The original ending to The Kingmaker!

30.

Lanorie and Will follow slowly behind Wolf as he wrestles a struggling Everleigh to the tower. They cannot allow her to be locked up; they have to stop him, but he is taller and stronger than both of them, even with him carrying Everleigh they wouldn’t want to fight him.

'What do we do?' Lanorie whispers at Will, her voice strained.

'Stop him.'

'How?'

'Hit him.'

'With what?'

'Something heavy.'

They are passing the stables. Lanorie runs inside, frantically looking around for a weapon, anything they could use. See picks up a spade, runs back out and passes it to Will.

Will nods, and takes a breath and runs forwards and before he can talk himself out of it, jumps up and slams Wolf on the back of the head.

He crumples to the floor like a dress off its hanger and Everleigh darts away from him. He may not stay down for long; his size and strength make him pretty resilient.

Everleigh hugs them both tightly. 'What's happening. Is Mill King yet?'

They shake their heads. 'Not yet.'

'We still don't know where Archer is.'

'We need to find him. I cannot fight Millard, he will kill me.'

'What if we rally the crowd?' Lanorie asks, desperate for this to be over, for them all to be safe.

'They might help, but they didn't step in for Macs or Halfreda. People are too frightened to die. And used to accepting the King's will. Mill is King in all but name to them now.'

'So we need to find Archer.'

'Something must have happened. Someone's hurt him. There's no other reason he wouldn’t be here.' Everleigh is sure of him.

'So he's probably hurt?'

'And hidden.'

Leaving Wolf on the floor and hoping that he stays there,the three of them fan out around the courtyard and the grounds directly around the coronation crowd. They needed to find him.

Will shouts out, he has found him, lying on the floor near the stables. 'He's not conscious.'

'Fetch water,' Everleigh tells Lanorie and kneels on the floor cradling Archer's head.

Lanorie comes back with a small flask of water from the well. With no time for hesitation, Everleigh throws it over him. If he does not wake they will just have to try their best without him.

He does wake; spluttering back to consciousness, and spitting water over the floor. Everleigh touches his cheek. 'What happened?'

Archer groans and touches his scalp, his fingers coming away bloody. 'Don't know.' His words are slurred.

'Someone wanted you out of the way.'

'Doesn't matter who,' Will says, crouching down beside him. 'Can you stand?'

He helps Archer to hit feet and after swaying slightly he finds his feet. 'I'm okay. Is Macs dead?'

'Yes and Ginata is crowning Mill. We need to be quick.'

'Crowning him? Why?'

'To save her own life and mine.' Everleigh's voice is firm.

Archer looks awful; pale and clammy. Everleigh wishes Halfreda was still around to help him.

'Let's go.'

'Can you manage?'

'I have to. We have to stop him being King and get the crown on your head instead.'

The four of them head towards the coronation, towards the stage, coming at it from behind so they didn't have to wade through the crowds.

Ginata is holding the crown, saying something they can't hear.'

'Stop!' Everleigh's voice is loud and clear.

Ginata turns to face her, a smile on her face; she doesn't want Millard to see that she is pleased so merely pauses, crown still in her hand.

Millard turns, a look of pure hatred on his face. 'I thought Wolf took care of you?' He says, his voice a growl of fury.

'You were wrong. I am meant to be Queen today.'

'No chance.'

Archer draws his sword. Millard laughs, his laugh a bark. 'Another body to add to the Ashes? With pleasure.'

He draws his sword high, coated now with the dried blood of his brother and Halfreda.

Archer jumps onto the stage and Ginata takes Everleigh's hand. If she can perform the ceremony while Millard fights, there will be nothing he can do, short of killing her, but if he is dead already, Everleigh will be Queen.

The two men clash swords. Millard is older than Archer, but Archer is a fighter, Mill is a prince.

Ginata starts to talk but Everleigh stops her. Her coronation must be calm and happy, not in the middle of a sword fight.

Archer is quick on his feet and Everleigh remembers his practice in the woods with a smile. She does not doubt that he will be the victor here.

Lanorie and Will are on the stage, close to Everleigh, unsure what they should do but happy to be close to her.

Millard slashes his sword, taking another step closer to Archer. Arches raises his sword, but Millard dodges around and slashes again. Archer stumbles on the dais and falls to the floor. Before he can rise, Millard steps close to him, hovering over him, and slices his sword straight across his neck, severing his head from his body.



Everleigh

The scream does not sound human and yet it comes from my mouth. Immediately I am silenced by my own vomit. Archer is dead. His beautiful head is separated from its body, the life gone from him immediately and the fight gone from me. I do not care who rules this wretched Realm. I want to die along side him.

My brother grins at me, shakes his sword so that drops of Archer's precious blood fall to the floor, joining the blood of my brother.

Will is holding on to me on one side, Lanorie on the other. Without them I would drop to the floor, without them I would fall.

Millard holds his sword out, a warning to any of us who might try to stop him. 'I will be King.' His voice is steely and cold.

I shake my head. 'You have taken everything that was mine. My father, Halfreda. And Archer. I love him. I loved him.'

'Too bad, sister, you shouldn't have tried to take what was mine.'

'The crown wasn't yours. It was mine. I am born to rule. Born to live.'

He holds out his sword. 'My love for you makes me soft. Die with your love or leave. Leave me to rule this Realm,'

What a choice. I look at him, trying to see inside his mind. His face is so handsome, speckled with blood. I have loved him, hugged him, laughed with him. My brother.

My murderous evil minded brother.

How can I forgive him this? How can I leave the crown on his head. A madman he surely is.

I scream again, a howl of fury and hate and launch myself at him. Anger gives me a strength he hasn't expected and I knock him flying, we skid in Archer's blood and I am almost sick again.

Lanorie and Will are at my back, pulling me off him, his sword a hair's breadth from my neck. 'I will kill you.' he tells me and I know I cannot win here today. But losing is not failure. Losing is not tying again.

I stand strong, looking down at him. I spit on the floor, imagining I can taste Archer's blood.

'I will kill you.' I say. 'I will let you have your crown, for all the good it will do you. I am the true ruler of The Realm. I will be Queen. But never sleep big brother, never let your guard down. I will be watching and I will be waiting and when you least expect it I will seize the crown and when I put it on my head, you will die. I will put your head on a spike so the whole Realm can see that I have triumphed and you are bird feed.'

I take Lanorie and Will's hands and after laying my cloak over Archer's body and head I walk away.