"UP! EVERYBODY UP!" a loud voice roared from outside the site of my slumber. My eyes sprung awake as I saw each man leaping up from their pallet bed and reaching for their wands. But while every other minuteman was completing getting dressed, I was already in full uniform. After getting dressed in shifts, skirts, hose, sleeves, stomachers, jewelry, and all the frills of female dress, the simple hose, breeches, jerkin and doublet ensemble of a soldier made dressing infinitely easier.
I slipped my cloak around my shoulders and hid my face within the shadows of the hood just as Eric rounded the corner and stood before me. My breath hitched in my throat and I just wished to reach out and touch him, to caress his gentle features with delicate fingertips and lay my lips upon his.
"You, Sir," he called, pointing to me. "You're joining my contingent today. We've lost enough men in the past week to allow newer recruits in. Merlin rest their souls."
I nodded in eager agreement and smiled happily once he turned away. I was finally given the opportunity to fight alongside my fiancée in the battle. I stepped quickly behind him and followed him into the tent where the Lords sat discussing tactics.
"We still don't know the name of their Leader. They've been doing a fine job hiding his identity from the world," Lord Rowan contemplated.
"Perhaps too fine of a job," Lord Gaunt answered. "He must have something to hide."
"They all have something to hide. They're all traitors to the name of wizard," Lord Tournay growled.
"Yes, but they're growing weak. Their defenses are falling, their supplies in short stock. The mudbloods are growing weak," Lord Aldridge said in a gruff voice. "That cannonball was one of their last."
"Yes, but they can always transfigure some more or summon them back, can't they?" Lord Malfoy responded.
"Summoning charms have a weight limit, Malfoy. And I've examined their cannons. They must have been made with a week's cooling time. They thought that the battle was to conclude last week and they didn't want to have any extra lying around. So they didn't make any extras. Today is our day to attack. Today is the opportune day. Today, we will win," Eric spoke with passion flowing through his veins and his hand subconsciously reached up to his breast, placing a protective hand on the locket. His eyes closed momentarily as he appeared to whisper a message into the air while his hands stroked the locket.
It was as though Eric was standing beside me when I heard him say clearly, "I'll be home soon, Elizabeth. I promise. We will see each other and be free to marry soon. Quite soon. I love you. Never forget that."
My eyes dampened and I turned my face towards the wall, unfortunately catching the eye of an observant Lord Black.
"You Sir. What are you doing in here? This is a meeting for the Lords."
"I apologize, Lord Black. I simply came in to ask if I may be allowed to assist in leading the charge against the rebel headquarters."
"I'm sorry, lad, but the Queen decreed that I am to lead the charge," Lord Pickering said. My eyes flared with anger as Eric cut in.
"Pickering, you know better than to lie. The Queen ruled that I am to lead the charge. And yes, Lad, you may. I've watched you in battle and your style reminds me of my own. You're quite brave for a new recruit."
"Thank you, Lord Donnan," I said, bowing my way out of the room.
The hours ticked by slowly, each one punctuated by a loud blast of an empty charge being shot from a cannon from the mudblood refuge. The men began to assemble at around ten o'clock, each one grasping their reins firmly and sitting astride their thestral with shield in hand. I sat at the front, my wand tucked firmly within my doublet and my sword at my side, ready to attack.
Finally, every man who survived the many months of struggle that lead to this battlefield was gathered in the open field. Eric sat at the front of the mass and there I sat alongside him, waiting, just waiting for him to turn to me and give the signal to take flight.
As the sun shone directly above me, Eric turned to me and nodded with fire in his eyes. The signal. I pushed my heels into the sides of my thestral and felt the wind swell around me as we rose into the air. I allowed a short glance over my shoulder to see my army of loyal soldiers flying towards Halden Castle at breakneck pace. We looked like a large cloud heavy with rain. But no raindrops were to fall today. Instead, a storm of pureblood rage prepared to fall upon the tainted castle that lay before us. A castle once regal held by a dominant pureblood family fell to their traitorous son and his marriage to a muggle woman spawned the downfall of the pureblood society in this glorious fortress.
The massive crowd that was the pureblood army poured across the borders of Gravesend, Kent, wands at the ready and prepared to begin the battle. But there were no soldiers camped outside the walls like normally. The setting was quiet. Too quiet. A far off shot caught my attention and I heard Eric's voice shout, "INCOMING!" as a cannonball ripped through the center of the group, taking down a dozen or so members of the army with it. "FLY LIKE THE WIND! DODGE ANYTHING THAT COMES YOUR WAY!"
