She swept the long, overgrown ivy away and sat down just inside the mouth of the cave. She was staring out into nothingness, when big black paws padded over to her.
‘Didn’t think I would be seeing you here again soon, Keara.’ a voice said.
‘Hello Korian.’ Keara greeted over her shoulder.
‘Hello Keara.’ Korian greeted in the tone of a beloved grandfather, ‘How have you been?’
‘Good, I suppose.’ Keara answered.
‘You suppose?’ Korian said.
‘Alright; good and you?’
‘I’ve been very good, Keara. Peace beyond my wildest wishes.’
‘Am I disturbing your peace?’ Keara asked.
‘Of course not, Keara. You know you’re always welcome here.’
After a moment of silence, Korian said, ‘What brings you here, dear one? I suspect it’s not just for a simple visit, for you haven’t been here in a long time. And you still have your sword.’
‘Well, I’m not entirely sure.’ she admitted after looking at her sword lying on the ground in front of her, ‘Michael and I had a bit of a disagreement and I kinda, took off.’
‘So you decided to come visit you old friend.’ Korian said.
‘Yeah, I guess I did.’
‘Well, I’m very happy to see you, Keara. You’ve grown into a fine Raven.’
‘You knew?’ Keara was surprised.
‘There is very little in this world that I don’t know, Keara, especially concerning you.’
‘What do you mean?’ Keara wanted to know.
‘I was your protector from the moment you were born, Keara. I watched over you until you became older and strong enough to take care of yourself.’ Korian answered, ‘That’s how I know so much about you and that’s also how I know what’s troubling you.’
‘If you know what’s troubling me, then why do you bother to ask?’ Keara asked.
‘Because your answers to my questions can always change.’
‘And you like that?’
‘Yes. It just shows that life isn’t always predictable.’ Korian answered.
‘Can I ask you a question?’ Keara started after a moment of silence.
‘Of course, Keara.’
‘You’re a shape shifter, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, that’s correct.’
‘Then why are you always in the form of a black panther?’
Korian started changing. His body stretched and coiled. His fur melted into scales. He slithered around Keara, catching her off guard, ‘I can take any form.’ he slithered away and grew into a giant bear standing on its hind legs, ‘Many that would frighten others.’ then the bear melted away and became the form of a Dark Elf, ‘Even the form of those familiar to you.’ he fell to all fours, growing black fur and becoming the familiar black panther again, then walked back to Keara and sat down beside her, ‘But this form is the one you seem most content with. The one that seems to calm you.’
‘It does.’ Keara said.
Korian’s eyes seemed to smile at Keara.
‘Why did you and Michael have a disagreement?’ Korian enquired.
‘Because he’s keeping secrets from me that should not be kept.’
‘And why does that concern you so much that you would walk away with your weapon in hand?’
‘Because I’m afraid those secrets might just be the difference between life and death. And not just for me. For my family; the other elves; the kingdom; the forest.’ Keara explained.
‘Michael will tell you when he’s ready, Keara.’ Korian attempted to reassure Keara.
‘I can’t wait until he’s ready to tell me, Korian.’ Keara started, ‘That day might never come.’
‘He’ll come around, Keara. Remember, he’s just as stubborn as you are.’
Keara gave a slight smile, ‘I know.’
They sat there in silence for the remainder of Keara’s visit.
Some hours passed when Adin went looking for Michael as it was already dark and supper time had passed. Keara was also nowhere to be found, but having heard the story, Adin found it best to leave Keara until she decided to come home. Michael, however, was not the kind of person to disappear after a quarrel.
Adin found Michael sitting in the fold of a tree, not far from where they had been practicing earlier that day.
‘It’s not like you to sulk.’ Adin commented.
‘Why can’t she just try to understand what I’m doing for her?’ Michael started, ‘I’m protecting her. Why can’t she just accept that?’
‘Because she inherited quite a big and very dangerous part of that history, Michael. Whether you like it or not.’ Adin paused for a moment, ‘That thing she turned into is not from the surface world, so I cannot teach her how to control it, but you can give her some assistance. But you have to tell her the history of your race. It is time, Michael.’
‘I can’t do that, dad. I can’t expose my own sister to the truth.’
‘She already has been exposed to the truth, admittedly only part of it, but it has happened.’ Adin fell silent, ‘Keara told me what it was like when she turned into that creature. She said she lost control of her body completely. She could feel the creature’s evil presence. She was afraid that if she didn’t fight to stay conscious in her own mind, the creature could possibly have attacked her own side, meaning you and your brothers.’
‘That won’t happen, dad. The creature emerged because she saw Joseph being struck down.’ Michael tried to explain away what Keara had told their father.
‘Maybe so Michael, but remember, fear feeds evil. For fear of losing her brother, the creature awoke and showed its face to the world. But just because it woke for that reason, does not mean it will spare you for that same reason.’
