Poison

NOTES: Good morning/afternoon everyone. It has been a productive two weeks, with another chapter finished ahead of schedule and a total of 141 followers currently on this blog. So thank you to all who are following this story and enjoying the read so far, and thank you particularly to those who are still providing me support and feedback. For those who have been reading, I am sure you have been waiting patiently to get to the meat of the story. The main plot outlined in the preface that drew many positive comments is about to kick into gear. In Chapter Three, we follow Jerimeh, an elderly monk who is also the most senior religious figure in The Hartlands, and who helped raise King Aron. This is our first glimpse into the inner-workings of Harthelm, the historical seat of House Hartlin, and into the mind of one of The Cursed King’s most pivotal characters. I hope you enjoy reading this chapter, and as always, all feedback is welcomed!

Poison

Jerimeh I

            Despite the row of flaming torches flicking against the stone walls and stained glass of the Gods’ Hall, it did little to warm the soles of Jerimeh’s feet as he carried the casket of Prince Edward towards the altar. It was so small that Jerimeh, even at his grand age, could have carried it himself, but his protégé insisted that he share the burden. Effei was a much younger man, lean and slim with curly blonde hair and a pale, angelic face as if he’d never seen a day beyond his teens, yet even he was approaching forty years.

            As if the clouds had parted and the Gods spoke, the choir began to sing. The timing was perfect, as soon as Jerimeh and Effei stepped foot on the steps that led to the chancel, their voices joined in a haunted matrimony of music. Young boys and elderly monks swapped soprano for baritone in a harmonious ballad dedicated to the tragic boy’s death. Even above the glorious song, Jerimeh could hear the tears from the court as he and Effei lowered the casket onto the altar and stood in waiting.

            King Aron stood at the altar with a pensive look in his eyes that pierced through Jerimeh and landed at the large oak doors of the hall. It was the king’s duty to lower his son into the crypt. Without a moment’s hesitation, King Aron hoisted the lever towards his hips to lower the platform into the underground. Of course, it was all ceremonial, in reality there were a team of men underneath the hall pulling the timber platform towards them with ropes. King Aron’s face was devoid of any emotion; in fact, if Jerimeh hadn’t known him since his birth twenty years prior, he wouldn’t have thought for a moment that his only son had just been murdered just a few weeks prior.

            When the choir finished its song, the heavy doors were opened at the narthex and the court stood to leave. Although it appeared orderly, Jerimeh could see that some of the noble men and women were stepping on each other’s feet and pushing their way through to leave the hall. King Aron meanwhile stared into the dark pit where he had just lowered his son and took no notice of the desperate attempts of his court to rush away from his funeral. As the last man left, the doors closed behind them with an almighty thud and the guards stood sternly awaiting Jerimeh and Effei.

            “You are dismissed,” King Aron glared at Effei who bowed and made his way towards the doors. Jerimeh followed him. “Not you, your worship. Please stay.”

            Jerimeh stopped whilst Effei continued towards the doors without a glance. Jerimeh knew where he was going, and whilst he did not envy him for a moment, he dreaded facing his King almost as much. As the Arkgodson turned around, he felt an ache through his hips and his back that made him wince and clutch his side. In a moment, King Aron rushed to his side and put his hand at the small of his back and ushered him to a pew.

            “Thank you, your grace. I apologise…these old bones are prone to sticking,” Jerimeh smiled half-heartedly.

            “I pray Jivana does not abandon you as she has me.”

            “The sweet angel will abandon all of us in time, we all must walk with Natos in the end,” Jerimeh quoted from the Book of Life & Death, eager to ease his liege’s suffering.

One’s soul will seek vessel after vessel until it has lived a life fulfilled. Who would consider a child of four to have lived a life fulfilled? Sweet angel,” he scoffed. “Jivana will happily let my son’s corpse burn in the darkness whilst she clings onto the cold fingers of his murderess mother. What kind of sick divine justice is that?”