Immediately, the cloud scattered as curses, hexes, jinxes and spells were flung at us. A man to my right was hit with a stunning spell and a blue flame singed my hair. I stayed at the front of the pack, prepared to defend my cause and myself. I let go of the reins and wielded my wand in my left hand, along with my deadly sword in my right. Even left handed, my curses were deadly accurate and when I spotted the source of the attack, I was able to take down a small portion of the fools who assaulted us.
We landed amongst the trees circling Halden Castle and examined our surroundings while hiding in the forest. One look and it was easy to tell why the blood traitors chose this as the location of their rebellion. With a manmade lake on the far end of the stone walled Mansion and the large expanse of grass on our side, the citadel would have appeared impenetrable to any other wizard. A collection of boats sat on the edge of the lake, just waiting to be taken by the rebels to safety and I knew that if we were to succeed in this attack, we would have to destroy all their means of transportation. I looked to the back and saw that much more than half of our army had been lost or injured, leaving the Purebloods with only three hundred men in fighting condition.
Still, we gathered in the hidden grove of trees and surveyed the surrounding areas, still seated on our thestrals. I pointed out to Eric the importance of destroying the boats, as well as blockading the exits and he nodded simply, as if ashamed to have not mentioned it previously. Barking orders to the lords to relay to their own shriveled battalions, he turned to my fellow warriors and me.
"We are the front brigade. Which means if anything significant is going to happen, we're going to do it. This means that while the other companies take care of destroying all means of transportation," he nodded at me, acknowledging my familiarity of warfare. "We are going to run straight into the heart of the castle and take the top leaders. There should only be twelve or so of them, and there are twenty of us. Take down anyone in your path. Any curse is acceptable, so long as it kills them, or leaves them with no hope of healing."
"Do whatever you must, but we will be the ones who find the rebel leader and get to him. Apparating has been blocked, along with portkeys, hence the reason we rode on thestrals, and the soldiers cannot apparate out either. They are trapped by their own defenses," Eric finished, facing forward and observing the wide, impregnable castle that lay before us.
A shot rang out as a cannon released a smoky cannonball in the direction of our army.
"Last one," I said, my eyes connecting with Eric's.
"What?" he asked confused. "I-I-I'm sorry, lad. You just reminded me of someone. Someone very, very close to me. My fiancée. I just wish I could see her one last time before this. Feel the softness of her skin. Enjoy the sweet taste of her lips. Tell her how much I love her. She gave me this locket the day I left. Merlin, I miss her so much," Eric's voice cracked with emotion.
My eyes welled with tears as I could no longer hold myself back. I leaned over to Eric and softly placed my lips against his. Although the immediate response from him was the tension in his body returning, when I pushed my tongue towards him, Eric gasped and I felt the tension melt from his shoulders.
"I love you Eric," I said, pulling away from the kiss and looking deep into the dark brown eyes.
"Elizabeth? What are you doing here?" he panicked.
"Remember that meeting when I first came back to Gaelen and I said that I would lead the charge?"
"Elizabeth, it's far too dangerous," Eric plead.
"I'm leading this charge, Eric. And you're leading it with me. There's nobody I trust more on this earth."
Eric squeezed his eyes shut and sighed deeply. "I suppose there's no turning back now," he murmured softly. "But know that if I lose you," his voice suddenly dropped into a deadly whisper, "I will never forgive myself."
"Never again," I whispered back, pulling Eric into a warm embrace and softly kissing him one more. I turned to my men who were ogling us with curious looks spread across their faces.
"Gentlemen," I called, my feminine voice amplified by the Sonorous charm. "I stand before you and could not be more proud of the men that fight for the true cause." The men's eyes widened when they heard a female voice from the front of the group.
"Most of you didn't know that I walked beside your footsteps. Most of you thought that I was sitting at Gaelen Castle. But in my time that I've seen you here, fighting for what you know is right, I've discovered something. We are stronger than we knew. We can hold our own against an army that is two or three times the size of ours. We can free the wizarding world of impurities today! We can, and we will!" I spoke, my heart pounding with excitement."Never forget this, men. Today, you will claim your rightful place in this world in the beginning of a new era. Today, we fight, and today, we win! This is what you have all been training for. All those long months of training. This is what it is being put to use for! To exterminate these traitors to the wizarding name!
