Chapter 22 - Kell
Kell had reservations about sneaking into the Kingdom in disguise, but the look on his wee warrior’s face as she zigzagged through the cobblestone streets had him pushing them away. She was alight with anticipation and he had to catch her arm several times when she went to sprint ahead. He was supposed to be an old man, and old men didn’t run, especially when carrying a cane. Each time he stopped her, her glare got more fierce. It didn’t help that Behr was encouraging her by teasing him.
“Hurry up old man,” Behr pushed once more, as the warrior glanced back at him. “The sun will be long down before we ever make it to the castle.”
“For fuck’s sake, shut up,” Kell grumbled under his breath, as he whacked Behr in the back of the leg with his cane. “I’m old remember?”
“Yep, old not dead,” Emmalyn shot back. “People are staring.”
“People are staring because they recognize Behr, not because of my speed,” Kell impatiently pointed out. As he watched Emmalyn lifted her head and glanced around.
“Oh,” she gasped when she realized he was right. “But isn’t that a bad thing?”
“Why?” Behr questioned as they moved to the side so a man pulling a cart could pass. The man nodded in thanks then eyed Behr with surprise.
“I thought the idea was to sneak in unnoticed. This isn’t exactly unnoticed,” Emmalyn pushed.
“No, but I’m sure there are spies here, so seeing Behr carrying a missive will hopefully make it appear as if we’ve moved on without him. Most of the time the warrior assigned a missive will deliver it on his own, then catch up with me afterwards. Someone who has been following my moves, or know’s me well, will know that,” Kell patiently explained.
“That makes sense,” Emmalyn agreed. Then she reached back and took his free hand. “I’m nervous,” she admitted.
“I know sweetheart, but there is no reason to be. Your parents most likely aren’t expecting you, so seeing you will bring them a joy they haven’t felt since you left. They will be beyond themselves with happiness,” he promised.
Emmalyn beamed at his words, then tugged at his hand, impatient once more. Kell sped up a small bit, knowing if he didn’t she’d likely pull his arm off. He couldn’t blame her though, he’d be just as anxious to see his parents if they had sent away him at such a young age.
It took them another ten minutes to reach the steps leading up to the castle. As soon as they moved to the first one four guards magically appeared to block their way. Kell dropped Emmalyn’s hand and moved slightly in front of her to both protect her and to block her from view. The guards were focused on Behr and didn’t even glance his way.
“Behr, a pleasure,” Boris, one of the older guards greeted. Kell had met him several times, so he made extra sure to keep his head down. If anyone would recognize him, Boris would be the one. “I wasn’t told to expect you.”
“It was a last minute decision. Kell has been traveling close to the Kingdom, and while in the area, has sent me with a missive for the King and Queen. I must hand it to them personally. It contains information they are waiting on,” Behr explained, easily telling enough of the truth to not raise any further questions.
“Of course. Your companions can stay with me while you deliver it,” Boris consented.
“That won’t do,” Behr denied with a quick shake of his head. “The lad is a future knight, and I have been ordered by Kell not to let him out of my sight. The old man is the boy’s father. I do not wish to anger Kell, as I’m sure you don’t either, by disregarding his orders.”
“No sir, I do not,” Boris grinned. “It may be best if they accompany you then.”
“That’s what I was thinking”, Behr cheekily replied, causing Kell to tighten his grip on his cane, and Boris to lose his smile.
“Up you go,” Boris grunted as he glared at Behr. Kell had to hand it to Boris, because that’s all he said as he stepped aside, whereas he himself might have said something more in reply.
As they made their way up, Kell was forced to hold his tongue. It wouldn’t do for Boris to see him chewing Behr out. Emmalyn took his hand again, pulling his thoughts away from Behr, and he turned to assess her. Finally she was slowing, and once more seemed scared to death. He gave her small hand a squeeze of encouragement and pulled her closer. When he glanced back at the guards, it was to see all of them had moved away once more. It showed the difference between the two kingdoms. At Knightshire the warriors were clearly visible. They stood protectively at the entrance and remained there fully armed. If there was trouble, Kell wanted them ready to take action, not hiding in the trees somewhere close by. If Emmalyn ever spent any amount of time in this Kingdom, that would need to change.
As they moved up the steps and got closer to the entrance, the man standing by the door stepped forward to open it for them. Behr nodded at him as he stepped inside, with both of them following close behind. Emmalyn lifted her head as she cleared the door, and he felt a small amount of pain as she squeezed his hand. Her expression was one of awe, so he understood the squeeze was most likely in place of a squeal. The entrance was magnificent. The walls were painted a soft cream colour, a grand staircase with marble steps graced the far side, and stunning tapestries of soft pastel colours covered most of the walls. The staircase rails were carved into intricate knots, swirling their way up the steps, and the second floor was adorned with large decorative arches adorned with the same knotted pattern. He could understand why Emmalyn was so taken with it.
