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.”