Chapter 21 - Emmalyn
Emmalyn was reluctant to leave the pretty little glen. It was like an oasis. An escape from reality. It gave her and Kell precious time together, without him working out his next move out with his men. She knew he was still doing it in his head, but at least he was keeping it to himself. After making love for a second time, Kell had pulled her back into the warm water and washed her. Then he had placed her on his lap and made her relax for an hour. He cautioned she would be sore and told her the hot water would help some.
After the hour was up they dressed, ate some fruit, bread and cheese, and headed back towards the waiting men. Emmalyn was extremely embarrassed around them, but they treated her the same as always, with respect and admiration. It put her at ease. When Kell lifted her onto Zephyr she protested.
“You said we’d be moving fast,” Emmalyn reminded him. “It only makes sense that I ride behind you.” Her remark brought a lazy smile from Kell.
“After what we’ve been doing I don’t think it will be comfortable for you to ride that way. You ride up front, get some sleep, and if you feel better tomorrow, we can revisit this conversation,” Kell replied.
A blush coated her cheeks, and she had no doubt even with Kell speaking softly, that his men had heard his words. She didn’t move her eyes from his as she nodded and got comfortable. She knew there was no use arguing, and he was most likely right.
Kell rode hard for hours and Emmalyn tried to sleep, but the pounding of Zephyr’s hooves and the jarring motion made it a restful one. Emmalyn was in and out, and that seemed to only make her exhaustion worse. She made not a peep though, desperate to hide her discomfort. She refused to be a burden.
When they crested one of the steeper hills, and Kell pulled on the reins, she sat up a little straighter. Eager to see why they were stopping, she twisted and took in the view. The sight before her had her gasping for breath. Beyond the hill was a massive valley with green meadows, that were filled with an abundance of colourful wildflowers. A large stream ran through the centre, surrounded by what appeared to be a cosy little village. The houses were stone, and once more had thatched roofs, but the entire thing looked more regal. It appeared the owners had taken pains to make everything better. Window boxes full of flowers littered every house, cobblestone streets ran between them, and lush cherry blossom trees filled every open spot. The entire thing looked like it belonged in a Disney Princess movie.
But what drew her attention the most, was a stunning castle sitting high on an adjacent hill, and overlooking the entire valley. It was majestic and was a castle dreams were made of. The stone walls were an off white colour and the many roofs were a pretty grey blue colour. There was a main section that stood ridiculously tall, surrounded by smaller sections jutting out in every direction. Then there were the dozens of turrets, all rising towards the clear blue sky and decorated with cast iron tops. The entire structure sparkled as the sun hit it. It was a castle made with love, and a castle that called to her.
“It’s unbelievable,” Emmalyn breathed, as she leaned her head against Kell’s shoulder. “It’s utterly magical.” She didn’t want to continue on to Kell’s home, she wanted to ride down the hill, cross the village, and throw open the front doors to see what hidden treasures it held inside.
“This is the castle you were born in,” Kell whispered in her ear. “This was your home.”
Emmalyn gasped as she looked at the castle again with new eyes. She didn’t remember it at all, but she was young when she was sent away. It gave her a sense of peace and belonging that brought tears to her eyes. She now understood her insane desire to risk everything and race down the hill. Emmalyn wanted to be closer, she wanted to touch it, and she wanted to know her parents. She took gasping breaths as she tried to hold in the sob. Kell must have known she was struggling, because he pulled her tighter against him and stroked her hair. His warmth calmed her.
“I thought it would help to see it. To give you some peace,” Kell apologized. “I was mistaken. It was wrong of me to tempt you with it and not allow you near.”
“No,” Emmalyn assured him as she swiped at her stray tears. “I’m glad you let me see it. It’s turned a dream into reality. I just want so much to step inside, to meet them.”
“I know,” Kell soothed. “The danger is too great though. There is no doubt spies are planted here, waiting to discover us.”
Emmalyn nodded, knowing he spoke the truth. Whoever was after them seemed to know where they were. Behr appeared at their side and shook his head in sympathy. Emmalyn spared him a quick glance, then looked back towards the castle.
“It’s a shame you can’t get in undetected. That there is no way to disguise yourselves and sneak in,” Behr snickered. “That we can’t spare a few more hours to make a pretty girl’s dream come true.”
Emmalyn’s head shot up to gage Kell’s reaction, as hope took sprout. He was glaring at Behr, and she took that as a bad sign.
