michael who just nodded. A moment later, the mist started thinning as Keara and Michael drew the water out of the air to put the fires out. When they were finally done, Keara slowly transformed back to her normal state. Her wounds started bleeding; blood gushed out. She groaned, sinking to the ground. She was now in great pain. Michael quickly knelt down by her side, put her arm around his neck and helped her stand up. Slowly they walked back to the Inn.
Michael was not paying attention to his surroundings anymore; he was only watching his sister with concern in his eyes. It was only when Keara uttered the word ‘dad’ that he looked up to see what she was seeing. He gasped. He had not expected to see such a sight.
Adin was lying on Jonathan’s lap and Alexander was sitting on his knees next to him. They had both put their hands on Adin’s chest and stomach; their healing energy flowing out of their hands into their father’s body. Adin was in a very terrible state. He had taken a very bad beating and had also lost a lot of blood. Jonathan and Alexander were also in a bad state, but at least they could draw healing energy from the earth.
Michael sat Keara down on the step and knelt down next to his father, ‘Is he gonna be okay?’
‘He’ll live, but he’s in bad shape.’ Alexander said without looking up.

Sharzak watched in his mind’s eye as his evil soldiers were defeated. He felt like he would go insane, not understanding how the Ravens could possibly defeat so many. But the Mortags’ retreat into the darkness, infuriated him to the point where he killed several of his subjects with a blast of magic.
‘How could she possibly be so powerful!?’ his voice boomed through the cold great hall.
Scander leaned against the wall, watching Sharzak lose his temper. Even he couldn’t understand how this was possible. She wasn’t nearly this powerful when she was still under Sharzak’s control. What had changed? Simple training could not make her this strong. And as much as he enjoyed watching Sharzak lose his temper and fail in defeating Keara, he also had cause for concern. He wanted Keara’s power more than anything, but he had no way of getting close enough to cut out her heart for his own if she was truly this powerful.

They had carried their father inside, laying him down beside the fire. Jonathan and Alexander had done all they could, now they had to let Adin rest and heal by himself. Thanks to his two sons, he was not covered in as many bandages. They threw a blanket over him and allowed him to rest.
Keara and Michael had gone down to the beach that was not too far away. They could not expect their Woodland brothers to heal them when they also needed healing themselves. Michael kept Keara upright with one hand on her waist and another around her arm. They sat down on the beach, removing their coats, gloves and shoes. Shivering at the sudden cold touching their skin, they stood up and slowly walked into the water while it crept up their bodies to all their wounds, turning into a silver substance as it settled and started its healing process. They stood there in silence for a while.
‘Dad is much stronger than I thought he was.’ Michael had finally spoken.
‘Well, he was the one who trained us.’ Keara said, staring into the water, trying not to think about the cold. Her hair was still curling a lot because of her injuries, but as she healed, it slowly started to straighten out.
‘Yes, of course. But he’s human.’ Michael stated the obvious.
‘Yes, he is.’ Keara paused, ‘He fought well, even for a human.’
After a moment, Michael said, ‘We won’t be able to travel for a few days, not until dad is able, at least.’
‘I know.’
Silence filled the space between them for a few long minutes as they allowed the healing power of the water to seep into their veins.
Michael looked at Keara, ‘You’ve become very powerful.’
Keara just nodded her head.
‘Your control over Salerra is almost perfect.’
‘No, it’s not.’ she showed him the mark that kept fading, ‘I’m getting there, but it’s not easy.’
‘I know.’ Michael replied, ‘I was afraid you wouldn’t even make it this far; and that I would lose you.’
She finally looked at him.
Michael seemed to struggle to find the words to say, ‘The biggest reason I never wanted to tell you of our kin’s history, was because I was afraid that if you knew, it might change who you are and you would no longer be my little sister. I didn’t wanna tell you of Salerra, because I hoped that by not telling you, it would never happen.’
Keara didn’t know what to say.
‘Ever since you became Crucis Salerra, I’ve grown more protective over you. The battles you fight are no longer just for us. And every time you leave, I don’t know if you’ll be coming back to our family.’
Keara looked away, staring at the water rippling around her.
‘Your duty is no longer just to the surface people.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Keara asked, her voice low.
‘You’re the Drow Queen. You have a duty to our kin now.’ Michael said, staring into the distance.
Keara looked up at Michael, ‘Were you talking to Zarra before we left?’
‘No. Why?’
‘She’s been saying the same thing since we met.’
‘But she’s right.’ Michael started, ‘You can deny it all you want, but you can’t run away from what you are.’
‘I have no interest in becoming the Drow Queen, Michael.’
‘I know you don’t, but it is who you are.’
‘The Drow would sooner kill me than make me their queen.’
‘At the moment that is true. But it won’t be that way forever.’
Keara sighed, ‘Well, regardless, I’m not gonna be queen.’
‘Just don’t put your life in unnecessary danger because you don’t wanna be queen.’
‘I’m not reckless, Michael.’
‘I know you’re not. I just don’t wanna lose my sister because of something she refused to accept.’
‘You’re not gonna lose me, Michael. The five of us will be together forever.’
‘I sure hope so.’
They spent the rest of their time in the water in silence. The days where they could spend their time talking about insignificant little things were over. All their conversations now consisted of the future and the danger waiting for them along the road. Now they never said more about the matter than needed to be said.

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