Outer Flower, 40

Elymas on the Throne

Tonight was the night he’d stopped poisoning the King. Tonight was the night he’d killed him.

True, the Whitehair’s announcement had prompted his action, but it was also true that Elymas had grown weary of prolonging the inevitable. He was bored with the King’s long list of physical complaints. Death was a wearisome affair, particularly a royal one, and it had been time to end it.

He was confident that the King’s passing, coupled with Ondred’s death, would be viewed as a tragic coincidence. William was sick and Ondred was old.

Elymas allowed the bottle to fall on the dais where it rolled just short of the drop. He uncorked the second, breaking the taut silence of the room with a loud pop. The shadows continued to waver, making new images on the walls as well as the floor. Was that a tattered-sailed ghost ship gliding on the wall? And what was that great beast prowling about on the floor? He couldn’t tell, for its size and outline changed every time he turned his head. Whatever it was, it walked like a cat.

Saar’s bones, this Frennin White was powerful! Elymas knew he should stop drinking now, but his senses were muddled. Also, a rebellion against his better judgement arose within him and prevailed. You have much to celebrate! A bold, shrewd move! Plans coming along! The voices were as unrecognizable as the shapes on the floor and walls, yet he heard them. Elymas looked at the remaining liquid in the glass and tossed it off.

He’d not handed the King his final dosage but had sent it by a servant in a jeweled chalice on a silver tray. All things considered, he reckoned William’s death had been relatively painless as there was already enough poison in his system to lessen the shock of a fatal dose — only a momentary vise-like grip about the heart.

Not so for Ondred. His opponent had suffered.

Elymas had watched his struggles from the foot of the bed, enjoying the sight of the dignified elder flopping like a netted fish. Ondred’s nightly cordial had been laced with enough poison to kill him, but not enough to make it easy. Elymas knew how the heart would hammer, how the throat would slowly, agonizingly swell shut. He felt a thrill of pleasure.

“Ondred,” he’d called softly from the foot of the bed.

The old man ceased his struggles, the hollowed eyes casting about for the source of the greeting. Elymas obliged him by stepping into the spill of light created by the bedside candle.

“Over here,” he said.

One flicker of fear and Ondred regained control of his features. Elymas acknowledged this moment of dignity, knowing it would soon be gone. The poison was relentless in its breakdown of the body, and already Ondred had begun his undignified dance with death. Urine stained the sheets, his limbs twitched uncontrollably, a froth of salvia streamed from his mouth. Soon it would be time for the whimpering, the pleas, the. last minute bargains with death.

“I can save you,” he said. “I have the power.”

Of course, he’d lied. There was no antidote for Lud Sellum. Ondred’s leg jerked under him, caught in a spasm. Elymas watched, conceding him a certain amount of respect. He’d seen men beg for a blade at this point.

“You made a fool of me tonight,” Elymas continued. “You and your pitiful King. Did you really think I’d allow that?” Still no response. Only the old man’s rasping as his lungs filled. “But I can save you if you ask.”

Ondred’s eyes were no longer seeing his, but appeared to be looking beyond. His expression was peaceful. Elymas felt a surge of annoyance and, his voice gone shrill with urgency, screamed, “Speak, dammit!”

Slowly, the eyes dragged back to his face. Elymas watched as the Elder gathered his breath, a last duty to be performed.

“You are a fool,” breathed Ondred.

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