Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Seventy

By the time she finally regained consciousness, she was rocking back and forth and her head was resting against something warm. She looked up and saw Korian’s Drow face staring down at her. He was riding Legacy, holding her close to his chest. She had no idea where they were going and she was too out of it to ask. Shortly after waking up, she closed her eyes again, falling back into unconsciousness.

Some hours later, she finally woke up; in a bed. Her wounds had been cleaned and bandaged. Her coat was draped over a chair and her boots were underneath it. She sat up and took a look around the room. It was warm and cosy. The sun was already setting outside. Only then did she realize how long she had been out. She was just about to get out of bed when Korian opened the door.
‘How are you feeling?’ he asked softly.
‘Like I should be dead.’ she answered.
‘At least you don’t look like it anymore.’ he said as he sat down beside her, ‘Do you remember what happened?’
‘Yes. And none of it makes sense.’
‘I know. I don’t understand any of it either.’
‘Where are we?’
‘In a house.’
Keara gave him a stupid look; she knew that the moment she had opened her eyes.
‘We’re in a little town just outside the Crystal Spires. It’s called Moura, or something like that.’ he added.
Keara hadn’t been paying attention, but now she realized that Korian was still in Drow form, ‘Have you been a Dark Elf this entire time?’
‘Yes. The people around here don’t seem to be afraid of us; you.’
‘Really?’ she couldn’t believe it, ‘Do they even know what a Dark Elf is?’
‘Yes.’ he answered.
Keara looked at him in disbelief. Could there really be people in this world who accepted the Drow so openly?
Korian noticed that Keara had trouble believing this, ‘Apparently Dark Elves are the least of their worries around here.’
‘How is that possible?’
‘Because the areas surrounding our town are much more dangerous than your kin.’ a woman said as she stepped inside the room, ‘As I’m sure you’ve noticed.’
Keara just nodded.
‘How are you feeling?’ the woman asked.
‘I’m okay.’ Keara answered, ‘And I should probably thank you for that.’
‘No need to thank me. I’m happy to help.’
‘Well, thanks anyway. I appreciate it.’ Keara said sincerely.
The woman smiled, ‘I’m Nita.’
‘I know. Your friend introduced you when you were asleep.’
Keara just smiled.
‘You must be hungry. Supper is almost ready. Won’t you please join us?’ Nita asked.
‘We’d love too.’ Korian answered.
Keara just smiled and nodded.

