As soon as Britney ran from the room, she was caught by surprise when someone reached out, grabbed her by the arm, and pulled her into a room. Another hand was clamped over her mouth so she could not scream or alarm anyone passing by. She tried to struggle against her capturer yet ‘twas impossible for her to free herself.
“Britney, ‘twould not pay for ye to struggle,” the voice said into her ear. “Listen to me and listen well!” the figure demanded. “What did me sister say to you about the gemstones?”
“Eric, please,” she tried to plead.
“Do not beg, Britney, ‘twould do you no good! Tell me what she said and remember this, yer life be at stake!”
“She-she demanded to know where I hid the gemstones and would not rest until they were brought back to her. She acted as if she knew I had stolen them, as if someone had told her!”
“’Tis quite possible she found out in a dream,” Eric replied, letting loose his grip on her arm and turning her around to face his sly smile.
“What do ye mean ‘ a dream’?” she questioned.
“A vision, a prophecy! Mayhaps somehow someone told her ye had the gemstones,” he answered her.
“Perhaps,” she concluded.
“What else did she say?” he asked, ignoring her bewildered look.
“She asked me if there be anyone else who knows about the gems and what me plan was to do with them,” she answered solemnly, bowing her head.
“Britney!” she heard her name being called outside the door. She could not hide fast enough before the door was opened and Scarlet stood in the doorway. Her face became distraught as her eyes shot past her lady-in-waiting to her brother. “Eric!” she exclaimed. “But ‘tis cannot be! Then-then Britney spoke the truth! Ye be alive!”
“Aye, me sister! I live and the Sorceress’ power lives within me!” Eric shouted as he stretched out his hand and threw a bolt of lightning at her heart, sending her backwards onto the floor.
Britney screamed and hid behind the bed. Scarlet tried to move but was paralyzed where she lay, the bolt weakening her muscles greatly. Byron was the first to arrive after he heard the scream and quickly helped Scarlet to her feet. Catching Britney’s eye before he spoke, Byron turned violently towards Eric.
“What is the meaning of this!” he demanded.
“Whatever do you mean, sire?” Eric said, in the gentlest of voices.
Without answering him, Byron turned to face Scarlet. “Are ye aright, me Lady?”
“Aye, just a bit of a shock, ‘tis all,” she replied.
“What be going on here?! Scarlet, are ye hurt?” Algernon bellowed, racing to his beloved’s side, cradling her in his arms. ‘Twas the first time in what seemed like years that Algernon had laid a hand upon her.
“Algernon?” she said weakly, looking up into the calm storm she had remembered.
“Aye, me darlin’, ‘tis I,” he replied, lifting her up into his arms.
“Britney, are you aright?” Byron asked, turning his attention back to her.
Without answering him she came out of her hiding place and walked towards him. Without warning, Eric grabbed her arm and pointed the tip of a dagger to her throat. Britney winced and tightly shut her eyes, for fear of catching sight of any blood.
“Let her go Eric!”
“Not a chance, Byron, she be mine! Too bad this time yer knight in shining armor cannot save you!” he said into Britney’s ear.
In a flash of light more blinding than before, Eric and Britney both disappeared. Algernon held Scarlet close to him, trying to shield his eyes. Byron hid his eyes behind his arm, drawing his sword with the other.
“Byron, what be going on?!” Algernon demanded, carefully standing his wife on her feet.
“Let me try to explain,” he stammered.
“Nay, Byron, let me explain,” Scarlet intervened.
“But, me Lady,” Byron pleaded.
“Nay! Algernon listen to me. Me brother be still alive! He has lived and breathed off of yer sister’s power for many years. Now he has come here to avenge her death, against me!”
“And where does Britney fit into yer story?” Byron asked.
“She be the one who stole the gemstones that belonged to yer sister, Algernon. He be using her to find the spells he needs to gain the true power of the gems! Do ye not see! The answers have been here all along!” Scarlet shouted, racing towards the library. Following in close pursuit were Byron and Algernon, swords outstretched, ready for anything.
