Lily was abruptly awakened by Algernon the following evening. At first, she did not know where she was and jumped back against the wall. Algernon’s soft blue-green eyes reminded her of where she was and she slowly eased herself off of the wall.
“Lily, ‘tis nightfall. If we travel now, we will surely reach Locera by dawn.”
“Whatever is Locera?” Lily asked, bewilderment in her voice.
“Locera is me home, Lily, and it is under attack by Melinda’s army.”
Without looking at her, he packed his supplies and mounted the horse. Lily could not believe her ears. She was not going home to her father and sister, but was going to Algernon’s homeland. She quickly stood up and went after him.
“I do not wish to go to Locera! I wish to go home!”
“’Tis a bit to late for that, me lady. We are but half a day’s journey to Locera and two and a half days to yer homeland.” In one strong swoop of his arm, she had no time to protest before being place on the saddle in front of him.
The ride to Locera was long and tedious. Algernon knew the mountains were a key hideaway for thieves and was ready to take up arms against anyone. He pulled his blade from its scabbard and Lily gave a start. He calmed her nerves by holding her tighter with one arm, at the same time gripping the reins with his hand, not wanting to stir his horse.
On the way through the mountains Algernon began to wonder about the Sorceress’ gems. Someone in his family must have studied and in studying had learned a great amount of black magic. He had to remind himself to question that matter after he returned home and battled her army.
Then there was the matter of Scarlet and her necklace. Mayhaps she truly was a witch or sorceress? He did in-fact see her amulet glow just as bright as her emerald eyes. What he would give to see her face once again, for he surely did not see her twin in her sister. But now he was on his way back to his homeland, many a day’s journey from the homeland of the McDougalls. A stirring in front of him made him forget his thoughts. Lily looked up into a sea that seemed as calm as a summer’s day.
“Where am I?” she asked.
“We have traveled far and it seems we both need to rest,” he answered, diverting her question. He stopped his horse, dismounted, and helped her down, but did not look into her eyes.
“Algernon, what purpose do you have for me?” she asked, settling herself down against a tree, for they had now passed safely through the mountains.
“I do not have a purpose, me lady. I have saved ye from the sorceress, ‘tis all.”
Out of the sky, a black crow flew low and threatening. It landed a few feet away from them and, in a flash of light, was transformed. The creature that stood before them was not a bird, but human, a woman of great beauty far surpassing that of many of the Scottish lasses.
“Melinda!” Algernon exclaimed.
“Ye did not think that I would let you get away from me camp that easily, did you, Algernon?! Tsk, tsk, ye know me better than that, me sweet!”
“I should have known ‘twas too easy to leave yer camp, Melinda. How can ye defend yerself now, without yer guards to protect you?” Algernon shouted, drawing his sword as he spoke.
“Ye fool! Ye choose to threaten me with a sword! ‘Tis no match for the black magic I possess!”
With the last word still on her tongue, she took a stone from her pouch and threw it at Algernon’s feet. In a flash of light the stone exploded and Algernon was forced backward onto the ground. Lily muffled a scream by biting her bottom lip.
“I will fight you to the death if need be, Melinda!” he shouted, getting up.
“To the death then!” she returned, drawing her own blade from its sheath beneath her cloak, which she dropped to the ground.
In a clash of metal against metal, Melinda’s sword crossed Algernon’s. Time and time again their swords clamored with a force Lily had ne’er known in all her years of combat with her sister. Before she could hold her tongue, she cried out, for Algernon had been caught off guard and was now cornered against a tree, Melinda’s sword resting on his chest.
“To the death, Algernon!” she stated. “Ye said it yerself, you pathetic fool!” She drew her blade back to finish the deed.
“No!” Lily shouted, running to his aid only to find it too late.
She could feel the bile rising within her as she looked down in anguish. Melinda’s blade had not pierced Algernon’s heart, but had pierced her own! She pitched forward, unaware of the clamor around her. The pain of the blade shot through her body as her world quickly turned cold and dark. Algernon broke her fall as Melinda wretched the sword free from Lily’s body.
“’Tis not over yet, Algernon!” she said, disappearing in a blaze of light.
“No!” bellowed a deep voice from the distance. Algernon looked up to see both Duncan and Scarlet racing towards him.
“Give her to me, you murderer!” bellowed Duncan, anger on his face.
Algernon could do naught but stare at Scarlet as her father cradled Lily in his arms. Scarlet looked at him not with admiration but with disgust. She no longer could look into the sea and find comfort within its currents.
