Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Sixty Two

Sharzak seemed content. He could not feel Keara’s aura anymore. To his mind, she was dead. Now nothing stood in his way. He could go forward with his plans and hopefully, this time around, he would be more successful.

Scander watched Sharzak go about his business. It seemed as though new life had been breathed into him. This worried Scander. With nothing standing in Sharzak’s way, he might make some irrational decisions and everything they had worked for up until now, would be for nothing. He had to find a way to slow Sharzak’s pace. But with Keara dead and Sharzak no longer growing weaker, there was nothing to stop him.
He turned on his heel and walked back to his quarters. In the past, he could keep Sharzak from moving too quickly by just talking to him, but Sharzak had shut him out completely. To his mind, there was nothing he could do; yet.

‘How far are we from the castle?’ Veldin asked, ‘We have been walking for days.’
Alexander looked at him, ‘You’re gonna be walking for a few more days. So shut up and keep moving.’
‘We are all tired, and none of us were allowed to ride a horse. You have to let us rest.’
Alexander pulled the reins on his horse. He had just about reached the end of his patience. He dismounted, walked over to Veldin, grabbed him by the collar, lifting him onto the tip of his toes.
‘Because of you and your band of misfits, my family was accused of crimes they never committed. Because of you, we had to travel for weeks, each of us facing death more than once on our journey. Because of you, we had to spend every night in the forest, where demons were able to attack us and nearly took the life of my little sister. Because of you, I am very pissed off and if you value your life, you will shut the hell up, or I will make you regret the day you heard the word, Ravens.’ Alexander exploded, ‘Do I make myself clear?’
Veldin had fear written all over his face, nodding frantically.
‘Now keep walking. You’ll rest when we tell you too.’ he finished, turned sharply, walked back to his horse and climbed back into the saddle.
Jonathan looked at Alexander, a smile almost sneaking onto his face, ‘Don’t think I’ve ever seen you that angry.’
‘Yeah.’ Adin agreed, ‘You were this close to hitting him.’ he gestured.
‘It took a lot of willpower not too.’ Alexander breathed a hard breath. His temper had almost gotten the better of him.
Jonathan was now grinning openly, ‘We wouldn’t have blamed you.’
‘I think I’ll just leave his beating to Keara.’ Alexander finally started to calm down.
‘She’ll be so grateful.’ Adin said jokingly.
Finally Alexander smiled.
‘You think Michael made it to the castle already?’ Jonathan wondered.
‘I think so.’ Adin answered, ‘Legacy is very fast. And with his companion’s life hanging in the balance, he certainly wouldn’t waste any time.’
‘I hope she’ll be okay.’ Jonathan said.
‘She’ll be fine. She’s not one to give up.’ Alexander replied.

Artemis walked down the corridors in the castle. It was growing darker and the servants in the castle were starting to light the oil lamps, but he didn’t seem to notice them. They didn’t pay much attention to his absentmindedness, though they were used to him greeting them as he passed by.
Zarra was in the shadows behind him. She had been watching him for quite some time. Though she hadn’t known what had drawn her out of the archives so diligently, she knew that she could not ignore it. She had searched the entire castle, thinking that the presence she felt might have left some residue on Artemis, but wasn’t actually part of him. She soon realized that the presence was emanating from Artemis’s aura and decided to keep a very close watch on him.
She had heard that Michael and Keara had returned and she wanted to go see them, but first she had to make sure that Artemis wouldn’t be nearby when she did so. She watched him retire to his chambers, then made her way outside. She first headed to the Raven barracks, deciding that it would be the best place to start looking for them. She found Michael there, but he was in Reverie at the time.
‘Where’s Keara?’ she wanted to know.
‘She’s healing.’ Caitlyn said, ‘Deryck is with her now.’
Zarra left the Raven barracks and quickly headed to the secluded pool. She was a little surprised to see that Keara had been completely engulfed by the silver substance.
