Once Walked With Dragons

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Chapter Seventy Three

Keara was wearing her usual coat. It wasn’t as cold as it had been during most of their journey, but it wasn’t very warm either. She had pulled the hood over her eyes. Even though it wasn’t hot, the glare of the sun still hurt her eyes. And the long grass and various plants didn’t help much in hiding them from the sun.

The hawk was flying just overhead, swooping down every now and then to make sure that Keara was still following him.
Korian quickened his pace a little to walk next to her.
‘So,’ he started, ‘did the Night Elves show you anything regarding this island?’
‘Yes.’ she answered.
He looked at her, waiting for her to tell him, ‘Well?’
‘What did they show you?’
‘The Black Spear Tribes.’
‘There’s more than one?’
‘Yes. All around the island.’
‘Okay.’ Korian thought about that for a moment. He hadn’t seen anyone since they arrived, ‘What else did they show you?’
‘The Scarlet Snow Mountains. Home of the Dragons.’
Korian looked around, then pointed out in front of them, ‘I presume those are the Scarlet Snow Mountains.’
She looked to where he was pointing, ‘Yes.’
She turned her attention back to their surroundings. She seemed to be quite alert, which was wise, especially because they didn’t know what to expect on this island.
Korian looked at her. She had been quite short with him, but she didn’t seem annoyed or angry.
‘Is something the matter, dear one?’
She kept looking around, then said in an almost whisper, ‘I keep getting the feeling that something’s been watching us ever since we left camp.’
‘Like what?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of creatures live on this island.’
Korian looked back at Thrax and Aric who were chatting as though they were having tea on the porch, ‘It would probably be wise to quiet it down a bit.’
‘Yes, it would.’ she agreed.
‘I’ll tell them.’ he said and turned around.
A few seconds later, silence fell on the travelling group.
Suddenly Keara stopped dead in her tracks, and put her hands on her weapons. Korian was immediately alert and ready to shape-shift into a fighting animal. Thrax and Aric, on the other hand almost walked into Legacy’s backside because they weren’t paying attention.
‘What is it, Keara?’ Korian asked in a low voice.
‘I thought I saw something.’ she muttered, still looking around.
The hawk screeched above them, as if to warn them. She looked up instantly. Then she heard movement in the grass and quickly looked in that direction. They were all alert now.
She took a few steps backward, still examining her surroundings, ‘Thrax, Aric, can either of you fight?’
‘Not very well, I’m afraid.’ Aric admitted.
‘Then I suggest you take Legacy and get out of here while you still can.’
‘We can’t just leave you.’ Thrax started.
‘Don’t argue with me. It’s not every day that I allow other people to ride my horse.’
They were a bit reluctant, but they mounted Legacy and quickly headed off into a direction.
Keara and Korian heard frantic rustling in the grass as though something was heading towards them at great speed.
‘Run!’ Korian shouted.
She didn’t argue. They both started running, Korian shape-shifting as he ran. They tried to stay close to each other, but found that hard with the long grass blocking their view. As they ran, they started hearing more rustling, as though more beings had joined the chase.
Suddenly she was pushed off her feet. She fell forward, but quickly got up, shaking her head and kept running. Somewhere in the distance, she heard the screams of Thrax and Aric, and Legacy neighing. She immediately headed in that direction. She kept running, but she didn’t get far. Something tackled her from the side. She fell on the ground hard, hitting her head against a rock. The last thing she remembered was seeing the grass rustle as something approached.

