Chapter 42 - Emmalyn
Escaping the castle grounds had been nerve-wracking, so when both groups entered the woods unscathed, Emmalyn almost dropped to her knees in relief. The sounds of panic and clashing of swords were slowly quieting, but it did little to settle her nerves. She knew without being told it was because Kell’s men were being defeated. She could only hope the bulk of his army was away from the castle and battling the fires the enemy had set in the villages.
Abrielle’s squeal of delight pulled Emmalyn from her thoughts. She lifted her head just in time to see the girl throw herself at Darrow. Darrow said nothing for quite some time and simply held her. Both Emmalyn and Kell’s men allowed this, knowing how much he had sacrificed by letting his young bride come after them. They felt obligated to let them have their moment.
After a while Darrow pulled back, and his eyes went straight to Emmalyn. She braced, seeing the intense expression he aimed her way.
“I saw the King dragging a very unconscious Kell into the woods. I myself was battling three men in black at the time. I could not make a move to follow them,” Darrow announced.
Emmalyn rocked back on her heels at the same time Thane surged forward. He didn’t touch Darrow, but Emmalyn was sure it was only because Abrielle was attached to his side.
“Are you accusing my father?” Thane shouted furiously. Darrow held up his hands in surrender, then sighed in frustration.
“I am not,” he huffed. “But it didn’t look good. Why would the King be dragging him? If he was hurt, would he not be carrying him?”
“Kell is a big man,” Thane countered. “It would be difficult for anyone to carry him.”
“Did he look concerned about his son’s condition?” Oryn interrupted, stepping slightly in front of Thane. Thane glared at Oryn, then took a small step back.
“He was dressed in all black,” Darrow admitted after a moments hesitation. “And he looked quite pleased with himself.”
“That sounds like an accusation to me,” Thane thundered, once more advancing. This time a few more of Kell’s men stepped in to block Thane as well. Thane threw up his hands in frustration as he looked to the sky.
“Why the blood hell would my father attack Kell? It makes no sense?”
“He was dressed the same as the attacker’s,” Darrow repeated once again. “And he walked right past some of them as he made his retreat. No one stopped him, and more than one looked his way.”
“Goddammit,” Oryn cursed at the same time Thane dropped to his knees. No one doubted Darrow’s words, and there was no way to dispute what he saw.
“Why?” Thane whispered. “I don’t understand why he would be behind this.”
“Kell has looked tirelessly for the threat. We have gone over every possibility,” Oryn answered. “The King is someone Kell never would have suspected. He is a royal and can open the portal. He can also easily amass an army to do his bidding. He has the funds to hire the assassins, and he has the councilman’s ear.”
“That doesn’t explain why,” Thane thundered as he rose to his feet. “He is King, what more power could he possibly gain?”
“His reign is coming to an end,” Darrow reminded him. “It is nearing time for Kell to take his place. Perhaps he wants someone else as King instead. Someone he can control. We all know Kell will never be controlled.”
“We need to find Kell,” Emmalyn interrupted as she grew tired of all the talk. “If he’s hurt or suffering, he needs us. And maybe he can give us the answers you seek,” she declared as she looked pointedly at Thane.
Heavy footfalls sounded to the right of them, stopping all conversation. The girls were pushed back as the men drew their swords and stood at the ready. When Torin stepped out of the trees, they all relaxed.
“The Queen has been imprisoned. I couldn’t get her out,” Torin fumed as he took a minute to catch his breath. “I tried to get to her, but there were too many to fight. I barely got out myself.”
Emmalyn immediately searched him for wounds and saw his chest was bleeding and coating his shirt in blood. She surged forward and ripped at his shirt. A gash marred his flawless skin.
“It’s not deep,” he assured her as he grabbed her hand and stopped her from tending him. “You have no reason to worry.”
Emmalyn looked up at him and nodded, but she motioned for Oryn anyway. “Wrap that quickly. We need to be on our way.”
She would have said more, but a sharp pain ripped through her temple. She groaned, but it disappeared just as fast as it hit. Then she heard the unmistakable sound of Kell calling her name. It was as clear as if he were standing beside her.
“What is it?” Torin questioned as he gripped her arm in concern.
“Kell,” Emmalyn gasped, just as he called to her again. “He’s calling me.”
“I hear nothing,” Darrow admitted as he looked at her in confusion.
“He’s in my head,” Emmalyn explained.
Immediately Torin was bending and staring into her eyes. “Concentrate sweetheart. Can you follow his voice and lead us to him?”
Emmalyn closed her eyes and did as he asked. She took three steps back and his voice got fainter. Stopping, she took three forward again. Once more his voice was clear.
