Chapter Seventy Nine
He watched as Sharzak paraded around outside, checking up on proceedings that have long since been completed. He found it infuriating that Sharzak was so relaxed all of a sudden.
Knowing Sharzak would still be outside for some time, he made his way to Sharzak’s chambers. He slipped inside, knowing exactly what he was looking for. He glanced around and quickly found a dark-covered book. Pretty sure that Sharzak had used it to conjure up the dark forces, he took it and slipped out the chamber, quickly making his way to his own chambers.
He locked the door behind him, dropped the book on a table and started paging through it. He didn’t really know what to look for, but he figured he’d know it when he saw it. As he flipped the pages, a depiction on one of the pages caught his eye. He read the heading. He thought about performing a ritual, trying to decide if it would be a good idea or not, but quickly made up his mind and decided to continue. He scanned the page, then went off to prepare everything. It was not long before he was ready. He took a few deep breathes, knowing that once he started, there was no turning back. He began, lighting a red candle and chanting something as he did so. Next to the candle, a handful of twigs were set alight, burning up quickly and resulting in smoke. The smoke from both the twigs and the candle moved through the air together, intertwining above Scander’s head before curving down, swirling around him. All the while, he kept chanting. He started fearing that he had made a mistake in performing the conjuring. He stopped chanting, but it was already too late.
Blackness started forming in front of him; darker than black. It grew; taking no particular shape, but it seemed to engulf his chamber. He looked into it, but there was nothing to see; only blackness so vast, no light could escape from it.
Suddenly the blackness started taking shape, stretching over his head. He looked at the very top; his mouth hanging open; as a face started to appear. A face, if that is what you could call it, so grotesque, that Scander wished he could look away, but somehow he just couldn’t seem to turn his head.
The blackness hung over him, like the branches of a willow tree.
‘State your business.’ a voice thundered; a voice so shrill and at the same time, so deep. Dripping with venom.
The voice shook him to the core, making his insides shudder and his stomach churn. He felt as though he might be sick. He couldn’t speak.
‘State your business.’ the voice thundered again; with more force. It seemed to echo through the chamber.
Scander dropped to one knee. The weight of the blackness and this great evil, was literally starting to weigh him down.
‘I wish to know what Sharzak has been discussing with you.’ his voice strained.
The dark being raised an eyebrow, ‘In exchange for what?’
‘Whatever offer he made you, I can make you a better one.’
The being seemed to consider it, ‘He offered us Crucis Salerra.’
‘I can give you Crucis Salerra and the Drow.’
‘There is something else we desire. In the modern tongue, it is simply called the Keeper. If you can give us Crucis Salerra and the Keeper, we might be able to come to an agreement.’
The Drow finished up the preparations and the ground troops had moved out, travelling through the passages of Surendorn. Keara was glad to see that they were finally moving. She needed to get back to her brothers, though she would only leave the day after.
‘Your offer is acceptable. You shall receive all the assistance you require in exchange for Crucis Salerra and the Keeper. But betray or fail, and your new strength won’t be the only thing torn from you, and you will beg for a quick death.’
‘Understood.’ Scander said, still breathing heavily.
The being dissipated and light seemed to return; whatever light there was, anyway.
A great force erupted from Scander; shockwaves bursting from the castle; travelling through the forest. The shockwaves travelled so far that even Keara felt them.
She had made herself comfortable on the throne chair and gone into Reverie while she waited for the rest of her kin to finish the preparations to leave with the dragons. But now she opened her eyes, unable to ignore the shockwaves. She didn’t know what it was that had caused it, but she knew that it was now or never.
‘You felt it too?’ Sicily asked.
Keara just looked at her, ‘It’s time to leave.’
The power was so overwhelming that it made him sick. He took a moment to compose himself before getting to his feet. He was still a bit unstable when Sharzak burst through the door shouting; demanding to know what had just happened. But he stopped mid-sentence. He quickly began to notice the changes that had taken place within Scander. He glanced around and saw his book lying on a table.
