Chapter 10 - Emmalyn
Emmalyn woke to find a warmth at her back, and the smouldering embers from last night’s fire at her front. The fire she could understand, but the warmth behind her was confusing. She reached back with her good arm and patted whatever was behind her. It was immediately clear it was a rather large man. The man was solid, and muscles flexed as her tiny hand slid over them. Gasping, she pulled back as she twisted to see who it could be.
“Please, continue,” Kell hummed, as he stretched lazily and looked over at her. “That’s probably the most enjoyable wake up I’ve ever had.”
She frowned as she dropped to her back, then gasped again, but this time from the pain the movement caused her arm. Kell’s eyes went from sleepy to alert as he popped up on his elbow and leaned over her. His proximity unnerved her. He was too near, and his woodsy scent was intoxicating. It reminded her of pine trees, spices and male. He studied her a minute, then a small smile graced his lips.
“Emmy, you’re making this damn hard on me,” Kell softly growled. “If you weren’t in pain, I’d do something about that look in your eyes. It’s making me want to devour you.”
Emmalyn blinked up at him, shocked by his bold words and the use of Mathias’ nickname for her. “Why are you sleeping with me?” she questioned.
“I’m concerned about your wound, and you can’t forget the attack made in your home world yesterday. It is my duty to make sure you stay alive and suffer no further injuries,” Kell stated.
Emmalyn looked around the camp, and noticed all the bedrolls spread out close by. “Surely there are enough men here to deter anyone foolish enough to enter the camp,” she questioned.
“You are royalty,” Kell said in explanation, which just pissed her off. “My men are good, but I am better.”
“You may consider me that, but I certainly don’t. I didn’t grow up a princess, and I didn’t grow up in this world. It’s a title I don’t wish,” she finished on a sigh.
Emmalyn expected Kell to get angry after her words, but his face softened. He reached up and brushed a stray piece of hair from her face before he replied.
“It’s a choice that isn’t ours to decide,” Kell began. “The title is passed to us at birth, and you know good and well we can’t choose our parents. I am the Prince of Knightshire, yet I detest sitting on a thrown. It is why I am a warrior. I have no desire to slap on a fake smile and talk politics with people who bore me to death. I prefer to be out where the action is, riding Zephyr and training my men.”
“But if you’re a Prince, does it not mean you will be King one day?” Emmayln asked. When Kell gave a short, quick nod, she continued. “Then how can you be allowed this lifestyle? Aren’t you needed for Kingly things?”
“Kingly things?” Kell chuckled, as he watched her blush.
“Well training for when you take the throne,” Emmalyn amended. “Aren’t there things you need to learn?”
“Every King rules his own way,” Kell explained. “I’ve raided many lands and made a name for myself through that. People see I am fair and more than capable of protecting them. They already know me and show me respect. They will have no problem following my rule when I become King.”
“Oh,” Emmalyn replied, understanding what he meant. “I see your point, and it’s a good one. But what about me? They don’t know me. I was sent away when I was only a baby. I can’t expect them to just accept me because of my birthright.”
Kell nodded, and she deflated a bit at his easy agreement. “You are a princess, but you are unlike any they have known before. They will be untrusting of you, and they may treat you unkindly because you did not grow up in your home world.”
Emmalyn nodded once more, but she didn’t speak for fear the sob lodged in her throat would come break free. She didn’t want Kell to see how much his words affected her. Emmalyn didn’t know the people of this world, but she didn’t want their scorn either, she’d had enough of that growing up. She dropped her head so Kell wouldn’t see her struggle. He didn’t allow that and placed his finger under her chin to tip her head back up. When she caught his eyes, it surprised her to see such intensity in them.
“You be yourself,” Kell ordered. “You have a kindness and a way about you that will draw them in. You are also strong and brave and show a fierceness that is rare. The people will be lucky to have you.”
“Thank you,” Emmalyn whispered, touched by his description of her.
Kell nodded, then stood and moved away, leaving her on her own. She took the time to watch him as he stopped at each of his men. When he was done, he moved to his horse and took care of him. She wasn’t surprised when a minute later Torin crouched down beside her.
“How are you feeling today? Kell mentioned you were in some pain,” Torin said in greeting. He wore a friendly smile that eased her.
“I am,” Emmalyn admitted with a smile of her own. She liked Torin and was happy to see him. “Can you tell me how Mathias is this morning?”
“He’s grumpy as hell,” Torin chuckled. “He slept well and is on the mend, but his injuries were a lot more severe than yours. It will be awhile before he is on his feet again.”
“Can I see him?” Emmalyn pushed.
“I’ve got one of the men boiling water. We’ll get some tea and breakfast into you, and let you clean up, then you can check on him,” Torin promised.