"Let us tear down these walls of false monarchy and prove to them why we have remained strong all these months, all these years. Today is your day of glory. Today is your final day of fighting. Today, we will win this war!" The men roared with cheers and the ground shook with the stomping of hooves on the hard chalk ground.
"We have but one plan, and that plan is destroy everything in your path. I want no remains left of this counterfeit castle and the phony rebellion that is lead from within. When we leave, the castle will be in ruins and each one of you will be a hero. SEMPER PURUS!" I cried, my men joining in the call of 'Always Pure,' the motto of our army.
By now, the Lords had made their way to the front of the pack and were staring incredulously at me, obviously stunned that I had made it past the ranks and had been approved by an unknowing Eric to assist in leading the charge. I turned to glare at Lord Pickering. "I'd suggest staying out of my way, Pickering, or else I may just accidentally leave you in the castle while we watch it crumble to the grown," I snapped. Pickering stepped off his thestral and bowed low before me, showing his loyalty to the Crown.
"I only thought that you would want a more experienced Lord to lead the battle."
"I know what I want, Lord Pickering. And I get what I want. I am leading this charge, aren't I? Even though it was said that it would be too dangerous? You are no longer welcome in my sight, Lord Pickering. You have defied me time after time and I'm through."
I withdrew my wand from the pocket in my doublet and aimed directly at the door to the castle. From our great distance away, one caster would not be enough to cause the door to implode but with the strength of eleven lords other than myself, all aiming at the exact same position on the door, I knew that it the portal to the castle would be shattered.
"FRACTORIS," we shouted, my female voice standing out from the rest and watched as the twelve individual jets of chartreuse light merged into a fireball, striking the door directly in the center and causing the ground to shake with the force of the impact. The oaken door shattered into splinters and my brigade galloped forward, stepping foot for the first time on rebel cobblestones.
There were men waiting at the entrance for us to enter, wands at the ready and shields out, prepared to reflect any curse that came at them. But we were prepared. None of my troop had our wands out. Instead our swords cut through the crowds like butter.
The massacre had begun.
Any man who was within swords reach was immediately destroyed, any person who stepped before us was trampled by our horses. Onward the rebels came, but by now, we weren't the only ones who had entered the castle. The mudbloods turned their focus to the fresh meat and left only fifty or so men left to finish us off. We easily defeated them, each person taking on two men and slaying each one in turn via wand or sword.
The outer courtyard was the most difficult location to cross, for that was where the majority of the foolish wizards were stationed. But once we had entered the main building of the castle, the house elves paid no attention to us passing and we were given free reign. I immediately began listening for female voices. Those who would carry on the mudblood family lines needed to be slain first. The men could take care of the male soldiers. But as I separated from the group with only three men at my side, we found that not many people resided in the castle.
I was about to give up hope searching for the women and children when I heard a faint giggle from a side door to my left. I leapt off my horse with my three comrades beside me and put an ear to the door, listening for the laughter again. The clanging of bells and whistles echoed from within and I kicked the door open, wand and sword at the ready. My eyes scanned the room and the hundred women and children within. Their joy turned to fear as they had not heard of us entering the castle and couldn't hear the sound of the thestral hooves in the hallways.
I took a deep breath and as I exhaled, I whispered, "Semper Purus." My eyes sprung open and with my brothers, we threw one curse at the crowd, our minds racing and eyes flaring. The room had filled with the stench of death and I briefly closed my eyes to keep the image from shattering me from my objective. I turned my back on the pitiful moans and strode gracefully out of the room, leaping onto my thestral and continuing my possessed journey down the hallways, blasting open each door searching for any signs of life.
My men and I stayed together until the hallway split into two. I took the younger and more agile of the three men with me and urged the others to continue down the brighter hallway, reminding them of how I could indeed defend myself. The hooves of the thestrals clattered on the stone floors and a jet of green light zoomed past my ear and struck a crystal chandelier hanging precariously from a thin rope, refracting dangerously onto the walls.
"Go!" my comrade shouted, his sword already removed from the leather scabbard. "I can take care of myself. Find the leader. Take him down!"
I immediately felt bad turning my back on a fellow soldier but the clashing of metal on metal reminded me that I was here to do a task. I continued with my furious dash down the halls, turning this way and that, exploding anything that crossed my path. Maniacal rage spurred me onward and I fought to keep my seat when I saw a door already open with the sound of spells ricocheting off of stone walls. From the sound of the battle, it seemed as though it was two on one, and the two were winning.
