A lighter sleeper than her friends, Moyra was the first to wake up when she heard a muffled whimpering. Instantly alert, she froze, listening for the source of the sound.
"No, no, please, stop…" It was Kellach's voice. Moyra flew out of bed, knife already grasped in her hand, ready to take on whatever threat may be attacking her friend.
After a quick scan, no threat was immediately obvious. She relaxed slightly, but heard a muffled cry from Kellach again. "I won't tell you, I can't, I can't tell you," He was chanting in his sleep, head thrashing back and forth on his pillow. "Stop, stop, please!"
Moyra's heart sank, instantly realizing what was happening. "Kell," She whispered, "Kellach, hey, wake up, you're safe!"
The tortured whimpers didn't subside, and Moyra tried to shake his shoulder. That was a mistake. Kellach lashed out, and only years of instincts kept Moyra from catching a fist to the face. "St. Cuthbert," Moyra yelped.
The loud exclamation seemed to jar the sleeping boy, and his eyes snapped open. He moved faster than Moyra had ever seen him move before he disappeared and grabbed both her wrists in a strong, trembling grasp. "Gods," He whispered, and stared in Moyra's direction. "Where am I, what's going on?"
"Kellach, you're home, you're safe," Moyra winced at the tight hold he had on her. "It's me, Moyra!"
"Moyra…" Kellach seemed to have a moment of difficulty remembering who she was, before awareness seeped back into his sightless eyes. "Oh… oh, I made it home, I'm… home…" He whispered to himself. "You and Driskoll…"
"I'm here Kell," The commotion must have awoken Driskoll. He yawned, rubbing sleep from his eyes. "You're safe, promise."
Kellach shakily released Moyra's wrists, moving to touch his eyes in what Moyra was pretty sure was a subconscious action. "Oh…" he swore quietly, and when he moved his hands from his eyes, Moyra could see moonlight reflecting off of eyes that were suddenly shining. "Gods, I…" He drew back, pushing himself against the headboard of the bed. "I'm so sorry I woke you guys."
"Hey, it's no big deal," Moyra assured him. "Do you need anything? How can we help?" She and Driskoll looked anxiously at each other, neither of them knowing exactly what to do.
"I'm gonna… I'm gonna get myself some water…" He murmured to himself, starting to push himself up.
"I'll get it," Driskoll asserted quickly, standing up from his bed.
"No!" Kellach surprised the other two knights with the vehemence in his words. "No! I mean…" He lowered his voice. "I can get it myself."
"Are you sure?" Moyra asked, as Kellach tried to stand.
Getting to his feet, Kellach swayed for a moment. "No," He insisted, feeling his way along the bed to the door. "I can do this on my own. I don't need-" His words were cut off his foot caught on something. He swore loudly as he stumbled, managing catch himself on the wall. He swore again as he steadied himself.
"My boots," Moyra swore, "Kellach, I'm so sorry."
"I'm gonna go get the water," Driskoll said quickly and exited the room.
A moment passed with Kellach breathing heavily, fists clenching and unclenching in his frustrations.
"Kellach, what did you…"
"Don't ask me about it Moyra, please?" Kellach whispered, "Just… just please let this go."
"Please…" He finally turned his face towards her, and it broke her heart to see that he didn't really meet her eyes. "I can't talk about it. Please… just let it go."
Moyra stepped forward and put her hand on his shoulder, but she didn't miss the slight flinch that passed through his body at the contact. "I'm sorry," She whispered. Kellach didn't reply, just let her lead him back to bed.
When Driskoll came back with the water, Kellach just nodded his thanks and curled back up in bed, away from the other two, as far towards the outer edge as he could fit. Not knowing what else to do, the two of them tried to go to sleep as well, but Moyra doubted either of them slept well the rest of the night.
Kellach refused to come down for breakfast the next morning. "I'll eat later," He insisted. "I don't need everyone staring at me trying to eat."
"Kellach, why don't you just tell Mom and Dad?" Driskoll asked, "then you won't have to stress as much."
"No!" Kellach snapped, pressing his fingers hard into his eyes where he sat on the edge of the bed. "I've made it on my own for this long, I don't need anyone's help."
"Kellach, stop being so stone-headed," Moyra snapped. "You need help. You asked for ours last night but there's only so much we can do." Kellach stared stonily ahead, not even bothering to try to look like he was looking at his friends. "You almost killed yourself tripping over my boots last night!"
"St. Cuthbert, stop trying to coddle me!" Kellach yelled, standing suddenly. "Nobody asked you for your opinion so just stop, Moyra!" The look in his eyes was furious, even as he was unable to meet either of their eyes directly.
Then, there was a soft knock on the door, breaking the tension. "Breakfast is ready if you kids want to come down." Jourdain's voice was soft, but she sounded as though she had heard the yelling, as there was caution in her tone.
"I don't feel well," Kellach called back, shrinking back into bed. "I'll eat later."
Moyra cast a glare in Kellach's direction. "Fine," She snapped, "Just stay there and feel sorry for yourself." She threw the door open, surprising Jourdain, who stepped back in alarm. "Come on Driskoll, I'm hungry." And they closed the door on Kellach's angry face.
As they started down the stair, Jourdain turned to them. "Is he okay?" She asked quietly. "He's been off since he got home."
