Chapter 44 - Kell
With Torin and Darrow’s assistance Kell slowly climbed to his feet. He felt like a small boy, unsteady and unsure as he tried to get his balance. Everything hurt, and he knew he was still healing. Emmalyn had somehow brought him back from the dead, but he still had a long way to go. His breathing was good, and Torin claimed his colour was better. His internal injuries and broken bones were miraculously mended, but he still felt like he’d fought a thousand men. He was battered, and every inch of him was sore. He’d need rest before he would be back to himself.
“I can’t believe you’re standing,” Oryn admitted as he stared at Kell in awe. “Ten minutes ago you were dead.”
“Let’s not mention Kell’s death ever again,” Emmalyn ordered with an extremely pale face.
She pushed Darrow out of the way and shoved herself under Kell’s arm. It was clear she needed the closeness. Kell needed it to. He leaned down and kissed her head, as his arm closed tightly around her.
“You were in terrible shape,” Torin huffed as he helped Kell sit on the same rock the man who stayed with him had. “I’m in amazement you held on so long.”
“I had company,” Kell relayed as he pulled Emmalyn down on his lap. She complained, but he ignored her, locking his arms tightly around her. She sighed and gave in, leaning her head against his heart. She seemed content to listen to it beat.
Oryn narrowed his eyes. “Who stayed with you? I didn’t see anyone when we climbed down.”
Kell breathed out heavily, not sure what to say. “I don’t think you’ll believe me if I tell you,” he admitted.
“Try me,” Oryn pushed, as he crossed his massive arms over his chest and sent a glare in his direction.
“Do you know who’s behind the attack?” Kell asked instead of answering.
“I saw your father drag you away,” Darrow explained. “You were bleeding and unconscious. He didn’t seem the least bit concerned.”
“Right,” Kell growled. “Were any of you aware he had a brother?” All the gasps assured him they hadn’t. “He did. His brother was a warrior who had no interest in ruling. It seems he was a lot like me. When they came of age to marry, Connor,” Kell paused then, calling his uncle by his given name, “chose a bride. His brother did not, but he returned home for the wedding. It was then my mother and Connor’s brother discovered they had a similar connection as Emmalyn and me.”
“And Connor didn’t like it,” Oryn declared with a scowl.
“Connor didn’t know. They kept it a secret until his brother admitted it days before the wedding. He asked for Connor to step aside so he could marry her instead.”
“Connor said no,” Darrow declared.
“Connor brought him here and threw him into this very cavern,” Kell explained.
“Oh my god,” Emmalyn gasped. “He killed him.”
“He did,” Kell confirmed. “And no one knew. They all assumed he went off and had some sort of fatal accident. His body was never found and the wedding went on as planned.”
“Your mother still married Connor?” Emmalyn choked in surprise.
“I’m sure she had a reason. I will discover it when I see her next,” Kell assured her.
“Connor imprisoned her in the castle,” Darrow interrupted. “Thane has gone after her.”
“Goddammit,” Kell cursed. His problems just kept adding up.
“Why are you calling your father by his name?” Abrielle quietly inquired.
“Because he isn’t my father,” Kell spat, pulling gasps from the group once more.
“His brother is,” Oryn correctly guessed.
“He is, but he didn’t know my mother was pregnant when he died,” Kell informed them.
“So Connor wants his own son to take his place,” Torin huffed.
“He always wanted the power. Now he wants Thane to have it a well,” Kell explained.
“Thane doesn’t want it,” Torin sneered.
“No, he does not,” Kell agreed. “But Connor won’t care. He is putting in motion a plan to control all the Kingdoms. If Thane doesn’t accept the crown, he will keep it for himself. And he will rule the lands with a heavy hand.”
“So it was Connor who had someone stay with you?” Oryn questioned bringing the conversation full circle.
“That was my understanding in the beginning, but now I’m not so sure,” Kell frowned. “The man admitted himself he would stay until my death.”
“Yet he didn’t,” Oryn pointed out.
“No, he told me you were coming and it was time for him to go,” Kell told them. “I looked away for only a second, and when I turned back he had disappeared.” Kell paused a minute and took in their confused faces. “Connor told me what he had done to his brother. The man confirmed ever word.”
“So who was he?” Emmalyn whispered, and he knew she sensed his thoughts. She suddenly smiled and her whole face showed her happiness. “You got time with your father.”
Again gasps sounded from the group, and Kell chuckled. “He didn’t admit it, but he called me son a couple times. He also looked eerily similar to me. Would it not make sense that in your final moments a loved one would be by your side? Kelton was killed here, and his body must be hidden somewhere beneath the dirt. I can only assume it is why his ghost remains.”
“His name was Kelton?” Emmalyn exclaimed. “You were named for him?”
“My mother named me,” Kell explained. “So that is my thinking as well. When all this is done I want his body found, so I can give him a proper burial.”
