Friday, August 23, 2013

Grocer, Orb's Year 932, Teaser

Abbess Abigail walked with Gemma over to the home her father had once lived.  As she waved goodbye to Abigail, she glanced up at the cottage in front of her.  Home, she thought happily, finally... a home of her own!
Hurrying inside, she ran from room to room, not even worried that she had no furniture or that the home was dirty with cobwebs.  In each new room, she squealed with joy and clapped her hands, delighted to be in her new home.

Hastily, she sent a missive to Farha Marchant.  She couldn't wait for her friend to come see!

Abbey, Orb's Year 929-932

Orb's Year 929

Gemma giggled as she leaned over to whisper in her friend, Farha Marchant's ear, "Do not look now, but I believe that he likes you!"

Farha glanced over at the boy and returned Gemma's giggle, slapping her hand playfully as she leaned to whisper in Gemma's ear, "No! Stop! Never say it's true!"

Lance sighed when the girls seemed more interested in giggling to themselves than talking to him.  Perhaps it would be best to go by Farha's shop later when Gemma wasn't around...
"Did you see the way he glared at me when he left?" Gemma laughed breathlessly.  "He was so angry!"

Farha had laughed so hard after Lance had taken his leave that she needed to stop to gain her breath.  "It's just that he's so... so..." Farha searched for the right word.

"A boy?!" Gemma laughed with delight and soon Farha joined back in, laughing until her sides hurt.

***

Abbess Mallory was so proud of her daughter.  Belinda had flourished here in the Abbey, learning the path of enlightenment. 

And it was obvious by the crowds how people respected her and listened to her knowledge!

***

Farha Marchant ran up the walk, heedless of the people she bumped into. Breathless, she stopped before Gemma and giggled her news.  "Gemma! I just had to tell you!" she whispered loudly, earning a stern look from Abbess Belinda.

Gemma whispered, "Sit down!" while glancing around to see who was watching.

Farha shook her head with a twinkle in her eye and Gemma's eyes widened.  Whatever Farha had to tell her was probably too good to wait!
Jerking upright, she quickly curtsied to Abbess Belinda and then both girls began giggling as they scampered away.
Once away, the girls collapsed to the ground with heavy sighs.  "What is your news?" Gemma asked as Farha rolled over on her back. 

Farha sighed deeply and rested her hand under her head.  "I have the most important news and I couldn't wait a moment longer to tell you."  Taking a deep breath, she announced, "I'm going to find my father a wife!"

Gemma smiled wistfully, "I have heard it said that he can love no one other than your dear departed mother!  If only someone would love me that much!"

"Isn't it romantic?" Farha said.  "But, I'm determined!" Lowering her voice, she added, "I see how sad he is and how much he misses her.  What about your father? Does he miss your mother?"

Gemma scoffed, "No.  He's very happy with his 'Englightenment', as he calls it.  But he says that if he had known the horrible care I would have with my mother that he would have forced her to hand me over much sooner.  He hadn't even known she'd abandoned my sisters and I until after I'd already been taken away."

Farha frowned and reached for her friends hand.  "Do you miss your sisters?" 

Gemma glanced down and hid her hurt.  "I have missed them very much, but they have never come to visit me.  They must not miss me very much."

Farha looked aghast at Gemma.  "I'm sure that is not true! I'm sure they love you and miss you very much, as well!  They were just young girls when  you came to live with your Father!"

Gemma leaned back and dismissed the subject,  "So, have you talked to Lance?" she asked with a smirk on her face. 

Seeing the blush on her friend's face was all the answer she needed.

Orb's Year 930
Mark sighed as he watched his daughter carelessly slide down the railing, "Gemma!" he said, more harshly than he'd intended. 
Gemma glanced up at her father and almost fell off. 

Mark rushed over to make sure she didn't fall.  "When are you going to stop acting like a child?" he asked.  "You are close to becoming a grown woman and grown women do not slide down the stair railing."

Gemma sighed, "But, father..." she began, but stopped short as her father continued his lecture.

"And where were you sneaking off last night during the lecture Abbess Belinda was giving?"

Gemma opened her mouth, "I just..."

"It's unseemly to run off the way you did last night!" he continued.