            Jerimeh thought in silence for a moment. He had learned in his many years that people were much more patient of considered silence than unhelpful noise. For a moment he tried to think of a verse that would ease his sorrow, yet there were few in this situation that would give actual relief, and more than a few that would rile the angered King further. Aron looked solemn beneath his thick, bushy auburn beard that was laden with fine oils to make it shine. He was a magnificent looking man, tall and broad in his royal finery that included a black velvet robe with a white rabbit-fur trim that draped down to the floor. Beneath that, he dressed in his military attire – a purple surcoat and white hosen with his father’s sword at his side and the iron crown of war atop his skull that had been passed down to or won by every King since Ivar Hart founded The Kingdom of the Hartlands almost half a millennia ago. Jerimeh looked at his own garments. He was barefoot in a grey robe held up by no more than cheap rope, beneath that he had only smallclothes, and his old bones that poked through his saggy, wrinkled skin.

            “Even our angels of life and death are just the pawns of the Gods’ will. If it is not for angels to neither know nor understand their divine plans, then it is not for the common man, nobles…or even Kings, your grace.”

Aron sighed deeply. “Leave us,” he shouted across the hall to his guards. They bowed and obliged, exiting swiftly through the doors. As soon as the doors clicked shut, Jerimeh’s hands were balled between the palms of Aron who had dropped to his knees and put his head in the Arkgodson’s lap.

“For the love you bore my father, for the love I hope you bear me, I beg you to get to the bottom of this conspiracy. Queen Lorne’s mind was poisoned. I know it, but I cannot prove it,” the King’s eyes filled with tears that dripped onto Jerimeh’s fingers.

“It is hard for you, I know, your grace. But these thoughts are dangerous. Queen Lorne has been taken by madness, it is not the work of poisoners or conspirators I am certain of it.” 

“What makes you so sure?” Aron lifted his head and sniffed as the tears filled his eyes.

Jerimeh rose from the pew and brought Aron to his feet. “Stand tall, your grace. You must never kneel before any man, especially not an old monk. I cannot be sure that Lorne was not poisoned, you are right, but I can be sure of one thing…these thoughts will consume you if you don’t let them go.”

“They will not consume me…” Aron sniffed again, “…if you take their burden and investigate it.”

Jerimeh sighed. “I am an old man, your grace.”

“I do not require the labour of your body…just of your mind,” Aron persisted. “If you wish not to see me on my knees then give me cause to stay on my feet.”

“I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

Aron’s face turned to a scowl. “Yes you do,” he turned and looked towards the crypt. “Start with her.”

The dungeons of Harthelm were a dank and dreary place at the best of times. Cripplingly cold in the winter and roasting hot in the summer, they were designed and constructed by Maxim Hart to be a place of immeasurable cruelty, flushed with rats and rarely cleaned so that many died of disease before trials could even begin. In more recent times, whilst governed by kinder rulers, they were cleaner, and the inhabitancy of vermin was, at the very least, not actively encouraged. Even still, Jerimeh could not think of a place he would rather be rid of. Amidst a stunningly ornate stone castle with walls sixty feet high and twelve feet thick, rounded towers with cone-topped turrets that faced out towards the river and squared-off towers with crenellations, was a pit of horror and despair that hosted only the most heinous of criminals.

It was here that Queen Lorne awoke every morning. The steps that descended into the dungeon began in the King’s Hall so that the accused did not have far to go before they met their fate in court. The entrance to the court was secured by an iron yett, from there the stone walkway was just twenty feet from the yett on the opposite end, with murder holes every few feet in case any prisoners planned an escape. Most men chose to die on the gallows rather than scalded with hot oil in an escape attempt – Jerimeh did not blame them. As the final iron yett opened, the thick, humid air was filled with groans of pain and hope, but more potently it was filled with the smell of raw sickness and a concoction of nasty fluids that could no longer bear to stay within the body in which they once survived.

Father,” they began to call…

“save me, my lord,”

“hear my sins before I die…I beg of you.”

