“Eric, put me down!” Scarlet shouted, struggling to get free of his grasp.
“Not a chance, Scarlet!” Eric said, racing up the stairs towards one of the towers.
“Eric, put her down!” a masculine voice shouted from behind them.
“Ye’d have to kill me first!” Eric shouted back.
“So be it!” Byron said, slashing the air with his sword. Unfortunately, because of the darkness of the stairwell, he missed entirely and hit nothing but air.
He followed Eric the entire length of the tower, until it opened into a brightly candlelit room. Byron opened the door cautiously and was caught by surprise. Scarlet was chained to the far wall, a piece of cloth covered her eyes, and the tip of a dagger touched her throat. He took one small step into the room, trying not to make Eric flinch his arm.
“Now is this not sweet?” Eric mused. “Me sister’s ‘champion’ has come to her rescue!”
“Let her go, Eric!” Byron stated, ignoring his remark.
“Whyever should I? She has tried to find and steal the secret to which the Sorceress and I feed upon!”
“Whatever are you talking about?”
“She wanted and searched long and hard for the secret to the gemstones even when the answers she sought were beneath her nose all this time!” Eric explained.
“What?!” Scarlet exclaimed, but closed her mouth soon after when she felt the dagger tighten at her throat.
“You are in no position to question me, Sister!” Eric said. “Listen to me, and listen well! I have read the scrolls, I have studied them, and they have shown me where the answers ye seek lie!” he continued. As Eric spoke, Byron continued to move closer, sword outstretched, ready to strike again.
“Yer amulet, Scarlet,” he continued, not noticing Byron had closed the distance between them, “can harvest power in itself!” he said, trailing the dagger down her neck towards the charm that hung from its chain.
“But this trinket you wear only contains good power! The scrolls tell us how to change the power from good to evil.. Now, if you were clever enough, ye would have had the answers to yer questions! But now, ye will be dead, the scrolls will be mine, and yer amulet will be no ones!” he exclaimed, flicking the dagger outward, causing the chain to break and her amulet to fall to the ground and shatter.
“No!” Scarlet shouted as she heard her gem crash to the floor.
In the blink of an eye more quick than Eric could have anticipated, Byron used that moment to run his blade clear through his body. Eric looked up at Byron, then looked down at the blade. He gurgled once and his body pitched over, dead. Byron leaned down and picked up the dagger that Eric so conveniently dropped on the floor, using it to carefully pick the locks of Scarlet’s chains.
Without even an exclamation of gratitude, Scarlet pulled the cloth from her eyes and dropper to her knees, clawing at the pieces of gold and emerald on the floor. Byron could do naught to stop the tears from flowing from her eyes as she clawed at the remaining gems, much to no avail.
“No! Byron, please!” she begged.
“I am truly sorry, me Lady. ‘Tis naught I can do.”
“No!” she sobbed, as Byron helped her to her feet. “Please!”
“Come, me Lady. Yer brother is dead. ‘Tis naught left here but darkness,” Byron concluded, leading her away from the room.
* * * *
Time and time again, Melinda shot her bolts of electricity at Algernon’s men. Time and again Melinda would destroy the clan, one by one. Algernon could not stand to see his clan disappear any longer and finally stepped forward.
“Melinda, stop!” he bellowed. “’Tis me ye want, not them! ‘Twould be a waste of lives to kill the innocent when all ye want is me!”
“Ye should know, Brother, that I live to destroy the innocent!” she shouted back.
“’Tis high time you learned to take orders other than yer own!” Algernon said, raising his sword above his head ready to strike.
Before Algernon could strike out against his sister, both were caught by surprise. Algernon turned away in disgust as Melinda looked down at her chest, which had begun to bleed. She turned her head to see Scarlet standing before her, her hands still grasping the hilt of the blade.
“Ye li’l witch!” she screamed, easily pulling the blade from her back, and dropping it to the floor. “Do ye not know ‘tis not easy to kill me!” Before everyone’s watchful eyes, Melinda’s scar disappeared. Then, like a flash of lightning, Melinda shot out her wrist at Scarlet, causing her to fall backwards into Byron, who stood behind her.