‘What happened to her?’ she asked as she sat down next to Deryck who had taken up a spot at the edge of the pool.
‘Michael says her energy had been drained.’
‘By what?’
‘A demon.’
‘Demons can’t drain your energy.’
‘Well this one did. Michael also said it was unlike any demon he had ever seen. Almost beautiful, with a shade of crimson reflecting off its skin.’
‘That doesn’t sound like a demon to me.’
‘Doesn’t sound like a demon to me either. But it does sound like we have something new to fear in the forest.’
‘I know this is not what you wanna hear right now, but will you ask Keara to come by the archive when she wakes up? There are some things we have to discuss.’ Zarra asked.
‘Sure.’ was Deryck’s only answer.

Keara’s thoughts were running rampant in her mind. In her mind’s eye, it felt like she was watching scenes play off in front of her, constantly changing locations and characters; many with unanswered questions and just as she was about to reach an answer, it would slip beyond her grasp. She saw the dragons in the memories of Queen Ethera when she had just ascended the throne. The dragons and Dark Elves still lived in harmony then. But that all changed very quickly. The dragons attacked the Dark Elves without giving a reason. Queen Ethera knew there had to be a reason, but what was it? Keara saw Sharzak’s face flash before her; his presence seemed more powerful than she had remembered. She even saw Scander’s face. But why? The only purpose he had ever served in her life was to annoy her. Before she could decide what was going on, her thoughts rushed back to the present day. Artemis was not in control of himself. A demon had drained her energy, but as far as she knew, that was not possible. War was imminent and she still needed to find the dragons. She had to wake up. There was too much to do.
“Wake up.” she said to herself, “Wake up. You have to wake up.”
Suddenly her eyes opened and she burst out of the water. Deryck got such a fright, for a moment he didn’t know what to do.
‘Keara.’ he finally managed to say.
She looked around for a moment, having no idea where she was.
‘You’re awake.’
‘How long was I out?’ Keara asked as she approached the edge.
‘Not even a day.’
‘Why am I in here? I wasn’t injured.’
Deryck put his coat around Keara’s shoulders as she got out. She closed it around her body.
‘Michael brought you here. He says a demon drained your energy and almost killed you.’
‘That wasn’t a demon.’ Keara knew that the creature wasn’t what it appeared to be, ‘Where’s Michael?’
‘In the barracks, in Reverie.’
‘And, the others?’
‘They’re not back yet. They decided it was critical that Michael get you back here. He says you were near death.’
‘I was.’ she replied, ‘I need to see him.’
Deryck walked with Keara back to the Raven barracks.

Zarra was still sifting through all the information in the archives. She had even found the history of the royal family. But although she found it interesting, she had to set it aside for now. She hoped that Keara would come see her soon; they had a lot to talk about.

The front door of the Raven barracks opened, drawing everyone’s attention. They all expected to see Deryck or perhaps Zarra enter the room, but instead a barefooted Keara stepped through the door. At first, no one could believe their eyes, but they were all happy to see her. She quickly greeted everyone then went to her room and got dressed in some warm clothes. By the time she got back, Deryck had already made her tea, and let her sit down before he handed it to her. She allowed her family to ask her some questions which she tried to answer as best she could before she got up to wake her brother. She understood that he was tired, but she had to speak to him.
‘Michael.’ she said as she touched his arm.
He slowly opened his eyes, ‘You’re awake.’
‘I just needed to regain my strength. It didn’t take that long.’
‘You should still be resting.’
‘Not now.’
He looked at her more intently, then sat up, ‘What’s bothering you?’
‘Have you seen Artemis yet?’
‘A short while after we arrived. But he was only there for a few seconds, then left again.’
‘Did you notice anything different about him?’
‘His aura seemed a little darker than usual. Why?’
‘Alexander and I were talking the other day. We think that the demon that invaded his mind left an imprint. And it’s taking over. It could be the reason he accused us.’
‘And tried to arrest us. Specifically you.’
‘It wants my heart.’