“I am not a murderer!” Algernon protested, his eyes pleading with Scarlet, much to no avail.
“I find that hard to believe! I see no one around here but you and me slain daughter! Is that what yer plan was, to court me daughter and then to murder her?!” Duncan said, drawing his sword.
Algernon needed support from Scarlet, anything to stop her father from pressing the issue farther. But she gave him none. ‘Twas as if Scarlet was in a trance, cradling her dead sister in her arms. He had no choice but to take up arms against Duncan McDougall.
Scarlet blinked once, shaking herself out of her dream. Looking down at the body she cradled in her arms, she knew twas not part of her imagination. Her sister was truly slain, blood still pouring from her wound. She gazed up to see her father and Algernon crossing swords. Duncan clearly had the upper hand as far as fighting skill and experience, yet she also took notice to the skills with which Algernon fought. Her father’s sword sliced downward and cut Algernon’s forearm, creating a red trickle of blood down his arm.
“Nay, Papa, please, no more bloodshed!” Scarlet shouted, laying her sister’s body down and jumping up.
“Whatever do you mean, nay?! This man killed yer sister! Her death must be avenged!” Duncan said, glancing over at Algernon, who held his forearm to stop the blood from flowing.
“Mayhaps he did not kill her!” Scarlet tried to reason.
“Whatever are you saying, child? Yer sister lies dead and her blood stains his hands!”
“Please, Papa, mayhaps he has an alibi!” Scarlet protested, glancing over at Algernon, who acknowledged her glance. “Algernon, please tell us what happened with me sister!” she begged, trying to hold back her tears.
Algernon winced in pain as he began his tale of Melinda, the Sorceress of Scotland. He did not tell them about Shannon or how Melinda destroyed his family. He did, however, tell them of Lily’s kidnapping and Melinda’s attack on the mountains. He told them of their escape and the battle between him and Melinda. He looked up at them, hoping they believed his tale.
He caught eyes with Scarlet and a wave of hope rushed through him. Duncan, on the contrary, was clearly not amused. He did not believe in sorcery and Algernon’s story was but a mockery to him and his family. He wanted this man dead so that he could not hurt yet another one of his daughters.
“Whatever do you intend to do, Algernon, for Melinda is clearly not here?” Scarlet questioned.
Algernon did not look at her as he answered but instead looked directly at Duncan. “I am going back to me homeland as I had intended. Melinda has an army there already attacking the walls of the fortress and ransacking the village.”
“I will go with you,” Scarlet chided.
“Scarlet, nay! I will not allow it!” Duncan protested sternly.
“Papa, I am old enough to make me own decisions! I am going with Algernon!” Scarlet said defiantly.
“I said nay! I am not going to hand over my second daughter to a murderer!”
Duncan lunged forward at Algernon with his bare hands and Algernon was caught off guard. He was thrown down onto the ground, Duncan’s hands clawing for his throat. They struggled for quite some time and then a gurgle rang out through the cool night air.
Duncan rolled onto his back, a dagger lodged in his stomach. Blood spurted from the wound as he stared at his daughter. Scarlet raced to her father, tears already staining her eyes. She refused to lose any more her loved ones this day. She tried painlessly to stop the blood from flowing from the wound, but the dagger had been driven too deep. She clawed aimlessly at Duncan’s shirt but to no avail.
“Scarlet,” he whispered, “take care of yer homeland, me darlin’. Do not let this man hurt you as he has hurt yer family!” Her father winced once and was silent. Scarlet knew she had lost another family member and a wave of loneliness swept over her. Algernon came over to comfort her but she shrugged him away.
“Let me be!” she sobbed.
“Fine. I am going to Locera to see what trouble Melinda has caused. I will not see her murder any more of me people!”
He stepped away from her and moved over to where his horse stood. Scarlet could not stay there, not knowing where she was or how she would get home. She gave her father one final farewell and got up.
“Algernon?” Algernon looked up at her, and a wave of sincerity swept over him.
“Aye, me lady?”
“Can ye help me bury me father and sister?” she asked, quite ashamed of her inquiry.
“Aye, that I will. If ye will come with me to Locera.” Scarlet looked up then, shock on her face. “Whatever is the matter? Do ye not want to go with me?”
Scarlet knew the truth-- she had fallen for Algernon yet again. Not having him by her side for two years was torture enough, but to not have him by her side now was even more torturous, especially since she was completely alone.
“Aye, that I do,” was her only reply. . .