"Daddy!" Gemma raised her voice to be heard and was pleased when he stopped to give her a chance to defend herself.  "I did not mean any offense to Abbess Belinda.  But, Farha needed to tell me very important news!"

Mark's eyebrows went up and the disbelief on his face made it clear what he thought of her dearest friend's important news.

Hanging her head, she clasped her hands tightly in front of her, "I will try harder," she said quietly.
"Good! That is all I ask of you!" he said with a kiss to her cheek.  "Run along now and try to be lady-like!"

Gemma hurried away before he could list any more of her faults!

***

Hours later, Gemma found him outside.  Sobbing, she looked up to the skies and screamed, "Noooooo!"  She wasn't ready for this!  She still needed him!

Hearing her cries, Abbess Belinda materialized by Gemma's side.  
Pulling Gemma into her arms, Abbess Belinda rocked the girl and held her as she cried.  She knew the loss would not be an easy one.  Abbott Mark would be missed...

Rest in Peace Abbott Mark Grocer, Orb Years' 884-930

Orb's  Year 931
Gemma felt as though all of her happiness had drained from her.  All the carefree frolicking had been childish and irresponsible.  Her father had been ashamed of her when he'd died.  The thought brought tears to her eyes and she fought against the heartache that throbbed.
"Are you okay?" Farha asked quietly as she approached her dearest friend.

Gemma glanced up sharply.  "Of course not," she whispered raggedly, wishing to be alone.

Farha attempted to reach out to Gemma, "If you need to talk... I'm here..." she said solemnly.
Gemma jumped up and shook her fists.  "It's not fair! It's NOT fair!" she shouted, covering her face with her hands.  "He's all I have left!"  Fresh tears spilled from her eyes and Gemma worried that she would be lost in the pain forever!
Farha pulled Gemma into her arms and held her tight, attempting to comfort her in her time of great need.  "I'm here for you!" Farha said, with tears of her own in her eyes, "I hate to see you in so much pain!"
Gemma wiped the tears from her eyes and reached for Farha's hands.  With a shaky laugh, she attempted to smile, "What would I do without you Farha?"

***

Abbess Abigail glanced in the mirror and attempted to see herself as Mark had seen her... as a living, breathing woman.  He'd made her feel like a woman... now he was gone and any hope of ever feeling that was again was gone with him.

Gingerly, she reached up to touch her cheek, closing her eyes to imagine it was Mark's hand as he bid her farewell in the secret room so many years ago.

Disheartened, her eyes popped open.  It just wasn't the same...
"Thank you for coming," Abbess Abigail announced as Abbess Mallory and Abbess Belinda materialized before her.  "There is a grave matter of great urgency I would like to discuss," she announced.
Quickly, the three ladies took their seats.  Taking a deep breath, Abigail plunged ahead, "I would like to pass the mantle on to Abbess Abigail before I pass. I would like these last few years of mine to be spent in contemplation and enlightenment."
"You mean?' Belinda asked in awe... "You mean?..."  She just wasn't able to get the words past her lips!
Abigail smiled fondly at the girl she'd helped raise.  "That's right, you are now Head Abbess Abigail, in charge of the Abbey."

"Oh congratulations, dear!" her mother, Abbess Mallory called from across the table.  "Just what you've always wanted!"

"Yes, and should you have any questions, you know you may always ask me.  But, I know you have many ideas about how to make the Abbey a better place!"

As Belinda still floundered for speech, Mallory winked at Abigail.  "Perhaps we should give her a few moments to compose herself!"

With a blink, they were gone.
Belinda slowly stood, stunned and excited.  It was true, she was now Head Abbess Belinda of the Abbey!  Glancing up, she gazed at the portrait of her on the wall.

All her dreams were coming true!

***

So elated she had been, Belinda had not even considered that it would soon be her mother's turn to pass to the light...

Rest in Peace Mallory Kratz, Orb Years 882-931

Orb's Year 932
Fiona waited anxiously.  Her sister had sent word that she would soon be at the Abbey.  Her time with the Consuls was at an end and Farrah had sounded quite excited to be coming to live at the Abbey.