A short while later, Korian and Keara were sitting around the dinner table with the woman and her family.
‘Your friend tells us that you came from the Crystal Spires.’ a man named Rolf said.
‘Uh, yes. We did.’ Keara answered.
‘I’ve never heard of anyone making it through the Crystal Spires alive; not unless they were Golden Elves.’ Rolf pointed out.
Neither Keara nor Korian were entirely sure what to say.
‘And how did you manage to tame such a ferocious beast?’ Nita asked.
‘What beast?’ Keara wanted to know.
‘The Kenami.’ Nita added.
‘The what?’ Keara had never heard that name before.
‘She’s refering to the creature that found us near the Crystal Spires.’ Korian told Keara.
‘Is that what it’s called?’ Keara asked surprised.
‘Yes.’ Nita answered, then asked again, ‘How did you manage to tame it?’
‘We didn’t.’ Keara answered, ‘It found us, and then just kind of refused to leave.’
‘How is that possible?’ Rolf asked in amazement.
Keara looked confused, ‘Is that not possible?’
‘Only if you’re a Golden Elf.’ Rolf replied, ‘Not even a Dark Elf has ever made it through the Crystal Spires without being attacked by the Kenami.’
Keara considered that statement, absentmindedly lifting her hand to the veins on her face.
‘Your town seems to be quite at ease with the Kenami in their midst though; despite how ferocious you say it is.’ Korian pointed out.
‘The Kenami only ever comes to our town with a companion. It will not show itself otherwise.’ Nita explained.
‘But it seems to have made an exception to the two of you; unless one or both of you have Golden Elf DNA.’ Rolf joked.
Keara’s eyes grew a little bigger. Her expression showed that she might be hiding something. Even Korian couldn’t hide a surprised expression. Keara slowly looked at Korian, hoping he would have an explanation. When she saw that his mind was as blank as hers, she simply said, ‘I guess we’re just lucky.’ and smiled nervously.
‘You must be. If a Kenami attacks, there’s often not much left of the victim to find.’ Nita informed them.
Keara’s expression changed to one of disgust.
‘Well then, I’m glad the Kenami is on our side.’ Korian said, trying to fill the silence.
‘Yeah.’ Keara agreed. When she finally regained her composure, she asked, ‘Is there a reason why only Golden Elves can travel with the Kenami?’
‘Well, we don’t know for sure, but every story you hear, says that they’re protecting something.’ Nita explained.
‘Those stories wouldn’t happen to say what they are protecting, would it?’ Keara wondered.
‘I’m afraid not. But it’s just stories. A Golden Elf hasn’t travelled through this town in centuries. Even the legend of the ferocious Kenami is beginning to fade, or, it was.’ Nita responded.
Keara didn’t respond. She had the urge to tell them that she had Golden Elf DNA that had been melded with her own and why they were travelling through such dangerous places, but she kept quiet. The less these good people knew the better.
Korian saw that Keara was now deep in thought and decided that it might be best if they took their leave.
‘I think it’s time we get going.’ he said, looking at Keara.
Keara just nodded, knowing that Korian had an idea of what she was thinking.
‘But you can’t go now. It’s dark. You should wait till morning.’ Rolf argued.
‘We would love too, but we still have a long journey ahead of us and little time to get where we need to be.’ Korian said, ‘Thank you very much for your hospitality, but we don’t want to overstay our welcome.’
‘But she is still injured. You can’t leave now.’ Nita pointed at Keara.
‘Thank you for your concern, but I’ll be okay.’ Keara said.
‘The Winter Celebration is tomorrow night. Please stay and join us.’ Nita didn’t want them to leave so soon.
Keara and Korian looked at each other.
‘I’m sure one more day wouldn’t make a difference.’ Rolf thought.
Korian’s expression showed that he was wondering what Keara thought of that idea. She just shrugged in response. They both knew that these people had no intention of taking ‘no’ for an answer.
‘One more day wouldn’t make a difference.’ Korian repeated.

The scouts and warriors had split up into a handful of small groups, going in every direction. One of the groups was bound to be going in the right direction. Eventually they would find Keara’s trail, at which point they would regroup and go after her together. But in the meantime, they were still very lost and they knew that if Keara was indeed alive, she was covering a lot of ground and getting farther away from them. At this rate, she would reach her destination long before they found her.

Adin and Caitlyn had been given an honorary funeral, for sacrificing their lives to save the lives of everyone else. Zarra stood next to Michael. She hadn’t said anything for a while, afraid that she might say something wrong. But now she had a question, she thought would be valid.
‘Does Keara know?’
‘No. We don’t know where she’s going, so we have no way of informing her. And perhaps it’s better that she doesn’t know, until she gets back.’ Michael answered softly.
‘But she deserves to know.’ Zarra stated.
‘Of course she does. But not now.’ Michael said somberly.
‘Why not?’ she was getting angry at Michael.
‘Because first, we can’t send her a message, cause we don’t know where she is or where she is going. Second, we can’t afford to have anything distracting her from completing her quest, and third, I expect she’ll want us to tell her in person.’ Michael finished, his voice so low it was almost a whisper.

