Chapter 56 - Kiera
Kiera flew through the forest, staying just above the tree line. Her wings hummed with the rapid pace she set. She had been traveling for two days, and she picked the route to the portal. She had ten Fae with her, as the rest of her people had divided and gone in different directions. She had tried to figure out where Thane would go, and the portal was the obvious choice. Kell was fraught with worry, thinking Emmalyn would die soon, but Kiera did not think so.
She had spent a lot of time at Kell’s cabin, sitting high in the trees and listening to his men talk. Thane was respected, and many considered him a friend. It made little sense to her that he had betrayed them. She had also been dealing with Seraphine for quite some time and was aware of how Connor manipulated her. Kiera assumed it was the way he had gotten to Thane. She did not tell Kell her thoughts however, she wanted to make sure her assumptions were correct first. Hope was a dangerous thing, and she had no desire to raise Kell’s if she was wrong.
Alden had been a problem, insisting on searching with her. But he was a Prince and born leader. It made sense for him to lead his own group and not join hers. They had always been the best of friends, but with his feelings for her deepening, things were changing. And more and more she grew frustrated by him.
“I think we have chosen the wrong direction,” Thalia frowned as she flew to Kiera’s side. “It may be best if we head back.”
“No,” Kiera denied, somehow knowing she was right. “Just a bit farther, then if I am wrong, I will consider it.”
Thalia nodded and said no more. The girl was her most trusted confident and best friend. They had grown up together, and Thalia would only voice her concerns if she was worried Kiera was making a bad decision. She could not fault the girl for doing so now, but something was pulling at her to continue. Kiera could not ignore that pull.
As they pushed on, Kiera heard the unmistakable sound of a dozen horses hooves. She gave the signal to proceed with caution, then moved in the direction the sound was coming from. The Fae stayed close to her back, and they slowed to mask the sound of their wings. Scanning the forest floor, it was not too long before the men came into view. All were dressed in the same black clothes as the men they had battled at the castle, and all were heavily armed. Swords hung from their sides, and bows were strapped to their backs.
The men were bent low over their horses and concentrating on the path in front of them. They were paying no attention to the sky. It gave Kiera and her Fae an advantage.
“Do we attack?” Thalia whispered as she placed her hand on her bow.
“No,” Kiera replied. “We fly overhead and look for Thane. If they are here, he should be close.”
“Do you think they are meeting him somewhere?” Thalia continued. “Or do you think it is something else?”
“I do not wish to say,” Kiera frowned. “But I do not like this. If Thane was meeting them, would he not do it closer to Knightshire? Why so far away?”
Thalia nodded. “It does not make sense,” she agreed.
Kiera gave the signal to proceed slowly. The pounding hooves would most likely disguise the sound of their wings, but Kiera was cautious anyway. They passed the men and continued on, once more scanning the woods carefully.
“There,” Thalia declared as she pointed at a large tree.
Kiera looked down and saw another dozen horses. These were tethered to the tree, and their riders were no where to be seen. It gave her pause.
“Split up and find the men that rode those horses,” she ordered her Fae. “They cannot be far.”
Each Fae headed in a different direction. Kiera herself headed north, knowing that was where the portal most likely was. She had only been through it once, and that was when she came to this world, but the area was familiar. The sound of numerous arrows being fired worried her. She made a bird call only the Fae would recognize, as she slowly moved closer.
Then she saw them. The men were in the cover of the trees. They were firing at Emmalyn and who she assumed was Thane. Thane had the broken shaft of an arrow sticking out of his leg, and he was shielding Emmalyn with his body. It was clear he was not with the men in black. Not only were they firing at Emmalyn, they were firing at him. It was evident both had been marked for death.
She searched the surrounding area, as the rest of the Fae joined her. Not too far away was the portal, but there was a small clearing in front of it, making the distance perilous. There was no way either would reach it without an arrow striking them.
“I need to get close and speak with Emmalyn,” Kiera explained to her people. “They may not be aware of the other group heading this way. This is bad, but it will be worse when they arrive.”
“It is not safe,” Thalia argued.
“I will stick to the trees and remain hidden. I need you all to fan out and take out those men. We need to hurry, because once the rest get here, they will outnumber us.”
They nodded and disappeared, and Kiera was thankful. She kept to the thickest trees as she cautiously approached Emmalyn. When she was directly overhead, she looked down to see both had their eyes on her.
“I heard you approach,” Emmalyn whispered in greeting. “It is good to see you. We are pinned down and Thane is injured.”