            Jerimeh walked silently past them, his bare feet covered in nothing more than thin leather sacks to protect his skin from the shallow layer of tainted water in the alley. He faced forward, ignoring their cries and their pleas, focused on the lone cell at the end of the walkway. Two guards stood in front of it with their faces covered by steel helms, their bodies covered in mail and their feet covered in pointed sabatons. They wore the emblem of the Royal Guard on their chests- a bronze crown in a purple heart upon a field of grey.

            Inside the cell, Effei tended to Queen Lorne. The priest dabbed at her forehead with a wet cloth and forced her to drink a cup of water, and although she resisted at first, she soon succumbed to the drink and gulped it down eagerly. Jerimeh could hardly stand to look at the poor creature. She had always been slim, but a week of refusing food had left her as frail as he was. It took days for her to even accept water, until she awoke one day to Effei forcing it down her gullet whilst Jerimeh held her down. Feeling her shake and tremble beneath his hands was punishment enough for his sins, yet in light of King Aron’s request, it felt to him that the Gods were not done with him yet.

            “Ssh, ssh, sweet girl,” Effei whispered. “You must eat,” he told her, holding a piece of bread in his hands and pushing it towards her mouth. She did not speak. She only whimpered and shook her head slowly from side to side. Her hair was a tangled mess of rattail lengths, her face was gaunt and sallow, and her eyes were as hollow and dark as arrow-loops with no more than a thin nightgown to protect her from the evening chill. The Arkgodson clenched his fits tightly and bit his lip as he prayed silently.

            “Perhaps I can help, Effei.” The Godson turned around startled. “Sir, if you would be so kind,” Jerimeh gestured towards the guard to his left.

The cell door opened for him and Effei greeted him with the piece of bread still in his hand, wet from Lorne’s saliva. “I have tried…she refuses to eat.”

“She will. I pray you leave us to talk,” Jerimeh rested his palm on Effei’s shoulder and dismissed him pleasantly. Effei looked at him thankfully and exited. The cell door closed behind Jerimeh.

Lorne looked up at him as if she were trying to work out what he was, rather than whom, as if she had never seen a man before, let alone one that she should know. Lorne had resided in Harthelm for almost four years, and married King Aron as soon as they both came of age. Jerimeh had known her since she was a child of seven, running through the halls with Aron as she learned to grow and love the then Prince of her own childlike accord. Allowing an arranged marriage of peace to blossom naturally was King Eldrian’s final gift to the realm he so treasured.

“Jerimeh?” Lorne finally whispered and the corners of her lips curled up subtly like a feather in the wind.

Feeling welcomed, the Arkgodson sat beside her and poured a cup of water for both of them. Taking a sip, he placed a cup in her palms. She watched him drink until the cup was empty and took her first cautious sip of water whilst not taking her eyes from him.

“You had me worried, sweet girl. I thought that perhaps I had lost you forever,”

As he spoke, Lorne had gulped the rest of her water and had taken to pouring herself another cup as if she had not been offered plenty since she arrived in her cell.

“‘Sweet girl’…there was a time you called me ‘your majesty’, has my star fallen so low?” She tilted her head back and licked her lips.

            Jerimeh felt a pained sense of joy in his heart. “My Queen lives,” he felt himself smile.

            Lorne looked up towards the stone ceiling of her prison. “Not for much longer, I pray.” Jerimeh didn’t respond. He just stared at her hollow throat and collar bones until she dropped her head and met his eyes. “You do not believe I did it,” she realised. Compulsion forced Jerimeh to shake his head in agreement, though he prayed that she would not correct him. “Well, I did…and you should know that for truth. I confess to you, my Guardian of the Gods, that I murdered my child.”

            Each word flew at him like individual arrows from the sky that formed a batch and darkened his world. A prisoner in another cell heard her confession and threw a dried turd through the cell that landed a few inches to the right of Jerimeh’s face. One of the guards immediately unlocked the cell and began beating him with a mailed fist. It only took a few well-placed punches before the man lay unconscious, face down in his own filth.

            “You should not be in this grotesque place. The King was wrong to send you here,” Jerimeh whispered, feeling sick at the sight of the blooded man.

