I felt so out of place at the king’s banquet. I wore a fluffy pale pink dress that according to Tessa, my apprentice, complimented my plain brown hair and eyes. I sat at the table trying not to slouch, because I was instructed not to do so. I had refused the make up the ladies maids tried to get me to wear, the dress was bad enough. There weren’t enough pockets for the supplies I needed to do the job I was hired for. I was a poison master not a lady of the king’s court. I sat at the table with nobles who chatted about the weather and gossip as they sat. No one spoke to me though I heard them whisper about the new comer at their table. There was food spread across the table piled higher than I had ever seen. There were roasts of at least twenty different meats and all sorts of pastries.
I took a small portion of food while watching the servant’s hand out glasses of wine. The servant on my side of the table seemed anxious to be attending to nobles. She carefully choose each glass off of the tray and placed it in front of the nobility which ignored her presence. She eventually came to me and placed the cup in front of me. I nodded my thanks which made her red and turn away. I shrugged and lifted the cup to my mouth. As soon as I took a sip, I realized it was poisoned. The familiar tang of poison lingered on my tongue. I couldn’t help but slightly grimace, of course someone tried to poison me on my first day. Someone wanted to either get rid of me or test my abilities. Either way I would need to identify the poison so I could gadge the treat on my life.
I held my cup to my lips once more pretending to take another sip but I was truly trying to pick up any familiar sent. The smell of the wine was powerful but my training had been intense and taught me well. There was slightest hint of a flower under the grape. Floral poisons were either practically harmless or the complete opposite. My hand started to go numb and I knew I couldn’t hold the glass much longer. I placed it down a bit too quickly and it split onto the crisp white table cloth looking like blood. The lady who was next to me squealed and stood suddenly because some of it landed on her dress.
“How dare you!” She shouted bringing everyone’s gaze to us. I grimiced and felt like cursing but I knew my place.
“I’m sorry dear Lady…” I stood and half bowed to her, “Perhaps I may lend my assistance in removing the stain?” I offered as my head grew light.
“You have done more than enough stranger!” She said before storming away with servants and an anxious noble man in tow. I felt myself turn a deep red as I looked around at my audience. Some were amused and others glared. It didn’t matter what they thought.
“I apologize for the interruption,” I tried to sound calm and collected, “Is it alright if I may be excused?” I addressed the question to the king who sat at the head. He rolled his eyes but nodded. I walked as gracefully as I could manage out of the room before hurrying down the stairs right outside the banquet hall. My quarters where near the entrance to the dungeon. It is common protocol to keep the resident poison master both as far away from and as close as the king as possible. They mustn’t be allowed to poison the king themselves but must be able to provide the antidote.
“What is wrong!” exclaimed Tessa as I hurriedly pushed open the door and stumbled over to my work table that overflowed with herbs and papers.
“Typical being poisoned on your first day of the job,” I mumbled and started mixing a type of herbal tea. “You’ll deal with a lot of those if you continue in this dreaded business…”
“That’s awful,” Tessa squinted, “Can I help?” She watched intently as I mixed the ingredients.
“I’ll let you help when my life isn’t on the line…” I mumbled before downing the entire bowl of the concoction. A wave of exhaustion came over me as the adrenaline died down and the numbness began to give way. “Oh good…” I sighed and sat down on the bed.
“So you’ll be alright?” Tessa asked me coming over and sitting next to me. Her eyes held genuine fear in them.
“Yeah I’ll be fine. I’m just tired,” I stroked her hair as she curled up and lay her head on my lap.
“I’m glad…” She whispered and closed her eyes. I smiled and started to hum a lullaby I learned years ago to comfort myself. I would protect her no matter the cost. Even if that meant dressing up like a lady of the king’s court and risking my life. Tessa is everything to me.