Chapter 14 - Emmalyn
Just as Kell said, the ride to the small village took about two hours. Once more she had been sequestered to ride Zephyr with Kell. She wouldn’t admit it to him, but she enjoyed sitting on his lap and having his warm, strong arms wrapped around her. It was comfortable, and she felt incredibly safe perched there. It was dusk when they arrived, and Kell and his men took the back roads to reach the inn. Kell reasoned that they needed to stay out of sight. Her safety was of the upmost importance.
Emmalyn loved the village, from what she could see. There were no roads, just heavily worn dirt lanes. The houses were spaced apart and were crude structures made from rough wooden boards. They had no windows, and large cloth awnings swung out over the doors. The roofs were a simple triangle frame and came almost all the way to the ground. It looked like the villagers fashioned them from dried hay. They all had small wooden chimneys, that fluffy plumes of smoke billowed out of. Each house had large wooden barrels outside, and huge woven baskets. It reminded her of a medieval village from an old movie, and if she would have seen a knight riding by, she’d wouldn’t have been surprised.
The group approached from the trees and moved down a lane that ran parallel to the backs of the buildings. Only about half a dozen men stayed with them, the rest Kell explained were making camp outside of the village. They would be hidden from view, but be close enough to ride in if there was trouble. The smaller the group, the less chance of drawing unwanted attention he declared.
The inn itself was much larger than the rest of the houses in the village and looked to be two full stories. It appeared to be made of the same materials, but it had a cosy feel to it that Emmalyn instantly liked. Adjacent to it was a rustic, but sturdy looking stable. The men headed there first in order to get the horses settled. Apparently, Oryn had arranged everything ahead of time with the innkeeper, and a stable boy was waiting for them when they stepped inside. Coins exchanged hands, and the men grabbed their bags, as Kell led her to the back door of the inn. When she stepped inside she gasped. Several men sat at huge wooden tables with crude benches. They ate watered down stew from dented metal plates and chugged from huge pitchers she suspected held dark ale. They were loud, they were dressed in dirty worn pants and oversized long-sleeved shirts, and they smelled bad.
Emmalyn could have stood there forever, she was so fascinated by the scene in front of her, but a short, pudgy man rushed up to greet them. He immediately started talking insanely fast. She could barely understand a word the man was saying, but obviously Kell could. He greeted the man, looking more formal than she had ever seen him look, and the poor man instantly dropped to his knees and bowed his head. Taken aback, Emmalyn stepped away as she gaped at the man. She knew Kell was a Prince; he had explained that much to her. However, being in the woods surrounded by his men hadn’t given her much of a chance to see him in action. He was always gruff, even when he was issuing orders, but he still seemed a bit laid back. Now he was intimidating and regal. His words were short and clipped, and he seemed almost impatient with the innkeeper.
“I need hot food and ale brought to a room where myself and my companions can eat in peace. I need someone to bring up a tub and to fill it. Andlastly, I need to make sure that my men are comfortable and treated favourably,” he ordered.
The innkeeper nodded and immediately led them to a set of stairs off to the side. Kell took her hand once more, and she followed him up the stairs, with the few remaining men climbing up behind them. The innkeeper led them down a short hall and pushed open a door at the very end. Kell was the first to step inside, and after a quick inspection, he motioned for her to come in. The room was sparsely furnished. It had a large bed in the centre, two wooden chairs in the corner, and a table with a small basin and some towels near the door. It had one window with the dirtiest looking glass she’d even seen, and a large fireplace sat comfortably beside it.
“I’ll need someone to bring up some wood and light a fire in the hearth,” Kell demanded as he scowled at the man, and it was then Emmalyn felt the chill she’d missed when she’d first walked in. Apparently Kell hadn’t, and he made it abundantly clear it displeased him. She assumed with Oryn arriving ahead of time, this was something that should have been already done.
Once more the man babbled unintelligibly, then he bowed and dropped his head before scurrying out of the room. She supposed he was apologizing, but she couldn’t be sure. She eyed Kell for a minute, but he was busy glaring at the empty fireplace, so she moved to the bed to inspect it. First she pushed on it with her hand. It was softer than she expected, but rather lumpy. Still curious, she lifted the soft, worn quilts and peered at the mattress underneath. Unfortunately it had a covering, so she had no idea what was inside it.
“What are you doing?” Kell demanded, as he crossed the room and stood beside her. “Is this not to your liking?”
“No, it’s fine,” Emmalyn assured him. “I was curious. I’ve never been to an inn this old before, and I was trying to figure out what they made the mattress out of.”
Kell tilted his head and studied her, and Emmalyn could only wonder what he was thinking. “This mattress contains duck and goose feathers,” he finally explained. “The mattresses the innkeepers and villagers sleep on contain dried hay. In my home, the mattresses contain down and only the softest of feathers.”
“Wow,” she grinned. “I can’t wait to see yours.” Kell’s intense look instantly changed to a heated one, and she involuntarily took a small step back.
“You want to see my mattress I can certainly arrange for that to happen. Although, I can assure you your attention will definitely not be on the mattress my wee warrior,” Kell promised huskily. He stepped forward and ran his finger down the fading wound on her cheek, and she trembled from the touch. “I would love to see you lying on my bed,” he growled.
“Kell,” Emmalyn whispered breathlessly, as the heat from his fingers seared her skin. Something drew her to him, and she swayed even closer as her mind tried to remind her it was too soon.
“Would you like that?” Kell questioned, as he took another step closer, bringing his body flush against hers.
She was about to answer, when thankfully a sharp knock sounded at the door. Kell immediately dropped his hand and stepped back, and she blew out a relieved breath. She was definitely falling for the man, but she didn’t know if she was ready to take things further.
“Saved by the door,” Kell smirked, as he moved towards it and threw it open.
The innkeeper stood there nervously for a minute, until Kell impatiently motioned for him to talk. Again the ridiculous man started rambling in a quick speech she caught not one word of. When he was done, he moved from the door, and a young boy walked in carrying an armload of wood. He dropped the logs in front of the fireplace and then squatted and began building a fire. Emmalyn watched him for a minute, until two even younger boys came in dragging a large metal tub between them. They moved to the fireplace and set it close by.
“The innkeeper has set up a room where we can eat,” Kell informed her, and she reluctantly turned her eyes back to him. “My men are already there. While we eat his sons will see to a fire, and his daughters will bring up buckets of heated water. You can have a bath when we return.”
Emmalyn smiled at the thought of a warm bath. “Thank you so much,” she beamed at the innkeeper in unmistakable joy. He looked astonished for a minute, almost like he had no idea what to do, then he grinned at her and nodded happily before ducking out of the room. Curious, she looked to Kell for an explanation.
“Royalty don’t thank the help,” he frowned at her. “His whole family will hear about this, and hopefully we will be long gone before it spreads through the entire village.”
“Oh,” Emmalyn huffed. “Well I’m not too proud to thank him for doing something kind, regardless of whether or not it’s his job.” Kell sighed and then he ran both his hands through his hair, causing some of it to stand up.
“And this is one of the reasons why you will gain the people’s favour,” he told her.
“You act like that’s a bad thing?” Emmalyn questioned with a small frown of her own.
“It’s not bad, just different,” Kell replied ominously. She waited for more, but that’s all he would say, before turning to the door and motioning for her to follow him. “Let’s get you some food,” he declared as he held out his hand.
Emmalyn smiled at the boys once more before walking towards him and taking his hand. Kell shook his head, then led her out the door and down the hall.