Heavy Spoiler Warning: late Rise of the Wyrm Lord to early The Final Storm.
Couldn't help but wonder what went on inside Kearn's head…and the subtle something that seemed to have been there, at least for a little bit, between Kearn and Antoinette. So I couldn't help but dive a little deeper there.
I do not own the Door Within Trilogy.
"Master?" the loud, awkward knock rang into his chambers.
"Leave me!" he bit back.
The obnoxious voice grew louder, "But Master Kearn! Beggin' my pardon, sir, but ya been in there fer near three days!"
The voice had come from one of Kearn's near-brainless underlings, a rather talkative one-eyed Paragor knight known as Bilge.
The blond captain slammed a book shut on the table, causing the nearby candle to quiver violently. Kearn, however, did not rise from his seat, "If you are so concerned with such things, then go get me something to eat and do not return until you do. And get me some water."
The voice from behind the door sounded near incredulous, "Water, sir? You don' want any—"
Kearn groaned, "Of course. I don't want that murky filth clouding my head any more."
If that stupid crony actually heeded his orders, then it would probably be at least an hour or two before he was bothered again. After hearing no further response from behind the door, he sighed and pulled the book back towards him.
"Any news, Bilge?" the small group crowded around him, eager to discover more about their leader.
"None. He jus' told me to get 'im some water and somethin' ta eat." Bilge shrugged and hawked a spit to the side.
One of the Paragor knights wrinkled his nose, "Water?"
Bilge rolled his eyes and growled, "Somethin's wrong, I tell ya. Master Kearn is—"
The knights jumped, turning to face none other than Rucifel himself. Scrambling, they all stood up straight and gave their salute. The high officer's shifting eyeballs scanned each of them top to bottom before tightening his thin lips into a straight line and waving them off, "As you were."
With that, the soldiers released the breaths they didn't know their ribcages had imprisoned and watched as Lord Rucifel ascended the cold stone stairs towards Kearn's study.
When he was out of sight, the peons continued their chatter, bickering over the punishment that their immediate superior would receive should Lord Rucifel find out the truth.
Rucifel's heavy armored boots clanked against the musky stone of the stairs. Grabbing a torch from its socket on the wall, he continued upwards into the tower, his heavy military swagger carrying his presence before him up the stairs.
Arriving at the top of the spiraling staircase, Rucifel passed a few doors before arriving at a large wooden door to his left, the door to the very room that he himself had given to the captain as the young man's private study. His first few knocks were firm and deliberate, but precise and calculated, as if every knock carried the very essence of his presence and intention.
When he was met without an answer, he knocked again, louder. If the battle fodder gabbing at the bottom of the stairs was to be believed, then the boy should be in his study. After all, in order to ascend the ranks and impress his father, which Rucifel already knew that Kearn wanted, Kearn would want to spend a good amount of time in his study. Thus, it was probably the most likely place for the boy to be.
But something was wrong.
After knocking a third time without an answer, Rucifel's eyes narrowed as he tried the door handle. Unable to open it by function, he deduced it best that he should then try it by force. Taking a step backwards, Rucifel switched the torch to his far hand as he lunged towards the door, causing it to burst open as the lock snapped.
Rucifel straightened himself and gave his under tunic a proper tug. His pale eyes swiveled around the room, searching out any semblance of the supposed inhabitant. Taking a few steps forward, Rucifel noted the desk at the other end of the room, still lit with a few flickering candles. There didn't seem to be anything out of ordinary: battle logs, weapon and gear designs, a couple books scattered about concerning the prince's tomes.
Still, the disquiet in the room sent Rucifel into a rage. Some unsettled feeling rolled around in his gut.
Yes. Something was wrong.
Even so, that boy would never be so careless as to leave candles aflame unless he was going to return in a relatively short amount of time.
So Rucifel decided to wait.
"So, you're back." Her voice was rueful and triumphant, a tone that made him want to rip that smile right off her face.
He snarled, "Do not think for a moment to label this as your victory or something so preposterous as that."
