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.”
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?”
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.”
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…