“What would ye have me do, sire?” Britney asked, fear still in her voice.
‘Twas already mid-afternoon and Britney sat on the floor of the cottage she had found the evening before. Eric, the new “Sorcerer” of Scotland, sat opposite her, knowing all he need do was ask, and she would do as he said. He had but one thing to ask her.
“Ye must get the secret scrolls,” he stated.
“But ‘twould mean going back to Locera!” she exclaimed.
“Aye, it would, me dear, but think of the possibilities! Once ye place yer reversal spell on the scrolls and bring them here, I will be more than will be more than willing to begin yer lessons of the true arts!” Eric said with a sly smile set from ear to ear.
“Ye would be willing to teach me all that ye know?” she asked, still unsure of his proposition.
“I will be willing to do that plus more,” he said, brushing his had across her cheek, making her blush. Being the age of only twenty-four, Britney was not yet accustomed to the touch of a man’s hand. She had been a lady-in-waiting of Scarlet’s own choosing for five long years and only once allowed a man to touch her. She quickly moved away.
Averting his conversation away from the uncomfortable situation, he quickly added, “I must have those scrolls! They be very important in me plan to gain control!”
“Gain control over what?”
“Over Locera, and possibly over Scotland!” he stated with a sly smile, almost sinister.
“I do not think ‘twould be right to go back,” Britney argued. “I mean, if I go back, me mistress will most likely lock me in a dungeon and throw away the key!”
“How can she lock away what she cannot see?” he countered.
“What do ye mean?”
“Yer trick spell of disappearance yesterday worked wonderfully against me. I am quite sure ‘twill be easy as pie to steal those scrolls once ye’ve infiltrated the library without anyone noticing you at all!”
“But me spell only works for a short while! I do not believe I could get into the library, steal the scrolls, and escape successfully without the spell being broken.”
“If I increase yer spell’s power, ye will be able to complete yer task.”
“And what do I get in return?” Britney asked defiantly.
“Ye get to live a long life! Besides, is it not rewarding enough to have the scrolls in yer hands?!” he stated.
“Ye act like the scrolls be the only thing of importance! Do ye not care what ye do to yer sister?”
“Me sister is of no concern to me! And aye, the scrolls be the only thing of importance to me!”
The gleam in Eric’s eyes burned like fire and Britney knew she had no choice but to either follow his orders or die trying to escape. But what he did not know was that Britney had her own plan up her sleeve.
“Aright, I will help ya with yer plan,” she agreed reluctantly.
“Good, now, go out and collect for me three cloves of bayberry, a flower or two of sassafras, and a handful of sage grass.”
“Why do ye need those herbs?” she asked, childishly.
“I am going to make a potion for you to drink to make yer spell of disappearance stronger and last longer.”
“I understand,” she said and got up to leave the cottage. “But I do not have me cloak. I left it when I disappeared yesterday.”
“Fear not, me lass. I believe yer cloak is behind the chair there. I kept it, I knew we would surely meet again.”
Britney went over to the chair and discovered her cloak was there, as he had said. She grabbed the cloak, threw it on, and reached for a basket she had found in the kitchen, to collect the herbs Eric needed to complete his spell. Once outside her thoughts began to wander, back to her first and only love-a man whom she thought could ne’er love her in return-Byron, the greatest knight to have lived at Locera.
“Me lady?” a voice shook her out of her daydream and made her turn around.
A man, a stranger he was to her, offered his hand to help her with her task. His body towered over hers and his eyes were shielded from her gaze by a dark, black-hooded cloak.
“Who are you?” she asked defensively.
“Ah, Britney, ye know me well enough! ‘Tis a shame you are no longer in service at Locera,” the figure answered her, removing the hood from his head.
“Byron?” she asked, astounded.
“Aye, in the flesh!” he said, opening his arms to her.
“But how did ye find me? How did ye know where to look?” she asked, letting herself be embraced by the loving arms she remembered. “I followed yer tracks in the mud,” he replied. “’Twas easy enough to know which tracks were yers-ye always had small feet. But whose tracks be the others?” he asked, pulling her away and looking into her eyes.
“A-A friend,” Britney stammered. “They belonged to a friend.”
“A friend? And who be this friend?” Byron asked.
“Just a friend. ‘Tis all ye need to know,” she answered. She knew if Byron found out about Eric’s plan for the scrolls she would be sentenced to death for treason. She finally decided to use Byron as bait to get herself back into the fortress without being arrested.
