Oct 11, 2020





Fifteen-year-old Orlando Paladino is having the strangest dreams.  He and a group of men, dressed in scared and dented armor, are in an empty part of the city market fighting an army of hooded men in flowing white robes.  At the center of the conflict is an old woman who the king has declared his knights must protect if the kingdom is to survive. 

The problem is the knights are losing the fight.  They are overwhelmed.  Bravely they make the hooded men pay, but as one after another of the heroes falls, Orlando decides that bravery and honor are less important than cunning and deception. Orlando believes the old woman is some kind of witch. He has seen that she is able to so change her shape as to be invisible. One moment she is a gray-haired hag, another she is a dark-haired, middle-aged beauty. At other times she appears a mere girl with raven black hair and sparkling blue eyes. Orlando imagines the witch could protect herself if he could get her into a crowded market.  However, being the only female in a hornet’s nest of hooded assassins, she has no chance, unless Orlando can save her.  

Grabbing the old woman, Orlando calls to his brothers to shield him, as he tries to escape behind the wall of armor.  In the dream Orlando nearly makes good his escape, however before he can mount his warhorse, a hooded man stabs Orlando in the side and grabbing the woman from his arms the man carries her into a circle of men with drawn knives.  Sometimes, Orlando watches as they cut the blue-eyed girl into pieces or as Orland dies, he hears the woman screams for his help.  Either way, he has failed.

Thankfully, it is only a dream because fifteen-year-old Orlando Paladino is no white knight, no hero. His goal in life is to stay low and make it out of the hood. In a neighborhood filled with gangs, drugs, and crime, Orlando is a standup kid.  He is a faithful son, a good student, and an Alter boy in the Catholic church. Orlando listens to his elders and he believes in the good in people, however, he is smart enough to avoid the bullies and tough gang members in school. In his dream, Orlando is a leader; the bravest man in a court filled with knights-errant. In real life, he is going nowhere. He is a loner.  At school he is invisible. He has a few male friends, boys like him, but no girlfriend. No girl who even talks to him. At least, that is, until Kassandra Alexander is transferred to his school.

Kassandra is like no other girl he knows. Where he is invisible.  She is outspoken.  She is smart, brave, and unafraid. She is a bit of a loner, shunning the popular girls and indifferent to the dangerous boys. Orlando imagines her to be the girls of his dreams, only to realize she is the girl in his dreams, and as in his dream, it turns out Kassandra is at the center of a storm.

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