Will arrived in Lincolnshire with record speed. He rode through the first town, noticing nothing out of place about it, but when he got to the second village, which was closer to the castle, he saw that it had been obliterated. He gasped, seeing the destruction of the night. Alaric had undoubtedly started his gloating here. He had undoubtedly made Erin watch every moment of it.
Will pushed himself to ride onward. These people deserved to be avenged too. At last, the castle was in sight. Thankfully, no guards could be found. Will knew Alaric had sent his army to destruction purposely to fool Corin. Fortunately, this left no one to keep intruders – other than Alaric himself – from entering the castle. All the guards loyal to Corin were probably killed.
Will abandoned his horse and slowly went into the castle through the back door. As quiet as a whisper, he walked through the eerie castle. It was so strange, the emptiness of the place. Every castle or palace he had ever been to was full of people, servants, royals, nobles, knights… so many people, and here, he felt so unwelcome, walking in the empty corridors, watched by the cold stone walls.
It had only been a few hours since Alaric came to the castle, and yet the feeling of complete desolation, the feeling that every living thing within had been killed, was looming and heavy. He wondered if he would join the countless ranks of men who would perish here.
Before his thoughts could become too morbid, he heard voices. Alaric and Erin's voices. Erin's was angry, firing words in an octave higher than the normal pitch of her songlike voice. Alaric's was arrogant. It was filled with pride. Will was suddenly furious. He couldn't believe how proud Alaric was of totally annihilating an entire village and all the inhabitants of a large castle. Who would be proud of that? Who would take pride in it and rub it in poor Erin's face?
He slowly opened the door that shut him away from Erin and Alaric. Just as it was two inches from the door jamb, his rage took over, and he saw no reason to fight his emotions any longer. He swung the heavy wooden door open, slamming it hard into the wall, making a noise loud enough to freeze the room it opened to.
Both Alaric and Erin stood in stunned silence for a moment. Erin's face revealed hope, Alaric's annoyance, and Will's single minded determination. Ignoring the possibility of dying just as Corin did, he rushed at Alaric, who could not summon enough strength to stop the boy. Instead of using magic against him, Alaric had to resort to drawing the sword that hung at his side, which Will recognized, to his disgust, as Corin's sword.
They sparred for a few minutes until Alaric regained his strength. Before he could fire at him, Will leaped away, just quick enough to see the spot where he'd been standing turn into a smoking crater in the floor. He quickly looked around for cover. When he did so, he saw that the entire room was surrounded with decorative stone pillars, with a large opening in the center. It resembled a clearing in a forest, but with more symmetry. Seeing this, Will formed a daring but simple plan.
He started by jumping behind one of the columns. It was sturdy, and he was quite sure it would provide just enough cover for his purpose. He jumped from cover to cover, careful to make his bare sword hit the ground with a metallic clanging sound. He watched as Alaric followed his every movement based on the direction of the sounds, growing annoyed.
"You should have just stayed away, boy," he called into the space between the pillars. "Now as soon as I'm done with you, your little princess will die too. I'll eliminate the entire monarchy, all because you didn't heed my warning."
Will smiled to himself, amused at how audibly nervous Alaric was becoming. His plan was going well. Now all it took was a little bit of courage.
Praying the final phase of his idea would go as smoothly as the rest of it, Will threw his sword with all his might to the other end of the room, causing Alaric to look in the direction where it landed. When Alaric's back was turned completely away from him, Will used his opening and pounced. Because Alaric had turned back around just in time to see Will nearly flying at him, he landed on his back when Will tackled him.
Quickly, Alaric drew a knife from somewhere within the folds of his shirt and began to slash wildly at Will, who had to back his face away to prevent from being cut. With reflex's a snake would envy, Will snatched Alaric's wrist and with his free hand wrestled the knife from Alaric. He threw it away from the two of them.
Alaric still had some fight in him however, and a ball of light began to form in his hands. In quick response, Will balled his hand into a fist and struck Alaric hard in the face. He did so again and again until Alaric was hardly moving. But Will wanted to make no error this time. Although he would never kill another man, Alaric wasn't even human to him anymore. Will drew the dagger that was fixed to his belt and plunged it into Alaric's black heart, hearing the mad man scream in pain with his dying breath.
Satisfied he was dead, and regretting the fact that it was because of him Alaric was bleeding all over the floor, Will stood up and slowly back away. He wanted nothing more to do with Alaric or his body. He looked at his hands, surprised there was no blood on them. He felt like a murderer, but then he looked behind him and saw two large brown eyes looking back.
He remembered just then why he had done the deed. He remembered why he had the courage to fight.
Erin. Dearest Erin.
She walked over and again cried into his chest, but these tears were not of agony. They were of the most profound relief and strongest love.
It was over for Alaric. He would no longer be around to murder her loved ones, and she owed that to Will. She knew she could never repay him, and he would never want to be repaid. They settled on that moment of silence between them, holding each other close, not thinking about all the strife that was around them.
For them, the battle was over.
But not everything reached its end. They still loved each other, that much was certain.
Soon after Alaric's defeat, Lincolnshire was reorganized. With the death of her father and no other heirs to the throne, Erin was the rightful Queen of Lincolnshire, and her coronation gave her all rights and virtues that came with the title.
After the ball that celebrated the prestigious event, Will was the last to leave.
"So I guess you don't need me anymore," he said quietly.
"What does that mean?" she asked, not sure what he was getting at.
"I mean, you're not in danger anymore. You don't need me hanging around. You've got your own country to run now." He turned to leave, willing to accept the fact that she needed space.
"But I don't want you to go," she called to him, as he was halfway out of the room before she could find the words to speak, being so stunned by the way he was acting. He had said himself that he was to blame for her kidnapping and even her father's death, as he didn't assess the situation before barging in on them. He was certain if he had only waited a moment and planned things out, Corin would be alive.
But Erin knew better. She didn't feel this way, as she was a firm believer in fate and God's will. If Corin was meant to die, then so be it. It didn't change her grief, but she was willing to accept the fact that even the best laid plans and most wonderful victories could not always follow through. So, she did not blame Will for anything.
Will turned around slowly. Truthfully, he had been hoping for those words.
"I want to be with you," she went on. "And I want you to be with me, regardless of what happens. Don't throw my love away because you blame yourself for something that's not your fault, for something that no one could have stopped or blamed you for. The only thing I would be angry with you for is if you would walk out that door."
She didn't need to say another word. He rushed over and held her in his arms, for the first time allowing his tears to flow freely.
"Okay," he whispered. "I'm here. I'm not leaving you. Never."