A/N: Dark themes ahead folks, some sexism, slight violence, talk of eating disorders, slight verbal abuse and harassment. Sounds like a fun fic right! But don't worry, Warren is there to make it all better and it's more comfort than hurt in the hurt/comfort department! Sorry for the darkness, I had a different idea when I started this but the story just wrote itself. Also, this is pretty much just a bunch of canon divergence just so you know! I love this brotp so much okay, ENJOY 12,00 WORDS OF PURE HURT/COMFORT!
Kendra looked out the window of the kitchen sadly as she watched Coulter and Seth go out on another "Boys Only Mission". She hated to admit it but it really hurt her. Especially now that she didn't have Vanessa, she felt more left out and alone than ever.
She understood if Coulter just didn't want Seth to feel left out after the news of her joining the Knights of the Dawn, but Coulter had straight up looked her in the eye and told her the only reason she wasn't allowed to come was that she is a girl.
"Hey, kiddo. Why so sad? Who killed your puppy?" Kendra turned to see Warren walking into the kitchen, his eyebrows furrowed at her.
She sighed. "It's stupid...it's just…" Kendra trailed off. What if Warren thought the same as Coulter? "...Nevermind."
"Oh, nah. You aren't pulling that one." Warren shook his head, pulled up a chair next to her, leaned his elbow on the table and held his head in his hand. "Come on, tell me. You look upset and I'm not gonna just let that go by with an 'it's nothing,' Kendra… I-don't-know-your-middle-name-yet Sorenson."
"It's Marie." Kendra gave him a small smile.
"Ahh! Kendra Marie Sorenson, huh? Very adorable. Now that I have middle name power, tell me what's wrong, Kendra Marie."
Kendra bit her lip. She knew Warren wouldn't let it go, and she was a terrible liar, so she couldn't fake a reason why she was upset.
"Coulter took Seth out on some secret adventure thing."
"He said… Coulter said I wasn't allowed to come… because I'm a girl." She finished the sentence with a mumble, turning her head as far away from Warren's gaze as she could while her eyes started to tear up. How dumb. She was on the verge of crying over something so simple.
Kendra heard Warren sigh and braced herself for his response.
"I can't believe he is still doing that. That's...not right, Kens. I'm sorry."
Kendra turned her head around to face him for a moment before she remembered she was crying, then whipped away from him again in the hopes that he wouldn't notice. But of course, this was Warren, and he was nothing if not observant.
"Hey, hey, Kendra...oh come on, kid. Don't cry, you'll break my poor heart," Warren tried to joke, his chuckle falling a little flat as she heard the worry in his voice. He put his hand on her shoulder, trying to turn her towards him but she shook her head and pulled away, a small sob escaping her.
"Oh, Kens...come here. Follow me." Warren stood up, taking her hand and tugging on it gently to get her to follow. He led her up the stairs and into the spare room that he had claimed as his, then crawled onto his bed and patted the space in front of him. Kendra sat down.
"Alright now, listen to me. While Coulter is a great Knight, awesome with artifacts, very smart… he can be, and excuse my language, an asshole." Warren started, earning a small smile from Kendra.
"I don't know, maybe it's my fault. I mean, here I am crying just because I couldn't go out on an adventure with two boys. That's not something that shows my strength, I guess," Kendra mumbled, her eyes on Warren's blue comforter and her hands idly pulling at her fingers so that the joints popped.
"No, Kendra. Absolutely not," Warren said firmly. "This was not your fault in the slightest. Deep down you know that. This is sexism, in the purest form. There is no excuse. None."
"But, maybe he just thought I wasn't strong enough to do whatever he brought Seth to do?"
"What were his exact words when he said you couldn't go?" Warren asked curiously.
"He said... 'I would take you but the reason I won't is that you are a girl,' and then he told me to go inside." Kendra heard Warren sigh.
"Kens, hey. K, look at me," Warren placed a finger under her chin directing her head up to meet his eyes. "That is sexism, it's discrimination and it isn't right, but it has nothing to do with your strength and ability. In fact, you have more qualifications than your brother at this point in time."
"I...it really hurt." Kendra whimpered, eyes welling up with tears again as her bottom lip trembled. Warren's face fell and his head leaned to the side while he looked at her sadly.
"Come here, kiddo," he said softly, holding out his arms. Kendra hesitated, but when she couldn't keep the tears in any longer and the dam broke, she quickly crawled over to Warren who pulled her into his lap, wrapping her up in a tight hug.
"I-It's not fair, Warr...It's not fair." Kendra sobbed into his neck.
"Shh, I know. Shh, I got you," Warren hushed her, rocking her back and forth. Kendra hadn't known Warren for too long, but she felt comforted and safe at the moment. She was so relieved that he thought Coulter was wrong as well.
"Seth d-didn't seem to think it wasn't okay. He even l-laughed at m-me, that h-hurt even more," Kendra confessed, a fresh wave of tears falling from her eyes. God, she was probably soaking Warren's neck and shirt. She felt bad, but she couldn't seem to lift her head up from where it was buried into the bottom of his neck.
"And that was wrong of him as well, but try to remember your brother is a young boy. He probably still thinks girls have cooties and all that." Warren reasoned. "Plus, you're his older sister, so he automatically thought this was just something he beats his sibling at."
"Hey, look at me," Warren said again. Kendra complied, pulling her head back to meet his eyes sadly. "I don't think he meant it the same way Coulter did. He probably was thinking of it as payback for you coming with us to join the Knights."
Kendra nodded, feeling a bit better. "But, Coulter is supposed to be my mentor...what kind of mentor makes me feel like I can't do things, only because I'm a girl?"
Warren smiled bitterly. "Apparently an outdated one." He wiped some tears off Kendra's face. "But, you Kendra, are fully capable of anything. Hey, you joined me in the Inverted Tower, right?"
"Yeah, but you did everything."
"Not true! You threw that flashlight to distract the minotaur, giving me time to get out of the sand! And if it wasn't for you and your fairy magic, I would be dead right now, remember?" Kendra nodded reluctantly.
"So you are fully capable. Also, you saved your family last summer! I bet Seth couldn't get help from the Fairy Queen, now, could he?" Warren said, bopping her nose lightly, earning a smile. He eased her off his lap and onto the bed, and stood up and grabbed some tissues off his desk. Making his way back towards her, he tilted her head back up and wiped the rest of her tears away before sitting back down.
"Now, don't ever let that grumpy old man ever see you crying over him. But if you do need to cry, my door is always open. Got it?" He asked, giving her a kind smile. Kendra tried to smile back, but it fell flat.
"Warren?" Kendra said quietly, staring at her lap.
"Why do people hate girls so much? Why are we somehow lesser than boys?"
There was a pause after her question. She glanced up through her eyelashes at Warren. He was staring at her with a troubled look on his face. Once he caught her eye, she quickly looked down.
"First off," Warren sighed. "Women are not less than men. Don't let any boy or man, no matter how young, old, or powerful, make you believe that. Secondly…"
He trailed off for a moment. Kendra was tempted to look back up but she didn't want to catch his eye again. Warren had a way of looking like he could read her mind, and a lot of the time it seemed like he could with the way he could tell how she was feeling with a single glance.
She didn't want him to see how nervous and put down she felt.
"Secondly," Warren started again. "People tend to hate women because our history has always painted the picture of women as nothing but men's entertainment. But, it's a wrong and shameful history. Hopefully, things will start to change. I...I hate that you have to experience this first hand so young, but it's the sad truth to this world."
"So, this will be happening all my life?" Kendra asked, feeling hopeless. Why was the world like this? Why would she be judged just because of the way her body was made?