When she finally woke up, she was hanging upside down, though she had been so dazed from her fall that it took her a moment to realize what was going on. She looked around. Her companions were also there, all hanging upside down in a row. Their hands were bound.
‘Keara.’ Korian whispered.
She turned to look at him, but flinched. She had hit her head harder than she thought and the wound was still bleeding.
‘Careful. That wound on your head looks pretty bad.’ Korian said.
‘It feels pretty bad.’ she complained, ‘Where are we?’
‘In what seems to be the village of the beings that attacked us.’
‘Beings?’ she was still flinching from the pain.
‘I sure hope they’re not one of the Black Spear Tribes.’ Korian remarked.
A being approached them.
‘I think we’re about to find out.’ she said.
She expected to see a human face in front of her. Instead, what she saw, gave her a jolt. A face shaped like that of a lizard, with a body that could walk both upright and on all fours, twice the size of any human or elf. Long claws and a scaly skin and no hair. The being didn’t say anything to her. It just looked her in the eyes as it sniffed the air around her. It straightened up, then moved to Korian, doing the same with him. Again, it moved, this time to Aric. It straightened and took hold of his legs, severing the rope that was tied to the beam. The being then put Aric under its arm and walked off. If Aric was conscious, he would probably have been screaming at this point.
‘You know, maybe it’s just me, but I think they’re gonna eat us.’ Korian said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
‘So that’s what he meant.’ she added, more to herself.
‘Nothing.’ she said, ‘We have to get out of here.’
‘I agree. But we can’t do anything with them constantly watching us.’ Korian said.
‘Yes, well, if we don’t do something soon, Aric will be on the menu.’ she pointed out.
‘This is not good.’ Korian admitted.
They watched as the lizard beings started a fire. With every passing second, it became more apparent that they might not make it out of this.
Thrax started groaning next to them.
‘Look who’s finally awake.’ Korian stated.
‘Huh? What?’ for the moment Thrax didn’t realize what was going on, ‘What’s going on? Where are we?’
‘We’ve been invited to dinner.’ Keara said sarcastically.
‘What?’ Thrax didn’t understand, until he saw Aric lying next to the fire, ‘Oh no. What are we gonna do?’
‘Pray for a miracle.’ Keara suggested.
Even she thought that they were about to watch their companion get eaten by lizard beings and they would probably be next. She watched as the being stoked the fire, oblivious to its surroundings.
Keara closed her eyes and tried to think of some way to escape, but nothing came to mind. Her head was still spinning and hanging upside down wasn’t helping. She watched as the being bent down to pick up Aric, but instead of coming back up, it almost fell on top of Aric. She watched, waiting for the being to move, but it remained lifeless. After looking at it more intently, she realized that the being had a spear in its gut. It took her a moment to realize that the spear was black.
One of the beings saw what happened and pointed at the culprit, then the group of lizard beings started stampeding.
At first Keara thought that they were coming towards her and her companions, but before she could ready herself for the eminent clash, another group of beings jumped out from behind her and her companions. A fight ensued and all she could do was watch. The next moment, someone was lifting her up and cutting her feet loose. Once her feet touched the ground, she almost fell over as the blood that had flown to her head suddenly rushed back through her body, but the being who had cut her loose, held her at the waist. She managed to regain her balance and ran for her weapons that lay near the fire. Korian wasn’t far behind her. He picked up his weapons and went to help defend Thrax. Keara woke Aric rather violently, cutting his bonds and told him to take Thrax and start running. She and Korian stayed and fought for their lives and those of the beings who saved them from being eaten.
The lizard beings started retreating. The other beings didn’t hesitate to retreat themselves. One of them grabbed Keara by the wrist and started dragging her along. She didn’t protest. This was certainly better than the alternative.