            “Not down here with the likes of this common scum?”

            “You are the Queen of the Hartlands…”

            “I murdered a four-year-old boy. Do you know what that man did?”

            “I…I don’t…”

            “He stole a wheel of cheese from Harthelm’s kitchen,” Lorne tilted her head back. “If anything, this scum shouldn’t be down here with me.”

            “Why did you do it, your majesty?”

            Lorne looked deeply into his eyes and placed her fingers on his face, he felt her long nails gently scrape across his wrinkled skin and stared longingly into hers. They were so beautiful. As if green emeralds had been plucked from the deepest blue oceans and carved by Jivana herself. Even in the darkest and foulest of dungeons, they shone and brightened her haunted face. In a moment he found the young girl that frolicked through the halls of Harthelm and filled his heart with laughter and joy as she and Aron bounced on his knee in the freedom of their youth.

            Suddenly, Jerimeh felt a searing pain across his face and clutched his cheek. The door swung open and the guard entered and slapped Lorne with a fearsome backhanded strike, the other guard pulled Jerimeh to his feet and hoisted him from the cell. In shock, Jerimeh stared at the blood on the palms of his right hand and felt his skin split as he opened his mouth. As the guard ushered him away, he looked over his shoulder and heard Lorne whimper as the iron door slammed shut on her cell.

**

            When Jerimeh was just a lad of twelve, he witnessed a man being pulverised to death with a mace. Until he grew old, he believed that to be the cruellest and most harmful weapon he had ever seen. Now he looked in the mirror at his sagging, wrinkled skin, his bulbous red nose and the grey hairs that sprouted from almost every orifice and grew everywhere but his balding head, he knew that he had been deceived. It was in fact the mirror that caused him the greatest trauma of his life.

            Lorne had left three scratch marks down his face as if a cat had used it as a route to escape a bloodthirsty hound. It no longer burned or ached, and did not bother him much at all now that the blood had been washed away to reveal that it was no more than cosmetic infraction that would leave a mark for no more than a few days.  As Jermeh rubbed the ointment into his skin, a loud knock struck the door to his chamber. He rarely received visitors, though he anticipated after the incident that some of the members of King Aron’s court would be keen to speak with him, if not for little more than information to fuel their gossiping.

            “Enter.”

            For a moment he thought that the man who walked through the door was the late King Eldrian the Wonderful, the father of King Aron. After the brief second of confusion, he realised who stood before him and smiled. It was returned instantly. There would not be a man alive who would guess that King Aron and his brother, Asher, were twins. Whilst Aron had a thick, full beard and flowing locks, his brother was clean shaven with a short, military cropped cut of brown hair atop his head. Although they both were tall, broad and strappingly handsome, they were the only traits they had in common.

            “For all my sins, what a man you’ve become,” Jerimeh beamed and opened his arms. Prince Asher sped over to him and embraced him gently, no doubt cautious not to crack his brittle bones.

            “You flatter me, your worship. You do not look a day older than when I last saw you.”

            “You insult me, my Prince,” Jerimeh laughed. “It is grand to see you. My only wish is that it was not in such awful circumstances.”

            Asher frowned. “I came as soon as I was able, though I missed the funeral.”

            “His grace was eager to perform the service swiftly. I can’t say I blame him, he has much to attend to now,” Jerimeh sighed. A breeze snuck through the oriel and brushed Jerimeh’s neck and his whole body shuddered.

             “Someone walk over your grave?” Asher sauntered to the window and closed the shutters. “The funeral was not the only reason for my return. The Hartlands must recall its foreign troops and rebuild the Royal Army, I have been summoned to command it.”

            Jerimeh’s heart sank. The celebrations of a decade of peace were barely beginning when Edward Hartlin was found murdered in his princely bed, and now the first embers of war were beginning to burn in the minds of every man, woman and child on the continent.

            “Your father once promised me that I would die an old man, overlooking green fields untouched by the boots of soldiers, and drinking from trickling streams, fresh with clean water and untouched by blood. Why do I fear that his sons will break that promise?” Jerimeh groaned and sat on the edge of his bed.