Michael opened his mouth to speak, but he couldn’t contradict his father’s words.
Adin turned and stood with his back against the tree.
Michael looked down at his father, trying to decide what he should say.
‘I’m sorry dad, but I can’t do it.’
‘I’m not the one you should be apologizing too, Michael.’
Adin nodded his head towards Keara who was listening to their conversation from a distance. Michael looked up and looked straight into Keara’s dark purple eyes. She kept staring at him for a few seconds without saying a word. He tried to say something, but could not find anything appropriate to say.
After a few long seconds, Keara looked away and made her way to the house.
‘Dad, I...’ Michael started, but Adin interrupted him.
’Michael, you don’t have to explain to me. I understand what you’re trying to do for your sister. But, I have to say, it’s not the best for her. The decision is yours to make, but just think about how many people you could affect by making the wrong one.’ Adin said, ‘Now come on. You can continue your sulking by the fireplace. Your mother’s getting worried.’
Michael sighed, jumped out of the tree and walked back to the house with his father.
Keara was playing with the children by the fireplace along with Jonathan and Alexander. Even though she put on a smile for the children, Alexander could see that his little sister was very upset.
‘Maybe there’s a different way you can find out.’ Alexander started.
Keara looked up from what she was doing.
‘Maybe Michael doesn’t have to be the one to tell you.’
‘Yeah, but how?’ Keara asked.
‘I don’t know. Possibly the kingdom’s archives?’ Alexander’s expression was a mixture of sympathy towards his sister; and helplessness, because he knew there was nothing he could do for her.
The conversation ended quickly as the children distracted them from the subject.
Moments later, Michael walked up to them, ‘Keara.’
She looked up at him, somewhat surprised.
‘Can we talk?’ Michael asked.
Keara looked at him, then to Alexander who just nodded, then back to Michael, ‘Sure.’ she answered.
She got up and walked outside. They sat down on the grass. They sat in silence for a long moment until Michael gathered himself and started, ‘I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell you about our kin, but there is no easy way of explaining it to you and there is no way that I can bring myself to tell you either.’
‘So, you just expect me to go through life blindly.’ it was more of a statement than a question.
‘No, Keara. I know that you can’t. But I also know that I can’t tell you our history.’ Michael stated.
‘So, then what? Neither of us can live this way.’
‘I know. That’s why I’m suggesting that you go look in the archives to find your answers.’ Michael said.
Keara’s expression was one of pure surprise, ‘You’re actually suggesting that I go to the archives?’
‘Yes.’ Michael answered, and realized that he should explain what he had just suggested, ‘As you know, every elven kin has an archive containing every piece of their own history all the way down to the very first elf.’
‘Yes, I am aware of that.’ Keara stated.
‘If you could get into the archives of the Dark Elves, you could find the answers you’re looking for.’
Keara was silent for a moment. She wasn’t exactly sure what to say.
‘So, you’re actually telling me that I should go.’ Keara said.
‘Yeah, but I would come with you, of course.’
‘No, you won’t.’
‘Yes, I will.’
‘No, you won’t. If I go, I go alone.’
‘I just gave you a way to find the answers...’
Keara interrupted Michael, ‘Michael, I appreciate you telling me this. But the fact is, you’re not willing to give me the answers I need yourself. Now, I am going to the archives, and I’m not gonna put you in harm’s way by taking you with me.’ then she added as an after-thought, ‘And you would still try to hide the information from me.’
‘No, I won’t.’ even as he said that, he knew he was lying. And the expression on Keara’s face only seemed to confirm it, ‘Is there no way I can convince you, otherwise?’
‘No. But I would like to know how to get in there.’
Michael sighed, ‘Well, you know where the entrance to Surendorn is, right?’
‘More or less, yeah.’
‘Now, I’m not exactly sure how to get in, but I think it has something to do with the touch of a Dark Elf.’
‘The touch of a Dark Elf?’ Keara repeated.
‘You should be able to figure it out when you get there.’
‘I certainly hope so.’
‘From there you should find a direct path leading to Velmoura. And they don’t like being so close to the light, so I doubt that there will be anyone guarding the entrance.’ Michael added.
‘And if there is?’ Keara asked.
Michael considered her question, ‘Well, word travels fast among the elves. Perhaps by the time you get there, they’ll be too afraid to oppose you.’
‘Because of the creature?’ Keara thought.
‘You never know.’
Keara considered the possibility of things that could happen.
‘We could help you.’ Michael suggested again.
Keara knew that her brothers would help her without hesitation, but three of her brothers were Woodland Elves. They wouldn’t make it in the realm of the Dark Elves, ‘No, Michael. I’m doing this alone.’
‘Very well. Just know we will always come to your aid, should you need it.’