Chapter 33 - Kell
Kell couldn’t take his eyes of his beautiful bride. He had been reluctant to let her dress the way she wanted, but the look of longing on her face had done him in. He could deny her nothing. Kell had wanted the people to see her as a royal. He retrieved a princess. He needed her to look the part, and she had. Done up in the expensive gown, with her hair intricately wrapped around her head, she was a sight to behold. Emmalyn’s beauty took his breath away.
Kell hadn’t been prepared for the way her transformation had effected him. The outfit she picked for herself was jaw dropping. His wee warrior’s body was now covered in a soft black dress with an empire waist. There was a slit up the side for ease of movement, and silver lace peaked out of the cleavage that perfectly matched the flecks in her eyes. Matching silver ribbon was tied in a pretty bow just under her breasts, and her high black leather boots were visible through the slit when she moved. She wore a tight black leather jacket that was left to hang open, and she had her hair plaited in a thick side braid that draped over her shoulder and hung between her breasts. Finally, on her hip sat a small sword, one that matched the dagger he had gifted her earlier perfectly.
Kell couldn’t have picked a better match if he tried. The girl was utter perfection. Not only did she look even more stunning than she had in the regal dress, but now she complimented him. The outfit made her look like the wee warrior he had nicknamed her. His warriors loved the change as well, and cheers had shouted through the trees when she had stepped from their depths. Emmalyn definitely made them all proud.
As they crossed into Kilharbor land, Emmalyn sat up straighter, and Kell watched her take it all in. Fairrest had been full of trees and flowers, and the weather had been warm. Kilharbor was vastly different. The trees were tall, taller than anywhere else in their realm, and the branches began far up the trunk. It gave the forests a more open feel, but it made them slightly darker. Moss grew on the ground, but no flowers were to be seen. And a thick fog blanketed the area. The kingdom was set in a valley, and fog was a constant companion.
“I really don’t like this place,” Emmalyn admitted as she guided Beauty closer to Zephyr’s side. “It is no wonder Seraphine is in such a foul mood. I would be too if I had to live in such a dreary spot.”
Kell understood, but he disagreed. “Not all kingdoms in our realm are as beautiful as the one you grew up in my wee warrior. This one may not look as inviting, but it is one of the richest kingdoms in all our lands.”
“How do you mean?” Emmalyn questioned as her nose wrinkled in confusion.
“Do you see the trees all around us?” Kell inquired as he threw out his arm and motioned to them. When she nodded he continued. “They are some of the tallest and straightest in all the lands. The wood is highly desirable and is sold for a staggering price. It keeps the people well fed, and housed more comfortably than any other kingdom, including my own.
“So why, if they are doing so well, do you suspect they may be the ones behind all that has gone down?” Emmalyn inquired.
“Seraphine and her parents are never content. They enjoy their wealth, but they desire a kingdom that is more picturesque. They push for a marriage because it would give them the best of both worlds I suppose. My kingdom isn’t as beautiful as yours, but it is stunning in its own way. Living somewhere more favourable, and still reaping the benefits from the trees, would be ideal,” he patiently explained.
“But to kill to achieve it?” Emmalyn pushed.
“Which is why we are here,” Kell declared. “I need to know if they had anything to do with the attempts on our life, or if I should be focusing elsewhere.”
“So they are at the top of your list,” Emmalyn nodded, as if that made perfect sense. Then she scowled and gripped her reigns tighter, giving her a look of determination. “Let’s go make some heads roll,” she declared, before she kicked Beauty’s flank and sent the horse racing into the trees.
“Bloodthirsty,” Behr chuckled from behind him, but Kell didn’t spare him a backwards glance. He kicked at Zephyr’s flanks as well and pushed him to give chase. Kell wasn’t sure what kind of reception they would have, and he wanted to be by Emmalyn’s side in case of trouble.