After running for a few minutes, the pace of their rescuers started slowing as they approached a huge wooden gate. She looked around, hoping to see Thrax and Aric and more importantly, Legacy. She was starting to panic a little, admittedly because she was more worried about her horse than her companions. She was just about to turn around and start looking for them when Legacy came galloping up to her. She ran up to him and threw her arms around his neck. Legacy lifted a front leg and put it around her waist, hugging her back.
‘We took him with us as we were escaping.’ Thrax said as he dismounted.
She just looked at him.
‘We knew you wouldn’t want him to be left behind.’ he continued.
‘Thanks.’ she said sincerely.
‘You’re welcome.’ Thrax said with a smile.
‘Come on, let’s go.’ one of their rescuers said, ‘You don’t wanna be caught outside the gate after dark.’
‘Why not?’ Aric dared to ask.
‘You think those things are bad during the day?’ their rescuer asked.
‘Yeah, I don’t wanna know what happens after dark.’ Keara said, taking Legacy’s reins and leading him inside.
Once the gates closed behind them, Keara started paying more attention to their new surroundings. It was beautiful. It looked like a city, with properly built houses, markets and temples. Everything shimmered, as though it had been washed with liquid gold. Everywhere she looked, she saw black spears, used to decorate their temples and houses.
‘Where do you think we are?’ Korian asked, walking next to Keara.
‘I think this might be one of the Black Spear Tribes.’
‘Please come this way.’ one of their rescuers said, leading them to one of the temples.
Korian looked around as they followed their new hosts. He leaned a little closer to Keara and kept his voice hushed, ‘Have you noticed that none of them have put away their weapons since we entered the gate?’
She looked around, ‘Yeah.’
‘I am Lianna. I do apologize if we seem hostile.’ a woman standing at the temple doors said as everyone came to a stop.
Keara looked up at Lianna. Her hair was dark brown and in long dreadlocks. Her dark skin glittered like gold as the sun set in the distance and was decorated with black and white paint. She wore bronze jewellery and walked barefoot. Though everyone’s skin colour varied, Keara suddenly realized why these people looked so familiar.
‘But considering that the Drow Queen has come to this island completely unannounced, we find it better to be cautious.’
‘Even though you saved our lives.’ Korian pointed out.
‘No one deserves to die at the hands of the Deveci. It’s a very cruel way to go.’ one of their rescuers said.
‘I noticed.’ Korian said, ‘We have no intention of harming you.’
‘That may be so, but your reasons for being here might.’ Lianna said.
Keara just kept observing everyone around her, ‘You’re Wild Elves.’
Lianna just smiled, ‘Please come in. Dinner is almost ready.’
Keara and Korian just looked at each other. They didn’t understand; these people had just accused them of possibly intending to harm them, and now they intended to feed them. But they followed her inside anyway.
Many tables were placed inside the temple and big cushions to sit on. Lianna sat down first and gestured for Keara and her companions to join her. Keara hesitated at first, but she sat down and crossed her legs. Everyone else brought drinks and food to the table and then sat down themselves and poured drinks and dished up food for themselves. A few of them started playing music to make everything more comfortable.
Though everything seemed more relaxed now, Korian and Keara still remained on their guard, as did most of the people sitting around them. Even though they were eating and drinking and talking, it was obvious that they still kept their weapons close and kept a watchful eye on the newcomers. She and her companions had not touched their food yet. They were hungry, but they didn’t really know what to expect.
‘Your food is not poisoned.’ Lianna said, ‘You may eat, as much as you like.’
‘Pardon my caution.’ Keara started, ‘Though I appreciate what you have done for us, I can’t help but feel that everyone in this room would try to kill me upon your order.’
‘You’re right. They would.’ Lianna confirmed, ‘But you would not be here if we planned on killing you.’
‘Then why exactly are we here?’ Keara wanted to know.
‘Because it’s necessary that you survive.’
Keara just looked at Lianna, ‘What?’
‘You’re the Drow Queen. You must take your throne.’
‘How do you even know about that?’
‘I am the oracle of this tribe.’
Her companions had slowly started eating and found the food quite delightful.
‘So you know why we’re here.’ Keara started.
‘Yes, I do.’ Lianna replied, ‘But unfortunately the rest of your future is clouded to me.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘I see many probable futures for you, all of them depending on the choices you make.’
‘You know, this is not news to me. I’ve heard all of this from the Night Elves already.’
‘Yet your future is still so unclear.’
‘So I’ve heard.’ Keara said, taking a sip of her wine.
‘Why is everyone staring at us?’ Aric asked. He had tried to ignore it, but could no longer avoid the stares.
Lianna had heard him and replied, ‘We haven’t seen newcomers on this island for centuries.’
‘Not one?’ Thrax asked.
Lianna shook her head, ‘The Sleepless Ocean surrounds us for a reason. You were not supposed to make it across the water alive. But the water beings spared your lives.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ Thrax asked anxiously.
‘She means that they could’ve sunk the ship and drowned everyone on board.’ Keara guessed.
‘Can they do that?’ Thrax asked again.
‘They gave me the ability to control my own element completely, so yes.’ Keara answered.
‘But you’re a Drow. They wouldn’t be able to drown you anyway.’ Lianna knew.
‘Yes.’ Keara said, feeling as though Lianna might have been upset that she wouldn’t die at the hands of water beings.
Lianna noticed Keara’s demeanor change a little and decided to change the subject, ‘Please, eat. We have much to talk about.’
Thrax and Aric stuffed themselves. Even Korian ate more than his usual fill. But Keara didn’t join them in their feast. So many questions ran through her mind, she didn’t know where to start.
As the night wore on, most of the people of the Black Spear Tribe left the temple and retired to their homes. Thrax and Aric had eaten and drunk so much, that they had eventually passed out at the table, sleeping comfortably on the cushions around the tables.
Korian looked at them, then leaned over to Keara and said, ‘I’m guessing they haven’t had such a good meal in a long time.’
Keara chuckled softly, ‘Yeah. It’s been a while for them.’
Finally Lianna got to her feet, then turned to look at Keara, ‘Come. Let’s talk.’
Keara looked at her and watched as she started walking away. Then she looked at Korian.
‘Go.’ Korian said as though Keara had just asked him a question.
‘Take care of those two.’ she said as she got to her feet.
‘Take care of yourself.’ Korian said softly as she headed to the door.
She just waved at him without looking back.

Once outside, she breathed in the fresh evening air.
‘You have many questions.’ Lianna said from the darkness, ‘I can feel them swimming around in your mind.’
‘Wouldn’t you have a lot of questions after such a long journey?’ Keara asked.
‘Yes. But are you sure you want answers to all of them?’
Keara wasn’t quite sure what Lianna meant.
‘Some questions are better left unanswered, Keara.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Keara still didn’t understand.
‘The Crystal Spires.’ Lianna answered matter-of-factly.
Keara caught her breath, ‘Are they really dead?’
‘Sometimes it’s best not to know the answer right away.’
Keara closed her eyes and lowered her head, ‘That pretty much answers it.’
‘I’m sorry, Keara. But they died with honour.’ Lianna said, ‘If it weren’t for them; your brothers, your lover, the entire human kingdom would be dead.’
Silent tears started rolling down her cheeks. In her heart she had always known it was true, but she had still hoped that it was only images that played with her mind.
‘I truly am sorry, Keara.’ Lianna said after a long moment of silence, ‘I will prepare rooms for you and your companions for the night. In the morning we’ll send you in the direction of the Great Temple.’
Keara only nodded her head; she couldn’t do anything else. Lianna stepped closer to her and briefly touched her shoulder, then walked away to prepare their rooms. Within seconds she was completely alone. She sobbed a little, allowing herself to grieve. A few moments later, she dried her eyes and took a few deep breathes. She tried to put it out of her mind, but she knew that she couldn’t and she wouldn’t get much rest that night.

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