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The Cobra Lurks

19 Feb

Rumor says that four years ago, a bedraggled and sodden traveller arrived at the castle’s gate.  When he was refused entry, he simply sat outside and waited.  He refused to give his name, and simply sat, as though waiting.  Days turned to weeks, and eventually, the king took notice and summoned him.

When the man arrived in the throne room, he bowed deeply to the king and spoke as though they were in a private meeting.

“Who are you?” The king asked with a raised brow.

“Your majesty, I am Gaspard, the new royal magician sent by the Order to see to your castle’s magical needs. They heard of the treason the former plotted, and of his rightful punishment, and sent me to ensure that you are properly defended against any attacks he might make from a distance.” The stranger spoke with fine manners, and remained bowed until instructed to rise.

Young King Wellish was uncertain what to do at the time, so decided to take the less embarrassing route. “I welcome you with open arms, Gaspard, and apologize for my former rudeness.  None expected your coming so swiftly.” He nodded. “Would you like a tour of the castle?”

Gaspard shook his head as he removed his hood.  His hair was oiled and tied into a tail, and his face was youthful. “No, thank you.  I am exhausted and hungry, and would be little able to appreciate the hospitality of a tour, Your Majesty.” He bowed his head, as though ashamed.

Impressed, the king ordered his squire to lead the man to a guest room, fetch him a hot meal, and send someone along to see to any other needs Gaspard might have.  Wellish looked to Gaspard again. “The former wizard’s tower is a mess.  I can send a maid to tidy it up while you rest.”

“No, but thank you.  It would not be safe for the maid.”

The king nodded, and the squire led Gaspard away.

Behind the new wizard, many wondered at his youth.  Would he be capable enough?

Their answer came a mere month later, while Gaspard was still in the lengthy process of cleaning the former wizard’s tower.  A mysterious man in black arrived at the castle and began to throw fireballs this way and that.  Gaspard heard the magic, and he ran down his tall tower to help.

When he arrived in the castle’s front court, it was half-burned and the infant princess clung to her burned mother.  Gaspard ran and stood between the royal females and their assailant.  His eyes, it’s said, were filled with an ice that could kill a man with a gaze.  As he caught the eyes of the evil magician, he slowly pulled a wand from his sleeve.

“You can’t ever be forgiven for harming a woman and her child.  All the worse for you, who have harmed the queen and princess.”  His words rung out with conviction, and he waved his wand and spoke the Word.

The black-clad magician was quiet and still for several moments before he began to scream.  The scream cut off suddenly as grey crept over his skin beneath his clothes. It was only moments before the man was fully turned to stone, and Gaspard turned to the two royals. “Are you safe?” he asked as he inspected first the child, then the queen.  As his hand touched the queen, he frowned and looked up, then shouted. “Fetch the Physicians!” He murmured something to the queen and took a deep breath, then kissed her for long moments before he withdrew and pressed on her chest several times.  He kissed her again and repeated the cycle.  He began to pant the more he did this, and eventually, the queen began to breathe again.

Her Majesty coughed and gasped for air as the physicians arrived.  The princess stayed behind and stared at Gaspard.

Later, the young wizard was flogged for kissing the queen– three for each time– by a young, inexperienced king who did not understand the wizard saved his wife.

Gaspard bore it with dignity and stolidly refused to beg.

The queen and princess, aware of what he did for them, cared for him as he recovered from his brutal flogging, and the princess soon began to feel for him in a way that any child feels for those they admire, and she often watched him and told him her secrets.  He smiled and laughed with her and enjoyed her innocent company.

He refused to touch her, however.  Any time her hand moved toward his, he would move away from her and distract her hands with a trinket or toy he kept in his tower for her visits.  He almost seemed frightened of what might happen if he touched one of her brown curls or the hem of her dress.

As often as he could, the king tried to send Gaspard away.  Time and again, Gaspard was quick to solve problems wherever he was sent, and returned home earlier than expected, to the glee of the princess and relief of the maids.

The young princess grew into a pretty girl of eight years, and her mother became horribly ill.  The king paid many people to try and save her, but when Gaspard offered, the jealous young king almost sent him away, before his daughter begged Gaspard to once more save her mother.

The young wizard pulled up a chair and began to examine the queen.  His discoveries shook him. “Your Majesty, your wife is poisoned.” He was horribly shocked. “The poison is a liquid that tastes bitter.  The only cures are to vomit immediately after you drink it, or to have a Feuer priest present.” He hung his head. “I can’t save her, but I can protect you and the princess from the same fate.” He hugged himself, then looked into the face of the queen he saved once before.

“I’m so sorry, my queen.” He mourned.  She had been so kind to him in the past.  It seemed beyond imagining that any person would poison her.

After several quiet moments, he rose and looked around. “The poison can only be held in a glass bottle with dark sides.  Light makes its effects lessen, so it’s typically used in dark-colored drinks and imported juices.” His tone, tinged with sadness, was business-like.  He began to search the room, and soon enough, the king joined him.

The poison vial was found beside a tear-stained note.  The queen had an affair with one of the stable hands, who did not know it was her he bedded, and regretted it.  Rather than shame her beloved, she chose to remove herself.  She wrote that the king should marry a young woman from the Feuer nation, and that he should be more kind to Gaspard, and listed several suitable matches for the young princess to marry in the future.

Her words seemed stilted, and without her characteristic mannerisms.

Both Gaspard and the King, upon reading the note, both knew it was not truly a suicide.

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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Semihistorical Fiction

 

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