Spotting her sister, Fiona waved happily and raced out to greet her. 
"I'm so glad you're here!" Fiona said.  "It will be just like when we were young!"

Farrah laughed.  "Hopefully not!  I have grown quite used to having my own bed!"

Fiona smiled.  "I promise not to steal your bed!"

"So how go your grand plans involved piquing the interest of a nobleman!"

Fiona sighed, "Alas, the only nobleman I had any access to was your Blaze Noble... and from the sounds of it, his mother kept him locked up tight!"
Farrah giggled.

"Besides," Fiona added, "It never would've worked.  You know, I hear that Deanna has made herself a thorny bed!  It's rumored that Camelot Bradshaw is going to marry another and that she'll live in the household as his mistress with his children!"

Farrah gasped, "No! Really?  Who is he going to marry?" she asked, worried about her older sister. 

Fiona shrugged, "I haven't heard.  Must be someone that doesn't know about Deanna or doesn't care..." 
"Oh, Fiona, I'm so happy to be here!" Farrah sad, glancing around the Abbey.  "It's a dream come true!
Fiona looked around the place, trying to see it with her sister's eyes.  "It's okay," she shrugged.  "I just wanted something more from life," she added sadly. 

Farrah patted her sister's arm.  "Cheer up! We're going to have so much fun together! Now, it's time for me to visit with Head Abbess Abigail."

Fiona stopped her sister, "Oh no, it's Head Abbess Belinda now!  Abbess Abigail wants to spend her remaining years pursuing enlightenment."
Farrah waited nervously for Belinda in her solar.  Finally, Head Abbess Belinda came through the archway and sat down, smiling at Farrah.

"I hope I haven't kept you waiting too long," Belinda said.

"Oh no! Of course not, Abbess Belinda!"

"Good!" Belinda announced, still smiling.  "So I hear that you would like to learn the path to enlightenment."

***

While her sister was in with the Abbess, Fiona had one more plan that might see her swept away from this place.

With trepidation, she sent away a message for the matchmaker...
Nerissa greeted the young girl who had waited, cloaked in the dark.  Such nervous creatures, these young girls and boys longing to find love.  So anxious to have the world handed to them!

And so profitable for herself, Nerissa smiled.

"I have considered a few options and believe I have found a perfect match for you," Nerissa said flamboyantly.

"Oh! Who is it? May I meet him?" Fiona asked excitedly. 

Nerissa held her palm out and looked at it pointedly. 

"Oh yes! Yes! Of course!" Fiona fumbled with her drawstrings and pulled out the gold that Nerissa had requested. 

"Very nice, very nice," Nerissa mumbled, then glancing to the side, she called out, "Robin! Come!"
Fiona glanced down the path and saw the most handsome man she'd ever seen walking towards her.

Nerissa made the introductions, then waved the two away.  "Go! Talk! Shoo!"
She wasn't sure why, but Fiona battled a fierce bout of shyness when Robin stood before her.  He looked so strong and handsome!

Robin nodded, pleased with the match Nerissa had arranged.  "I am just returned to town and am quite anxious to settle down," Robin told her pragmatically.  "Are you sure a marriage of convenience is what you wish?"
"Oh yes! It is!" Fiona said cheerfully.  "I will make a good wife to you! I can cook, clean, and tend the garden!"

"Then it's decided.  I will speak with your brother to arrange a wedding quickly."
Although he'd thought Fiona beautiful at first glance, he was amazed by how a smile lit her face.  Leaning forward, he suggested, "And now... a kiss to seal our pledge?"

Fiona blushed and nodded, eager for her first kiss.
Fiona was swept away once Robin's lips touched her own.  When he'd finally pulled back, she had struggled not to let her disappointment show.
"Until we meet again," Robin said before walking away.
Fiona raised her face to the stars and smiled widely.  Her prayers had been answered!  She was going to be married!

***

Racing through the stone walls, Fiona ran up to tell her sister the news.   "Farrah! Farrrah!" she shouted as she burst into their room, "I'm getting married!"
Farrah hugged her sister with a laugh, "Details please!" she said. 

***

"Why do you look so glum sitting there," Abbess Abigail asked Gemma Grocer. 

