6 days ago:
Fingers trailed up and down Waverly’s back. The thin material of the shift did nothing to stave off the feeling that stirred in the pit of her stomach. It was a feeling she experienced lately as she and Nicole spent more time together. A feeling that she wanted to explore with her love despite what had happened that morning.
A shiver ran down her spine at the thought. Waverly instantly buried her nose in Nicole’s neck, inhaling the vanilla scent she fell in love with. Nicole’s arm tightened around her waist and her fingers stilled along her back.
“Are you all right, my love?”
A long sigh escaped Waverly’s lips as different scenes from that day played on her mind. One standing out from the rest. “My mother knows about us.” Waverly finally responded after collecting her thoughts. “I am not sure how to handle that thought. She knew by how you responded to no one but my voice.”
Waverly felt Nicole shift under her. “She trusts your judgement and possibly mine. As for him… he would not have lived another day if not it had been for you. Your voice stopped me.”
“Though his death would be justified, daddy would string you alive. I shan’t go a day without you. My life means more with you by my side… but-” Waverly paused.
“Hardy will not surrender. Your life, like mine, is over.” A dark thought passed through her mind. “I will kill him if he harms you.”
A low, steady breath left Waverly’s lips as a clunking sound reverberated off the stairs. She watched as Hardy doubled over in pain, with hands covering his groin while screaming out in agony. Another arrow slotted between her fingers then let go to its next target; Hardy’s shoulder. One arrow was enough to kill him, but she wanted to hurt him like he did to her.
The crowd of people gasped and murmured, turning their heads in the directions in which the arrows came from. Guards stood at the ready, protecting their ruthless king as he gawked around in fear. A hooded figure came running out of the shadows, gripping Nicole by her arm and shoulder, pulling her away to safety. Waverly would thank them later.
Prince Hardy attempted to move for his sword and got hit with another arrow; leaving him lying on his side, defenseless. People screamed in horror and began herding the streets worse than cattle. They had no sense of direction of where safety may lie, and that only filled them with more fear.
Guards surrounded their king, building a barrier with their shields. An unknown traitor was in their midst. The kingdom was unarmed. Walls kept people out, yet the king’s were crumbling to the ground. There were gaps between shields big enough for Waverly’s arrows to slide through. She looked to the ground, smirking at the defenseless boy-man. More guards ran to his rescue; big mistake. More arrows flew through the sky, taking out men who got close enough to protect the prince.
Listening to the screams of his people sent Ward in a downward spiral. Relinquishing control was never in his sights. Going into battle blind against people he couldn’t pinpoint drove him mad. He was a leader, a king , and the fundamental knowledge of how to protect himself or his subjects was nowhere in sights. Being in a battle was the last thing he ever expected. Anyone with half a brain knew not to go against him. He was ruthless and cruel, and everyone feared him. It made him powerful and in control of every situation that came his way.
Seeing it all unravel caused a feeling in the pit of his stomach that he hadn’t felt in a long time. Fear. Was someone going to overthrow the crown? His eyes darted back and forth between guards, hoping to land on something or someone to explain the uproar. To find the traitor. He looked over to the prince and found him lying on the ground. Lady Haught nowhere in sight. Anger filled his chest and in seconds turned back to fear as another arrow flew towards him. There was only one person he knew who had that kind of aim, and he prayed he was wrong. He prayed his traitorous wife hadn’t come back for revenge.
“Go, Angel.” Michelle touched her shoulder, pulling her out of the trance Waverly was in. “Find your knight. They,” Mama nodded towards the ground. “Shall not win. I will watch over you.” She gestured to her own bow. There wasn’t a chance in hell she’d let her youngest daughter get hurt. Not again. Ward and Hardy were going to pay for their crimes. She would always watch over Waverly. It was a mother’s oath too. When all this was over, she prayed Waverly and Nicole would be long gone and hidden away somewhere safe.
Waverly nodded and slung her bow over her shoulder. Getting to her love was her only mission. Nicole had been whisked away by some hooded stranger. She had to make sure this person would not hurt her best baby. That stranger would die at her hands if another wound appeared on Nicole’s body. Her knight needed a healer, and fast. Who knows how badly her wounds really were after no proper care to them. The last thing Waverly wanted to worry about was infected cuts or worse, Nicole getting worse and dying. A shiver ran up her spin at the thought, causing her blood to run cold. She couldn’t afford to get lost in the idea of losing her love. What was important now, was that Nicole was okay? She was alive… for now.
