*This post is part of Write 31 Days challenge.*
Edward, Benjamin, and Dennis paced the hallway outside Lady Kaelah’s door. She had been in there for hours, only peeking out once to ask if the Great King had come by. No sounds were heard beyond the heavy wooden door and Lady Kaelah wouldn’t allow anyone to enter, save Pammy, who ran silently back and forth to the kitchens with a large pot of boiling water. Every time the door would crack open, they would strain for a glimpse of what was going on inside, but all they ever saw were piles of books and the foot of the four poster bed.
“Did you recognize them?” Benjamin paused in his step to ask Edward for the second time.
“I don’t know who they were.”
“But it was nighttime, right?” Dennis asked another repeated question as he ran his hand through his straight, brown hair.
“I did not see them coming.”
“Were you not using your gift?” Dennis wasn’t old enough to know exactly how the gifts worked. He had attended both Edward and Benjamin’s Day of Confirmation, but until you had been through it, there was a level of mystery regarding the implication of it all.
“I was engaging in conversation with our sister. My gift was, admittedly, not in the forefront of my mind.” Edward had said this before as well, and yet it pained him to do so again. To his relief, both brothers nodded.
“Well, she can be quite insistent on conversation. That is true.” Benjamin offered.
“Remember when she convinced me to retrieve her handkerchief from that bush after she had put a rock inside it and thrown it at my head? All I did was suggest that her nose had grown…and the next thing I knew, I was dodging her quite adequate pitch. Still, I found my hand bitten by a snake because of it.”
The brothers were in a welcomed fit of laughter after Dennis’ story when the heavy steps of someone walking down the hall made all three of them pause.
The Great King took large strides; his purple robe edged in white fur flowed out from behind him in waves. The crown upon his head was ever so slightly cocked to the left and his usually pleasant face had a dark scowl. All three bowed and honored their king.
“I have met with the Elders. There is much to decide, I’m afraid.” He nudged his head towards the door. “Any news?”
“The Lady Kaelah has given us no word yet,” Edward said.
“Yes, these things take time. Tell me, Edward, do you know who she came in contact with?”
“Regretfully not. Father, if I may, I must confess my fault to you. My foresight was not being used correctly when they came upon us. It is my fault she is in this state. Please forgive me for my negligence.” Edward bowed low again, stifling a wave of emotion. Admitting fault was never an easy thing for Edward, but doing so to the Great King was worse.
“Speak not of it again, my son.” The king laid his large hand on the Edward’s shoulder and the scowl became a knowing smile. “Your gifting does not somehow render you to perfection. All fail at one time or another in whatever gift is offered and accepted. Our every day character is formed not just by our triumphs, but our missteps as well. I am sure Lady…”
The wooden door that led to Lady Kaelah’s room swung open. Her face was flush, pieces of hair fallen onto her face were stuck to her skin, and beads of sweat lined her forehead. The sight of her did not do anything to suggest hope.
Lady Kaelah acknowledged the king with a curtsy.
“Your Grace, I will not pretend that Princess ReAnne came to me under the best of circumstances. After many poultices and tonics, I believe I may have found at least part of your daughter’s plight.”
“Pray, do tell what it is,” the Great King said.
Lady Kaelah led them all into her chambers. Edward breathed a sigh of relief when the shadows gave no indication of unwanted visitors. ReAnne was propped up against pillows on Lady Kaelah’s massive bed. Her color had returned somewhat, but her face was wet with sweat. Her hair had been piled up on top of her head, exposing her neck and some small scratches Edward had not noticed before.
Wooden tables had been brought in, making her room quite cramped, and upon them were piles of books and glass jars and bottles full of liquids, dried herbs and creams, all properly labeled. The books were a mix of old and new, some Edward thought might disintegrate if he tried to touch them. He had never seen Lady Kaelah or her rooms in such disarray before. She picked up two books that had been draping the arm of her lounge chair and gestured for them to sit. They all opted instead to stand, except the king, who walked to ReAnne and held her hand, resting himself at her beside.
“Her fever is still present. We were hoping it would begin to break, but…it persists.” Lady Kaelah gestured to Pammy sitting on the other side of the bed to wipe down her forehead with a wet rag. Pammy dutifully dipped the rag in the water basin, her thick fingers twisting the fabric, releasing unwanted water. She readjusted herself on her stool, positioning her larger body over ReAnne’s small frame. Almost as if protecting her, shielding her from harm, the natural demeanor of a woman who had essentially been her mother.
Satisfied of her patient’s care, Kaelah turned back to her audience. “When she came to me, she was under heavy sedation. How she was awake and in the field to find you, Prince Edward, is beyond me. By the grace of the Provider she did it, for the girl you brought to me was in no condition to be standing.”
Edward cringed at her use of ‘prince.’ They used to be on less formal terms but in the three years since accepting his gift, Lady Kaelah would only address him with the utmost formality.
“I scoured books that only the Order is privy to before I found what it was I needed. I mixed up the concoction – herbs and powders, details I dare not bore you with – and swirled them in water. Holding it under her nose when she exhaled would give the water a taint of color and let me know what manner of poison I was dealing with.”