‘What have you done?’ Sharzak started.
‘Now we are gonna do things my way.’ Scander said, grabbing Sharzak by the throat.
For the first time, Sharzak was struck with fear. So afraid that he could not move.
Scander tossed him out a window.
Sharzak landed hard; all his subjects standing in a wide circle around him.
Scander appeared in an instant, stepping on Sharzak’s chest, weapon in hand. Without a word, he plunged the weapon into Sharzak’s chest.
Sharzak gasped, but he was still alive.
‘There is your first sacrifice.’
A darkness engulfed Sharzak, making him scream. Hands curved over his body, pulling him down into the abyss. He knew very well what was coming and there’s nothing he feared more.
Scander watched as Sharzak disappeared into nothingness. Once the darkness dissipated, he looked up at his army, ‘Prepare yourselves. We leave at sunset.’
Everyone started going about their business.
‘Is anything the matter, Your Grace?’ one of her advisors asked.
She didn’t answer. She just looked at Vale and he knew exactly what she was thinking.
‘It has begun.’ Vale said.
‘We’re gonna need some help.’ she said.
‘All the help we can get.’
‘How many dragons can you spare?’
‘What did you have in mind?’
‘We need to get the word out, to anyone close enough to the kingdom who is willing to fight alongside us. It’s now or never.’
Before long, several dragons departed with Drow upon their backs to try and convince anyone and everyone to help them. It was, in truth, everyone’s fight.
‘We need to leave, now.’ Keara stated firmly.
‘Gather your weapons. We are ready to leave when you are.’ Vale said.
‘Get the others ready.’ she told her advisors, ‘We’re leaving.’
Her advisors started scurrying around to make sure that the other warriors were ready to leave.
‘A darker force than we’ve ever faced is trying to take hold of the world.’ Vale said, ‘We cannot allow that to happen.’
Keara just nodded and went to fetch her weapons and coat.
On her way to her chambers, a mage intercepted her.
‘Why are you still here?’ she asked.
‘There is something I want to show Your Grace.’ the mage bowed.
‘What is it?’ she asked impatiently.
He quickly came closer, ‘I thought to teach everyone how to use this ability, but the truth is, no one but the queen is powerful enough to use it.’
He handed her a book and she quickly scanned the page.
‘Just as well.’ she said, ‘This is a very dangerous ability to have.’
‘But effective, Your Grace.’
‘Indeed.’ she kept looking over the page, ‘But won’t it drain my energy once I use it?’
‘As with all supernatural abilities, it will drain energy, Your Grace. But you are strong enough to withstand those side effects.’
‘And you’re showing this to me, because?’
‘We have heard stories about the enemies you have faced; like the Crimson Demon. This might be the only way to defeat it.’
‘Thank you.’ she said after a long moment, ‘I’ll keep it in mind. Now get going. You’ll have to hurry to catch up to the others.’
The mage bowed and hurried along.
Before long, they were in the air.
‘We should’ve left sooner.’ she said, knowing that no matter how fast they got there, it might not be fast enough.
‘I agree.’ Vale said, ‘But I’m sure your brothers will be able to keep fighting until we get there.’
‘You do this often?’ Sicily asked, holding on as tightly as she could to the dragon saddle, almost too afraid to look down.
‘Quite often.’ Keara answered, looking at Sicily.
The dragon that Sicily was riding, was also carrying Legacy.
‘Doesn’t it scare you?’ Sicily struggled.
‘Na.’ Keara said jokingly.
‘I think I prefer my feet on the ground.’ Sicily said.
Keara just smiled, realizing that Sicily had never been airborne in her life.
‘I probably don’t need to remind you, Keara. But this war will determine the continued existence of the world.’ Vale said.
‘I’m aware of that.’
‘Just making sure you know the gravity of the situation.’
‘I don’t think you should be using words like “gravity” on Sicily’s first flight.’ Keara joked.