"I... I just miss my Dad," she said sadly.  Then, more quickly, she poured her fears, "He's all I had and now I have to stay here because I have nowhere else to go!"

"Ah, but there is where you're wrong young one.  He made us all swear we would tell you of your heritage when you were ready.  Are you ready to begin your life away from the Abbey?"

"Oh yes, Abbess Abigail! I am!"

Abigail smiled fondly at the girl.  "Then let us go for a walk..."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Diebin, Orb's Year 929-932


Orb's Year 929
Although Debbie Baker Diebin didn't suspect her husband of cheating on her, she still had no love for Rebecca Wood, the woman trying to worm her way into her family. 

They fought bitterly over anything and everything, except Debbie's fear that Alibaba was in love with the woman. 
Needing air to clear her mind after her last battle with the she-warrior, Debbie stepped outside to be away from the horrid woman.
She'd been so blind her fuming that she didn't see the man approaching before it was too late to scurry into the woods.

Geoffrey L'Adventurer glanced around when he spied the woman.  She was not carrying bags, which meant she was close to home.  "I've not seen you around these parts before.  Who are you?" he demanded.

Debbie put her hand on her hips and asked, "Who wants to know?"

"In the name of the crown, who are you?" Geoffrey repeated, stepping closer still.

"The... the.. the.. crown?" Debbie stuttered.  It seemed that she might be in more danger than she had thought. 
"I am just a lonely baker woman," Debbie lied, "taking a rest before heading home from the Abbey."

"My name is Geoffrey L'Adventurer, brother-in-law to King Barron.  I am searching for the man known as the Prince of Thieves."  Geoffrey bowed regally before her and glanced up in time to see her blush. "I would have your name, lonely baker woman."

"Debbie..." she stuttered.  Cursed Orb, the King's brother-in-law!  They were doomed if he found their hideout!
"Do you come this way often, Debbie?" he asked.

"Only every once in awhile to donate baked good to the Abbey."

"Where is your basket for your goods?" Geoffrey asked, not missing a thing.

Debbie floundered for an answer, "I... uh... I leave it at the Abbey."
"That must get awful pricey for a peasant such as yourself."  Geoffrey crossed his arms and considered the woman.  She was lying, he would bet on it!  Which meant he was close! 

Pausing momentarily, he considered the best way to ferret the information from her.  Even an older woman like her was turned by a pretty compliment...
Running his hand down her shoulder, he looked at her with speculative interest, "I just want to talk to the Prince of Thieves about a business proposition.  No harm would come to him... or his loved ones." Trailing his fingers down her arm until he reached her fingertips, he lifted her hand for a kiss.  "Perhaps if you could pass the world along through the grapevine... I would be forever indebted..."

Debbie preened as the royal showered attention on her.   It had been ages since Alibaba had looked at her with any tenderness.  "I'm not sure I'd know where to start the gossip chain," Debbie said cautiously, "but I'll see what I can do..."

Geoffrey slowly pulled his hand back from Debbie, "Anything would be helpful.  Just send me a missive if you hear anything."  As he started to walk away, he glanced back with a smoldering gaze, "I look forward to hearing from you again... Debbie, the lonely baker woman."

***

Debbie had thought to tell Alibaba about the stranger conversation she'd had with the royal, but something in her held back. 

When he'd asked her how her day had gone, she had shrugged.  Not that he had paid any more heed to her.  He'd immediately hurried over to Henna and showered her with affection.
"Have you been practicing?" Alibaba asked his daughter.

"I have! I am sure to beat you this time!" 

Alibaba and Henna held their hands out, "1 - 2 - 3..." Henna counted out loud, "Rock!"
"I beat you!" she announced, feeling so victorious.  "Now you must train me how to use a sword! You promised!"

Alibaba grinned at his daughter.  "That's right. A promise is a promise.  You have earned it fair and square!"

***

In the still of the night, Rebecca awoke in the bed from a frightening nightmare.  She had stood in a room full of babies, all of them crying and reaching for her, calling her mama. 

Sighing, she laid back down, thankful that there was no way she could be pregnant.  Cursing mid-thought, she counted back the days to her last monthly.  It had been all too long...

