Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Sixty Seven

Michael and Alexander were patrolling the gate perimeter one morning. It had been several days since Keara had left and though they believed she would be alright, they were still concerned.

‘I have to admit, I am worried about Keara.’ Alexander said.
‘Me too. I know she should be fine, but Deryck’s cause for concern isn’t completely unfounded.’ Michael stated.
‘She didn’t happen to mention the road she would be taking, did she?’ Alexander wondered.
‘No. She was very secretive about that.’
‘Maybe because she knew we would come after her.’
‘Could be.’
‘At least Korian’s by her side.’
‘Yeah.’ Michael agreed, ‘But I still would’ve preferred if we were too.’
They patrolled in silence for the rest of their shift. They tried not to talk too much about the quest Keara had set out to do on her own. Perhaps then, it felt more like a dream rather than reality.

Zarra was in the archive again, but this time, Deryck was with her. They were taking books from the shelves, paging through them and putting them back again. It seemed as though they were just doing something to fill their time. But after a while it became clear that they were searching for something.

Joseph stepped inside the door and watched the two of them scale the shelves; tension lined their shoulders.
‘What are you two doing?’ Joseph finally said.
Without looking away from the book in his hand, Deryck answered, ‘We’re trying to find the location of the dragons.’
‘And why are you trying to do that?’ Joseph asked, folding his arms.
‘To go after Keara.’ Deryck answered as he took another book from the shelf.
‘Why do you wanna go after her?’ Joseph asked again.
‘She can’t do this alone. She needs our help.’ Deryck said, then he turned his attention to Zarra, ‘Can you find anything?’
‘I can only find stories and myths and legends. Nothing regarding the home of the dragons.’ Zarra answered.
‘Keep looking. There must be something.’ Deryck ordered.
Joseph watched the two of them intently while walking over to a chair. He sat down quietly, then spoke again, ‘Since the dragons disappeared, no one has ever been able to locate their home. What makes the two of you think you’re gonna find anything in these archives?’
‘Keara knows where they are. It’s just a matter of time before we know too.’ Deryck said, looking almost crazy with reasoning.
‘Keara knows where the dragons are and how to get there, because the Night Elves showed her. She didn’t find the information in the archive.’ Joseph pointed out.
‘Yes. But maybe she left clues.’ Deryck suggested.
‘I seriously doubt that she would’ve done something like that.’ Joseph stated.
‘But what if she needs us to come to her rescue?’ Deryck finally looked at Joseph.
Joseph stared at Deryck with a stupid expression, ‘She’s not a damsel in distress, Deryck. She’s the Drow Queen. Admittedly, one that has not yet accepted her duty, but she doesn’t need us to come to the rescue. She’s quite capable of protecting herself.’
Deryck finally sat down, slumping into the chair.
Joseph studied Deryck for a moment, ‘This isn’t about coming to her rescue, is it?’
‘Things are gonna be different when all this is over. Her life is gonna take a different route and then I will no longer be part of it. I just wanted to be there, for the short time we had left.’
‘What makes you think you will no longer be part of her life?’ Joseph wanted to know.
‘When she becomes Drow Queen, our life together will be a thing of the past.’
‘Do you honestly think she would push you aside?’
‘I have no place in her world. I’m not only human, but recently I found out that I’m half Golden Elf. Her kin will never accept me. They will flush me out completely.’
‘Keara is the queen, meaning that anything she says, goes. Her kin will accept you because she accepts you.’ Joseph explained, ‘Stop worrying about things you don’t need to be worrying about.’

