Chapter Twenty Three

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Chapter TwentyThree

Kailen couldn't stop touching the torque at her neck, his fingers running across the metal and tracing the carved design. It was like he was afraid it wasn't real, a figment of his imagination, and that the only way to make it real was to touch it.

They were back in Kailen's hut, their hut, to be exact. At least, Aurelia hoped it was still their hut. Kailen had yet to say anything to her directly. He had pushed his way through the crowd to her side, took her hand in front of the whole tribe and bowed to Calonus.

"Take her home, Kailen. See to her hurts." Calonus said.

"Yes, my King." And without so much as a look in her direction, he had spirited her away to the hut amidst congratulations from the rest of the tribe. She wasn't too sure how she felt about the fact that some of them had looked on as she was fighting Lena without so much as lifting a finger to stop it and they were now congratulating her on becoming part of them. Logically she knew it was their way to deal with their differences, but it was still jarring. She may now be part of the tribe but some of their ways seemed harsh to her.

Kailen had sat her down gently on the bed, one hand on her shoulder and one hand on the torque, his eyes following the movement. He moved away to the table where he poured fresh water into a bowl and brought it back to her along with a clean linen cloth. He pulled a chair closer and sat down in front of her, dabbing the linen cloth into the water and then began to clean the mud and blood off the side of her face.

Aurelia couldn't take the silence any longer. Words tripped over her tongue before she could get a proper handle on them. "I'm sorry, so so sorry. I don't know what came over me, the words she was saying were so hurtful;, and i know it's not an excuse to hurt another person, to nearly k-kill someone but i just couldn't stop it."

Kailen silenced her by gripping her chin and kissing her soundly. It wasn't like any other kiss they had shared before. It was full of desperation, distress and passion, that it threatened to overwhelm her. In the end it was Kailen who pulled away, resting his forehead against hers as he breathed deeply.

"You have no reason to apologise Aurelia, none. Lena had overheard s conversation between me and Bran about you-"

She gave him a suspicious look and his mouth finally, finally, turned up at the corners.

"Not that sort of conversation. I was telling him that i wanted to court you the British way and it must have incensed Lena to the point of striking out at you. This is partly my fault and it got you hurt."

 Now his silence made sense. She had thought he was angry at her for hurting a member of his tribe, for breaking a rule in regards to being a War Prize, but the silence spoke of anger directed at himself. The Warrior in him couldn't stand the fact that someone he cared about had got hurt and he could not have done about it.

Aurelia's heart swelled for him, her hands reached up to frame his face and kissed him chastely on the mouth. Her relief that he wasn't angry at her was almost euphoric. "There was nothing you could have done to have stopped her. It was a long time coming"

Kailen made a noise of frustration. "That's not good enough. I should have cast her out of the tribe instead of just the Warrior Caste. I was too lenient with her."

Aurelia watched him pull back and resume his cleaning her face up. "You cast her out?"

He shrugged noncommittally. "It is against our way to hurt those that don't know how to properly defend themselves."

"Even in a tribe against tribe conflict?" Aurelia asked curiously.

"A Tribe will pitch their warriors against another tribe's warriors in combat. Farms and lands can be burnt, possessions stolen, but rarely the people. Tribes often protect those who can't fight by keeping them in the heart of their territory." Kailen explained.

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