“You know the danger,” Kell growled. “And yet you suggest something that would risk your future Queen’s life?”
“We are trained warriors, we are stronger than all, and we know how to get in and out of places undetected. You honestly think I would suggest it if I didn’t think you could pull it off?” Behr growled in return as he leaned towards Kell.
“We need to get behind the safety of our walls,” Kell reminded him furiously.
“And that’s what we’ll do, after Emmalyn has a chance to meet her parents,” Behr pushed.
Emmalyn was sick of the back and forth, she placed her hand on Kell’s warm cheek, and gained his eyes.
“Please,” she pleaded. “Both you and Behr can go with me. We can circle around and enter the village from the side. We will be closer to the castle then.”
“I will be in disguise and can only reveal my true identity to your parents. How do you suppose we get past the guards?” Kell questioned irritably.
“I take a missive,” Behr interrupted. “Explain I have a message from the Prince of Knightshire and have been instructed to deliver it to them personally. The guards know me. They will not deny me. You both will accompany me. We will disguise Emmalyn as a boy, and she will be a knight in training I have picked up along the way. You will be her father.”
Kell sighed and Emmalyn’s heart soared. He was agreeing, as much as he was against it, he would do it for her.
“Bring me my writing supplies and start a small fire so I can heat the wax,” Kell ordered.
Emmalyn squeaked in delight, and Kell turned his harsh glare on her.
“You’ve got me wrapped around your goddamned finger,” he grunted. “I’m going against all my instincts to see you happy.”
“I know,” Emmalyn whispered. “And I’m sorry to put you in this position. But you must have known this could happen when you brought me here?”
Kell kept his glare as he nodded. “I did,” he conceded. “But I was hopeful you wouldn’t be foolhardy enough to agree to this.”
She gasped in mock outrage. “I was fighting at Mathias’ side when you first met me, I fought with you against the assassin’s, and I let you make love to me knowing your men could hear. What part of any that suggests I wouldn’t be willing to do this?”
Kell shook his head. “I’m a fool.”
“You so are,” Emmalyn agreed with a grin, before her expression turned serious. “We can do this,” she told him with determination.
“We can,” Kell agreed. “There is no such thing as failure. We’ll get in, you can spend a small amount of time with them, then we must be on our way again.”
“Okay,” Emmalyn replied, not at all hiding her excitement.
Then she lifted up, wrapped her hands around his neck, and pulled him down. Kell knew exactly what she wanted and slammed his mouth down against hers. His tongue forced its way inside and she melted against him. As usual, Kell’s kiss was intense. He gave her every bit of himself and she did the same. Moments later they were interrupted by a grinning Behr.
“It’s time to get ready, every minute we waste is a minute longer we are away from Knightshire,” he admonished.
It took twenty minutes to get ready and write the missive, and once more Kell was unhappy.
“You can see her ass,” Kell growled at a clearly frustrated Behr. The warrior was ready to walk away, and Emmalyn had to ease Kell’s anger.
“It’s okay. I’ll untuck the shirt. It will cover the pants and hide my ass from view,” she soothed, as she did just that.
They dressed her in tight pants, high boots, and a long-sleeved shirt. Her hair was braided tightly and wound around her head. A large floppy black hat was perched low on her head, and they dusted her face with dirt. Kell motioned for her to spin and nodded when she turned back.
“That’s better, but I will stay at your back at all times. I’m holding on by a thread, so you must give me this,” Kell grunted.
She smiled and stood on her tippy toes to give him a quick kiss on his cheek. Her man looked ridiculous. They found a flower that gave off a white pollen and had covered his hair, beard and moustache in it. He wore baggy cloths, a floppy hat of his own that he wore low to hide his eyes, and he hunched over while walking with a branch he used as a cane. Emmalyn bit back her laugh and looked away.
“Let’s go meet my parents,” she declared, as she sized up Zephyr. “You’re too tall,” she complained as she eyed the high saddle.
As soon as the words were out, Zephyr dropped his front legs and rested on his knees. Emmalyn grinned at him and gave his neck a hug, then climbed on and waited for Kell to join her. When she looked back, Kell and Behr were eyeing her with similar looks of surprise. They glanced at each other, then there was some unspoken conversation going on between them. Unfortunately she didn’t have time to figure it out.
“Daylights wasting,” she pushed, as Zephyr climbed back to his feet and moved to Kell’s side.
Without a word Kell swung on behind her, Behr mounted his own horse, and they were off.