The Blood Warrior Rebellion, Chapter 16

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…”

The Blood Warrior Rebellion, Chapter 15

Kasmira was in the middle of a nice sleep when she felt small hands squeeze her nose. She thought that was very strange and opened her eyes to see Anthony holding Preston. Amberline, Svetlana, and Ivan chuckled. Holly and Mac were taking down bricks to expand the house. They turned their heads to look, and Mac said, “We said to let her sleep. They don’t listen, do they?”

Anthony refuted, “You said we could leave when she wakes up!”

“It’s fine.” Kasmira sat up. She saw Preston grinning at her in a very mischeivious way. She commented, “I think Preston is learning bad ideas from him.”

“Figures,” Holly replied. Everyone laughed.

Amberline piped in, “Since you’re up, we will leave after you have a quick breakfast. We’re going to the aristocrat’s village today! I love it there! It’s so beautiful. Plus, they have this tailor shop where the nicest old tailor lives. She gives me leftover material. I’m going to get enough to make you a new dress. And I can make better disguises. We still have to wear these rags for another day though. Ugh!”

Kasmira remarked, “Sounds good. I’ll try to hurry and eat.”

Preston practically shouted, “Eat!”

Everyone turned to look at him. Holly was in jubilee. She ran over to him and exclaimed, “Your first word!” She hugged her son.

Mac came over and said to Preston, “I was hoping your first word would be something really cool.”

“What? Like Rebellion?” Holly retorted. “Really, what did you expect from an infant?”

“I would’ve settled for dada,” he commented, “Oh well. Eat. I think my first word was baba.”

“Both food related,” Kasmira pointed out, “He’ll be just like his daddy.” Mac beamed.

“Unless I keep babysitting!” Anthony joked. Everyone laughed.

The aristocrats’ village laid on top of a hill. Ivan and Anthony were wearing Blood Warrior armor while Kasmira, Svetlana, and Amberline wore their beggar disguises. As they walked up the hill, Kasmira remarked, “ARen’t we going to stand out as beggars amongst the aristocrats?”

Ivan replied, “I think that’s your only option. If you wore your normal clothes, the Blood Warriors would know your identity.”

“Beggars do often roam here,” Amberline said, “though hopefully the tailor has enough cloth to help us fit in with this crowd. I can’t wait! I wish I could live here!”

“Where would you get the money to live here?” Svetlana asked.

Amberline answered, “I’d combine the income from my hair salon and my husband’s apothecary shop!”

Anthony commented, “So it looks like we both want to rescue our future spouses from an I.W.T.S!”

Amberline looked worried. “Do you really think he’s there? Orlando said something about a trial…”

Kasmira told her, “I’ve heard the trials mainly decide if someone knows something, which means torture. If he’s a hard worker, he’d get sent to the I.W.T.S. If he has no skill or knowledge, he’d be executed.”

“What if he’s innocent?” Amberline inquired.

Anthony scoffed, “Innocent? You think King Davidson cares? Anyone that he feels is a threat doesn’t get a chance to be innocent.”

Before anyone could contribute more to the conversation, they saw two Blood Warriors approaching. Thinking fast, Svetlana held out her hands and croaked, “Got any spare change?”

Ivan pretended to be affronted. “You dare ask a Blood Warrior for a favor? Be gone, peasants!”

As the Blood Warriors commented about being relieved of their shift, the three women ran along side the hill to enter from another side. Kasmira asked, “so, it’s really easy to recruit people from this village?”

Amberline laughed, “No! Not at all. They don’t care what’s going on away from the their landlocked island! They have money and freedoms, so it doesn’t bother them if other people are suffering. Well, not all of them, but a lot feel that way. Once in a while, we convince someone, but don’t expect to draw a crowd like you usually do.”

Kasmira frowned, so Svetlana told her, ‘I’ve been here before. You’ll like it.”

Kasmira started, “I don’t see how I could if…” She stopped when they entered the village. Kasmira had never seen anything like it. The buildings were constructed as beautiful as paintings. They towered over pebbled streets. There was a lot of brown in the buildings and street, but everything else had a splash of color. The people’s clothing matched their surroundings. Kasmira could see why Amberline felt at home here-everything had the marker of comfort.

Kasmira noticed that they were getting dirty looks as they passed by. She forgot that they were dressed as beggars. She wished that she had been adorned as a princess walking arm in arm with her prince. She shook away that fantasy. It never occurred to her before what might happen to her after the war was over, and she sadly thought that she could very well become a beggar in real life. After all, where else would she live?

They came to the center of town, which had a big marble building on the east side and a fountain gushing in the center of the plaza. The rest of the plaza had a number of nice shops and a blacksmith. The blacksmith attracted Svetlana’s attention. She told the other two, “I’m going to see if he’ll part with any spare metal. I could start making armor for us.”