I leapt from my horse and poked my head inside the room to see two large men stepping around a nearly defeated man. Upon closer investigation, I saw the wand and sword of the wounded still flailing dangerously, attempting to hit one of the attackers. Crimson stains coated the sword and the wand was nearly smoking with heat from spell after spell being shot from the tip, but there was something else familiar about the sword. The dragon hilt. I could have recognized it from a mile away.
My heart screamed as I saw two jets of sapphire light erupt from the tips of the attackers wands. The wounded man was not able to move fast enough. Hit square in the chest by the rays of light, he stilled.
"NO!" I shrieked in horror, leaping into the room. I flung one curse at the man on my left and held my sword at the throat of the man on my right. "Killing an innocent has no place in my kingdom," I threatened.
"Then what do you call that!" he sneered back, pointing at his fallen mate.
"I call that revenge. We're fighting for a noble cause. To keep the separation simple and clean. Your cause is a mess. The mudbloods. You want to keep them around as your pets. You want to entertain yourselves with them. That sickens me."
"Us fighting for equality sickens you? Guilford was correct. You are mad.""Guilford?"
"You know him?" He spat.
"How could I not," I retorted. "Where can I find him."
"I'm certainly not going to tell the likes of you."
"Your mate is dead. And you're at the mercy of my sword. I suggest you tell. It will simply take me longer to find him if you don't. But fear not. He will die today."
"Then kill me as well. A sham of a leader, you are. A woman in battle. So unnatural for you purebloods. I thought you were all about tradition."
"We are. And the tradition is for the leader to lead the fight. Now where is he!?" A splash of spit at my feet was the only response.
"Fine," I said, raising my sword above my head and swinging it sharply into contact with my opponent. He crumpled to the ground and stilled for eternity.
I sprinted over to my fallen comrade and felt the tears begin to drip down my cheeks. I knelt over my beloved. Eric. The sword was his trademark. The dragon hilt was the crest of his family and the sword nearly had a mind of its own, being able to change shape and size at will. It was nearly identical to my own in design. Simple and elegant. Just like Eric. Beautiful even in death.
My heart grasped for any hope that remained but I could find none. Teardrops spilled over his cold face and my body shook with every breath I took. A deep cut ran across his forehead and eye, and there were large wounds in his left arm and legs. I placed my head against his breast and begged, prayed for some life to return. But no signs of life were shown. Unexpectedly, a ragged breath was drawn that came not from my throat.
"Elizabeth," it whispered. "Elizabeth." My body froze in silence as the tattered sleeve of Eric began to shift slightly.
"Elizabeth, Elizabeth," it moaned.
A new hope was channeled through my veins and I pulled myself from the floor to gaze upon the angelic features of my fiancée. "Eric," I pleaded.
"Elizabeth," the voice answered. "Elizabeth, leave me here. Go to the rebel leader."
"I won't leave you, Eric. Not in this state."
"You must. Find the strength within yourself to carry on. Defeat him. Direct your sadness into passion. Remove him from power."
"Eric, I can't! I don't have the strength," I wailed.
"I know you do. It's inside you. Here," he pointed with his mangled arm to my heart. "Do this for me. Do this for your people. Do this for the future of the pureblood. I'll wait for your victory. I'll wait for you forever at the gates of Heaven."
"Eric, you can't die! I can't live without you!"
"I'm afraid I will," he whispered, fear shaking his steady voice. "I'm afraid, Elizabeth." The words stunned me. I had never heard him refer to himself as afraid and I knew the wounds went deeper than the surface.
I bit back tears and tried to handle the uncontrollable shaking of my body. How could I come out unscathed while my only friend, my only love lay before me, about to die? I had to fulfill his wishes. Not only for him, but for my people. I had to put my loyal warriors first.
"I love you, Eric," I whispered, kissing him tenderly on his split lip, tasting the salty blood striped across his face.
"I love you, Elizabeth," he mumbled. I allowed myself one last look into his chocolate eyes as I turned and fled from the room, sending a shining white eagle soaring towards Lord Lestrange, notifying him of Eric's tragedy.
I summoned all the courage I could find and continued racing down the halls, my cheeks tearstained. I found the one door that had not been touched and felt in my soul that this was the one. This was the hiding spot of the untouchable rebel leader.