‘I don’t know where to go from here.’ Keara finally admitted, pulling Legacy’s reins.
They were now off the roads in the forest, or rather, there were no more roads in this part of the forest.
‘Perhaps then we should rest a while.’ Korian suggested.
‘We haven’t been travelling for that long.’ Keara said.
‘Yes, but it would be foolish to continue before we know what to do next.’
Keara had to agree. She didn’t know where to go and travelling through the forest blindly, was not a good idea. Perhaps if she rested for a little while, she might figure out what to do next. She dismounted and sat down next to Korian. It had stopped snowing, at least for now, and the wind had died down, but it was still quite cold. She sighed, trying to clear her mind. Over-thinking everything was also not a good idea, but she didn’t like wasting time, especially since the Night Elves had shown her the destination she wished to reach, as well as locations along the way. But they had not shown her a direct path. For all she knew, they could’ve been travelling away from their path. She put her hands in her coat pockets, trying her best to keep them warm. She felt something inside the one pocket and pulled it out. It was the dragonfly Adriel had given her; the one that lead her to the Night Elves. She looked at it, wishing it could show her the way. She was about to put it back in her pocket, when the wings started moving. The dragonfly quickly became animated and started fluttering around her head, brushing its wings against her cheek, then darted off into a direction slightly to the right of where they were originally heading.
‘It seems we have a guide.’ Korian said as he stretched out his feline body, ‘Shall we follow?’
‘Yes.’ Keara said without looking away from the dragonfly.
She climbed into the saddle and motioned Legacy into a gallop.

Scander hadn’t had as much time for himself as he used too since Sharzak came out of his chambers. He was worried his experiments would remain unfinished if he didn’t manage to get away from Sharzak, even for a little while. All his servants were starting to do more and more for Sharzak. He wondered if Sharzak had somehow found out what he was doing and was now occupying his time until Sharzak would finally decide to kill him.
Just when he thought all his plans would go to waste, Sharzak sat down in his throne chair and dismissed him. Scander didn’t know why he had suddenly been dismissed, but he wasn’t going to ask questions. He gave a small bow, then left the room and disappeared into his own chamber. He immediately set to work. The last crimson demon he created had died, just like all the others. And though he knew why, he had to figure out how to change it. He had to move on to other things as well. Delays did not suit him well.

Sharzak relaxed into his chair, stretched his back then leaned. He had started regaining his strength, though he still didn’t understand how he could’ve gotten so weak in the first place.
A shadow came running into the great hall and quickly knelt before Sharzak.
‘What is it?’ Sharzak asked, annoyed that his relaxation had been interrupted.
‘We have received reports that Keara was spotted at the far side of the forest.’ the Shadow reported.
Sharzak looked sternly at him, ‘What?’
‘She’s still alive, my Lord.’
‘That’s impossible.’ Sharzak insisted, ‘Scander assured me that she is dead. He informed me personally.’
‘Perhaps he was mistaken, my Lord.’ the Shadow uttered.
‘I doubt that.’ Sharzak said without hesitation.
‘But my Lord...’
‘That’s enough.’ Sharzak interrupted, ‘Leave.’
The Shadow quickly made his way out of the great hall. He was not about to argue with the being that brought him back to life.
‘Scander!!’ Sharzak’s voice bellowed through the great hall. Everything seemed to shake.

Scander looked up from his work, having heard Sharzak’s voice, ‘What does he want now?’ he asked to himself.
He closed and locked his door and made his way to the great hall.
‘Yes, my Lord.’ Scander said.
‘Send a scout to the far side of the forest.’ Sharzak ordered.
‘And what should he be scouting for?’
Scander frowned, ‘She’s dead, my Lord.’
‘I have received reports that tell otherwise.’
‘That’s impossible.’
‘Send a scout, Scander.’ Sharzak said firmly. He didn’t want any more arguments. His good mood had just been spoilt by the news of Keara’s survival.
Scander didn’t say a word. He just turned and left the great hall. He proceeded to send a scout to search for someone he believed to be dead. If he had thought the reports were credible, he probably would’ve sent a few more, but he didn’t think it was even necessary to send one.
The scout quickly departed; off to find his intended target. Not to kill, but rather observe. Though if he saw a window of opportunity, he wouldn’t hesitate to take it.

