Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Sixty Five

It was just after midnight when Keara opened her eyes. Deryck had fallen asleep next to her, seeming to sleep well in a rather awkward position. It seemed he didn’t want to wake her, so he contorted his body around her. It was obvious that he would rather sleep uncomfortably than leave her alone. She slowly got up so she wouldn’t wake him, then she picked up her boots before walking out her room and down the passage. She was still seeing images, but this time they didn’t attack her. She slowly made her way to the common room where the fire was smouldering in the fireplace. She put on her boots and took her coat by the door, putting it on before opening the door. She watched the darkness outside. Everything was silent, no one was awake. She walked out and closed the door behind her. For a moment she just stood there, as though she was waiting for something to happen. When she realized that nothing was going to happen, she walked off into the darkness. Before she realized it, she was walking towards the field. She didn’t know why, but she just kept walking.
She was walking farther into the field, enjoying the silence, thinking that the images in her mind had subsided. But before she could start to smile about it, a horrible battle erupted around her. It was evening; fires everywhere; people fighting for their lives; many dying slowly; many dying quickly. But this was not Edlenna. This battle was taking place elsewhere.
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to make the images go away; trying not to feel the pain. But no matter how hard she tried, she could not ignore what she was seeing. It seemed as though she had stopped breathing. Even as she was down on one knee, with a hand on the ground to keep herself steady, she was swaying. She decided that maybe she should continue to walk; maybe then the images would disappear. Slowly she got to her feet. But just as she was about to take a step, someone grabbed onto her leg. It was a young man, no older than she was. He was near death, but still begged her to help him. She just looked down at him. She couldn’t help him, even if she wanted too. This was someone else’s memories. She started shaking. Soon the man released his hold on her leg; he was dead. She looked up, trying hard not to shake. Forcing herself to take a step, she walked through the battle. It was horrible, death everywhere. There was nowhere she could turn that she would not see the carnage.
Suddenly, she had the wind knocked out of her. She bent over, gasping for air. She looked to the direction the blow had come from. A figure towered above her; the Corrupt King, and swinging his weapon, hit her on the side of her face. She fell to one side, in great pain, still gasping for air. But she didn’t stay there. She started crawling away as fast as her tired body would allow. Though she didn’t get far before she was attacked again. A group of people had gathered around her and they were all taking turns beating her to her death.
Keara lay motionless on the ground, she was badly bruised and bleeding, but she was still alive. Soon the pain dissipated and she slowly sat up. Though the pain was gone, the bleeding and bruising remained.
ears started rolling down her cheeks, ‘What is happening to me?’ she asked herself.
She was just about to get up when a dark being approached her. It was a guardian of the heroic dead. Her eyes widened. She didn’t understand what was happening. It stopped in front of her, looking down at her. All she could do was stare back at it. She didn’t know what else to do. Then, without a word, the guardian stepped to one side and revealed a beautiful Golden Elf. Her movements were graceful almost as though she was dancing on water. Keara was mesmerized.
‘Hello Keara.’ the Golden Elf greeted, ‘I’m Thessandria.’
Keara couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She didn’t say anything, she just stared at her.
‘I’m sure you have some questions for me. But unfortunately, I don’t have the time to answer them.’
‘What... What do you mean?’ Keara finally asked.
‘Just know that you are not cursed. The magic tied into that book chose you, because you are worthy.’
‘Worthy of what, exactly? Cause to me it feels like I have been cursed.’
‘You’re worthy of my secrets.’ Thessandria answered.
‘Your secrets?’
‘Yes. The book is my greatest secret, after all.’
Keara considered that statement for a moment, ‘Why me?’
‘Because you’re strong enough. You will use the book as intended. Your intentions are pure.’
‘I’m a Dark Elf, kind of the complete opposite of you.’
‘I know. I also find it somewhat strange.’ Thessandria admitted, ‘But that’s not why I’m here.’
‘Then why are you here?’
‘To tell you that even though things seem very dark, you must not stop searching for the light. Everything will soon make sense. Just give it time.’
‘I can’t do this.’ Keara said, ‘I have horrific memories clawing at my mind and images of people trying to kill me.’
‘I know. You are seeing everything through my eyes, up until the very moment I died.’
‘You were beaten to death.’ Keara gasped, more tears started running down her cheeks.
‘Yes I was; by the Corrupt King and his people.’
Keara looked at the ground around her, finally getting to her feet.
‘Look, I’m trying to keep it together, but it’s getting harder and harder to live with such a horrible past that’s not even mine.’ Keara admitted.
‘I’m so sorry, Keara. It’s my past you’re experiencing. I know it’s very horrific. But it was necessary to ensure the barer of the book would know the importance of what they are meant to be fighting for.’