‘I won’t let that happen.’
‘That doesn’t worry me. But if we don’t do something soon, Artemis will no longer be fit to rule and Deryck will lose his brother.’
‘I agree with you. But right now, it’s not safe to try and do something.’ Michael stated.
‘Why not?’ Keara didn’t understand, ‘Three of us are here and you and I are Dark Elves. We can handle evil.’
‘I know and again, I agree. But we are strongest when all five of us are together. And we’re gonna need that strength if we wanna keep Artemis alive.’
‘Well, I suppose there are other things I could do while we wait for them to return.’ Keara thought.
‘It would be good to take your mind off the coming battle for the time-being.’ Michael suggested.
‘Everything we do is for the coming battle.’
‘I know.’ Michael said, ‘Why don’t you go hang around in the archives. You like reading.’
‘Guess I could do that.’ Keara said, ‘Zarra wants to see me anyway.’
‘What I meant was, read something that has nothing to do with our current situation.’
‘Everything has to do with our current situation.’ Keara said.
‘Alright. At least, try to relax.’
Keara just nodded her head, ‘See you later.’

Zarra heard someone heading towards the archives. She heard the footsteps and the traps activate. Not knowing who it could be, she pulled a dagger from underneath the books, and hid behind one of the bookshelves. She peered around the corner into the darkness beyond the door, but she still could not see anything. She moved a little closer, taking care not to make a sound, until she was almost next to the door. The person was just about to step through the door. She lifted the dagger to shoulder height and waited for the person to step through.
But she did not expect to see Keara step through the door, or at least not yet.
Keara turned her head and got a fright at the sight of Zarra aiming a weapon at her, ‘Hello.’ was all she said, not in fear, but surprise.
‘I thought you were still healing.’ Zarra said as she put her hand down.
‘I just needed to regain my strength. My energy was drained, I wasn’t injured.’
‘Oh. Okay.’ Zarra said slowly, ‘But Michael said...’
‘You asked for me.’ Keara interrupted.
Zarra was silent for a moment, ‘Oh yes.’ then she walked back to her books.
Keara followed her, sitting down in a chair opposite Zarra.
‘I think I’ve found just about all the information there is about the ward. It’s mostly history, but there are a few rituals that we’ll have to perform once you...’ Zarra trailed off.
Keara looked up, ‘Once I, what?’
Zarra hesitated, ‘Become queen.’ it was barely a whisper.
Keara just rolled her eyes.
‘You have too...’
‘Let’s not talk about that right now, okay?’ Keara interrupted.
Zarra was quiet for a moment, ‘Okay.’ then after a pause, she went on, ‘The rituals can only be performed when the dragons work in conjunction with the Dark Elves.’
‘Yeah, I know. I think you mentioned something like that before.’
‘The rest just tells of the history between them and the humans. Legends and such.’
‘Okay.’ Keara replied, ‘Found anything that doesn’t have to do with the impending war?’
Zarra was surprised to hear that Keara wasn’t interested in the information presented to her, ‘Um, yes. But I put it aside. I didn’t think you would be interested.’
‘Well, actually I’m not. But Michael suggested that I read something that will take my mind off everything.’
‘Oh. Really. Well I have a lot of books here regarding the royal history.’ Zarra said, then put her hand on the spines of the two top books, ‘These two are about Deryck and Artemis and their parents.’
Keara gestured for Zarra to hand her the books. Zarra hesitated for a moment, still not sure if Keara was just pulling her leg, then picked them up and handed them to Keara who put one down in front of her and the other on her lap. She leaned back in her chair and started paging through it. The first few pages started with the ending of the last king’s reign and the beginning of King Rorin’s reign; Artemis and Deryck’s father.
‘May I ask why Michael suggested you read something?’ Zarra asked after observing Keara for a few long seconds.
Keara quickly looked up from the page, then back to it, ‘I don’t really know. I think he just wants me to relax and wait for my brothers and father to return.’