“No!” Algernon cried out, striking down blindly at Melinda. Melinda, in turn, shot a bolt of lightning at her brother.
Algernon could not move a muscle. He was paralyzed where he lay. He knew he could do naught to stop Melinda’s rein of terror this time. ‘Twas now up to his beloved wife. Dear god-the shock reached his heart and mind almost too quickly. He had proclaimed he had no wife to love, had no Lady to care for his fortress. If she should die in any attempt to rid Scotland of its most feared villain he would surely take his own life for not professing his love sooner.
“Melinda, I have killed you once and I will surely kill you again! And this time me brother be not alive to bring ye back!” Scarlet challenged, more defiantly than before.
“Yer words be a challenge that I have yet to see be put into action!” the Sorceress spat. “Do not challenge me unless you are willing to fight back with more than just words!”
“So be it!” Scarlet countered, turning around and grabbing Byron’s sword too quickly for him to protest.
Melinda pulled a large two-handed battle sword from underneath her long black cape, and held it up in front of her. Scarlet crossed Byron’s sword over Melinda’s, ready to begin a battle that would surely leave one of them dead this night. Byron could do naught but help his captain to his feet and watch from afar as the greatest battle in all of Scotland began to unfold before their very eyes.
Time and again, the Sorceress crossed her blade with Scarlet’s, each time with more force than the last. Scarlet could not imagine what she had begun but she knew she could not back down unless she wanted to admit defeat, which most definitely meant death. This time she truly was on her own, and Algernon could do naught to help her.
“Have ye given up, Scarlet? ‘Twould seem that this battle has ended, for ye cannot defeat me!” the Sorceress cackled, placing her blade to Scarlet’s throat after knocking her off-balance.
Scarlet had to think and think quickly. What harvested the Sorceress’ primary power? What were the two main sources for her power? The ancient scrolls and the gemstones of magic! The realization came upon her like a violent storm. Scarlet took one look over at Algernon and Byron and then looked up at Melinda.
“I will ask you again, Scarlet!” the Sorceress repeated, lowering her blade to the floor. “Have ye given up?!”
“Never!” Scarlet shouted back. Without another word, she took off down the corridors of Castle Baroche, searching for the one thing she sought after.
Scarlet raced from room to room, but neither the scrolls nor the gems were found. The Sorceress kept in close pursuit of her but for some reason Melinda did not dare strike out against her-‘Twas as if she toyed with her. Scarlet did not seem to care-she knew she must find the two things that would destroy the Sorceress forever, and fast.
“Whatever is the matter, me dear?” Melinda said, cornering Scarlet down one of the corridors. “Have ye lost yer way?”
Scarlet turned around just in time to see the Sorceress loom in on her. From the corner of her eye, Scarlet saw what she had been looking for all along-in the center of the room to her right lay the ancient scrolls, opened atop a dais. Sitting next to the scrolls, on a square tabletop, were spread the gemstones Scarlet had not laid eyes upon in what seemed like ages. She had to destroy them both and with haste, for she knew not what plans the Sorceress had for them, or even her, for that matter.
“I have not lost me way!” Scarlet said, defiantly raising her head to acknowledge Melinda’s presence. “In actuality, I believe there be something you will lose!” she challenged.
Without another word, Scarlet sideswiped one of Melinda’s slashes of her blade and ran for the room, grabbing for the table containing the gems. She heard Melinda gasp but she knew it was too late. The entire table came crashing down to the floor, gemstones and all.
“No!” Melinda shouted, running to try to save her gems from shattering. “No!” she repeated.
Scarlet knew she had one more chance to destroy the Sorceress once and for all. She grabbed a candle and flung it into the dais where the scrolls were laid out, causing the entire ensemble to become engulfed in flames. Scarlet backed away just in time to see the Sorceress’ power collapse. Melinda grabbed blindly at the scrolls, trying to save the one source of her ultimate power.
Scarlet shielded her eyes as the Sorceress’ arms caught fire and spread down to her feet. She watched painfully as Melinda’s body fell to the floor, writhing and convulsing with pain. This time, Scarlet knew, the Sorceress and all her powers would be lost forever and there was no chance of her unfortunate reappearance on the Scottish Highlands again.