Chapter 41 - Kell
Kell was dying. He had landed hard when he hit the bottom of the cavern and it felt like his entire body was broken. He couldn’t move and he was having trouble breathing. He knew it was bad. He was lying on his back, and as hard as he tried, he couldn’t move his head to get a look at himself. It was probably a good thing. He was sure if he could see his body, it would only make things worse. So he stared at the opening and looked at the sky. It was all he could do.
Kell had a feeling he’d been unconscious for quite some time. When his father, or his uncle as he’d just found out, had found him, it had been early evening. It was now dark. With no stars or moon to light the cavern, Kell had no idea how large it was. All he knew was this was where he would die, and he would die alone. No one would come, and no one would ever find him. Just like his father.
Kell had played in these woods, hunted in these woods, and fought in these woods, and never had he known the cavern was there. If he didn’t know, no one else would either. No one would come. His breathing was raspy, and he couldn’t feel his body, he could only assume death was near.
When a sudden streak of lightening lit the sky, Kell instinctively knew it wasn’t him. Again and again it illuminated his surroundings, and it was so painfully bright Kell closed his eyes. He assumed it was the elements themselves, grieving his death and letting him know they were with him. It was almost comforting.
“Open your eyes,” he heard come from somewhere in front of him. Kell didn’t recognize the voice, but he felt compelled to follow the order.
It was too dark to see clearly, but it looked like someone was seated on a rock outcropping close to his feet. It was a particular spot where Kell wouldn’t need to move at all to see him. The man was hazy, but then everything he looked at was hazy. He was tall, even sitting Kell could clearly see that. He had hair just as dark as Kell’s own and a full beard and moustache. His clothes looked well worn. Scuffed leather boots, dirt covered breaches, and a suede coat that had seen better days.
“You’re not in very good shape my boy,” the man frowned in concern. “It seems someone is trying to do away with you.”
Kell narrowed his eyes at the man. “It appears so,” he rasped with a slight hint of sarcasm. “Are you here to finish me off?”
“Me?” the man questioned in obvious affront. “I think not.”
“Then you are here to watch me take my last breath?” Kell grunted.
“I will remain here until you do,” the man sighed. “Although it is not something that I wish to see. You are young and have so much still to do. It is a shame that you have been betrayed this way.”
“Ahh,” Kell frowned. “So you know what has happened to me?”
“I am aware,” the man conceded with a small nod of his head.
“And you know who I am?” Kell pushed.
“I do,” the man said with a small smile. “Kell Hawthorne, the Elemental Prince and future King.”
Kell sneered at the man. “And you are just going to sit there and watch me die?”
“It is all I can do,” the man replied. Although he looked to be saddened by his admission.
“You cannot help me?” Kell furiously questioned.
“I cannot, although at this point there is not much I can do. The blood tricking from your mouth suggests internal injuries, although so does the rattling sound you are making. Both your legs and one arm are twisted at odd angles, and I fear your head injury is grave. Your colouring is pale, and the slight blue tinge is disturbing. Even if I could get you out of here, if would be for naught.”
Kell closed his eyes for a minute in defeat. He knew the man spoke the truth. Even if he was here simply to make sure he did indeed die, Kell was appreciative for the company. He would talk until he could talk no more.
“My Kingdom will fall after I am gone. My father will enslave my men and the other Kingdom’s will not be able to to overthrow him,” Kell huffed.
“Your uncle,” the man corrected with a sneer. “He is not your father. And I would like to point out you have warriors on your side that will do everything in their power to stop him. I can guarantee he will not capture them all. Even a small contingency can do significant damage.”
“They can, but I fear it will not be enough,” Kell replied. “With me out of the way, my uncle can do as he pleases.”
“Yes, but you forget you are not dead yet,” the man chuckled. “You have time before your death to set some things in motion to help.”
Kell gritted his teeth in frustration. “I cannot call on the Elements. Do you not think I have tried?”
The man smiled and leaned slightly forward. “I hear you have taken a bride.”
Kell was taken aback. “How do you know that?”
“I know many things others do not,” he chuckled. “I also know your bride and yourself have an unusual connection.”
Kell narrowed his eyes and glared. “And have you shared any of this with my uncle?”
The man sighed once more and it unnerved Kell. “I have only spoken about this just now. I make it a point to keep to myself.” Kell had no choice but to take him at his word. He remained silent and the man continued. “You should use that connection while you still have time.”