Keara was shaking, ‘And, what am I meant to be fighting for?’ her voice cracked.
‘The continued existence of the world. Vanquishing the evil that would try to destroy it. And protecting my sons from dying at the hands of demons.’
Keara looked at the ground, ‘There must be someone who is better suited for this.’
‘Who could be better suited than the Drow Queen?’
Keara looked up at Thessandria, ‘I barely have enough strength to keep myself alive. I’m not meant to carry this burden.’
‘You are much stronger than you think. No one else would have the strength to carry this burden. Only you do.’ Thessandria turned and started walking back the way she had come.
‘Wait. That’s it?’ Keara exclaimed.
Thessandria turned and looked at Keara, ‘Yes. I have already passed on. The only thing I can do is set your mind at ease. I cannot offer you any help.’ then she turned back and continued to walk.
The guardian followed Thessandria and soon they both disappeared in the darkness.
She was alone again, in the darkness, in silence. Just when she thought that her duties couldn’t become any more, a new burden had been placed on her shoulders. Slowly she started making her way back to the Raven barracks. Just as she passed the fountain, she received a blow to her face so hard, she went flying backwards into the freezing water of the fountain. She quickly pushed her body up, sitting upright, gasping for air. Blood was rapidly running from her nose. She clasped her nose for a moment, before looking at her attacker, thinking that it might have been another image of Thessandria’s memories. But when she looked up, she didn’t see a passed memory, she looked upon Artemis. He almost didn’t look like the king at all. His eyes had gone completely dark. His beard had grown and started looking untidy. He hadn’t changed his clothes in several days and his physic had rapidly gotten bigger. He seemed to be unnaturally strong. He didn’t even seem human anymore.
‘Give me your heart, Crucis Salerra, or I will take it by force.’ he uttered in a terrifying voice.
‘I am not Artemis. I am the demon you tried so hard to expel.’
‘Your imprint manifested.’ Keara realized.
‘Yes. And now I will have your heart.’ Artemis said and attacked Keara head on.
She could barely defend herself. She had gotten so weak that she no longer had the strength to properly defend herself; and she had no weapon to fight with. He kept beating her back; relentlessly attacking her, until she was almost down on her knees. She didn’t know what else to do but cry for her brother.
‘Michael!’ she yelled as loud as she could.
Her back was against a wall; she didn’t have any fight left in her. Within moments, she was going to die and she was helpless to stop it. She kept looking Artemis in the eyes. If she was about to die, she was not going to look away. But his last blow didn’t land.
Michael caught Artemis’s arm as he was about to deal the final blow. He had a look of disgust on his face. With great force, Michael threw Artemis back, but he didn’t stay down for long. This time he attacked Michael. But Michael beat him back with rage that filled him from deep within. Joseph, Jonathan and Alexander also came to help and bound Artemis with roots and vines, and also with magic.
Michael immediately tended to Keara who was injured and exhausted.
‘I didn’t think you would hear me.’ Keara said softly.
‘Of course I heard you.’ Michael said as he scooped Keara up.
Deryck was now also outside, ‘What’s going on? Why is my brother tied down?’
‘He attacked Keara.’ Michael said as he walked passed Deryck.
Michael carried Keara inside the Raven barracks and put her down in the most comfortable chair in the common room. He started a fire in the fireplace, then put a blanket over her and sat down in the chair next to her.
‘Why were you outside alone?’
‘I needed air.’
‘You shouldn’t have gone by yourself. Not while you’re so weak.’
‘Yes well, my brain is so scattered, half the time I’m not thinking straight.’
‘At least you’re okay.’
‘Yeah.’ she paused for a moment, ‘Thessandria appeared to me.’
‘Another vision?’
‘No. Everything I see is through her eyes, apparently.’
‘Oh. But then, how?’
‘She was escorted by a guardian of the heroic dead.’
‘Really?’ Michael couldn’t believe it, ‘She is the heroic dead?’
Michael was silent for a moment, sitting back in his chair.
‘She died fighting the Corrupt King. She kept fighting till the end.’
‘What did she say to you?’ his curiosity got the better of him.
‘That this is a burden I should bare. Because I am worthy.’
Michael wasn’t sure what to say.
‘She also said that I was chosen to protect her sons, from demons.’
Michael just looked at her, ‘So you’re saying that the only person who can perform the exorcism on Artemis, is you.’
‘She didn't say it like that, but yes.’
‘But you’re not strong enough.’
‘I am strong enough.’ Keara said matter-of-factly, ‘I just need to regain that strength.’
But Artemis won’t survive. The imprint has grown too strong.’
‘I can save him. He will live.’
Deryck walked into the room, ‘What are you going to do with my brother?’
Michael sighed deeply, ‘Perform an exorcism.’
‘But that will kill him!’ Deryck exclaimed.