Before Driskoll could try to play peacemaker, Moyra growled, "No, he's not. The stupid idiot is trying to take care of everything himself like always."
Jourdain turned away, worry on her face. "I wish I knew more of what he went through so I could help him." She mused sadly. The knights were silent. Jourdain and Torin knew Kellach had been abducted and interrogated, but neither of them knew the true extent of the damage or abuse. Kellach had brilliantly downplayed it. Too well.
Moyra wanted to say something, wanted to tell Jourdain everything. There had to be some spell that they could employ, something to make it easier for Kellach to just function day to day. One look from Driskoll reminded her not to betray Kellach's trust however, and Moyra just seethed to herself.
"Did he tell you two anything else last night?" Torin asked, already seated at the table. The captain's posture was stiff, "anything that would help us find the people who attacked him?"
"No," Driskoll replied honestly as they all sat down. "Just that they were trying to get information about the Knights and Zendric." Jourdain picked up her silverware and started eating, but she seemed to be thinking.
"There could be any number of organizations that would want information about the Knights," She offered, "But those would be from decades ago. They disappeared from current events before you kids were born." She paused, chewing and thinking.
"If any of those organizations are active again we need to know," Torin asserted, "They could threaten Promise, and the new hope we've built here." He gripped his utensils tightly, "And they will never get to my sons again."
Driskoll was alone in the house when he finally heard movement from upstairs. The door creaked open, and Kellach's face peaked out the doorway. "Driskoll?" He called cautiously, "Moyra?"
"It's just me," Driskoll confirmed. Moyra had gone home to let her parents know what was going on. Driskoll didn't doubt that she would be back later though.
Kellach seemed to relax a little bit, but only minutely in the tension in his shoulders. Driskoll watched as his hand landed hesitantly on the banister and he carefully made his way downstairs. Driskoll set his sword and whetstone down carefully where Kellach would not have a chance to wander into them before he darted over to grab his brother's shoulder before he tripped on something. Kellach flinched slightly, seeming not to expect the contact. "I'm fine," He protested weakly, but didn't fight too much as Driskoll lead him to a chair at the table.
"You hungry?" Driskoll asked, already grabbing food.
"I guess," Kellach shrugged noncommittally.
Driskoll frowned, but brought over some leftovers from breakfast, some buns with jam on them. He put one close to Kellach's hand, watching as his brother hesitantly wrapped a hand around his before bringing it to his mouth. In the light of midmorning, Driskoll could see how much Kellach's sleeping clothes hung off of him. His brother had lost a significant amount of weight. He grabbed the rest of the leftovers, some meat included, and set it within Kellach's grasp. "Thanks Mom," Kellach said jokingly, but the smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
Driskoll quickly filled Kellach in on their conversation from this morning. "So it wouldn't surprise me if Mom and Dad have questions to ask you tonight," He said. "They seemed pretty concerned about this new threat."
"I didn't tell them anything," Kellach growled, setting the food he had been about to eat down. "What more do they need to know?"
"I don't know Kell," Driskoll shrugged, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms over his chest. "Maybe see-, um, figure out if they can identify who t- who uh, did everything?"
Kellach's face had gone impassive. "See if they can figure out who tortured me?" He threw the word out so lightly, but Driskoll flinched at the sound of it.
Kellach started rubbing at his wrists, a new subconscious habit Driskoll noticed his brother had picked up. Maybe he was feeling the ghost of the shackles that had bound him for a month. There were certainly enough scars crossing the skin of his wrists.
Driskoll paused, before he asked, "Do you… do you remember their faces?"
Kellach's whole body shuddered. Driskoll had a moment to feel awful for asking the question before Kellach responded quietly, "I think so. Some better than others." A pause. "One…the last one… in particular."
"There were multiple?" Driskoll asked?
Kellach nodded, his mind obviously far away. Driskoll took a moment to digest this new information, noticing that Kellach's rubbing had grown gradually more agitated. His whole body seemed tense.
"If you're right," Kellach cut him off, "Mom and Dad are going to interrogate me later, and I only want to go through this once."
Driskoll clenched his jaw, but nodded his assent. "Yeah, I can wait." He found his eyes drawn to Kellach's hands, still compulsively gripping and releasing his wrists. "Kell, your wrists…"
Kellach halted his nervous habit almost immediately. "Sorry." With some effort it seemed, he quieted his hands, but Driskoll could see the red angry skin left behind. There was another moment of tense quiet, before Kellach asked quietly, "It's for the good of the order right? That I tell them?"
It was a rare moment of vulnerability for his brother, and Driskoll knew better than to say something about it. "For the good of Promise too," He said, "This organization could come after everyone here."
Kellach nodded, his face turned away. "I know," He said, lightly rubbing his wrists again, "But I really don't want to talk about it. It's so painful to remember it." Driskoll's heart broke for his brother. Tonight, he was going to have to listen to his brother relive what was probably the most traumatic experience of his life.
He just hoped that the information his parents gleaned would be worth the pain it caused his brother.
Heads up, there will be some pretty graphic descriptions of torture in the next chapter as we discover what happened to Kellach in the month that he was held hostage and what that means for the Knights and Promise.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think!