“Please follow me,” a maid daintily requested, as she turned and moved up the stairs.
The three followed, the only sounds were their booted feet clicking on the marble steps. When they reached the top, the maid moved to a doorway adjacent to the steps and pushed it open.
“The King and Queen will see you in just a moment. Please make yourselves comfortable,” she explained as she motioned them inside.
As they stepped in Kell watched his girl. Her eyes darted everywhere, taking in the same cream coloured paint, the ornate mouldings, and the patterned throw rugs on the floor. He motioned to the hand carved, flowery velvet lounges, but she shook her head. It was obvious she was far too nervous to sit. She let go of his hand and started pacing, while he propped his cane up against the fireplace mantle and straightened. His back was bothering him from all the stooping he’d done, so he stretched it to work out the kinks. Behr chuckled at him, and he narrowed his eyes at his best friend, causing the ass to laugh harder.
“Maybe it’s too soon to meet them,” Emmalyn suddenly exclaimed. “I don’t know if I’m ready for this.” When Kell looked her way she was wringing her hands and heading for the door.
She didn’t even reach it before the King and Queen were making their way inside, stopping Emmalyn’s retreat. The poor girl froze and stared at her parents with tears in her eyes. Startled, the couple stopped as well, and stared right back at her.
“Emmalyn,” King Lorcan whispered in wonder, causing Queen Katerina to jerk her head in his direction.
“Emmalyn?” she gasped in surprise.
“Yes my dear, Emmalyn,” he repeated, as he motioned in his girl’s direction. “Even in boy’s clothes, and hiding her hair under that silly hat, I know it’s her. She looks just like you honey.”
As Kell watched, King Lorcan moved across the room and pulled a stunned Emmalyn into his arms. He cradled her against his large body. Emmalyn stood still as a statue for only a moment, then she lifted her arms and clutched at his shirt, as she buried her face in his chest. Sobs rocked his girl’s tiny body as her father held her, and Kell felt it in his heart. When he glanced at Queen Katerina she was crying softly as she clasped her hands tightly together near her chest. She only gave them a couple minutes before she was stepping forward and pulling Emmalyn from his arms so she could hug her herself. Again Emmalyn was pulled close and wrapped in a tight embrace. Kell glanced to the King to see him swiping at his damp cheeks. He must have felt Kell’s eyes, because he looked his way.
“You got to her in time,” King Lorcan sighed, showing his disguise didn’t work at all on the man.
“No,” Kell denied. “Mathias and Emmalyn were locked in battle with Warrick and several other men I did not recognize when we stepped through the portal. Mathias sustained a serious injury and was left on our side of the portal with a healer and one of my men. Emmalyn also suffered an injury to her arm, but it has since healed.”
“My god,” King Lorcan cried, as he moved to Emmalyn’s side and pulled her away from the Queen. “You were hurt?”
“Just a scratch,” Emmalyn assured her father, as she sent a glare his way. It was clear she would give him grief later if he breathed a word of the truth, so he remained silent.
Kell wasn’t surprised when both of her parents moved so they were still touching Emmalyn as they talked. As Kell had hoped, both were unbelievably happy to see her, and weren’t letting her leave their side. It had turned into the heartfelt reunion just as he had hoped.
Queen Katrina couldn’t take her eyes from her daughter, and Kell grinned when she pulled off Emmalyn’s hat and removed the pins holding her braid tight to her head. Once free, the braid fell down her back, hanging to her waist.
“Beautiful,” Queen Katrina declared. “You are even more beautiful than I remembered.”
“As I said, she looks just like you,” King Lorcan added. “There is no doubt of who she is. She will be in terrible danger when she is discovered.”
“She already is,” Kell regretfully imparted. “We were attacked by assassin’s at an inn we stayed at.” Then he was moving across the room and pulling Emmalyn into his own arms. “Emmalyn fought by my side, just as she had Mathias’ and we defeated them.”
King Lorcan narrowed his eyes as Emmalyn leaned back into his embrace. Kell had no intention of hiding their relationship from the couple, and he wanted it clear from the beginning how he felt about her.
“Do I need to ask?” King Lorcan questioned as he crossed his arms and raised his brow.
“We were drawn to each other from the first moment we met. I will not hide the fact that I’ve fallen in love with your daughter,” Kell admitted.
“We have a lot to talk about,” King Lorcan sighed, as he dropped his arms and moved to a lounge, pulling his wife down beside him. Behr too moved to a lone chair and took a seat.
“Indeed we do,” Kell agreed, as he too sat, and pulled Emmalyn into his side.