            “It is a precaution, nothing more. Do you not think King Aedvard hasn’t had the same idea?” 

            “Aedvard Byrne is the most experienced and successful war commander in The New World. If he was planning for war, he would have been at the gates of Harthelm as soon as Lorne’s prison cell slammed shut.”

            “The power is in our hands, his daughter is our prisoner.”

            “And your sister is his…”

            “Amelie is Charles Byrne’s wife. She will be Queen of The Blacklands one day. She is safe.”

            “You have only ever known King Aedvard as a peaceful man. Underestimate what he is capable of at your peril. Right now, Amelie is the most vulnerable person in The Blacklands. Be assured, whatever happens to Lorne will happen to Amelie.” Jerimeh worried. He had always liked Amelie, she was a strong and wilful girl with long, braided locks of brown hair and a laugh that warmed the hearts of even the coldest members of their court. “Aron and Aedvard must agree on a peaceful resolution. This scandal must not lead to war,”

            Asher placed his hand on Jerimeh’s shoulder and smiled bravely. “I understand your fears, but our father’s wish has always to preserve the Kingdom. I know my brother, he is just and fair. Too just to allow the crime of regicidal infanticide to be punished with mere exile. Lorne will be executed by the laws of our Kingdom.”

            “You cannot know that…King Aron-”

            “Has already sought my council on the matter. King Aedvard will be informed of our decision once we have reinforced our defences along the border, but not a moment before. Aron tells me that you have been given the task of investigation; we agreed that she will be executed on the last day of Summer, which should be sufficient enough time to question her.”

            “What if I discover that it is true? That Lorne’s mind had been poisoned by traitors?”

            Asher shrugged. “Then they will join her on the gallows.”

**

            In times of worry, Jerimeh took to the God’s Hall alone. His chambers were spacious and warm now that the fire was roaring, but he couldn’t help feel separated from his Gods when he knelt down to pray. The statues of Natos and Jivana had become his guiding beacons in troublesome times, and sources of assurance in times of peace. He remembered his father and how he prayed for hours gazing up at the marble carvings of the Angels of Life & Death, begging them for a sign to guide him.

            It was a peculiar thing for Jerimeh, to watch a seasoned war veteran beg solemnly for a higher power to forgive his sins. To him, his father was the first God he’d ever known, and the mere thought that there could be a greater power awed him. He clasped his hands together and pushed his forehead into his knuckles whilst pressing his elbows into the cold stone. Jerimeh knelt on the steps and forced the tears from his eyes. He thought of his father, his mother, his brothers, and his sister, he thought of his wife and his child and his friends, and let the droplets fall to the steps at Natos’ feet. Cold air stung his wet face as he crouched by the feet of Jivana. He thought of Aron, Asher, Lorne and Effei, he cried for his court and his people, and finally, for the Kingdom.

            When he rose to his feet, he gazed around the empty hall. The large stained-glass windows came to life as the burning torches glistened against them. The ceiling was so high that it seemed to blur into the darkness of the night sky beyond it, as if it could stretch on forever into the heavens. A satisfied shudder smothered his skin as he took a deep breath in and exhaled slowly.

            All of a sudden, a loud knock smashed on the doors to the God’s Hall. The banging repeated and Jerimeh hurried as fast as his muscles would take him towards them. Another bang echoed throughout the hall. “Enough, enough!” He yelled. Jerimeh unlocked the doors and pulled them open. Standing on the porch were Sir Jorund and Sir Bethan, panting and leaning over with their hands on their waists. “What on earth is the matter?”

            “Apologies, my lord. We were sent here immediately. We caught an intruder sneaking into the dungeons.”

            Queen Lorne, Jerimeh thought. “Is the Queen hurt?”

            “Not at all, your worship, we caught the culprit and chained them up in court.”

            “Take me to him right away.”