Keara had gone into Reverie while they travelled. Korian had shape-shifted into a male Drow and took the reins to make sure Legacy didn’t wander off their path. The dragonfly hovered in mid-air, no longer moving forward. Korian stopped, pulling the reins. He studied their surroundings for a moment, then stepped back and touched Keara’s knee. Slowly she opened her eyes to look at him.
‘Your little friend has stopped.’ he told her.
She looked up at the dragonfly. It flew over to her and sat down on her shoulder. She kept watching it for a moment longer before turning her attention back to the scenery.
‘We’re nearing Brokenstone Pass.’ she informed.
‘The home of the giants.’ Korian added.
‘What?’ Keara had never heard of the home of the giants.
‘I believe that not far from here, lies the home of the giants.’ Korian stated.
Keara dismounted and took the reins from Korian, ‘Have you ever been there?’
‘No, Keara. I have never been beyond the familiar surroundings of the forest.’
‘Then how do you know about the home of the giants? Whatever that is.’
‘I have heard a great many stories about faraway places.’
‘Oh.’ Keara simply said as she untied the blankets on the saddle.
A short while later, they were sitting around a small fire, with purple flames.
‘Aren’t the giants just a myth?’ Keara finally asked.
‘From what I can tell, no.’
‘I’ve never seen one.’
‘Neither have I. But the stories say that they live near Brokenstone pass. Or in Brokenstone pass.’
‘Why don’t they live among us?’ she wanted to know.
‘The giants are destroyers; if the stories are to be believed.’ Korian started, ‘It is said that long ago, the giants roamed over the entire surface of the earth. And everywhere they went, they destroyed. Towns and villages were flattened, even parts of the forest. They were in constant battle with the dragons. The dragons had tried to keep the peace between the giants and the rest of the world, but after a while, it became a futile exercise. The giants just kept plundering wherever they went, taking many lives.’
Keara listened intently to Korian’s story, ‘How were they stopped?’
‘The dragons devised a plan to lure all the giants into Brokenstone pass and trapped them there with their magic. It seemed an appropriate place for the giants to live out their lives, since everything there is supernaturally big.’
Keara leaned back against Legacy and closed her eyes as she sighed. If the stories were true, this was not going to be easy. They could only hope to pass through unnoticed.

‘She has finally started her journey.’ Kydriel said as he watched in his mind’s eye, ‘But she shouldn’t be resting now. She must keep moving.’
‘Kydriel, she had already gone into Reverie before they even arrived at their current location. She’s not wasting time. But if she doesn’t rest, she won’t achieve what we had her set out to do in the first place.’ Adriel said.
Kydriel was pacing up and down.
‘Now sit down!’ Adriel commanded, ‘You’re giving me a headache.’
Kydriel paced for another split second, then finally filled the nearest chair, ‘You’re very calm about all this.’ he said softly, avoiding eye-contact.
‘I have faith in her.’ Adriel stated, ’And you should have more faith in her.’ she pointed at her brother.
‘I’m just thinking about the future.’ he defended himself.
‘So am I. And so is she.’ Adriel pointed out, ‘Otherwise she wouldn’t even have bothered going on this journey.’
Kydriel wanted to reply, but realized his sister was right. Suddenly, Kydriel’s expression changed and he eyed Adriel like a naughty boy afraid of being caught. He got up and walked out the room, hoping his sister wouldn’t pay any attention to him. Closing the door behind him, he made sure no one was watching, then he started casting a spell.