“I will see to it myself,” Oryn promised.
Kell nodded, then sighed in agitation. “I am not at full strength, yet I fear for all our safety if we remain here. There are not enough of us to fend off any attackers.” Kell studied the group. He had Oryn, Darrow and Torin, along with five other warriors. Emmalyn could fight, but he didn’t want her to. He couldn’t fight himself, and he didn’t think Abrielle would be any help either. “We need to find somewhere I can rest and we can plan.”
“Only your most trusted warriors know about the cabin you have hidden just outside of your Kingdom,” Oryn reminded him. “My guess is Connor will be searching for Emmalyn, and you if he discovers your body missing. It would make sense to leave the Kingdom and hide someplace he knows nothing about.”
Kell nodded. “It is a sound plan. I can only hope none of the warriors that know of it betray me.”
“We could go to my parents,” Emmalyn pushed. “They wouldn’t turn us away.”
“No they would not,” Kell agreed. “But Connor amassed men from all the Kingdoms. There is no telling who is with us or against us.”
“And our own warriors,” Darrow hedged. “I am proof we are all a threat.”
His words brought Abrielle to his side. She wrapped her tiny body around his much larger one and held on tight.
“That is something we cannot predict,” Kell acknowledged. “I can only hope we can find some to fight on our side.”
“Enough talk,” Torin finally interrupted in agitation. “We’ve decided where to go. We need to get there. Kell needs rest, and the longer we stay, the more chance there is of being discovered.”
All the men nodded, so without a word the group moved towards the incline. Once more Torin and Darrow helped Kell. He felt like a burden, and it frustrated him, but when he looked to argue both glared. It was slow going, and when they reached the top Kell was exhausted.
“How do we get to the cabin?” Darrow questioned. “We traveled here by foot.”
The sound of dozens of hooves pounding through the forest gained everyone’s attention. Kell was panicked. If it was Connor’s men they would be cut down. He shouted to Oryn, and the man tossed him a sword. It wasn’t his, but it would do.
“Hold them off long enough for the women to get away,” Kell ordered, as he pushed away from his warriors and stood on his own two feet.
“It’s not the enemy,” Emmalyn huffed, as she took them all by surprise by skirting around them and standing out in the open. “I called for help.”
Then Kell threw back his head and laughed as Zephyr and Beauty broke from the trees. Right on their heels were eight other horses. Zephyr moved to his side and nudged his shoulder. It almost knocked him on his ass, but Torin was there to take his weight.
“Easy, my beautiful beast,” Emmalyn soothed, as she ran her tiny hand down his nose. “Kell suffered some serious injuries and is not well. You need to be cautious with him.”
Zephyr nodded as if he completely understood her. Then he moved to Kell’s free side and snorted. Kell took the snort for what it was and leaned against his horse gratefully. Zephyr easily took his weight and stood completely still. Kell had no doubt the horse would stand there as long as he needed him to.
Oryn shook his head, then nodded to Darrow. Before Kell could stop them, his warriors were hoisting him up and securing him on Zephyr’s back.
“I will ride with Kell,” Emmalyn declared as she climbed up behind him and took the reins from his shaking hands. “Abrielle can ride Beauty.”
No one argued with her, not that Kell was complaining. He was in no shape to ride on his own. His wee warrior had again read him correctly and taken control of the situation. She absolutely amazed him. Then she leaned forward and whispered in his ear, sending him into a fit of laughter again.
“I don’t know where I’m going,” Emmalyn admitted. This time he was able to take pity on her.
“Oryn, lead the way,” Kell ordered, feeling her relax against his back. “I want everyone alert.” Then he twisted to look into Emmalyn’s eyes. “Can you ask the horses to signal us somehow if they sense a threat? They may hear something before me or my men do.”
Emmalyn nodded and closed her eyes. Then a tiny frown appeared as his girl concentrated. When she was done, her eyes popped open and she grinned.
“They will do as you ask,” she assured him. “Now it’s your turn.”
Kell stared at her in confusion. “To talk to the animals?”
“No,” Emmalyn huffed in frustration. “To ask the elements to do the same.”
Kell didn’t think it would work, but he gave it a try. Closing his eyes, he pulled all the strength his tired body could muster.
“Elements I call to you,” Kell softly beckoned. “I ask you to assist us by warning me of any threats that may harm our group. See that we arrive at our destination safely.”
He waited, and after a moment a small rainbow appeared in the clearing to their left. It warmed his heart to know his power was back, so he thanked the elements and severed his connection.
“All will be well,” Kell assured her. The sky was still dark, but Kell knew it was because the elements were hiding his resurrection. The King would most likely spread word of the death.
“All will be well,” Emmalyn repeated.
Then he was forced to turn forward as the horses began to move. But he wasn’t worried. Emmalyn was with him and his faith was restored. He would heal. And then he would reign hell on all that betrayed him.