            “It’s not him. It’s her,”

            The King’s Hall was not far smaller than the God’s Hall, though it was made for bureaucracy as opposed to worship. It was a simple building, designed so not to distract the court from matters of business and justice. Its stone carvings were simple curves and floral patterns and the oil paintings that decorated the walls were stills of former kings and famous noblemen who gave their lives to the crown. Wooden benches were formed in rows adjacent to the throne and the more comfortable seating for the royal family. Looming over them all was the witness box which currently held a teenage girl, a few years younger than Queen Lorne herself. Despite the seriousness of the situation, the girl didn’t appear to be afraid; instead her face was a constant eye roll as if her time was being wasted.

            Prince Asher and King Aron were talking to one side whilst Sir Jorund and Sir Bethan joined their comrades to discuss the events. In addition to Jerimeh, Lady Lynda Reynard was also in attendance, though she stood on her own looking around impatiently. She spotted Jerimeh and beamed before rushing over to greet him. Lynda was a woman of thirty-five years with fiery red hair and a layer of freckles across her nose and cheeks. Although she was not known for her height, she was taller than most women and draped herself in finery that added to her presence. For every wrist and ankle there were several bangles, for every ear there were several rings, for every finger a ring or two, and Jerimeh had heard that she even kept more than one man, though he never concerned himself with such mutterings.

            “Thank Natos you’re here, your worship,” she cried with exaggerated relief and wrapped her arms around his neck. Jerimeh used all his strength not to stumble, and felt a searing pain down his back. As she released him, he bit his lip to hide his anger and gave her an amiable smile.

            “What happened, my lady?”

            “Unseemly business- a servant girl was caught sneaking parchments to the disgraced Queen.”

            “Parchments? What was their content?”

            “I am unsure. They were written in Old Antinnan.”

            Jerimeh couldn’t understand that. Even he, who had been taught by the greatest minds in the New World had never learned Antinnan fully. He could read parts, and make sense of some context if he heard it, but he could not write it, and he knew nobody who could. It was an ancient, broken language that had been lost over the centuries. Only those who dedicated their lives to its study could grasp it to the point of writing a coherent message.

            “What use would a note written in Old Antinnan have for a woman who has never even heard it spoken?”

            “That, my lord, is what we are trying to figure out.”

            King Aron and Prince Asher approached him. The King dangled the piece of parchment in front of him for Jerimeh to take. He met the King’s eyes and it was clear that he was expecting Jerimeh to read it for him. Glancing at the parchment did not help him make sense of it until he noticed a pattern of symbols that he’d seen before. He had seen it in an old passage from one of the earliest known copies of the Book of Life & Death, which was locked safely in the God’s Hall’s vault.

            “Can you make sense of it?” Prince Asher asked.

            “Perhaps, but I’ll need time to decipher it.”

            “How much?”

            “A few months at least, your grace. Old Antinnan is one of the most demanding languages to learn. It is so far removed from our common conventions. I imagine whoever wrote this had been taught from birth, or at least has studied it from an early age.”

            Sir Jorund and Sir Bethan marched the servant girl before Jerimeh and the twin brothers. Lady Lynda had taken to her knees in prayer, though Jerimeh knew she was cautiously eavesdropping on them. The girl had a dirty face with two dark brown eyes, and loose trails of brown hair escaped the taut bonnet on her head. Her hands were black as mud and her tunic was covered in filth. She tilted her head to look at Jerimeh and scowled.

            “Kneel in your King’s presence,” Sir Jorund chided and slapped the back of her legs with the flat of his sword. She yelped in pain and fell to one knee, though there was no sadness in her eyes, only fury.

            Jerimeh furrowed his brow. “I know you, girl. Your father is a blacksmith is he not?”

            “Don’t you dare threaten my father you withered old shit!” She screamed – her eyes manic.

            Sir Jorund raised his sword again, but Jerimeh held up a hand and knelt down to look at her. The girl’s pupils were huge and saliva gathered at the corner of her mouth like a rabid dog. He held his finger out and placed it on the flesh between her collar bone and her neck. The girl’s pulse was racing, faster than he had ever felt in his life.

            “This girl has been poisoned.”

