Keira entered her chamber to find the stranger moaning low in his sleep. First she was a little taken aback and was afraid to approach him but seeing he still wasn’t conscious she kneeled near the improvised bed on the darkest corner of her bedroom. With her palm she felt his forehead. The stranger was hot and sweating, on his face there was still blood and she wondered if it was his or Jacob’s for she was sure he was the killer of her sister’s fiancée.
For a few seconds she watched his dirty face. He moaned imperceptible words and his head moved like he was having a nightmare. She remembered the blue of his eyes when she found him inside the chamber and concluded it had been the bluest eyes she had ever seen. Cahil’s were blue as well but not as bright and deep as this stranger’s. The man still contorted and his body began to shake, that moment Keira got up and looked for another fur to cover his body for she knew he was cold, then she went outside to search for some water.
Out on the street again, she made as little noise as possible. Her father would never forgive her for guarding and taking care of a Saxon but somehow she couldn’t let that man go. When she came back inside she kneeled near him again and began to wash his face with the cold water. As Eva had taught her, that would make the temperature of the body come down, the devil would abandon his body.
“Calm down…” She whispered while she cleaned him carefully.
As the man’s face became cleaner she noticed his lines. He was still young, she concluded, maybe older than her but younger than Cahil. He couldn’t be more than 25 years old. Her eyes raked every trace of his face, first around his eyes, then his nose, around his lips and finally his chin. Her hand pulled part of his tunic away and she cleaned his neck and near his cleavage. The rag around his neck prevented her to clean him better. Her eyes stared at that man’s face even after her job was done and his temperature was back to normal. It seemed like he had something that glued her there.
“He’s so different…” She said grabbing a strand of his long blond hair.
Keira let go after and lied down on her bed feeling exhausted. It had been a very tiring day and full of emotions and she needed to be ready for the next morning. Jacob’s funeral would be hard and she had to take care of two wounded men. Afraid the stranger would open his eyes she didn’t change, she simply threw her drained body on the bed and pulled the fur to cover her body and she fell asleep instantly.
In the morning she left early to look for the right healing herbs. According to her creed the herbs had to be caught early in the morning so its effect would be better. In the main street some men were already pilling the wood for Jacob’s funeral ritual and a sense of sadness and guilt assaulted her momentarily. Keira bent her head down and walked for a few miles like that, like her conscience was heavy enough not to let her keep her head high. She knew she was helping Jacob’s murder and still she couldn’t decide not to.
Finding the herbs was easy, she caught Verbena and lavender. Verbena would make the wounds heal once macerated and lavender would help clean it when boiled with water. She loved to nurse, if it was allowed for women to have a job she would like to nurse but her fate was another. Her destiny was to be queen of Avon though her father let her nurse once in a while when no one knew what to do or when people were wounded from war and battle.
Keira came back to the village with her sack filled with a great mount of both herbs. She put some to dry and the rest she used to make the products she needed. Once done she began to nurse the stranger first, since he was inside her chamber. The man was still sleeping and silently she kneeled in front of him. Keira took her hands to the rag to untie the knot and take it away, once she had done so the stranger’s hand caught hers firmly making her jump and when she looked at his face, his eyes were wide open looking at her.
“Who are you?” The man asked.
“You’re hurting me!” She exclaimed feeling his grip tighter than it should have been.
“I said who are you?” He asked between his teeth. He tried to raise his head but he cringed in pain and fell back once again, still his hand never left hers.
“I found you here last night. You passed out.” She said.
He looked at her a little dizzy and there was confusion in his gaze. Keira noticed the blue of his eyes again forgetting the callous fingers around her wrist.
“You’re wounded…I am helping you.” She insisted.
“You’re a Celt…” He said.
“You’re a Saxon.” She replied.
He curled an eyebrow looking at her and Keira looked right in his eye. “Are you going to let me help you or should I let you die?” She said.
He let go and said nothing. Keira began to do her job though feeling observed from too close. By the corner of her eye she could see his own following her every move and somehow her hands became a little shaky. She felt nervous and a little afraid and still she didn’t runway.
“What’s your name?” He asked not baring the silence.
“Keira.” She responded.
“I’m Colin.” He said.
She simply nodded her head and continued doing her job. Colin watched her every trace. First her red hair, then her green eyes. The richness of her voluptuous lips, her perfect nose. Then he noticed her tunic and the smoothness of her hands.
“Not much of a talker, are you?” He asked feeling excruciating pain that moment.
“I am not here to talk.”
“HEY!” He yelled.
“Keep still and quiet!” She hissed. “No one knows you’re here and I need to clean this cut or you’ll die!”
“There’s no need…” He began but his eyes rolled on the back of his head again and he passed out.
Keira looked at him a little surprised and then shook her head. He must have fainted from the pain but mostly because he was still too weak. She looked at his face one more time and admired its traces and now she had listened to the deep tone of his voice. When done, she decided to ran a rag over his face, his eyes opened again.
“Welcome back.” She said knowing she would tease him. A smirk on her lips.
“It hurts so much!” He said frowning.
“I put some herbs on it. It’s natural that it hurts…keep quiet. No one knows that you’re here. If anyone finds you here you’re going to end up dead.” She warned him.
“Can I have some water?” He asked.