“Byron?” she asked, changing her attitude from scared to seductive.
“Aye?” he answered, succumbing all too easily to her seduction.
“Can ye help me get back to the fortress?”
“You mean ye want to go back?!” he asked, confused.
“Well, I miss it a lot and I should ne’er have gone astray,” she concluded, moving closer to him. “Plus,” she added, “I miss you most of all.”
She leaned over to kiss him, eyes closed tight. Yet he did not kiss her back. She opened her eyes and Byron was no where to be found. Britney looked around, frantically searching for any sign of where he could have gone. In a blinding flash of light, a figure stood before her, shrouded in black, and with eyes flaming red.
“Ye li’l witch!” the figure swore. “How dare ye use that man to get into the fortress! I told ye once I would get you there without anyone seeing you! I had a feelin’ ye would somehow betray me!”
“Eric, please believe I did not mean anything by it!” Britney tried to plead, unsuccessfully.
“’Twas a very good thing I created the image of yer beloved Byron!”
“He wasn’t real?!” Britney asked, astounded.
“Of course he was not! I used yer thoughts of him to create me mirage! Ye were very unfortunate to try to plot against me, me lass!” Eric exclaimed as he grabbed her arm and pushed her backwards towards a tree.
Being caught off guard, Britney forced herself to brace her body with her hands as she crashed into the tree. Falling to the ground, she could feel the blood staining her hands and the tears staining her cheeks. She felt pain sear through her as Eric grabbed her by her hair and pulled her to her feet.
“How good are yer powers now, me lass!” he shouted at her, shoving her away with a force that sent her plummeting onto her back. He sat next to her on the grass, hand raised over her, ready to strike.
“This will teach you to toy with me!” Eric said, striking her across the face with the back of his hand. Her scream of pain rang out through the entire forest for all to hear.
“Ye have no idea how easy ‘twould be to destroy you! But no, I will let ye live, yer life be too valuable to waste-for now!”
“Britney!” a voice shouted in the distance. “Britney, is that you?”
Britney looked around her to see where the voice came from. When she turned back, Eric had disappeared. Where could Eric have gone to? she thought to herself as she tried to stand. A black stallion came into view just as she stood successfully without collapsing onto the ground.
“Britney! Are ye hurt?” the rider asked, leaping from his steed and racing towards her. Britney slowly lifted her head, a red hand mark still across her cheek and her hair in disarray. “Good God, what has happened to you?!”
Without answering him, Britney wept, both tears of fear and tears of pain. She did not even protest when the knight embraced her to keep her from falling over. She continued to weep as the knight tried to calm her by stroking her soft auburn locks.
“There now, me Princess. Everything will be fine now that Byron is here,” he comforted.
“Byron?” Britney looked up questionably through tear-stained eyes.
“Aye, ‘tis me.”
Britney could not tell whether he was real or whether he was yet another mirage created by Eric. She reached out her hand and gently touched his face, to prove to herself that he was real. She found that not only were her fingers quite cold, but his skin quite warm.
“Byron,” she breathed, before he embraced her once more.
“How badly ye be hurt?” he asked pulling her away and cupping her chin in his palms.
“Not badly,” she shook her head.
“Come on. I will take ye back to Locera. They have sent out a search party for you and I am sure Scarlet will be pleased to see ye return,” Byron said cheerfully, carefully lifting her up into his arms so she could be placed upon his horse’s saddle.
“Byron?” Britney asked rather sleepily.
“Why did Scarlet send a scouting party after me?”
“Because, me Princess, she missed having you as a lady-in-waiting, and also there be some knights who quite oft grew lonesome without seeing you around,” he stated.
“Oh,” was her only reply before resting her head on his chest while they rode back to Locera.
Britney knew her plan would work-how could it not? She was not being back to Locera, and, if Byron told her the truth, back with open arms. She knew she could easily penetrate the walls of the library and steal the scrolls. Her only hope was that her spell of disappearance would work long enough for her to escape, once again, this time with the ancient scrolls. With a sly smile upon her face, and her eyes tightly closed, she recited a silent telepathic message sent to the only one who could hear through the mind-Eric, if ye can hear me, listen. I will not fail ye now and ne’er will. I will get yer scrolls and escape successfully. Please, wait for me at the cottage and on the evening of the morrow, ye shall have yer ancient scrolls!...