I thrust the door open with my sword in front of me and my eyes burning with rage. The calm voice that spoke from within shook me to my soul and I had to remind myself that I was not among friends.
"Lady Everard. I see you're doing well," the tall man seated behind a large oaken desk said.
"Sir Edward Guilford. I'm surprised. I never would have guessed that there was magic running in your unworthy veins."
"Unworthy? Miss Everard, I'm afraid it is your veins that are unworthy."
I ignored the insult and responded, "I am no longer a Lady, Sir Guilford. I am queen.""A queen dressed as a man? How unusual," he sneered, his grey eyes looking down upon my presence.
"I didn't come here to talk," I snapped, slamming the door behind me and locking it with a charm.
"I didn't think so. You came to see me killed."
"No. I didn't come to see you killed. I came to kill you. Your cause is defeated."
"Bodies of your soldiers line the walls of this castle, Miss Everard. It is an even massacre. We have both lost men."
"We have lost more than just men. We have lost the greatest wizards of our time."
"Then I suggest we call off the fight. Compromise."
"Never. Why would I compromise with a man such as yourself."
"Because of our history together, Elizabeth. I never treated you anything but well when you were at Court. God knows I treated you better than your own family did."
"Like I said. I have no urge to compromise with you." Our eyes met and his wise grey eyes met my youthful brown. We remained standing, our bodies still as statues as we each contemplated a path of action. Guilford's was obvious. Unite the two causes and have him be the "democratic" ruler of the society. Mine was obvious as well. A duel to the death.Before Guilford had a chance to speak, I grasped the silence. "Sir Edward Guilford. I challenge thee to a duel. No seconds. No shields. Simply a wand and a sword."
"A duel? Miss Everard, You don't really think that an elderly man like me would accept to a duel."
"Guilford, I know you are just as limber and as quick on your reflexes as you were twenty years ago. Your lies don't fool me. I won't take it easy on you. I won't give myself up to anyone."
"Fine then," he responded in a clipped tone. "Wands and swords only. No shields."
"Then let us begin," he stated, stepping forward and crossing his sword and wand slightly above his head and bowing to me as he drew them apart towards the ground. I followed suit and resumed my impeccable posture, my right hand now holding a rapier crossed slightly at the tip with Guilford's own, and my wand gripped tightly in my left hand, prepared to fire any curse I wished.
Slowly, our movements lead us in a circular path, crossing one foot over the other as we each waited for the other to make the first move. A soft ping would echo when the tips of the blades tapped together and my eyes never left Guilfords'. Tension built and compounded as time passed and I acknowledged that if this was ever to happen, that I would have to make the first move.
With reflexes quick as a cat, I lunged forward and thrust my sword at his right shoulder. He deflected the blow with a parry from his sword and proceeded to drive his blade towards me. The force of his assault nearly pushed me onto my feet but I regained my balance and lunged forward with another advance, my wand ripping his sword out of my way. I propelled myself forward with another thrust to his ribcage, also parried with his sword, but while his hands and mind were kept busy, I used the moment to throw a momentary curse at him, flinging him against the stone wall. The collision against the wall made the table shake slightly and Guilford slipped to the ground in unconsciousness. I stepped forward to finish my task to see him stumble to his feet, a large cut staining his brown hair a sickly red.
While Guilford regained his feet, he took the moment to cast a jinx in my directing, missing narrowly. My sword deflected the spell and I parried his next assault across my back, my sword directed from my upper right shoulder to my left leg. I turned forward to attack him as well but his blade caught mine causing my advance to become a parry as I dodged the weapon. Removing my sword from the entangled mess, I thrust forward and caught Guilford's waist, a sound notch began to fill with the fluid of life and the half a second that I smiled at his injury, I was hit by a curse from him, slicing open the left sleeve of my jerkin and opening a deep gash in my bicep. I gritted my teeth against the pain and flew full force into another attack.
Thrust. Parry. Thrust. Thrust. Parry. Parry. Parry. Thrust was all that was running through my mind with the clash of metal as he struck me with his sword in my right quadricep and I managed to slice a split in his ankle.
My youth and dexterity was my greatest advantage here, and although Guilford was quite agile for his age, he was no competition against my instinctive reactions. The match had lasted barely six minutes when I had him cornered in the shadows, his eyes staring at me, wandless and swordless. I proceeded to throw curse after curse, crucio after crucio at him, to make him suffer for the emotional distraught I was going through after watching Eric suffer so.
