Chapter 52 - Kell
Kell prowled across the courtyard and got a good look at the destruction Connor had inflicted on both his castle and his people. The beaten down ground was red with blood, and men lay dead amongst it. Swords were dropped here and there, landing wherever they fell, and arrows were scattered around them. The fallen were mostly Connor’s men, but Kell recognized some that were his. Already his warriors were tending them. They would receive a warrior’s burial and their families would be taken care of. Everyone of them would be honoured in death.
The castle had fared well, although Kell couldn’t care less about that. His warriors and his people were his priority. It looked like one of the south walls had sustained quite a bit of damage, but the trees had most likely inflicted that. Tents were still burning and the men were struggling to get them all out. Kell stopped and looked to the sky.
“Water Element I call on you again tonight. Fires are burning that need to be extinguished. I ask that you put them out, but do so in a way that only the fires themselves receive your gift of water. My warriors have suffered greatly tonight, I do not wish to add to that,” Kell imparted.
It only took a minute before small clouds drifted in to hover over each of the burning tents. When the small bursts of rain came, it was only the tents they wet. The warriors dropped their water buckets in surprise and took several steps back. Then it seemed like they all realized what was happening at the same time. All their eyes moved Kell’s way, and he received numerous nods in thanks.
When all the tents were out Kell raised his face to the sky once more. “Thank you. I am grateful for your help and for your consideration.”
Then the clouds floated away and vanished as quickly as they came. Without a word Kell turned back to the castle and headed up the front steps. He wasn’t surprised to find the doors locked, he had expected that. He raised his hands in front of him and pushed out and away as if he was physically pushing the doors open. Wood splintered and cracks ensued as the door slowly opened.
Kell stepped inside with his sword drawn. A few men came rushing forward to attack, but it was nowhere near the amount he had anticipated. His warriors and himself easily fought them off. When the last man fell, Kell pushed ahead.
“Do you wish us to split up and clear the castle?” Behr questioned as he studied the empty hallway with its numerous doors.
Kell glanced back to see he had gained a fair number of warriors on his walk through the courtyard. He was not surprised. He ordered half of them to do as Behr suggested, but kept his closest ones with him. Then once more he turned and headed down the long hall. He could hear banging behind him as his warriors forced open doors.
“You know where he is?” Lock guessed as he moved to his side.
“I assume he is holding my mother and brother in the dungeon. It is where I will start my search,” Kell declared.
He continued through the castle, when one of the warriors he had sent away called out to him. Frustrated at being interrupted, he turned furious eyes his way.
“Why do you stop me?” Kell demanded.
“It appears they have locked the villagers in the biggest rooms on this floor. We are releasing them, but are unsure of what you wish us to do with them. I do not think it is a good idea to keep them here with Connor still about.”
Kell breathed a sigh of relief. He had been worried about his people. “Take them outside, tend to them, and then take them to my cabin. Things are set up well there. They can rest comfortably until we can appraise how each of their villages faired.”
“Very well my Prince,” the warrior replied before turning away.
Once more Kell pushed ahead, moving towards the back of the castle where the stairs to the dungeon were located. His warriors followed silently behind him. When he reached them, Behr and Oryn moved to flank him. Their swords were at the ready as he pulled on the massive wooden door. No one came rushing out to attack, and it surprised Kell. He most definitely would have had men waiting on the other side. The winding, narrow stone stairway leading down was eerily silent.
“We proceed with caution,” Kell ordered. “Be prepared for anything. If we are attacked, the fight will be difficult in such tight quarters.”
Then Kell moved slowly down the stairs. Each step was a lesson in patience. Kell had to force himself not to charge down like a raging beast. It took almost five minutes to reach the bottom, and he was on edge when he did. It was easy to feel the tension from the warriors at his back as well. All were near the breaking point.
Candles were lit on the wall sconces, lighting their way. Kell moved forward down the hallway, studying the empty cells on either side as he did. He rarely kept prisoners, but when he did they were held in these very cells. It was a surprise to find them empty, but then the promise of freedom in exchange for fighting would have swayed any man. Connor must have recruited them all. The open doors that greeted him only infuriated him more.
Then Kell was nearing the bend that would take them to the very deepest part of the dungeon. There were only a few cells down there, and there was a large gate separating it from the rest. Like the cells, it was opened. Kell turned the corner and cursed. Standing in the back of the main room was Connor, and he had a dagger resting against his mothers neck. Her back was to his front, and his free hand was buried in her hair, so her neck was wrenched back at a painful angle. Five black clad warriors stood at his back.
“Kell,” his mother rasped at the same time Connor hissed.
