Chapter 112 - Suspense
They expected Belvare to retaliate, but nothing happened, and that made them even more nervous.
Instead, Belvare left for the better part of a week, and when he returned, he sported a foul mood. It boded ill for those around him, especially those in his dungeon.
For the first time, they saw Robert uneasy of his master. Belvare made Robert torture to death five of the prisoners before he promptly sent for more, but then Belvare’s mood abruptly improved, and they knew why.
The myth surrounding Belvare stipulated that the first full moon of the winter solstice started his passage or his rite of transformation, which would be his ultimate victory or them.
Belvare brought in three women from somewhere and ordered them to bathe, pamper, and massage the girls. He dressed them in the finest silks, and apart from denying them any human food, he catered to their every need. He even refused them wine, coffee, and tea for an entire week.
He had Robert deliver a slim and ancient volume to them that detailed the exact process of the turning, and without the poison, there was no way for them to stop him from achieving his goal.
Belvare equipped them to meet his expectations, with the utmost care. They now knew what the virgins of Andira felt when the ancient priests prepared them for the annual sacrifice.
The evening of Belvare’s ascent dawned, and they felt very near hysteria as Robert escorted them to Belvare’s chambers.
Belvare had his bed removed the day, and rugs covered the floor, along with gold-colored sheets with black silk pillows embroidered in gold thread.
He greeted them dressed in the manner of a high priest in an open-fronted golden robe. Underneath it, a short loincloth covered his nether regions, and his bare chest gleamed with aromatic oils. A gold embossed leather belt held up the simple linen garment.
Golden amulets in the form of snakes wrapped around his wrists, while a golden ankh bound by a leather thong hung around his neck.
Belvare had his hair shorn to the scalp, and despite his natural lack of body hair, he looked more manly than one would think.
He approached them holding a goblet cast from pure gold, and the moment he started walking, they realized something was very wrong. He almost seemed drunk.
“My lovelies,” Belvare gushed with an unnatural lack of self-control, “Drink to my new life,” he ordered and they took the goblet from his hand. Rowan and Alena took turns emptying the cup, taking courage from the wine.
Rowan and Alena spotted the vials at the same moment. Someone had decoratively covered them with leather and gold as if they were ornamental, but there was no mistaking the shape of the containers. Had someone poisoned them? They wondered with shock, but they could tell that the wine contained no poison.
Was this a trick on Belvare’s side? Did he put on this whole drunk act as a pretense to make them think that someone poisoned him to see what they would do? Rowan wondered. Maybe, she decided. Rowan half turned to Alena and then she noticed it.
Robert stood just out of Belvare’s line of sight, but not the Robert they knew. For the first time, his face showed real emotion, and there was no mistaking it. He stared at Belvare with anger, pain, and raw, undiluted hatred. Robert never even realized that Rowan saw him. He disappeared as quietly and unobtrusively as he had arrived.
Rowan touched Alena, showed her only the tiniest glimpse of what she saw, hoping the fleeting image would pass by Belvare. In that instant, they knew they would have one chance to crash and burn or defeat the monster.
They willingly approached Belvare, and he embraced them without reserve. They could sense the way the monster tried to rise past the intoxication.
Alena offered to fetch the wine, and when she filled the cup, she unobtrusively picked up one vial. It was not yet empty. Robert had been smart enough to add only a little of the poison to the goblet he offered Belvare. The spiced wine Belvare drank for this occasion contained herbs as part of his ritual, and it masked the taste. The wine he offered them wasn’t spiced. Alena added the rest of the poison to the wine and counted on the fact that Belvare was beyond noticing.
She offered the wine to him first, and he drank most of it in one gulp. She pretended to drink with her eyes firmly fixed in those of Rowan. Rowan nodded, took the goblet and also pretended to take a sip before giving it back to Belvare, who emptied it to its dregs. The monster in him tried valiantly to flare to the surface but sank unnoticed back into the murk.
Belvare kissed Rowan deeply. She could taste the poison on his lips, and in his mouth. Rowan buried her knowledge and aversion deep inside where she hid her thoughts from him. Whatever instinct warned her and Alena when Marianna poisoned their wine, failed Belvare as it forsook him in a time long past.