Her head shook violently at the last remaining thought of the worst-case scenario. There were better things to worry about. Like the guard dressed in red and gold charging her way and reaching for his sword. Waverly mirrored his actions and grabbed Nicole’s dagger from her belt. She wasn’t the best at wielding a sword- dagger, but she was wiry as hell and wasn’t about to stand down. As the guard got closer, he flipped the flap of his helmet up. Relief washed over Waverly when she saw the blue eyed, mustached, bandit that joined her father’s army. That relief turned to fear when she noticed the hardened lines etched into his face. His sword shined under the fading sun as it levelled with his chest. Her eyes widened when she felt his hand touch her side and shoved her out of the way. Thunder roared in the distance as the guard’s sword collided with another that came from behind her.
The darkened skin revealed the truth of who John Henry Holliday was attacking. “You stand on the wrong side of the fight, Xavier.”
“I fight for truth. For freedom. Love conquers all, does it not? Run, your highness. Find your knight!” Dolls yelled as he continued to match John Henry’s swing for swing.
She scrambled off the ground, placing the dagger back in place, and took off. If Dolls made it back to the castle, then Wynonna did too. Waverly wondered if the person who whisked Nicole away was her sister in disguise, hiding her true identity from their father. It was the only thing that made sense, so Waverly prayed she was right.
Getting inside the castle felt easier than expected. Her mother shot down every guard that stood in Waverly’s way. Each body crashing to the ground was an echo of the thunder deafening the world around them. The strikes of swords clashed with the lighting illuminating the grey sky. Time was running out before grey turned to black and the only light to see came from the stars and the moon.
The longer she searched and stayed out in the open, the more nervous Waverly became. Anyone could see her and attack, or capture her and claim whatever price Ward set upon her traitorous head. Her stomach churned at the thought of Ward being the one to find her and doing to her what he did to her Nicole. Waverly knew that Prince Hardy would enjoy whatever punishment her father brought upon her.
Thinking about the bumbling idiots, Waverly wondered how they were fairing off while searching for Nicole.
The sounds of metal clinking vibrated through his ears. It was a sound he knew all too well. Years of experience and many battles won and lost scorched into his memory. Walking into, what would be his biggest fight yet, without armor would be Nathaniel’s greatest regret. Time was of the essence when he learned what had happened to his daughter. He prayed one day Nicole would find someone who to love and cherish. Never did he imagine that person being the daughter of his biggest archenemy.
Despite the peace treaty, Nathaniel knew Ward wouldn’t have followed through with his end of the deal. Ward was a liar and a deceitful man. Before Michelle had arrived at his camp, he had heard a few men talking as they rode past him. They talked freely about a king continuing the engagement of his daughter to the prince who had tried to assault her. Nathaniel found it despicable that any king would force their child to marry such a malicious man. As king, Ward should have called the betrothment off and put the prince’s head on a spike. If any man tried defiling his Nicole, death would have been least of their worries.
A pang of regret and pain washed over him at the thought of his daughter. Nicole should have never been in this mess. Should have never been forced to take the Walk of Atonement. She was a knight. The heir of Castle Black-Shield. Her so-called punishment didn’t justify the means. Nicole did no wrong. It wasn’t her fault people couldn’t see that loving someone of the same sex wasn’t wrong. That there was beauty in being able to love who they wanted without repercussions. Everyone had a right to the same opportunities of finding love and being with them. The monarchy took that away from royalty, though. There were rules about marrying a person who didn’t have power behind them. Nathaniel hated the laws and vowed to never follow them. It was why so many people moved to his kingdom. They had a voice when so many others across the land did not.
Fixing all the wrongs and making them right was all Nathaniel wanted... need to do. He had to do the one thing he hoped would never happen. Putting an end to an evil king and restoring what was once lost.
Arrows flew, whooshing past him with every step he took. He was close to his goal, and yet it felt like a million miles away. Ward’s guard paid no mind to him. They were all busy protecting a man who couldn’t fight for himself. Nathaniel wondered if Ward even knew how to hold a sword.
From the corner of his eye, he saw something, or rather someone move. He darted his eyes towards the direction, seeking who would dare to challenge him. Nathaniel’s eye grew wide when the face he saw became clearer to him. What he assumed was a guard looking for a fight, was someone he thought left the castle. They carried their sword with dignity and pride: The work of a great soldier. The problem Nathaniel had, was the uneasiness he felt not knowing how well they could wield a sword.
Nathaniel had a choice to make. Battle the king or protect. Weighing his options felt heavy and redundant. A groan passed his lips as he trekked his way to his subject. Knights were not meant to start fights, but sure as hell ended them. King Ward could wait. Protecting was a knight’s royal fidelity.
“You worthless scum!” Hardy winced at the harshness of the princess’s words. It wasn’t the first time he had been on the receiving of her anger, and he had hoped to never see it again. He was supposed to have the upper hand on the princesses. His charming good looks gave him everything he wanted and more, but that all deteriorated to the ground the moment he stepped foot into Purgatory. Waverly was supposed to fall for him like every saloon girl he passed did. Wynonna and Willa were supposed to accept him into the family and yet, none of them happened. His betrothed couldn’t stand him, and her sisters saw right through him as though he was nothing but a nuisance. At one point, he thought Willa would give him a chance. Then overnight it seemed, she changed.
