Fireheart: Part Six
Episode Six-The Poisoned Blade
It had been a week since we interviewed Jen, and so far there had only been one plot uncovered. It was an attempt to murder the King. When he was going about the town, an archer tried to shoot him; fortunately, I was about and was able to change the course of the arrow. Alex had a jolly old time catching the Krawk archer.
It was a bit of a let down, though, because the archer didn’t have any new information, so I just used a weak mind wipe charm and sent him on his way.
Today was a mock match between Sir Jeran and Sir Remus, and Lady Aroma seemed determined to drag me along and make it miserable for me. I had just finished her hair when she began to talk about the past events at the Palace.
She was resolute that I wasn’t the person who smeared the ‘healing paste’ onto her face, although I overheard her telling her mother she had a dream with a Xweetok in it that looked vaguely like myself, bending over her sleeping form and putting the paste on her.
At that I had to smothered a spasm of laughter, but it was a relief not to have Aroma hounding me about the whole event. Instead she just let it go. She, at the moment, was telling me about her two theories of who the person could be.
There was the possibility of a ghost roaming about the Palace, helping people. That actually wouldn’t have surprised me; this place was definably old enough and spooky enough to have ghosts. Her other theory was that it was a guardian angel watching over her. I sometimes wonder where she got such crazy ideas that filled her head to the brim.
When she finally announced it was time to go to the practice field, I was almost excited to watch other people jab at each other with swords. What I would give to fight myself! When we came down to the grand hall, I saw Alex standing about. He beckoned me over. I glanced over at Aroma, but she was busy talking to Lady Prudencia.
“What is it?” I hissed at Alex as I sidled up to him.
“I saw a page boy do something to Sir Remus’ sword. I have pretty good eyes sight, you know; I think he enchanted it or something,” he said, looking antsy.
“Oh, dear. That’s not good,” I said absently, biting my lip, trying to think of a plan. Just then a brass choir, trumpets mostly dominating the rest of the instruments, sounded from the practice field, signaling the start of the duel. I ran to catch up with Lady Aroma, who was bustling to the door leading to the practice fields. I looked back at Alex, feeling helpless. I had no clue how I was supposed to stop the duel without having to explain.
The lady made herself comfortable in the stands, while I stood behind her, trying not to block anyone’s view. It felt awkward standing up there with no one else standing, but it was worth it when the match started; I had a perfect view of the opponents.
They wore loose tunics, breeches, and boots, which seemed to me to be a stupid thing to wear in a duel, but this is Meridell; maybe they do things differently here. The two competitors circled around each other before Jeran lunged forward, his sword aimed for the base of Sir Remus’ neck. The other knight danced away, and they circled again.
Sir Remus came in, and after a series of blocks and parrying, the two ended with their swords locked, now it was a battle of strength. Sir Jeran pushed the Wocky back with his sword; he was obviously the stronger opponent.
Sir Remus gained his balance back quickly. He brought his sword up as if to do a desperate head blow; Jeran expertly brought his sword up to block, but Remus swiped his sword around, wounding Jeran in the leg. It was a serious blow, and not even I saw that feint coming. I doubt Sir Jeran could have either.
I could see from my perch in the stands that the wound on his leg was turning a violent purple, which definitely was not normal. The crowd around me sat in a stunned silence and then all at the same time they stood up and charged onto to the field, crowding around the fallen Lupe, as the guards encircled Sir Remus.
As they went, I vaulted from the stands and left the practice field, entering into the Great Hall. Alex stood just inside and looked at me questioningly while I came to a squeaking halt next to him. “What happened?”
I quickly explained as Gwen and Pippa seemed to materialize next to us. Po landed on Pippa’s head and cleared his throat. “If you’re looking for a page, one is going to the door.” I looked up at the petpet in surprise. “Yes, I can talk; I just choose not to,” he answered the look on my face.
“That’s him!” Alex shouted, racing off after the Mynci who disappeared through the entrance doors. We trailed behind him, huffing from the running. We burst through the door and out to the plaza. Thankfully the main gates were closed, and the Mynci dodged to the left, weaving through the bustling crowd.
