He frowned when he saw Celestyn advanced to help him and he looked at Zack. "Take most of my weight." He muttered.
Celestyn felt like kicking him. Though she was able to resist that, she wasn't able to stop herself from glaring at him and determinedly helped Zack assist Kierlan in approaching his home.
Zack smirked as he let Kierlan lean on him. "You should know Celestyn better than I would, Kierlan. Even when you tell her not to help, she will," he gave Celestyn a knowing smile and winked.
The door opened before anyone knocked on it and Josiah and Ariadne's worried faces were revealed. "Kierlan!" Ariadne cried.
"Let us go inside and do something about those." Josiah said grimly.
Somehow, Celestyn knew that Josiah had already predicted what had happened. She could not find herself getting angry at him. Their eyes met and they shared a smile. She could not explain why but it seemed to lift her spirits.
Zack helped Kierlan to a seat as Josiah began to tend to his injuries, his hazel eyes meeting Ariadne's worried ones. "He's fine, there's no need to worry, Ariadne, Celestyn," he said with a smile. "He just got himself into a scuffle with an illusion."
Ariadne's eyes widened. "An illusion?" Her distressed eyes moved over Kierlan's bloodied body. "But why are his wounds still there?"
"Hush Ariadne. We have to do something about Kierlan's condition now. Zack, help me bring Kierlan to his room." Josiah smiled at Celestyn. "Come along, child."
Celestyn nodded. Child. It gave her a warm feeling, hearing that. She felt...cared for. Despite Kierlan's protests, she helped him make his way to his room.
"It's not as bad as it looks." He told her, with one of his grins.
"Yeah. Right, your majesty," Zack shot back as Kierlan was led to his room. "Next time you make us all worry like that, I'll personally give you a good whipping."
Finally, they were able to get Kierlan in his bed. "We have to get off his clothes." Josiah said quietly as he saw Kierlan's bloodied clothing.
Celestyn was not able to hear that well and she just stood there, biting her lip, wondering what she could do. All her medicines were with Lothiara..She could hardly go back to school now...
"I suggest you turn around," Zack's amused voice came to her. "Don't think he'd appreciate being stared at while he's bare."
Celestyn's stunned gaze flew to her cousin, then to Kierlan who was laughing. Instantly, she turned around, knowing that for one of the few times in her life, there was a slight flush in her cheeks.
He laughed along with Kierlan as Josiah dressed his wounds and helped him into clean clothing. "Better let her know if it's safe to look."
"Zack, hope to fates this doesn't happen to you for I'll be ready to tell Ariadne the same." Celestyn said sweetly.
Kierlan laughed. "Aine, stop. It hurts for me to laugh." But he was grinning.
Zack pretended to be struck by lightning. "Your words sting greatly, cousin," he grinned.
Kierlan sat up and that movement cost him. "Cousins?" He looked at Zack and Celestyn.
Josiah chuckled, unsurprised. "It appears, the three of you have a great deal to talk about. I'll go see what's keeping my granddaughter."
"Are you decent now?" Celestyn asked with a grin.
"Yes, he is. Now, shall we tell him of our discovery, Celestyn?"
Celestyn nodded. "I give you the honor then." She sat down by Kierlan's bedside. "But I think we should wait for Ariadne to~"
At that moment the door was thrown open and Ariadne burst in, almost knocking Zack down in her haste.
"Hey, hey! Settle down!" he said as he steadied the red-haired woman. "The Prince is fine, and I suggest you sit down. Celestyn and I have some news and I want you to hear it."
"Since when has she ever settled down?" Josiah spoke with an affectionate grin. "By all means, share your news, Zachary."
Ariadne's amethyst eyes sparkled as she looked at Zack's wide grin.
He took a deep breath and began. "As you all know, I've been searching for my mother for years, knowing nothing about her. My father had never breathed a single word about the woman who gave me life, insisting that she was dead. Not a clue, nothing but this ring," he looked at it and smiled. "Clues started to come in the moment I met Celestyn. The ring was made up of black firestone, which is rarely found even in the Sacred Keep. Kierlan and I then thought of the possibility that my mother was a hearth-woman.
"What my father did not know was that my mother had somehow given me a link to her, by inscribing on this ring, around the falcon, the very words that she often spoke to Celestyn." Zack gave his cousin a fond smile. "Ariadne, everyone, I know who my mother is."
"She is Kalare. My aunt." Celestyn smiled at the delighted look in Ariadne's face and the sight of Josiah's pleased smile. She looked at Kierlan. "Zack and I are cousins."
Kierlan grinned at both of them. "Things do have a way of sorting themselves out." He drew Celestyn to him and kissed her forehead. "I am happy for you, Aine. I don't think lord of the dense here deserves someone as special as you for a cousin but he does have his moments." He said with a wink.
