“Orlando! Kasmira!” They broke apart, and Mac had found them. They could see that Mac had once been worried about them, but to his surprise, they were not hurt at all. He saw their embrace, and they were a little nervous about what he would say. Mac smiled broadly. “It’s about time!” They both looked a little embarrassed but happily relieved. “Come on, Joseph and you should go back to the castle.” Hand in hand, Orlando and Kasmira followed Mac out of the woods.
Joseph, it had transpired, had gotten impatient and left. Orlando stated, “I better go find him and make sure he’s okay.”
Kasmira hugged him. “Stay safe.”
He wrapped an arm around her and kissed the crown of her head. “You as well.” He squeezed her and left to go find Joseph.
Kasmira watched him leave, slightly punch drunk. She came back to reality when she heard Amberline’s loud, “Awwwww!” Mac shushed her, but Kasmira turned to them anyways. Amberline said to Mac, “What? It’s like a fairy tale!”
Suddenly, Kasmira got worried. “What if it wasn’t real? Like it was just the prospect of death that prompted him to act like that? Or maybe he just felt sorry for me…so…what?”
Both Mac and Amberline rolled their eyes. Amberline told Kasmira, “Can’t you see he’s crazy about you?”
Kasmira smiled warmly. “He must be crazy to risk the curse just for me!”
Mac chuckled, “That’s love for you. If Holly had that curse, it wouldn’t have stopped me from marrying her.”
Anthony poked his head out the window. “Speaking of the witch, she says if you three get frost bite, she has a potion to cure it.” They tittered and went inside. Kasmira went to her couch and saw the bottle of potion to give her good dreams. She smiled because she didn’t feel like she needed it tonight. For the first time in her life, she felt as if a good life were possible.
Kasmira woke up the next day when Holly gently shook her awake. She willingly got up and was surprised to see everyone else but Mac were still asleep. Holly went to wake up Svetlana while Mac tried vigorously to waken Anthony. He finally got a response, but clearly he was mumbling something in his sleep. “That potion is for the lion.” That comment made Amberline wake up with a peculiar look at her cousin. While Holly woke up Ivan, Mac got some cold water and threw it on Anthony’s head. Anthony jerked himself awake and looked out the window. Seeing that it was barely past sunrise, he glared at Mac. “Why are we getting up so damn early?”
Mac said to everyone, “I want to get an early start. I feel like we’re running out of time, and I want to get as prepared for this as much as possible.”
As Holly divvied out some porridge for breakfast, Ivan inquired, “Prepared for what? The final battle?”
“No,” Mac announced, “Tomorrow. I’ve got a plan on how to break into the I.W.T.S!”
Everyone dropped their utensils and stared at Mac incredulously. “Are you mad?” Anthony replied.
“Weren’t you the one who wanted to rescue your damsel in distress from there?” Mac retorted. Anthony said nothing, so Mac explained, “I know it’s a tall order, but it’s time for action! King Davidson is intending to kick hundreds of people out of their homes to make another I.W.T.S, which he could fill up with hundreds more people. He can’t make another one if the first one is empty! Besides, people are being worked to death and tortured for no reason for far too long! We will make it so they can either go home or join our army. We will give them a choice, and choices are freedom. They deserve freedom!”
“Well, of course that’s right. Everyone wants that. But you need a really good plan in order to pull that off! The place is heavily protected,” Svetlana pointed out.
“Of course,” Mac related, “We get enough people to stage a break out. Witches and wizards will hide and magically knock out any Blood Warrior who comes to stop them. Meanwhile, we’ll have a few people create a hole in the gate and evacuate as many people as we can.”
Ivan wondered, “If everyone can do magic, why wouldn’t they have already tried that?”
Kasmira was the one who answered, “Because their minds have been poisoned. Too many of us have had our minds warped to think our powers were wicked to use, so we never learned to hone them. Plus, they are probably weakened from fatigue, thirst, and hunger. Moreover, I think King Davidson has wizards working for him.”
“Really” Holly was surprised to hear this. “What makes you say that?”
Kasmira reasoned, “The wizards in my grandparents’ home could have been bluffing about the orders from the king, but they thought they were alone in that place, so it’s unlikely they were trying to boast. And those wolves that attacked Orlando and me seemed too large and aware of everything to have been a normal pack of wolves. Yes, King Davidson doesn’t like wizards and witches, but I would think he is too addicted to power not to accept their help, as long as they obey his orders and stay in control.”
“Wait, when did you get attacked by wolves?” Amberline asked.
Kasmira forgot she hadn’t told them yet. “When I went outside to say goodbye after the party. A couple of Blood Warriors came, but we killed them. Don’t worry about it.”
Anthony said sarcastically, “Oh right, you were attacked by magic wolves, but it’s no big deal!” Everyone chuckled.
Mac said, “We need to keep an eye out for wizards and witches who could be employed by the king. Before we invade the I.W.T.S, we need to find some help, so really find as many who would be willing as possible. Amberline, go to the Aristocrat Village. Ivan, you take the Merchant Village. Anthony, Kasmira will need a knight’s protection in the Outcasts’ Village, so please keep her safe. And yourself, don’t give me that look! Holly, you stay here with Svetlana while I go toe the Peasants’ Village. please try to expand this cottage as much as you can in hopes that we will have more company soon. And Svetlana, try to make copies of this metal to make armor and weapons. Before we go, Holly has something for you.”
Holly passed them out each a piece of paper. “I’ve bewitched it so that if you need to send an urgent message to the others, you would simply tell it to the paper, and the words you wrote will appear on the others’ papers at the same time.”
Kasmira added, “If anyone has any clues about the thief who took the scepter, please let us know!”
Slightly hollow, Amberline asked, “Anything else?”
Mac encouraged them, “We can’t go out feeling so hopeless! No one will join us if you don’t believe you can accomplish what you set out to do. Don’t think about our task tomorrow. The more people you can gather, the easier tomorrow will go. Keep in mind how you felt before you joined. Show them that we can use your powers for good, that even though they’ve got control, we’ve got more power than them. We can get our country back, and the fight starts now. We may be a small number, but an avalanche can start with just one snowflake. You’re the bravest people I know, so I’m sure we can do this!”
“Well said, son!” Ivan complimented. Everyone agreed and heartily cheered. Everyone got up. Before they all parted, there was an odd sentiment between them, as if they were taking the first footsteps into a battlefield. They gave each other hugs and wished each other luck before they all went their separate ways.