"I wish I could say differently, sweetie. But I know, just from my own mother and the other women in my life, that you will have to work ten times harder than any boy for the same recognition. You'll be told how to act, dress, speak, anything, and judged when you don't conform to society's standards."
"This talk is pretty heavy for a fourteen-year-old, huh?" Warren chuckled. Kendra risked a glance up and saw him looking down at himself, biting his thumbnail. When he looked back up, Kendra snapped her eyes down again.
"Why are you afraid to look at me?"
"Then why do you keep looking down?" Kendra bit her lip, eyebrows furrowed. Maybe it would be easier, to tell the truth than hide it. Warren had been supportive so far...
"Can you read minds?" Kendra asked suddenly, hesitating when Warren burst into laughter. She watched him with big eyes as he laughed, his eyes scrunched shut. When he opened them back up and saw her face, he sobered.
"Wait, you were serious?" He asked. When she shyly nodded feeling a bit embarrassed, he slightly cocked his head to the side. "Why would you think I can read minds?"
"...Because you can always tell how I'm really feeling just by looking at me. Even when I try to hide it, you always know. I don't get it," she confessed.
"Oh, honey. That's just because you read like a book. Those big green eyes are more expressive than you know. That's how I can tell-and so can Dale, and Tanu, and pretty much everyone else."
"So you can tell what I'm feeling right now?" Kendra looked at him, curious. Warren studied her face intently for a second, complete with a whole scanner sound and motion, dramatizing every move and making her giggle.
"You're probably thinking, 'Oh, my cousin is so funny! He is definitely my favorite cousin!' Am I right?" Warren winked.
Kendra laughed again and humored him. "Right, Warr."
"See! I speak Kendra! Now, how about you and me go on an adventure ourselves? I can show you my favorite safe spots in the forest if you would like?" His eyes shined with Seth-like mischief and Kendra brightened.
"Really?!" she exclaimed, sitting up straighter. Warren nodded, hopping off the bed and extending a hand to help her off.
"Let's go adventuring, Kens!"
Kendra yawned and stretched as she exited the rental car. The Knights had sent her on another small mission before she could go back home to Fablehaven; Warren was still with her as her official guardian, which was something she was very grateful for.
Speaking of Warren, he came around the other side of the car and smiled at her. "Ready to go speak to some dryads, K?"
"I guess. It's not like I have experience," she said, rubbing her dry eyes. She had taken a nap in the car and now she was having trouble waking up. They had only left Lost Mesa yesterday, and she hadn't exactly been feeling well-rested.
"Welcome to my world. That's like half the missions I've been assigned to," Warren laughed, leading her to the preserve's main house. "But hey, that's how you gain experience, right?"
They were on a smaller preserve in Maine. It was in the middle of the state and surrounded by more trees than Kendra would have imagined possible in that part of the country.
Over the next few hours, they situated themselves in the house, put their luggage down in a couple of the guest rooms, met the caretakers and other knights that would be joining the mission, and ate a small dinner. Kendra didn't particularly like the last part, but Warren was looking at her as if he was just praying she would eat, so she forced herself to.
The caretakers of the place were nice enough, and most of the other people living on the preserve were alright, but one of them seemed to immediately dislike Kendra. Trevor, a tall, hulking, bodybuilder type of man, constantly sent dirty looks to them. He scoffed at Warren, who he apparently knew, and looked Kendra up and down with a glint in his eyes which made Kendra so uncomfortable that she stepped behind Warren, who reached back and squeezed her hand while he continued his conversation with the caretaker. Apparently, he did not miss the way Trevor was staring at Kendra, either.
The caretaker eventually had to show Warren the map of the preserve which they kept in their office and lead a hesitant Warren out of the room, leaving Kendra alone with Trevor. Kendra shifted uncomfortably as she felt Trevor's eyes on her.
"So." Kendra jumped at Trevor's booming voice. "What did they bring a little girl in here to do? Play dress up for us?"
Kendra's skin crawled with the implications of his analogy and wanted Warren back. "N-no. I'm going to be leading the mission to talk with the dryads."
"Are you kidding? You? Leading me? Have you ever even talked to the dryads?" Trevor sneered.
"I haven't yet, but-"
Trevor rolled his eyes. "You're telling me we have to listen to a fourteen-year-old girl, when her damn self, hasn't spoken to dryads yet? Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous."
Kendra felt embarrassed for a second, then remembered what Warren had told her about a week ago in his room; to not let any man tell her she is less than him. Warren wasn't here right now, so she had to stand up for herself. Taking a deep breath, Kendra looked Trevor in the eyes and began to verbalize her thoughts.
"I'm sorry, but do you speak the language of the dryads?" When Trevor didn't answer, she continued, keeping her tone light. "Exactly. And as your caretakers have mentioned, the dryads are refusing to speak in English, so please tell me how you would be a better fit for this mission than me. Because with all due respect, there is no possible way you would be."
"Why, you little shit. How dare you speak to a superior like that?!" He made several steps towards Kendra, whose eyes widened in fear, and she backed up until she hit the wall behind her with Trevor right up in her face. "You are nothing, you are a rookie that got lucky a few times. Not even off your own talent! You leech off others because you are a good for nothing, stupid, ugly, fat little bitch, that is going to kill her entire team with her incompetence one of these days."
Kendra shook in fear at the hulking man glaring down at her. The insults had hit very close to home, and her body immediately wanted to throw up any of the food she had eaten in the past two months.
"I-" she started.
Trevor slapped her hard across the face, his sharp rings digging into her cheek. Kendra's head whipped to the side, her hands coming up to cup her cheek in shock, tears filling her eyes. She could hear footsteps rushing towards the kitchen but Trevor was too busy insulting her to notice.
"Shut up! I wasn't done speaking to you! You little fu-"
Suddenly Trevor was out of her face. She heard a slam on the floor and when she looked over to see what had caused the noise, she saw Warren holding Trevor down, standing above him with his foot on Trevor's chest and holding a sword at his neck. Kendra had never seen him look so positively angry before.
"Now you listen to me closely, Trevor," Warren hissed. "The last time I worked with you, it was you that almost got the whole team and yourself killed with your ineptitude, so you are not in the place to be preaching to others about incompetence. Now, what were you doing at fourteen years old? Nothing. Probably running around being a little shit; nothing special. Not even close to what Kendra has accomplished at her age."
"And on that note," Warren leaned in toward the other man's face, keeping his sword at Trevor's neck and kneeling on his chest, "Kendra is a smart, kind, beautiful young girl with a heart of gold. So don't you ever, ever try to tell her she's anything less. And for your information, you jackass…"
Warren lowered his voice to a whisper so only Trevor, Kendra and himself could hear him, "Kendra has been battling an eating disorder, you goddamn bastard. So, it is in your best interest to take back that insult and pray God forgives you. Because even though fat isn't an insult, you body shaming dick, she is the farthest thing from it; she is underweight and I swear on my life that if your stupid, ignorant words have caused my baby cousin to relapse, even more, I will end you. Do you understand me?"
Trevor nodded as best he could with a sword at his throat. "Good. Oh, and one more thing," Warren said, voice dropping down to a lethal hiss. "If you ever lay a hand on Kendra again, it will be the last thing you do. Are we clear on that?"
Trevor nodded frantically and Warren pushed off of the frightened man roughly, watching as he ran out of the room while wearing a murderous look on his face. He turned to Kendra, who was still holding her aching cheek, tears streaming down her face with her eyes wide and scared, and his face instantly softened completely.
