Not only was this once abandoned mansion occupied with some people, it contained two strange men and Orlando! The prince was fighting the strangers by himself, which was remarkable in itself, but these two men appeared to be wizards! Kasmira was flabbergasted to see a third wizard’s body on the floor. For a moment, Kasmira was just awed at his supreme fighting skills, but she quickly pulled herself together and realized Orlando needed help. She saw a sword on the wall, so she used her magical skills to draw it to her. She ran into the brawl and cut off one wizard’s head! The other wizard was briefly distracted by his fallen comrade, and so Orlando used this to his advantage and killed the last foe.
Orlando seemed exhilirated but completely out of breath. Through his breaths, he told her, “Thank you!”
“What happened?” she immediately inquired.
He explained, “I saw three men break into the house, which is a fairly common problem. The house is abandoned, so we get a lot of thieves and homeless people trying to squat in here. I was about to confront them using my authority as prince, but I overheard them talking about a king’s orders. They spotted me, and the fight began. You saw the rest.”
“You were amazing!” Kasmira praised. Orlando humbly shrugged. Kasmira noticed a lot of splendid furniture, so she brought up, “Who lived here before? That would give us a clue as to what they were after.”
Orlando shook his head. “I have no idea. It happened when my grandfather was king, and the only people who were alive during that time won’t speak of it, too gruesome.”
Kasmira had an inkling of whose house it was, but she needed to be sure. She suggested, “Let’s look for some hints as to what they were after. I think we should start with the bedroom since most people keep their most intimate belongings there.” Orlando agreed, so they went upstairs.
When Kasmira entered the bedroom, she saw the furniture and various other items as if she had seen it before in a dream. When they entered the actual bedroom, the first thing they saw was a bed covered in blood. Empty boxes and chests littered the ground around the bed. Orlando looked in the boxes and concluded, “These people were brutally killed for this treasure!”
Meanwhile, Kasmira looked through the papers left inside a bureau drawer. It mostly had records of artifact sales. One paper caught her eye. It looked like a make-shift wedding congratulations hastily written. It read: We, Simon and Maura Gildenhart, give you, Garlord, permission to marry our daughter and an ancient scepter as a dowry. Orlando read over her shoulder, and both came to the same conclusion. “This was my great grandparents’ house, and a thief took the scepter!” Kasmira exclaimed.
“Do you think that Garlord would leave any evidence of the curse he gave you?” Orlando wondered.
“I doubt it,” Kasmira replied, “I think that’s how he evaded authorities-left no evidence of wrong doings. We could check every room, but I-”
Her sentence was interrupted by the voice of a couple of Blood Warriors downstairs. “We see three dead men down here! We’re going to search the building. If you’re still here, you’ll go to the dungeons without a trial!”
Kasmira was worried. She wondered what story could she possibly tell that wouldn’t get her into trouble? Orlando, who seemed slightly alarmed, tried to remain calm as he turned to Kasmira. He grabbed her shoulders, looked her in the eyes, and asked, “Do you trust me?”
Looking into his deep, soulful eyes, Kasmira said with every grain of truth in her heart, “I trust you with my life!”
Orlando smiled, but then he apprehended her like a suspect. He shouted to the Blood Warriors, “I’ve got the culprit right here!” He led her downstairs, and Kasmira took his cue and pretended to be deeply ashamed. He told the Blood Warriors, “I don’t need an escort to the castle.”
One of them objected, “But Sire, we have direct orders from the king that you must have-”
Orlando bellowed, “That’s an order!” They complied.
Prince Orlando walked her along a path that edged the woods. Kasmira pretended to feel sad incase the Blood Warriors were watching. At one point, they stopped, and Orlando looked around before he told her, “No one is watching. I’m going to say you overpowered me and ran into the woods. I wouldn’t wear this disguise anymore-she’s wanted for murder. I doubt they would have believed me if I said-”
Kasmira finished his sentence, “If you said you killed them in self defense and I just happened to walk and help. I know.” Kasmira knew she needed to leave quickly, but she felt stronger about his good character right now, which she felt compelled to tell him. “That’s the second time you saved my life! I don’t know how to thank you!”
“Just get going and stay safe.” He smiled at her like he always did.
Kasmira flung her arms around him and hugged him. He held her as if he never wanted to let her go, but after a small moment, he had to let go, which Kasmira took as her cue to run into the woods. She heard some voices on the path she just left and ran without looking back.
Back at the Rebel’s cottage, everyone sat looking at the door, obviously worried and hoping she would come home. They had a look of instant relief as she walked in. Amberline and Holly ran over to hug her. Holly was the first to speak, “After Amberline left the tailor’s shop, she heard a couple of Blood Warriors talk about a beggar woman who killed three wizards. They said Prince Orlando arrested the murderer. What happened?”
Kasmira took off her disguise before she replied. A lot happened in a few minutes, and she needed a few minutes to digest the situation herself. She finally found the words, “Prince Orlando caught three wizards looking for the scepter in an abandoned house. I helped him fight them off. Then a couple of Blood Warriors showed up, so Orlando pretended to arrest me. Don’t worry, he let me escape. I just can’t use this disguise anymore, which seems to be alright since I see you got enough fabric for more disguises. We’ll be fine! No, seriously, our more pressing concern is that the wizards were sent by King Davidson to look through my great grandparents’ home. They originally promised the scepter to Garlord. The thief that killed them has the scepter.”
No one spoke as they contemplated the meaning of this new information. Ivan finally put in, “The thief may have it, but who’s to say that he wasn’t killed by Garlord for taking it?”
Kasmira reasoned, “I don’t know if he even knew they were going to give him a dowry. They probably didn’t tell him since my grandmother ran away. But there hasn’t been talk of an extremely powerful wizard living after Garlord, so I don’t think the thief knew what he had.”
Mac commented, “So he’s either hoarding it or he sold it for money. In any case, it could be anywhere. We’ll all keep an ear out for any sign of it. Tomorrow, I’m going to split you guys up. I want two people at a village each day to recruit as many people as possible. One of these days, there will be a big battle, a final showdown, between us and the Blood Warriors. I want to be as prepared as possible. Kasmira, do you feel comfortable going back to the village over the mountains?”
Kasmira peered at him curiously. “How did you know that’s where I’m from?”
Mac shrugged. “Process of elimination. I felt like if I had sent you to your old home, you would have a definite reaction.”
“Wait a minute,” Anthony said dramatically, “You came here in a snowstorm. So, you travelled over a mountain too?”
Kasmira looked almost hollow, but it needed to be explained. “We lived in my father’s house in the merchant village for the first few years of my life, but I don’t really remember it. My dad developed a drinking problem, and he lost his job as a page, so we moved into the Outcasts’ Village…”