            “Take her to the dungeons,” Lynda responded as if she hadn’t heard him.

            “The dungeons? This girl needs a healer! Sir Jorund, Sir Bethan, restrain the girl and we’ll carry her to Torvic. He will know what to do.”

            Both knights looked at King Aron for guidance who turned to Jerimeh. He gave the King a pleading look.

            “You heard the Arkgodson, take her to Torvic and find out what she’s taken.”

            Torvic was one of the few men in Harthelm older than Jerimeh. He was a short, stout man with a portly belly and had a strange piece of circular glass that he gripped between the eyelids of his right eye, which he claimed made him see better, though Jerimeh looked through it once and saw only a painful blur. Unlike Jerimeh, Torvic was completely bald and spoke in a low croak that made every other word he said unintelligible. The knights laid the girl down onto the bed. She was now screaming and squirming so much that Aron and Asher had to assist them so that Torvic could chain her to the posts. She began spitting, which infuriated Sir Jorund who had to restrain his desire to clout her.

            “Crazy fucking bitch,” he growled and raised his fist.

            Torvic pulled the last chain tight and patted Sir Jorund’s forearm. “Whilst I agree it would be easier for the girl to be unconscious, I’d rather measure the effects of the poison before we put her to sleep,” the doctor whispered calmly and Sir Jorund sulked off into the corner of the room, simmering. “How long has she been in this state?” 

            “She was belligerent when we caught her, but not like this,” Sir Bethan explained.

            “And where did you catch her?” Torvic continued talking as he began to mix a concoction from the clutter of vials and tinctures on his desk, which he stirred into a clay pot.

            “In Queen Lorne’s cell.”

            “How on earth did she get in? I ordered to have that cell manned day and night,” Aron boiled. “Who was on duty?”

            “Sir Martin and Sir George, your grace. We found no trace of either of them at the dungeons,” Sir Jorund confessed.

            “Seek them out…go now.”

            Torvic approached the girl cautiously and carefully tilted the clay pot over her mouth, but it missed and splashed on her tunic. “My prince, if you would be so kind,” the doctor gestured to the girl’s head. Prince Asher held the girl’s head still and Torvic tried again, this time filling the girl’s mouth with the murky green liquid, which she had no choice but to swallow. Within a few moments, the girl’s violent thrashing desisted, which resulted in Torvic making a satisfied sound, but his face soon returned to a look of concern.

            “The Draft of Docility…she will be as amiable and subservient as an old dog for a few hours, which should allow the poison enough time to wear off. I dare say the girl will be right as rain by tomorrow, though she’ll have an almighty stomach ache.” 

            “What do you think did this to the poor girl?” Prince Asher asked.

            “I couldn’t say. I will take samples of her blood and measure her heartbeats, but my closest guess would be a concoction. No self-respecting healer would ever put such a harmful thing together, let alone force the young girl to take it. The girl will have more answers for us in the morning, but there is only one man in the city that’d be both capable and willing enough to brew such a potion.”

            “Who do you mean?” Jerimeh pressed him,

            “The Master of the Alchemist Guild…I’m certain this is his work.”

            “Why on earth would the Guildmaster want to hurt a young girl?”

            “I’m sure he had no idea who was the intended recipient, just as I am sure that he would not care. All he cares about is money, and I’d wager for enough of it, he’d tell you to whom he sold the poison.”

Published by beyondthecryptsandcastles

I am an aspiring author from York, UK, and this blog is a place for me to post the chapters of my book; The Cursed King (working title). The Cursed King is a medieval fantasy novel set in the fictional continents of The New World and The Old World and details the lives of characters, rich and poor, old and young, in their quest to navigate their war-torn homelands. I post a chapter every two weeks and absolutely crave feedback (both positive and negative) from readers and writers alike. If you are reading this, then it is YOUR opinion I want, and will also reciprocate with other aspiring writers no matter their genre or content. I hope you all enjoy these chapters and please feel free to send me a message or comment on a post. I look forward to speaking with all of you. Thanks for stopping by!

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