He dropped his sword and approached her cautiously, eyes full of concern. He slowly brought his hands up to hers, softly tugging them away from her cheek so he could see her injury. She saw his eyes darken a tad at whatever mark Trevor had left on her. Swiping a thumb softly across her cheek, he examined more closely. When he withdrew his thumb, Kendra saw blood on his finger. Trevor's rings must have cut her skin.
Warren sighed and drew her into the softest hug Kendra had ever been a part of. She realized he was probably trying not to scare her and she was grateful for that because she was very shaken. When he pulled back, he kept one arm around her and started leading her out of the room, picking up his dropped sword on the way out.
They made their way to her guest room and Kendra walked in expecting Warren to follow, but he stayed in the doorway. "Stay here for a second, okay Kens? I'm going to go get a first aid kit." The softness in his tone matched the gentleness of his previous actions.
She nodded and he shut the door. Kendra heard him walking down the hall but then she sank to the floor, her quaking legs not able to hold her anymore. She brought her knees up to her chest and hid her face between them. She heard voices near her door and she flinched, bringing her hands up to block her ears as she sat there shaking and scared.
Suddenly, there was a gentle touch on her shoulder. Kendra screamed and flinched back. Warren was kneeling there, hands in the air, with a first aid kit next to him. She noticed the door was shut and relaxed before she started crying again.
"W-Warren!" Kendra sobbed, reaching for him. Warren's face fell to something between worry and sadness as he crawled his way over to her and pulled her into his arms. Kendra realized this would mark the second time she cried in Warren's arms.
"You're okay now, Kens. You're safe, I'm here, I'm right here. Shh," Warren whispered, his ever-gentle hand smoothing her hair down. "I'm here. You don't need to be scared, sweetie; you're safe now, he won't hurt you again, I promise. I promise."
"H-he, he...I…" Kendra tried to speak but she was in shock and could hardly breathe correctly. Warren seemed to know what she was trying to say anyway, though.
"I know, I know. He said the vilest things to you; I heard," Warren whispered. "But none of them were true, you understand me?"
"Y-yes, I u-understand," she said shakily.
"Good," he breathed, pressing a soft kiss to her head. He then stood up, Kendra still cradled in his arms and carried her over to the guest bed. He carefully sat her down on it before going to pick up the abandoned first aid kit from the floor.
"Is it bad?" Kendra asked, fingers touching her cheek gingerly, feeling a slight sting.
"No, it's just a small scrape, but I want to make sure it doesn't get infected. Who knows how dirty that scum's rings are." He sat down on the bed in front of her. Opening the first aid kit, he found the disinfectant, a cotton ball, and some kind of liquid. He picked up the bottle of liquid and popped it open, then poured some of its contents onto the cotton ball. "This will sting, I'm not gonna lie."
He gingerly dabbed the wet cotton ball directly against the cut on her cheekbone. It immediately started to sting a lot, and Kendra hissed at the burn. Warren mumbled a low 'sorry' and finished applying the liquid to the cut. "That would have cleaned and gotten rid of any dirt or bacteria, okay?"
She nodded, and he then opened the tube of disinfectant gel and started to rub some of it on the scrape. This time there was no stinging, and Warren finished applying the gel quickly.
"There's really no band-aid in here that would stay on your cheek, so just try not to touch it too much, alright?" He said, putting everything back in the first aid kit. He snapped it shut and then tossed it softly onto the carpet. Turning back to her, his eyes scanned her face.
"How are you?" He asked her simply. Kendra didn't know how to answer that. She had been attacked and verbally abused barely ten minutes ago. "I'm sorry I told him about your eating disorder, Kens. That wasn't my information to tell."
Kendra shook her head. "No, I'm glad you did. Maybe he will think about the weight of his words before he says them next time."
"You're too kind, kiddo." Warren smiled. "Now, be honest. How are you mentally?"
"Honestly? Not too good," Kendra said, taking a deep breath. "I'm...I'm just really shaken up."
"Understandable. Totally understandable," He reassured her, tilting his head and catching her eyes sadly. "Is there anything I can do?"
"I don't know...I'm just scared."
"He won't hurt you again."
"I know, I know. But, it was scary...really scary. I think I'm still feeling the fear from that moment. I-I just feel like he is still in my face screaming at me." Kendra sniffled. Warren pressed his lips together.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked. Kendra shook her head. Secretly, she knew what she wanted, but she was too shy and embarrassed to ask for it. "Kens, really. Anything I can do to help, I'll do it. I just want you to feel even a little better; that was a horrible thing to go through."
His voice hadn't changed from his super soft tone. It made Kendra feel safer; compared to the screaming in her face, this was much more preferable. She fiddled with her earring, trying to come up with the courage to tell Warren what she needed.
"Kens?" He inquired, giving her that same old calculating look.
"Can...can…" Kendra started but faltered. What if he thought it was stupid? Or childish?
"It's okay. Go on," he urged her.
"Can..we just...cuddle?" Kendra asked in a very faint whisper. Warren leaned forward to try and hear her, but he shook his head.
"Kens, I can't hear you. Whatever it is, I won't judge you. I promise."
"I said, can we just cuddle?" Kendra repeated, this time a tad bit louder. Warren seemed to hear her this time because he smiled softly at her.
"Of course we can cuddle, K. Really, that's it?" Kendra nodded. "What, did you think I would say no?" Another nod. "Are you kidding? I never say no to cuddles, Kens."
Warren stood up and grabbed the big throw blanket from the bottom of the bed and unfolded it, laying it down on the bed before crawling up on the other side of Kendra and sliding beneath the blanket. He held it up so Kendra could slide under as well and he pulled her close, tucking her in.
"It was really scary, Warr…" Kendra whispered from her place in Warren's arms. Her lower lip trembled as she remembered the amount of fear she had felt in that moment, and her breathing became a little rougher and faster.
"I can only imagine, K. I'm so sorry you had to go through that," he said, sounding sincere. He tucked a hair behind her ear. "Don't get worked up, okay? You're alright."
"I know...it's just...he said really mean things and they…"
"Yeah. I know you said they weren't true, and all that… but they still hurt," Kendra said, drawing small patterns into Warren's shirt. "Especially the… the one about my weight."
"Kendra I promise you, you are beautiful at any weight. But right now, you are underweight because of your eating disorder, which is the farthest you can get from fat. I can feel your little ribs right here." Warren tickled her ribs and Kendra shrieked with laughter.
"Stop! I'm ticklish!" she giggled, trying to get away from Warren. Warren faked gasped.
"Oh, are you? Is my little cousin ticklish, huh? Is she?" He said, and Kendra was breathless with giggles, squirming and trying to get out of his tight hold but right before she escaped, he stopped.
"You're… so… mean…" Kendra wheezed between gasps of air but laid back down in Warren's arms anyway.
"Hey, I got you to smile, right? I think that counts as a win," he said. Kendra shook her head, trying to deny it, but her lips betrayed her when they began curving upwards again before she controlled them back into a frown.
"No. It was fake laughter," she pouted.
Warren waved a finger at her. "Don't you smile!" he half sang. "Don't you dare smile!"
Kendra did her best to keep the pout on her face but as Warren continued his chant, she found herself giggling again. Warren grinned in victory. "That's not fair! That's the oldest trick in the book!" she protested.
"Perfect for sad Kendra! Besides, all is fair in love and war." Warren said. Kendra smiled again, but this time it was genuine. She had thought their conversation was going to turn heavy and emotional but of course, Warren always knew what she really needed in the end. She needed some laughs and happiness, not to talk about her struggles and other sad things.
"Thank you, Warr," Kendra said, throwing her arms around him and snuggling in further. "You really are the best big cousin. Don't tell Dale."
