A/N: Thank you all for the kind words, reviews and reads! It makes writing so worthwhile to me! If you all have fallen in love with the characters in Claimed, I feel I should let everyone know that they are part of a larger story! My book Fallen (completed, part two in the works) is the driving force behind this world. So if any of you want to expand your knowledge of this world and fall in love with some more characters, give it a shot! These stories eventually intersect in some major ways!
“Why?” Emmelyne growled again, becoming more obstinate with each passing moment. Perhaps it was her hangover, or perhaps she was simply becoming more vocal with her feelings and needs. Either way, I loved her fiery side.
“Because, ’tis the Winter Solstice, everyone goes,” I shrugged. She tapped her foot as we stood in our tent. I’d sworn I wouldn’t touch a drop of whisky, in order to keep her safe from harm. She believed me on that front, but despised seeing other women treated poorly. I couldn’t quite argue with her on that. I could already hear the music drifting its way to our quiet home. I could tell her interest was piqued. I smirked as she moved to peer around me to the opening of our tent.
“Ye can sit on my lap,” I teased. She blushed and narrowed her eyes at me. I wondered if she remembered her request from the night before. It was certainly something I wouldn’t forget, but I decided to keep it to myself for now. A new look flashed across her face, one of pain and confusion. She hissed, gripping her skull. I rushed to her side in concern.
“I’m fine,” she waved me away.
“What did ye see?” I asked cautiously. Her blue eyes burned like sapphires in firelight.
“Tonight is ancient,” she whispered. I felt the confusion on my face.
“It’s…it means more, than you all think…” she said, struggling for words. In truth, no one really cared why we celebrated the Winter Solstice. It was merely a gathering, a reason to eat and drink and be rowdy. I shifted, uncomfortable at her ominous words.
“It’s…dark,” she shook her head, seemingly causing the images in her mind to scatter. I reached for her hand.
“We won’t go,” I suggested, moving to close the tent. I felt her hand tug me back. Again, she shook her head.
“We need to go, but I feel…I must find something first.”
“Alright…what exactly do ye need to find?” I questioned. Her brow furrowed, but she closed her eyes, becoming still as stone. Everything seemed to quiet for a brief moment as the sun completely disappeared, engulfed by darkness. Without warning, a small breeze began to beat our tent. Whatever clan she had been from, clearly they were a superstitious lot. I’d have to make mention of that to Murdoc and Puck.
Her eyes opened and she tugged me forward into the night.
We walked for nearly an hour, winding deeper into the forest that skirted our land. I gripped a torch in one hand, holding onto Emmy with the other. She spoke not a word, a dog on the scent of a rabbit. The moon was full, the light it emitted cold and blue, the snow underneath glimmering. She picked up her speed, likely nearing whatever it was her ancestral blood was tugging her to.
Almost at a run now, we burst forth from the trees into a perfectly circular clearing. Immediately, the hair on my arms and neck stood at end. You shouldn’t be here, it warned. She broke free of my grasp, leaving me breathless as I watched her approach a gargantuan stone structure. There were three rectangular slabs of stone, creating a doorway of sorts. I slowly approached, standing directly behind her as she stared in awe at the structure. I could just barely make out strange circular designs that had been carved into the ancient, weathered stones.
We waited with baited breath, a hush coming over the land once more. Something had called her here. It was then that I fully believed every word she had spoken to me, about everything she could see. I’d had my doubts, as any questioning man naturally would, but this had forced me to believe that there was some otherworldly power and realm just beyond our view. And Emmelyne was part of it.
In a flash, the moon’s beams were centered between the stone archway with such deft precision I felt weak in my core. She stood, bathed in the moonlight, staring at the moon, her place skin glowing blue. I shuddered. It seemed as though she…belonged there.
The beams eventually gravitated elsewhere, causing Emmelyne to turn to me, her face more composed and serene than I’d seen it in a while. She walked forward to me. I held out my arm, open and waiting to embrace her. I’d never known these stones had existed before now. She welcomed my hug, resting her warm cheek against the lower part of my chest, still fixated on the archway.
“How did ye know…?” I asked, perplexed. She shrugged.
“They wanted me here.”
The mess hall was crammed to capacity, men slovenly drunk. Agnar stood above it all, smiling in glee. I’d promised Emmelyne we’d leave before things got too out of hand, as they usually did. She looked rather weak, felt clammy to my touch. Whatever had happened at the stones had made her ill. She leaned against me on the bench, her eyes barely open. I wound my arm around her for support.
I tried to keep my mind from centering on the perplexing woman who I’d irrevocably fallen in love with. There were moments where she was youthful, innocent and full of bright life yet to be lived. But tonight, she had seemed as ancient as the land itself, knowing secrets that had long since been forgotten. I knew, deep down, that I had to prepare myself for more instances such as these. If she had the ability to unwittingly share her visions, then I dared to imagine what other possibilities she was capable of.
Murdoc kept shooting suspicious glances at her in my arms.
“Hungover,” I shrugged, lying. He chuckled.
