Hammaden sat huddled against the dank walls. Occasionally someone would shift in the gloom, and he would catch a glimpse of their outlines.
‘It seems we are to hang on the morrow,’ one voice said.
‘We are still to die in any case.’ He answered wearily.
‘Aye, but we are still grateful you led the revolt against the king.’
A few murmured ‘ayes,’ trailed the voice’s words.
Hammaden snorted to himself. He had not led the revolt, and certainly had no plans of usurping Korxaan. His fame had risen as a simple herbalist to becoming the king’s apothecary. On the rise to his household, he had gained the ear of both the Quelandi and the throne. It was no wonder they had chosen him to voice their concerns over his tyrannical rule, but then it stood to reason that Korxaan had considered him a traitor. There was no point to the revolt. Korxaan stamped out the rebellion brutally and all the leadership were in the dungeons.
The door rattled and opened abruptly to the light of three torches. He squinted his eyes closed and heard the clank of chains from other prisoners shifting away.
‘Apothecary, get up!’
It was Hedaitu, head of Korxaan’s guard.
Hands circled Hammaden’s wrists and the chains clanked to the floor. They rose to his arms, leading him through the door, tugging him away from the throne room. The course they took became readily familiar, stopping at the door to his work shop. It opened to the scents of hundreds of dried herbs in their baskets, lining the walls. In the middle of the room, the king lay on a bed, made comfortable for him with the use of expensive furs, using his workbench as a base. The pale face beaded with sweat, recognised him, giving a faint smile.
‘You are to treat the king,’ said Hedaitu.
Hammaden leant over him, lifting the furs from the body, unable to find any wound of significance.
‘My injury is slight,’ panted Korxaan, pointing to a shallow gash on his forearm. ‘One of the traitors used a poisoned blade.’
‘Can you heal him?’ Hedaitu demanded.
There was an infection, resulting in a fever, but nothing to worry about.
‘Aye, I can heal him,’ he said truthfully.
Korxaan’s hand snatched his forearm, pulling him close.
‘Do this for me and I will spare your life.’
‘And what of the others?’
‘No, just you.’
Hammaden picked out a yellow vile from one of the shelves and brought it to Korxaan’s lips. The dagger in Hadaitu’s sheath appeared in his hand. The king eyed him suspiciously.
Hammaden smirked and sipped from the vile. The elixir went down smoothly. It was sweet, having been mixed with honey.
All watched him. He shrugged his shoulders, smiling.
‘It is a simple medicine my king, try it for yourself.’ He said returning the vial to his mouth. ‘It is good, is it not?’
Korxaan licked his lips and swallowed.
‘Mm,’ he concurred. ‘Give me more. It is like the mead we used to drink in the army.’
‘I am afraid that I only have enough left to apply to your wound.’
Hammaden tipped the last few drops onto a bandage and tied it into place.
‘This will help you sleep, by morning you will no longer have the fever. He will need to rest now.’ He said to Hedaitu.
‘Take him back,’ the body guard ordered.
The same hands circled his arms once again, leading him lower, into the darker depths of the castle. They shoved the door open and pulled him to his previous spot, re-setting the manacles. The door slammed shut with their exit and the yellow light faded with the receding footfalls.
‘What happened?’ A voice queried him in the gloom.
‘The king had a fever.’
‘I cured it.’
He leaned back against the wall, still able to savour the snake venom on the back of his tongue. It was harmless if swallowed, but deadly if injected in the blood stream. A smile crossed his lips. It should be taking effect about now. Tomorrow, the Quelandi would need a new king.
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