Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Sixty Three

Darkness fell upon the kingdom and the air became chilly. But Keara welcomed the cold; it settled her burning skin and cooled her fevered headache. She entered the Raven barracks, quickly closing the door, so no heat would escape the common room.

Caitlyn looked up, ‘I see you found something to read, Keara.’
‘Yes mom.’ Keara replied, keeping her head turned so her mother wouldn’t see the gold stretching across her face.
Caitlyn looked more intently at Keara, ‘Are you alright, sweetheart? You seem a little feverish.’
‘I’m okay, mom. I just have a headache.’ Keara said, not lying completely, ‘I’m gonna go lie down.’
Keara quickly rushed to her room, hoping her mother wouldn’t follow. She didn’t want her mother to worry about her when she already had so many others to worry about. She closed her bedroom door and leaned against it for a few seconds, the books still tucked under her arm. Finally she pushed away from the door and put the books down on the table. She walked over to the mirror and stared at her reflection. Pushing her hair back, she noticed that the veins had progressed to her ear. The veins in her eye had not moved, but she hoped that it would go away. She raised her hand and softly touched the veins. The gold was warm and her skin was still hot as fire. She thought that maybe her headache would subside when her skin had cooled down. Perhaps it was only so painful, because she had not yet regained all of her strength. She opened the window above her bed, then climbed in under the covers, staring up at the stars before she faded into Reverie.

Deryck had decided to go for his ride in the field, despite being alone. He leaned against a tree, staring at the stars. It was cold and the chill was cutting through his jacket. He had made the mistake of not taking a warmer coat. But he didn’t mind, the cold air kept him awake and calm, enabling him to keep his thoughts under control.

Keara awoke the next morning, feeling better, but for some unexplainable reason, confused. Her dreams had been quite vivid during the night and she found it hard to distinguish between what was reality and what was a dream. She closed the window and got up, washed her face and studied her face in the mirror. The golden veins were still there, but her skin was no longer red. Her left eye was still slightly coloured from the gold and the veins had stretched around the edge of her top eyelid. She touched the veins, making sure they were real. She thought they would be immovable, but even though the veins were solid, they were soft and moved with her skin. She pushed her hair back and saw that the veins had stretched into her ears, but how far, she didn’t know. She tried to cover her face with her hair and also tried to hide the golden strand. She finally stepped outside her bedroom door. She stood there for a few seconds, as though she was waiting for a group of people to pass her by. She didn’t understand why she was doing it; she knew there weren’t any people walking passed her, not in the Raven barracks. She finally walked to the common room and got a flash of a crowded room; many more Ravens and even other people. As quickly as the flash had appeared, it had disappeared again. She stood there frowning. Confusion written all over her face.
Michael looked up at Keara’s half hidden face, noticing that she seemed a little confused, ‘You okay, Keara?’
Keara looked at him, trying not to move her head to fast, ‘I’m fine.’
‘You sure? You seem a little out of it.’ Michael stated.
‘I’m going for a walk.’ Keara said and left the barracks before Michael could say anything else.
‘She doesn’t look okay.’ Joseph pointed out.
‘She acted as though she was completely out of place.’ Michael said, trying to understand what was going on.
‘Maybe she just didn’t have a good night’s rest.’ Caitlyn suggested, ‘She did seem rather distraught last night.’
‘She did?’ Michael looked at his mother.
‘Yes. She came in and immediately went to her room.’
‘Something’s wrong.’ Michael said, then got up, ‘I’m gonna try and talk to her.’
‘Take her coat.’ Caitlyn insisted as Michael approached the door, ‘She left without taking anything to keep her warm.’
‘Okay mom. I’ll be back later.’ Michael said and closed the door behind him.

