Chapter 30 - Emmalyn
Emmalyn was smiling as she rode Beauty at Kell’s side. She loved nothing more than riding with him, but the independence her own horse gave her was priceless. It showed Kell thought of her as more of an equal rather than a damsel in distress. Every once in a while Kell would catch her grinning and he’d smirk at her, while his men just shook their heads and chuckled. Everything was going as she hoped, and she was pleased Kell had kept her with him. The idea of him leaving her had broken her heart, and thankfully she had gotten her point across to him. The poor man held her for a good while afterwards, before he calmed down enough to pack up camp and move on.
Minutes later they cleared a thicker section of trees and popped out into a small field. It took Emmalyn’s breath away, and all she could do was gasp. Wild flowers of every imaginable colour filled the space, and the sun’s rays shined down on them. But it was the dozens of bright butterflies settling on the numerous petals that caught her attention. She pulled on Beauty’s reins to halt her. If she could dream up a magical place in her head, this would definitely be it.
Emmalyn watched in fascination as the butterflies suddenly rose as a group and danced in a perfectly choreographed synchronization across the air. They rose and fell with the air as they made their way to her side. Then she found herself surrounded. Butterflies fluttered all around her and lightly brushed against her skin. It tickled, and Emmalyn couldn’t help the giggle that escaped her. They were all different colours and much brighter than the butterflies from home. She wished she had a camera to capture the magical moment.
“Are you doing that?” Kell questioned curiously as he leaned across Zephyr to study the butterflies.
“I don’t think so,” Emmalyn admitted. “I didn’t call them to me.”
Then she raised her arms as swayed them over her head. The butterflies matched her movements perfectly, and a couple even landed on her fingers. The feeling was surreal.
“Jesus, she’s got quite a gift,” Behr declared with more than a little awe to his voice. “They must be drawn to her.”
“Maybe like my own powers when we wed yours got stronger as well,” Kell stated. “It would make sense.”
“Maybe,” Emmalyn shrugged, not at all caring. She was too fascinated with the tiny creatures. Their iridescent wings sparked when the sun hit them.
Then a strong wind seemed to come up out of nowhere for only a second before everything went quiet once more. The butterflies instantly rose as a group and left her side to disappear into the trees. Their loss saddened Emmalyn, but it was the look on Kell’s face that scared her.
“Everyone down,” he shouted just as a single arrow pierced the field and flew towards them. It thankfully missed them, and like the butterflies, disappeared into the trees.
Emmalyn didn’t have time to react before Kell was throwing his body across the horses and knocking her to the ground. She grunted with the impact as Kell landed on top of her but successfully kept his bulk from suffocating her. His large frame covered all of hers, and she had to wiggle slightly to see around his shoulder. Just when she peeked out, at least a dozen arrows came from the trees and rose in the air in an arc, as they descended towards them. She watched in horror for a second, then cried out in fear as Kell jumped to his feet and raised his arms. The arrows were almost on top of them as he whispered something into the sky. Almost immediately the wind picked up once more. It was an unnaturally strong gust, and it hit the arrows head on, sending them sailing off to the side. Emmalyn watched as they dropped harmlessly to the ground and were swallowed up by the wildflowers.
“Bows out. Send your own arrows into the trees in the direction they came from,” Kell bellowed at his men.
He was still standing and Emmalyn was frantic. She knew they could strike him at any moment. She pushed up, intending to go to his side, when both Zephyr and Beauty moved to stand over her. Their massive bodies blocked her view and their hooves trapped her. All she could do was peek out from between their legs and listen to the whoosh as they released more arrows in their direction. Once more Kell raised his arms and deflected them with a massive gust of wind, but Emmalyn knew he couldn’t keep it up.
Then the shooters changed their tactics, and Emmalyn knew they were in serious trouble. Instead of sending all their arrows at once they scattered them. And they came from several directions. Emmalyn screamed as one whizzed just past Beauty’s head and imbedded itself in the saddlebags of Torin’s horse. The horse cried out as it reared up and then dropped to its front legs. The arrow didn’t appear to be sunk too deep, the blood dripping from the poor animal confirmed it inflicted damage.
Then she heard the sickening cry as one of Kell’s men was hit. His name was Cain, and he was one of the more seasoned warriors. She watched the man fall, then without thought, scrambled from the horses cover and crawled to his side. Cain was bleeding from his shoulder, and the arrow was imbedded deep. She glanced to Kell, but he was busy trying to deflect the rest of the arrows. She looked at Torin, Behr and Oryn, but they were all shooting back and didn’t spare her a glance.