Amberline replied, “That’s fine. We’ll get to the tailor and we can find each other later.” Svetlana headed to the smithery while the other two went down the street.

After a minute or so of walking down the road, Amberline spotted the tailor shop. “There it is! I can’t wait for you to meet her!”

Kasmira was about to follow her into the shop when she was stopped by a nice aristocratic man. “Hold on, my dear, you look like you could really use a new cloak. That holey one doesn’t look like it’ll keep you warm.”

Naturally, she was a bit taken aback by his generous nature given the rest of the town’s attitude towards her, but she quickly recovered and croaked, “Thank you, kind sir!”

As he dug through his pockets, Kasmira noticed a house over his shoulder. The big house at the end of the road, at first glance, had a look of excessive grandeur. However, upon a better look, she saw crumbling walls and overgrown weeds, suggesting it hadn’t been lived in for several years. Kasmira couldn’t help but feel intrigued by it. She barely noticed the man give her the change he finally found, nor did she remember herself saying thank you. She was hypnotically transfixed by this building, like she had been there before to solve a grave mystery. Her whole body compelled her to check it out closer.

As she got closer, she heard shouting and crashes coming from inside. She knew that someone was being attacked in there, but they were putting up a good fight. The gate that surrounded the house was opened, so Kasmira decided she had better rush through it to alleviate the situation. She ran into the living room, and received a shock!

The Blood Warrior Rebellion, Chapter 14

The snowball fight came to an abrupt stop when they heard the skinny Blood Warrior’s voice vociferate, “I knew you hens were up to no good!” Everyone stood still and stared at them like statues. The fat and thin Blood Warrior stood at the edge of the forest with their arms folded.

The fat Blood Warrior threatened, “You traitors will feel the king’s wrath!”

The others seemed scared, except for Mac, who was thinking furiously. Kasmira knew there was no time to be scared and got mad. “Right. The two of you intend to take all seven of us?”

“You don’t even have weapons!” the thin Blood Warrior sneered.

Kasmira countered with, “We were born with weapons! Do you really think the granddaughter of Garlord would really be intimidated by the likes of you?”

The confidence the Blood Warriors came with evaporated, but they still tried to maintain their swagger. The fat Blood Warrior drew his sword. “You look as pure as this snow! If you try to hurt us, I will…”

Kasmira pointed to heavy tree branch and held onto it as if she had marionette strings on her fingers. The fat Blood Warrior tried to use his sword to cut the branch, but Kasmira quickly brought the branch to the back of his head. He fell down and stained the snow with his crimson blood. The thin Blood Warrior tried to run for it, but Anthony, Amberline, Svetlana, Holly, and Ivan forced him to fall. Mac took the dead Blood Warrior’s sword, looked into the eyes of the thin Blood Warrior, called him “chicken!” and cut off his head.

The group was proud of their work. Mac commended Kasmira, “Thank you for keeping cool when the rest of us panicked! And what progress you made on your magic skills!” Kasmira humbly smiled.

Ivan inquired, “Are you really related to Garlord?”

“Unfortunately,” Kasmira admitted, “Although I think I inherited his fighting skills! Though I will only use my power for good, of course!”

Svetalana said, “Yes, I can only imagine he’d want to help you with that because he wouldn’t want to see his blood be spilled.”

Holly suddenly looked panicked. “Oh my god, Preston!” She bolted inside.

“Good idea,” Anthony commented, “Let’s go inside! I’m starving!”

“You still have an appetite after seeing two people get killed?” Amberline grinned.

“Yeah,” Anthony replied, “Suddenly I’m in the mood for chicken!”

Everyone laughed and went inside merrily. Kasmira took a last look at the bodies and felt worried. She wasn’t as troubled by the Blood Warriors as much as Garlord’s part in this escapade. She shook this notion off her mind and went inside.

Later on, as everyone was getting ready for bed, Holly told everyone, “I hope you all have pleasant dreams!”

Anthony said, “Oh, I know I will! Past few days, I’ve had the same beautiful dream.”

Mac surmised, “Let me guess, it’s about a girl?”

“A woman!” Anthony reminisced with a fond smile. “I rescue her, she falls madly in love with me, and then we-”

“Okay, we get it!” Amberline interrupted, “Who is it?”

Looking right at Amberline, Anthony told her, “Lydia.”

“My best friend!” She was a little angry, but she softened her expression a little and reasoned, “I guess that’s the only good thing about her being locked away in an I.W.T.S!”

“That’s why I want to rescue her!” Anthony explained, “Well, obviously I want to help everyone, but if I could only pick one…I swear, I’m going to marry her!”

