“Ye were drugged, lad,” Murdoc said, sitting calmly before me as I explained the events of the previous night.
“That doesna’ matter,” I seethed through clenched teeth, barely able to control my breathing as I paced in front of him. Emmelyne had quietly requested I fetch Ama. I sensed her shame, her embarrassment, and I felt as helpless as ever. Murdoc shook his head.
“Ye had one swig o’ whisky, and ye canna wake up? ’Twas laudanum. Rollo came askin’ for it just yesterday morn’.” He said. I trembled, my fists shaking.
“I swear it that I’ll kill him, kill them both, those bloody bastards!” I roared. Puck shrank back into the shadows as I rampaged. Murdoc stood, calm as ever, leaning across the table to stare levelly at me.
“This is a game now, lad, a dangerous one at that. They are testin’ ye, and ye need to keep yer cool.”
I shook my head, feeling my neck muscles strain with tension. I wiped my mouth angrily.
“I saw it all, through her eyes, I felt everythin’ she felt.” I spat. A darkness welled within me, an evil waiting to be unleashed as it paced, caged in my chest. Murdoc’s dark eyes were pained. I wanted him to be as enraged as I. I wanted him to bring wrath and torture to those who’d hurt the woman I loved above all else. I wanted to watch their life leave their eyes, to feel them go limp. Everything I’d fought to protect had been in vain. It was my fault.
“Ama and I must stay behind.” Murdoc said, pulling me from the brink. I felt my jaw go slack.
“What?” I growled. He nodded once.
“Ye must no’ speak a word of this to anyone. Ye must slip away and leave no trace, and I must tie up the loose ends here, keep up the facade.”
“No.” I growled.
“We will meet ye, it will just be later than planned.” His eyes stormed over. I knew the look all too well. I wasn’t to challenge his authority.
“I’ll lead them off yer trail,” Puck suggested, sitting forward.
“No!” Murdoc and I growled at the same time. Puck held fast.
“I’m an expert at chess, I know how their minds work. I’ve studied their books on politics and philosophy more ’an I ever swung a sword. Let me do this for ye,” he said earnestly, standing up. I glanced at Murdoc.
“Eli’s already left. We won’t be able to touch him once he’s back near Mount Tier. Ye can get to Rollo, tonight, an’ slip away right after.” He said.
Murdoc’s brows furrowed as he toyed with his beard.
“Ye’ve given much thought to this, huh, lad?” He asked. Puck shrugged.
“I always try and picture a way out of every situation.”
“If Rollo dies, who will be left in charge?” Murdoc asked.
“Me.” I seethed.
“That won’ work,” he chuckled darkly.
“No, it won’t.” Puck said. “But, if we can forge a document sayin’ Murdoc is second in command while yer away, Killian, then it would work.”
“Aye, but Murdoc is s’pose to leave at some point.”
Puck was stumped.
“Who’s the most useless man here?” Murdoc asked.
“It doesna’ matter. Pick someone to replace me, forge the documents, and we’ll start for Macdara tonight. Ye both better meet up wi’ us there, or I’ll kill ye both.” I threatened. Murdoc grinned while Puck smiled his impish smile. The board was set.
As night fell, I pulled on a black overcoat and the rest of my darkest clothing. I felt not an ounce of mercy in my soul. Emmelyne sat propped in bed, stoic and distant as ever, her face bearing the marks of her attack. I sheathed my knife in my boot, then my dagger in my belt. I made my way to the hutch, reaching out a trembling hand and opening the door. In the back was a small, white porcelain vase. The only thing left of my mother’s. I’d had no inkling as to why my father had kept it. I opened the smooth lid, peering inside at the blue tinged powder. My mother had once mixed the substance with a bit of water, dipping her fingers in and painting my face. I remember staring in a grimy mirror at my chubby, blue-streaked cheeks. She’d told me the warriors of great clans painted their faces blue before battle, to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies. Later in my life, Murdoc had confirmed this story.
I gathered some of the powder, holding it in my palm and dropping a few ounces of water into the center, mixing it until it resembled a paint-like consistency. With revenge and malice in my heart, I smeared the mixture on my face, readying myself for battle.
Unable to look at Emmelyne for fear that I’d falter in my mission, I simply told her to be ready to run the moment I returned.
“Be safe,” she whispered, her voice carrying with it the knowledge of what I was about to do.
The night was dark, no moon to light my way. It was perfect, though, for what I needed to accomplish. I skirted around the sleeping huts, making my way slowly to the one I knew housed my greatest enemy. I was ruefully thankful, in a way, for my father and the way he had raised me to be a merciless fighter. I felt it deep within my bones, spurring me onward, a wry smile on my face as I envisioned the tortures I’d inflict upon the man who had once been my friend. My fingers itched to plunge my knife into his heart.
His long tent was within sight. I made my way around to the back, where I knew his women would be fast asleep. I crouched in the brush, waiting to ensure no eyes would witness me here. Satisfied and staying crouched, I made my way to the tent, bringing my knife up to slice through the rough fabric. I’d sharpened it enough that it made barely a sound. Once inside, I took in my surroundings. Both his women and child were there, sleeping soundly. I skirted past them like a phantom, making my way to Rollo’s room. I could hear his snores from where I was.
I stood before him at the foot of his bed, staring down at him for many moments, unable to move. I was so close to completing my task that I wanted to relish the moment. The thought of what he’d done put a sneer on my face. Using the hilt of my dagger, I knocked him across the temple, ensuring he was unconscious. Finding his own length of rope that I knew had been used to tie his women to the bed, I strapped him down tight and gagged him. I lit candles, waiting for him to awaken, wanting him to be able to see my face.