We dashed after him, knocking over more than a few townspeople on the way, all of them yelling at us ‘country folk’ as we passed. We looped around the Palace once, which was a very long distance for us girls with our skirts that restrained our strides.
Finally the page jumped into the moat and Alex sprang in after him. They came up spurting out water, but Alex had the Mynci page with his hands secured behind his back.
It was easy getting the page out with Alex lifting him up, but the Lupe was a different story. He may have looked like he was all skin and bone, but he weighed a lot. With Pippa guarding the Mynci page, and Gwen and me hauling up Alex, it was a job neither of us ever wanted to do again.
When he was hauled back up, Gwen and I plopped to the ground breathing hard. Alex just shook himself and went over to the page; he bent down next to him. “What did you do to that sword?”
“Poisoned it,” the Mynci said in a frightened squeak.
“What do you mean poisoned it?” Gwen demanded, shaking the page. The Mynci looked like he was going to be sick.
“We better not have to go get more herbs from Illusen’s glade again; I think I lost five of my nine lives last time. That’s makes only four left! Are you trying to kill me?” Kedmiel complained while glaring meaningfully at me. I just ignored him.
“Well, The Mistress gave me this amulet to enchant the sword to poison the first person to be cut by the blade,” the Mynci said, holding up the amulet shakily, making the chain it was on jangle.
“Is there a way to treat the wound?” I asked, narrowing my eyes at the page and his amulet that caused the poison.
“Yes, all you have to do is draw all the poison out of the blood stream before the end of two days and the victim will be fine. But if not, he will have a slow and painful death.” The Mynci brightened up, obviously thinking that that information would get him off the hook.
“You have to tell us who this Mistress is,” Pippa said gently, kneeling down next to him.
“I’ve only heard her name once,” the page gulped, “I’m not even sure it was right, but it was Cordelia Cromwell.” Then his face went blank and his eyes glazed over. At this point, I was used to this happening, but I still found it annoying.
I used a less severe mind wipe again before saying that I wanted all memories and knowledge with or about this ‘Cordelia Cromwell’ erased from his mind.
We towed him back to the Palace where Alex, along with Po and Kedmiel, took him to the guards’ barracks, and I dragged Pippa and Gwen with me to the library. I was off to the herb section, since it was the only thing I had learned that they still allowed in the Palace, other than reading and writing, which didn’t involve magic. There was a spell that could extract poisons, but I didn’t want to use it.
Reaching the herb section, I began to pull books off their shelves randomly. “What are you doing?” Gwen asked, eyeing me with wonder.
“I have to find a way to get the poison out of Jeran’s blood stream or else he’ll die. King Skarl will tear up Meridell if his best knight dies,” I explained, thumbing through a book’s pages before throwing it over my shoulder, hoping one of the two would catch it.
There was silence behind me, then Gwen cleared her throat. “Um, Enna, when we went through those books, I never found any herb that could do that. You’ll have to use your magic.”
“What?” I shouted, whipping around and facing them.
“It’s the only way. The Mistress will have taken her first victim if you don’t, and without Sir Jeran, King Skarl is greatly at risk,” Pippa said, backing up Gwen.
“We’ll see what Alex thinks,” I said, determined. The risk was too high; I would be caught and executed for sure.
Alex agreed with Gwen and Pippa, even Po and Kedmiel did. Alex brought in chivalry and Kedmiel and Po just stood and nodded like sock puppets. The next day the news about Jeran’s state came to Lady Aroma when I was cleaning her sitting room.
Lady Aroma and Lady Prudencia were talking, and from what they said, it seemed Jeran was getting worse by the hour. Hearing the news, I made up my mind. I had to help, and I was the only one that could.
The physicians were applying pastes and ointments in a frantic manner, probably making the knight worse than better; the chemists from the alchemy laboratory were making him drink odd concoctions that turned his blue fur lime green or lemon yellow. (Because apparently alchemy wasn’t magic, it was science! Yeah, right.)