Non-believing, almost sarcastically, Amberline told him, “Yeah, alright, if you get Lydia out of the I.W.T.S, then you can marry her.”

“Deal!” Anthony exclaimed.

Everyone chuckled and said goodnight. Kasmira was even smiling as she headed to sleep.

Kasmira dreamt she was riding with Orlando on a white unicorn. The sky was storm cloud gray, but they took no notice. They seemed to be on their way to someplace safe. Kasmira saw King Davidson’s dark and gloomy castle, which made her nervous, but Orlando assured her they were safe. After a moment, their surroundings completely disappeared and they stood in complete darkness. In the next second, they found themselves in the dungeons. The unicorn was killed, and Holly and Amberline were hanging in chains. From out of the right window, a view of an I.W.T.S where Anthony and Svetlana were worked to the bone. Out the left window showed a battlefield where Mac and Ivan were losing an intense fight. Worst of all, Kasmira saw Orlando getting tortured to death. King Davidson, who had long, dark brown hair but with a receding hairline, a small mustache, and the sickening pale skin of the dead, stood before Kasmira and growled, “You should have obeyed the curse!” He pulled out a golden scepter and hit her with a blinding light. Kasmira could hear her friends screaming…

Kasmira woke up quickly. She saw that everyone seemed quite content in their sleep. She knew it had been a nightmare, but it felt so real, and the images were unsettling. She groaned and silently wished she could stop the bad dreams. She felt her fingers touch a piece of cork. That’s when she remembered the potion Joseph gave her. She took a sip, and immediately a relaxing warmth spread throughout her body. She took a happy breath and fell asleep.

The Blood Warrior Rebellion, Chapter 13

Orlando pulled out his sword from a sheath on his side, and Kasmira was impressed. It had a beautifully crafted, ornate hilt and a blade that shined like a pearl. Orlando noticed her reaction. “It’s nice, isn’t it? My father had it made for me when I was born. He told me whenI became a young man, I could take it down from the wall. I kept his wish.” He handed the sword to Kasmira.

Kasmira felt guilty even holding it. “I can’t learn to sword fight with this. What if I break it?”

“You won’t,” he explained, “First rule of combat-you must have confidence in yourself. Or at least your abilities. If you believe that your enemy will kill you, you let your defenses down and you are vulnerable for attack. There isn’t room for doubt when it’s between life and death. I’m sure you must’ve felt sure of yourself when you saved Mac from those Blood Warriors.”

“There wasn’t time to think,” Kasmira related, “If I didn’t act quickly, he would’ve died.”

“Exactly. So, when we’re training here,” Orlando instructed, “pretend you’re on the battlefield and think about what you’re fighting for.” Kasmira nodded in comprehension. She held up the sword and pushed all of her thoughts aside. Orlando noticed that she wasn’t holding the sword correctly, so he said, “Keep one hand on the base and the top hand partially on the base with a couple of fingers on the hilt.”

“Huh?” Kasmira was obviously confused.

“That way you get better leverage.”

“Yes, but what is a hilt and base?”

“Oh, sorry. The hilt is that thing under the blade and the base is under the hilt.”

“Which fingers are supposed to go on the hilt? I’m not sure how you get better leverage in this confusing way. I bet I can swing.”

Kasmira tried to swing it, but it was wobbly and almost fell on the floor. She picked up the sword as Orlando went next to her. He moved her fingers to the correct position, which made Kasmira tingle a little. “Try again,” he directed. She did and found out he was correct. “Good. But try to move your whole body when you swing. You twist your torso, but you need to move your hips too.”

“My hips?”

“Like this.”

He moved just his hips, which made Kasmira laugh. “You look like you’re doing a strange dance!”

“Well, there is a certain coordination to swordplay that is similar to dance, but it’s proper technique.”

“How does your little dance relate to swinging a sword?”

“Try it.”

She tried to move her hip in the swing but couldn’t quite coordinate it. Orlando did the whole motion, miming the sword, but she couldn’t figure it out. “You’ve got to loosen your hips more. Here, do the motion and I’ll help you.”

She started to swing but noticed that he was going to touch her hips. She backed away and questioned, “How do you plan on loosening up my hips?”

Orlando laughed. “Did you think I meant something more country?”

“Well, I suppose it was a silly thought. A man wouldn’t try that in front of all these people, not to mention someone holding a sword.”

“Someone who doesn’t know how to use a sword properly probably wouldn’t hurt me.”

“Hey!” She chuckled though. “Okay, loosen up my hips then.” She swung again, and when he moved her hips, she expected it to be awkward but from this she completely understood what he meant by this being a very effective technique. When he moved his hands off, she was surprised that she felt disappointed that his hands didn’t linger. There was a short second of silence, then Orlando suggested that they move on.

