Chapter 7 - Kell
Kell should have thought matters through before he picked up the wee warrior and carried her off through the forest. She was tiny, and fit comfortably in his arms. The scent of berries wafted up to surround him and it messed with his head. He preferred to feel nothing for the princess, it would certainly make things easier. Kell was a seasoned warrior who commanded thousands of men, but the thought of her upset over the blood on her was his undoing. He’d whisked her away without thinking, and now he had placed himself in a predicament he wasn’t ready for. They would be alone, and he wasn’t sure he wanted that.
When he peered down at her, she was watching him apprehensively. Her brows were drawn together in uncertainty and she was biting her lip. It made her look young, but it also made her look delectable. He scowled and looked to the trees once more. He knew from experience the small stream was close. The vegetation was lush and there were several animal tracks heading in the same direction. As soon as the ground sloped, he slowed and repositioned the princess so he had a better hold on her. It wasn’t too steep, but the ground was getting muddier, and his footing wouldn’t be as good.
Kell cleared the trees, and the stream came into view. He was pleased to see it was slow moving and not too deep. He could set Emmalyn down and not worry about her losing her footing and getting swept away. There were tiny purple flowers along the bank and several large boulders. He chose one that was flat and gently lowered her beside it.
“Sit,” Kell commanded, as he gestured towards the rock.
He was pleased when she immediately did as requested. Either she wished to satisfy him, or the injury was causing her pain and she was too exhausted to fight. He had a feeling it was the later.
Kell removed the cloth he had hooked on his belt and dipped it in the clear, cool water. The tiny rainbow fish that swarmed close to the bank, shot away in fright and captured Emmalyn’s attention. She stared in fascination at the tiny fish and as Kell studied her, a small smile graced her face.
“We call them rainbow darts,” Kell explained, as he raised her good arm and wiped the dried blood off. He was careful to go slowly and not frighten her. She reminded him of the fish, beautiful, but ready to run. “The sun bounces off their tiny bodies and reflects off their scales. It makes their colours vibrant. They scare easily though,” he told her. Then he dipped his hand in the water once more and the fish scattered away.
Kell took his free hand and gently tilted her face up towards the sun. She trembled in his grasp, but she didn’t move away. He smiled reassuringly as he raised the cloth and wiped more blood off her cheek. Once more he dipped the cloth in the water, but this time he handed it to her.
“Your choice of clothes leaves little to the imagination,” Kell scowled, as he struggled to keep his eyes off the exposed flesh at her chest and waist. She frowned in confusion as she glanced down.
“My pyjamas?” Emmalyn questioned. “These cover more than what most wear during the day.”
Kell raised his brow in surprise, but said no more. She was home now, and she wouldn’t be baring her flesh like that anymore. He had yet to decide what he intended to do with her, but he certainly didn’t need his men distracted by her while he did. He’d see the clothes were destroyed once she changed.
“You have blood on your chest, and I don’t think you’d appreciate me cleaning it off for you,” Kell smirked.
“Definitely not,” Emmalyn agreed while a blush tinged her cheeks a pretty pink. She swiveled on the rock to give him her back before she set about wiping the area. Kell figured he had the patience of a saint in not catching her and bringing her back.
When she finished, she angled back and passed him the cloth. Once more he dipped it in the water and then looked down at her injured arm. The blood had stained through the cloth already and it was swelling slightly. He knew what he needed to do next would pain her, but it had to be done.
“I need to wash around the injury,” Kell explained to her. “I won’t get too close, I’ll leave the wound itself to the healer.”
She nodded, and he carefully reached out to take hold of her lower arm. As soon as he lifted it, she cried out in pain. It disturbed him that a small move like that would hurt so much. Her injury must be worse than he realized.
As tenderly as he could, he dabbed at the dried blood and kept the cloth as wet as he could make it. He figured the water itself would clean it enough so he wouldn’t have to rub at it. It took him a while, but eventually it was as clean as he could get it without further hurting her.