‘Oh.’ Zarra said, ‘So, did you find the bandits?’
Keara glanced at Zarra again, ‘Yeah, we did.’
‘How many did you find?’
‘Fifty or so.’ this time she didn’t look up.
‘Do you think it’s safe for the three of them to be travelling alone with fifty-odd bandits?’
‘They have volunteers with them. They’ll be fine.’ she still didn’t look up from the page.
‘But what if demons attack them again?’
Keara looked up from the page, realizing that she wasn’t going to finish the sentence until Zarra had finally stopped asking questions, ‘The demons only attacked them because I was there. When my energy was drained, they thought I had died, so they stopped attacking and left. They’re pretty safe without me.’ she looked back down at the page.
‘But what about other enemies?’ Zarra asked again.
Keara looked up, clearly getting very annoyed with the constant interruptions, ‘What other enemies?’
‘I don’t know.’ Zarra mumbled, ‘Thieves, other bandits. You know, every day kind of enemies.’
‘They can handle themselves.’
‘But your father’s human.’ Zarra pointed out.
‘What does that have to do with anything?’ Keara found that statement a little insulting.
‘He’s not as strong as your brothers.’
‘He’s a Raven. He taught us everything we know. He can take care of himself.’ she finished and looked back down at the page.
Zarra knew that she had stepped over the line and decided not to ask any more questions. She watched Keara for a few more seconds, then went back to her own research. But before the silence could stretch out for too long, she spoke again.
‘By the way, Artemis has been down here.’
Keara looked up, ‘What? Why?’
‘I don’t know. But when he’s down here, he seems normal.’
‘Normal?’ Keara’s eyes narrowed.
‘Yeah, you know; the Artemis that wouldn’t falsely accuse you; that trusts you with his life; deeply cares about his brother and his people. That Artemis.’
‘Oh.’ was Keara’s only response, considering the news, then continued, ‘Does he come down here with you?’
‘No. He just comes here at random times. He knows I’m here, or at least I think he does. But he doesn’t really pay attention to me.’
‘Oh.’ Keara said again, ‘What does he do when he’s down here?’
‘He reads his family’s history books.’
‘These?’ Keara pointed down to the book on her lap.
‘No. He reads the first recordings.’
‘How does he manage to dodge the traps?’
‘He doesn’t.’ Zarra paused, ‘He deactivates them.’
Zarra now had Keara’s full attention, ‘How?’
‘I’m not sure, but he has a big, golden key in his hand every time he enters.’
‘Then we’ll just have to get that key.’
‘Good luck. I’ve already asked him about it. I even spoke to Deryck. He couldn’t even convince Artemis to give me the key.’
‘I’ll figure something out.’ Keara stretched her arms and upper body, then relaxed back into her chair and looked down at the page, ‘But not right now.’

Adriel seemed to be completely fascinated by Keara and her way of life. She found herself constantly watching Keara, paying special attention to what she was doing, reading, even saying. When she realized Keara’s concern for the royal brothers, she knew she had to help. She knew she wasn’t supposed to interfere, but she couldn’t just watch and do nothing, when there was so much she could do.
She watched Keara in the archive and noticed that her eyes were getting heavy. She started casting a sleep-inducing spell, hoping it would make Keara fall asleep a little faster.
Keara was still reading the same book, but she had placed it on the table and leaned on one arm to keep her head from falling on the table, should she accidentally fall asleep. Her eyes got heavy, she kept reading the same sentence over and over, until she could no longer keep her eyes open and she ended up falling asleep.
She opened her eyes, still leaning on her arm. She was still sitting in the archive, across from Zarra. And Zarra was still glued to the books in front of her. She watched her for a moment, then realized that Zarra wasn’t moving, she wasn’t even breathing.
‘What’s going on?’ she asked to nobody in particular.
‘You’re dreaming, Keara.’ Adriel said as she stepped out from behind one of the book shelves.
‘Hello Keara.’
‘Not that I’m not happy to see you, but is there a reason why you are here?’
