Keira woke up the next morning rolled on two furs feeling warm and cozy. When her eyes opened she found out Colin was no longer by her side though she was nicely tucked in. She raised her head to look around and she saw him rather near tying some ropes around their sacs.
“What are you doing?” She asked sitting and scratching her head lightly. He looked up at her and gave her a smile.
“It will be easier to carry them.” He said.
“How long have you been awake?”
“A few hours. We need to go Keira.” He told her.
Even though she didn’t want to, she got up and began to fold the furs. Quickly she found out the day was freezing. Her whole body tensed with the shock of temperature. It took her a few minutes to adjust to the cold breeze blowing quite steadily. Then, she approached the river to wash her face. Colin grabbed the furs with which she had made a huge roll and tied a rope around it too, then he pulled the strings to test it.
“We need to go.” He said again.
Keira turned back and began to walk in his direction. “Why the rush?” She asked while he put a sac on his back and the roll with the furs on his shoulder.
“This one’s lighter.” He said giving her a sac. Keira grabbed it in her hand. “No.” He said and put it on her back. “See…it’s easier to carry it. You will resist longer. It won’t be so heavy.” He explained. Keira hated when he didn’t answer her straightly.
“Alright…but why the rush?” She insisted.
“I told you last night.” He said beginning to walk. “If your father is after you, we need to be faster and smarter. We have to think ahead.”
She began to walk by his side but the day was colder than any other day and her tunic wasn’t enough to keep her comfortable. Keira stopped right after and searched for her cloak in her sac and put it on, then the sac on her back and they began to walk again.
“Winter is definitely here.” She said.
Colin also had his cloak on. The tip of his nose was red as well as his cheeks. “I know. We don’t have enough clothes or furs to keep us warm.”
“If it keeps going cold like this…”
“Let’s not talk about that now…uh?” He suggested and Keira nodded giving him a smile. Her stomach made a huge noise which made them crack a loud laughter the second after.
“I’m sorry!” She exclaimed still giggling a bit.
“We also have to take care of that.” He pointed at her.
“If we find some berries it will be alright.”
“Maybe we find some ahead.” Keira nodded at his comment and shivered at the same time.
She pulled the hood of her cloak over her head and Colin did the same and the breeze was turning into a soft wind. Keira looked up at the sky praying it wouldn’t rain but the wind was bringing some dark thick clouds with it. She then looked at him to notice his flushed cheeks one more time. He looked so cute she couldn’t but stare.
“Are you hungry Colin?” She asked.
“A little, yes.” He confirmed.
“Do you think it’s going to rain?”
He looked up at the sky and then at her. The blue of his eyes encountered hers making her heart skip a beat that instant. “I hope not.” He said softly.
“It’s so cold.” She complained looking away.
Colin stopped walking and in front of her. The closeness made her jump a little but his arms simple adjusted her cloak better, making it tighter. Their eyes met one more time as he helped her and she felt her heart beating strongly inside her chest as well as he was feeling his pounding heavily.
“It’s cold but we have to go on alright?” He said then resting his hands on her shoulders.
Keira simply smiled and he smiled back at her. Her head nodded and mindlessly his hand slid on her arm to find her hand. Mindlessly again, their fingers entwined and he pushed her to walk again. The contact with him made her heart jump even faster. It scared her the rush of emotions that moment but at the same time she didn’t want to pull away. The way her hand and his fit perfectly amazed her so she left it there, she let him hold it gladly. A smile almost escaped her lips of contentment as she felt herself glowing that moment. Whenever he was tender with her she felt like blossoming. They walked like that, hand in hand for quite some time, until they found some blueberries and stopped for their morning meal.
Rain had reached Avon during the afternoon. It fell hard and steady keeping its inhabitants inside their homes. Cathleen hated winter for that reason. There was nothing they could do but stay inside near a fireplace to keep them warm. That end of afternoon wasn’t different. She stood with her arms crossed around her chest looking outside from Cahil’s window.
“My father didn’t come back…” She said thoughtful.
“It’s soon. You know him…he won’t give up until he finds her.” He said.
“But I am worried. I have such a bad feeling about this.” Cahil approached her from behind and rested his hands on her shoulders.
“It will be alright. I understand you’re scared but he is such a strong man there is nothing to be afraid of.”
Cathleen turned around to look at him and gazed directly into his eyes. “It’s Keira I am worried about. Look how the weather is turning. It has been raining more often and it’s getting so cold. I can’t but wonder how she is doing. I wonder if she’s starving, if she’s cold, if she’s happy…”
“It was her choice.” He insisted. Cathleen got rid of his hands and walked away.
“Look…I know you might be upset with her for what she has done to you but I am not. She is my sister and I love her so I am worried and I doubt she is feeling happy this moment. I don’t even know if she has taken enough clothes. I fear for her health and even her life.”