Keara awoke the next morning with the buzzing of a busy town floating in through the window. Despite the cold of deep winter, the sun was shining brightly, and although she enjoyed the warmth, the brightness hurt her eyes. But she didn’t mind; it reminded her of home. Suddenly she found herself thinking about the images she had seen in the Crystal Spires. She wasn’t sure what to make of it. She didn’t know if it was true or false. But she knew that she couldn’t go back now to find out. She couldn’t turn her back on her quest, no matter what. She was on this journey for reasons that were much bigger than her or her brothers.
She washed herself and got dressed, before heading downstairs. Nita and her children were sitting at the table, having breakfast.
Nita looked up and noticed Keara standing in the doorway, ‘Good morning, Keara.’ she said cheerily, ‘Would you like some breakfast?’
‘Yes please.’ Keara said with a smile as she sat down.
Nita prepared breakfast for Keara, humming happily. A moment later, she put food down in front of Keara and sat down at the table.
‘So how’d you sleep?’ Nita asked.
‘Good, thanks.’ Keara replied.
‘You make it sound like you never sleep well.’ Nita pointed out.
‘Not lately.’ Keara admitted, ‘The last time I slept this well, I was back home at my parents’ house.’
‘Oh, I didn’t know that Dark Elves were so family orientated.’
‘They’re not. I am, and my brother is. But we didn’t grow up among our kin. We were raised by humans.’
‘So Korian is your brother?’ Nita thought.
‘No, he’s a close friend of the family. My brothers are back home.’
‘Brothers?’ Nita emphasised the ‘S’.
‘Yes. A Dark Elf and three Woodland Elves.’
‘That’s an interesting combination.’
‘Yeah, it is.’ Keara agreed, smiling, ‘But the Ravens were never really the kind of people who blend in.’
‘You’re a Raven?’ Nita couldn’t believe what she had heard.
‘I’ve heard so much about you, but I thought they were only stories. I didn’t think you would be real.’
‘You’ve heard stories about us? Way out here?’ Keara couldn’t believe it.
‘Yes.’ Nita said excitedly.
‘If you don’t mind me asking, how?’ Keara wanted to know, ‘I mean, before I started this journey, I had never even heard of the places I had been recently.’
‘There are other ways to get here, besides the Crystal Spires.’ Nita started, ‘I know the particular path you’re travelling is riddled with danger, but there are other ways. Though it takes much, much longer.’
‘If we weren’t so short on time, we probably would’ve taken that path.’ Keara said.
‘It would’ve been much safer.’
‘That would be nice.’

Korian was outside, helping the others get everything ready for the Winter Celebration. He enjoyed it. The work had taken his mind off the images he had seen in the Crystal Spires and it also made him forget about their journey for a while. He was grateful for the chance to think about something else for a change and he was sure Keara also appreciated the break.

Michael made sure that every one of their enemies’ corpses were piled up and burned. He knew that Sharzak might try to resurrect them, now that they were inside the castle walls, and he couldn’t afford to let that happen. This attack had already left them devastated and he couldn’t allow the numbers of his enemies to become even more.
Alexander was with him, watching the corpses reduce to ash, ‘We need more soldiers.’
‘Yes, we do.’ Michael agreed.
‘Regardless of what race or species they might be, we need all the help we can get.’
‘I’ve been thinking; you and I should take Deryck and a few soldiers and ride out to the coast and start recruiting from there.’ Michael said.
‘Sounds like an idea. You run it by Artemis yet?’
‘Not yet. But after this battle, I don’t think he’ll argue too much.’

And he was right. Michael had barely mentioned the idea to Artemis and Deryck when he agreed to it. Before long, they were already on their way. They decided that they would leave no stone unturned. They would visit every possible village and town they could find and bring back as many soldiers as they could.

Keara and Korian were sitting on a bench, just outside the circle of the bonfire where people were dancing and having all sorts of fun. She watched the townspeople enjoy the Winter Celebration. For the first time, she wasn’t thinking about the quest; she was just enjoying the moment. Korian had also stopped thinking about their quest and the end of his own journey.
‘I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be so calm.’ Korian finally said.
‘What do you mean?’ Keara wanted to know.
‘Back when there were still many of my specie, we often held celebrations; just to remember what was really important.’ Korian said.
‘For how long have you been the only one?’
‘Just over five hundred years.’ Korian said, ‘Many things changed after Sharzak’s evil first showed its face.’
‘I’m sorry.’ Keara felt bad for Korian, ‘If it wasn’t for my kin, your specie would still exist.’
‘I don’t really think I’m the last one, Keara.’
‘You don’t. Why not?’
‘I mean I might be, but think of it this way; the existence of everything in this world is necessary to retain the balance. Many people think the Golden Elves are extinct. But that would throw the world out of balance and chaos would ensue. The world is still in balance, though it’s very fragile, so they must exist. Maybe they are just hidden.’
‘And you think that your specie is just, hidden?’
‘It’s possible.’
‘Well then, I hope we find them, before you pass on.’
‘I don’t think we’ll find them before that day. But I do think they will show themselves eventually. And perhaps, if you want, they can give you guidance when you need it.’
‘Yeah.’ Keara replied, ‘But none of them would be you.’
Korian smiled, ‘All things must come to an end. The best we can hope for is to meet that end with peace.’
Keara nodded softly. She didn’t know what to say, so she just stared past the people and into the huge bonfire. Before long, a young lady approached her, held out her hand and asked her if she would like to dance. At first she hesitated, but then she took her hand and they started dancing. Korian smiled, happy that Keara was enjoying the celebration. He got up and started strolling around the circle of dancing people. He hadn’t even taken three steps when a woman grabbed his arm and started dancing with him. He stumbled over the first few steps, but quickly regained his composure.