Ten minutes later the entire procession was slowly traversing the winding cobblestone path that led through the town surrounding the royal’s castle. Unlike the other towns they passed since their trip through the portal, this one was composed of wooden houses. Walls made of thick logs, and roofs made of wooden shingles, gave the houses a sturdier feel. The fog wasn’t quite as thick here, but it still lingered, so each house was adorned with several lanterns that gave off a soft glow from the tiny white candles they held. It gave the town a quaint feeling, even if it lacked the colourful beauty of all the others.
“It’s like stepping into another world,” Emmalyn declared, as she smiled at a small girl staring up at her in fascination. “It’s got a charm all its own.”
Kell held back the smile her words brought to his lips. Only his bride would see the hidden beauty these lands contained. He kept his scowl in place as he led the way to the castle. The people knew instinctively something was wrong and were wary. It was exactly the way Kell wished them to feel. Word would spread quickly to the royals he was here, and that he was displeased.
As soon as they got close, guards attempted to block their way. Kell could see the castle ahead, but they’d need to go through them to reach it.
“Are you sure you wish to push me by standing in my way?” Kell addressed the head guard, with a hard glint to his eye. “It has been a trying couple weeks and my patience is thin.”
Rayme frowned as he held his eye, but didn’t back down. He was whom Kell assumed was in charge, since Warrick’s death on Emmalyn’s home world. “The King and Queen of Kilharbor have done nothing to warrant your presence. It is clear to see you are in battle mode and it is my duty to deter you,” Rayme informed him.
“Are you aware of the attempts on both my life and the princess they sent me to retrieve?” Kell demanded.
“I am,” Rayme conceded. “Word has traveled to us. But I assure you, it is not the King and Queen who are behind it. I would know if they were plotting against you.”
“And you are bound to protect them. What is to say you aren’t lying on their behalf?” Kell pushed.
Rayme took a step forward, and his features hardened, along with the hand holding his sword. “You have known me all my life,” Rayme growled. “You actually have to ask me that?”
Rayme had trained with him as a boy, and they had indeed grown up together, but his wee warriors life was at stake. No one was free from his wrath if it meant protecting what was his.
“I will not apologize for my words,” Kell replied, as he glanced at Emmalyn before turning back to the guard. “The princess has come under attack on several occasions and has been wounded by one of your own. It is my right to question all and figure out what the hell is going on.”
“I understand,” Rayme conceded. “But I would never lie to you. Not only are you the Elemental Prince, but I also consider you a friend.”
Kell nodded. “Then let me pass so that I may decide for myself if the King and Queen are in fact innocent. If you do not, my men will raise their swords and we will go through you. Not only will many of you die, but many villagers will be cut down as well.”
Rayme glared at him, and Kell held his glare. He knew the guards were tasked with protecting the royals and backing down would not go over well with them. Kell felt for his friend, and he was sorry to put him in this position, but he needed answers. Answers that only the royals themselves could give him.
“You may pass,” Rayme growled after several minutes, and immediately the guards parted to allow them entry. As his warriors proceeded, Kell himself moved aside to address Rayme personally.
“I do not think you lie my friend,” Kell imparted. “I do however think that you could be wrong in your assumption the King and Queen are innocent. Even if they are not behind the plots to have us killed, there is a good chance they know who is.”
“Well then let us find out shall we?” Rayme sighed as he drew ahead and led the way towards the castle.
“You and he are friends?” Emmalyn questioned as she kept pace with him. “I hate to see how your enemies are treated.”
Kell grinned as he pushed Zephyr into a gallop. He needed to lead the procession so he could be the first person the royals saw as they reached them. Every facial expression was a tell, and their reaction would let him see the things they likely would not want him to. First impressions were what Kell relied on most and were always a good indication of someone’s true character.
As they crossed through the gates, separating the castle from the town, the fog finally lifted. Why gates were in place, Kell had no idea. No other Kingdom kept their castle separated from the people, and he instantly disliked it. No matter if the royals were innocent or not, they proved time and again they weren’t good people. Kell was looking forward to using whatever means necessary, to get the information he required.