‘Yes, there is.’
‘And that would be?’ Keara wanted to know.
‘The reason you are in the archive.’
‘I have no reason for being in the archive, I’m just here, because I have nothing else to do.’
‘You reading that book, is no coincidence.’
‘The royal history?’ Keara said after looking at the book.
‘Yes. You are concerned about them.’
Keara looked at Zarra, ‘Yes, I am.’ then she pointed at Zarra, ‘Is she ever gonna move?’
‘Not as long as I am here.’
‘I didn’t go into Reverie.’ Keara realized.
‘No, you’re asleep.’
‘Elves don’t sleep.’
‘No, we don’t. I cast a spell; I could not wait until you decided to go into Reverie.’
‘Did you do this to me last time?’
‘I just helped you get to rest faster.’
‘So that’s a yes.’
Adriel hesitated for a moment, ‘Yes.’
‘Okay.’ Keara said, ‘Let’s get back to why you are here.’
‘You cannot wait until your brothers return. You have to act now.’
Adriel realized that she had started in the middle. She couldn’t help herself, she needed Keara to understand how important it was.
‘I think you need to back up a little bit.’ Keara started, ‘Why don’t you sit down?’
Adriel sat down and gathered her thoughts before she said anything.
‘Start at the beginning.’ Keara said as she sat back.
‘I have been watching you.’ Adriel stated.
‘I noticed.’ was all Keara said.
‘I know you are concerned with Artemis’s condition and you have good reason to be.’
‘So Alexander and I were right; the demon left an imprint and it’s manifesting.’
Adriel just nodded her head.
Keara considered Adriel’s reaction, ‘But why is this of such great concern to you?’
‘Without Artemis, the race of men will fall.’
Keara froze. She hadn’t realized that the situation was that grave, ‘If Artemis fails, Deryck will take his place.’
‘Deryck is too weak to lead his people.’ Adriel responded, ‘You know this is true.’
Keara did know it was true.
‘Deryck is a true warrior, but he’s not a leader.’ Adriel continued.
‘What do you suggest we do?’ Keara wanted to know.
‘An exorcism.’ Adriel said shortly.
‘We can’t do an exorcism. It’ll kill him.’ Keara exclaimed.
‘It’s the only way.’
‘No, it’s not. Which is precisely the reason we are waiting for my brothers to return.’
‘There is a way you can perform an exorcism and keep Artemis from dying.’
Keara didn’t believe it, but she listened anyway, ‘How?’
‘Bring forth the Golden Elf gene.’
Keara’s eyes widened.
‘I trust you’ve already discovered in that book, that the mother of the royal brothers, was a Golden Elf.’
‘Yes.’ was all Keara could say.
‘The gene is strongest in Artemis, that’s why he’s the diplomat.’
‘Then why must I bring forth the gene when it’s so strong in Artemis?’
‘Because it’s still dormant.’
Keara’s expression showed that she was not convinced by Adriel’s story.
‘You don’t believe me.’ Adriel realized.
‘No.’ Keara replied flatly.
‘Does it really sound that far-fetched?’
‘You’re an elf, a Dark Elf, nonetheless. And you find this hard to believe?’
Keara considered the question for a moment, ‘Yes.’
‘Because they’re human.’
‘How does that make any difference, Keara?’
‘Artemis has already been subjected to a demon’s power. This time his resolve might not be as strong.’
‘I agree a human’s resolve is easily broken, but he is king and his people will need him before the end.’
‘I cannot save him by doing an exorcism. My brothers and I can only hope to contain the imprint somehow.’
‘Even the strongest seal can be broken, Keara.’
‘Then how do I bring forth the elven gene?’ Keara wondered, but still not really believing that it is possible.
‘Their mother left clues.’
Keara’s face went from humouring Adriel to instant annoyance, ‘Are you serious?’
‘Yes. She took many precautions to protect her children.’
‘I can see that.’ Keara replied sarcastically.