After a very thorough lesson for everyone, Orlando knew he should leave before anyone in the castle grew aware of his absence. After he said his goodbyes to everyone else, Kasmira lingered by the door. He politely said to her, “Thank you for a wonderful lesson.” He kissed her hand. For a second, she was thrilled. When she realized everyone saw this happen, she flushed. Suddenly, she had a flashback to one of her nightmares and ran out the backdoor.

She looked away from the house with her arms folded and a hardened stare into the distance. Her eyes brimmed with half frozen tears, and she didn’t even notice her toes turning red from the cold. Mac shortly came out and confronted her, “What were you thinking?” He put a jacket on her, and Kasmira realized he had a point. Why hadn’t she noticed how her body felt?

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I guess I was too preoccupied with my thoughts to worry about my body.”

Mac gruffly sat on a large tree stump. “Come. Talk to me about it.”

Kasmira sat near him. “Did I disappoint you?”

“I don’t mean to be so cross, but I hate to see Orlando disrespected.”

“I respect him!”

“Then why did you bolt out the door at his sign of chivalry?”

“Chivalry? I thought…”

A sign of comprehension drew on Mac. “You’re attracted to him, aren’t you?” She didn’t say anything, but her silence indicated a her answer. “And you’re afraid of being rejected?”

“Well, sure. He’s a prince, and I’m a peasant.”

“There’s more to it than that though, isn’t there?”

“Yes, there’s the curse. Any man that marries into my family is truly doomed.”

“If you truly believed he is bound to reject you, you wouldn’t have run away just now. And curses are breakable.”

“But we can’t cure it because we don’t-”

Mac enspeeched, “You don’t always need to know the curse to cure it. Once, our land had a zero year curse on our kings, meaning any king who came into power on a year that ends in zero was assassinated. The curse lasted over four hundred years. Over fifty years ago, King Anton came to power on a zero year, and he certainly didn’t do anything different than the other kings, yet he stayed alive. He had a couple of close calls, but he lived to be an old man. No one knows how he broke the curse, but obviously he put the curse to rest since his son took power on a zero year and nothing happened to him either. My theory is the wizard’s curse couldn’t break the spirit of a man who was so kind. This was Orlando’s grandfather, so you can see what kind of man he was.”

“But he also sired King Davidson, how nice could he be?” Kasmira retorted.

Mac chuckled heartily. “Trust me, he was a truly kind man. Anyways, I can’t guarantee that by doing nothing you’d break the curse. You don’t even need to worry about making a tough decision. You can be his friend, right?”

“Yeah. I guess if he wanted to court me, he would’ve done it already.”

“Not necessarily. Everyone is nervous when it comes to facing rejection. I was afraid to ask Holly’s permission to court her.”

“Really?”

Holly, who apparently had come outside without their knowledge, stood at the doorway and answered, “Yes.” She sat on her husband’s knee and related, “I was about your age, I just started a healing practice. Mac got injured on the job and came to my shop for a cure. You have no idea how badly I wanted to slip him a love potion! He was handsome, smart, kind…he kept making excuses to come to my shop and bought a lot of stuff, but he never mentioned courtship. I was shocked when my parents told me he came to them, trembling tremendously, asking for permission to court me.”

Mac added, “I was so sure they’d say no, that a girl like Holly deserves a knight.”

Holly told Kasmira, “I think Mac’s point is to show that everyone has doubts, but you can never really predict what someone is thinking. Orlando may or may not fancy you, but if you do find out your feelings are mutual, I’d advise you to court him. No, seriously, court him. The curse only applies to married men, so no harm in courting, right?”

Kasmira thought she had a good point, but before she could react, a snowball hit Mac in the back of the head! They turned around to see Amberline and Anthony laughing hard. Anthony jockfully defended, “What? We’re hungry! And bored!”

Svetlana, who stood with Ivan at the door, told Mac, “I’m sorry. I told them it’d be a bad idea!”

Mac stood up looking solemn, which made Anthony and Amberline a little nervous. “You’re hungry?” He stooped down and said, “Then you can eat snow!” He threw a snowball at Anthony, who laughed and threw one at Holly. Soon, the whole group was in a snowball fight. Everyone was having too much fun to realize that they were soaking in cold water. They also didn’t realize that two Blood Warriors were coming…

The Blood Warrior Rebellion, Chapter 12

After a moment, they realized that they saw Prince Orlando in a disguise. Everyone felt relieved and pleased that he had come, but after a moment, Kasmira felt really uncomfortable. Orlando looked grim. Mac greeted him with, “Is everything alright?”

Orlando looked sadly at everyone and said, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news, Mad Queen Mary has emerged from her room.” He paused. No one reacted happily to this, sensing the bad news would only contradict this. “The bad news is her mental illness seems to have gotten worse. She can no longer identify herself or even her location. She wanders around the castle uttering strange sayings.”