She tilted her head and he smiled at her, eyes warm. "You're welcome, Kens. You're the best little cousin. Don't tell Seth."
Warren put a finger to his lips in a shushing motion and winked. Kendra smiled and copied him before tucking her head back down and closing her eyes, ready for a nap. As she drifted off to sleep, she had a few sad thoughts about the commotion that happened today and wondered how it would take a toll on her. Before she could get too far into her negative thoughts, however, she felt Warren press a kiss to her head and she fell asleep feeling safe.
They had set up camp in Wyrmroost for the night, a fire was burning, the tents were pitched and Tanu was making everyone sandwiches. It should be a peaceful moment. But Kendra's heart was racing fifty miles per hour. She was breaking out in cold sweats and her whole body was shaking.
No one had seemed to notice her condition just yet, all too busy talking amongst themselves. Kendra scanned the trees, something had to be out there, what if there was something out there, was it going to kill them in their sleep, would they even have time to scream, would they even wake up, she shouldn't sleep tonight, she should stay up all ni-
"Here you go Kens!" Tanu passed her a paper plate with a sandwich on it. She stared at it, hand half raised to take it before she shook her head, scanning the trees again.
"No, no, no. They're gonna find us...they, they...we should move. Oh, God, we're gonna die, oh no, oh no, no, no…" She rambled off quickly. Warren turned to her concerned and Tanu put the plate down.
"Kendra, what are you talking about? We're okay in this area of the sanctuary it's one of the safer zones, remember?" Tanu said calmly, but Kendra shook her head frantically.
"No, no, no, no! What if they kill us and we and we and and an-" She started hyperventilating and scrambling back from the group. Tanu muttered a curse and went over to his potion bag as Warren hurried over to Kendra to stop her from going any further, wrapping his arms around her.
"Kendra, you're okay, you're okay. Just deep breaths, sweetheart, c'mon, deep breaths." He whispered in her ear and Kendra really did try but it was too hard, she was too scared, all she could think off was something was going to attack them. When she tried to focus on her breathing and slow it down, she only started breathing even quicker, if that was possible. She could feel her heartbeat pumping wildly in her chest, she could feel the erratic rhythm in her head. The crying wasn't helping either, it was causing hiccups in her breathing blocking air from her lungs making her feel so lightheaded she was sure she was going to faint.
"Tanu she's burning up! She's all clammy and I can't calm her down." Warren called out. Too loud, she thought, they are going to hear us.
"Too loud, too loud, it's too loud..." Kendra sobbed.
"Too loud, darlin'? Okay, okay, how's this. Nice and quiet." Warren whispered, still holding her tight in his arms, rubbing her arm soothingly. She had no idea what the others were doing, it was a blur, but then one voice stood out.
"Why in the hell is she even crying and freaking out? Jeez, we are trying to eat, this is so stupid!" Gavin exclaimed. Couldn't he see she was trying to calm down? Couldn't he see she was scared? It hurt Kendra to hear him sneer at her like she was a pathetic little girl. She was just scared. She was just scared. She was just scared.
"She's crying because she's having a panic attack. She's crying because she is fifteen in a freakin' dragon sanctuary and it's scary for her, so don't be a brat! Just shut up, eat your food and mind your damn mouth!" Warren shouted at Gavin, glaring at the boy. Kendra shuddered in his arms.
"Too loud, too loud, I can't breathe, this is too much, Warr. I can't breathe, I'm gonna pass out, I can't," she sobbed. Scared, she was so scared, and hurt, how could he not see she was scared?
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Too loud, that was too loud, I know." Warren was back to whispering in her ear now. He brushed her hair that was stuck on her clammy skin back out of her face gently. "You can breathe, just deep breaths, come on, in, hold it,...and out. Good girl, there you go."
Kendra continued to follow Warren's instructions as best she could, but she knew she was failing horribly at it. Failing. A failure. She was a failure.
"You are not a failure, Kendra Marie. C'mon, breathe slowly, deep breaths, I know you're trying."
Scared. Scared. She was so scared. She was so sure that some terrible monster was going to attack them.
"You're safe, don't be scared, Kens, you're safe right now. No monster is going to attack us, we're safe."
She was gonna pass out, her head felt so light.
"If you pass out, I have you. Don't worry. It's okay, Kendra. Shh, It's okay."
"Tanu is mixing a calming potion as fast he can."
Kendra couldn't breathe, she couldn't breathe. She felt her head spinning and she heard ringing in her ears she was going to pass out, everything was going fuzzy.
"I got you, I got you, sweetie. It's okay, shh. Don't worry, I'm right here. You're saf…"
The world faded to black.
"...And listen to me here Gavin, I don't care how much you claim to like her, I don't care how chill you feel around dragons. She is not used to being around dragons. One of the most dangerous creatures known to the magical world, if not the most dangerous. We trained her to know that, we made sure she knew how scary they are, how dangerous, how murderous, and she was scared. She is allowed to be scared. Do you understand, dragon boy?"
"If you ever think about calling Kendra stupid again, dragons will be the least of your worries, bud."
"...I understand, sir."
"Now, get out and go help the others dissemble the tents and the rest of the camp."
Kendra listened to the conversation in confusion. She recognized Warren and Gavin's voice, but she couldn't remember what had happened, why were they fighting about her? Gavin called her stupid? She groaned as her head pulsed in pain.
"Kens?" A hand took hers. "Kens, you awake?"
Warren. She squeezed his hand as tight as she could - which wasn't very tight - and felt a squeeze back. "That's good, Kendra. Can you open your eyes? I dimmed all the lights so it won't hurt you."
Kendra focused and soon her eyelids were fluttering open until Warren came into view smiling lightly at her. "There are those green eyes. How are you feeling sweetie?"
Kendra tried to speak but her throat was too scratchy. Warren leaned over her and plucked a water bottle from a stand next to the cot. Looking around she saw she was in the knapsack. He lifted her head up with one hand and with the other he poured a little water into her mouth. Kendra swallowed and found her throat to be a little better.
"I'm okay? I think." Her voice was still a little hoarse, she accepted more water from Warren. "What happened? I...I can't remember much."
Warren sighed and sat down on the cot by Kendra's hip, "You had a panic attack. You were clamming up, rambling, scared, shaking, even a bit feverish. You were hyperventilating so much that you passed out. Scared the crap outta me…"
Kendra was quiet for a moment, thinking hard and trying to remember it. Slowly bits and pieces made their way out of the fog. "Oh...I'm sorry."
Warren wiped at his face, was he crying? "Don't be sorry, sweetie. It wasn't your fault. It just hurt to see you so scared. I couldn't get you to calm down...You were trying to, I know you were, you were just too far gone and it happened so quick."
"I-" Kendra tried to clear her throat but had trouble so Warren came to the rescue and gave her more water. Now that he was closer, she could see the tear in his eyes. At the sight, she felt her own eyes start pricking with tears. "I remember I felt scared for a while but I thought I was just nervous...and then it just exploded into utter terror."
"I know, one minute you were fine, the next you were ranting about being scared and sobbing. Tanu was trying to make a calming potion as fast as he could but you passed out before we could give it to you" Warren sniffed. Kendra saw a tear drop from his face onto the floor of the knapsack.
"Warr…" Kendra said, her voice sad.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to start crying on you." Warren said thickly, wiping at his eyes again. "I just...I felt so helpless seeing you like that."
Kendra felt her own tears fall down her cheeks and she scooted over in the tiny bed. "Warren come here. Please," She begged. Warren took one look at outstretched arms and puppy dog eyes and laid right down, hugging her close.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was getting anxious. This place really scares me, I can't shake the feeling something bad is going to happen." Kendra mumbled against his chest, she felt horrible about making him cry.