She nodded, happy with that decision. Torin left to do whatever he needed to do, and she was free to relax. The pain was getting to her, so she wasn’t in any hurry to move. She watched as they rolled bedrolls up and put them away, horses were tended, and food was cooked. Everyone was organized and each man seemed to have a specific task to complete. If any of them caught her eye they smiled or gave her a nod. She only watched for a minute, and then Torin appeared at her side once more. He held a cup in his hand that she knew held the tea with the herbs in it. She could smell them.
“I don’t want to sleep again,” Emmalyn complained, as she eyed the drink with distaste.
“This is a smaller dose. It should help with the pain, and you may feel more relaxed, but you shouldn’t sleep,” Torin assured her.
Then he was using his free hand to help her sit up. When she was comfortable, and he was sure she’d stay upright on her own, he released her and passed her the cup.
“Be mindful of the heat,” Torin warned. “It was only just poured and hasn’t cooled yet.”
Tentatively, she blew on it, and promised to wait before drinking it. He nodded in satisfaction and was off again. She took about ten minutes to finish the small cup of tea, and when she did, she had to admit she felt better. The pain was manageable, and she was eager to move. Throwing back the cover Kell must have placed over her when he laid her down the night before, she pushed up to her feet. It was awkward with only one arm, and the dress she was still wearing made it even more difficult, but she managed. As soon as she was up, Kell was back at her side.
“I have clean clothes, and I’ve strung up blankets in the trees. You can wash, change, and take care of yourself with no one disturbing you,” he declared. “I’ll remain close to ensure that.”
“Of course you will,” Emmalyn smirked, as she let him lead the way.
She followed behind him and was surprised when they came to what looked like a tent. The blankets were overlapped around several trees, and it was clear he’d been careful when making it. She smiled at him as he lifted one side and motioned for her to enter. Inside was a tripod holding a basin of steaming water. There was a cloth hanging from a low branch beside it, along with the clothes he told her about.
“This is wonderful,” Emmalyn happily told him. “Thank you.”
When she stepped inside, he dropped the blanket and she heard his footsteps as he moved away. She removed the dress, wiped down her face, arms, chest and legs as best she could, and relieved herself. The new dress was a soft butter colour. It was the same style as the other dress, but had lace added to the neckline. She got it on without hurting her arm, then left the tent in search of Kell.
When he stepped out the trees, she sighed in relief. The new world was beautiful. She loved the tiny purple flowers that grew everywhere, and the brighter colours, but it wasn’t her world. She wasn’t sure about being on her own here. He took her arm and led her straight to Mathias.
“Torin informed me you wanted time with Mathias this morning. You have a few minutes while we finish tearing down the camp,” Kell explained. “Say your goodbyes.”
Emmalyn stared at Kell in confusion. “Goodbyes?” she questioned, but it was Mathias who answered.
“I can’t travel and it isn’t safe to stay here. The warriors that went into the portal didn’t return. That will not go unnoticed,” Mathias admitted. “I will ride with the healer in a wagon to her home and remain there until I am better. I will then head back to Fairrest and wait for your return.”
Emmalyn knelt down beside him and took his hand. “I will go with you,” she declared.
“You won’t,” Kell interrupted. “There are people eager to see you, and others anxious to end you. You will go with me.”
“To Fairrest?” Mathias inquired.
“It is best you do not know that,” Kell returned.
As Emmalyn watched, Mathias narrowed his eyes at Kell. “You plan to take her to Knightshire then?”
“I have not yet decided,” Kell replied, narrowing his own eyes. And his answer seemed to anger Mathias.
“You haven’t decided?” Mathias growled. “You best be careful while playing your games.”
“I am not playing games, and as you know what they expect of me, you should understand the decision is one I won’t make lightly,” Kell furiously shot back.
“I understand,” Mathias conceded. “But tread carefully and take care with the way you handle things.”
Their conversation completely confused Emmalyn, and it was clear they were speaking in riddles intentionally. Whatever they were discussing, it was something they didn’t want her to know, and she didn’t like that. She turned to Mathias knowing he would be sympathetic to her.
“You need to repeat everything you two just said, without all the hidden meanings,” Emmalyn ordered. “It seems I’m a part of this, and I don’t appreciate being left in the dark.”
Mathias sighed, and she knew he was about to spill. Before he could, Kell scooped her up into his arms and moved away. His legs were long, and he ate up the ground, putting a lot of distance between them in a short amount of time. When he stopped they were standing next to Zephyr. The horse snickered in greeting then stood still as if waiting to see what Kell would do.
“You can’t just carry me off to avoid telling me,” Emmalyn huffed.
“I can,” Kell declared, then he lifted her and placed her sideways on Zephyr’s back. He removed his sword, stuck it in a side pack, then swung up behind her and pulled her into his arms. A quick tug on the reigns and they were off, her explanation conveniently forgotten.