Chapter 1 - Kell
Kell prowled through the great hall like he owned it. He had been summoned by the council, and he abhorred being ordered away from things he deemed more important. He was a warrior prince, and he had thousands of men under his leadership. His time was better served training and keeping his Kingdom safe, than sitting at a meeting with the royal members of the other Kingdoms. It was something he loathed, and as he thrust open the doors with his massive arms, the scowl on his face let everyone in the chamber know exactly how he felt.
Kell was the prince of Knightshire. His Kingdom was one of the larger ones, but he left the ruling of it to his parents. He preferred being on the front lines, rather than relaxing on a throne, wearing fancy clothes, and throwing lavish balls. His parents lived for that, and until the time came when he was forced to step in, he was content to leave it to them.
There were four Kingdoms in the realm, Knightshire, Larkinge, Kilharbor and Fairrest, and each Kingdom had a ruling family. All of them glanced up when his massive frame stepped into the chamber. At six foot four he towered over everyone, and his lean, well muscled body intimidated even the fiercest of men. He commanded everyone’s attention, and they readily gave it.
He remained silent and detached as he made his way to the chair beside his father and dropped into it. His father scowled at him, presumably for his tardy entrance, but he effectively ignored it. Both his parents thought it was high time he stepped into the role of future King, but he flatly refused each time they brought it up. It was a bone of contention between them, and one that had been going on since his twelfth birthday.
Kell turned his back on his father and looked towards his brother, who was seated directly to his left. He wasn’t surprised to find him grinning, basking in Kell’s agitation. He knew how much Kell hated this, and he found his attitude highly entertaining. Thane was four years younger than him, and would have been more than happy to take on the role of future King. Thane was well versed, had an air of authority about him, enjoyed socializing, and had a quick whit. However, it was always the oldest that gained the throne, and there was nothing either could do to alter that.
Kell jerked his chin up at his brother in greeting, then glared at the man at the head of the room, who chose that juncture to obnoxiously clear his throat. It was evident the councilman was fixed to begin, but Kell despised the way he did it. A simple spoken word would have had the same effect. But councilman Gelding was a man who flaunted his authority, and he enjoyed being in the limelight. Kell’s arrival obviously stole his thunder.
“Gentleman,” a pause, “and ladies,” was added by the ass as an afterthought. “I have called you here today because of a grave matter that needs to be discussed.”
Kell looked to the ceiling in irritation as he caught Thane’s snicker. Everything was a grave matter of importance to Councilman Gelding, and it was wearing on him. He had been called away from his men on three separate occasions this month, and none of the matters discussed had been dire. Again, the man was just flaunting his authority. However, several of the royal families present had to travel great distances to be here, and Kell could clearly see they were just as fed up as he was.
“Please,” Councilman Gelding implored as he raised his palms in surrender. It was obvious the man was reading the vibe in the room and was treading delicately. “We have put this matter off far too long, and it needs to be addressed.”
Kell’s enormous frame locked, as his instincts told him he wouldn’t like what the councilman was about to reveal. He felt Thane’s eyes shoot to him and knew his brother’s thoughts were headed in the same direction as his. It was confirmed the minute Gelding smiled at him. It was a smug smile, and one Kell wouldn’t mind ripping from the councilman’s face.
“As the first born in over a hundred years with the power to wield the elements, its high time Prince Kell moves to accept a bride,” the ass demanded. “He’s been putting this off for four years, but it’s time he relents and safeguards both his Kingdom and the realm, by taking a bride and receiving the full gifts of power that a union will bring.”
The last elemental Prince was born a hundred years ago. Like Gelding was attempting to do now, he exploited his power and used it to manipulate the realm. Unfortunately, his power was more than just the bite of his tongue. An elemental holds the power of the elements. He can command and wield the earth, air, fire and water. An elemental is born into one of the four royal families, and he carries that power until his death. Upon his death a new elemental will rise, and the power will be passed to him.
Kell was born with that power, and after one hundred years of not having it, the council and the royal families were eager to see it come to light. He had a substantial amount now, but with a union, it would be unleashed. Then it would be his obligation to use that power justly, or it would be stripped away for another hundred years.