All the excitement and fun of the evening had finally died down. Most people were just sitting on blankets around the fire, drinking wine and chatting away. Keara and Korian had taken their place on the bench again. They looked upon the people of this little town. To them it seemed as though these people didn’t know the meaning of war. Everything was so peaceful. Keara enjoyed the peacefulness surrounding them; she wished that they didn’t have to leave.
The Kenami creature was still by Keara’s side. She didn’t understand why, but it seemed the creature didn’t want to leave her alone.
‘You never told me what you saw in the Crystal Spires.’ Korian finally said.
‘I don’t wanna talk about it.’ Keara replied.
‘Why not?’
‘I just don’t.’
‘I’ve been told by the townspeople that the images one sees is not always true.’ he started.
’What do you mean ‘not always true’?’
‘They say sometimes it’s a vision of something that’s really happening and sometimes it’s just images.’
‘So you’re telling me that what I saw could very possibly be real?’ Keara’s tone changed a little.
‘It is possible.’
‘I really wish you hadn’t told me that.’
‘I don’t wanna talk about it.’ she said again.
‘It might help if you do.’ he suggested.
‘No, cause then I have to think about it. And I would prefer to stay sane until this journey is over.’
‘Very well.’ he accepted, ‘But why do you think it would cost you your sanity?’
‘Because it's horrific.’

Michael made sure they left no stone unturned. And though he knew they didn’t have much time, he would not rush through any village or town they came across, no matter how small or insignificant it might have seemed. Many people, men and women, volunteered; they did not need much convincing. Michael sent them on to the castle immediately.

The castle received new recruits on a daily basis and their training started almost immediately. Jonathan and Joseph had their hands full with every newcomer, but they didn’t waste any time in teaching them as much as they could. Even Zarra had started assisting with the training.
Saresse wasn’t entirely sure what she should do. She wasn’t a fighter, not in any way. She was one of the best healers the Woodland Elves ever had, but at the moment, there wasn’t much for her to do.
After a day or two of not being able to help with the training of the new recruits, or anything else for that matter, she decided to go back to the home of the Woodland Elves; because she thought she might then be able to gather more soldiers or anyone else who would’ve been willing to help in the coming war. Joseph was very reluctant to let her go at first and requested that she take a few soldiers with her. She agreed, on the condition that it was from the Golden Crests or Rorins, and then only if those were Woodland Elves. She was heading to the Home of the Woodland Elves after all. And only her own kin could know where it was.

Keara and Korian said their goodbyes to the townspeople and reluctantly set out to continue their journey. For most of the day, neither of them said anything. The Winter Celebration had given them a wonderful reprieve from their dangerous journey. The Kenami was still travelling with them, though Keara didn’t know why.
It was only after nightfall that Korian spoke for the first time, ‘Where are we headed to next?’
‘The Sea-mist Forest.’ Keara answered shortly as she started a fire.
‘Are we heading in the right direction?’ he wanted to know.
‘Yes. Why?’
‘There is no sea near here.’ he pointed out.
‘How would you know? You’ve never been in this area.’
‘True, but many of the townspeople spoke a lot about the surrounding areas. And they didn’t mention the sea.’
‘They also spoke to me about the surrounding areas. And though they don’t mention the sea, they do mention the forest.’ Keara said, ‘We’re heading in the right direction.’
‘Very well. I’ll take your word for it.’
‘Thank you.’
Silence filled the space between them. For a moment it seemed as though it would go on forever, until Korian spoke again.
‘Where is your flying friend?’
‘The dragonfly?’
‘I don’t know. It flew off a few hours ago.’
‘Aren’t you worried that it might not return?’
‘No. It probably went off looking for another guide.’
‘Do we need one?’
‘According to the people, the forest is about five days away from the town. And there’s a lot of nothing out here, so it’s easy to get lost.’
‘In that case, a guide would be quite helpful.’