I was rewarded as he began to stir, realizing he was bound. He tugged at the roped, tried to kick free, but I’d ensured there was no escape for his repayment for his sins. His eyes fell to me, widening before they became enraged. He yelled and gnashed his teeth, straining to be free, but to no avail. I smirked at his helplessness. I hoped he felt as afraid as Emmelyne had. I tossed my dagger from hand to hand, kneeling on the bed. Fear flashed through his eyes.
“I know what ye did, I saw it, with my own eyes,” I began. He stilled, confused. “That’s right. My woman has a strange ability. She can see the past and the future, can share her visions,” I leaned closer as he tried to edge away. I positioned the point of my dagger between his legs. He squirmed more now, sensing his chance at escape was dwindling.
“We were friends, and ye betrayed me.” I said, pressing the dagger to his manhood. His eyes widened as he growled against the gag. I smirked.
“My father taught me to have no mercy on my enemies. And now, yer my greatest one,” I said, leaning ever closer. I wanted to see the pain in his eyes up close. His chest rose and fell rapidly.
“I’ll hunt you all down, until there’s none left. I’ll torture Eli as I’m about to torture you,” I pressed the sharpened point forward and up, slicing through his breeches. He made a strained sound at the back of his throat. I felt deeply satiated, knowing how afraid he was.
“I’ll kill yer friends, yer descendants. There will be nothin’ left of ye, nothin’ but yer dry bones rottin’ turnin’ to dust.”
He growled and thrashed again, making me press the cold steel to his most tender flesh. He ceased his motions.
“I hope ye can stay alert. I want to see the pain in yer eyes as I carve ye to pieces.”
Without another word, I began to absolve Rollo of his sins. His muffled screams would be all that was left of him.
Three days. Three days of hard riding. We’d not stopped for food or drink or sleep. Emmelyne was rigid between my arms, cold and distant. I felt hollow, felt a deep ache in my chest. I may have tortured and killed one of the men who had raped her, but it didn’t change the fact that it had happened.
As we came upon the next town, I found and inn and paid for lodging. It was May now, and we had three months to go before we reached Macdara. I prayed for easy passage, though I knew there would be unforeseen trouble around every corner. These forests were wild and dangerous, unclaimed territory between the more coveted lands. There were bears and mountain lions, poison oak and ivy, banished men who’d band together to wreak havoc on travelers. And through it all, I’d have Emmelyne to keep safe. Though I’d failed when she’d needed me most.
She was sleeping fitfully as I sat by the fire, mulling over the recent events of our lives. I knew there were no words I could say to comfort her, to make her feel as though she was whole again. I felt completely empty. I’d thought my revenge would have quenched that feeling, but it only left behind a hollowness that felt irrevocable.
Emmy cried out in her sleep, causing me to come to my senses and rush to her side, pulling her into my arms. In my haste, I’d forgotten how she may perceive me at the moment. She jumped awake, her wide eyes confused and frightened.
“’Tis alright, wee one.” I said quietly. She nodded and shook her head, moving out of my grasp. I let her go, watching as she pulled her knees up to her chin. She stared into the flames. Her words about changing the course of the future rang in my mind.
“Emmy,” I sighed, ready to begin the process of begging for her forgiveness.
“Don’t, please.” She whispered.
“Ye don’ even know what I need to say,” I growled. She whipped her head to me, glaring.
“You’re going to say it’s all your fault, that you’re sorry. That doesn’t change anything, Killian.” She said with vehemence. I felt my blood boil in a familiar manner. We could always push each other to our limits with mere words.
“Aye, ’tis all my fault, and I will beg yer forgiveness for as long as I live!” I raised my voice, my anger beginning to show. I ran a hand through my ruddy curls, growling. She stared me down, a beautiful, lethal faerie.
“I told you we couldn’t change the future!” She yelled back, her fists hitting the bed.
“I only wanted to keep ye safe,” I seethed, leaning closer to her. She didn’t back down.
“What is this all for, anyways? This is all happening because of you!” Her color deepened, reddening in her anger.
“Me?” I scoffed. “I love ye, or have ye forgotten that?”
She stared me down, unable to answer.
“Yer…blamin’ me, aren’t ye?” I asked quietly. Her face blanched suddenly, confirming my suspicions.
“Blame me all ye want, woman, for I take responsibility for my carelessness, but I’ll no’ let ye think for one second that I don’ love ye with every ounce of me!” I thundered. She shook with rage. I knew she needed to dispel it, somehow, and right now I was the only target.
“You only want me until the next best thing comes around!” She yelled back. I felt as though she’d pierced my heart. Ahh, the all-too familiar feeling of rejection. I stumbled from the bed, unable to believe the words she’d spoken. How could she possibly think that? Her face softened as I fell into the chair. I tore my eyes from her.
“Yer killing me, and ye don’t even know it,” I whispered, feeling my heart shatter.
I heard her quiet sobs from the bed. We stayed that way, apart and utterly broken. I heard the quiet shuffle of her feet, watched as though I were a wounded animal as she knelt in front of me, tears staining her face. She shook her head, staring at me as fresh waves of emotion crashed over her. I cupped her face, feeling her lean into my hand and grasp my wrist, holding me there.
“I love you.” She sobbed. I felt tears roll from my eyes to my cheeks, uncaring that I was unable to stem the flow of such unmanly emotions. This woman had my heart and soul. I cared not that she was witnessing me cry. Cry for her pain, cry for the blame I placed on myself, cry for the drastic change in both our lives. I reached down, pulling her into my embrace.
“Ye know how deeply I love ye,” I said, holding her tight, feeling the hole in my chest begin to fill.
“I’m-I’m so sorry,” she cried. “I-I tried so hard…”
“Shh, lass, ye know it’s no’ yer fault. And it will never change how I love ye. Forgive me, please, for failing you.” I said, my throat tight with more unshed tears.
“There is nothing to forgive.” She whispered.