At this juncture, and without the union, he was still the most powerful man in the realm. Even though he was just a Prince, being the elemental meant he was above all the royals and the council. He had the authority to overrule them if he deemed necessary, and there was not a thing they could do to stop him. Of course, with his loathing for politics, he rarely used that power. He was content to let things be as they were. Now however, was not one of those times.
“I refuse to take a bride now,” Kell growled, as he glared at Gelding. “Don’t you have more pressing matters than this to discuss?” When Gelding rudely huffed, Kell lost his barely contained patience.
“You were to take a bride at twenty and five years of age. Now you are twenty and nine, you’ve had four extra years to fulfill your duty and you have yet to do so. The moment has come where it needs to happen. The Kingdoms are at odds and only the true elemental can bring them to heed,” Gelding pushed.
“The Kingdom’s are at odds because the royal families quarrel,” Kell countered on a growl. Then his glower scanned the chamber and paused on each individual present to make sure his point was made.
“Because there hasn’t been an elemental in such a long time, they grow frustrated with your refusal to step up and gain control,” Gelding shouted, as he flung up his arms impatiently.
Kell narrowed his eyes and let his temper show. “So you are placing this problem squarely on my shoulders? It’s my fault the Kingdom’s are being petty and discrepancies over borders, trading rights and such are because I haven’t taken a bride?”
“Kell,” his mother interrupted in a soothing voice, but his raised hand stopped anything further she might have added.
“It certainly isn’t helping,” Gelding bravely replied.
“There are four Kingdoms in the realm,” Kell snarled. “Only one has females in their bloodline, and one of those females is too young to consider. Who the hell do you expect me to marry?”
“Well the Princess of marrying age,” Gelding quickly acknowledged, as Kell heard her entire family suck in their breath. Obviously his question had shown what he thought of that union.
The King of Kilharbor pushed back his chair and stood, gaining Kell’s attention. He held his temper, but Kell knew he was pissed by the set of his jaw. “My lovely daughter Seraphine would be honoured to accept the position of bride. As the sole option in this predicament, she will rightfully take her place at your side.”
“Wonderful,” Gelding smirked, at the same time Kell bellowed, “not bloody likely.” All eyes swung to him in surprise.
“I’ll marry a commoner before I marry Seraphine,” he declared.
He would admit, the princess was beautiful, but beyond that beauty was a woman who was calculating and cold. She belittled everyone, she hired men to hurt those she felt wronged her, and she had more lovers than was respectable. There was no way in hell he would let her anywhere near the power she could wield if she became his bride.
“You can’t pick a commoner,” his father carefully reminded him. “The power will only come to light if you marry a royal. You have little choice.”
“You must marry me,” Seraphine announced smugly.
“There is another option,” the King of Fairrest sighed, as he calmly lifted his head and interrupted. When Kell raised his brow in question, the man pushed back his chair and stood, then offered his Queen his hand so she could stand beside him. It was a clear sign of solidarity and respect, and Kell admired the King for it.
The King and Queen of Fairrest were well liked and treated the people of their Kingdom more than fairly. Kell was always open to anything they had to say, and he was confident they could offer a resolution now that would rid him of this headache.
“As you know, our daughter Emmalyn disappeared when she was just a small baby,” the King forced out. “There were several attempts made on her life and we feared for her safety.”
“Yes, and she was killed,” Gelding pointed out.
“We never claimed she was killed,” the King admitted. “Everyone assumed that, and we thought it best not to correct them.”
“You lied to the council and the people of this realm,” the King of Kilharbor accused, as he slammed his fist on the table. “Give up your crowns and renounce your throne.”
The Queen gasped, but the King’s entire body locked. “You have no right to order that of me. My daughter’s safety came first, you can’t fault me for the deception it presented me with.”
Kell stepped back from the table and shifted closer to the royal couple. “Where is the princess now?” he questioned as gently as he could. “I gather she survived?”
“She did,” the King acknowledged, “but we sent her to another realm to keep her safe.” And that was when the entire chamber exploded in pandemonium.