“And how do I do that when she is not here?”
“You call for her,” the man grunted. “If I were a guessing man, I’d say she would come.”
When Kell only frowned, the man huffed in obvious agitation and stood. “Close your eyes and concentrate, just as you would if you were using your Elemental powers.”
Kell knew he had nothing left to lose. He was dying, what could it hurt to try. He closed his eyes and thought about his wee warrior. He pictured her in his mind and called out to her in his head. Kell did this for quite some time until he could feel her. An overwhelming sense of love filled him. Grateful, he opened his eyes and looked towards the man once more.
“I see it worked,” the man nodded in satisfaction. “Emmalyn will find you,” he declared with more faith than Kell had.
“She may not find me in time,” Kell reminded him.
“No, maybe not,” he agreed wholeheartedly. “But she will know what happened to you. Is that not better than not knowing?”
“I suppose,” Kell reluctantly huffed. “But she will not be safe. The King will hunt her.”
“The King?” the man questioned with a raised brow.
“I refuse to call him uncle. He’s not my family, he’s blood only. I grew up being lied to and I had a father that I will never know.”
“Kelton,” the man replied, surprising Kell once more.
“You knew my father?” Kell asked.
“I knew him well. We were extremely close,” he admitted with an odd twinkle in his eye. “His brothers betrayal broke him. He lost the woman he loved, his son, and his life all in one night.”
“So he knew my mother was pregnant?” Kell pushed. “He knew he was to be a father.”
“He suspected,” the man confirmed.
“And what my uncle admitted is the truth?” Kell muttered. “He threw him into the crevice to die?”
“He did,” the man confirmed. “It is Kelton’s resting place for all of eternity.”
Kell was saddened by that, even though he never knew his father. The thought of him alone down here for so many years was heartbreaking.
“At least he’s won’t be alone anymore,” Kell mumbled. “He will have me to keep him company.”
“Yes, the mighty Kell, Elemental Prince, fierce warrior and future King,” the man sneered as he eyed him with a hint of disgust. “Giving up already? I thought you had more fight in you, my boy?”
Kell narrowed his eyes and fought to hold in his anger. “You said so yourself. I am at the end. I’ve called my bride as you pushed me to do. There is nothing left for me to do.”
“There is always something for you to do,” the man grunted. “Continue to try to call on your Elemental powers. You must fight until you take your last breath.”
Kell sighed, but once more he understood why the man was pushing him. He was ordered to stay with him until his death, but he was effectively using their time together to aid Kell. He was suddenly thankful it was this man that was chosen to guard him.
Kell closed his eyes and concentrated, but it was no use. All he did was wear himself out further. Even the pain in his head was diminishing. Time was almost out. The man must have realized this too, because his entire demeanour changed. Gone was the man pushing him to fight. In his place was a man full of concern. A man who looked like he wanted to weep.
“Why are you so saddened by my death?” Kell asked in confusion. “You do not know me.”
“I do not,” the man agreed as he moved to crouch in the dirt by his head. “And that is what saddens me. I never had the chance to watch you grow. I would have been elated to see how you were shaped into the man you are now.”
“Should I know you?” Kell pushed, not understanding why the man’s identity was suddenly so important.
The man smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “If you were meant to know me, things wouldn’t have played out the way they did.”
Then the man’s body locked solid, and he closed his eyes. It looked like his whole frame suddenly sighed in relief.
“You have people coming for you. They are a good distance away, but they will find you,” the man imparted. Then his eyes turned fierce and locked on Kell’s. “You need to hold on until they do. You cannot die before they get here. Your wee warrior is with them, and it is imperative you are alive when she finds you.”
“You are leaving?” Kell questioned, as the man’s words sunk in.
“It is time for me to go,” the man confirmed with a small nod. “I have treasured our time together.”
“Will I ever see you again?” Kell inquired, oddly saddened by the thought of never seeing the man again.
“I hope not for a very long time,” the man replied, confusing Kell. “You are a good man, Kell Hawthorne. A man I would be proud to call my son.”
Just then another bolt of lightning lit the cavern opening, drawing Kell’s eyes. When he turned back to the man, he was no longer there. Kell immediately missed his presence, but the man’s words resonated within him. Emmalyn was coming, and he needed to hold on until she got here. With renewed determination Kell put the man out of his mind and willed his body to fight. He would see his wee warrior one last time.