‘There aren’t many clues to finding it, if any. But I think you’ll be drawn to the right book. Allowing you to avoid following clues.’
Keara looked straight at Adriel, ‘Why don’t you just tell me which book it is? I really don’t have the time to go looking for it.’
‘I’m finding it hard to tell which one it might be. The Golden Elf took steps to prevent the book from being found by those who might use it against her children.’
‘Are you saying you might use it against them?’ Keara said, mostly just for conversation.
‘No, but there are those who might invade my mind.’
‘Like who?’
‘That I cannot say for sure.’ Adriel had stood up and wandered around the archive. She stopped next to a book shelf, near Keara, then pointed to the shelf, ‘Start with this shelf.’
Keara looked at the shelf and was immediately drawn to a book, smaller than most of those around it. The inscription was in gold.
‘Once you find the book, you will know how to save Artemis.’ Adriel said, ‘But don’t stop reading the books you are now busy with. They might hold some answers for you as well.’
‘If you need help, you know how to reach me.’ Adriel said.
Keara just put a finger to her head as an answer.
Adriel smiled, then disappeared.
Keara woke up with a jolt. She looked around, then looked at Zarra. She was still glued to the books, but this time she was breathing and she was moving. Zarra hadn’t noticed that Keara had fallen asleep. Keara reached out and poked Zarra on the forehead.
She looked up at Keara with worry and confusion written all over her face, 'What are you doing?'
'I was just checking something.' Keara answered as though she hadn't just done the strangest thing.
'What were you checking?' Zarra asked.
Keara paused for a long moment, 'Nothing.' then got up and went to the bookshelf where Adriel had said the book might be.
'Okay.' Zarra said at length and went back to her reading.
Keara pulled the book she had looked at from the shelf. The hard cover was also inscribed with gold. Only a single word, “Thessandria”. Thinking nothing of it, she opened the book. But before she could read the first words, she dropped the book and fell backwards, both hands coming up to the left side of her face, covering her eye.
Zarra heard it and immediately jumped to her feet. She ran to Keara, not knowing what to expect.
Keara sat up, still holding her hands over her face. She groaned, in more pain than she would care to admit. Zarra knelt down in front of her, but got a fright and jumped back slightly when Keara removed her hands.
‘What is it?’ Keara asked.
‘Um.’ Zarra didn’t know what to say, ‘Well.’
‘Hold on.’ Zarra got up, rushed over to the table and returned with the dagger, ‘Here.’
Keara took the dagger from her and held it up to catch her reflection. The left side of her face glittered with gold, sprouting from the inside corner of her left eye, forming golden veins on her eyeball and on her face. Some of the veins on her eye, stretched into the iris and pupil, changing its colour slightly. The ones on her face stretched just under her bottom eyelid and into her hair and turned a single strand of hair gold. Her eye was bright red and tearing a little from the sudden irritation. The skin around the veins were bright red.
‘What is it?’ Zarra said, suddenly fascinated, reaching out and touching the golden veins.
‘Ahh!’ Keara slapped Zarra’s hand away, ‘Don’t touch it.’
‘Does it hurt?’ Zarra didn’t sound very concerned.
‘It burned into my skin.’ Keara said annoyed.
‘So that’s a yes?’
Keara looked at Zarra with a dumb expression on her face, ‘It originated from my eye. Yes, it hurts.’
‘But what happened?’
‘I don’t know. I opened the book, then it felt like something was stabbing me in my eye.’ she said then lifted the dagger to look at it again.
‘A spell was probably placed on the book.’ Zarra stated the obvious.
‘No kidding.’ Keara said sarcastically, ‘Could you hand it to me, please?’
‘I’m not touching that book. What if it happens to me?’ Zarra exclaimed.
‘Your concern for your queen is simply amazing.’ Keara said with more sarcasm in her voice than she intended, then leaned over and picked up the book.
She was just about to open the book again.
‘Don’t open it! What if it happens again?’