"It's okay, Kendra, you can't control panic attacks. I've had them before and they get the best of you suddenly. I don't blame you in the slightest," Warren said, running his hand over her hair softly.
"I'm sorry for making you cry."
"Don't you dare. You didn't make me cry, the situation did. Besides, I'm just a softie who can stand to see his baby cousin so upset. I'm more sensitive than you think, Kensie Cutie." Warren said, kissing her forehead.
Kendra smiled up at him, laughing a little at the nickname that had been picked up by her family ever since Seth told them about how her mom and dad used to call her that. She still felt bad about Warren crying. Last time she had seen him cry was when he saw her alive after the whole stingbulb fiasco.
"You know, this whole crying and cuddling thing is becoming a pattern," she mumbled. Tucking her head under his chin, Kendra felt his cheek on the top of her head. "But if I'm being honest, I don't mind it one bit.
"Neither do I, Kens. Not in the slightest."
Kendra laughed at Warren's story as they walked down a street of a nearby town window shopping. Warren had noticed how anxious Kendra was getting stuck in Fablehaven while they thought up a rescue plan to save Seth. So he grabbed her, took her on a 45-minute drive, and stopped at the next cute looking town with some stores and cafes.
"And then, Dale looked at me and-"
"Hey, little sexy thing! Why so many clothes? Take em' off!" A call came from behind Kendra. She froze, afraid to look back and see who was talking to her.
"Hey, jackass. Why don't you get a brain and stop sexually harassing young girls on the street," Warren shot back at the catcaller. Kendra looked up at him, not sure what to do and saw he was glaring at someone right behind them. But then Warren turned around, and Kendra heard footsteps coming towards them.
"What'd you call me?!" came the voice again, this time much closer. Kendra jumped and hid behind Warren, peeking out to see a middle-aged white man in a half-unbuttoned, button up and tight jeans walking their way, looking pissed.
"I called you a jackass, and I stick by it," Warren said calmly. The catcaller was all up in Warren's face and Kendra was scared he would swing at Warren. The man's eyes fell on her and instantly Kendra felt vulnerable and hid back behind Warren.
"Aw, come on pretty thing, don't hide behind your… whoever this is to you. Show me a smile!"
"I would leave her alone if you don't want your smile to be knocked out of your mouth," Warren hissed at the man icily.
"Oh ho! We got a tough guy here! You threatening me? You wanna go huh?" The man stepped even closer to Warren, but Warren stood his ground. Kendra curled her fingers in Warren's shirt, utterly terrified and creeped out.
Warren chuckled darkly. "Oh no, I won't be wasting my fighting skills on you. I was talking about how your cellmate in jail will knock your teeth out for me, seeing as you're some middle aged creep who gets his rocks off to minors. Even criminals don't like a pedophile, you dirtbag."
"Hey, I didn't know she was underage," The man's voice had lost his confidence.
"Yeah, right. You and I both know she doesn't look older than fourteen, so why don't you scram before I call the cops and tell them they have a man walking around harassing minors," Warren stared into the man's eyes without flinching. After a tense moment, the catcaller shoved past Warren and walked away.
Kendra turned Warren around as a shield as the man strolled by her. Once gone, she kept her arms around Warren, trying to keep herself calm. Her stomach was turning and she chills ran up her spine at the memory of the stranger's seedy gaze.
"You okay?" Warren's calming voice broke through her thoughts and she nodded against his chest. She just needed a moment to remind herself she was safe.
"Is he gone?"
"Yeah, he's long gone."
Kendra took a deep breath, then pulled away. She peered down the street and sure enough, there was no sign of the stranger anywhere. "Can we go somewhere else?"
"Of course, how about we go back to the car and figure it out from there?" Warren suggested. She nodded and they made their way back to where Warren had parked his car on the side of the street. It was a bit of a way back but thankfully it was an uneventful walk.
Shutting the car door, Kendra sighed and leaned back against the car seat. "Why do I keep running into such gross and mean men?"
"Wish I knew, kid," Warren laughed as he punched something into the GPS. "God, that guy was revolting."
"I know I already asked but, are you okay?" he questioned, turning the key and starting up the car. Kendra thought about it for a moment. Physically, she was fine. The encounter didn't really hurt her, she was a little shaken up and disgusted but she had dealt with worse.
"Yeah, it just made me extremely uncomfortable," she assured him shuddering. She folded her arms around her middle tightly, she felt too exposed after the man's eyes on her and wanted to hide inside a huge blanket. "Thanks for taking care of it."
"Of course, now how about we go get something to eat?" Warren pulled out of the parking spot and began following the GPS's instructions. Kendra rested her head against the window and closed her eyes. She listened to the radio playing softly in the background and Warren humming along with it occasionally, letting the familiar sound ease the rest of the tension from the confrontation in her body out.
Some fifteen minutes later, Warren pulled into the parking lot of some restaurant and parked near the front. "Let's rock and roll, kiddo."
She laughed at his wording and followed him into the diner where they were seated and their drink orders were taken by their waiter, a guy that looked a little older than her. Kendra yawned and rested her head in her hands, feeling drained.
"Someone needs a nap," Warren teased, she nodded not even bothering to pretend like she didn't. "At least you'll sleep good tonight, huh?"
"If I make it to night time," she mumbled, eyes slipping shut. "I might pass out in the car."
"Nah, I think I'll make you drive home."
"I was under the impression you wanted to make it back to the house alive," Warren laughed at that. Their drinks arrived then and they ordered their food, Kendra forcing her eyes open and lifting her head up.
"I hate talking to boys," she sighed once their waiter was gone. Warren furrowed his eyebrows at her and tilted his head to the side.
"Why's that? Something tells me this isn't just normal teenage girl shy around boy thing," He asked, peeling the wrapper off his straw and then shooting the other half at her by blowing into the straw.
"Hey! Mean!" She whined throwing the wrapper back at him. "But, no. It's not the normal teenage thing. It's more a...Gavin...issue."
That sobered Warren up. He immediately was paying full attention and had what Kendra had dubbed his 'older brother face' on. He waited patiently for her to continue.
"I've just been really uncomfortable and scared about boys since him. It just freaks me out now."
"Why? If you don't mind me asking," Warren said softly. Kendra stared at her water as she stirred it.
"When he...had me trapped in the cleft, I really thought he was going to….do something bad...like that guy earlier," Kendra finished softly, mind somewhere else. Warren's voice brought her back.
"Hey, if I'm around no one will ever even get near enough to you to even think about it," He assured her, but Kendra bit her lip.
"But, Warren...that's the point. You weren't around on the cleft. Gavin made sure of that. That's why I was so scared…"
"God, Kens...I'm sorry," Warren sighed, running his hand through his hair. Kendra stared at him for a second, confused.
"What do you mean? You couldn't help that he was an evil...gecko," Warren nearly spit out his water at that.
"I meant more like, I'm sorry it happened to you," Warren explained after controlling his laughter.
"Still! It's not your fault! You are probably one of the few men I still trust if I'm being honest," Kendra admitted, shrugging her shoulder. Warren smiled at her at that and she returned it before continuing. "And...I don't know...it's just hard being a girl and I still don't understand why it has to be that way."
Warren sighed heavily from across the booth. "I don't know either, darlin'. I wish I did," He reached across the table to stop her from pulling at her fingers. Then held one hand while looking at her seriously. "But always remember that you are strong, beautiful, and an amazing girl who will not take any shit from any man and I'm proud of you."