Keara quickly went into Reverie. She didn’t think she would be as tired as she was. Perhaps that was because she was still dealing with all the burdens that had been placed on her shoulders. But she didn’t dream. Instead, she opened her eyes again and looked upon Kydriel’s figure just beyond the purple flames that had frozen in time.
‘Oh great.’ she said to herself.
‘You’re not happy to see me?’ Kydriel asked.
‘It’s not that I’m not happy to see any of you Night Elves at any given time. It’s just, whenever one of you appear, something crazy happens to me.’ she explained.
‘You mean the golden veins?’
‘Among other things.’
‘Those veins are a great gift, especially when received from the Mother of the Golden Elves.’ he informed.
‘Great.’ she said sarcastically, ‘Then you live with it.’
‘I’m not as fortunate as you are.’
‘This is not fortunate.’ she pointed at the veins, ‘Even the Mother of the Golden Elves admitted that it is a burden.’
‘Aren’t you happy that you were chosen?’
‘You know, we can continue to talk about this all evening, but that’s not really why you are here. So tell me, Kydriel, why are you here?’ Keara wanted Kydriel to get to the point.
‘Ah, yes. You should keep moving.’ Kydriel finally said.
‘The last time we rested properly, was two days ago. We need this.’ she stated.
‘You have not yet reached the first great destination.’ he complained.
‘Have you not been paying attention?’ she looked at him stupidly, ‘We’re just outside Brokenstone pass.’
‘But then you should keep moving.’ he said more urgently.
‘It’s night. We’re both tired.’ she gestured to Korian.
‘You should not travel through Brokenstone pass by day.’ Kydriel’s voice became urgent.
Keara frowned, ‘What are you talking about?’
‘You can only travel through Brokenstone pass safely, by night.’
‘How’s that then?’ she didn’t understand.
‘Like every other being, the giants are asleep by night. But it’s almost like they are bewitched. In the evening, you can cause an explosion right next to their ears and they will not awaken. But by day, they can hear everything. They can hear you breathe from a mile away. They can smell your scent, even when you’re downwind.’
Keara had folded her arms. She listened intently to Kydriel, even though some of the things he was telling her, did not seem real or possible.
‘Okay. But if I may ask, why are they “bewitched” during the night?’ she gestured.
‘Even though Brokenstone pass was the best location to imprison the giants, it is still a passage that many must use. If anyone should choose to go around Brokenstone pass, it would take them months to reach their destination.’
‘So the dragons bewitched them.’ she finished.
‘It’s better than killing them, isn’t it?’
‘Killing them would upset the balance.’
‘Yes it would.’
Keara considered the information she had just received, then said, ‘So you would have me leave now?’
‘I would’ve preferred if you had left much sooner. It takes several hours to get through the pass and you have already wasted much of it.’
Keara gave him an angry look. She thought to herself that if he believed he could do it better, he was welcome to take over.
‘But perhaps if you move as fast as you can, you might make it to the other side before the sun rises.’
‘How long does it generally take to get through the pass?’ she wanted to know.
‘A messenger rider once made it through in six hours.’
‘Six hours?’ she exclaimed, ‘We only have about three hours before the sun starts rising.’
‘Then you should get going.’ Kydriel said.
Keara opened her eyes. The purple flames were dancing in the wind. She got up and quickly woke Korian and started rolling up the blankets.
‘Why are you in such a rush, Keara?’ Korian wanted to know.
‘We have to go now.’
‘Why? The sun hasn’t risen yet?’
‘What’s the fastest animal you can become that can take three hours of hard running?’ she asked.
‘A horse.’ Korian thought, ‘Keara, what’s going on?’
She quickly explained the situation to him.
‘Are you certain? Perhaps he just wants us to reach the dragons sooner.’
‘Night Elves have a tendency not to lie.’ she pointed out.
Within seconds, Korian shape-shifted into a horse and they were on their way. Before long, they reached the entrance to the pass.
‘If your friend is right, it would be prudent to not delay our entrance into Brokenstone pass any longer.’ Korian suggested.
Keara just nodded her head and motioned Legacy into a slow run. As they passed through the barrier that kept the giants inside, a strange sensation crawled over their skin. Keara shivered a bit, but they tried not to pay too much attention to it.
During the course of the evening, the dragonfly had disappeared, but as they passed through the barrier, it returned, bringing with it a rather big, brightly coloured butterfly.
Korian looked at the butterfly, ‘Well, I did say everything was bigger here.’
The dragonfly perched itself on Keara’s shoulder. The butterfly flew out in front at great speed and Keara and Korian followed diligently. Raven horses were fast, but now was the time to prove just how fast they really were. There was no time to waste; in less than three hours the sun would start rising.
They moved past slumbering giants at great speed. Part of Keara wished she could just take a proper look at them without rushing past, but she knew that doing so would be a bad idea.
The other side was in sight with the barrier glittering just as the sun started rising.
‘Just a few more miles, Keara.’ Korian gasped.
Keara didn’t reply, she just kept watching the barrier, hoping Legacy would make it that far. The muscles in her shoulders almost started relaxing when she heard rumbling behind her. Her eyes grew big, hoping it wasn’t what she thought it was. She turned her head and nearly fell off Legacy when she saw a giant slowly get to its feet.
‘We’re out of time.’ she whispered.
