With Melinda dead, her spell on Algernon was broken. Scarlet ran to him and embraced him with all the love she could possibly give. Algernon returned her embrace and could feel the wetness of her tears beginning to soak his outer tunic.
“Melinda,” he whispered into the air.
“She is dead,” she sobbed against him.
“All is well, then. Once her army hears the news of her death, they will make a hasty retreat,” he spoke without fear and with a great sense of confidence.
“Algernon, something still troubles me,” she said looking up at him, tears staining her cheeks.
“What, me lady?”
“When Melinda cast her spell on you, she said ye were her long lost brother. Whatever did she mean by that?” she asked inquisitively. Algernon was taken aback by her words but did not show his concern. He took a step away from Scarlet and glanced over at Melinda’s body lying limp on the floor.
“Melinda was a young lass living at Locera when I first laid eyes upon her,” he began his tale. “Her beauty surpassed that of many of the other lasses on the manor.” He paused only once to capture her eyes with his own.
“At the age of sixteen, me father had placed me under the care of the knights and their squires. ‘Twas the last time I had laid eyes on that beauty until I had become a knight. After me first crusade, I returned to find me home in chaos. Melinda had taken up learning black magic and was therefore arrested for witchery and treason. She had escaped her jail sentence prior to me return and used her newfound magic to cast a plague upon me house and family. She fled Locera, hiding in the forests for protection.
“Before me mother died from her evil curse, she bade me to come into her bedchamber one night, where she lay. She told me a shocking tale that not even me father knew of: ‘Twas before me mother married me father when her homeland was besieged by another laird. Me mother was but a young lass, ripe for the taking.
“And taken she was. One night, whilst her parents slept soundly, she was raped by one of the knights of the opposing laird. When her parents found out she was with child, they bade her marry the next laird who came to call, for fear of being haunted by the treachery wrought upon them. Before me mother was to give birth, she married me father, making it seem that ‘twas his babe she bore.”
“And that babe was you,” Scarlet stated.
“Nay, ‘twas not me at all. I had not been born for another near two years. That babe was Melinda-- a healthy infant, but a bastard child she was.”
Scarlet could not believe her ears. What Melinda had said was true! She was indeed the sister of Algernon. Something still did not click in her mind, though. Inquisitively, but cautiously, she averted her question.
“Whyever was Melinda so intent on getting me amulet?”
Algernon looked at her with confusion. He had yet to uncover the secret to the gemstones the Sorceress had kept in her pouch. He knew they had possessed some sort of great power when placed in a special pattern, but he had yet to discover their true worth.
“I have not found the remaining pieces to that puzzle,” he said solemnly.
“Captain!” Both of them spun around to see Byron running across the great hall. “Captain!” he repeated, semi out-of-breath. “Melinda’s army has been pushed back and her forces have called a retreat!”
“We have won!” Algernon shouted in response, joy in his voice. He turned to face Scarlet, who looked more disappointed than relieved.
“Whatever is wrong, me lady?”
“I still do not understand what she wanted with me amulet!”
“Scarlet, the battle is over! Let it rest!” He came over to her to try and comfort her.
“I do not care! I am not going to rest until I find out why!”
“Be rational, Scarlet! Where will ye begin yer journey? How will ye go about searching for answers? Do you even have protection so as not to get yerself killed?!”
“I am old enough to take care of meself, Algernon, and I will find answers!” Scarlet pivoted on her heels and stormed out of the great hall, her footsteps echoing behind her.
“Scarlet!” Algernon called after her.
“Let her go, Algernon. She be naught but a Scottish wench who does not need anyone to tell her how to run her life, especially from the like of you,” his friend joked. Algernon looked at his friend blankly.
“I do not believe you, Byron. I will not believe you because I know what ye think of all Scottish wenches. That lass has compassion in her blood, I have seen it. Perhaps she may have love pulsing through her veins as well!”
Algernon stormed out of the great hall, leaving Byron to take care of the disposing of Melinda’s body. As Algernon had thought, Scarlet stood just outside the fortress gates. Her head was bent and he could tell she was in tears or had been crying. She stiffened as he came nearer to her but refused to turn around.
“I am truly sorry, me lady,” he said, placing his hands on her shoulders.
“Please,” she begged, “call me by me name.”
“Scarlet,” he breathed into her ear. A shiver ran through her body. “If ye would have it, I would like to help you find yer answers.”
She turned around to look into the calm storm in his eyes. “I would have it no other way.”