“On this day, this sword I wield will uphold the tranquility that once was. Bring forth the Earp dynasty that fell long ago. Thou shall be known as the maker of the peace. Beginning with your demon blood spilling today.” There was so much more she wanted to say. Bring light to the horrors Hardy had done to her sister, but she couldn’t. Tears pricked at the corner of her eyes and her throat seized up. Finding the right words were becoming harder and harder the longer she stared at the monster before her.
Nathaniel cringed at the choice of words flowing freely from their mouth. He hurried his pace, reaching out his hand to catch the arm bringing the final blow to Prince Hardy’s life. “He’s royalty, much as yourself, your highness. His heinous crimes shall seek justice. Lock him up in the dungeon for the time being.”
“Hardy is no prince. Death is the penalty for the crimes he did. If not for Lady Haught, his grave would have been dug sooner. Today is his fault. The walk of atonement is the work of a James.”
“Throw him in the dungeon and we shall make him do the same. His death needs not to be on your hands.” She looked at him curiously. This man before him spoke wiser words than her father ever could in a lifetime. Her words were true, though. If Nicole hadn’t realized Waverly was missing from the dining hall sooner, her sister could have been found in a worse off state than she was. Upon hearing how her sister was tied and in such a position by Prince Hardy filled her with rage. When learning that Lady Haught knocked him out and was on the verge of ending his life, she knew Nicole was one to be trusted. That Waverly, if her suspicion was right, she had finally picked a smart one.
He looked down at the prince and saw the fear etched across his face and the tears flowing freely from his eyes. Nathaniel wanted to feel remorse for Hardy but couldn’t find it in him to care that he was petrified. The princess made a valuable point. Death was the ultimate price to pay. Sometimes being noble was a pain in the ass.
“A traitor shot me. I did no wrong here.” Hardy cried out. He wanted to see the bastard’s face before taking their life. No one maimed a James without
“Need not be so happy. That traitor has aim far better than most men. She kept you alive for reasons I do not know. You hurt my daughter, she hurt you in return.” Nathaniel said cockily with pride filling his chest.
He really was impressed that Waverly didn’t run away at the first signs of trouble. Maybe she was the woman Nicole had been searching for all this time. Someone Nicole could settle down with and rule Castle Black-Shield together.
Footsteps slapping against the concrete floor tore Nathaniel’s eyes away from the scene to the noise approaching them. He gripped his sword, ready to pull it from its sheath to protect the princess.
“Xavier! Your arm-” Wynonna reached out, gently resting her hand near the gash on his left forearm. Blood oozed out and trickled down his arm and over his hand. How did he get hurt and why wasn’t he with Waverly? Where did her sister take off to? Had she gone off to find Nicole? Where was Lady Haught?
“I have suffered much worse, princess Wynonna.” Xavier said, breaking Wynonna from her train of thought. “All but a scratch. Promise.” A weakened laugh passed Doll’s lips. Pain seared through his body more than he liked, but being close to Wynonna helped ease his mind from thinking about his wounds.
Nathaniel could see the soft smile trying to break through the pain the man was feeling. “Tell me what I can do.”
“Drag him to the dungeon. Make sure no one gets in and his shackles are tight.” Nathaniel ordered. He watched the man make eye contact with the princess, seeing her nod her head in confirmation. Though he was a lord, he understood the man’s hesitancy to take orders from him. He was a stranger with no royal emblem marked on his tunic to clarify his authority.
“I am Lord Nathaniel.” He rushed out. A small gasp left both Wynonna’s and Xavier’s mouth.
Wynonna never expected to see Nicole’s father back at the castle. She wondered how he found out about today’s events. Had her mother found Nathaniel after being released a few days ago? How would she have known where to look? A million and one questions filled her mind on how the lord stood before her, but none of that really mattered. He was there, and he was ready to fight.
Time was running out. Guards were slowly realizing that there were others on the grounds, making it harder to protect their king. The time to strike was now. An opening was forming and Nathaniel didn’t want to lose his chance. “Go. Now. Before the guards figure out you are not loyal to the king.”
The princess and the guard took off, dragging Prince Hardy behind them. Nathaniel’s face hardened; hand wrapped firmly around the grip of his sword. His muscles tighten as he squared his shoulder and swung his body around. The clanging of metal was deafening in his ears as the end of his sword collided with another. His expertise allowed his senses to heighten and to look out for certain sounds.
As he fought off each guard that came at him from all directions, Nathaniel couldn’t help but pray that Waverly found his daughter before it was too late.