Kendra smiled brightly. Then she threw the straw wrapper she had hidden at him right in the forehead before laughing. Warren tried to keep a disapproving face but as soon as Kendra's giggles kicked in he couldn't resist a smile.
All and all, Kendra had a great day.
Kendra sighed as the team continued to argue. In the hotel room, there were about five people, and nearly all of them were fighting. Over her.
"She is too young! This ridiculous that we are even having this conversation!" Elise exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air, bracelets jingling.
"Kendra has done many things that most people wouldn't let children do and she is okay! She is a natural!" Tanu argued back. Kendra wondered if maybe she really was okay. These days it didn't seem like it.
"This is her brother we are talking about! She's too close to him to continue on this mission! She should wait back home at Fablehaven," Trask backed Elise up. Tanu immediately started protesting and Trask and Elise fought right back, soon it was just a loud mixture of angry voices. Kendra felt her heart start to speed up and tears prick at her eyes.
'Ridiculous. Crying over a stupid fight you aren't even in,' Kendra thought, willing herself to calm down. But the arguing continued at an even louder volume after Elise suggested Kendra wasn't skilled enough to pull off the mission.
It hurt to be doubted but she knew they just didn't want her to get killed or captured. The only other silent one in the room was Warren. He had originally started arguing with Elise and Trask about letting Kendra decide what she wants to do. But they called him insane and Tanu had even pointed out that her age was below the consent line, so she shouldn't be making decisions.
Warren looked over at her just then and Kendra assumed he noticed she was upset because he pushed off the wall he was leaning on and walked over to where she was standing.
"You okay?" He muttered once he was close enough, placing a hand on her back and looking at her with concern. Kendra opened her mouth to reply, but her voice caught and she found herself on the verge of tears again. She snapped her mouth shut and shook her head, biting her lip to keep herself from sobbing.
Warren sighed and put his arms around her protectively, Kendra latched on to him still trying to keep herself in control before aiming his eyes on the fighting group. "Hey, guys. Guys. Guys!"
He was talking loud but the others were louder and didn't hear him or pay him any attention. Warren sighed, glanced down at Kendra, put his hands over her ears and then turned back to the group. "Shut the fuck up!"
Even with Warren's hands over her ears, Kendra could hear him scream at the other four. Silence reigned and there was a tense moment where no one moved or said anything. Kendra's heart squeezed and she couldn't stop the small sob from escaping her.
All eyes went to her and she saw the regret in the three adults faces when they noticed she was crying. Kendra couldn't take them looking at him at the moment so she turned and buried her face in Warren's chest, trying desperately to ignore the others.
"Can you guys get yourselves together? I know everyone has an opinion but there is no reason you should be having a screaming match over something that is up to Kendra," Warren said, disapproval painting his voice. Kendra hiccuped and squeezed her arms tighter around Warren.
She heard him continue to talk to the others and they responded back, voices much softer.
Her mind kept going back to Seth who had been captured, how they had to rescue him, how she was torn between going or staying. On one hand, her older sister side screamed that she should go and save her little brother and make sure he was okay.
But the side of her that was scared, the side that was sensitive and hesitant and soft, said not to go. To stay home and let the adults save him and stay safe. To not run into danger, to not risk her life or her freedom just yet. She should stay at Fablehaven, ready to welcome him back home.
She was already so torn up inside, to have the people she looked up to, the people she turned to for help when she didn't know what to do, to be arguing about the very thing she was torn on...it was too much.
"Kendra?" Warren's voice broke through her train of thought. He gently unhooked her arms then crouched down, looking up at her. "Hey, what do you think?"
Kendra wasn't sure what he was exactly asking her since she missed the last few moments of conversation. "What do you mean?" She asked softly, breath stuttering as she took a few deep breaths in an effort to calm down.
"What do you want to do?" Warren explained, hands on her arms and eyes scanning her face in concern. Kendra shook her head and bit her lip so hard she tasted blood. She shut her eyes for a moment and opened them as more tears fell. Warren wiped them away, beating her to the punch. Kendra pressed her hands to her face, fingers spread over her eyes, still slightly shaking her head.
"I don't know," She whispered, a sob escaping her again. She couldn't make a decision at the moment, she needed time. "Not now...I can't...I-"
Kendra broke off, slumping with her head in her hands. A headache was forming and stomach was doing so many flips that she felt nauseous. She dropped her hands and Warren caught them nodding. He stood and put an arm around her again.
"Okay, why don't we go back to your room and you can take a nap okay. You need some rest before thinking about this any more," He quietly said to her. Kendra could only nod, refusing to look at the others. Warren said goodbye to the rest of the team and followed her out of the hotel room.
They were staying at a hotel close to Fablehaven while Grandpa had some guests over, trying to figure out the best way to save Seth. Grandpa hadn't wanted Kendra and the others to be seen by the guests and he refused to tell them why, so they booked a few hotel rooms.
Warren opened the door to his and Kendra's room with a key. He was assigned with the task to protect her while they are outside the walls of Fablehaven since the Sphinx has the Occulus there was no telling if he would see them at the hotel and send Society members to ambush them.
"Do you need anything?" Warren asked her, throwing his shoes over by his bed. Kendra thought about this for a second, what did she need? Emotion welled up inside her.
"I need Seth back home," She sobbed, fully breaking down now.
"Oh, Kens…" Warren said coming to hug her again. "We will get him back, I promise. You should take a nap. You are overtired and stressed and it's tearing you up. Get a few hours of sleep."
"I-I don't want to sleep."
"Why is that?"
"I keep getting these h-horrible nightmares, I-I don't want to see Seth d-d-dead again," Kendra felt like someone was squeezing her heart until it burst. Warren rubbed her back soothingly and sighed.
"You have to sleep, Kens," He began gently pushing her towards the bed. "It's not healthy to stay awake for so long. I know you haven't slept the past two days at all. I heard you walking around the house late at night."
Kendra sighed, caught. She had been avoiding sleep as best she could since Seth's capture. The first night she had a nightmare about Seth dying, an arrow sticking out of his stomach and blood all over. She had woken up crying.
"No, buts. Common, get in the bed, it's nap time," Warren said firmly. Kendra sighed again and did as she was told, climbing into the hotel bed and sliding under the covers. Warren seemed content that she was in bed and walked over to the desk picking up his phone, sitting in the desk chair.
Kendra's eyes roamed the room, trying to think of a way to get out of this nap. She could say she was hungry...but Warren might make her nap after eating and then she would be right back where she started. She could say she didn't feel good...but then Warren could say a nap would make it better.
"Doesn't look like you are sleeping, missy," Warren scolded lightly. Kendra's eyes snapped back to him. "Don't think you can figure out an excuse to not sleep."
"How did you know I was thinking that?" Kendra asked astonished. Warren chuckled, getting up and walking over to her bed before flopping himself down next to her.
"I told you before, I speak Kendra. You are so easy to read, you would be bad at poker," He said, looking through his phone. Kendra sighed, he was obviously not going to let her out of this nap so she rolled on her side and tried to get comfortable.
She stared at the alarm clock on the hotel's nightstand, watching as the minutes ticked on by. Soon, the fact she was exhausted coupled with her boredom, she drifted off into sleep.
Lightning flashed as she heard screaming from somewhere. She looked down and saw red. Red everywhere. Seth was bleeding out in front of her.
"Kendra. Help me." He croaked out, blood leaking out of the side of his mouth.
"I don't know how!" She cried, pressing her hands to the wound, but another opened up just to the right of her hands. More and more and more blood poured from Seth's body, Kendra was struggling to stop it but it was no use.
Seth was dead. Gone.
