Chapter 35 - Kell
Kell wasn’t happy with the outcome from his visit to Kilharbor. He was hoping to get some answers, and he had come away with nothing. Seraphine’s parents had confirmed she took on a royal as a lover, but they hadn’t been able to tell him which one. It only left him more frustrated. Behr must have sensed his mood, because a minute later the man was by his side.
“What are you thinking?” Behr questioned, as they maneuvered their horses down a steep incline.
Kell glanced back to see how Emmalyn was faring, but she seemed to be in complete control of Beauty. Both seemed confident, and his wee warrior had a smile on her face. Although, it could be because she was riding close to Darrow. The two were becoming fast friends, and Kell was happy to see her fitting in so well. His warriors accepted and loved her, and it made everything easier on everyone.
“I was hoping to get something out of that meeting. I’m still in the same goddamned position I was yesterday,” Kell grunted. “Nothing new has been revealed about who could be out to kill my bride.”
“I don’t know,” Behr contradicted as he pulled slightly on his reins and steered his horse around a rock. “I’m sure it’s Seraphine behind everything. We just need to figure out who she’s working with.”
Kell nodded, that appeared to be the way it was looking. “If the Councilman was a royal, I’d say it was him. He has the cunning and know how to see it through.”
“Agreed,” Behr sighed. “The man wants control of all the Kingdom’s. It’s clear he hungers for more power than his title allows.” Behr tilted his head and thought for a minute before speaking again. “So who does that leave?”
“There are four Kingdoms in our realm,” Kell pointed out. “Kilharbor only has Seraphine as the heir. No boys were conceived. The same with Fairrest. Emmalyn is the only heir there.”
“The royals hid Emmalyn in another world, could they not have done the same with a sibling?” Behr pointed out with a raised brow. It was a valid point, but one Kell didn’t agree with.
“Not to my knowledge,” Kell frowned. “It was widely known that Emmalyn was killed when she was just a baby. Everyone knew about her birth. Castle staff gossip, and there are no secrets. When the royals faked her death, they did well it. Matthias was the only one who knew the truth, and he disappeared with her. With her gone, and after a funeral with an empty casket, no one considered the deceit.”
“True, so you think if a boy was conceived, word would have spread?” Behr inquired.
“I think if her mother were pregnant at all, word would have spread. A baby bump is difficult to hide. Gossip would have ran rampant,” Kell declared. He himself hated gossip and made it his mission to put a stop to it in his kingdom. Any individual he found spreading information lost their position along, with any other relatives he employed. It was a harsh punishment, but it was effective.
“What about Larkinge?” Behr pushed. “There were two boys born to the royals of that kingdom.”
Kell laughed. “They are eight and ten, hardly the age capable of planning out and acting on a plot to kill Emmalyn. Besides, Larkinge is a peaceful kingdom. They are not known for violence.”
Behr huffed. “So that leaves you and your brother.”
Kell instantly lost all traces of humour. “You are accusing my brother of betraying me?”
“Unless you plan to kill your own bride and keep the power for yourself, he’s the only royal left.” Kell went to argue or draw his sword, he wasn’t sure which, but Behr raised his hand to stop him. “I’m not accusing you of marrying Emmalyn just for the added power you received. Besides, the first attempts occurred before you even knew of her.”
“But you’re more than happy to accuse Thane?” Kell growled furiously.
Behr huffed and looked at Kell apologetically. “He is the second born, and because of that he will never have a chance at having even a bit of the power you have. If Emmalyn dies your grief will consume you. Who do you think will be in a position to take over for you?”
Kell narrowed his eyes. “The title would fall to Thane,” he admitted. “But he would not be an Elemental.”
“No,” Behr agreed. “But he wouldn’t have to be to hold the title. He could still rule all the land, and your warriors could use their strength and numbers to back him up. No would dare go against him.”
Kell dropped his head in defeat. What Behr was claiming made perfect sense. His brother was with him now, but he was usually content to stay behind. He preferred negotiations to warring. If he ruled, he most definitely would use the warriors to follow through with his orders. Peace would be kept through fear. His warriors were brutal, and none would dare risk their wrath.
“Thane would never fall in love with Seraphine,” Kell grunted, looking for anything to dispute the claim. “He loathes her as much as I do.”