“Poison?” Dennis glanced over at ReAnne, as if she might die at any moment.
“I’m afraid so, Prince Dennis. According to the wisdom of my superiors in the Order, the water should render to a faint color depending upon the root of what is poisoning your sister. Green would mean she had eaten something, herbal, earthy, not meant for ingestion. Red means she ate rotten flesh. Yellow would mean that she was being poisoned within her own body, her innards turning against themselves. Purple would suggest powers of darkness; someone poisoned her with a poultice or potion. If I could determine where the poison originated from, I could better understand how to treat it. My gifting has enabled me the great ability of diagnosing and treating such things, and still…I am dumb-founded. The most I can conclude is that there was, at the very least, a sleeping agent administered by one whose gifting far exceeds my own.”
“So what color did hers turn, Lady Kaelah?” Benjamin asked.
Though Benjamin had asked the question, Lady Kaelah wiped some sweat off her brow with her sleeve as she turned to face the Great King. “I tested her three times before I could believe it. I consulted all the journals and histories I am privy to. Your Grace…the water turned…orange.”
The Great King’s countenance fell. The three brothers all started to speak at once.
“Wait, what does that mean?”
“You didn’t list orange.”
“I don’t understand.”
Lady Kaelah didn’t answer any of their questions. She kept her eyes on the Great King, waiting for his approval to continue. He adjusted his crown and grabbed Lady Kaelah’s hand.
“You have done well, Lady Kaelah. We need to find out who has done this. And why. I have already voiced my concerns to the Elders. We are not in agreement about what should be done if it is what we dread.”
For the first time in his life, Edward could see fear in the Great King’s eyes. The Elders were the council appointed within the six kingdoms of the Providence Treaty. They helped ensure no decision was made to the unfair advantage of one kingdom. The only exception to this was that Mirias was allotted two Elders over the other five kingdoms only having one. To go behind against their counsel could be seen as a breach of treaty. Lady Kaelah was in a unique position to be in the blood line of Elders and yet her gifting was one that fell under the Order, the healers represented from each kingdom. The Great King seemed more willing to trust her judgment than that of the Elders, as of late. Edward had his suspicions why, but until the Great King offered the information to him, Edward remained on the outside.
“You have my permission to tell what we know of the histories to my sons. And only them.”
“If I can, I will try to wake her, if only to see if she can give us a name or a place.”
“Do so with caution. The last time…” But he didn’t finish. Turning to face his sons, he said, “There is no time to waste. Know that everyone in this room will be sworn to secrecy.”
All three sons bowed to his departure. Dennis, still young enough to unashamedly embrace the king, flung his arms around him. The Great King returned it in kind, a small smile forming on his lips as he stroked Dennis’ head.
“I will do all that I can for her. Do you believe that?” He whispered as Dennis nodded his head. The king put Dennis at arms length. “You are almost a man and things will be required of you during this time that will force you to be one sooner than I would have hoped. Do you understand?”
Pushing out his chest and putting on a sense of bravado, Dennis bowed in perfect form to his father, the king.
Edward stepped forward, fear tipping the scales in his voice.
“Great King, I have had the foresight of a vex within this room.”
The Great King paused, then proceeded towards the door. “For now, I am not concerned with their comings and goings, Edward.”
“But, if the histories are known by them…” Edward persisted after him.
“It will make no difference. I will go appeal to the Elders once more. They may not agree right now, but in time, they will see wisdom.” The Great King acknowledged Lady Kaelah and Pammy once more. He put a hand on Edward’s shoulder and leaned in to whisper in his ear, “Prepare the horses when you are done here and then come to me.” And his robe once again trailed behind him in waves.
All eyes turned to see Lady Kaelah’s intention of retelling the forgotten histories in the possible presence of a vex.
“I could try to drive it out.”
“Prince Edward, your gift is not yet strong enough. Besides, in our foolishness, it is only our peoples who have rid themselves of the knowledge of the histories. Vex are not without the knowledge of it. Ever. They are driven by it.”
Dennis seemed as though his eyes were to pop right out of his sockets.
“But what is there left to learn that my studies have not given to me? The Provider was good. Hazar Maveth was not. The Provider’s people battled Hazar’s Vex. We won. And the great commanders of the armies of the people became the six kings who signed the Providence Treaty. The Elders believe there is one destined to defeat the Vex and we simply are waiting for him to do so.” Dennis couldn’t help but look at Edward as he said this. Everyone in Mirias believed him to be the one who would ultimately defeat the Vex. “Right, Edward?” The youngest of the three brothers searched Edward’s face, but Edward could give no promises. He only had the belief of the people to go by. And it was a weighty burden that rested on his future.
Benjamin gave a reassuring pat on Dennis’ back. “Come brother, let us take a seat. I think we are in for quite a story.”
Finding room for both of them after a bit of shoving, they made themselves comfortable on the chair. Edward opted to stand, arms crossed, perplexed at this turn of events and the last moment with his father. Lady Kaelah nodded to Pammy and she quietly left the room, though the worry on her face showed she did not care to leave ReAnne’s side. Lady Kaelah took her place, running a wet rag against her still fevered flesh as she began to tell the histories.