***

"I can't believe this has happened to me," Rebecca moaned to Alibaba.  "I respected your wish to remain faithful to your wife.  It seems fate is mocking me!"
Alibaba was still in shock from being told he would be having a baby with Rebecca.  Gently, he stroked her cheek.  "I have tried to stop a million times, but I cannot help myself...  I love you!"

Rebecca covered his hand with her own.  "We are doomed, Alibaba.  For I have tried a million times to tell myself that I should not love you, but here I am."  Opening her eyes, she stared at him full of regret.  "I should leave. I do not belong here, with your wife and daughter."
Alibaba dropped to his knees and pulled Rebecca to him, cradling her growing belly.  "You cannot leave!  I know I am being selfish, but I'm not sure I can live without you near."

Rebecca hugged him to her and sighed.  "What are we going to do?" she asked him sadly as she sank to her knees with him.  "What are we going to do?"

 ***

Alibaba assured her that all would be well and he would work something out soon, so Rebecca had done to sleep, with her heart relieved.
***

Debbie couldn't believe the utter gall!  Right under her nose!  Did they not think she knew what a pregnant woman looked like?  She had delivered enough brats in her life to know the signs of a woman's pregnancy!
Running out into the night, Debbie looked up to the sky with anguish.  Fisting her hands, she beat her chest and waved them in the air.  It wasn't fair, she thought angrily.  She'd given up so much to be with Alibaba and this was how he repaid her?
Sitting down, she gazed sightlessly, making her own plans.

Orb's Year 930
Alibaba had showed Henna a few moves that she was to practice faithfully until they were second nature to her.  Religiously, she went out into the woods and practiced each day, attempting to mirror her father's movements.
She'd been so busy lunging that she hadn't notice a young man approaching.

"Oh!' she gasped.
Stuart blinked his eyes and wondered if he was watching a fairy creature.  She was so stunning and beautiful! 

Before he had a chance to speak to her, she'd turned and run deeper into the woods.

"Wait!" he called out to the girl.  "What's your name?! Are you a fairy of the woods?!"
Stumbling through the woods, he looked everywhere.  She was gone.  Disheartened and wondering if he had imagined it, he headed back the way he had come. 

Maybe his mother was right.  These woods were haunted...
Henna had been raised in these woods and knew every nook and cranny, every leaf and limb.  She'd learned to blend into the background and not be seen. 

But, for the first time, as she watched the boy walk away, she wished she hadn't needed to hide...
Back inside, Henna was writing in her journal about her feelings when Rebecca walked in. 

"Oh, I'm sorry, Henna," Rebecca said as she walked over to rest nearby.  "Your mother was glaring at me fiercely, so I came in here.  I hope I'm not intruding."

Henna closed her journal and slid it under the bed as she glanced at Rebecca.  "No, you're not bothering me."  She knew that she was supposed to hate Rebecca, but it was hard to hate someone she admired... and someone that made her father smile.
Gingerly, she climbed up on the bed and chewed her bottom lip as she regarded her father's mistress.  "How did you know you were in love?" she asked quietly.

Rebecca gasped, "I'm not sure I should be talking to you about this, Henna."

Henna made a face, "No one talks to me about anything! But, how am I ever supposed to get married if no one is ever allowed to see me?"

"Ah, I see your dilemma.  But, you know your father will look after you.  You're too young to be considering this!"  Rebecca tilted her head and considered Henna.  "What brings upon this sudden interest?"

Henna glanced at the door and quietly whispered, "Can you keep a secret?"

Rebecca laughed, "It depends on what it is!"

Henna eagerly plowed on, "I saw a boy in the woods today!"

Rebecca was more alarmed than excited.  "Did he see where you ran?" she asked.  "You know that no one should know where we are!"

Henna scowled, "Of course not! I know the rules!" Sighing, she put her chin in her hand.  "I didn't even get to talk to him.  But, I dreamed for just a moment that he came looking for me and wanted to marry me!
Rebecca stood up and hugged Henna tightly when she saw how unhappy she was.  "Oh Henna, everything will be all right.  Your father will arrange your marriage when the time is right.  You must have faith!" Pulling back slightly, she touched the tip of Henna's nose, "In the meantime, tell me more about this boy of yours!"

