Anthony and Kasmira walked up a rocky slope. Anthony seemed thoroughly nonplused about the small trek, so Kasmira tried to alleviate the situation, “Well, at least it’s not snowing!”
Anthony grunted. “I wasn’t thinking about that. Well, you’re right. I’d probably be more bitter if we had to deal with a flurry.”
Kasmira changed the subject. “Do you really want to marry Lydia or do you just say that to make Amberline mad?”
“Both.” He laughed slightly. “I began to fancy her because she has a way of making me behave willingly. I never told her that. I think she might know, on some level.”
“Did you give her any clues?” she asked.
“Just a big one,” Anthony related, “She was reported to have been seen using magic to help a wounded cat, and they sent me and one other bloke to arrest her. I kept refusing to send wizards and witches to the dungeons if they didn’t commit a real crime, but they kept saying that magic is the tool of the devil and other malarky. They suspected me but said nothing about my possible magical heritage. Well, when he had her in chains, my heart broke. I couldn’t let her go through that, and I lost my temper. I used magic to kill him so she could escape. He survived, and he found Lydia. I was on duty when I found out they had a decree to find me. And Amberline. I wanted to save her-at least they kept her alive. Even if she doesn’t feel the same way about me, I’m glad I could help her.”
“That was very noble of you! Hopefully we can find out how she feels tomorrow.”
“Boo! Thanks for reminding me. I mean, I dreamt of rescuing her from the I.W.T.S, but in my fantasies, we had a plan that didn’t contain a million things that could go wrong.”
“Sometimes good things happen without a real plan. I didn’t plan on any of this. I just wanted to find the Rebellion because I wanted to help others suffer less than I did.”
Anthony sighed. “I guess I shouldn’t complain so much. I knew this day would come. I just got used to living there. I was home, and I had family and a few comforts. Now that could all go away.”
“I’m going to miss it, but I’m happy that I could make a difference. It’s just too bad we didn’t have more time to figure out how to get rid of my curse.”
“At least if you do perish in battle, you’ll have the comfort of knowing that Orlando truly does love you.”
Kasmira blushed. “He’d be sad for a while, but I’m sure after a while, he would find someone new. I mean, there are a lot of beautiful women out there.”
Anthony shook his head. “They may be beautiful, but most of them have sawdust for brains and a heart made of stone. They always talked about him getting married, but for political reasons. He was very lonely, and he’s so happy to have found someone who he can love and who loves him back. Seriously, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to him.”
Kasmira smiled gratefully. “You’re very wise!”
“Always the tone of surprise,” Anthony lauged, “I may jest a lot, but that doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention!”
They both laughed as they continued up the craggy rocks.
When they got to the village, Kasmira had forgotten how sinister it looked. The buildings in the main land, even the peasant ones, had a notion of comfort and warmth. This village, however, looked as if each building in it had a ghost haunting it. It even had a smoky atmosphere hovering above the rooftops. Anthony inquired, “Wow, this place is…cheerful.”
“Yes, you can see why I came to the cottage with so much confidence!” Kasmira grinned.
Anthony raised an eyebrow. “Well, let’s get this over with.”
The streets were littered with people who could have been a villain in a fairy tale. A lot of people looked almost skeletal , and in their dark colored cloaks, they looked like a vampire or even a troll under the bridge. Anthony walked beside Kasmira like a guard dog when he saw all the men leering at her. Kasmira didn’t seem troubled though since she had lived here before and therefore expected this kind of lude behavior. Listlessly, she pointed to a small house as they passed it. “I used to live there.”
“How could you stand it?” Anthony asked while a hog-looking woman tried to offer him a dirty apple.
She shrugged. “You get used to it. Plus, there are a few good people out there. I think we should go to the bar that my dad used to go to. There’s usually a lot of people there, and the barman is fairly nice.” Anthony didn’t say anything and still looked apprehensive.
The pub she referred to was as close as it came to a cozy spot in the village. The inside still had a number of shady characters, but nobody seemed as frightening as the ones who roamed the street. A few normal looking people sat in the corner with a stein of mead but not drinking much. They walked to the end of the bar where there were a few stools. A friendly old man stood behind the counter cleaning some glasses. He smiled genially upon seeing Kasmira. “Welcome back, my dear!”
“Hello Halvor,” Kasmira greeted, “This is my good friend, Anthony. We’re knights of the Rebellion.”
“So, you did make it there.” Halvor handed them each a glass of water. “How does it fare?”
“That’s why I came back.” Kasmira told him. “We need your help. We need a former commander of the knights of Velorica to take our land back. I think you’re the only one who could persuade anyone in this village to join our ranks.”
“Kasmira, I got out of that business a long time ago,” he explained to her, “In my retirement, I enjoy being a small source of comfort in this dank neck of the woods. Wouldn’t your father be the ideal man for this task?”
Kasmira sniffed in disapproval. “Except that he serves the Blood Warriors now.”
“Not willingly,” Halvor revealed to her, “He came here every night utterly depressed about this plan he had to protect the kingdom. It involved a great deal of sacrifice, he said, though he never told me what the plan actually involved. One of the Blood Warriors found out his plan, so he had no choice but to take him down.”
Kasmira looked confused. “My mother told me he developed a drinking problem when I was still a baby, and he killed that man in a drunken brawl.”
Halvor shook his head. “He hardly drank anything. He spent the last of his money on something, what that was I know not. He never bought anything though. Once in a while, I would give him a pint of whiskey out of pity, but he would nurse that thing all day.”
Anthony asked, “Did this plan involve the Rebellion in any way?”
“I don’t know,” Halvor said. “All I know is the Blood Warrior accused him of protecting something he bought from a rich merchant.”
Anthony and Kasmira looked each other in realization that this could be the scepter. Kasmira switched to the original subject, “If you won’t speak to the villagers about our cause, do you mind if we do it?”
Halvor didn’t look very optimistic about the idea. “You can, but I wouldn’t expect too much. These people are unlikely to aid in a kingdom that has ignored their needs completely.”
Kasmira knew she had to try anyways. Halvor allowed her to stand upon the bar but did nothing to encourage her. She took a deep breath…