Chapter 17 - Kell
It was four hours after the attack, and Kell was still on edge. He had given his wee warrior time to attend his wound, only because it seemed to be important to her. Kell honestly didn’t give a damn. It was a shallow cut, and he could have gotten away with simply cleaning it with a splash of water, but he let her have her way. Afterwards they had quickly dressed and left the inn. The poor innkeeper and his family were beside themselves. They were terrified he would kill them for allowing something like that to befall the Prince of Knightshire and his warriors while in their presence. Kell had patiently explained they were not at fault, but only once his men had assured him of that, but nothing would ease their guilt. In the end, they left the small inn with a week’s worth of food and drink strapped to their horses.
Kell pushed his warriors to ride hard and fast into the thickest parts of the forest for more than an hour, knowing no others could keep pace with them. If they were being followed they would have lost their tail almost immediately. It was a risk with Emmalyn sitting on his lap, but Zephyr was a skilled horse and Kell’s for a reason. He was sure-footed and confident, and the beast was at his best when pushed to his limits.
When Kell made camp he doubled the guards and made sure no one could get past them. Kell placed Emmalyn in the thick of them, and with his heat surrounding her, it wasn’t long until she was fast asleep. Kell then slipped from the blankets and moved to the edge of the camp, motioning for Behr to follow. He made sure no ears were listening before he got into things with him.
“How did they get into the room?” Kell demanded as he glared at his friend.
“I’ve no idea. We questioned everyone at the inn and they all came up clean. No one was tipped off we were there. We were vigilant to make sure no one followed. It’s baffling,” Behr admitted with a deep frown.
Kell seethed in anger. “Well somehow they discovered where we were, and I need answers. There was a dagger imbedded in Emmalyn’s pillow for god’s sake. If I hadn’t moved her in time, it would have taken her life.”
“So you heard them approach?” Behr questioned as he raised his brow and crossed his huge arms.
“No, the wind sent me a message seconds before the attack,” Kell growled. “They were silent in their approach.”
“Well trained,” Behr scowled.
“I’m thinking assassins,” Kell grunted, feeling in his gut it was the truth. “Only an assassin could get as close to me as they did tonight. But who the hell sent them? Assassins are few and they expect large coin for their services. You would need a hefty pocket to gain their favour.”
Behr nodded then rubbed his stubbled chin. “So again they attacked the girl and not you? Wouldn’t it make more sense to take you out instead? Even if she dies you still retain your power.”
“Yes, but it doesn’t increase unless I marry. I need to know if someone is trying to push me into marrying Seraphine instead, or just wishes to see Emmalyn dead. It makes no bloody sense,” Kell growled.
“You were cornered in that room, were you not?” Behr questioned, momentarily changing the subject. “Why did you not use your power then?”
“I was,” Kell agreed. “I couldn’t even pull back my damn elbow without hitting the wall. They planned the attack perfectly. They hit from Emmalyn’s side, and when I pushed her to the opposite, I had no choice but to engage them in the corner. I didn’t use my power because she doesn’t know I have it yet,” he sighed. “That’s not the way I wish her to find out.”
“Understood,” Behr nodded sharply. “I believe they came through the window,” he backtracked. “There was no other way to get past all of us.”
“Agreed,” Kell replied. “But I still need to know how they found us.” He rubbed at his temples as a headache formed. It frustrated him, he was furious, and he didn’t want to admit what he felt in his gut was the the only explanation.
“We have a traitor amongst us,” Kell growled as he looked at a shocked Behr.
“Not possible,” his friend denied. “We hold the highest positions of the realm. We train and guard the future king and elemental. There is no way one of us would ever betray you. We are honoured to hold our positions and would do nothing to jeopardize that.”
“But what if someone you loved was threatened? Would you not do what you had to in order to protect them?” Kell pushed.
Behr dropped his head and then gave a sharp nod. “That makes sense. It wouldn’t take much to discover who your most trusted men are. They’d know who was with you and know which family to target. If they were following us, they could easily get a message to the warrior with a threat.”
“I want you to handle this personally,” Kell ordered. “Find the warrior that betrayed me and bring him to me. Start with the ones with families of their own. Do this discreetly. I don’t wish to alert the traitor before we get what we need from him. The assassin that took his own life tonight proved they will go to any lengths to keep me from learning who is behind this.”