“True, but why do most bed a temptress?” Behr questioned. “They enjoy her looks and skills beneath the sheets, not her sharp tongue or thorny attitude. We have all fallen prey to a pretty girl who has caught our eye. I’m sure Seraphine can turn on the charm when she needs to.”
Kell nodded, knowing that to be true. The girl could be sugary sweet when she wanted something.
“I need to question my brother,” Kell cursed in agitation. “Gelding could still be assisting Seraphine, but a royal would have been needed to open the portal.”
“I’m sorry,” Behr apologized. “You both are close, and I hate to be the one to make you doubt him. I do pray that I am wrong about this.”
Kell nodded understanding his friends dilemma. “It takes a great deal of courage to bring to my attention something that I may not see myself. I will not fault you for having my back and standing at my side. All possibilities need to be looked into, no matter how personal they are for me. You need not fear the consequences of your actions. Even if you are wrong about this, and I pray that will be so, I will not take action against you.”
“Appreciated,” Behr nodded. “Do you wish time with Emmalyn before confronting your brother?”
Kell was pleased Behr knew him so well. “We will stop for a bit once we hit the valley floor and let the horses and men rest. I wish Emmalyn to know of my plans before I proceed. On this she needs to stand beside me. I do not need a repeat of what happened with Darrow. Thane is close to my heart. This will be difficult enough without her disapproval.”
Behr said nothing in response, but he pulled on the reins, twisted his horse around, and headed back up the incline to spread the word. Kell had a moment to himself and then Emmalyn was at his side. They rode in silence to the clearing, simply enjoying each other’s company. When they reached the safety of the valley Kell motioned for he to follow. He pushed Zephyr into a quick gallop and headed to the stream he knew was a short distance away.
Reaching it, a few minutes later, he slowed Zephyr, then slid from his back. Grabbing Beauty’s reins, he led both horses to the crystal clear water before lifting his wee warrior off. The horses were content to rest and drink, allowing him to lead Emmalyn to the rocks half buried in the bank. He sat comfortably on one, then pulled her down to his lap. Sensing his mood, she rested her tiny hand on his cheek.
“What is wrong Kell?” Emmalyn softly demanded. “You look like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
“I have to do something I do not wish to do,” he admitted to her. “The people behind the assassination attempts need to be found. To do that, I must question someone close to me, and it pains me to do so. If I am right, then this could be over soon, but if I am wrong, it could ruin a relationship that means a great deal to me.”
“Thane,” Emmalyn sighed, surprising him.
“Thane,” Kell agreed, knowing he shouldn’t be surprised his bride already had things figured out.
“You’ve been quiet since we left the castle. Then I saw Behr talking to you. You appeared to be struggling with what he said to you. I know you want to find who is doing this, and I know you are running out of options. It only makes sense that you need to question those who are close to you.”
Kell nodded. “If I am wrong, he will be extremely upset with me.”
She smiled and softened her words by rubbing her thumb over his thickening beard. It needed to be trimmed, but camping for so long made that impossible. “If you are wrong, he will understand why you had to do it. A brother’s love is something that can’t be broken easily. I see how close the two of you are.”
“Yet you are not completely comfortable with him,” Kell pushed, knowing on that he was right. Emmalyn seemed to hold back a bit with his brother. She didn’t share the bond with him she did with many of his warriors.
“He has given me no reason to doubt him. It is simply something I feel. He is a good man, I can see that, yet I can’t shake this feeling of unease when I am near him,” she admitted.
“Then maybe it is him that is behind this,” Kell huffed in agitation. “There must be a reason you feel that way.”
She shrugged and furrowed her brow. “It’s not that I think he is behind this,” Emmalyn admitted. “But he keeps his distance from me. It feels like he has no desire to get to know me. He tolerates me and is extremely polite, but he makes no further effort. I don’t think he likes me.”
Her statement surprised Kell. Thane was easy to get to know, and he was open with everyone. But thinking back, his brother kept his distance when Emmalyn was near. It wasn’t like him. As if conjured by thought, Thane broke from the trees and moved their way. They watched as he jumped from his horse and led it to the river where Zephyr and Beauty were drinking. The horses chuffed in greeting, gaining a small smile from Thane. Then he turned in their direction and the smile slipped. Kell watched as he looked at Emmalyn warily before setting his gaze on him.
“Behr said you wanted to see me,” Thane explained. “And from the location and distance from the others, I assume it’s serious.”
“It is,” Kell admitted. “I want to know why you wish to kill my bride.”