“Two people want the answers to the puzzle, but only one will find the secret to the...”

Gemstones of Magic


chapter 12: 

Scarlet raced down the corridors and entered the great hall of Castle Baroche one last time, just as night slowly became morn. Her bodice had been turned to rags, her hair was in disarray, and her arms sagged heavily at her sides. She felt more like the cinder girl of the stories of her youth this day than all others.

Byron was the first to approach her when she entered the hall. He neither laid a hand upon her nor spoke a single word but just his presence so near to her brought a warmth to her entire body. He led her silently over to Algernon, who sat, unconscious against the far wall of the great hall.

“Whatever happened to him?” she asked, gently caressing his brow with her hand.

“When ye raced after Melinda, he attempted to go after you but was caught off guard. One of the ceiling boards was loose and came crashing down onto him.”

“We must get him and the rest of the clan out of here!” she exclaimed, just as another ceiling board came down near them. “Before this whole fortress crumbles to pieces before us!” she added, jumping to her feet.

“Aye, me Lady,” Byron said, pulling Algernon to his feet and resting his arm around his shoulders.

“Please,” she begged, looking deep into his eyes, “Call me Scarlet.”

“Aye, Scarlet,” he breathed, almost completely taking her own breath away, making her remember the fleeting liaison between them.

Scarlet shook herself out of her trance and helped Algernon’s clansmen to their feet, one by one. She knew she could not rescue every clan member, especially those that had not survived the wrath of Melinda’s torture, but she tried her best to revive a vast majority. Those that had survived were quickly brought outside the castle gates where Connor and a few others were standing guard.

“How be the others, Connor?” Scarlet asked, presumably taking charge of the situation.

“They be well, me Lady,” he replied.

“Good, now get them out of harm’s way!” she commanded, looking up at the Castle. “This fortress will fall far sooner than we can expect! We must be clear of its walls before it turns to naught but rubble.”

Every able and capable man that could walk on his own was made to walk, run, or escape in some way before the fortress of Castle Baroche collapsed. Scarlet had no time to worry about her husband or even her own life for that matter. What mattered to her now was the lives of her fellow clansmen. When everyone was finally far enough away from the fortress, Scarlet’s body clamored down onto the grassy meadow, as she watched Castle Baroche slowly burn to the ground.

“Scarlet!” a voice called to her, breaking her concentrated stare.

She looked up into Byron’s saddened eyes. In his arms he carried Britney’s limp body. She could still see Britney’s chest rising and falling in short breaths but she knew her fall from the tower had caused severe bodily harm.

“Scarlet,” Byron repeated, “is there naught we can do?”

Scarlet looked up at Britney then looked over at Byron. She tried to restrain her eyes from tearing but all Byron had to do was look at her and he knew what was going through her mind. He cradled Britney close to him, unable to bear any more pain this day. He looked up at Scarlet once, a startled look upon his face, then looked down at Britney.

“Byron?” she whispered softly.

“Aye, me Princess?” he answered, practically reduced to tears.

“Admit to me now ye love,” she breathed.

“I-I,” he stuttered, his arms and legs shaking with fear.

“Please!” Britney breathed in deeply, gasping for air.

Scarlet pressed her palm over Britney’s chest before she spoke. “Byron, her lungs are filling with water! They have been severed by her ribs from the fall! She will not survive this day unless the fluid can be removed!”

“Do we have the capabilities to do so?” Byron asked, very skeptical.

“Nay, Byron, I am afraid we do not,” Scarlet said, looking away.

“Byron, please!” Britney’s voice cut through the silence.

“Aye, Princess, I do love!” he said, holding her close and letting the tears run down his cheeks. “I love with all me heart and soul!” At his declaration of love, Britney took her last breath of life.

continue to the epilogue