A peaceful smile settled on her expression, lighting her dirt-smeared face and scruffy red locks with warmth, "Well then, why are you here?"
He slammed the familiar book down on a small table outside the cell and crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes narrowing as he made every effort to look down his nose at her, "I merely have questions, that is all."
"So you have been reading it." Another cheerful response. And angry shiver tingled every nerve up his back and into his neck. He swore that whatever she used to bewitch him and feed these strange and uncomfortable feelings into his body and skull would either kill him or be subject under him in due time.
He growled, ruffling the back of his long blond hair with one hand. He tried to ignore every sensation that wanted to strangle the poor girl and repress the other strong feelings that rose up inside him, causing his fingers to shake lightly.
Antoinette scooted up to the bars and sat down cross-legged on the stone, eagerly in a position of waiting. And she did wait for a few moments.
He gritted his teeth and anchored his gaze on anything but the young girl before him, "I just do not understand…how a king putting himself in such a position of weakness could ever vanquish all the raw power of Paragor."
Kearn could almost hear her giggle, "It's because he put himself in that position that he could vanquish all the powers of Paragor."
Another feral growl escaped him. The only thing that baffled him more than what she believed in was how he would feel whenever all he did was look at her.
She continued, "Kearn, the point is that the true strength in this case isn't the use of the power, it's the choice not to use it."
His eyes narrowed. None of this was making any sense at all.
A twinge of a smirk tugging at the side of his mouth, he bit back, "So what you are implying is that those who do not use the power they are given are superior to those who do? Is that it, m'lady?"
When she did not answer, he took a few steps forward, his presence heavy in the shallow light from the grey skies outside and the remaining flickering candles, "That is not power. That is weakness. There is nothing else in this world that could give meaning and significance other than power gained over others. There is nothing else."
Antoinette's piercing gaze did not leave his eyes, "You don't even believe that one."
She grasped the bars and leaned forward, watching as his stricken face turned to that of a seasoned captain with little patience. The girl tried to smile, "What about approval from your father?"
Kearn's eyes seethed as the sharp intake of breath initiated a hiss from between his teeth. The captain lunged forward, kneeling on the stone in front of her and seizing the prison bars between them, "Enough, Mirror Realm scum! You know nothing!"
Her eyes never once left his, "I can see it in your eyes, Kearn."
A smile spread across her face as his eyes studied hers, but did not flicker.
Her countenance unnerved him. He could feel his intestines twisting into painful knots. His face contorted in untold frustration as a thousand thoughts coursed through his mind.
I could not bear the thought of losing you.
What was this?
He was drawn to something about her. It was more than an attraction, sure enough, but still…an attraction…was that still there?
While his eyes still held on her own, his large hands slowly maneuvered to the same bars that her hands were wrapped around.
All rational thought began to fade. She was so close. Sure, she was small, and very pink, not to mention nearly impossible to deal with, but something kept him coming back. It was more than this; but this…he felt this would keep him from performing his duties effectively if he did not do something about it.
She was so close.
He could feel her small breath on his face, and his hands slowly moved to curl around her own.
A smirk danced on his face. Her breathing was getting short.
It was so warm.
His blond hair fell around his shoulders as he leaned forward, refusing to let the prison bars obstruct him. His eyes drifted slowly closed as he heard her breath hitch.
Kearn couldn't understand a thing about what was going on nor what he was doing, but there was something inside her that drove him mad, and he couldn't help but be attracted to it, in more ways than one.
His hair brushed against her cheeks as his eyes focused on her parted lips. His breath seemed to wage battle against hers.
Suddenly, a sharp jolt in his chest broke him into reality. His eyes shot open as he lurched backwards, rolling deftly back onto his feet and straightened, his façade returning almost instantly.
He dared not glance back at her as he turned and swiftly left the chamber, his cloak billowing behind him.
The door slammed and the room was once again dead and silent, save for the light still drifting in from the window.
Kearn switched between rubbing his temples and pinching the bridge of his nose.
What in Paragor's name was he thinking?
He almost—consorted with the enemy!
His walk was swift, and carried him promptly back to his study…or more accurately, away from the Alleble knight's cell.
