Orlando told everyone, “The king is furious about the trouble your men and women caused in the peasant town.”
“Why?” Amberline said sardonically, “Do they seem happier?”
“That’s part of it,” Orlando replied, “He figured out there were Rebels inciting his kingdom to defy him, and since they seemed to be in good spirits, he thinks there may be some kind of plan going into action. The peasants want to help you with supplies, but if you go back into town, I suggest you wear disguises.”
Holly stated, “Amberline can help us there.” Amberline nodded vigorously.
Mac invited, “Would you care to honor our table for supper?”
“It would be my pleasure,” Orlando said.
They all sat down at the wooden table, and Holly served them hearty soup and bread. Kasmira expected Orlando to sit near Mac at the head of the table, but he sat next to her in the corner. Even though he wasn’t really talking directly to her, there was still something comforting about being this close to him. Anthony asked, “Has the king gotten any leads on the scepter?”
“Not really. He has the Blood Warriors looking in the wealthy merchants’ homes. Word is there is an old miser hoarding it amongst their many treasures,” Orlando explained. While everyone was chatting, Kasmira noticed that Orlando was leaning against her. She thought he might be squished, so she scooted over.
Amberline commented, “I’ll bet it is! It’d explain why no one is turning it in-greed.”
Mac opinionated, “I think it’s with a less likely suspect.” As he talked, Kasmira noticed that Orlando was still leaning against her, so again she scooted over to the edge of the bench. Mac went on, “If it was an aristocrat, they’d probably use it. Of course, if it was a peasant, they’d probably also use it or sell it for much needed money.” Kasmira saw that Orlando was still leaning against her, so she knew with the room she gave that now he’s doing it on purpose. She found that to be unbelievably exciting. Mac concluded, “I know it may sound romantic, but I think there’s someone out there who is hiding it on purpose because they, like us, don’t want to see King Davidson with that kind of power.”
Preston started crying, but before Holly could get up, Amberline volunteered, “Take a break for once! I’ll get him.” She brought him over to the table, and Holly handed her a bottle. Amberline studied his clothes. “He could use more baby clothes! Well, after I finish your dress, Kasmira.”
The whole table turned to look at her, which made her a little embarrassed incase they saw Orlando leaning on her or the fact that she was enjoying it. She said shyly, “That will be strange. I’ve worn this dress for the past seven years.”
She expected them to be repulsed or judgmental, but what she didn’t expect was interest. Anthony commented, “There must be some interesting stories behind those stains!”
Kasmira laughed, “No, I doubt that you’ll find them interesting!”
“Nonsense!” Holly replied, “Stains always come with an interesting story, even if it’s brief.”
Kasmira shrugged but smiled. “Well, I got this gray tinge when I fell down onto some cobblestone.”
Orlando reacted, “Ouch! That must’ve hurt!”
“Sort of,” Kasmira remarked, “but I was more worried about what my father would do when he found out I spilled the apples I was bringing home for dinner.”
Amberline asked, “Did he yell at you?”
“Of course, but he yelled at everything,” Kasmira went on, “like he was mad when I spilled some sauce and got this stain…”
As she kept going, she found it not only easy to talk to them but fun too. Eventually, the subject changed, and she felt comfortable joining in the conversation. By the end of the evening, she felt warm and content, not to mention a little excited that Orlando remained sitting close to her the whole time.
The evening dinner ended when Prince Orlando thought he should return to the castle before the king noticed. Kasmira was disappointed to see him go. Everyone gathered to say goodbye to him. He shook Mac and Anthony’s hand, gave Holly and Amberline a big hug, and he lingered a little at Preston’s eye level. “STay this precious, little man!” the baby grabbed his finger, and Kasmira thought it was the sweetest thing to see this man she knew to be tough acting so gentle. Kasmira’s heart skipped a beat when he gave her a hug. He told her, “Don’t lose faith in yourself, okay?”
“Okay,” Kasmira consented. Everyone said goodbye and watched him leave, shutting the door behind him.
Mac suggested, “Why don’t we turn in a little early? Then we can get an early start tomorrow.” Everyone agreed and took the time to say good night to each other. Before Kasmira went to bed, Mac said to her, “Good job today, Kasmira! We’re all impressed, especially Orlando.”
“What do you mean, especially Orlando?”
“You heard me. Anyways, have a good night.”
As Kasmira laid down, she had difficulty relaxing. At first, she felt kind of excited at the possibility of Orlando fancying her, but her thoughts started back to gloom she faced her whole life. She admonished herself for getting her hopes up and begrudgingly went to sleep.
In her dreams, she was walking down the river bank hand in hand with Orlando. It was very peaceful…until the surroundings morphed into fire and brimstone. Garlord appeared and changed Orlando into a giant snake. Kasmira quickly let go and tried to run away, but the safe house she was running to was too far out of reach. She got trapped inside a cage. Kasmira could see King Davidson’s evil eyes in the storm clouds, and his voice sounded, “Don’t forget you’re cursed!” Kasmira bolted awake. Everyone was sound asleep. She laid back down and tried to fall asleep again.