The giant stretched and scratched before it looked down at the moving objects. He sniffed the air and immediately knew that it was a shape-shifter and a Dark Elf with a horse. He slowly started running towards them as other giants started waking up. Soon, several giants were after them. They were not going to make it to the barrier before one or all of them were caught and devoured.
‘Watch out!’ Korian yelled as a huge hand tried to grab Keara off her horse.
She dodged it just in time, but another hand was already reaching for her. She managed to avoid being caught, but only just. She watched in horror as a hand snatched Korian from the ground. He yelled at her not to stop, but she immediately grew wings and flew off Legacy’s back, allowing him to keep running. Taking flight, she managed to draw attention away from her horse and even delay Korian’s death by being eaten. She quickly drew her sword and sliced through one of the fingers of the hand that held him. It wasn’t enough to sever the entire finger, but it was enough to release Korian who shape-shifted in mid-air and took on the shape of a mighty eagle.
Hands were still snatching at them and attention was once again on Legacy. She was not about to lose her animal companion to a hungry giant and swooped down, dragging her sword across the hand of one reaching giant and along the face of another. Their attention was once again on her. Just as long as Legacy wasn’t a target.
She yelled at Legacy to move faster, and he took flight. She had lost sight of Korian, but she hadn’t heard him shouting for help or crying in pain, so she hoped that he was still okay. She kept flying as fast as she could, all the while dodging snatching hands.
One giant was close enough to gobble her up without even trying. She couldn’t turn to launch an attack; it would mean her end. She could feel its breath on her back; its hand closing in on her from the front.
“Almost there.” she kept saying to herself.
Suddenly the giants hands folded in towards itself and it started howling in pain before stopping dead, seeming to crash into an invisible wall and falling backwards. Some giants had suffered the same fate, while others slowed down just in time.
A strange sensation crawled across her skin and she crashed into the snow-covered ground on the other side of the barrier. She didn’t move. Korian landed in the snow and quickly took the shape of a male Drow as he ran to her side, kneeling down next to her and rolling her onto his lap. He dusted the snow from her hair and face. She had a few deep cuts on her face and her right arm and left leg seemed to be broken.
‘Keara! Keara!’ he tried not to shout, but it proved near impossible, ‘Keara!’ he shook her a little.
She finally began to stir; and groaned.
‘We made it through, Keara.’ he told her.
‘And Legacy?’ she whispered; her body hurt too much to talk any louder.
In response, Legacy nuzzled the top of her hair softly. She lifted her left arm, and rubbed his nose.
She looked at Korian, ‘Are you hurt?’
‘Thanks to you, no.’ he answered, ‘You on the other hand.’
‘Yes, I know.’ her pain was clear.
‘At least now we can rest. Just have to find a place we can set up camp.’ Korian said, ‘Brace yourself, Keara.’
She barely had time to ask why when he picked her up, making her complain of pain. Her right arm hung limply at her side, but that didn’t hurt as much. Her left leg folding over Korian’s arm, on the other hand, was quite painful.
The giants bashed against the barrier as they walked away, howling and groaning. But they didn’t pay any attention to it.
He carried her until he found a suitable place to put her down. She sat upright, still groaning in pain. Korian untied the blankets from the saddle and draped one over her shoulders. Legacy lay down behind her and allowed her to lie back against his body.
‘How long will it take you to heal without a pool of water?’ he wanted to know.
‘I don’t know.’ she hunched her shoulders, ‘A few days.’
‘But we don’t have that kind of time.’
‘I’m well aware of that.’
‘So it would be a good idea if I go looking for a pool of water.’ he realized.
‘Yeah.’ she was in quite a lot of pain, especially since she had been moved.
Korian disappeared, but quickly returned, ‘The river passes by near here.’ he scooped her up, ‘The fact that it’s frozen won’t be a problem, will it?’
‘Not at all.’ she groaned.
He put her down on the edge of the frozen river. She put her left hand on the frozen water. For a few seconds, nothing happened, but soon, thin threads of steam rose to the air from around her hand and her hand started sinking deeper into the ice. Soon there was a small hole that revealed ice cold flowing water below.
‘Don’t you need to submerge yourself?’ Korian asked, observing that the hole wasn’t big enough to fit Keara’s body.
‘Well, technically, yes. But as it is, this water is freezing. And although my body temperature will regulate, I would really prefer not to step into the water this time.’
‘Won’t it take you longer to heal?’
‘Not that much longer.’ she said as she laid herself down and dipped her left hand into the water.
The cold water slithered up her arm, over her chest, to her right arm and covered it completely, seeming to penetrate her skin; and down her body towards her left leg. Slithers also covered the cuts on her skin and in her hair. She shivered for a moment as her body temperature regulated, then she relaxed and allowed the tension to flow from her body.
Korian covered her with a blanket and Legacy laid down by her head, laying his head next to hers. Korian gathered some wood and proceeded to make a fire, though it wasn’t as easy as simply snapping his fingers as Keara did. The butterfly perched itself on top of Legacy’s head and the dragonfly between Legacy’s eyes. It annoyed him a little and he shook his head. But when they didn’t disperse, he just put his head back down next to Keara’s.