Finally, the top of my sword rested dangerously at the base of Guilford's throat, a thin line of blood appearing along the edge of the blade. Helpless and weak, Guilford's eyes were pleading.
He was begging for death.
I couldn't say that I could blame him. Ten or twelve rounds of crucio are enough to make any man beg. But he was at my mercy now. I could dispose of him as I pleased.
But looking into his stormy eyes, I was reminded of my time at court. Guilford has always been kind to me. He had stayed at court to try to remind me of the goodness in the world. He had been waiting for the opportune moment to approach me about my position. To try to bring me back to the side where equality reigned, and blood had nothing to do with status.
Guilford was a good man, through and through, when I thought about it. I couldn't just kill him. There was so much more that he could do. The memories gave way to visions of the present, each one flashing before my eyes momentarily as the pictures of the pureblood army, the conniving Lords, even Eric lying near death on the floor attempted to flee my mind.
But I clung to my memories and shut out all thoughts from my head.
"Guilford, I did not know you were an accomplished Legilimens."
"Look at what you've done, Elizabeth. You've brought an old man to his knees, begging you for mercy."
"I keep my memories Guilford. Nothing can take them from me," I said, pushing him from my thoughts once more.
"There is still a chance you can save him, Elizabeth."
My hopes soared but I kept my face blank. "How?" I asked, carefully masking the foolish optimism in my voice.
"You'll need to let me go and give me back my wand."
"Never. You would run," I snapped, carefully digging the tip of my blade slightly further into the delicate skin of his neck.
"Do you think I can run in this condition?" he asked, motioning to his injured body.
"Frankly, yes. You would run. I know you, Guilford."
"Then your beloved will die."
My heart was torn. The hope of saving Eric was immense, almost too strong to pass up. But Eric's last wishes resurfaced and told me otherwise. You must. Find the strength within yourself to carry on. Defeat him.My eyes cold, I plunged my sword into the heart of Sir Edward Guilford.
"So you've made your decision. Please it be a good one," were his last words as his eyes faded shut.
With a cry of anguish, I pulled the bloody dagger from the abdomen of my foe and felt the tears streaming down my face while I watched the crimson stain grow. I had purged the world of the mudblood leader. Alone.
Despite the sharp pain in my waist from a deep notch made by Guilford's sword, I made my way back to the great stone room where the body of Eric Donnan lay. With a heavy, labored breath, I pushed open the heavy wooden door to the stone tomb. The fiery sconces shrouded the room in mysterious darkness and the architecture was foreboding in the flickers of firelight.
But through the shadows, I looked to the center of the room where the cerise stain discolored the stone floors. The blood was still fresh, but the body was gone. Standing alone, I crumbled to the floor, hunched over the burgundy blotch.
Only the harsh sobs emanating from me broke it.
The cold slate was harsh on my injured knees, the air tainted with the aroma of freshly spilled blood, the scent overpowering in the small chamber. And through the searing heat, I shivered. My body began shaking uncontrollably from my tears and the longer I stayed stooped over the last known location of Eric, the move violent the tremors became.
My body was going into shock, my mind as well. I looked inward for the strength that Eric said was inside me, but found all courage disintegrated. My linen shirt was ragged and had slashes through which my open lacerations could be seen. My doublet was now turned scarlet from the blood of my comrades and the soft velvet was prickly from sweat and other life fluids. My black breeches were sliced open as per usual during a proper duel and my black leather dragon hide boots were quickly becoming covered in dust as I remained motionless.
Footsteps echoed through the hall and paused at the doorway to the room. Slowly, my eyes brimming with tears, I turned to face the intruder.
In the doorway stood Eric, perfect and beautiful as an angel. His soft skin was flawless and the vision reminded me of why and how I fell in love with him. I rose slowly from my crouched position but stumbled as I stood. The amount of blood that I had lost during the final battle was finally taking its toll. As I swooned gracefully to the floor, I only remember Eric catching me just inches above the ground and placing a soft kiss on my lips as I faded into unconsciousness.
-------------------------------------------I awoke three days later in my bed at Gaelen castle. Eric was pacing nervously around the room and Maggie was running around like a mad house-elf. I shifted slightly in the overstuffed bed, only to find that any movement was hindered by an overabundance of pillows safely keeping me tucked in. The subtle movement was first seen by Eric, who sprinted over to my side and called to Maggie.