Henna giggled.

***

"I received your summons, Debbie baker woman," Geoffrey said as he sidled closer to where Debbie sat, anxiously wringing her hands.  "What news do you have?"
"First, promise me that no one will get hurt, no one except that brunette witch! She's seduced my husband and is flaunting her child in front of me! In my own house!" Debbie raged. 

Geoffrey smiled kindly and stroked Debbie's cheek.  "How could anyone ever treat you in this callous manner.  Of course, we'll take care of your small problem.  You will show me where the Prince of Thieves is?"

Debbie nodded.  "But he won't be home for some hours."

Geoffrey nodded, "That's okay.  We'll wait patiently for him, then."
Leaning closer, he whispered his plan in Debbie's ear.  Winking, he held his finger up for absolute quiet.

***

"Rebecca!" Debbie called harshly as she entered the hideout.  "There is something I wish to speak to you about immediately!"

Debbie walked over and beckoned Rebecca over so that her back was to the door.  Hands on her hips, "How long do you plan to live in my home, rubbing my nose in your dirty laundry?" she demanded.
Rebecca gasped, "You know?!"

Debbie waved her hand, "As if I could not recognize a pregnant woman! I've known since the beginning, you cheap harlot!"

Rebecca paled, "Alibaba was going to talk to you soon... he was hoping..."

"I don't care what he was hoping.  Soon you won't be our problem any longer!"

Rebecca's eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, "What?..." she began to ask.
"You've killed her!" Debbie hurled the accusation in a harsh whisper.

"I have not," Geoffrey whispered back, "Now help me get her up and to the other room."

"You said you would take her away!"

"Ah, but the flaw in the plan is that I need to speak with the Prince of Thieves first.  And I doubt he'd hardly let me take her away when I'm done," Geoffrey replied smoothly.

"You lied!" Debbie whispered.
"Rebecca?" Henna whispered quietly as she came out to see what the noise was.  She gasped when she saw her mother and a stranger standing over her lifeless body.  Her eyes darted to where her father kept a sword on the wall.

"A girl?" Geoffrey demanded.  "You didn't tell me there was a girl here!" he yelled as he pushed Debbie out of his way.
Henna started to lunge for the sword, but Geoffrey was faster.  She attempted to shove him away and Debbie stood fretfully in the background wringing her hands.  "You lied to me," she wailed.
"Mother!" Henna screamed as Geoffrey flung her over his shoulder and carried her into the bedroom. 

"Don't hurt her! Debbie cried, "You promised you wouldn't hurt us!"

"Mother!" Henna screamed one more time.

"What have I done?" Debbie whispered as she dropped to her knees.  "Cursed Orb! What have I done?!"
Rebecca came to several hours later with a ringing in her ears.  The first thing she noticed when she woke up was that she was bound to a chair.  Glancing to her left and right she saw Henna and Debbie tied along with her.

"What happened?" she asked, testing the knots that held her tight.

"Ask Mother," Henna replied acidly.  "She's sold us out."

***

Alibaba walked in and immediately saw the well-dressed royal lounging on his couch.  Eyes darting around the room, he asked, "Where is my family?"

Geoffrey smiled grandly at the man before him.  "Ah! The Prince of Thieves! So good to finally meet you!  Please! Sit down!"

When Alibaba made a slight move towards the swords, Geoffrey shook his finger, "Tsk, tsk.  Is that any way to greet a guest?" he asked.

"Perhaps not a guest that has been invited."

Geoffrey smiled again, "And how do you know I was not invited?" Winking at Alibaba, he whispered conspiratorially, "In the future, you might not want to impregnate your mistress where your wife can find out.  They tend not to take it too well." 
Alibaba sat down in the seat with a thud.  "Where's my family?" he repeated.

"Oh! They're fine! They just wanted to give us some time to chat and get to know each other."

"What could I possibly want to know about you?" Alibaba asked.

Instead of answering, Geoffrey nodded towards the sapphire-crusted trinket.  "Such pretty things.  It would be a shame if my brother-in-law, Prince Benedict, head of the Royale Guard were to ransack this place!  You'd lose all of your pretty things!"  Faking a grimace, he added, "And probably your head!"