In her frenzied delight, Ariadne rushed to Celestyn and impulsively hugged her. "I am so happy for you!" She smiled sheepishly when Kierlan groaned when she bumped against his shoulder before hopping over to Zack. Then she stopped.
"Um..." She did not know what to do. Shake his hand? What?
Zack had been scowling at Kierlan for the "lord of the dense" comment, but turned to grin at Ariadne as he held out his arms. "You're not going to congratulate me?"
Ariadne didn't hesitate. She gave him a great, big hug. "I'm really happy for you, Zack."
Celestyn, Kierlan and Josiah shared a knowing smile.
Zack gave Ariadne an affectionate squeeze before catching the look on their faces. "What?"
"You tell us." Kierlan drawled. He winced as he felt the throbbing pain on his shoulder. Reluctantly, he withrew his arm from Celestyn.
Since there was a prickly feeling at the corner of her eye, Celestyn welcome the distraction and turned to Kierlan with a frown. "What if I keep leaning on you now? You knew all the while you were going to be tested but you still left without a word to me! I feared for you, Kierlan! You can never imagine how I felt when I saw you there~"
Kierlan sat up, as if he had just realized something. He looked at Zack. "Didn't I tell you not to let her leave the school grounds?"
Zack sighed. "Stubborn one, that she is. The moment that falcon alerted us, I told her to stay, but she ran after me despite it." He gave his cousin a pointed glance. "I will have to watch you more."
"You can leave that to me." Kierlan said with a grin. He looked at Ariadne meaningfully. "You have enough in your hands."
Josiah chuckled softly. "Now I see you are indeed recovering, Kierlan. Now if you young people would excuse me, I would like to rest."
Even as Josiah left, Ariadne's cheeks were still pink.
Taking pity on her, Kierlan resisted the urge to chuckle. He saw the hurt and fear in Celestyn's eyes and he looked at Zack, telling him with his eyes to give them privacy for a while.
"Come on, Ariadne. I think our Prince needs his rest," Zack took her by the elbow. "Don't tire him, Cousin."
"As long as you don't tire Ariadne, cousin." Celestyn retorted instantly.
"She's not the one who had a magical bolt to his shoulder."
"And Kierlan's not with a dense one! I say we are even!" Celestyn fired back.
Zack frowned at that and was about to respond when Ariadne's laughter made his attention turn to the woman by his side.
"You will not win that argument, Zack. Let us go before you have to concede defeat." Ariadne said brightly, closing the door softly behind them as they left. "It's amazing. You've only known each other as kin for one night but it seems you have been cousins forever." She said wistfully.
"In a sense, we have been," he answered, smiling ruefully. "I have to admit it was quite a shock, although now... there's the question why my father left her."
"We will find out in good time. Celestyn will answer your questions soon enough." Ariadne assured him quietly.
Inside the room, Kierlan took Celestyn's slender hand in his. "Aine..."
Though hurt, Celestyn made herself meet his dark gaze. "Kierlan...You knew what was going to happen to you earlier, yet you said nothing to me. Didn't you feel that I had the right to know?"
Kierlan's intense eyes bored into hers. "I understand, Aine, but though I recognize your right, I want to tell you that even if i were to turn back time, I would still not tell you."
Before she could pull away, he held her fast. He had to explain to her now. He could already feel the pain and the weariness sinking in. But he would be damned before he would let her build another wall between them when he had just torn down the barriers.
"Celestyn, don't you understand? I love you. I don't want to go through the test having you suffer more than I do, just by seeing me in pain." He took hold of both her arms and he smiled. "I know you. If you had known, you would have stayed with me. I vowed to protect you, Celestyn. And I don't intend to break that vow."
Her fist clenched at her sides and she was surprised to realize she was shivering. "It's just..." The damn tears were threatening to flow again.
Seeing them, Kierlan drew her against him. "Aine...Stop..." He pleaded. She did not and as a tear fell down, he changed tactic. "Think about the sheets. You don't want to drench them with your tears, do you? I might end up with more than a battered body in the morning. Ever heard that sleeping in wet sheets can cause a cold?" He teased.
For a long while, she just looked at him stunned then she smiled and shook her head. "No. I wouldn't want that."
He grinned. "I knew you wouldn't."
Celestyn smiled. "Just rest, please?"
"As you wish, soon-to-be Princess of Allonshire." He drawled
Moments later, he was fast asleep.
Celestyn leaned forward to smooth back black strands of hair from his forehead and sat back to watch him sleep.
She smiled softly. She could have lost him that night. It had been an illusion...But the fear for him was still there...
She felt that if she were to leave his side for one moment, she would wake up and realize that he had...
Celestyn shook her head, not willing to think about what could have happened.
Princess of Allonshire...How strange that those words alone eased her fears. Celestyn gazed at Kierlan's sleeping handsome face.
And there it was again. The feeling of fear and happiness at the same time.
So this was love.