People filtered in and out of the room and everyone seemed to have permanent frown lines on their face. I knew the spell to use; it was one I learned from the Mages in the Lost Desert. I had to extract the poison from a fresh wound and put it in a bowl before heating it and evaporating it into the air, where it turned harmless.
Gwen supplied me with a spare wooden bowl from the kitchen while Pippa gave me a cloak to disguise myself. Alex told me of a secret passage up to the floor Sir Jeran’s chambers were on and gave me a knife, while Po and Kedmiel kept a watch wherever they thought would be helpful.
Night finally came over Meridell, and I pulled the soft gray cloak around my shoulders and set out from my room. The Palace was deserted and the secret passage was clear of the sentries who stalked the corridors. I eased open the camouflaged stone door and stepped into the hall, carrying my Wizard’s Fire in my palm as light.
I crept down the hall, waving to a silent Kedmiel posted in a potted plant and Po on a rafter above my head. The door was unlocked, and I slipped into the bare sitting room which had been converted into an armory. I gulped, looking at the axes, swords, and other weapons mounted on the walls and on racks around the room. ‘Cheery place,’ I thought.
According to gossip from the people who had been to see Jeran today, his bedchamber should be the door straight across. I felt like a thief creeping across the room and trying the latch to the door. It squeaked open and I poked my head. There was a giant four poster bed in the room and a sleeping form on it.
I crept over and looked down on him. My heart did a back flip; he looked so peaceful, even though his fur was bright orange, more dead than alive. I bit my lip as I picked up his paw and nicked it with the knife Alex gave me. “Sorry, Jeran,” I said as I did so. I wiped the knife on my cloak before sliding it back it its scabbard.
Next I produced the wooden bowl from under my cloak and set it next to his paw. I held my hands out and said the spell. “Poison that is that bane of this knight, exit from him this night.”
A thick purple liquid began to stream up from the tiny wound and into the bowl; it looked like a miniature upside down waterfall. After the flow slowed and then eventually stopped, the Lupe seemed to sigh in his sleep and his orange fur began to turn blue again. The chimes outside struck one in the morning, I knew I was running out of time.
I held up the bowl with both hands and said a heat charm, “Heat of the earth, enter this liquid and let it join the air and sun.” The wood began to grow hot until it was burning, but I knew it wouldn’t hurt my paws. The bowl was empty when I looked in it again.
Then a voice came from the corner of the room. “What are you doing?” I turned to see Lisha, Jeran’s little sister, standing in front of a chair.
‘Of course there would be someone watching him! You stupid idiot!’ I thought, beating myself up in my head.
Dropping the bowl - I didn’t need it anymore - I sprang out of the room. “Hey! Come back!” she called, beginning to run after me. I sprinted out into the hall, with Po and Kedmiel giving me weird looks as I passed.
I had never run so much in my life until I came to Meridell, I can tell you that much. Dashing for the end of the hall leading to the main staircases, I could hear Lisha behind me. She was fast for someone so small. “Guards! Guards!” she shouted, a clanging came from the landing, and Derek appeared at the end of the hall.
I ran into him, making him crash to the ground as I scrambled up and to the right staircase. There were guards coming up and guards behind me, “Stop! We have you surrounded!” Lisha said in a very commanding voice.
‘Not yet, you don’t,’ I thought as I swung over the railing and down to the staircase below. I ran into the hall, past Lady Aroma’s door and to the servant’s staircase at the end. I could hear the guards catching up behind me before ducking into the stairwell, and going down the flight of stairs.
The kitchen door stood open and I slid in, racing past Gwen who opened the hole in the wall that lead to the trap door in Aroma’s closet. I sped through the door, waving and smiling at Gwen as I flashed past. She slammed the door shut just seconds before the guards came in.
I ran though the passage and clambered up the ladder. Heaving open the trap door and slipping into the closet, I caught my breath as I shut the door. I listened, silence. Stealthily I moved out of the closet and into the sitting room, pressing my ear to the door before slipping into the hall.
No one was there. I sprinted down the hall, across the landing and into the library. There was an old staircase at the back that I tramped down and into the servants’ quarters. Racing to my door and shutting it behind me, I leaned against it. I was safe.
To be continued...