Keira searched for a wooden cup and took some from the pot, then she kneeled by his side and helped him raise his head with a hand on the back of it. With her other hand she reached the cup to his lips and watched the man drain the water from the cup quickly. She offered him a bit more and he drank, then he lied back so tired it seemed he had been in battle.
“How old are you?” He asked.
“Seventeen. I need to go now.” She said and without further conversation she left her chamber with the same treatment for Cahil.
Cahil was awake and smiled at her as he has seen her. “You look a little pale.” She commented sitting by his side and beginning to prepare the water with lavender.
“The men are preparing Jacob’s ritual aren’t they?” Cahil asked. Keira looked in his flooded eyes and nodded. “I’m hearing them managing the wood.”
“I will go there after treating you.” Keira said.
“I want to go too.” He told her but Keira shook her head.
“You can’t Cahil. You’re too weak. The effort will make the cut open again and it will bleed more.”
“I need to say goodbye!”
“You need to stay well because that’s what he’d want you to do.”
“I will revenge his death.” Cahil said with hatred written all over his face. Keira looked in his eyes.
“Have you seen the man that killed him?”
“No…” He admitted. “I know he had long hair because you could see it from under the helmet and his eyes were blue but nothing more than that. I don’t need anything else Keira…I just need to find that tribe and kill one by one.”
“Don’t talk like that Cahil…you almost got killed too this time.”
Cahil turned his face to look at her. Keira had her eyes set on his cut and was cleaning it carefully. His other hand flew to her hair and he ventured to touch it and caress it. Keira looked up feeling her heart beating fast fearing he’d advance.
“For a moment there I thought I would never see you again.” He told her.
She smiled. “You’re brave and strong.”
“Will you be proud to be my wife?”
“Of course.” She said and then she began to take care of the wound again.
Cahil fell silent not bothering her anymore and the pain was making him feel miserable. When she was getting up, done with her treatment for the day, he grabbed her hand.
“Will you come back later?”
Keira nodded. “To see how you’re doing.”
“Cathleen must be devastated.” Cahil stated.
“I bet she is though I still haven’t seen her today. I need to go Cahil. The funeral is about to begin and I need to be with her.”
“I will revenge my brother Keira.” He said.
“You need to rest.” She said instead.
Keira left almost running. Jacob was her sister’s fiancée and her fiancée’s brother. He was faithful to her father the king and still she was helping the man that killed him. She walked past the street knowing she should turn him in, she should let him be killed for all the suffering he caused and doubt began to corrode her. Cathleen was helping the others wrapping Jacob’s body in a white sheet and she wrapped an arm around her sister’s shoulder.
“The men washed him with water from the sea.” Cathleen said.
Keira began to work on the sheet immediately helping others. Cathleen looked like she hadn’t slept at all. Her eyes were swollen and red and she looked sadder than ever.
“Have you eaten?” Keira asked her.
“An orange.” Cathleen said. “He’s ready…” She cried looking at the body on the table.
Nothing could be seen of Jacob anymore, he was nothing but a white wrap. Meanwhile Egan and his men arrived. Jacob’s body was deposited on a wooden carrier and transported by four men. The king followed him and after him the rest of the village began to follow Jacob. Chanters began to be heard, mourning chanters and Cathleen cried leaning onto her sister and singing along in hiccups. On the main street a bed of fire waited for him and he was deposited on it. Jacob’s body caught fire and the chanters began to be heard loud. Keira cried too for Jacob had grown up with them and she remembered playing with him when they were just children. When all was over and Cathleen had disappeared into her room to be alone she thought she could not hide that man anymore. She could not betray her village, her people like that. She could not betray Cahil.
She entered her chamber determined to turn him in but she found the bed empty. Keira turned her head around to find him nowhere and suddenly an arm wrapped around her neck.
“It’s me!” She exclaimed.
The arm let go and she looked back. The man was staggering of weakness and could barely keep up. She ran to help him stand and then helped him on the bed.
“Were you going to kill me?” She asked.
“I heard noise…I didn’t know who it was.” He said. Keira stared at him and he curled an eyebrow. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Nothing…” She said looking away. “And cover yourself please.”
“I need to wash.” He told her ignoring her request.
Keira didn’t look at him. “You killed my sister’s fiancée.” She said instead.
“Probably…” He said confused. “I have killed many people… I am a warrior.”
Keira turned and took the courage to look at him one more time. His eyes fulminated her and it seemed like her words disappeared.
“He caused that wound on your neck.” She said with tears in her eyes.
“And you are feeling guilty for helping me…” He said.
“Aye!” She affirmed.
James looked at her hypnotized with her green glare. He had never seen a skin more candid than hers, a hair more perfect and no woman smelled as good her. She didn’t have hands of a laborer nor did she look like one. She was almost perfect.
“Keira…” He called making her shudder hearing the tone of his voice saying her name. “Can I have some brew for the pain?”
Keira curled an eyebrow indignant with his behavior. Nothing seemed to touch him. He didn’t care she would turn him in or not.
“I might turn you in!” She said sticking her nose up high.
“You do whatever you want to do but I am dying in pain here so give me some brew.” He groaned.
“Later.” She said turning away.
“Come back here.” He almost yelled.
“I have some things to do now.”
“Stupid girl…” She heard him mutter.
“Oh!” She opened her lips indignant one more time and began to walk away fast.