“Done,” Behr acknowledged, then he turned and disappeared toward camp. Kell trusted him above all his men. Behr would find the warrior responsible.
Kell needed a moment alone to gather himself. He moved further into the trees, and when he could no longer feel his warriors presence, he stopped. He closed his eyes and tipped his head up to the sky. The moon was hidden tonight, but the stars were plentiful. It felt magical.
“Thank you for warning me tonight,” Kell whispered into the wind. He waited a minute, and when a soft breeze ruffled his hair he smiled. It was a small acknowledgement for the wind’s assistance, but one he needed to give. He had a gift, but he made sure to thank the elements when he felt them worthy. It was a courtesy he made sure never to forget.
Kell headed back for camp and to Emmalyn. After tonight he was uneasy leaving her alone for too long. His mind was on the traitor. He was one of his own, and that was unthinkable. Kell’s men were paid handsomely for their services and they were all extremely loyal. If someone got to one of them, it was by threatening someone they loved. It was the only way one of his warriors would fall. His main concern was that if one fell, more could fall, and that was unthinkable.
When Kell moved towards where Emmalyn lay, it was to find her wide awake. She had been fast asleep when he left, and it bothered him she was no longer.
“I woke, and you were gone,” Emmalyn whispered in greeting. “I couldn’t fall back asleep.”
“Walk with me for a minute,” Kell offered, as he bent and held out his hand. Emmalyn was completely dressed in case they needed to leave in a hurry, so he had no worry about her clothing.
Without question Emmalyn reached up and placed her small hand in his much larger one. He gently pulled her to her feet and tucked her under his arm. They moved silently through the camp to the area they had corralled the horses for the night. Zephyr lifted his head and snorted in greeting when they reached his side, gaining a smile from his wee warrior. Kell watched in awe as she moved to Zephyr and wrapped her arms around his neck. His beast accepted her affection easily and rubbed the side of his head against her own. Zephyr was half wild and was not easily tamed. Not even Behr could get close to the beast, but Emmalyn had somehow won him over, and he did not understand when that had happened. Zephyr trusted her. The thought only endeared her more to him.
“My beauty,” she greeted with a small sigh. “How are you tonight?”
As if Zephyr could understand her, he neighed and stomped his front hoof. She giggled and praised him again. Kell could finally take no more. He moved behind Emmalyn and circled her with his arms. She leaned back and gave him her weight as she twisted slightly to look back at him.
“I’ve made friends with your horse,” she announced unnecessarily.
“I can see that,” Kell smiled. “A feet no other has accomplished. You are indeed special.”
She smiled at his praise and moved with him as he guided her to the saddlebags. As Kell dug through and attempted to locate the object he’d put there earlier, she remained silent. He could see she was curious by the slight tilt of her head, but the girl had patience. When his fingers touched the object he was seeking, he grasped it more firmly and brought it out. With an open palm he showed Emmalyn what he had. Her eyes grew large as she leaned over to get a closer look at it.
“Is that a dagger?” she questioned, as she brushed the tips of her fingers lightly over the ivory handle. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“It’s made of the sturdiest metal in the land and is quite sharp. You have proved that you are more than capable of handling yourself, but I’d feel better if you’d keep this on you. The casing is adorned with ribbon and it’s meant to be worn on your thigh,” he explained. “May I?” Kell questioned as he motioned towards her leg.
A pretty blush spread across her cheeks, but she nodded and lifted her dress for him. Kell dropped to a knee and placed her small foot on his bent leg. Then he watched in fascination as she pulled the dress up another inch and revealed her creamy thigh. He’d seen her legs before when he’d fist met her in her ridiculous pyjamas, but he still had to regulate his breathing, to reign in his control. He wanted her, and it took everything he had to perform this one small task and step away. Kell tied the ribbon around her leg twice and secured the dagger. He felt her shiver as his warm fingers glided across her skin. He looked up to see the same desire shining in her eyes he knew were reflected in his own.
“Thank you,” Emmalyn whispered breathlessly as he reluctantly let her go and stood.
“I will have you soon,” Kell vowed, and she drew in a sharp breath at his words. Then his little warrior glanced around the horses and frowned when she saw Torin tending his own horse close by.
“You have too many men,” she announced with a tiny pout, and Kell couldn’t help throwing back his head and laughing. His girl was definitely made for him.