That night Algernon could not sleep. He did not want Melinda’s plan to work and he did not want to see an innocent lass used as bait. Furthermore, he did not wish to see Scarlet killed. He knew he had but one chance to free Lily and escape to the mountains, where he knew she would be safe. Even thought he did care for her, he had become her kinsman and would fight to save her life.
He was no longer bound by chains or rope or magic, but what stood in his way now were the guards that remained outside his tent. He needed a way to distract one so he could dispatch the other. As luck would have it, Melinda called one of the guards into her tent.
“Excuse me. Can ye help me here? I seemed to have lost something very important to Melinda and I really do not wish to upset her!” he called out to the remaining guard.
The guard entered the tent unaware that Algernon was waiting for him. With one swoop of his arm, Algernon knocked the guard flat on his stomach, unconscious. Algernon grabbed the guard’s sword from its sheath and hurried out of the tent. He had only a short amount of time to find Lily and escape, for the guard would surely emerge from his unconscious slumber.
He crept slowly through the camp until he not only found Lily but his horse as well. Both were tied to separate trees, one by chains, the other by rope. Algernon approached them both with caution so as not to frighten either one.
“Who are you?” Lily whispered, not recognizing him in the darkness.
“’Tis no time to explain. We have to get out of here before Melinda finds out we have escaped.” He untied the ropes that bound her feet and wrists. “Come on,” he said, helping her to her feet.
With the dagger that now hung from his belt, he picked the locks of the chains around his horse’s hooves and neck. Trying not to stir the animal, he hoisted himself onto the saddle and bent down his arm to help Lily up. She remained still, unable to move, completely paralyzed with fear.
“Lily, please, I do not think ye wish to stay here any longer,” he pleaded.
Algernon looked at her with stern eyes. Lily finally gave in to his stare and reluctantly took his hand. Swiftly and carefully, he pulled her up into the saddle behind him. “Hold on!”
He whipped the horse into a fast gallop that soon awakened the entire camp, including Melinda. She came out of her tent when she heard the commotion outside. Casting an evil look at him, she called out to her guards to go after them and bring them back alive. Soon Algernon could hear the quickening pace of riders behind him. He knew if he went east he would find either the caves of the Eastwick Mountains or his homeland of Locera, whichever came first.
The horses behind them gained speed and quickly closed in on them. As Algernon drew his sword from its sheath, Lily tightened her grip around his body. She kept her eyes closed as she felt the heavy sword swish the air. A cry to her right made her wince for she knew what his sword made contact with.
Onward Algernon pushed his horse, slashing down to both his left and his right with his blade. Onward he raced, towards the direction the east, not sure where it would take him. He turned around only once to see the number of riders still gaining pursuit before he saw the mountains begin to loom into view ahead of them.
* * * *
Knowing they were safe in the mountains, Algernon dismounted and helped Lily down. She was very light on her toes but she was also very weak from the ride. She stumbled but once and was caught by Algernon’s awkward arms.
“We should be safe here for awhile,” he said.
All Lily could do was nod in response. Something strange went through her mind as she watched Algernon turn away and investigate the cave further. The closeness she had thought she felt when they were in the garden had disappeared. It felt as if everything that had happened that day had been a dream and not real, and now she was here, in a cold, lonely cave, with a man whom she vaguely remembered ever knowing.
She eventually became tired of watching him, and sat down against the walls of the cave, curling her legs up to her chest and resting her head on her knees. Lily wanted to go home, to her father and sister, whom had not even come to her rescue. She did not want to be there any longer.
Algernon turned to face her, as if reading her thoughts. Nay, he did not want to be there either, she could see it in his eyes. His eyes told a story of a love once lost. How could Melinda have plagued upon his emotions? Shannon O’Grady was his one and only love and he had lost her to another man. More importantly than that, he had lost her to his hot-blooded need to kill. To him Shannon was as good as dead, for he had not spoken to her since the day he had left to a knight.
“Shannon,” the name came like a whisper on the wind.
He wished he could find her again before he said his final farewell. Unfortunately, he was in the Eastwick Mountains, a short distance from his home, but at least two or three days worth of travel to her homeland. If he turned back now, he would surely run into the sorceress again. He looked down at Lily, curled into a ball on the ground, and decided he had to get her to the safety of Locera. Once there he would contact her father and explain what had happened to his daughter.
“Rest yerself, Lily. You’ll need yer strength for the journey to Locera tomorrow evening.”
“Whyever must we travel by nightfall?” she complained.
“So that Melinda will not find us,” was his reply.
Without another word, Algernon backed himself into the shadows of the cave and laid down. The floor of the cave was cold and damp but he knew it was going to be a long journey back to Locera and they both needed rest. Slowly and uneasily, Lily lowered herself down to a flat position and cradled her head on her arms. She wanted so much to be home by the fire, snuggled under a warm quilt. Eventually, she drifted into an uneasy slumber. . .