Artemis still saw to his daily duties, but most of his time was now occupied with battle arrangements. He was grateful for every new recruit his brother and companions sent to the castle. He only hoped that they would recruit enough before the war started.

Keara lay against Legacy looking up at the stars. She was deep in thought; mostly thinking about the images she had seen in the Crystal Spires. She had tried very hard not to think about it, but now that there was nothing to distract her, there was nothing to stop the thoughts from swimming in her mind. A part of her tried hard to believe that none of it was true, but another part of her thought that it might just be. She wanted to send a message to her brothers and ask about recent events, but that would mean she would have to stay in one place for several days and that was something she could not afford to do. So instead, she tried to think about something else and before she knew it, her mind wandered to Deryck and she began to realize how much she missed him. She started wondering what he was up to right now. What was he doing? Was he thinking about her? When would she see him again? These thoughts filled her mind until she finally went into Reverie.

She woke up with a fright. The Kenami was standing in front of her with its back turned to her, growling. She looked at it, not sure what was going on.
‘What’s wrong?’ she asked, hoping it would show her what it was seeing.
She sat up straight and looked past the Kenami. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Two scouts and three Shadow warriors were standing just a short distance away.
‘How?’ she couldn’t understand how they could’ve made it through the Crystal Spires. Suddenly horrified, she thought about the town. If the Shadows had indeed come through the Crystal Spires, the town could’ve been destroyed.
‘Korian.’ she whispered loudly.
When he didn’t stir, she took a handful of snow and tossed it at him. He woke up, shaking his head and looked at her with annoyance. She pointed past him. He turned and almost stopped breathing when he saw the Shadows standing there.
‘How did they find us so fast?’ he wondered.
‘How did they even manage to find us?’ she wanted to know as she slowly got to her feet with her hand on the hilt of her sword.
‘I have no idea.’ Korian said, also getting to his feet, shape-shifting into a jaguar.
‘We didn’t spend that much time in the town, did we?’
‘Not nearly enough.’
They prepared themselves for the fight. The Shadows charged at them, their weapons drawn. She braced herself for the first attack, but the Shadows turned to dust and blew over them like a black wave.
‘What the?’ she didn’t understand what was going on.
‘You’re dreaming, Keara.’ a voice said from behind.
Keara’s expression immediately became one of anger, ‘Kydriel.’
‘The Shadows are still far away, but some of them are heading in your direction. If you keep delaying your journey like you did in the town, they might just catch up to you.’
‘We’ve been through this before Kydriel. Stop interfering.’ she had lost her patience with this Night Elf.
‘I am only trying to help you.’
‘You are not helping!’ she started raising her voice, ‘You are only interfering and you are annoying me. I will carry out this journey as I see fit. If you have such a strong opinion of how I should do this task, then perhaps you should do it yourself.’
‘It is not my destiny.’ Kydriel said, not being able to look her in the eye.
‘Then don’t tell me what to do.’ she commanded, ‘Don’t drop in unless you wanna know how it’s going.’
‘As you wish, Keara.’ Kydriel replied.
She opened her eyes, and the first thing she saw was the Kenami that was resting its head on her lap. She looked up at Korian who was still sound asleep. The fire was still burning warmly and it was still dark. She pulled the hood further over her eyes and tried to relax, but the outcome of this last encounter with Kydriel had both annoyed and upset her; not just because he was so stubborn, but also because she had to say what she did, even though she hadn’t wanted too.

