“Two people want the answers to the puzzle, but only one will find the secret to the...”
Gemstones of Magic
“No! Let me go!” Scarlet shouted as she was pulled to her feet by two guards.
“’Tis for yer own good, me lass,” Algernon replied as he snapped his fingers, ordering the guards to hold her.
“But why, whatever have I done?” Scarlet replied, almost in tears.
“Ye must be sheltered from yerself!” Algernon stated. “Bring her to the dungeons before she plagues our fortress with more of her magic!”
“No more, Scarlet! Ye have been too involved in this ‘search’ that ye’ve neglected yer duties as Lady of Locera! Until ye can reason and stop continuing with these answers ye seek, you will remain in the dungeons!”
“Algernon, please,” Scarlet begged. “’Tis not magic at all! I just wish to find me brother!”
“And find him we will! He will be brought here and he will be executed for treason as was me sister’s sentence! The scrolls will be burned and yer precious gems will be destroyed!”
“No, Algernon, please! Ye do not know the power they hold! I must speak with me brother in person! I must know the secret of the gems!” she exclaimed, whilst her body was dragged from the library. “Algernon!”
“Captain?!” a soldier burst into the library out of breath and exasperated.
“Aye, report at once!” Algernon demanded.
“Byron has sent word he has found Britney but there be no sign of Eric,” he commented.
“Excellent! Continue the search for Eric,” he commanded. “He must be brought here dead or alive! Preferably alive, for ‘twill be so much better to watch him hang!”
“Aye, Captain!” The soldier saluted and was gone.
Algernon was left alone in the library. He began to pick up the remaining volumes that lay on the floor and place them back on the shelves. One volume in particular caught his eye: a maroon-colored cover with no words, pages worn from age that practically crumbled in his hands.
As he flipped slowly and carefully through the pages, he felt a gust of wind billow from behind him, causing him to drop the book to the floor. The pages began to turn of their own accord, one by one, until they finally stopped. Algernon looked down at the book and the picture that stared back at him was none other that...
“Scarlet’s amulet,” he heard a voice behind him say. Algernon whirled around and came face to face with his arch nemesis.
“Melinda!” he exclaimed in absolute horror.
“In the flesh, Brother! Ye did not think you could kill me that easily, did you? ‘Tis a shame ye had put all yer faith in yer beloved whore to end me life! By the way,” she added purposefully, “where be yer, wife I presume, now?”
“I have locked her away and thrown away the key!” he replied.
“Awe, what a pity she has escaped,” Melinda replied.
“What?! But how can that be?! I just had me guards bring her down to the dungeons!”
“Aye, that ye did. But ye do not believe that I would let them keep her there do you?!”
“Whatever have ye done to her, Melinda?!” he demanded.
“Oh, she is good hands, I assure you! But let me warn you here and now, if I do not receive me just reward I ask for, ye will ne’er see yer beloved Scarlet again!”
“I will give naught to you, Melinda!” Algernon declared.
“Suit yerself, Brother! But do not come looking for yer bride-ye will not find her!” With a burst of laughter and a blaze of light, Melinda was gone.
“No!” shouted Algernon, knowing full well his options.
If he rounded the clan and formed an army to hunt the Sorceress down, she would surely place Scarlet in the way, using her as bait. If he opted to face Melinda alone, he could save Scarlet but he himself may not live to see her escape. He knew, as a honorable knight, he would risk his own life for his lady fair, but then Melinda would still retain her power and might very well use Scarlet as a slave, bowing to her every whim.
Nay! He would ne’er let the Sorceress lay a finger on his beloved Scarlet. He needed to form an army, and a strong one at that, one that could withstand her evil powers. Yet one more fleeting thought intoxicated his mind-he had sent his four best knights on his Lady’s quest. If Melinda somehow knew of their whereabouts, she would surely destroy each and every one!
* * * *
“Let me go!” Britney shouted, trying to escape the clutches of Byron’s men. She had fallen asleep in Connor’s arms during the ride back and did not awaken until the following morning, when Byron’s men brutally aroused her from her slumber.
“Let her be!” Byron demanded his men. At once his men acknowledged his authority and stepped away from Britney. “Well, whatever have we here?” he asked mockingly.