“Believe me when I say I am not mad at her.” He approached her and looked in her dark olive eyes. His heart racing. “I also want her to be fine and I wish, I swear…that your father brings her back home safe. As time is going by I see things differently…”
“What do you mean?” Cathleen asked.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” He said giving her his back. Cathleen curled an eyebrow.
“Is there a woman?” She asked feeling her voice failing a little. She then cleared her throat. “I mean…”
Cahil turned to her. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate subject to talk to you.” He said. His heart missed a beat that moment. She was taking his sleep away and he wasn’t able to tell her. He couldn’t tell her.
“You are trying to escape, so there’s a woman…” She said but a little of disappointment was escaping her throat.
“I never said that!” He exclaimed feeling trapped with her question. He didn’t want to say there was a woman especially because that woman, the woman that made him lose his sleep was her.
“I’m sorry…” She sighed and looked down. “It’s none of my business and…” She didn’t say anything else shutting her raging heart down and escaping a tremendous embarrassment.
“You don’t think I have the right to go on with my life?”
Cathleen nodded. “I do…Keira denied you so of course you have all the right to go on with your life, find someone that is capable to love you the way you deserve and be the mother of your children. It‘s just…” She paused. “…sudden.” She whispered in the end.
Cahil became silent and looked outside as the rain was falling heavy. Then he looked at her again. “It wasn’t that sudden…it’s been a while that I know someone means something to me. I just…didn’t want to accept it. I was engaged with Keira and I thought I was in love with her…”
Cathleen listened to him trying to keep control. Her eyes were beginning to flicker and she thought she was going to break down in front of him and cry. Even she was surprised with her reaction, surprised with how much it was hurting to hear him say, to hear him confirming there was another woman. The way her feelings were tearing her down scared her. It scared her what she was just realizing and without saying anything else, she burst outside and began to run towards her chamber.
“Cathleen?” Cahil yelled near his door but she fled holding her tunic up running as fast as she could.
The rain had also reached deep forest. Colin and Keira walked soaked wet and shaking with cold. By then their furs, clothes and cloak were soaked wet. The way was poor illuminated though it was still daylight.
“I can’t take the cold.” Keira complained. Her lips and tip of her fingers were purple as well as the tip of her nose and her whole body quivered.
“We need shelter.” Colin told her. “We can’t keep walking under this rain and cold. It’s dangerous.”
“But there’s nothing around.” Keira said turning her head to look around.
“There’s a village near Keira…”
“But…” She argued.
Colin raised a hand to stop her. “We need shelter, somewhere warm to sleep and a hot meal. I need a broth or something. I can’t take it anymore and neither can you.”
She nodded. He had his point and they had to take that risk. They would probably freeze if they kept their journey as programmed.
“We need help.” He told her to convince her better and Keira nodded again.
Colin began to walk again making a shortcut in an intersection. She followed in silence trusting his judgment completely. It took only about an hour to reach a village. No one was outside and it was dark already.
“My father is going to find us.” She said. Colin looked at her.
“We need this Keira, you know we do. I promised I would take you North but I want to take you there safely and to do that I also need to be in shape. Please…understand...”
His lips trembled as he spoke. “I’m sorry…you are completely right.”
“We are going to look for the house farthest from here and we stay there.”
“Are you alright?” She asked seeing him so exhausted.
“I’m freezing.” He said and she said nothing for so was she.
There was nothing glamorous about being poor, about having nothing and needing so much. They were beyond poverty, they didn’t have coins or enough furs or clothes and not even food. They didn’t have a roof to stay and keep them warm and there was nothing glamorous about it. Once again she followed him in silence and when they found a house deserted enough they approached the door. Colin knocked on the wooden door and she noticed how purple his hands were and how she couldn’t control how much her body shook.
“Who is this?” A man’s voice asked from the inside.
“Please sir…” Colin said the loudest he could. “We need help…”
“We don’t have food.” The man yelled.
“Please sir….” Keira pleaded. “Take us out of the rain. We need a roof. We’re cold and starving. Please sir…”
“Open the door Arthur!” A woman’s voice said. The door opened slowly and an old man appeared on its way.
“Evening sir…” Colin greeted.
The man and the woman that appeared meanwhile eyed them from feet to face and then again. Colin and Keira stayed there waiting for their judgment to end shaking and holding onto their cloak strongly. Their bodies quivered even stronger as they had stopped walking.
“We are cold.” Keira insisted seeing a nice fire burning inside.
“Come in.” The man finally said stepping away and so did the woman.
They ran to the fire sitting down on the floor. They put their sacs near it too, to allow it to dry one more time. Their bodies still shook.
“Thank you so much.” Colin said grateful.