Kendra screamed as thunder boomed, she saw her loved ones fighting horrible monsters, fights that one by one they lost. Lightning flashed again, illuminating the hulking figure of Navarog.
"Kendra, wake up!"
Fire blasted towards her, and Kendra only had a split second to close her eyes before-
Kendra bolted upright, panting and feeling utterly terrified. She felts hands on her shoulders and looked over to see Warren's worried face. She clutched her heart, trying to calm it's erratic beating and flopped back down on the pillows.
"Nightmare?" Warren asked, sitting cross-legged on the bed. She nodded. "Wanna talk about it?" She shook her head.
Warren sighed and poked her leg. Kendra frowned at him. He poked her leg again. "What are you doing?" She asked him. Another poke. "Warren," Poke. "Warren stop," Yet again, another poke.
Kendra curled her legs away but Warren just reached over and poked her hip. "Warren! What are you doing?"
"I'm annoying you until you tell me about the nightmare," He said, poking her yet again. Kendra sighed and threw her arms over her eyes. Warren poked her again.
"Fine! I'll tell you! Just stop poking me!" Kendra exclaimed. Warren poked her one last time with a cheeky grin. "You're impossible."
"So I've been told. Now, you were saying?" Warren responded. Kendra stared up at the ceiling, the nightmare flashing back into her mind.
"It was the same dream as always. Seth died, everyone died, Navarog showed up and killed me and then I woke up," Kendra recited, feeling drained of emotion. "Before you ask, yes Navarog still bothers me, yes I know he is dead and can't hurt me, no that doesn't help."
"I get it. Being cornered by a dragon so evil they gave him the name 'Demon Prince' will probably leave a scar. I'm more concerned about the whole Seth and everyone dying part," Warren said, leaning back on his hands.
"What about it?"
"Why are you suddenly so scared of everyone dying?"
"If you haven't noticed, people keep dying. My brother was shot with an arrow," Kendra didn't want to talk about this anymore.
"But he lived, you know that," Warren said patiently. Kendra nodded, not willing to fight him on that.
"I know. I'm just worried," She mumbled. Warren sighed and moved over to sit next to her. He put his arm around her, letting her head rest on his shoulder. Kendra felt so utterly drained. She appreciated this act of comfort but it didn't ease any weight off her shoulders.
"Have you thought about what you want to do?" Warren asked.
"I'm going. I have too," Kendra said, she didn't want to be in danger, she didn't want to risk her freedom and the thought of being caught scared her. But finding Seth, rescuing him and bringing him home was worth the risk.
"Okay then. Trask and Elise will have to suck it up. I think you have proved yourself many times to be capable of more than you should be. It's ridiculous they don't throw a fit about bringing you into a vault but a rescue mission is insane to suggest," Warren said, a bite of bitterness sneaking into his voice.
"It's because Seth got captured. They feel guilty and are more paranoid about my involvement now," Kendra said, Warren seemed to pause.
"You...you really are a smart kid. I didn't even think of that," He admitted.
"I notice more than people seem to think."
"Oh yeah? Like what?"
"Elise is torn up about Mara's capture because she's in love with her," Kendra said, smiling at him.
"What?" Warren gasped. "No freaking way. You're making that up."
"It's the truth! She even asked Trask if she could take the translocator, grab Mara and get out that day! Even though Trask had barely escaped with Tanu!" she insisted. Kendra had noticed the way the two had interacted on the mission and pieced it together.
"But in love with her? Really?"
"Okay, maybe it isn't love yet. But she definitely likes her," Warren hummed leaning his head back against the headboard. He was silent for a moment and Kendra could practically hear him thinking.
"You're thinking so loud my ears hurt," Kendra explained. "What are you thinking?"
Warren regarded her for a moment before caving. "I was just wondering what else you may have noticed that's all. I've always known you were observant but I guess I underestimated just how observant you are."
"There's something you are wondering if I realized, isn't there?" Kendra asked him. He nodded after a brief hesitation and she thought about what it could be but turned up blank. "What is it?"
"Shouldn't you know, oh great one?" he snorted. "Maybe I shouldn't tell you if you haven't figured it out yet."
Kendra pouted at him, giving him her best puppy dog eyes. "Are you going to hide something from me, Warren? I thought we told each other everything."
"Oh, come on! Now that's just playing dirty. You know I can't say no to puppy dog eyes, I can't believe my own cousin is using my weakness against me! With a guilt trip might I add!" he exclaimed, acting outraged, but he was smiling.
"I don't know what you are talking about, I'm just hoping my own cousin tells me what he is hiding from me. I'm completely innocent!" she batted her eyelashes, keeping the pout on her face. Kendra could tell he was cracking and resisted a smirk.
"If you're innocent, I'm a unicorn," Warren grumbled, causing her to laugh.
"Tell me! Please?" she begged, actually really curious to see what it was that was on his mind. "I was honest with you! I told you about the nightmare, now it's your turn in the hot seat."
Warren sighed and ran a hand down his face. "Fine! I'm not going into specifics but maybe you telling me about Elise made me think of someone else who might like someone else."
"Oh, you mean you and Vanessa?" Kendra asked. Warren blinked down at her.
"You are...something else."
Kendra gasped softly, feeling a smile creep onto her face. "I was right? You like her?"
"I wouldn't go that far. We just...have a past that's all. And now, she's a traitor locked up in the Quiet Box, I don't see our relationship being patched up together anytime soon," Warren explained, but she could tell he was downplaying his feelings. She wondered what this past was and how long ago it had occurred but she didn't ask. Kendra didn't want to pry.
Instead, she let it drop with a simple 'huh', laying her head back on his shoulder. She felt him relax when he realized she wasn't going to push it. They sat there for a while in silence until they heard a knock at their door and Warren got up to answer it.
Kendra heard him greet whoever was there and a second later Tanu, Trask, and Elise came into her line of vision. Tanu sat at the edge of her bed, giving her a smile.
"Hey there, K. Did you reach a decision?" he asked her. Kendra glanced at Warren, who nodded.
"I'm gonna go. He's my brother and he needs me. Even if I end up hurt or captured, I'd rather try than wait at home and not do anything," she said softly, eyes shifting to Trask and Elise. Surprisingly, the two didn't argue.
Elise sat down next to her and put an arm around her. "Then we will do our best to keep you safe and get Seth back home. Okay?"
Kendra still felt nervous about the mission. Her stomach flipped at the thought of them all being captured but she knew it was a risk she was willing to take for Seth. She kept herself determined and ready for the mission by thinking of being able to hug Seth and tell him she loved him. Of having him back home. Of having him safe. She hated the thought of him all alone while she was here being comforted by friends and family but as she sat there with them, she felt at peace.
If only for the moment.
Warren Burgess had seen many impossibly crazy things in his lifetime. He even came to the conclusion that nothing would surprise him. But he was so, so, wrong.
Kendra and Seth were caretakers of Wrymroost. Only now, Seth was kidnapped, so Kendra was running the show alone. Impossibly crazy. The only thing that wasn't entirely surprising to him was that Kendra was killing it, sure she was super stressed to the point it was unhealthy, but as far as doing her job as caretaker correctly, she was killing it.
Not everyone was happy about it, though.
"Where is the caretaker? Shouldn't the child be punctual at the very least?" an alcetaur with reddish fur, Byron complained for the fourth time in five minutes.
"Okay, look," Warren stood and said, having finally had enough. "Kendra is very busy. There was no set time to this meeting so she is not technically late, she will get here when she gets here. So just sit down and stop whining."
Byron's eye twitched as he seethed, he glared at Warren and trotted across the room to get in Warren's face. Warren stood his ground as the angered creature drew close, one hand straying to the sword at his belt just in case.