Thane was eyeing her with distrust, and she frowned at him.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
“This is my friend Kiera,” Emmalyn answered before she could. “She is a Fae.”
An arrow got close to Emmalyn’s head and Kiera took position to fire back. She fired three off quickly, before speaking again.
“There is another group of men headed this way. I have some of my people with me, but once they arrive, we will be outnumbered. We need to take out these men as quickly as possible,” she instructed.
“Where is Kell?” Emmalyn inquired as she ducked lower and tried to pull Thane back with her. The man shrugged her off as he kept firing into the trees.
“Kell remained at the castle. He has his warriors out searching for you, but even on horseback they are not as fast as us. They have no hope of reaching us in time,” Kiera informed them. Then she turned to Thane. “Why did you bring her here?”
“I am not with Connor,” Thane immediately declared. “He has quite a few men watching me. They will kill Emmalyn if I do not. Obviously I have no intention of doing that. My only hope of saving her was to bring her to the portal. There were men still hidden in the Kingdom that Kell is unaware of. They would have found a way to get to her.”
“You do not think Kell capable of protecting her?” Kiera pushed.
“I did not wish to find out,” Thane replied. “It will destroy my brother if anything happens to her or the babe she carries.”
Kiera nodded. “It was a difficult choice for you to make, but I understand your reasoning. I am in agreement.” Then she steeled her features. “What do you need me to do?”
“Can you give me some cover fire? I need to open the portal, but I need to get there first,” Thane growled.
“I will see to it,” Kiera promised. “Can you walk?”
“I can,” Thane confirmed as he pushed to his feet. Then he turned to Emmalyn, keeping a hold of her hand once she was standing. “You wait for Kell to come get you. I guarantee once it is safe he will move heaven and earth to do so.”
“If he is alive,” Emmalyn sighed as she gripped his arm tightly.
“He is alive,” Kiera interrupted, surprised they did not know. “He has killed Connor and has rescued his mother and Douglas.”
Emmalyn looked so happy Kiera was worried she would drop to the ground in relief.
“It is good news,” Thane told Emmalyn as he pulled her close. “Now we need to get you out of here. I will find him and explain where I have sent you.”
“And what if he kills you?” Emmalyn sobbed as she wrapped her arms around him.
“Do not fear sweetheart. Even after all that has happened I am still standing. Have you not realized I am hard to kill?” Thane chuckled.
“I will see Kell learns the truth,” Kiera assured them both. “But you need to move. I can hear the hooves of horses. Reinforcements have arrived.”
Thane nodded and released Emmalyn. “You stay close,” he ordered.
Then Kiera watched as Thane took the girls hand and pulled her in front of him. He wrapped his large frame around her back, and not an inch of her was visible. Then he moved forward and Kiera looked away. Her job was to provide cover, she needed to see to that.
Her Fae had moved into the trees and were picking off the men from above their heads. They could not see them approach and were taken by surprise. Men grunted and fell as the new arrivals jumped from their horses and took their places. It was difficult for the men to get a clear shot. The branches of the trees the Fae were hiding in provided a practical defence.
When Kiera spared a quick glance at the portal, it was open and Thane pushing Emmalyn towards it. The girl was clearly distraught, and Thane was pleading with her. Then an arrow was released that caught Thane in the shoulder. He roared as blood seeped down his tunic. Then he gave a mighty shove and Emmalyn disappeared. With a few words from Thane, the portal closed. Then she watched in horror as he fell.
Kiera’s heart broke as she doubled her efforts and fired arrow after arrow. The clearing began to look like a battlefield. It was littered with bodies and blood. It took another fifteen minutes before they defeated the enemy, and then all was quiet. Her first priority was her people, so she moved towards them. Once she was assured all were well, she dropped to the ground and ran to Thane.
Thalia joined her, and she was grateful. Thane was a big man. It took both of them to roll him over. Then clear blue eyes were staring up at her.
“You are alive,” Kiera whispered in relief.
“Unfortunately,” Thane grunted as he glared at the arrows. “Although I may not want to be once Kell gets a hold of me.” A small smile graced her lips and Thane’s attention shifted to them. “I hear a kiss makes everything better,” the man declared, and her smile grew. He had two arrows stuck in him and he was flirting.
“Well let’s get you back to the castle so you can find someone to do that,” Kiera laughed.
“Evil,” Thane hissed, then he closed his eyes in obvious pain.
The man was alive. Kiera had to make sure he stayed that way. It was time to go.