A Poison, a Love, a Death
Tomas holds a silver tray in front of me. A stemmed glass sits in the center of the tray, the blush-pink liquid gently bubbling.
I delicately lift the glass from the tray with my thumb and forefinger and take a sip. The drink is cloyingly sweet, a little spicy… Poison.
Tomas watches me with wide eyes, his forehead creased with the concern that is written all over his face. He’s lovely when he’s worried. “That’ll do,” I say, setting the stemmed glass down on the tray. Sweet drinks are Ingaret’s favorite, and this tastes nothing like the toxic concoction that it is. I turn to Julien. “And the antidote?”
In Julien’s shaking hand a tiny crystal vial shimmers with the viscous metallic liquid. “Here, sire. Please—you’re running out of time before you’ll feel the poison’s effects…”
I shrug and take the antidote from him. My throat is already starting to burn. “And you’re sure that’s all of it?” I ask.
Julien nods. “Yes, sire. That is all I made.” His lips quiver. “Now please—”
I tip the vial’s contents down my throat. The antidote tingles as it slides down, thick and sticky. I cough, clutching my neck. “Pleasant,” I sputter.
“S-Sorry, Prince Iliya. I did what I could—”
“It’s fine,” I snap. “As long as my sister has no antidote, and as long as I survive after subjecting myself to this ghastly concoction . . .” I say, raising my eyebrows, “then you’ve done your job. Dismissed.”
Julien watches me curiously.
I throw the vial to the ground and watch it shatter into glittering crystal shards. “Julien, you are dismissed.”
His gulp is audible, and he bows deeply before shuffling back through the arched doorway.
“Sire?” Tomas says.
I turn to him and raise my chin. “You may go. It is time to prepare for my sister’s long-awaited visit.”
Tomas turns to leave, but I grab his elbow.
He looks at my hand, and his eyelashes flutter. “You didn’t have to try it yourself, Iliya,” he says softly.
I did, to make sure it was right. This is my only chance to rid my life of Ingaret. But I ignore his concern. “Thank you for doing this, Tomas. My sister would do anything to take the crown, even hurt you, and… eliminating her is a necessary evil.” I slide my hand around his forearm. “Soon all will be well.”
Tomas brushes his fingertips against my knuckles. “Soon.” He gently pulls my hand off of his arm and then walks away, his emerald robes fluttering behind him.
I fold my arms across my chest and walk to the dais, shaking my head as if coming out of a daze. “What’s done is done,” I say, slouching into the throne.
“It’s, ah… lovely seeing you,” Ingaret says, tapping her fingers softly against the obsidian tabletop. “Iliya.”
I look up from my hands. “Hmm?”
“You’ve been staring at nothing when I’m right here. Is something on your mind?” She smiles and tilts her head. Her delicate curls slide down her shoulder. “Or is it that you didn’t even know I was here the whole time,” she jokes, “seeing as we’re as far apart as we can possibly get.”
Ingaret sits at one end of the table, and I at the other. “It’s customary,” I sigh.
“You’re my brother,” she replies. “Since when do customs matter more than blood? We haven’t even been served our food yet! Surely the servants won’t mind if we sit closer. I haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Ingaret, I can’t trust you.”
She narrows her eyes and leans back in her chair, folding her arms in front of her. “So why am I here?” she says, any hint of pleasantness leaving her face.
“An attempt to build bridges,” I reply, shrugging.
Tomas brings our drinks before Ingaret can protest and sets a glass in front of her.
“Thank you, Tomas,” she says, nodding to him. She raises her glass, and I raise mine.
I watch as Ingaret drinks.
“Delicious,” she says approvingly. “And sweet. You certainly know what—” Her words are cut off as the realization hits her.
“My throat…” She looks at me with doe eyes full of false innocence, pleading.
“I know; it burns,” I say as she coughs, and I can hear the tightness, her lungs closing with the last breaths of life. “Sadly, there’s no antidote.” I stand and walk toward her.
“Please,” she chokes out. She falls to the ground as I reach her side. She holds her hand across her stomach and heaves, trying to force the poison out. I kneel next to her, and, wrapping my arms around her chest, I press my palm against her mouth and hold her until her body goes slack with lifelessness. I let go, and she drops to the floor.
“It is done.”
Tomas stalks over with two glasses of wine and offers one to me. I grab the stemmed glass and bring it to my lips. “To us,” I say, drinking deeply.
Tomas drinks from his glass. “To us,” he echoes. He pulls my face to his. His lips press against mine, and I’m lost in his kiss. He locks his arms around me in an embrace, and we stand that way, our bodies fitting together perfectly, until he abruptly lets go.
“I’m almost sorry,” he says as he backs away from me and pulls on Ingaret’s arm, effortlessly lifting her to her feet.
She stands. And she moves her head to look up at Tomas.
Tomas’s arms slide around Ingaret’s waist, and I reach out to stop him. What is he doing? Their lips meet.
I drop the glass.
And then I fall. My throat burns; I feel as though I breathe fire with every gasp. “W-What have you done?”
“It was a necessary evil,” Tomas says, repeating my words.
Ingaret walks over to me and grins. “And sadly, there’s no antidote left.”
The world fades.