The King’s easy acceptance of the Whitehair’s message had prompted his action, but it was also true he’d grown weary of prolonging the inevitable. He was bored with killing the King. William’s list of complaints had grown tiresome. It had been time to end the charade.
The King’s death, though occurring alongside Ondred’s, wouldn’t be viewed as suspicious but tragically coincidental. The Warrior King was sick and Ondred was old.
Eymas allowed the empty bottle to fall onto the dais where it rolled just short of the drop. He uncorked a third, breaking the silence of the Great Throne Room with a pop. The shadows were furiously swimming now. Was it his imagination or had the fish actually grown larger? Minnows no more; one looked to be as long as an eel.
He’d not handed the King his final dosage but had sent it by a servant in a silver chalice on a silver tray. All things considered, William’s death had been relatively painless, as there was enough poison in his system to lessen the shock of a fatal dose — only a moment’s twitch before the final choke.
Not so for Ondred. The councilor had suffered.
Elymas had watched him struggle from the foot of the bed, enjoying the sight of the dignified councilor working his mouth like a flopping fish. That’s the way it always ended, with a struggle for air. Ondred’s nightly cordial had been laced with enough poison to kill him but not enough to make it easy. Elymas knew his heart would hammer and his lungs would work hard to take in air even as they squeezed shut. He’d felt a thrill as he watched his head toss from side to side.
“Ondred,” he’d spoken softly from the foot of the bed.
For a moment, he ceased his struggles, his hollowed eyes casting about for the sound. Elymas stepped closer and lit his bedside candle.
“Good evening,” he’d said, and tried not to grin.
Ondred had no control of his features. The poison was relentless in its breakdown of bodily functions, and the councilor had begun his undignified dance with death. Urine stained his sheets, his limbs twitched uncontrollably, and a froth of salvia gathered in both corners of his mouth. Soon it would be time for the whimpering, 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 conceded him a certain amount of respect. He’d seen men beg for the blade at this point.
“You made a fool of me tonight,” Elymas continued. “You and your gullible King. Death is a fitting payback.” No response. Ondred’s breathing was harsh. “But I can save you if you ask.”
The councilors eyes were no longer seeking his, but appeared to be looking beyond. His mouth frothed, a fecal odor filled the air, but his expression was peaceful. Annoyed, Elymas shrilled, “Answer me, damn you!”
Slowly, the eyes focused on the Earth Skyll’s face. Elymas watched as Ondred gathered breath, struggling to release the words.
There was breath enough for only one.