Death of the Doomed
“Why are you so hell bent on getting out of this castle?” Charles asked Sophie on week seven.
“I feel really weird here,” Sophie said closing her eyes. “And it’s getting worse by the day.”
Charles stared at her with questions in his eyes but dared not to say anything. She looked fatigued.
Sophie took a deep breath and opened her eyes. “At first I thought that I needed to adapt to this environment. This is a new place and I’ve always had trouble sleeping in unknown beds. But that little feeling kept growing. I feel like every nook and corner is hiding some imp or monster. Every sound feels like the sound of doom. I can’t stand the dark anymore. And I’m having terrible nightmares. I have never had such nightmares in my life.” Charles felt that Sophie would cry, but she did not. She continued, “This confinement is driving me insane. I’ll die of boredom here.”
Charles heard all this with a solemn face. If he had any misgivings, he kept them to himself. “The empress will be sorry to hear such an account of the castle.”
Charles could see that something was amiss. He had known Sophie since childhood and had never before seen her anxious and afraid to such a high degree. Her eyes were in a state of permanent terror. Charles had suspected it earlier but now he could see that it had worsened many folds.
After taking leave from Sophie, he went straight to Edward. Even the medic did not look in good spirits. When he saw Prince Charles, he composed himself as best as he could and welcomed him.
Charles thanked him for saving Sophie’s life. Edward received the gratitude gracefully and reminded him that the poison was a fake.
“You don’t look so well,” Charles said, “if I may enquire.”
“I assure you that this has nothing to do with my health.” Edward sighed. “My dog just died.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?”
Edward gave a wry smile. “I’m sure Your Majesty is here to talk about something much more important than my poor dog.”
“I’m afraid that Commander Antofurota is not feeling well,” Charles said peering into the man’s eyes.
The eyes shied away, the face was full of sweat. There was no answer.
“Where did you learn to make that universal antidote?” Charles asked. His stare shook Edward to the core.
“I..I,” he stammered, “I have travelled far and wide and have learned many things from many masters.” He wiped the sweat from his forehead.
“I’ll need a list of all the ingredients,” Charles commanded.
“Yes, Sir.” He hunted for the notes in his messy room and handed them to him.
“It says that only a special spoon has to be used to feed the potion into patient’s mouth?” Charles said after reading his notes.
Edward nodded. ‘I don’t need to hide anything,’ he said to himself.
“Do you have the spoon with you?” the prince asked.
The medic silently handed the spoon to him. It was made of a metal which Charles could not recognize.
When the prince left the room, he had left the human in worse condition than he had found him. Charles was sure that something was wrong about Edward. He told the guards to keep an eye on the man.
Instead of returning home, Charles went to see the empress. He was surprised to know that she was in a tri-council meeting. He deduced that it was an emergency meeting. He knew all the scheduled ones.
Charles sent a message to his father saying that he had important and urgent matters to discuss with them. He was invited to join the meeting and was surprised to find a fourth person among the monarchs.
The empress introduced the stranger. “King Philip has sent his foremost expert on poisons to us.” Charles noticed that everyone in the room was tense. The stranger, who had been sitting, stood up and saluted. “Roderick,” he said and took his seat. He was a tall lean man, with big black eyes and visible nerves under his skin.
Charles did not bother to sit.
“When King Philip had visited us last,” Suffle said, “he was impressed to know about the universal antidote. But Roderick here tells us that…” Suffle paused and looked at Roderick.
“Such a thing does not exist. It took us some days to be sure, but we are certain.”
Charles took the news better than the other three had. He was expecting it. He gave Edward’s notes to Roderick and asked, “Do you know what potion this is?”
Roderick’s face got pale and kept losing its colour with every word he read. After reading it completely he composed himself as best as he could and stammered, “This is a very powerful drug.”
“What does it do?” Charles asked impatiently.
“It can do nothing without a metal called-”
“This?” Charles showed him the spoon.
Roderick took the spoon in his hands to examine. His face lost any colour it had and his eyes wildly darted between the prince and the spoon.
Charles said, “I know that this drug needs to be in direct contact with this metal before consumption.”
Roderick stopped and looked at his hands. He wished that somebody would say something, but all four pair of eyes were on him and all mouths were shut. So he gulped and continued, “The victim won’t feel anything for the first few days save a strange uncomfortable dread. With time the fear will turn into hallucinations and the victim will turn mad.”
“But he won’t die?” Natalia asked.
“The pain is too hard to bear. Victims either kill themselves or beg for death.”
“It must have a cure?” Charles asked. He could now see what plan was hatched for Neal and feared the things that could happen to Sophie.
“It can be controlled,” Roderick said, “if the treatment starts in time. But if the victim is too far gone, we can’t do anything. Is someone…” Roderick wanted to ask who was poisoned but was interrupted with a knock at the door.
“Yes,” Charles said ignoring the interruption, “You need to start the treatment as soon as possible.”
“I will need to meet the victim first,” he said, “to access the situation.”
There was another knock on the door. Charles said to the empress, “Please, get her checked” and rushed towards the door. He went out and did not come back.
Roderick, who had not looked at the three faces since he had read Edward’s notes, now saw that they all had the same hopeless expression. He felt like death was in the room and he was the only one who could not see him.
The empress said in a barely audible voice, “Let me escort you to your patient.” And she rose up with too much effort.
“I’ll come with you,” Crysta said.
“I’ll write a letter to King Philip that we will require your services longer than expected,” Suffle said. “I’m sure he will understand.”
The three people left Suffle alone in the room. After about five minutes, Charles arrived and said in an emotionless tone, “Edward is dead. His quarters have been turned into ashes.”
“Was it intentional?”
“I believe it was suicide,” Charles said taking a seat beside his father. “I think he did something without knowing the consequences and chose to die rather than face them.”
“There is nothing now that we can do but wait,” Suffle said. He stood up. “We should go home.”
Roderick was settled in the castle with the authority to order anything he wanted, for his patient or for himself. He had assured the empress that the damage was not irreversible. He also advised everybody against telling Sophie anything about her situation.
Natalia, Crysta, Suffle and Charles had another meeting the next day.
“As far as I can tell,” Natalia said, “someone put the fake poison in the wine, so that Edward can use the real poison.”
“Because the real poison cannot be given secretly without the metal,” Charles completed. “Edward himself could have easily laced the wine.”
“Roderick is positive he can cure Sophie?” Suffle asked.
“Yes,” Natalia reassured. “He said that it will take a few months but she should be as healthy as before.”
“And what about Gaea?” Charles asked, “Or whoever did this.”
“I told you,” Suffle said waving his hand, “I have sent a shadow to investigate.”
“I wasn’t aware that shadows were real,” the prince complained.
“Then I have been successful in the endeavour.”
“And you think that one person can track and capture the culprit?” Crysta asked narrowing her eyes.
“Neal wanted it that way,” Natalia interrupted, “If we send an army, it may disrupt the peace.”
“To hell with Neal and his peace,” Charles said. “Where is he?”
“We thought it best to not know his whereabouts,” Natalia said.
“I know it is Neal’s idea. He always wanted to be away from this castle,” Charles said. “And this tracking and capturing thing may take forever.”
Nobody explained to Charles why he was wrong.
“Crysta has decided to shift to the castle to keep me company,” Natalia said straightening her dress.
“Queen Maya has no problems with that?”
“None that I can’t solve,” the nymph replied.
“I would have taken Sophie to the mountains if Roderick had allowed,” Suffle said.
“She shouldn’t be moved. It will put strain on her brain,” Charles reminded his father.