In the morning, Kasmira woke up when she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She woke up and turned over to see it was Joseph, who was holding a vile of dandelion-colored potion. Joseph said to her, “I thought you may have had another night of restless sleep, so I made you this potion.”
Joseph handed her the vile. She sat up and studied it. “What is it?”
“It’s a sleeping draught,” he explained, “When you need help falling asleep, take a drink of this and you’ll sleep peacefully.” They heard Preston starting to stir. “Originally, I was making it for the baby, but I think you need it more.”
“Thank you,” Kasmira told him. Preston started crying more, and no one else was waking up to take care of him. Kasmira told Joseph, “He probably needs a bottle.” Kasmira found a bottle of milk and brought it over to the bassinet. She tried to feed it to him, but he wouldn’t take it. “He must not like me!”
“Nonesense!” Joseph assured her, “He wants you to hold him and feed him. That’s how Holly always does it.”
Kasmira felt a little awkward as she tried to pick him up, but she eventually managed it. She sat down and tried to feed him again. He took it and sipped happily. Kasmira smiled. Before Joseph could say I-told-you-so, Holly woke up and was delightfully surprised to see Kasmira feeding her son. Kasmira apologized, “Sorry, everyone else was sleeping, so I-”
Holly interrupted her, “You did the right thing, don’t apologize!” She sat next to her and watched her feed her son. She commented, “You’re a natural!”
“No way!” Kasmira responded, “I just sort of guessed, not like I knew right away what to do.”
“I think that’s what being a natural means,” Joseph contradicted her. “You are just talented by nature, or perhaps you have some good ancestors.”
“Good ancestors, not really!” Kasmira spouted.
Holly said, “Well, when you become a mother, you’ll already be good at it.”
“When I become a mother?” Kasmira expounded, “Oh no! I won’t bring another unlucky child to be forced to endure my family’s curse!”
“So you’re not even going to try?” Joseph asked.
Kasmira answered, “What’s the point? No one in my family has had a happy marriage. The doomed curse put on women always attaches itself to the men in their life. I’m just going to do what I can to help others and then…then I’ll die alone. The curse will die with me.”
Holly told her seriously, “You want to be a noble sacrifice then, like your grandmother? If you really did believe you were cursed as she was, then you should know one of the properties of magic-every curse has a way of being broken. You just gotta figure out what the counter curse is before it’s too late.”
“It’s already too late,” Kasmira retorted.
Still on the floor with his eyes closed, Mac said, “It’s never too late.” Everyone looked at him as he sat up. “We just need to figure out how he cursed you and we’ll do a counter-curse in no time. We won’t give up on you, even if it takes a lifetime to find your cure.”
Kasmira felt very warmed by the thought of such loyalty from them. It was such a profound moment in the cottage. The moment, however, was gone when Anthony let out a huge burp in his sleep. It woke up Amberline, who exclaimed, “Ugh! You’re so disgusting!”
She threw a pillow at him, which made him bolt up and exclaim stupidly, “The cat’s running away!”
“What cat?” Amberline grouchily asked.
“I didn’t say anything about a cat.” Anthony, now awake, sat up and stretched.
Amberline stood up and nagged, “Don’t call me a liar! You burped, I threw something at you, and you yelled about a cat running away!”
Anthony picked up the pillow. “How’d this get here?” Amberline was irked, and everyone laughed.
Mac turned his attention to Joseph. “So, have you any news for us?”
Joseph told them all, “Mad Queen Mary might be making some progress.”
While most of them understood this as good news, Mac replied with, “What do you mean, might?”
Joseph explained, “Well, you all know how King Davidson seized power by marrying the widowed queen, right? Since they were married, Mad Queen Mary has been acting like his puppet, doing all of his bidding. Yesterday though, King Davidson wanted to sign an eviction notice to the merchant village-wanting the land for another I.W.T.S. Mad Queen Mary said one was enough.”
“She stood up to him?” Amberline phased.
“Yes,” Joseph said, “They had a huge argument, and Mad Queen Mary even threatened to annul their marriage. But-” Joseph made sure everyone understood not to celebrate too soon. “She locked herself inside of her room, and she hasn’t come out at all since last night.”
Anthony inquired, “Is she still alive?”
“I’m sure King Davidson would have shown some sign of her death, and he would have done something with the body. He would have been excited at absolute power, but he’s in a very foul mood,” Joseph surmised, “You’ll have to ask Prince Orlando to know more.”
Mac said to him, “I’m sure he’ll stop by in the near future. However, if King Davidson is in a bad temper, perhaps you should make haste back into the kitchens.”
“Aye,” Joseph said, “Good day to you all.”
Everyone said, “Good day,” as he left.
Mac addressed the group, “Today, I think we should visit the village that the king wanted to destroy! Yet it won’t be easy. They will not want to believe the king is capable of such a thing, and they live a very comfortable life out there that they will be reluctant to leave. And it’s very possible that, after what happened in the peasant village, that the townsfolk have been warned against you three coming. You’ll need disguises. Amberline, do you think you could-”
“I’ll have them done before breakfast!” she replied proudly.
Mac grinned. “Don’t waste time making them pretty.”
Amberline looked affronted. “You don’t know me at all!”
Everyone in the cottage laughed. As Holly dished breakfast out, Kasmira looked on the wall where a map of the kingdom hung. She looked at the hill the merchant village rested on. Convincing the unhappy peasants was easy. She got really lucky with her articulate words. She was not certain the merchants could be won over like that. They would probably scorn them, and maybe even turn them in. She wondered silently if they would make it through the day alive.