Chapter 5 - Kell
It took Kell just short of a month to reach the portal. On his world there were just two portals, whereas on the alternate world, you could drop almost anywhere. When the portals were discovered on his world, you could do the same, but they had placed magical safeguards on the portals so that was no longer possible. It was Kell’s understanding that where Emmalyn had been sent, most were not aware of the portals, and that was why the safeguards were not in place on their end. Because of that, his task was easier. Without the safeguard, he could drop straight into the dwelling the princess was residing in.
He had hoped to make the journey to the portal in less time, however a brief stopover in his Kingdom to gather men and supplies was imperative. He settled on a contingency of a dozen of his most trusted men. This task was of grave importance, and he required the strongest and fiercest warriors at his side. Only a royal could open a portal, as travel to distant realms was highly frowned upon. It was his understanding only one person had ever traveled across one. Emmalyn’s parents must have been desperate to choose that option over anything else.
As soon as Kell reached the portal, he knew something was wrong. The damn thing was open, and that was a very bad sign. There were also about eight horses tied to some nearby trees, and two looked like they were pack horses. That meant the men who opened the portal were still on the other side. It also meant a royal was present, and was either with them, or had opened it and fled. With the portal being in the Kingdom of Larkinge, it was summer then. That meant tracking would be challenging. Kell could only pray his initial assumption was right, and the royal was inside.
Turning to his men, he ordered four to stay behind. If the other men made it out, he wanted someone there to greet them. He also didn’t relish the thought of his horses and supplies being highjacked. It would be a slower journey back if they had to proceed on foot. The men he left behind stepped close to the portal, unsheathed their swords, and stood at the ready.
Kell and the remaining warriors approached the portal warily. Even he was unsure of what to expect and preferred to tread carefully. The portal was buried deep in the thickest part of the forest, and to the untrained eye, appeared to be a large spiderweb. When it was closed, it looked like a normal web, although an unusually large one. It was strung between two giant trees, and the intricate swirling patterns were exceptional. However, when the portal was open, the web was surrounded by a translucent mist, and the strands themselves shimmered with a brilliant green glitter. The effect was breathtaking.
“Are you ready?” he challenged the warriors at his back. None spoke, but every one of them gave a tight nod. “Swords at the ready. Once we step through, we will be in the princesses dwelling. The men who abandoned these horses will no doubt be on the other side. Surprise will be on ours, so let’s use it to our full advantage. I’ll go first, as soon as we’re through I want Behr and Torin at my side. The rest of you protect our back. May the souls of fallen warriors protect us and give us strength.”
“May the souls of fallen warriors protect us and give us strength,” his men repeated.
With nothing further to say, Kell raised his sword, took a deep breath, and stepped into the web. As soon as he did, the mist got thicker and an unseen force propelled him forward. Relaxing, he let it take him, and when it thinned he braced. As soon as he did, it dropped him out on the other side. He bent his knees slightly and landed smoothly, then moved forward to give his men room to come through.
The first thing he noticed was the roar coming from it. The portal on his side was calm, but on this side, the wind whirling around was wreaking havoc on the dwelling. Papers flew about, shattered glass lay on the floor, and furniture was upended. The room was bright, but small and had an unpleasant odour. Kell instantly disliked it.
Then Kell heard the unmistakable sounds of swords clashing. He gave his men a second to reach his side, then he nodded once, and moved across the room. What he encountered in the next room took him completely by surprise, and he found himself frozen in place at the scene in front of him.
“Damn,” Behr muttered from beside him, but Kell was too stunned to acknowledge him.
A warrior he recognized as a Kilharbor guard, was locked in a battle with Mathias and a tiny slip of a girl. Mathias and the warrior were clearly fighting to the death, and both were covered in blood and had several injuries, but it was wee female warrior wielding the knife that had him concerned. The princess must have a female guard that he was not told of. The girl wore threadbare pants, had a shirt on that scarcely covered her, and was barefoot. Her mass of tawny hair looked like it had once been drawn back in a braid, but it was now in disarray as it tumbled around her.