‘What did you do!?’ Adriel yelled as she stormed into Kydriel’s room.
‘What are you talking about?’ Kydriel said, trying to ignore her.
‘You interfered in her journey again?’ she was furious.
‘In my defence, I didn’t succeed.’
‘That’s not a defence!’ Adriel was trying hard to stay calm, ‘And it doesn’t matter, you still tried to interfere.’
‘Again, I didn’t succeed. Why are you so angry about this?’
‘Because how this journey is carried out, is up to her. And we also took an oath not to interfere in people’s lives.’
Kydriel briefly looked at his sister, ‘I am aware of that.’ he turned his back on her again, ‘Her failure would destroy the balance of the world. It’s already so delicate. Leaving things to chance is a luxury we cannot afford.’
‘There is only so much we can do. The rest is up to her. And if you keep interfering, things will go wrong.’
‘How can you be...’
Adriel interrupted him, ‘I have seen it. Your constant meddling will eventually lead to her quitting.’

Keara and Korian were on the road again, with the Kenami leading them. She was lost in her thoughts. She was also still annoyed about Kydriel who was constantly interfering.
‘I think you should give it a name.’ Korian said, looking at Keara.
But she didn’t hear him.
She snapped back to reality, ‘What?’
‘You should give it a name.’ he repeated.
‘Why? At some point it’s just gonna leave us.’
‘No, I think this one’s here to stay.’
‘The Kenami is the guardian in the Crystal Spires. It’s probably just gonna go back there once we reach the next leg of our journey.’
‘Well, to me, it seems to be quite attached to you.’
‘It’s probably the gene. If it’s wasn’t for that, it probably would’ve torn me to shreds by now.’
‘Perhaps it has taken a liking to you.’ Korian suggested.
‘Okay, how about this? If the Kenami still stays with us after this part of the journey, I’ll give it a name.’
‘Fair enough.’

Deryck was sitting outside against a wall by himself in a small village they had stopped to recruit soldiers, holding Keara’s ring in his hand. He missed her greatly. He closed his eyes, day-dreaming of her.
It was a warm summer day; the sun was setting, silhouetting her body against the bright red rays. The wind blew playfully through her long black hair; the flowers that had been braided into her hair still kept growing; the white pedals standing out against the stark contrast of her hair.
He watched as the wind blew her hair; and couldn’t help but smile at her. She looked over her shoulder, smiling at him, then turned around and looked straight at him. Her long, flowing, midnight purple dress, swayed in the wind. Her bare feet, slowly started moving and she walked towards him. She threw her arms around his neck as he enclosed his arms around her waist. He held her tight and kissed her softly as the sun continued to set behind them.
He opened his eyes. He missed her even more now.

Michael and some of the soldiers were training and despite the intense cold, they had removed their coats. He decided it would be a good idea to stay in shape at all times. Deryck sometimes slipped away to be by himself. He had started training himself, in a different way. After seeing how Keara had brought forth his brother’s gene, he had decided to do the same for himself. He started changing, little by little; becoming stronger and faster. Golden tattoos were appearing all over his body. He wondered to himself if Artemis had experienced the same thing when his gene was brought forth.

Artemis had dispatched several Rorins in order to find out if Sharzak was planning another attack. At least then they would be prepared, although he knew they wouldn’t survive another attack. He was growing worried about Keara’s journey. It had been a long while since she had left and they had only received one message from her. Though he tried not to doubt her, he started worrying that she might never make it back.