“You need some dry clothes.” The woman said disappearing and then coming back with some in her hands. She gave some to Colin and then to Keira.
“They are my husband’s and daughter. You better put on something dry.”
“I’m Arthur.” The man said. “This is Bertha my wife.”
“My name is Colin and she is Keira.” Colin told them.
“What are you two doing out there with this rain and cold?” Bertha asked.
“We’re travelers. We are traveling North but the bad weather is making things difficult for us.” Keira told her.
“I don’t have space inside the house but you can sleep in the hay house outside.” Bertha said. “Now go over there to change while I pour some broth for supper.”
Colin’s stomach rumbled hearing the words. They had nothing to eat but a few berries in the morning. “I’d like that.” He said getting up.
Colin and Keira went changing one at a time behind a curtain and then sat at wooden table with two bowls of broth poured and waiting for them.
“So, are you married?” Bertha asked sitting in front of them. Arthur was quiet and just observing.
Colin and Keira exchanged a look and then she nodded. It was better to keep the first version of their lie just in case. “We are heading North looking for work.”
“Don’t you know you shouldn’t travel in the winter?” Arthur said recriminating their choice.
“We didn’t have a choice.” Colin said.
“Why?” The man asked rudely. “Are you running away from something? Are you outlaws?”
“No…no sir….” Colin told him. “We just lost everything we had so we had to look elsewhere.”
After supper Bertha and Arthur guided them outside to a barn.
“This is the only place where you can sleep.” She said again.
Colin was just glad he had a roof over his head and hay where he could lie his exhausted body and at that time so did Keira.
“It’s more than enough.” She said.
The old couple said their goodbyes and left them alone with the light of a torch. The barn was tiny and Keira looked around with a fur in her hand. Colin did the same.
“We are safe for tonight.” He said turning to her.
“They were nice.” Keira said.
Colin simply nodded and then they both chose a spot to lie down. Unlike the previous night they didn’t have an excuse to sleep close to one another, so they lied down quite apart. Keira covered her body with the fur and he did the same but none of them slept.
“It feels good to be this cozy.” She said.
“You didn’t want to ask for help.” He said.
“I am just afraid of being found, that’s all. I saw how much you were struggling…”
Colin turned on his side to look at her with a smile on his lips. “You pitied me?”
“I just don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
Colin wanted to ask her if it was because she cared or just because she needed him to protect her but he refrained.
“Sleep well.” He said.
“You are alright aren’t you?” She asked. “I mean…you’re not feeling cold now or having shivers…”
“No…that broth made miracles.” He told her.
“Then sleep well…” She whispered.
“You too. Keira?” He called her the next second.
“You? Are you feeling alright?”
“Still a bit hungry.” She confessed.
“Why did you give me half of your broth then?” He asked surprised.
Keira lied. “I thought I didn’t want more.”
“Do you want me to go out and grab you an apple? I saw an apple tree when we arrived. They have one.”
“You’d do that?” She asked smiling and Colin nodded. Then she heard the rain. “No…it’s raining so much.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” She affirmed.
“Are you warm?”
“Very much.” She answered.
“So am I:” He said.
Martin and his men built a shelter in wood to protect the king from the rain. His condition has gone worse during the day but Egan was too stubborn to give up of his mission even if just for a couple of days. Even if Martin had told him many times to go back to Avon he wanted to proceed with his plan and go North after Keira. He was so determined to find his daughter that was neglecting his health. So, due to the heavy rain they built a shelter in wood to put Egan under it and so he’d be protected.
“My king…” Martin called seeing how the king’s body shook under the furs that covered it. He opened his eyes to look at him. “I think it’s better if we come back.”
“I can’t come back without my daughter.” Egan insisted though his body was demanding a rest from him.
“You know how much how respect you sire but allow me to say that in that condition you won’t be able to take her back home! You are ill sire.” Egan closed his eyes and then opened them the next second.
“I know…” He admitted.
“You are not well. This way you won’t be able to comply with your goal. You need to rest and get well and then try to find her. There’s only one place where you can fully recover and that is home. Please sire let’s come back to Avon tomorrow morning.”
“It costs me to leave Keira out there.”
“You know where she might be, or there’s a clue…” Martin said but Egan shook his head.
“I don’t think that’s Keira. “
“The description and the name is the same sire.” Martin insisted.
“But there’s a man…”
“Your daughter is a woman my king. It’s possible that she might have fallen in love and have fled with him.”
“We come back home tomorrow.” Egan said making Martin smile.
“That is the best decision.”
“I feel like a loser right now. Weak.” Egan affirmed.
“You’re far from being weak and a loser my king. Your decision proves how much of an assertive person you are. I am proud to serve you sire.”
“Bring me some water Martin.”