Like the other two men, she was also covered in blood, and clearly had a large wound on her arm. It didn’t slow her down though. She dodged, jabbed, and got in several slices of her own as she deftly deflected the blades. She was fighting quite well for someone of her size, and for a female nonetheless.
Then the warrior battling them seemed to get the upper hand. Mathias was tiring, and he had more injuries. The warrior knocked Mathias back slightly as he swung upward and Mathias lost his footing. It was the opening the warrior needed. He spun, and as he did, he dropped his sword down and opened up Mathias’ leg. The wound looked severe, and it forced the guardian to his knees. As he went down, he lost his grip on his sword and it clattered uselessly to the floor. The warrior smirked and roared in triumph, then raised his blade once more to deliver the killing blow.
Kell watched as the warrior turned to get in a position where he could put his whole body behind the swing. The minute it arced down, the wee warrior moved and positioned her slight body in front of Mathias. With Mathias on his knees, she effectively shielded him, and put herself in the perfect position to take the blade herself.
Kell moved before anyone else could act. He was at her side in a minute. The warriors blade was a hands span away from her face when Kell seized his arm in a powerful grip. It halted his momentum and stopped the blade just in time. With a violent shove, he thrust the warrior back. The shock on the warriors face registered for only a minute before Kell was swinging his own blade. His aim was precise, and it caught the warrior in the lower stomach. With an upward stroke, Kell opened his stomach all the way to his shoulder, and watched in satisfaction as the blood flowed. The warrior seemed perplexed for a second, then his blade clattered to floor and he collapsed.
The girl didn’t even acknowledge them after that. She quickly shifted, tossed her knife away, and helped Mathias as he lay back. Then the tears were coming furiously as she fawned over him. Kell watched her for a minute, then interrupted.
“We need to move,” he commanded. It was then Mathias shifted and glanced up at them.
“Kell Hawthorne,” Mathias grunted in surprise.
Kell nodded in greeting. “Due to reasons I won’t be getting into right now, your existence has been revealed.”
“Hence the unexpected visitors,” Mathias scowled.
“Are you well enough to travel?” Kell questioned him.
“No, but I’ll damn well do it anyway,” Mathias swore.
“Whoa,” the girl interrupted, as she swiped at her tears. “I don’t understand what’s happening here, and I don’t want to know, but you’re going to the hospital.”
Mathias lifted a hand and brushed her cheek affectionately. “No Emmy,” he denied. “We’re going home.”
“Emmy?” Kell repeated, as he eyed the girl curiously. “This is the princess?”
“This is,” Mathias confirmed.
“Mathias,” Emmalyn interrupted, as she took him and his men in warily. “You need to tell me what’s going on, and who these men are.”
“Short version?” Mathias questioned, and she nodded. “We’re of another world. You were sent here with me when you were just a baby because an attempt was made on your life. As was just proved, we aren’t safe here anymore. It’s time to go home.”
Emmalyn turned an alarming shade of white and Kell took a step towards her in concern, but the glare she levelled on him gave him pause.
“This is my home,” the wee warrior growled.
Kell didn’t have time to argue with her. He turned to a couple of his men and instructed them to take the bodies and go back through the portal. Then he turned to Torin and ordered him to assist Mathias through. He watched as they heaved the fallen over their shoulders and moved away. Mathias however, was leaning away from Torin.
“There’s a room at the end of the hall. On the floor of the closet you’ll find a small wooden chest. It needs to be delivered to the King and Queen,” Mathias requested.
Kell nodded and Torin moved down the hall, coming back a minute later with the chest tucked securely under his arm. Then both Torin and Behr pulled Mathias to his feet. Mathias was a large man, but Kell’s warriors were broader. In no time they had him across the room and were gone.
Kell then shifted his attention to the princess. “It’s time to go,” he ordered.
As he watched, Emmalyn glanced down at her bloody clothes and grimaced. “I need to change,” she whispered.
“There isn’t time,” Kell growled. When she looked to argue his patience snapped. He sheathed his sword, bent, and put his shoulder to her belly. Then she was shrieking as he tossed her over his shoulder and headed to the other room.