Keara had grown so bored that she kept snapping her fingers, creating a purple flame then extinguished it again. They still hadn’t reached the Sea-mist Forest and she started feeling like they would never reach it. Korian noticed that she was bored; and he couldn’t blame her.
‘I’m sure it’s not too much farther.’ he said.
‘That’s what you said yesterday.’ she replied.
‘I know. But I’m sure we’ll reach it soon enough.’ he stated, trying to comfort her, ‘Look on the bright side, at least we haven’t had any trouble since we left the village.’
‘Yes, and that was three days ago. There’s not even anything to look at around here, just miles and miles of snow.’
‘If the townspeople are right, we should reach the forest within a day.’
‘I sure hope so.’ she added.
‘Enjoy the solace, Keara. If the townspeople are right, danger lurks in the forest.’ Korian warned.
‘Great.’ was all she said.
‘Your winged friend still hasn’t returned.’ Korian pointed out, ‘Are you sure it's coming back?’
‘Not as sure as I was three days ago.’ Keara admitted.
‘You think perhaps it’s struggling to find us?’
‘No. It could find me anywhere.’
‘Then why hasn’t it?’
‘I don’t know. It’s not like I’ve had a pet dragonfly my entire life, you know.’
‘We’ve been travelling blindly for a few days now. We need a guide.’
‘Well, not exactly, blindly.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’ve been following him; her; it.’ she couldn’t decide on the gender.
‘You’ve been following the Kenami?’
‘It’s better than having absolutely no idea where I’m going.’
‘But you don’t.’
‘Do you have a better idea?’ she was losing her patience.
‘No.’ he admitted, ‘I expected I would’ve done the same.’
‘Then just keep following him; it; her.’ she still couldn’t decide.

Saresse returned to the castle, and with her a thousand Woodland Elves. The gates opened and they spilled onto the grounds, setting up camp in the field. Joseph had been waiting for her. He was happy to see his wife returning to him, unharmed. He hugged her tightly and kissed her softly. She took his hand and he walked with her as she made her way to the study where Artemis was poised over battle plans and new strategies. He was also happy to see Saresse’s return with so many men in tow.
‘Unfortunately I couldn’t gather anymore.’ she said after she had sat down, ‘Woodland Elves aren’t warriors. These were the strongest and the bravest. Those who remain, offered their help as healers as they would not be much good in combat.’
‘We’ll take all the help we can get.’ Artemis said.
Saresse smiled, ‘They will be arriving within a few days.’
‘I am grateful for your help.’ Artemis said sincerely, ‘But I don’t think it will be enough.’
‘Oh, it won’t be enough.’ Saresse pointed out, ‘This will only give us a fighting chance, not the upper hand. The rest is up to Keara, as it has been from the start.’

