The perpetrator of the noise turned out to be a young teenage boy wearing friendly, earth toned clothes and had his long, dark brown hair tied back. There weren’t a lot of people one could trust this time, but his kind eyes and distinct aura of a much older soul made Kasmira feel at ease. He smiled jovially, “I thought I heard someone back here. Are you new to the Rebellion?”
“Yes,” Kasmira stood up. “My name is Kasmira.”
The boy introduced himself, “My name is Joseph. I’m the group’s herald. What brought you here?”
“Well, my father is a Blood Warrior…”
“Ah, I see. My mother is the cook for the Blood Warriors’ headquarters. She does not condone their goals, but she is desperate for work, so she had to take this job. All of my news comes from helping her in the kitchen. They chat freely at lunch, don’t think we’re intelligent enough to comprehend what they’re saying I guess.”
“Aren’t you afraid of getting caught?”
“I worry more about the fate of a lot of innocent people. I hope to help eradicate this problem by the time I’m old enough to wed, for I don’t want my future children in such harsh extremities. But enough about me. You seem upset. Is there anything I can help you with?”
“It’s probably nothing that time can’t cure.”
“You’re very wise. Come-let’s get out of the cold.”
When they got to the front door, the door opened before they could touch it. Mac started to head out but stopped in his tracks. “Oh, there you are, Kasmira! I was just going to gather some firewood. Ah, Joseph, you have some good news for us?”
“Well, I have some news at the very least,” Joseph replied.
Mac smiled grimly. “Very well, come in, the two of you.”
They entered the cottage, which was a warm refreshment from the outside weather. Anthony was first to rise. He mumbled, “Oh, I should’ve known. You are the only one who could get away with letting in the cold air.”
Amberline, still half asleep, grouched, “The cold is more tolerable than your talking, Anthony!”
Joseph started to stir, which woke Holly up. She gathered him up and then noticed Joseph. “Oh, Joseph! You’re here, but you’re frowning. Don’t delay the pain-let’s hear the worst.”
Joseph replied, “We should wait for Mac.”
Mac entered carrying an arm full of firewood. Kasmira commented, “That was quick!”
Mac chuckled. “There was a pile already gathered at the side of the house.”
Joseph said, “Okay, everyone should sit down for this.” Everyone sat down and looked at Joseph curiously. Joseph took a dramatic breath. “Well, it seems that King Davidson has learned that a magic scepter and use it to put all of his foes in the Spirit World.”
No one spoke for a minute. The idea of King Davidson possessing a magical object was a scary thought. Kasmira timidly spoke, “But surely only a person of magical lineage would be the only one to use such an object?”
Holly told her, “Not necessarily. Scepters were made so non-magical people can wield magic. All we know about the scepter is that it has been hidden so no one with an evil heart may possess it. Or so the legend goes.”
Kasmira inquired, “So, he may be searching for something that may not exist?”
“Perhaps,” Anthony replied, “But the castle dwellers are pretty superstitious, so he’ll keep looking. So we got to make sure it stays a legend even if it doesn’t exist.”
Amberline countered, “But there must be some evidence of its existence for the king to announce such a plan. We just have to try to figure out where it is before they do.”
Mac asked Joseph, “Is there any other news?”
“No sir,” Joseph said. “I should get back to the kitchens then. Rest assured-I shall inform you should any other news come.”
“Thank you, Joseph,” Mac said to him.
“You’re welcome.” Joseph started to leave but then turned to Kasmira. “Try not to worry-the first day is always the hardest!”
“Thank you,” Kasmira told him.
Everyone said goodbye to him as he went out the door. Amberline asked Mac, “What is the plan for today?”
Mac told everyone, “We’re going to have breakfast and do some recruiting. You guys will stay as a group while I inquire to the rebels who stayed behind. Some of them haven’t been seen in a while, so I want to make sure they’re okay. While we wait for Holly to cook, we need to chop down more firewood. The last of what we had is being used right now. Anthony, since you’re awake now…?”
“Everyone is awake!” Anthony objected.
Amberline interjected, “Yes, but I’ll be busy doing Kasmira’s hair.”
Holly added, “Don’t be lazy!”
Anthony looked indignant at that remark. “No one accuses Sir Anthony of laziness! Out of my way! I will gather the most firewood anyone has ever seen!” Anthony walked out the door. Mac laughed and followed him.
Amberline turned to Kasmira and studied her features. Kasmira wasn’t used to anyone being this close to her, but she could tell it was necessary. Suddenly, Amberline looked inspired. “I got it! Just you wait!” As she scampered off to retrieve her things, she watched Holly happily cook breakfast. Amberline came back over and washed her face. Kasmira wasn’t sure why, but she was starting to feel at home here.
When Amberline finished her hair, she studied it, scanning for any errors. She suddenly shrieked, “I think this may be my best yet!” Before she could hand Kasmira a mirror to check it out, Anthony burst in with an armful of firewood. Amberline said to him, “Why are you bringing that in here?”
Anthony replied, “I had to show you so no one could again accuse me of laziness. I guess I should bring it outside.”
Holly looked out the window and frowned. “Anthony, where’s Mac?”
As he headed out the door, he said, “I thought he was still out gathering firewood.”
Holly looked worried. “It usually doesn’t take him this long to gather firewood!”
Kasmira volunteered, “I’ll go check on him.” Everyone seemed surprised at this. “I want to help! He’s been so kind to me, it’s the least I could do!”
Holly told her, “If he’s in trouble, come get us. You find strength in numbers.” Kasmira nodded and left.
It seemed eerily quiet out there, as if danger was lurking among the shadows. Kasmira saw some footprints and followed them through the trees. She saw a snow rabbit hopping gingerly through the trees. She thought about following it, but the footprints led down the other way. She kept going until she saw the footprints stop. He appeared to have slipped, as if he was trying to avoid something. Suddenly, in the distance, she saw something that made her heart stop!