‘Don’t mind me. Just holding on for dear life.’ Sicily said.
Keara couldn’t help smiling, ‘You know, it will be much easier if you sit up straight.’
‘No, I’m fine this way.’ Sicily said with her arms wrapped around the dragons neck, seeming to be clinging on for dear life.
Michael had been awoken from a near-dead Reverie; the first rest he had in days.
He gave Joseph a stern look, but he didn’t seem to be phased by it.
‘You better have a good reason for waking me.’ Michael warned.
‘Sharzak’s armies are moving. Good enough reason?’ Joseph said bluntly.
Michael was now fully awake, ‘How far are they?’
‘Practically at our doorstep.’
‘Why didn’t anyone report?’
‘Most of our scouts were cut down before they could get any word out.’
Michael got up and gathered his weapons, ‘We barely have an army left after that last battle.’
‘I know. But it will have to do. There are no more reinforcements.’
Michael knew that it was true, ‘Any word from Keara?’
‘None. I think it’s time to assume that she has either abandoned us, or she is dead.’ Joseph said.
‘She will never abandon us.’ Michael argued, a little offended that Joseph would think that of their sister.
‘Then she is dead.’
‘Weren’t you always the brother who lifted everyone’s spirits?’
‘That time has passed.’
‘And how does Saresse feel about it?’
‘She doesn’t know. And I would prefer to keep it that way.’
‘So you’re lying to her.’
‘She’s happy as long as she doesn’t know the truth.’
‘She’s not a child, Joseph.’
‘No. She’s my wife. And I’d do anything to keep her smiling. Even if it means keeping the truth from her.’ Joseph said and left the room.
Though Michael didn’t agree with what Joseph was doing, he knew he would do the same for his wife. He quickly followed Joseph out the room. He grabbed his coat and they made their way to the wall and soon they were at the very top of the wall.
‘It’s just after nightfall. Why didn’t they wait till morning?’ Michael asked, more to himself.
‘It seems they were anxious to get here.’ Joseph said.
Michael and Joseph headed back to the barracks to fetch their other brothers. They could already see the army in the distance and thought it would be best if everyone were prepared.
Scander had decided to move out the moment the sun set, since a big part of his army consisted of Mortags, who were afraid of the light. If he wanted to conquer quickly, he would need his entire army to attack and conquer before daylight came.
The brothers got Artemis’ army together as quickly as they could. They had hoped the war would’ve waited till spring. That would’ve given them enough time for training. But those hopes were now a thing of the past. They now only hoped that everyone would be able to stand their ground and that their parents’ sacrifice would not be in vein.
‘Is Keara not back, yet?’ Deryck asked as he walked down the hall of the Ravens.
‘She’s not coming back.’ Joseph said.
‘What?’ Deryck didn’t understand.
‘Joseph seems to think that she’s either abandoned us, or she’s dead.’ Michael pointed out.
Deryck stopped dead in his tracks, ‘Why would you think that? She has never abandoned us and she never will; and she’s not dead.’
‘Believe whatever you want, Deryck. But that’s what I believe now.’ Joseph said.
Deryck’s demeanor changed rapidly. He felt like he was about to explode and punched Joseph square in the jaw so hard that Joseph stumbled and landed hard on his backside. The other brothers stared at Deryck in disbelief. Joseph put his hand to his jaw, making sure it wasn’t broken. Deryck breathed deeply, then turned on his heel and walked away without saying a word.
‘I don’t have a problem with him marrying Keara.’ Alexander finally said.
‘Yeah.’ Jonathan agreed.
Michael bent down and took Joseph’s hand to help him up, ‘You deserved that, you know.’
‘What?’ Joseph exclaimed.
‘Perhaps you should have more faith in your sister; like the human does.’ Michael said, ‘After all, she’s put her life on the line for each of us, more than once.’
They all walked away, leaving Joseph standing there alone. He knew they were right. He started following them outside, wondering to himself what had gone wrong that he had become so negative.