“What does she say?” Mac inquired.

Orlando looked surprised at this. “I never thought to ask. One of the servants told me, so I went to see her. She was sitting in the throne room as if she was wilting from the sun. A clergyman was asking her questions about her identity. King Davidson was there, trying to urge him to ask another clergyman about her sovereignty. I think he’ll try to overrule her claiming she doesn’t have the mental capacity to rule the kingdom.”

At this, he broke down and slumped onto the couch. Holly and Amberline instinctively sat next to him to give him comfort. He apologized, “I don’t mean to bother you with my own woes, but this whole thing has been very difficult for me; ever since he married my mother, things have been just imaginably painful.”

Anthony asked him, “So, why would your mother marry such a man?”

Orlando explained, “He’s my uncle, my father’s brother. A couple of weeks after he died, my mom married Davidson. She was weak and naive. She was never a loving mom, but she took care of me. After she remarried, that stopped. I was eleven. I took care of myself mostly, with the occasional help from servants. Most agreed obsequiously with their new king, who didn’t think much of me. My mother slowly acted more and more mad, hence the name Mad Queen Mary. Perhaps she was always mad and this event finally let her true colors show.” He choked on tears slightly, but he held them back. “Sometimes my only comfort is coming here, helping the Rebellion. My castle life is very unfulfilling. I just feel so…”

“Lonely?” Kasmira supplied.

Orlando looked up at her. “Yes!” He turned to everyone else and told them, “I feel so alone most of the time.”

Svetlana reacted with surprise. “But you’re a rich, handsome prince! Surely, it mustn’t be too hard to find friends or even lovers!”

Orlando said ruefully, “I live in a house of corruption. Very few people there think like me, and the ones that do are not seen very often. It’s very hard to watch my mother and my kingdom crumble in front of my eyes by myself! When I’m there, I don’t know what to do!”

No one really knew how to react. It was hard seeing their usually strong leader breakdown. Kasmira knew what to do. Everyone watched her admirably as she walked over and knelt in front of Orlando to reach his eye level. She put her hand on his knee, and he looked at her with sad anticipation. She told him, “You are not alone. You and I share a past in common, and one know our future. All we do know is there is a group of people here who are willing to stick with us til the end.”

Mac piped in, “That’s right. We’re all here for you. Aren’t we?” Everyone resolutely agreed. Orlando looked comforted but unable to find words to express his gratitude for their loyalty. In spite of her insecurities, Kasmira gave him a hug. Everyone followed suit and gave Orlando a group hug. Orlando looked at everyone but only hugged Kasmira back. Kasmira didn’t know what to think of that.

After they broke apart, Mac put a hand on his shoulder, “Now, I don’t want you to regret showing us your vulnerable side. I know, I’m a man and a leader, but just don’t forget that it’s important to ask for help when you need it. That goes for all of you.” Mac looked at everyone, but Kasmira knew that he was talking to her, so she blushed.

Anthony put in, “If things are so horrible at the castle, why don’t you come down here more often?”

“I think I shall,” Orlando said, while regaining his old strength. “Thank you.”

Ivan inquired, “So, shall we start training then?”

“Good plan,” Mac commented. “We should work on some weapons training. We’ll have to take turns though since there isn’t a lot of room here.”

Holly told her husband, “If we’re going to keep recruiting new people, we should probably work on expanding our cottage.”

“I hate to create something bigger that could attract more attention to our activities,” Mac opinionated, “but I think it may be necessary.”

Holly joked, “When are you going to admit that I’m always right?”

Mac rolled his eyes but also laughed. He turned his attention to the others. “We may have enough room for some one on one training, and so why don’t we have people who have had basic training teach the basics to those have not learned them?”

Amberline complained, “Don’t pair me with my cousin!”

Mac shook his head. “I wouldn’t do that. Anthony would end up getting smacked.”

“Or worse!” Anthony said, half kidding. Everyone laughed.

Mac continued, “Okay, so Anthony, you’ll be teaching Ivan and Svetlana?”

“I get two students?” Anthony asked in surprise.

Mac replied, “Of course! You were once a knight of Velorica, you have the most training of all of us. You deserve two students.” Anthony smiled proudly. Mac turned to Orlando. “I think I’m the only one with enough patience to teach Amberline.” Amberline knew he was kidding and pretended to be affronted.

Kasmira realized she was about to be paired with Orlando, which made her uncomfortable and nervous yet excited and happy at the same time. He went up to her and said, “I guess that leaves just you and me.”

Kasmira stated, “Let’s get started.”

The Blood Warrior Rebellion, Chapter 11

Kasmira and Amberline turned around. The old man asked them, “We are the catalysts? Are you comparing us to the Blood Warriors? The people who are after our people? Inhuman monsters who are torturing and murdering innocent lives?”