When the doors to the library were finally flung open, Scarlet was caught by surprise. Both Eric and Britney were caught in the act of gathering the ancient scrolls Scarlet had been studying the other day.
“You be too late, me sister!” Eric shouted. “The gems be mine and now the scrolls be mine too!”
“No!” Scarlet shouted, racing after them. In another flash of light, both disappeared, leaving Scarlet on her knees, tears filling her eyes. “No!” she repeated.
Algernon raced to her side, gathering her up in his arms and letting her cry until she could cry no more. He could not stand to see his wife so, and he knew what had to be done.
“Byron,” he said finally. “Round up yer men. Find our two stowaways and bring them here!” He looked down at Scarlet and quickly added, “Make sure the scrolls as well as the gems are returned to Locera at once!”
“Aye, Captain!” Byron said, bowing and heading for the door.
“Do not worry, me love,” he soothed. “Yer answers will be found, I will make sure of it!” he said, though his smile revealed he had other plans for her precious gems.
* * * *
“Why did ye tell Byron we were betrothed?!” Britney exclaimed, after she and Eric had escaped Locera and made their way undetected back to the cottage.
“I had no choice, Britney. ‘Twas for yer own good! If yer beloved Byron suspected foul play, we would have both been executed for treason!” Eric declared, carefully spreading the scrolls out on the floor.
“Whatever ye be doing?” she asked inquisitively.
“Nothing!” he answered, quickly covering the scrolls. “’Tis not for yer eyes to see!”
“Fine!” she pouted like a child and walked away from him.
Without another word, Eric threw himself headlong into reading, reciting, and studying the scrolls. He neither looked at Britney nor turned his head to acknowledged her presence in the room. He worked well into the evening hours, only stopping once to light a candle or two. When he finally decided to finish for the evening, he lifted his head and discovered Britney was nowhere to be found.
“Damn that lass! Where has she run off to now?”
He searched the entire cottage, room by room, but Britney was not there. He knew she could not have gone far because the woods were thick and her bodice would easily be caught in the brush. He searched the entire grounds for Britney, but she was not there either. A rustle in the trees to his left made him turn around. There Britney stood, a strong arm around her waist and a dagger to her throat.
“Let her go!” Eric shouted, shining a candle up so he could see more clearly.
“Not a chance Eric! Ye promised me me reward!” the figure said.
“I said I’d be giving you a reward, but ‘tis not her!” Eric retorted.
“Well too bad for you! I have just taken me reward by force, and I am not about to give her up!”
“Could we not make an arrangement or an even exchange, so to speak?” Eric pleaded.
“No money in all of Scotland could keep me from taking her!” the figure replied.
“Then what be yer purpose for her, old friend?”
“Friend I am not! Ye hired me to kill yer sister! That be no friend indeed! And furthermore, what happens to this lass be no concern of yers!”
“Be reasonable, Connor! Do ye honestly think I be willing to give her up without a fight?!” Eric said, drawing his sword from his waist.
“Please, Eric, I do not wish to fight you. I only came for me reward.”
“Yer not going anywhere until an agreement can be made!” Eric shouted into the darkness.
“Eric, please, I am not willing to fight you! For now, or until I return to speak of agreements, yer wee fairy comes with me!” He jumped swiftly onto his stallion and quickly picked Britney up, placing her in front of him on the saddle.
“Let me go!” Britney shouted as they rode off into the night. Eric was left to ponder how he was going to get this valuable “jewel” back.
“Who are you?!” Britney squirmed.
“Do not worry, me lass. I am taking you to me Captain.”
“Captain Byron of course,” Connor replied.
Britney was taken aback at the mention of his name. “I thought ye worked for Eric?” she questioned.
“I did until I finally turned meself in to me Laird. I have been working off me debt as a spy ever since,” Connor said.
“Oh. So, where ye be taking me now?”
“Captain Byron has plans for you!” Connor said with a soft chuckle. Then he added, “But not until the morning hours!”