Once done, he looked up, affected by the tears that glistened in her eyes. He watched as one fell and slid down her cheek. Unable to witness her anguish anymore, he used his thumb to brush away the tear, then pulled her into his arms. He ignored the stiff way she held herself as he inhaled her berry scent.
“You’re a brave girl,” Kell soothed her. “I don’t know many that would pick up a knife and engage a warrior, let alone as many as you did. You risked your life to help Mathias, and you didn’t think twice about it. Although foolhardy and reckless, it showed a rare courage.”
Emmalyn pulled back and looked up at him. “I’m not going back home am I?” she whispered.
“You are home now,” Kell replied. “You need to adapt and move forward. There’s no use in thinking about the past, it’s over, and from what I’ve seen, you’ll do just fine here.”
She nodded, even though she didn’t look like she agreed. She was a determined one, but that just may be a quality that would make things easier for her here. Reaching down, he picked up the bundle and untied the string holding it together. The cloth fell apart and revealed the simple blue dress and flats. Since they were travelling, the dress wasn’t overly embellished. It was something that would fit their circumstances. Later he’d outfit her with a proper wardrobe, but for now, this would do.
“Can you strip and get into this without assistance,” Kell questioned. “I can help with the flats once it’s on.
He then watched as Emmalyn picked up the dress and studied it. It was one piece with short, capped sleeves, a full skirt, and an empire waist. She gave a small nod and set it on her lap.
“When I was younger, I fell from a tree and broke my wrist,” Emmalyn admitted, and it made him clench his teeth in fury. She didn’t notice his reaction and continued on. “Mathias did what he could to help, but I had to dress myself. It was awkward and slow going, but I managed. Without buttons or a zipper, I’ll be fine.”
Kell rose and turned his back. “With the attempt on your life, you must understand I can’t leave you. But I promise to give you the privacy you deserve.”
“Right,” Emmalyn huffed, and he had to bite back his snort. He much preferred her attitude to the tears.
He stood completely still after that and listened as she slowly shed the dreadful clothes she had been wearing and donned the new ones. Not hearing anything else, and waiting an extra minute, he turned and cast his eyes upon her. She was breathtaking. The dress fit her like a glove, and the soft material hung from her slim frame like it was made for her. The blue colour suited her, and even though she was alarmingly pale, he couldn’t help but admire her. Until she swayed, forcing Kell to rush to her side and catch her just as she was about to collapse.
“That wound needs to be addressed. We need to head back to the others and see if the healer has arrived yet. If not, Torin will have to see if there’s anything he can do. He’s handy with wounds and has a gentle touch,” Kell growled. He was concerned for her, and as much as he didn’t want to have such feelings, he couldn’t seem to help himself.
Kell helped her sit back down on the rock, hastily placed the tiny flats on her feet, then picked her up once more. With quick strides, he powered through the trees, and made it back to camp in mere minutes. Knowing the best place for her was at Mathias’ side, that’s where he deposited her. Immediately Mathias pulled her close. Kell was pleased the princess had him. Most guardians would have taken their job of protecting her seriously, but would not have shown her affection. The King and Queen did well in choosing him to accompany her.
Fifteen long minutes later, after Kell had checked on the horses and made sure his men had set up camp to his satisfaction, he heard the unmistakable sound of horse hooves. Moving to the break in the trees, Kell waited for the healer to arrive. A short minute later two horses broke through the trees.
“The wagon is not far behind,” his warrior advised. “I did not think it wise to wait for it.”
Kell nodded. “You did right,” he complimented, as the warrior jumped down and tethered his horse to a tree. Then as he watched, the warrior proceeded to the healer’s side and helped her dismount. Once she had steady feet, the warrior removed the large pack to had tied to the back of her horse.
“I questioned many of the villagers,” the warrior stated. “This healer is well liked and good at what she does. Her name is Beatrice.”
Kell nodded, then he turned to address her. “If you will follow me Beatrice, I will take you to the two individuals you will need to care for.”
Beatrice nodded and followed behind him. When she did, Kell finally breathed a sigh of relief.