“I can,” Emmalyn grinned as she took off at a quick pace, surprising them all.
“Wait,” Thane shouted as he rushed ahead and stepped in front of her. She looked up at him in frustration. “I need to get to Kell.”
“I know,” Thane sighed. “But I need to get to my mother. If she is locked up, I can only assume my father sees her as a threat. I need answers that she may have, and I need to do what I can to see her safe.”
Emmalyn nodded, understanding his need to go to her. She bent and unstrapped the knife she wore. Then she handed it to him, sheath and all.
“You have your sword, but I want you to hide this somewhere where it can’t be seen. It may come in handy.”
Thane quickly took it, then bent and kissed her cheek. “Be careful, dear sister. I fear I have grown fond of you.”
She grinned up at him. “Just as I have of you.”
Thane nodded and let her go. Then he slipped into the trees and disappeared. She wasted no time setting off again. And she heard the men curse as they realized they were losing her. Feet thundered into the brush after her.
They ran for hours, and Emmalyn was forced to stop several times as she lost his call. She hated those times, as she feared the call wouldn’t come again. Then his voice would whisper in her head, and she’d be off again. The men were patient and thankfully silent, understanding this was all on her. They followed without question, and for that she was grateful.
When they came to a break in the trees, Emmalyn came to a stop. She listened for several minutes, waiting for the call once more, but nothing came. Panicking she ran in several directions, changing course many times to head to back to the last place she heard him. The men were following and crashed into each other every time she veered another way.
Exhaustion and defeat set in as she realized his voice was gone. She collapsed to the ground as a sob ripped from her throat.
“He’s gone,” Emmalyn cried as both Torin and Oryn dropped down in front of her.
“Can you sense him at all?” Oryn pushed. “Close your eyes and think only of him.”
She did. Immediately closing her eyes and picturing her husband in her head. His hair that was growing longer each day. His eyes that were dotted with the same silver flecks as hers. His beard and moustache that were thickening. And the small smile that he reserved only for her. She called to him and begged him to reach out again, but it was for nothing. She got no response, and it broke her heart.
“I can’t reach him,” Emmalyn sobbed. “He is lost to me.” Torin pulled her into his arms, just as Oryn shoved to his feet.
“Search the area,” he ordered. “Kell must be close.” Then he turned to Torin. “Stay with her, I’ll search with the warriors.”
Torin gave a short nod, then his arms tightened. He offered words meant to comfort, but she barely heard them. If Kell had stopped calling there had to be a reason, and she had a gut feeling it wasn’t good.
“He’s the Elemental Prince,” Abrielle whispered as she sat as well and wrapped her arms around Emmalyn’s back. “You need to have faith and trust in your bond.”
Emmalyn didn’t move, but she did answer. “I fear he is dead,” she wept. “There is no other reason I would lose the connection.”
“Or he may be saving his strength. He most likely realizes you are near, and knows he will need it for when you find him,” Abrielle countered.
Emmalyn smiled at the girl’s optimism and prayed she was right. Then she reached out and grabbed Abrielle’s hand with her own. They stayed that way, and no other words were spoken, until the men returned once more.
“We can’t find him,” Oryn reluctantly admitted.
Emmalyn lifted her head, and the defeat on his face turned her anguish to anger. She pushed out of Torin’s arms and shot to her feet.
“There is no way in hell I’m losing him when I know I’m close,” she thundered. Then she looked to the lightening that still lit the sky. “Do you hear me Kell,” she shouted to the heavens. “I will not give up on you.”
It was then she heard the mournful cry of a lone wolf. She froze and had no idea what to do as the men all drew their swords. The wolf sauntered out of the trees like a true beast, massive and regal, with its eyes locked directly on her. Then once more it threw back its head and howled.
“Kell,” she cried as she took a step towards it. “Show me where he is.”
Immediately the wolf turned and disappeared back into the trees. Emmalyn was right on his heels, terrified she would lose it in the setting sun. She followed dutifully, allowing herself to feel a small surge of hope. When it finally stopped, she moved to step past it, but an iron grip on her arm yanked her back.
“Look,” Oryn grunted as he pointed to the ground.
Emmalyn dropped her eyes and was surprised to see she had almost dropped into a hole in the ground. She hadn’t even seen it. Oryn pushed her back, then crouched and leaned over the side. At the exact moment he did, another bolt of lightning lit the darkening sky.
“Kell’s down there,” Oryn thundered as he rose quickly back to his feet. “He isn’t moving though. I fear we may be too late.”
“How do we get down there?” Darrow impatiently questioned, as he dropped and warily peered over the edge. “It’s a long way down.”
The wolf howled once more, and Emmalyn turned in its direction, knowing instinctively it had the answer.