“Byron, please, have mercy on me!” she sobbed.
“Mercy?” he chuckled. “Ye want mercy from a man who be not worthy of yer love?! Who gave his heart to a Scottish lass he believed to be pure in spirit?! Yet, ho, before him stands a Scottish wench, a whore, who let him be fooled by her kindred spirit, let him believe she could love!” A burst of laughter came from every mouth of Byron’s men, including their Captain.
“Byron, please, I do love--!”
“Ye love naught, least of all me! Yer love for power and the black arts has overpowered and intoxicated yer mind, making yer heart grow cold and yer blood run fierce! ‘Twill be so much enjoyment to see ye pay for the crimes ye have committed!” he bellowed.
“No!” she cried out, tears already flowing down her cheeks. “Byron, please believe me! I have loved and do love more than anyone has been known to give!”
With a force he ne’er intended to use, Byron slapped Britney clear across her face, causing her to fall down to the ground, crying out in pain. Byron mumbled under his breath and stormed off, leaving her to cry away her pain.
“Captain?” a shy voice interrupted his thoughts.
“Aye, Connor, what is it?” Byron asked, not looking up but rather away, towards the horizons.
“May I offer some words of wisdom, sire?”
“Aye, but I do not think they will help,” Byron confided.
“Ye love her, do ye not?” Connor questioned.
“Aye, that I do, Connor,” he admitted sadly.
“Then let her go,” he said.
“Whatever do ye mean?”
“Let her go, sire. If ‘twas meant to be love, she will come back,” he concluded.
“I hope you are right, Connor, I hope you are right,” Byron said, looking over at Britney, sitting on the ground, weeping, with her knees pulled up to her chest.
* * * *
“Let me go, Brother!” Scarlet shouted, her arms bound behind her, as she faced the thrown room from where Eric sat. She had somehow been freed from one capturer only to be captured by another.
“On the contrary, Scarlet! ‘Tis yer new home! Welcome to Castle Baroche!” Eric said, presenting the great hall with his arm.
“I have ne’er heard of this place! Why did Papa ne’er tell us tales about it?” she questioned, surveying the room with her eyes.
“Because it has ne’er been seen!” he commented. “’Twould seem that this castle has been erected in yer honor!”
“My honor?! But ‘tis not me home! I be the Lady of Locera! ‘Twas me home for many years and will be for many more!” Scarlet argued.
“Nay, ye be wrong, me sister! Castle Baroche be yer home now! Do not expect to escape from its walls or to have yer beloved Algernon come to yer rescue! He be in good hands, I assure you!” he chuckled to himself.
“Whatever have ye done to me husband?” she demanded.
“Do not worry too much for yer love. Melinda will take good care of him.”
“The Sorceress?!” she exclaimed. “But I thought she be dead! I killed her meself!”
“Oh, but ye be wrong again, me sister! By the use of the knowledge from the scrolls, I have brought her power back to her, breathing life back into her body! Now, her blood runs thick and fierce, rejuvenated by the powers of the gems!”
“No!” Scarlet shouted, trying to free herself from the ropes that had begun to cut into her wrists. “She will perish, mark me words! She will be destroyed, as will the gemstones that harvest her power!”
“On the contrary, Scarlet!” her brother countered. “Ye will perish long before ye see the Sorceress die! But,” he quickly added to his threat, “not before ye see the greatest Sorceress and Sorcerer concur all of Scotland! Take her away!” he commanded his guards.
“No, Eric, please! Ye cannot do this to me!” she begged as two guards, both heavily armed, hauled her away.
“Eric!” a feminine voice bellowed, causing an enormous echo to fill the great hall of the castle.
“Aye, me lady?” he bowed, low and graceful.
“Prepare the dungeons for four new occupants!”
“Who be these prisoners, me lady?” Eric questioned.
“They be four lowly knights, bearing the shield of the Fortress of Locera,” she smiled. “One was captured mumbling something about his Lady’s quest. ‘Twould be yer best benefit to question that one,” the Sorceress demanded. Then she added, “If he gives ye trouble, kill him!”