“I wondered how long it would take you to wander down here, my boy,” Connor greeted. “Your powers have increased. I take it you married the wretched girl?”
Kell narrowed his eyes as his fury unleashed. “I did, and together we slaughtered all your men,” he growled. “The only men you have left are the ones behind you, and soon they will join the rest.”
Connor narrowed his eyes and his whole frame turned ridged. “You should be dead. There is no way you could have survived that fall. I was anticipating an attack, but you should not have been leading it,” he sneered. “I should be celebrating right now.”
Kell actually wanted to laugh, but he was too furious to do so. “My powers did increase when we wed, but it was my bride that found and healed me. She has her own powers, and they too have grown stronger. It is thanks to her I am able to stand in front of you today.”
At his words the men with Connor dropped their swords and moved away from him. As one, Behr and Oryn moved forward, forcing the men into a cell and securing the door. Connor hissed at them before he continued.
“The assassin’s I hired were not worth the gold I gifted them,” Connor grunted. “Nor was Warrick. Emmalyn should have never stepped back through the portal. She should have died in the other world.”
“And that was the final nail in your coffin,” Kell declared as he leaned in Connor’s direction. “It was the beginning of your downfall.”
Connor grinned, but it was an evil grin. “I’m surprised you did not say it was when I killed your father.”
Aspen gasped and her faced paled, pulling Kell’s attention to her.
“What is he talking about?” she whispered as a lone tear rolled down her cheek.
Connor laughed. “You actually believed he died somewhere in the forest from an accident? I thought you were smarter than that.” He paused then and his face turned cold. “I knew about the two of you long before Kelton came to me. I killed him that day.”
As Kell watched, his mother broke. It was clear to everyone present she had loved his father. Her face drained of colour and she collapsed. Connor tried to hold her up, but it was clear he was struggling. Kell made a move to reach for her, but Connor pushed the knife into her skin, drawing blood.
“Do not,” Connor warned. “It will cause me no grief if she dies, and her death will be on you.”
“I am not the one holding the knife to her throat,” Kell snarled.
He wished to use the Elements to disarm Connor, but knew it was too risky. Connor was unhinged, and the Elements help could backfire and cause his mother’s death. Kell’s eyes remained locked on that knife, as his mother’s tears turned to sobs.
“All I wanted was to rule,” Connor bellowed. “But you came along, and with you came the Elemental power. Why they chose you, I do not understand. I should have killed you when you were born.”
As Connor talked, a large, rough looking man slipped out of one of the furthest cells. He was covered in dirt, and his clothes were almost falling off him. He made no sound at all as he moved towards Connor. With his back to the man, Connor had no idea he was there.
“So what is your plan now?” Kell questioned to keep Connor’s attention on him. “You must realize you are not getting out of here alive?”
Connor snorted. “I do,” he grunted in obvious frustration. “But I can still hurt you by killing your mother.”
As Connor pushed the knife in deeper, the man at his back lunged. He grabbed for the hand with the knife and pulled it back, releasing Aspen. She dropped to floor just as Connor threw the man off him. It was then Kell moved. He rushed forward, lifted his mother, and stepped back. Then he handed her to Darrow, who took her and left the room without a word.
Kell turned back to see all his warriors had surrounded Connor, and they had their swords aimed at his chest. Connor held his knife in front of him, and he was waving it viciously back and forth. Kell’s warriors were at the ready, and it was clear all they were waiting for was Kell’s word. Kell turned to the man who was now pushing himself off the floor.
“Douglas I assume?” Kell inquired with a raised brow. The man seemed surprised by his words, but he nodded in the affirmative. “I appreciate your assistance.” The man nodded once more before Kell turned back to Connor. “It’s over,” he growled.
“It’s not,” Connor disagreed. “There is another that wishes to see you fall as much as I do.”
Then as Kell watched, Connor twisted his arm, bringing the hand holding the knife up to his own throat. With one quick motion he slashed deeply. Blood sprayed and Connor smiled before he dropped to the floor in death.
“Goddammit,” Kell bellowed, as he stared at his uncle’s prone body. “I wanted the satisfaction of killing him myself. And he mentioned another, meaning the danger is still present.”
“Who could it be?” Oryn grunted.
“Who is not here?” Lock questioned furiously as he stared at Behr. “You claimed Thane went in search of his mother. Why is he not here?”
Kell’s blood instantly ran cold. He remembered Emmalyn’s unease when she first met Thane.
“I am just like my father,” Kell growled. “It would make sense he is just like his.” Then he turned and ran towards the stairs. A sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.