"What do you want?" Alibaba asked, determined to send the vile man away.
"Ah! How astute of you! I am in need of something!  I care not about the trifling issues of Celestia! For all I care, you can rob the King blind and abscond with his wife, although I'm not sure you need any extra females here!" Geoffrey laughed at his own wit as Alibaba gritted his teeth.  "Hell, I'll throw my own wife and brats in, as well!"

"Get to the point," Alibaba grated.

"The point is that MY kingdom was stolen from me by my Uncle.  I will take what is rightfully mine!"  A gleam appeared in Geoffrey's eye.  "At the King's castle, I noticed a curious mechanical man! King Baron has forbidden any knowledge of his creation to be kept secret.  I want you to sneak into the castle and get me the blueprint!"

"Are you crazy? Break into the King's CASTLE?  It would be impossible!"

Geoffrey sighed and frowned, "Aw, well, I had to try, didn't I?  It will be such a shame to see your little family destroyed.  Hopefully they won't kill all of you, even your pretty little daughter."  Geoffrey tapped his finger to his cheek, "Although! I'm sure I could persuade the King that I am in need of a servant!  Little Henna would fit in quite lovely at my home!"
Alibaba grit his teeth and glared at the man who so casually spoke of destroying his life.  "You leave me no choice, then, do you?"
Geoffrey smiled as he hopped up.  As he walked past Alibaba, he thumped his shoulder hard.  "I'm glad you saw it my way."

"Where's my family?" Alibaba called out as Geoffrey sauntered out the door.

"In your bedroom, waiting to be rescued!"

***

Alibaba raced into the room and saw his women tied tightly to chairs.  Debbie silently wept as he ran in.
First he reached to untie Rebecca and ran a tender hand over her burgeoning belly.  "Are you okay?" he asked, worried at the blood he saw on the side of her head. 

She nodded quickly.  "I'm fine now.  All else will heal."
Next her reached for the binds that tied Henna.  "Are you alright? He didn't hurt you?"

Henna threw herself into her father's arms.  "I was so scared! I thought he was going to kill you!"

Alibaba ground his teeth.  "No, I am too valuable to him alive."

Next he looked at Debbie, his wife for ten miserable years.  "I should leave you bound and throw you out of the house," he said, seething with rage.  "You brought that man to us!"

Tears filled Debbie's eyes.  "It wasn't supposed to be like that." Her eyes darting to Rebecca, she buried her face in her hands.  "He was supposed to get rid of her!"

Alibaba roughly pulled the binding from Debbie's hands and pushed her from the room, following close behind.

Orb's Year 931
"Do you have any idea of the danger you have brought to us?  That man is evil!" Alibaba yelled.  "Did you think of your daughter before you invited the serpent into our home?!"
Debbie buried her face in her hands.  "I just wanted her gone! I wanted you to love ME again!"

Alibaba gazed at his wife dispassionately as she sobbed into her hands.  "Getting rid of her wouldn't have changed anything," he said sadly.  "I love her.  If she had disappeared, I would have scoured the lands for sign of her."

"No!" Debbie protested.  "You love me!"
Alibaba shook his head, "I'm sorry, Debbie.  You've brought me nothing but pain and misery all these years.  When I get back, I will deal with you.  But, I want you to understand... it's over."
"Of course it's over, you imbecile! You put a child in another woman's belly! I can't stand the sight of you!" Debbie railed.  "Geoffrey is going to come back for me! Ah! Jealous?!" Debbie asked when she saw Alibaba's jaw tighten.

"Not in the least, you desire each other."  Turning, he walked for the door.

"Where are you going?" she screamed after him.
"To fix the mess you made!" he called back, jogging from the woods.

 *** Months Later ***

"No word from father," Henna told Rebecca sadly. 

"I know, but we must remain hopeful," Rebecca said, although her supply of hope was almost extinguished.  It had been months and they had not heard from him again. 

Worse yet, the lying she-devil was still in the home, as well.  She claimed that Alibaba had said she should wait here until he came back.
Gasping, Rebecca put her hand to her belly.  "No!" she cried, willing her body to be lying to her.