‘We really don’t have any other option.’ Michael said.
‘Can’t you just contain the imprint?’ Deryck asked as he sat down in front of Keara and Michael.
Keara looked sternly at Deryck, ‘The imprint is too strong to be contained. And your brother is too weak.’
‘What do you mean?’ Deryck didn’t understand.
‘The barrier of containment is created by the person’s own strength. Had we caught it early enough, it might’ve worked. But the imprint has practically taken over Artemis’s body. Artemis will no longer have the strength to contain it.’ Keara explained softly.
‘Isn’t there another way?’ Deryck pleaded.
‘No.’ Keara answered with an apology in her eyes.
‘But he will die.’
Michael looked at Deryck as he bowed his head. He understood Deryck’s plight. Had it been one of his siblings, he would’ve felt the same. But the difference was, they were all elves. Elves could survive an exorcism, humans couldn’t. Humans were simply too weak to expel such power from their bodies and still live to talk about it.
‘Keara thinks she knows how to perform it and still save your brother’s life.’
‘Really?’ an glimmer of hope appeared in Deryck’s eyes, ‘How?’
‘I’m not entirely sure, just yet. But thanks to your mother, there is hope for Artemis.’ Keara said.
‘My mother?’ Deryck didn’t understand.
Keara nodded, ‘I have to rest. Can’t have the imprint be more powerful than me when I perform the exorcism.’
She got up and slowly made her way to her room.
When she closed the door, Michael looked at Deryck and asked, ‘Is there a place where we can keep your brother so as not to cause a stir?’
‘There might be. Why?’
‘We don’t want the kingdom to see their king so far gone.’
Deryck nodded, ‘There is an old tower in the field.’ Deryck said, ‘It’s very secluded. No one ever goes there.’
‘Then we’ll take him there.’
Deryck nodded again. He understood what they were trying to do, but he didn’t approve of the method they chose to use. But he also knew that there was no other way. He had such mixed emotions, not sure what he should think or feel.
Michael noticed that Deryck’s thoughts were running rampant, ‘I know this is hard for you, Deryck. And I know you don’t approve of our methods, but if there was another way, we would’ve taken a different route.’
Deryck didn’t say a word.
‘Will you please show us the way to the tower? We don’t want anyone to see your brother like this.’ Michael said.
Deryck nodded again, then stood up and walked out.
They had restrained Artemis to the extent that he was completely immobile. He had also been gagged so he could not wake anyone or insult them all the way to the tower.
Once there, they carried him to the very top of the tower and chained him down. But knowing that wouldn’t be enough, they also tied him down with magic.
‘Was this a prison of some sort?’ Alexander asked.
‘I’m not sure. I just know that the place had been abandoned a long time ago.’ Deryck answered.
‘It’s quite ominous.’ Jonathan said.
‘At least it’s secluded.’ Michael said.
Artemis was still gagged. They chose to keep it that way.
Michael cast a spell around the entrance to ensure that no one would be able to enter should someone decide to head this way.
They all headed back to the Raven barracks, Deryck was walking far in front of them. They left him to walk by himself, deciding that perhaps he needed some time to think. None of them said anything on their way back. There wasn’t much to say.

Deryck walked into the common room and just gazed at the fire. The Ravens walked in behind him and sat down near the fireplace. A morbid silence had fallen over the barracks. Everyone knew what was to follow in the coming days. It certainly wouldn’t be easy and in no way safe. Joseph looked up at Deryck who had still not moved an inch.
‘You have every right to fear for your brother.’ Joseph said, ‘But I can promise you that Keara will do everything in her power to save him.’
‘I know.’ Deryck whispered so softly, he was almost not heard, ‘I’m going to see if she’s awake.’ Deryck said then walked down the passage to Keara’s room.
Slowly he opened the door and peeked inside. Moonlight shone through the window and Keara lay motionless on the bed. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. Trying his best not to make a sound, he walked over to the bed and softly laid down next to her. He ran his fingers over her face and kissed her forehead. She opened her eyes and looked intently at him.
‘Are you okay?’ she asked softly.
‘I’m not sure.’
‘Why not?’
‘I know you’re doing what must be done, but...’ he trailed off.
‘But you still fear for his life.’ she finished.
‘You have every right to feel this way. What we are about to do is very risky.’
‘I trust you with my life, Keara.’
‘But now you need to trust me with your brother’s life.’
She wrapped her arms around him and he held her body tightly against his. As weak as she was, she waited until Deryck fell asleep before she went into Reverie.
By the time he woke up, it was already daylight. Keara was still in Reverie, lying tightly against him. He decided not to get up and pulled the blankets up higher. He played with her hair and softly touched her skin. He kissed her softly and every time he did, she would smile a little. It gave him some solace to know that she was happy with him.

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