Keara was walking so fast, she was almost running. She hadn’t noticed the cold, though she wasn’t even wearing long sleeves. She walked between the trees, shaking her head.
‘What is going on?’ she asked herself.
She kept seeing images of people around her. But none of it made sense. The people she was seeing didn’t exist, or no longer existed. Her head was reeling. She started getting dizzy. She sat down against a tree. She was growing frustrated; the images were just becoming more. She brought her hands up to her face and covered her eyes. She saw so many things, some were very bad.
‘Go away!’ she shouted.
‘Keara.’ it was Michael.
She quickly looked at him, ‘Go away.’
He came closer and knelt down in front of her, ‘What is going on?’
‘Nothing, just go away.’ she said, taking care to hide the left side of her face.
Michael draped her coat over her shoulders, ‘I’m not gonna leave you alone until you tell me what’s wrong.’
Keara’s hands were still over her eyes, ‘They’re everywhere.’
‘What are you talking about? It’s just you and me.’
‘So many images. So many people. But they’re not here anymore.’ Keara complained.
‘Keara.’ Michael grabbed her left arm and pulled it away from her face.
She was looking down, still trying to keep her face hidden. Michael reached up and brushed her hair behind her ear.
‘What the?’ Michael saw the golden veins on her face, ‘What is that?’
Keara shook her head, ‘I don’t know.’
‘Keara, calm down.’ Michael said, realizing that his sister was about to lose her mind, he wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly until she started to calm down.
After a while, he held her at arm’s length, ‘Start from the beginning. Tell me what happened.’
Keara slowly explained what had happened when she was in the archive. Adriel had appeared to her and spoke to her about Artemis. She was directed to a book and when she opened it, the gold started sprouting on her skin. She told him that when she had woken up that morning, she kept seeing images of people around her, but she didn’t know if it was just random images, things of the past or possibly the future.
‘Why didn’t you come to me yesterday?’ Michael asked softly.
‘What was I gonna say? Help me big brother. A book spat gold at me.’ Keara said sarcastically.
Michael smiled a little, ‘Well if you had said that to me, I probably would’ve laughed.’
Keara managed to smile, even though it wasn’t much.
‘But you should’ve told me.’
‘I didn’t know what to say, or do. At that point I didn’t even know what to think.’
‘Do you still have the book?’
‘It’s in my room.’
‘Maybe you’ll find some answers in there.’
‘Yeah, maybe.’

Deryck entered the Raven barracks and was happily greeted by everyone in the common room.
‘Is Keara here?’
‘No. She went for a walk some time ago.’ Caitlyn answered.
‘You wouldn’t happen to know which way she went?’
‘I’m afraid not.’ Caitlyn said politely, ‘But Michael’s with her. You can always wait here. They’ll probably be back soon.’
Deryck just nodded his head and sat down by the fireplace and joined the children in their games.