“You will be all right,” Emmalyn whispered to Cain. Then she reached down and tore at the bottom of her dress. Bunching the ripped material up, she pushed it against the sides of the arrow, desperately trying to stop the flow of blood.
“Get back under the horses,” Cain grunted as sweat dripped from his brow.
“No,” Emmalyn refused, as she watched the terrifying scene around them. The men were firing back, but the trees camouflaged their targets and made it almost impossible to hit any of them. Kell’s men had no idea where the enemy was and were shooting blindly into the trees.
Emmalyn felt the tears dripping from her eyes as she realized how dire their situation was. More men grunted as they were grazed with arrows, and a horse went down as he was struck in the neck. His vacant eyes staring at her as he fell. Desperate, Emmalyn closed her eyes and pictured hundreds of birds in her mind. She couldn’t see the men shooting at them, but she knew they were hiding in the woods. She envisioned the birds swooping down and pecking at the men’s arms and heads. Almost instantly a cloud of black shot out of the woods behind them and dove into the trees all around them. Then the screaming started. The arrows abruptly stopped as the men were attacked. Some frantically ran into the clearing, and Kell’s men easily picked them off as they did.
“I want a couple left alive,” Kell demanded as he searched the clearing for her.
“I’m here,” Emmalyn called as she kept her hands on the cloth. Kell twisted, and when he locked eyes on her his turned furious.
“You should have stayed under the horses. I saw them move to protect you,” he growled as he stomped her way.
Everything went quiet suddenly, and everyone stopped to stare into the woods. Emmalyn gasped as the birds rose from the trees and took to the sky. In seconds they were gone, and it was almost as if they were never there.
“Check for survivors,” Kell demanded. “And I want to know every injury any of you or your horses suffered.”
Then Kell was dropping to the ground beside her and pulling her into his arms. His warmth beat back the cold she handed even realized she was feeling, and she collapsed against him.
“You saved us once more my wee warrior,” Kell proudly stated. “I couldn’t defect all the arrows, no matter how damn hard I tried.”
“Cain,” she whispered as the tears flowed. “You have to get the arrow out of him.”
“I’ve got him,” Torin called, as he hurried their way and dropped beside the fallen warrior.
“It’s just a scratch,” Cain grunted, as he grinned in her direction. She glared back at him. She could clearly see the pain etched on his face, and the embedded arrow contradicted his words.
“Fucking Neanderthals,” Emmalyn complained as she pushed out of Kell’s arms.
She was on the verge of losing it, and she didn’t know what to do. She swiped at the tears as she hurried to Torin’s horse. Emmalyn sank to the ground and whispered soothing words as Kell gently worked the saddle off. Then she hugged his neck and buried her face in his mane as Kell took hold of the arrow and yanked. The horse reared its head, taking her with it, before dropping fully to the ground.
“It’s not bad,” Kell assured her as he studied the wound. “It just punctured the flesh.”
“Kell,” Oryn called, gaining both their attention. “Besides Cain, Sven took an arrow to the leg, and Rhys had one graze his temple. No fatalities except for Sven’s horse. The animal stepped into the arrow that would have killed Sven.”
“Jesus,” Kell grunted. “Do we have any survivors?”
“Emmalyn’s birds did a shit load of damage, but we have two,” Behr interrupted as he joined them. “Although one might not make it long enough for us to question him.”
Kell nodded. “Bring them into the centre of the clearing and set a guard. We take care of our injured, both men and horses, before we deal with them. If one of them dies before we get to them, so be it.”
“Right,” Behr nodded as he once more moved away.
“Are you good?” Kell questioned as he gentled his tone and pulled her close once more.
“No,” Emmalyn admitted. “But I will be for the men. I can help Torin with the injured while you deal with what you need to.” Kell eyed her with worry, so she reached out and cupped his cheek. “Later tonight I will need you to hold me as I break down. But I won’t do it now.”
Kell kissed her head and gave her a squeeze before nodding and letting her go. “I love you,” he declared fiercely before he rose and stepped away. She would have replied, but the ground suddenly started to shake and a deafening sound similar to thunder spread across the land. Terror set in once more as Emmalyn scrambled to her feet and moved to plaster herself against Kell’s back. Then both Behr and Oryn were beside them as they looked to the trees and waited to see what the next horror would be.