Henna glanced at Rebecca oddly.  "What is it? What's wrong?"

Rebecca leaned to support herself on the couch.  "It's time!" she said, glancing up at Henna with fear in her eyes.  "I'm not ready!"
Ready or not, Rebecca labored well into the night with Henna right by her side.  Rebecca placed her tiny daughter, Ash Wood, into her half-sister's arms.
Minutes later, her brother, Birch Wood, surprised everyone with his unexpected arrival!
"Twins!" Henna said with a smile as she tended to her new siblings as Rebecca rested, "How about that!"

***

Debbie was beginning to get quite nervous.  Geoffrey had not responded to any of her summons.  She'd requested that he come save her.  It was beginning to look like he'd used her..

Desperate to somehow weasel her way back into her daughter's good graces, Debbie appealed to her her, "Please, you must not hate me!" Debbie begged.  "I did it for the family! For you!"
Henna scowled at her mother, ashamed of her cowardly behavior.  "You didn't do it for me! You did it for yourself!  How would having my brother and sister sent away do anything for me?"

"Please..." Debbie cried as Henna sideswept around her clinging mother and walked away.

***

"Finally!" Debbie cried when Geoffrey deigned to appear before her.  "I've been waiting! What has happened? Where is my husband?  What did you do?"
"What did I do?" Geoffrey raged.  "What did your husband do?! I'll tell you what he did! He's gone and turned himself into the King's justice and admitted to his crimes! He's been thrown in the dungeon!"

Debbie gasped.  "The dungeon! For how long?"

Geoffrey thrust his hands into his hair.  "Do you know what this does to my plans?" he railed.  "It ruins everything! He cannot get me the blueprints locked within a cell!"

"But, what about your deal? You were going to take me away," Debbie pouted.  "I can't stay here. Rebecca and Henna know that I helped you!"
Geoffrey reached for his sword.  "You are worthless! Absolutely worthless to me!" he yelled.  "And since I have no more use for you..." 
Debbie stepped back in horror as Geoffrey approached with his sword drawn.  "No!" she cried...
Henna watched from behind the tree as the man with the scar cut her mother down. Suddenly, he looked up and she swore his eyes saw through to her.
Swiftly, she ducked behind the tree and held her breath, praying that he had not seen her.  Soon, she heard his boots crunching through the leaves as he left.  A long time passed before Henna trusted her legs to move.
***

"What is wrong?" Rebecca asked when Henna came charging into the hideout sobbing.
"It's mother..." she cried haltingly, "he's killed her!"

"Who killed her?" Rebecca asked

"The man with the scar! He said... dungeon!  And... he said...  blueprints!"
"Slow down, Henna!" Rebecca said, clasping Henna's shoulders.  "Slow down, and start again... What did you see?"

Much later, Rebecca thought she had the full story.  With grim eyes, she sent Henna to check in on the babies.  She would need help for what she planned next...

Orb's Year 932
"Thank you for coming, Crystal," Rebecca said as she greeted her old friend.

Crystal's face remained impassive, "'Tis grave news you bring me.  I would not be anywhere else but here."

"Come in, we will plan."
Crystal glanced towards the girl.  "Are you sure the girl should be here?" she asked, eying Henna with distaste.
"He's my father! I will be a part of this!"

Crystal rolled her eyes, "You're a baby."  Glancing back at Rebecca, she asked, "Can we trust her?"
Rebecca nodded, "Of course.  She is Alibaba's daughter.  She knows all his secrets."

Crystal nodded once and then ignored Henna. 

Rebecca took a deep breath, "I've been studying the layout and this is the plan..."

***

Henna hugged her sister to her chest and snuggled her, tears falling against the child's skin.  "Everything is going to be okay, I promise," she told the little one.  "Just you see... your Mommy is going to fix everything!"

***

In the middle of the night, Rebecca and Crystal prepared for the task at hand, arming themselves with swords and knives.  With one shared glance, they headed towards the hill leading up...

***

Geoffrey did not seem to be able to stay away from the woods.  He knew that killing Debbie had been dishonorable, but she had enraged him to the point of no return.  It had been her fault, he thought angrily. 

So why then did her spirit haunt him so?