Artemis stood at the top of the passage leading to the archive. However, this was not the same entrance that Keara and Zarra had been using. Behind his was his study. In front of him was the passage. He took a step in deeper as the sear stones lit up and the wall closed up behind him. He tucked his fingers under his collar and produced a thick, long golden chain with a golden key hanging from it. He removed it from around his neck. He studied the wall for a moment, then pushed one of the bricks in about an inch. Another brick slid open, revealing a keyhole. He inserted the key and turned it. The floor in front of him closed up and the traps deactivated. He removed the key and placed it around his neck again and tucked it under his shirt, then proceeded down the passage.
Zarra had not heard him coming down the passage and got a huge fright when she saw him standing in the doorway.
‘Don’t you ever sleep?’ he asked, seeming like his old self again.
‘Elves don’t sleep.’ Zarra answered after regaining her composure.
‘But you must rest.’
‘I do rest. I just don’t need as much as a human or a warrior does.’
‘Ah.’ Artemis said and smiled.
He started wandering among the shelves, taking a book and reading a few lines before putting it back.
‘Do you know when Alexander and Jonathan will return?’ Artemis asked absentmindedly.
‘Probably within a day or two. Why?’ Zarra answered.
‘I’m concerned for their safety. Without Keara, they are more vulnerable.’
Zarra frowned, ‘Keara said they would be fine without her. They are the Ravens after all.’
‘Yes, but none of them are as strong as she is, not even Michael. None of them are, Crucis Salerra.’ Artemis said, drawing out the name a little longer than seemed normal.
Zarra frowned, realizing that the imprint was starting to take over his mind.
‘Yes.’ Zarra said, trying to break her own silence, ‘But, they’ll be fine.’
She watched Artemis take each book, read a few lines, then put it back again.
‘You’ve been down here for the last three weeks, taking a book, reading the first page, then putting it back. Why don’t you just choose a book and start reading?’
‘I’ve been looking for a very specific book, but I haven’t been able to find it.’ Artemis said, sounding a little eerie, he looked at the empty space where Keara had removed a book, ‘But there seems to be a book missing.’
Zarra looked where Artemis was pointing, ‘Keara has a few books with her. She loves reading. And I have a few with me, because I love it too.’ she knew which book he was referring too, though.
‘One of the books she took, wouldn’t happen to be inscribed with gold, would it?’
Zarra pretended to think, ‘I don’t think so, no.’ then she hunched her shoulders, ‘I only briefly saw the books she took, but I didn’t see one inscribed with gold.’
Artemis walked over to the table where Zarra sat, put his hands on it and leaned forward, ‘You’re not lying to me, are you Zarra?’
Zarra kept a straight face. She might not have considered herself a warrior, but she knew that she was much more powerful than a human. She looked into Artemis’s eyes and saw the darkness that lay beyond. She leaned back and folded her arms across her chest.
‘Does it look like I’m lying, Artemis?’ of course she was, but she was not about to tell him the truth when the being looking at her, was not the king they were protecting.
Artemis looked her up and down. She didn’t twitch or bat an eye. She seemed to be quite relaxed.
‘Just making sure.’ he said, then walked away from the table, browsing the books again.
Zarra went back to her research, but kept a vigilant eye on Artemis until he decided to leave.

‘Are you still seeing the images?’ Michael asked as he and Keara walked back to the barracks.
‘Yes.’ Keara answered softly, ‘It’s not going away. At least what I’m seeing now is not so harsh.’

Artemis was standing on the balcony in his chambers, looking out into the distance. He saw movement below and noticed Keara and Michael walking past. The light caught Keara’s face and made the golden veins sparkle for a moment. Artemis stared at Keara more intently, more determined.

Michael opened the door for Keara and she stepped inside. They drew everyone’s attention, especially since everybody had become quite bored at the castle.
Deryck practically jumped to his feet, rushed over to Keara and hugged her tightly. He let go and smiled at her, but the smile faded when he noticed the veins on her face, ‘What?’
‘Don’t ask.’ she simply said.
‘But it’s gold; melded with your skin.’ Deryck couldn’t help saying.
‘What?’ Caitlyn exclaimed. She walked over to Keara and pushed her hair away, ‘What happened?’
‘It’s a long story, mom.’
‘It really is a long story, mom.’ Michael said.
‘Heeey! Just because I’m the youngest, doesn’t mean I’m a liar.’ Keara complained.
‘I know sweetie. It’s just, when you don’t feel like explaining something you just say it’s a long story.’ Caitlyn said.
‘Well, in this case it actually is.’
Joseph was standing next to Keara. He had lifted his hand, touching the veins, ‘It’s real.’
Keara quickly pushed his hand away, ‘Of course it’s real.’
‘Why did you do it?’ Joseph asked.
Keara looked at him stupidly, ‘Do you honestly think I would do this to myself?’
Joseph hunched his shoulders, ‘I don’t know.’
‘Do you have any idea how painful this was? It even burned my eye.’
‘Wow.’ was all Joseph said.
Everyone started talking about the golden veins, but before the conversation could go on for too long, Michael pulled Keara to one side.
‘You wanna show me that book?’ he asked.
‘Yeah.’ Keara said and headed to her room.
They proceeded to her room and Keara handed the book to Michael, but he just couldn’t take it. He couldn’t bring his hand near it.
‘I can’t touch it.’ he said.
‘What?’ Keara didn’t understand.
‘I can’t take the book from you.’
‘Just take it, Michael.’ Keara wasn’t in the mood for games.
‘Keara, I can’t take the book from you.’ Michael admitted, ‘I can’t get myself to touch it.’
She just looked at him, ‘Must be part of the spell.’
‘Just open it for me.’
Keara opened it and stepped closer so he could read, or at least try.
‘I can’t read this.’ Michael finally admitted.
‘I know.’ Keara said matter-of-factly.
‘How would you know?’
‘Zarra couldn’t read it either.’
‘Yeah.’ Keara paused, ‘Only I can read it.’
‘Why?’ Michael wondered.
Keara just pointed at the golden veins.
‘You’re kidding me.’
‘Wish I was.’
Michael examined the book, wishing he could read it, ‘So; what else does the book say.’
‘I don’t know. I haven’t read it, yet.’
‘Oh. Well, will you keep me informed?’
‘As much as I can.’ Keara said.