"And who are you? You are nobody but a puny human I could squash in a second. Your ego is far too big for someone who has done nothing but follow the caretaker around like a lap dog. Perhaps a babysitter at best."
"Excuse me?" came a voice from the doorway. Warren and Byron turned their heads to see Kendra standing there, looking very pissed.
"This imbecile-" Byron started but didn't get very far in insulting Warren again before Kendra interrupted him.
"Don't you even dare, Byron," Kendra strode across the room towards them, strides graceful but filled to the brim with power. "You had best retract your words or you won't like the consequences."
Kendra had drawn up to them now, Byron stood at least three full heads taller than her but she glared up at him without hesitation. Byron scoffed and rolled his eyes. "Retract my words? Please. I stand by with what I said. He has no business telling me what I can complain about and what I can't."
It was Kendra's turn to scoff. "That's what this is about? Did he tell you to stop complaining? Well, then I stand with him. You do complain too much, it's tiring."
"Watch your tongue, little girl."
"I will not," Kendra stepped even closer, her voice dropped down to a dangerous mutter. "Do you forget who I am?"
Warren felt like he should step in, but watching Kendra destroy this asshole alcetaur all by her own would be more rewarding than any insult he could dream up. Byron seemed to falter for a second before hardening again.
"I am sick of taking orders from a child, you a foolish and naive just like your puppy over here," Byron growled, jerking a thumb towards Warren. Kendra's eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared as she exhaled sharply.
"Tread carefully, Byron. I won't stand here and let you insult Warren."
Byron leaned down so he was in Kendra's face. "Tread carefully? I'll tread right over his dead body if I so wished, the world would thank me for getting rid of the incompetent nuisance."
Warren raised his eyebrows, this guy was really asking for it. Kendra's face went blank and she tilted her chin up slightly as she took in what he had just said. This was not going to be good...at least not for Byron.
"Instead of insulting you - which would have been fun since there is so much to make fun of - let me tell you a bit about Warren. He is a heroic, selfless, kind, funny, caring, and commendable man. He has done more for this world than you will ever even dream of doing."
When Byron went to scoff at that, Kendra pressed on. "Did you do anything to fight against the opening of the demon prison? Did you go on numerous dangerous missions and survive? Did you fight at the battle of Zzyzx? No? Didn't think so."
"See, that's who Warren is. You can try and try but you will never get close to his accomplishments. So if I were you I would beg for forgiveness from him because he has fought bigger and worse creatures and won...you are nothing to him."
Kendra finished her speech, green eyes flashing with an unspoken threat. Warren felt his heart swell with pride and honor, her words had truly touched him. The way she saw him was clear by the way she spoke of him just now and it made Warren a bit misty eyed.
Byron looked properly torn between anger and astonishment. It was silent for a moment before the alcetaur practically exploded. "I can't believe this! You think you can get away with talking to me like this?! You are a child learn your place!"
Kendra smirked, stepping even closer to Byron as she tapped her finger against the medallion that hung from her neck. "My place? Is caretaker. I am above you, so I can talk to you however I want."
"Making you caretaker was the biggest mistake of this preserve."
"The taurans have already shamed themselves into living with the haunts and shades. If you wish to join them, I will have no issue sending you there," Warren knew the threat Kendra just made would scare Byron. Living there would be a life on the run.
Byron looked shaken and he took a step back. "All this, for him?"
"He is ten times the man you will ever be, so watch your tongue before I cut it out," Kendra was losing patience, Warren could see it. The more this fight dragged on the more she looked ready to load Byron's face with three hundred arrows.
"You wanna play that, little girl?" Byron couldn't seem to give it up, his pride was on the line now. Like centaurs, his pride was everything to him.
Kendra clenched her hand into a fist. "Call me little girl one more time and your next problem will be figuring out how to walk with only three legs."
"I'm more dangerous than you know," Byron was losing the fight, he stepped back into her space once more, desperately trying to scare Kendra into submission. Kendra stood her ground and stared him right in the eye.
"I am not afraid of you," she spoke strongly, each word sounding like a nail in Byron's coffin. He had dug himself a grave and now he must lie in it. Warren bit back a grin at the sight of his tiny, tiny, younger cousin, staring up at a hulking alcetaur and making him her bitch.
Kendra wasn't done.
"You have been demoted to cleaning duty, go clean the griffins stables. Top to bottom. When you are done report back to me for your next task."
Byron didn't move.
"Now. That is an order from your caretaker."
Embarrassed and pride wounded, Byron stalked out of the room, defeated. Kendra watched him leave, glare never dropping until the door slammed shut and it was only her and Warren left. She turned to him, all the fierceness from seconds ago melted off her face, leaving behind the wide-eyed, innocent look she was known for.
"Warr? You okay? I'm so sorry he said that stuff about you," she fussed, even her voice had lost the hard edge, replaced with a soft, caring tone.
Warren finally let the grin he had been fighting back blossom over his face as he laughed shortly. "Am I okay? I am great. That was amazing, Kens!"
He picked her up into a hug and spun her around, relishing in the peals of laughter it elicited from her. She still got so happy over the smallest things, like being spun around, just like a little kid. It was such a stark contrast to the powerful young women he saw just now.
"I was just so mad he said those nasty things about you," she explained once he set her down. "Then he was challenging me and I couldn't back down then. I would never get respect around here if I had."
"There's no need to explain yourself, Kendra. You did well, amazingly well. I honestly couldn't believe it at first! It was like the rise of a goddess!"
Kendra rolled her eyes with a laugh but Warren ignored her reaction and continued. "The way you spoke about me...it really moved me. You spoke of me so highly and it meant the world to me. Thank you."
"Of course, Warr," she gave him another hug which he gladly returned. "You're the best protector I could ever ask for, it's only fair I protect you sometimes, right?"
Warren's heart melted at Kendra's words coupled with her pulling back and blinking up at him with those big green eyes and wide smile. It wasn't fair, she had him wrapped around her little finger.
"Right, darling. Thanks for being my protector this time."
"What is it you say when I try to thank you? Hm...Oh yeah," Kendra gave him a finger gun and wink. "Don't mention it, shortstop!"
Warren laughed softly, her impression was spot on he wasn't going to lie. As they went on to do what they were in that room to do, which was strategize their next move in the war, Warren couldn't help but notice how much Kendra had grown, how much she had learned, and how well she slipped into the role of caretaker.
He knew it wasn't easy for her. She was stressed beyond belief, he could tell she wasn't getting sleep and she had lost weight from the combination of exhaustion, stress, and not having the time to have a proper meal. Warren had gathered all this information while he had been here for the last four weeks.
But, she still thrived as caretaker. He didn't think Kendra would ever want to keep this job or say she even liked it, but no one could truly say she was bad at it. Warren was so proud of his little cousin. She had been handed shitty cards and then won the game with them.
"Warr? Paying attention?" Kendra's voice snapped him out his thoughts.
"Uh, no. What were we talking about again?" he honestly answered, running a hand through his hair.
Kendra laughed. "What's on your mind?"
"Just how proud I am of you."
Kendra looked surprised before grinning. "Well, I'm pretty proud of you."
Warren thought it was impossibly crazy about how much he treasured Kendra. She was a little sister to him, not a second cousin. A best friend, not just the person he is assigned to protect. And if he is going to be completely honest…
Kendra is impossibly crazy at being an amazing, strong, and badass, young girl.
A/N: What a ride folks, there will be more to this series of 5 _ so be on the lookout, the next chapter is coming up sooner than you think! Thanks for reading! XOXO