"She's alright Maggie! She's alright," he exclaimed, his voice cracking with tears of joy.
"Eric, what happened?"
"Oh Elizabeth! I was so scared when I walked into the room. I thought we had lost you!"
"H-h-how did you get back to your feet? Last I clearly remember of you is of you lying on the stone floor where I collapsed. You said you were afraid. Eric, was that true?"
"Elizabeth, I truly thought that I was going to die. The two ruffians attacked me from around a corner and used a mirror to throw spells at me, disabling me to see the direct location of them. They cornered me in the room and left me to die. Next thing I knew, you were there beside me and they were nowhere to be seen."
"They were there," I mumbled, chuckling lightly and wincing from the aching pain in my side. "They just weren't moving."
"I should have known you would get them. How are you feeling?"
"Could be better. But could be worse. Much worse. Is it always this bad coming out of battle?" I asked.
Eric laughed heartily. "Yes, I'm afraid it is. Wounds with swords are much more difficult to heal that spells in many ways. So many of the sword wounds in today's society are made with specially fabricated swords that won't let their gashes be healed completely with magic. It takes about a week or so to feel back to normal condition. You'll be bedridden until then. We can't risk losing you again."
"How are they? The lords? The men?" I clarified.
"The lords are mighty fine. Almost too fine for my tastes. So many fell back during the battle. They let their men take the casualties. Lord Black, as vain and naïve as he is, he was still the strongest of the Lords. Perhaps it's his youth that gives him the stamina of a beagle.
"We lost many men during the battle as well. Only one hundred or so made it out of the castle alive. But of the many that were injured in the flight to Gravesend nearly all survived. "
"How many did we lose, Eric?"
"One hundred and seventy-six," he choked out.
The number lost shook me to my core. Of those in fighting condition, we had lost more than half. One hundred and seventy-six lost to the cause. When they had sworn fealty at Gaelen, they truly meant that they would fight to the death.
"How many did the mudbloods lose?"
"Far more. Those who didn't die fled through the forest."
"NO!" I roared with anger. "None were to live. None were to survive!"
"Elizabeth, the few men that slipped past were weak and cowards. They were badly injured as well and there is no way that they could have made it far. We covered the surrounding area as well and killed all refugees."
"What happened to Halden Castle?"
"Lord Rowan blasted it once we were clear. The bodies will never be found."
"Eric? H-h-how did you..." I paused hesitantly, falling short at a loss for words.
"Lord Hurst found me. He closed my wounds and told me that a real man was needed to kill the mudblood leader."
"I'll kill him."
"Already been done."
"By you? Or by a rebel?"
"I'd rather not say."
I gave a small smile and snuggled into Eric's arms, ignoring the pain that shot through me. "Thank you," I mumbled.
"Anything for love."
Author's Note and Deviations from History: Halden Castle was never a castle. It was a manor house (which was not destroyed) passed from Sir Edward Guilford to his daughter Jane Guilford. This house was then passed onto the Dudley family by Jane through marriage to John Dudley, the first Duke of Northumberland. John Dudley is the father of Robert Dudley, who, was a childhood friend of Queen Elizabeth I and ended up having an affair with her. Robert Dudley however married Lettice Knollys after the death of his first wife, Amy Robsart. Lettice Knollys is the daughter of Catherine Carey, who is the daughter of Mary Boleyn, and therefore niece of Anne (and Elizabeth...hehe). See? Everything's connected! Yes, Edward Guilford did die in 1534. I do my research. Since I couldn't find any appropriate pictures of Halden Manor, I based the castle off of Leeds Castle. Feel free to look it up.
If the final battle scenes twisted your insides, I'm sorry. I did my best to describe medieval fighting with a wizarding twist and still keep it realistic (and TOS compliant). A big thank you goes out to the Association of Renaissance Martial Arts (ARMA) and the Swordplay Alliance for giving me videos, photos, and other mediums to better understand the details of medieval sword fighting. Although the scenes may be written slightly sloppily, I really did choreograph and practice that swordfight, although I daresay I looked rather silly in the middle of the street playing with a stick.
If you're wondering why the non-purebloods didn't just use Floo Powder, I guessed that the Floo Network hadn't been put together yet. Their castle is meant to be impenetrable, from the inside and out. That way, if someone found a way in, they would be trapped. Guess they never expected the war to enter their own home...