‘It already scarred me. I seriously doubt that it’s gonna happen again.’ Keara said as she opened the book. She read a few sentences, ‘Oh, okay. It was meant to happen. Apparently.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘It says so right here.’ Keara showed the book to Zarra.
Zarra tried to take the book, but she couldn’t seem to bring her hand near it, ‘I can’t understand what it says.’
‘What do you mean? The words are right there.’ Keara didn’t believe her.
‘I know, but I can’t read them. It seems only you can.’ Zarra was a little disappointed in that apparent fact.
Keara frowned, then took another look at the words written on the first page. She read the sentences again, ‘You seriously wanna tell me that you can’t read what’s written here?’
‘Yes. We’ve established that.’ Zarra said, annoyed.
‘Don’t get mad at me. It’s not my fault.’ Keara said defensively.
‘Does it say why you’re the only one who can read it?’ Zarra asked with a sigh.
‘It’s the tongue of the Golden Elves.’ Keara said.
‘Okay. But how can you read it?’
Keara just pointed to the golden veins on her face.
‘You’re kidding me? That?’ Zarra couldn’t believe it.
Keara started getting a headache. She found it strange, but decided that perhaps these golden veins were to blame. She slowly got to her feet. The pain only got worse when she straighten up. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to ignore the pain.
Zarra looked at Keara; a puzzled look on her face, ‘You okay?’
‘I just got a huge headache.’
‘It’s probably those veins.’
‘Maybe you should go lie down.’
‘I think that’s what I’ll do.’
Keara stopped at the table, ‘I’m taking these books with me.’
‘Okay. Hope you feel better.’
‘Thanks.’ Keara said and with the books under one arm, she ascended the passage again, dodging the traps as she went along.

Artemis was staring out the window. His innermost thoughts were running rampant in his mind. He didn’t know what to do. It was like fighting a war inside his head; the one side was the Artemis that was rational and made decisions for the people around him; the other side was a completely different person, possibly even a different name, making irrational decisions and everything was only for personal gain.
There came a knock on the door. Artemis managed to answer and Deryck stepped inside.
‘I’m gonna go for a ride in the field. Join me.’
‘No thank you. I have work to do.’ Artemis declined.
‘Yeah, I can see that.’ Deryck said sarcastically, ‘You’re just sitting there, staring out the window. You’ve been neglecting your royal duties, ignoring your advisors and avoiding your brother.’
Artemis turned to look at Deryck and for the first time in a long time, Deryck recognized his brother.
‘Let me know when you’re ready to be my brother again.’ Deryck said, walking out of the study and closing the door behind him.
Artemis continued to stare at the spot where Deryck had stood only moments ago. He felt remorse that he had pushed his brother away and that he had been ignoring his people. It almost seemed as though a tear would fall from his eye, but those emotions quickly faded and his expression changed. The conflict in his mind seemed to die down, and only cold death settled in his eyes.

‘Two more days and we’ll be back at the castle.’ Alexander said as he dismounted his horse.
‘It’s two days too long with these whiney bandits.’ Jonathan said, stroking his horse’s neck.
‘For Woodland Elves, you two don’t seem to have a lot of patience.’ Adin pointed out. He understood completely how his sons felt, but having been a Raven for more than half his life, he had learnt the value of patience.
‘They’re complaining about everything.’ Alexander said, ‘Our children don’t even complain that much.’
‘I understand your annoyance, son. But you learn not to let it bother you.’ Adin said.
‘I’d like to make them shut up.’ Jonathan said.
‘Since when did you start solving your problems with violence?’ Adin joked.
‘Haven’t done that yet. But I might just start now.’ Jonathan said.
‘I second that.’ Alexander agreed.
Adin just chuckled and shook his head.
Some of the volunteers started a fire or two. Others went to gather wood. A few even went hunting. Though there weren’t much to hunt in this cold weather. The bandits continued to complain through the night, but when they noticed that none of their captors seemed to be paying attention, they slowly ceased.

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