When he opened the door, he was met with a waft of cold, dank air that carried the feeling that something had died.
Kearn glanced around before his stare came to rest on the tall, lumbering figure of Lord Rucifel himself, leaning against a wooden table in the far corner.
His voice reverberated with great meaning, "Evening, Captain. You look flustered. Why don't you have a seat?"
A fierce unpleasant chill sifted through the young militant's being, his mouth set in a firm line. He had a feeling he knew what this meant.
He was to be given new orders.
All will he had to fight was gone, as was to be the only sunlight left in the darkness of all Paragory. Somehow, he never thought it would feel like this. He should be happy. Victory would belong to Paragor.
Maybe…he could bring her one last hope. So then he wouldn't have to watch…
A throbbing pain seared through his chest when he opened the door.
Her whisper shot painful shivers down his spine, "Kearn?"
Relaying the boring news, he refused to meet her eyes, hesitating to say the part that had been the cause of his wound of spirit. The only solace he found was to look above her, staring out the window at the blackening sky, "You will be left here under heavy guard until after King Eliam has fallen and Alleble is secure. Then you will be summoned…"
His voice nearly faltered once as he trailed off, attempting to keep the blasted mucus from clogging his vocal cords.
"He plans to kill me, doesn't he?"
He did not face her. He would not. The very expression on his face would betray his own speech. He would not appear weak in front of the enemy. His voice was quiet, "Turn you or kill you. Yes, that is his plan."
Her reaction sent him flying back towards the bars, and his mind was overcome with the recent yet unwelcome memory as he came face to face with her again, the bars between them.
His brain was a muddled mess, and she just remained calm, defying his every attempt at letting her keep her life and clinging to the stubborn pride that claimed his mind.
"There is something inside of you…something that I long for, but for the life of me, I do not know what it is. I only know that now I cannot bear the thought of losing you."
The words came spewing from his mouth before he realized what he was saying. Yet, when he heard his own voice, he realized his weakness. His hands shook, and it was all he could do to bury his head in his hands. He couldn't tell if it was shame or weakness or pain or even fear. His voice was lost now. Lost to the rising overwhelming sensations swirling about in his throat and chest.
He couldn't remember much after that, only his vain attempt at keeping hold of all the power, fame, security and pride that he had. They went back and forth, yet with all his power, he felt he could barely keep his own position, as if he could barely keep the very confidence in his own stance.
He revealed her sword, feeling almost a loss as he gave it to her. He had mounted it on his chamber wall for a few days, convincing himself that it was a memento of a worthy opponent, yet ceasing to mention that his eyes would be drawn to it quite nearly constantly, a silent urge to go see her or deliver a plate of food or something.
Yet, perhaps, if she had the chance, maybe…just maybe she would be able to get away. And perhaps, if King Eliam really was as great as she said he was, perhaps he would make a way to save her.
Stuffing down all feelings and urges that had arisen in him, he gave her one last bow and held the sword to her.
Before he felt himself being ripped away.
His head throbbed and his eyes went white, blurring and swirling at any hint of color. The wind whipped past him, sending his stomach into a slight convulsion as his feet tried desperately to find footing. He reached upwards and unleashed a desperate roar.
Suddenly, he was thrown to his feet and his surroundings began to become clear. Leaves crunched beneath his boots on the thin dirt path that lay before him. Rays of sunshine pierced the blankets of the green canopy and the distant sound of birdsong riddled about in the trees.
Before him, however, a warm light split the trees and exploded in brightness, nearly blinding him. His vision still white, he heard a warm, distinct resounding voice.
"Come to me, my son."
Kearn's eyes slowly cleared once more, and, for a small moment, flickered a pale blue.
I love Kearn's character, honestly. Would've liked to see a little more of him in The Final Storm, but alas…what can you do?
I know there are distinct lines in canon pairings in the series, but to be quite honest, it seems to me that Mr. Batson made it a little difficult to stay within those lines and not be tempted to go non-canon just a little bit. With that said, Lord bless you all. Praying for ya. Never alone.