Kasmira countered with, “You feel this strongly about it, and yet you don’t want to fight against them?” The old couple said nothing, so she continued, “You’re behaving the way he wants you to behave. He wants you to hide away like animals so you can fear him. You’ll be in that basement cringing every time you hear a footstep in the street or a crack in the floor board. Then when he inevitably catches you-yes, I know it’s likely to be soon since he wants this land for his own immoral purposes, you’ll be tortured as long as you live, which won’t be long. Do you ever walk by the I.W.T.S? Even five kilometers away you can hear the prisoners begging for death. No one really knows where the Rebellion’s headquarters lay, and there is enough protection to defend oursevles should a Blood Warrior come by. No one really knows will force you to draw your sword because even the simplest things can make a difference. So, you have a choice-give in to your fear or your guts!”

The old man bravely said, “I want to join you, and I want to fight!”

“Ivan!” his wife inquired, “Are you really prepared to lose your life over this?”

Ivan turned to his wife and said, “How do you want to die? In the basement huddled in fear? Or at the I.W.T.S, which is as close as you’ll get to Hell on Earth? That’s pretty much our only option if we stay in hiding. I doubt very much that this war will be over in our lifetime. If we all have to die, and dying of natural causes isn’t an option, I’ll leave my body behind with a sword sticking out of my heart to let the world know I died like a hero. Are you with me, Svetlana my love?”

“Until death.” She grabbed his hand smiled weakly.

The merchant interjected, “Will they even let an elderly couple onto the battlefield?”

Amberline told him, “We give everyone an equal chance. That’s kind of the point of the resistance, isn’t it?”

Svetlana added, “Ivan may have aged, but he’s stronger than most young people are. If everyone gets an equal chance, can I be the blacksmith?” The merchant and Ivan looked uncomfortable, as if they prepare for her idea to be rejected. “My father was a really good one, and I used to help him. I had a lot of good ideas, but everyone turned me down, telling me to stikc to women’s work. But if you have no one else, I can make your armor. What say you?”

“You want to be our blacksmith?” At first, everyone jumped out of their skins seeing two seeming Blood Warriors, but Amberline and Kasmira recognized Mac and Anthony. Mac told them, “We took the uniforms off of our ‘visitors’ from yesterday. Anyways, my lady, if you believe you can do it, we would be proud to have your as our blacksmith!”

Svetlana looked gleeful. Ivan chuckled, “I haven’t seen her look that excited since our youth!”

Svetlana and Ivan joined Kasmira, Amberline, Mac and Anthony, ready to leave. The merchant stayed but assured them, “If you need tools or construction supplies, come find me.” He went on his way, and the rebels headed out of town.

Before the group could leave town, they found Orlando talking to the fat and thin Blood Warriors. The girls stopped to kneel at the Prince’s feet, and the boys stood rigidly. The large Blood Warrior looked at Anthony’s mail and exclaimed, “My god! What happened to you?”

“Nothing. Why?” Anthony looked down and saw the blood from when Kasmira shot the Blood Warrior. “Oh that. That’s not what you think. I was down at the pub talking to a couple of wenches, one of them was a little clumsy and spilled her drink. I didn’t have time to wash it before work because I was too busy enjoying the fact she was falling on her back a lot, if you catch my drift!” He elbowed the large Blood Warrior playfully, and all of the boys laughed. Amberline made a sound of disgust.

The thin Blood Warrior reprimanded her, “How dare you judge us, hen!”

Orlando intervened, “There’s no need to raise your temper.” He kneeled down by Kasmira and looked at the three womens’ faces. “Just a couple of old hags; what harm could they do?” He winked at Kasmira and sat back up.

Mac fibbed, “I heard they were from the peasant village. Since they’re causing trouble here, we’re sending them back to their homes.”

“Good idea,” the large Blood Warrior complimented.

They stood up to leave. Amberline saw the thin Blood Warrior and hissed at him. The thin Blood Warrior stated, “That hen just-”

“Hissed at you?” Orlando said very officially. “I didn’t come down here to hear you complain about old women. We have a trial to prepare!” Mac and Anthony led the group away from the village, and Orlando led the Blood Warriors in the opposite direction. Kasmira looked back at Prince Orlando, and at the same time, he looked back too. For a fraction of a second, they simply looked at each other. No one smiled or communicated silently. It was almost as if, for whatever reason, they established a deep connection that no one could see or hear on a human level. It was just a small moment, but when they turned back to their respective groups, they felt a wave of spiritual fulfillment they couldn’t fully explain.

