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Archive for August, 2018

He sat still. Motionless. Brooding.

The room was quiet though a deafening anger was bubbling under the surface. Restrained, he sat in a state of silence until he heard the anticipated click of the latch as the door was opened allowing a hesitating, lowly figure to enter.

Smelling of stews and spices from the kitchen many floors below she entered the room delicately, asking for permission before every step. The towering doors closed behind her and she found herself within reach of the short trio of stairs leading to the throne, upon which only royalty may tread.

“You’ve had a very peculiar pattern ever since you first came to be in my service. The only thing I can deduct is that you undeniably fear the day you present yourself in a timely manner would be your last on this earth.” He paused for effect. “I think you must think it would kill you to be of even the most minimal of use to this castle much less deliver my afternoon tea at the correct time.”

She looked at him with as if the statement had thrown her from the room. She didn’t answer for some time.

Then – “Lord…”

“No.” He said cutting her like a whip despite his slow and calculated speech. She winced, dodging his gaze and halting her words as quickly. He waited until she dared return her eyes back to him.

“I haven’t had a good tea in a week. Making me wait for something that tasted like burned molasses two days ago would have given me reason to dismiss you.”

“My Lord, I could never be sorry enough. In your infinite mercy to which I am not worthy surely there’s an ounce you can spare for a mourning wife and mother.”

“Mercy. I had mercy on you enough when I drank such a foul concoction.”

“My Lord, you finished your cup. The pitcher even was light when I returned it to the kitchen. I thought surely you must approve…”

“I’ve never tasted anything so awful in my life. It didn’t arrive until after I had my afternoon constitutional. I was so parched I couldn’t help but choke down that grueling mess you called a tea. What have you possibly been using from my cupboard?”

Her eyes melted back to the floor.

“There’s no need to tell me anything that isn’t true” he said with great pacing, “nor waste your time to tell me anything I already know.”

She considered his words.

Speak!”

Her eyes reflexively darted to the ground as if dodging a spear. Though she averted his glare the radiation of the stare remained as visual to her as if he had cast a net over her very mind and trapped her.

“It takes time my Lord. The other women, they don’t let me start my brewing early. It takes time…” she said pleadingly.

“I’m an understanding king. I always have been. But what you have done is an atrocious act upon one of our land’s most sacred traditions.” He paused. “Who are we if not civilized beyond that of our peers?”

He choked, seemingly from his own disdain, for a moment without warning. He worked on containing his cough for several seconds before lowering his hand from his mouth and fixing his stair back on the servant girl. He looked at her pointedly and with purpose, like the tip of an arrow fixed on a quarry. He stared at her bonneted cap carefully fitted onto her head. He noticed despite the lack of any becoming measure to her service she managed the attire over her person with the utmost attention. Not a hair strayed from the decorative boundary of her headpiece and no scrap of skin was visible beneath her collar save for her hands which were void of any dirt or calluses common to peasant women.

“My Lord…” but he cut her through again. This time with more haste and a growing fire that had, until now, been only smoldering below. “A woman of your station, you know doubt are aware, is worth less than the leaves you so carelessly and improvidently destroy during your failure of an effort to conjure me a proper tea.” He choked on another go at the cup that had been set before him, the final threads of steam rising from its surface and dissipating into nothingness.

“I’ll remind you and your entire village from once you hailed the consequence of outlasting my patience. Need you be told again of Cornwall and the havoc my soldiers brought so they might understand the depth of my fury once it has been unleashed? Their people were ablaze with the fieriest shocks of hair one has ever seen. They say their strands of red nearly outshone the sun, but that’s not all that was on fire that day not so long ago. They burned like the common miscreants and waste of lands they were.” Noticing he had come to slouch he straightened himself, rising tall against the back of the throne, allowing him to look down upon her to an ever more intense angle.

“Now… girl… from what lowly place did you come to me?” and he coughed, nearly cutting short his provocation. He looked to his cup to provide relief, took a short sip and launched a cavernous dry cough from the depths of his belly, throwing the cup carelessly as he challenged himself for composure, begging for air. “For God’s sake what tea is?!” he screeched having forbade all sense of restraint.”

“It’s boxby sire.”

With this he stopped, motionless for a second, he studied her as if scanning for a shred of evidence to her truthfulness. “Ah, you conniving idiot. Boxby kills one in an instant. And has the acidity of a hundred…” but his breath was cut short.

“Boxby has no taste once a broth of argis has been consumed. The effect can last for days.” she calmly replied, politely yet with a sense of pride yet unseen since she entered. He looked at her, hand held to his face, laboring short but violent breaths through and around his palm and fingers. He looked at her, searching to make sense of her words.

She continued.

“My Lord,” straightening herself, “three days ago you enjoyed nearly half a pitcher of tea made from a mixture of Cairns roots and your customary blend of exotics from the kitchen. I would have never expected you to take such a helping, but as you so declared, the delay in service meant your tea didn’t arrive until after your constitutional, at which point you were parched beyond reason. Cairns root, in my village, is used to retain elements in the body. Opposite of a cleansing agent it can slow the absorption so medicinal herbs or things of that nature might remain longer in one’s system. The argis from yesterday’s tea would therefor remain for several days beyond the one whence it was consumed. Having no real flavor, it merely ads a thick or sometimes oily texture to any combination of drink with which it is brewed. Boxby, however, has a unique and highly suspicious aroma of course but one cannot detect its subtle hints and toxic elements whilst argis runs throughout.”

She gazed upon him as he sat, head tilted, arms hanging loosely over the sides of the glistening throne. His eyes, though weak, were ablaze as she had never seen. She could detect movement in his pupils as they darted up & down her figure as if seeking to identify her nature. She reached up to her chin, one of her very few movements since first being summoned into his presence, and untied the strings releasing her bonnet. “Of course, Cairns root delays the effects of any remedy or cure, so most people are unfamiliar with the taste as it is counterintuitive to use with argis in the healing process, though I noticed it works the same for toxins as well. So you of course are so impossibly correct, My Lord – boxby is commonly an instant death, though with Cairns root I imagine the full effect can expected to be seen within a very short time nonetheless. It slowed the release of the argis as it is delaying the boxby’s absorption. Should you have dismissed my service after the second day I would have needed an alternative opportunity to serve you the tea with the boxby. But as you said, you are a very merciful Lord, the likes of which we do not deserve.”

Her eyes softened as they slowly inspected the limp body slumped down into the seat. She pulled her bonnet from covering her head, folded it in half, and then half again, and stowed it in her apron. She moved herself a short bit forward to stand on the bottommost step which was enough to put herself at eye-level with the wilted king.

“I’m sorry you have not liked my tea, My Lord. I do apologize for the delay but my drinks are made from various roots which take longer to effectively brew than if they were simply tea leaves. With your permission, My Lord, I will let myself out and return to where I came. We have much work to do there, what’s left of us.”

She gave an abridged version of a formal bow to her majesty and turned, leaving the room without a sound. With a silent breath the last bit of heat left the cruel, fading king and dissipated into nothingness. The sun lowered slowly in the sky and poured boldly through the court’s sweeping windows; the bounding light striking a scattering of fierce strands of hair set ablaze on the floor, fiery as any ever seen, nearly outshining the sun itself.

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