Shortly after lunch, Keara sat down cross-legged on the edge of the fountain. She pulled her hood over her eyes, so she could protect them against the glare of the sun and let the heat from the rays warm her body. She had the book with her. She looked at the cover for a moment, running her fingers across the gold, then opened it and started reading, though it was slow-going. With every word, she kept seeing images in her mind. It gave her a headache, but perhaps the book would explain what was happening to her.
Deryck had wandered over to her, quietly sitting down on the edge of the fountain next to her.
She looked up and smiled at him. In that moment, he didn’t see the pain she was experiencing, or the duties weighing on her shoulders. He saw the woman he loved and the love she had for him.
‘Are you alright?’ he asked softly, as he took her hand in his.
She nodded, ‘I’m fine.’
‘You don’t have to put up a strong demeanor for me, Keara.’ Deryck stated, knowing that she would not tell him how she really felt, because she didn’t want to upset him, ‘Your eyes aren’t as purple as they usually are.’
She looked away for a moment, almost closing her eyes, ‘I’ve been getting images in my head since last night. And the more they become, the more my head starts to hurt. This book might have answers to the questions running through my mind, but the more I read, the more images I see.’
‘Is there anything I can do?’ Deryck asked supportively.
She just smiled and shook her head.
He looked down at the open book lying in her lap, ‘What book are you reading?’
Keara closed the book and showed him the cover.
‘Thessandria.’ he whispered and looked up at her in disbelief, ‘How are you able to touch that book?’
‘What do you mean?’ Keara was confused.
‘The one thing that I know about my mother is that her name was Thessandria. For as long as I can remember, I just wanted to read that book, because it was hers, but I couldn’t touch it. I couldn’t even look at it without getting a headache. How did you do it?’
‘I just reached out and touched it.’ Keara admitted, ‘Be glad that you weren’t able to touch it. This was rather painful.’ she pointed at the veins on her face, ‘And the images are horrifying. And that’s coming from a Dark Elf.’
‘Is it really that bad?’
Keara just nodded.

Artemis found himself lurking around corners, constantly watching Keara. His brother was with her. They were talking, but he couldn’t hear the conversation. Deryck looked a little upset, but he was not concerned. He hardly took his eyes off Keara, noticing that she had the book in her hand. The one he had tried so hard to find.

Sharzak’s demons had returned after their attack on the Ravens. He was satisfied, now thinking that his nemesis was finally out of the way. He watched them shuffle in through the gate, a grin on his horrible face.
“Now nothing will stand in my way.” he thought to himself.
The crimson shaded demon left the others behind, walking through a side door. He seemed to know exactly where he was going. And he wasted no time in getting there. He entered a darkened room. All the heavy curtains were drawn. Candles were lit, some had already burnt out. He closed the door behind him and waited for his creator, Scander, to turn around and face him.
‘I drained her energy, but I wasn’t able to contain it for very long.’ the demon said.
‘No matter.’ Scander said, ‘Draining another beings’ energy is more than enough.’
A wicked smile spread across the demon’s face.

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