Back at their cottage, Ivan and Svetlana settled in their new home. Ivan sat with Mac and Anthony, who gave him a small portion of mead they stashed. Svetlana sat with Holly, Amberline, and Preston. Kasmira sat by the window, staring at the light snow that had just begun to fall. The boys were jubilantly discussing their favorite fighting techniques while the women listened to Svetlana’s story about how their only son had gone away to sea as a merchant sailor. Kasmira could barely tune into their conversation. She kept picturing Orlando’s eyes. She was entranced by the kindness and strength they seemed to exude. She thought about his cushy lips and how they spoke such wise words. She thought about the risk he was taking being a mole for them and was touched by his bravery. She wondered what he had to do for the other side to convince them he was loyal only to the Blood Warriors. She imagined he must train with the knights, so she concluded he must have a nice physique. That’s when she realized she had more than a passing fancy for Orlando!

The thought of secretly falling for Orlando sucked all of the happiness out of her. It seemed silly that a prince would ever be wooed by a girl that was lower than a peasant. If he did feel the same way, the curse would make it impossible for them to ever be happy together. the realization that she may have these feelings made her admonish herself for allowing this to happen. She tried to tell herself that those feelings must be pushed aside for the greater good.

She didn’t notice that Holly had sat next to her. She was giving Kasmira a kind yet understanding smile. Kasmira inquired, “Are you here to tell me that everything will be okay, trying to convince me that life is beautiful and that I should be thankful to even be alive right now? I guess I am kind of ungrateful and I feel bad that all these people are trying to make me feel better but all I can do is feel sorry for myself>”

“No,” Holly told her, “I was going to tell you not to be so hard on yourself. You’re doing your best, and that’s all anyone could ask of themselves. Everyone feels sorry for themselves sometimes, and there are some problems that pretty words won’t take away, but I can tell you the best defense against them is don’t think about them too much. Focus on the positive, even if the positive is outnumbered. And try to have fun when you can.”

“How?” Kasmira argued. “I mean, I don’t think about it as much when we’re recruiting or training, but when we’re not busy, how can I help thinking of my fears and woes?”

“All you have to do is wait for a small window of opportunity and never hesitate to take that chance when you get it. Look, there’s one now.” Holly pointed to the table. Ivan and Anthony were arm wrestling. They appeared to be pretty easily matched and tried to jockfully insult each other. The others were watching and pretending to root for Ivan. Kasmira laughed, and she and Holly joined them.

Just as it looked like Ivan was about to win, the door flew open. Everyone stood at alert, feeling the cold chill that had just breezed in. After a moment, a figure walked in…

The Blood Warrior Rebellion, Chapter 10

Just outside the merchant village, Kasmira and Amberline wore their disguises. Amberline wore a matted brown wig and a peasant dress while Kasmira wore a silver wig with an enormous dress. Both wore black hooded cloaks over their clothes. Amberline grumbled, “If we must wear disguises, then why do we have to dress down? Why can’t we make ourselves look better than we normally do, like Cinderlla?”

“Maybe we can do that when we go to the nobleman’s village,” Kasmira suggested.

Amberline exclaimed, “That’s a fantastic idea! I’m going to make us all nice clothes, let Mac try and stop me!”

“Where will you get the material?” Kasmira asked.

Amberline answered, “Oh Heavens, I don’t know! I’m sure someone can supply us with something. The peasants are very helpful, maybe these people will be just as altruistic.”

They entered the village, and Kasmira was amazed by the simple beauty of this village. The architecture looked hastily made, but it was made of strong yet elegant wood. There were blooming flowers and nicely paved, cobblestone streets. The clothing of the villagers were clean and free of stains and holes. Every house contained either a shop of some sort or a market that sat below a house. The people seemed pretty friendly and worry-free. It was the type of place that was easy to feel at home in.

Amberline stopped Kasmira suddenly. “Look inside that apothecary!” she said in a very gossip-y tone.

Kasmria looked and saw a fairly handsome man in his early thirties with long brown hair, blue eyes, and stubble on his strong jaw line. He looked busy as he measured a vile of red fluid. Kasmira wasn’t sure what she was supposed to not of this scene, so she asked, “Do you know him or should I know him from the Rebllion or…why are we looking at him?”

Amberline sighed. “He’s gorgeous! Look, he’s also a pretty successful business man. And I bet he’s smart too! Just imagine if we were married; if I got sick, he’d be ready with a cure, mending me with those strong hands! He’s perfect!”

“Then why don’t you go talk to him?”

“Are you mad? I can’t just go in just to say hi! He has a business to run. He has to be ready for his customers. The only way I could talk to him properly would be if I was sick. Hey-there’s an idea!”

“But you’re not sick!”

“No, I can’t make myself sick, he would know. Oh, but I could be injured! Quick, break my legs!”