The scout Scander had sent after the rumours that Keara was still alive, made it to the Brokenstone Pass in a very short time, but didn’t survive the journey through the pass. He had decided to travel through the pass during the day, even though he could clearly see that the giants were awake and roaming around. He had managed to dodge several giants and their huge feet, but it wasn’t long before he was trampled to death.
Sharzak watched in his mind’s eye as the scout died. He closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, his voice bellowed through the great hall as he yelled after Scander.
Scander stopped dead in his tracks just as he was about to enter his chamber. He was clearly very annoyed. He had not gotten to his work in some time. He turned, locked the door behind him and headed to the great hall. He found Sharzak lounging in his throne chair. Sharzak had regained the dead look in his eyes. He no longer seemed to be as weak as he had a few weeks ago.
Sharzak didn’t even look at Scander while he spoke, ‘The scout you sent after Keara is dead. Trampled by the giants in Brokenstone Pass.’
‘The giants don’t exist anymore.’ Scander said flatly.
‘They have been trapped in Brokenstone Pass for centuries.’ Sharzak said calmly, ‘Keara is definitely alive. And probably searching for something.’
‘If she is alive, why would she be searching for something?’ Scander didn’t really care. He had other things to do.
‘No one would go through the pass unless they had a very good reason.’ Sharzak answered, ‘Send more scouts after her and a few warriors. She must be stopped before she finds what she’s looking for.’
‘There’s no reason to send scouts or warriors. Keara is dead.’ Scander argued.
‘Excuse me?’ Sharzak looked at Scander, his eyes growing dark.
‘With all due respect, my King, if Keara was still alive, you would be able to see her in your mind’s eye.’
‘Not if she’s being protected. Send scouts and warriors. I won’t tell you again.’ Sharzak commanded.
Scander bowed and left the great hall. He quickly assembled a party of three scouts and three warriors and sent them on their way. He had made a point of sending inferior scouts and warriors as he did not believe that Keara was still alive and he wasn’t going to waste good soldiers on a wild goose chase.

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