“Ye need hair o’ the dog, lass,” he said, shaking his flask at her. She made a sour face and shook her head. Rollo spotted us, an angry look across his features as he made his way over.
“What’s up yer arse?” Murdoc joked. He sat heavily across from us, shaking the table.
“Fuckin’ Agnar, as usual.” He growled.
“What’s he done now?” I laughed, thankful he hadn’t bothered me lately. Rollo leaned in, letting us know that whatever he was about to say was to be kept quiet.
“He’s movin’ to make an alliance with those mountain fuckers,” he growled, his eyes glinting. My heart clenched. The Brotherhood had never, in its entire history, made any sort of pact or alliance.
“Why?” Murdoc breathed, eyes alight with fear and suspicion. Rollo leaned back and shrugged, reaching for a mug of ale.
“He thinks he’ll be the one to conquer the world.” He said. Murdoc and I snorted, shaking our heads.
“Aye, most in power start to believe that at some point.” Murdoc said, sipping his whisky.
“I just hope I’m no’ around when that happens,” he said, raising his brows. I held Emmelyne’s wrist under the table, surreptitiously checking her pulse. It hammered in her veins. I jostled her gently, whispering in her ear.
“Ye alright, little faerie?” I asked, concerned. She nodded weakly. I reached across the table for a pitcher of water, pouring her out a full mug. Rollo snorted.
“Finally worn her down?” He joked. My immediate reaction was to glare, before I remembered the role I must play. I smirked.
“Aye, seems so.” Bile rose in my throat.
“Hopefully she’ll give ye a little ’un soon,” he raised his mug in my direction. I snorted.
“Don’t know that I’m quite ready for that.”
“Ahh, ye only have to be there once its older,” Rollo shrugged. I inhaled sharply, ready to retort angrily, when Murdoc kicked my shin. I bit my tongue.
“Aye, s’pose that’s true.” I said. Ama stared at Emmelyne, concern in her eyes as well. I watched as she tugged on Murdoc’s sleeve, him bending so she could whisper in his ear. He straightened up, nodding in our direction.
“Perhaps she’s wi’ child now. Would explain her sudden illness.” Murdoc said. I realized the gift he was giving me. A way out without raising suspicion. I feigned shock. Rollo bounced with laughter.
“Ye may be right,” I said, standing and pulling a rather limp Emmelyne up with me.
“We can follow laddie, Ama knows a thing or two about these issues,” he suggested, standing as well. Rollo rolled his eyes.
“Guess I’ll have to get piss drunk by myself,” he growled, reaching for more ale.
“There’s always Agnar,” I teased with a wink as he shot me a glare. I held Emmy close, feeling her weakness grow with every step. Once outside, I swept her up into my arms. Her head lolled to the side, though she was still conscious.
“Talk to me, woman,” I said, worry winding its way into my voice.
“Mmm,” she moaned against my chest. I felt Murdoc and Ama nearly jogging behind me to keep pace with my long strides. She let out a gasp, then, and began writing in my arms like a woman possessed. I nearly fell to the ground, trying to keep her still.
“Lay her down,” Ama commanded, her voice full of authority. I obeyed, laying Emmy on her back in the cold snow as she convulsed. Every bit of healing knowledge I’d learned had come from Ama. She reached down, cupping Emmelyne’s face, holding it steady.
“Pin her arms and legs,” she barked to Murdoc and I. I gripped her shoulders as her convulsions grew, her eyes rolling back into her skull. My stomach churned in fear. Would I lose her, already? Would she die in my arms before I even had the chance to love her the way she deserved? I clenched my jaw, watching as Ama checked her vital signs. Emmelyne broke out in a sweat despite the frigid cold.
“Where did you go today?” Ama whispered, meeting my eye briefly. I felt my stomach drop to my toes.
“To the…to the woods, Emmelyne led us there, to these stones. She said…they’d wanted her there.” I explained.
Ama’s faced paled.
“What does it mean?” I growled through gritted teeth, struggling to pin her flailing limbs. Ama shook her head.
“It cannot be,” she whispered, incredulous.
“What, dammit?” Murdoc said from behind us. She shook her head again, clearing her thoughts.
“We had women, where I’m from, who could see the future and the past, and the place where their powers were most concentrated were…these stone archways…they gathered enough light on certain days, making their visions all the more powerful…I’ve not seen this…for ages…” she said breathlessly. Emmelyne stilled then, cold and quiet enough to be dead.
“No,” I whispered in aguish, pulling her up, willing her to still be alive. I could hear her small, ragged breaths. Her face pinched together before her eyes popped open. Ama held her hand tightly, stroking her pale face.
“What did you see?” She asked pointedly. Emmelyne stared only at Ama, perhaps sensing that she of all people would believe her and understand her next words.
“She will save us all,” Emmelyne whispered.
“Who?” Ama asked.
“She’s hair red as fire, eyes like sapphires. She’s the one that has been foretold, she’s…” Emmelyne paused, shaking her head as if dispelling a fog. She moved to sit up on her own. I let her, feeling all too frightened to gather any coherent thoughts. She held a hand to her forehead, peeking up at me.
“We have to find her, Killian, or we will die.”