Kasmira didn’t reply. She looked at her like she was crazy, but she also looked pretty amused. Amberline told her, “Okay, at least just break my nose!”

“If you’re not going to talk to him, maybe we should keep moving,” Kasmira suggested.

Amberline sighed. “Fine, let’s keep moving.”

As they turned to leave, they didn’t realize that a couple of people were standing right in front of them, so consequently, they literally ran right into them. They meant to hastily apologize, but their mouths were frozen when they realized it was two Blood Warriors! One was thin from head to toe-thin body, thin mustache, thin hair. The other was old and large, rather like an ominous walrus. Before they could muster the courage to say anything, the thin one asked in a patronizing tone, “What are you two hens clucking about?”

Kasmira thought fast. “We’re from the peasant’s village, but we’ve enough gold to buy a small house here. Our husbands sent us here to look around, but my friend here is being a little naughty look at another-”

The thin Blood Warrior stopped her. “Silence, hen! I don’t speak in your clucking tone!”

The large Blood Warrior added, “Be careful of that young chap. We suspect he may be a wizard. In fact, I’m going to have a chat with him.”

As the large Blood Warrior waddles to the apothecary, the thin one told them, “Now, you hens flutter away like you do best.”

Amberline couldn’t help but say, “Please be nice to that young man! He’s harmless, really!”

The thin Blood Warrior insulted her, “Don’t waste your chicken mind on him! A man of his standing wouldn’t bother with the likes of you! Now, run along or I’ll boil you in some soup!”

Amberline was highly insulted. “You talk of me as if you were such higher class! Well, to me, you’re nothing but a-”

“Sorry,” he told her snidely, “I know you’re trying to talk, but all I can hear is bock, bock, bock!”

Amberline bit her thumb at him, and he looked affronted. Kasmira pulled Amberline away from his eye sight before anymore words could be exchanged. Amberline still shouted, “Yeah, you don’t need to understand our language to know what that means!”

From behind them, the girls heard the thin Blood Warrior ask a villager, “Did you see that hen bite her thumb at me?”

The merchant replied, confused, “Hens don’t have thumbs!” Amberline looked back to see the thin Blood Warrior pouting. They turned away and laughed.

When they were far enough away, Amberline pined, “Oh I hope my apothecary man is okay!”

Kasmira replied, “I’m just glad we managed to escape from them! You know, I used to think of the Blood Warriors as scary monsters, but that man just seemed ignorant.”

They walked around the village for a little while, not really talking to anybody else but just observed people selling and buying various goods. After about an hour, they had circled the whole village. Naturally, Amberline wantd to see if the apothecary was okay, so Kasmira agreed that they should go pass by. They headed in that direction when a door from an inn burst open and an old couple were thrown out into the streets. A sully inn keeper stood at the doorway and said, “On that last inspection, they almost found you! Thank God the cat just happened to be shifting around the attic or you would’ve been caught. Yes, you used to be my boss and you got me this job, but I’ve paid my debt. I can’t risk my wife and children’s home to harbor a couple of outlaws anymore! Find somewhere else to go! I’m not sorry!”

He threw out a couple of suitcases and slammed the door. As they picked themselves up and started to gather their things, Amberline and Kasmira approached them. Kasmira inquired, “Are you alright?”

The old man replied, “We’ll be fine. I’m sure someone can take us in. If not, we will try the peasant village.”

Amberline said to them, “We have a safe place for you to go-just beyond the hill by a river bend in the forest-”

The old woman interupted her, “We’re not going to risk our lives to help out a Rebellion of only a few people. They’re against the odds of succeeding. I’d rather live on the streets!”

Amberline objected, “But you’re outlawas either way! Why not use what time you have left to help a good cause?”

The merchant that the thin Blood Warrior talked to offered, “You don’t need to live with those doomed souls. I have a basement you could live in.”

The old man spat, “See, we’re fine! Leave us be!”

Kasmira desperately shouted, “But it won’t be your home for much longer!” They stopped to stare at her. She bravely spoke, “I heard from Prince Orlando himself that King Davidson wants to turn this place to another I.W.T.S.”

The old woman looked at her skeptically, “You have spoken to Prince Orlando?”

“Yes!” Kasmira was annoyed at their resistance to the truth. “We know a few people in the castle. Mad Queen Mary objected to his request but she hasn’t been seen or heard from in a while, so no one knows what will happen to the kingdom with only King Davidson in charge.” The old couple and the merchant softened somewhat but still looked skeptical. Kasmira gave up but said angrily, “Fine, don’t believe us. What if I’m right and you wake up in an I.W.T.S? I’m going to the Rebellion-even if it ends up not making a difference, at least I can say I wasn’t a catalyst to this reign of terror.”

Amberline and Kasmira started to leave, but someone grabbed their sleeves to stop them…