Keara was sitting cross-legged by the fire she had created only moments before. The Kenami laid down next to her and put its head on her lap. She looked down at it and stroked its head. Its catlike eyes stared deep into her own. She grew so entranced that she couldn’t look away.
The next moment, she was standing in a golden hall and wearing the midnight purple dress she had seen herself in as the Drow Queen. She was barefoot, though the golden floor wasn’t cold under her feet. To one far side, she saw her reflection in a mirror. Her wings draped behind. She remembered this image she had seen so long ago; a depiction of her as the Drow Queen.
‘You look every bit the Drow Queen that you are.’ a voice said behind her.
She turned to the direction the voice had come from. A majestic male Golden Elf stood in front of her.
‘I am not the Drow Queen.’ she said.
‘But you will be.’ he said matter-of-factly.
‘You sound very certain of that.’ she pointed out.
‘Prophecies have foretold of a Drow Queen with DNA melded with that of a Golden Elf, on a long journey to find the dragons.’
‘You’re telling me there’s a prophecy about me now?’
‘There has always been.’ he stated, ‘Why do you think I never attacked you near the Crystal Spires?’
She just looked at him, not sure what he was trying to say.
‘I’m the Kenami that now travels with you.’
Her expression turned to one of surprise, ‘You’re the Kenami?’
‘Yes. I have been for centuries, along with a few others.’
She just looked at him for a moment, ‘Okay. Where are we?’
‘Inside my mind.’
‘Really?’ she didn’t find it that hard to believe.
‘Yes. The Kenami are capable of many things.’
‘I can see that.’
‘My name is Thrax. And you were right in suspecting that I would leave once you’ve completed this leg of the journey. But if you wish me to stay, I will, as one of your companions; or as your friend put it, your pet.’
‘That just seems really wrong now.’
‘Why?’ he asked, smiling, ‘Because I used to be a Golden Elf?’
‘You’re not a shape-shifter?’
‘No. I was a Golden Elf, but now I am one of the Kenami.’
‘Okay. I’m gonna need an explanation here.’
‘Of course.’ he said and took a few steps closer to her, ‘This all started when Sharzak was spreading his evil across the world. As you know many dragons were also slaughtered in that time.’
She nodded.
‘The oldest and wisest dragon was slaughtered by Sharzak and his beast. And soon after, the dragons went into hiding. The Golden Elves took measures to ensure that they would not be found again. Since then, no one has ever known where the dragons are located, aside from the Night Elves. I assume they showed you how to get there, otherwise you would not be here.’
‘Yes.’ she answered shortly, ‘Though there are other ways to get here.’
‘That’s true, but it would take months, if not years. We had even taken precautions on those paths, but this is the most direct one, which is why it has been so extremely dangerous.’
She considered that for a moment, ‘Go on.’
‘We, the Kenami, were created to protect the trail to the dragons and only allow Golden Elves to pass by. We protect them as they pass through those dangerous parts. Only animals can pass through without being harmed. Which is why we volunteered to become animals ourselves.’
She thought about it for a moment and realized that Legacy had never been harmed in the Necros Swamp or in the Crystal Spires.
‘But the townspeople say the Kenami are the guardians of the Crystal Spires.’
‘Because they’ve only ever seen us near the Crystal Spires. We are all along the route you are travelling.’
‘You weren’t in the Necros Swamp.’ she pointed out.
‘One of my comrades were. But he wasn’t sure of your intentions then. So he did nothing.’
‘So, if you continued to travel with us, will it be easier?’
‘I can protect you, but I cannot stop other things from harming you. I can only do that in my domain.’
‘Oh.’ a little disappointed, though she expected such an answer.
‘Does that bother you?’
‘Do you wish me to leave now that you know I will not always be able to keep you from harm?’
‘No. It’s not a problem.’
‘I’m happy to hear that.’
‘So, will you be able to take elven form again once this is over?’
‘No. That was a sacrifice we were happy to make, so long as the balance of the world is maintained.’
‘Well, that’s what I’m trying to do.’ she said.
‘And that’s why I will assist you. I will remain at your side for as long as you wish me too.’
‘You know this might not end well?’
‘I have faith in you.’
‘You have faith in a Drow?’
‘You’re not like the others. And you understand the importance of the balance.’ he said, then continued, ‘I will let you wake up now.’
He looked at her.
‘The images in the Crystal Spires; are they real?’
He gave her a soft, almost sad smile, ‘You should not concern yourself with things that are not within your control.’
‘What?’ she didn’t understand, but before she could ask him anything else, she was again sitting by the fire.
She tried not to let it bother her and decided that it was best she didn’t know. She looked over at the Kenami that was now lying next to her.
‘Thanks Thrax.’ she said.
It almost looked as though he would smile.

The next morning, Keara kicked snow over what was left of the fire as Korian finished packing all their things. She turned to Thrax who was still sleeping.
‘Wake up, Thrax. It’s time to go.’ she said.
Thrax got up, stretched out and slowly started walking.
‘So you gave him a name.’ Korian observed.
‘Well actually...’ she trailed off, ‘Yeah. I did.’
‘Actually, what?’
‘Nothing.’ she dismissed.
Korian just smiled to himself. He knew Keara wasn’t in the mood to explain.
Soon they were on their way again. Now that Keara knew of the Kenami’s origins, she felt much more comfortable following it to the next leg of their journey. It was going rather smoothly, though it still didn’t stifle her boredom.
Thrax had started moving a little faster, sensing Keara’s mood. He just hoped that his new companions would be ready for what lied ahead, knowing that they had never been to the Sea-mist Forest and they had no idea what waited for them within it.

Artemis’s scouts had returned and reported that, for the time being, it seemed as though Sharzak wasn’t planning to attack again.
He was glad to hear that, though he knew it wouldn’t last. He hoped that Deryck and his companions would gather more recruits; they needed as many as they could get, and he knew that time was growing short.

Michael and Deryck and all their companions weren’t making their way through the villages and towns as fast as they would’ve liked too. They knew that time was running out and they needed to move fast, but what slowed them down the most, was that people were constantly asking for their assistance, to drive out petty thieves and troublemakers. They hadn’t even yet made it to the town where they had tracked down the Raven Bandits. They were just glad that they were able to get as many recruits as they did. They only hoped they could pick up the pace.

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