Poison Eater (1)






Poison Eater

K. Killworth








Prologue

The Roseworth Queendom is a magical place of magic users who can control the elements and is ruled by those immune to toxins, known as poison eaters. Unfortunately, the poison eating gift has been lost for eons. Not even the royal family is safe from such devastation, for the current queen and generations before her lack the gift.

She, Queen Tiana, had ordered a hunter to kill the princess out of fear of her stealing her crown. She promised that he would be rewarded heavily for his trouble as long as he brought back her heart. He brought her deep into the woods so nobody shall witness her fate. However, when it came time to drive the knife through her chest, he found himself unable to go through with it. She was innocent and only seventeen in age. He told her to run far, far away, so the queen will never be able to find her. He had brought a deer heart for his evil queen instead.

The hunter brought the heart, expecting to be rewarded in gold, an estate, or even a noble title, but the queen had other plans. After placing the heart into an ornate chest decorated with gold and rubies, she retrieves a matching dagger.

"The people will riot if they hear that their dear princess's killer had gone unpunished," she claimed before piercing his heart.





Chapter One

Roseworth Woods

"She looks like she's on the brink of death."

"Hush Allison," Alessia shoos her younger sister out of the room. "Tend to the stew, she's going to be very hungry when she wakes up."

Alessia had found a girl around her age in the woods asleep. Because of the deer in front of her, she almost shot the girl. Thankfully the arrow only hit the tree she was resting on. She is very pretty with deep black hair and ice-blue eyes and a pale complexion.

The girl is resting in Alessia's room. Alessia is steeping tea for her, but she expects it to be cold by the time she is able to drink it.


Of course, the tea grew cold. It has been sitting for twenty minutes anyway. Alessia stands to check on the stew, but just as she gets to the door she hears rustling from the bed. She turns and sees the girl sitting up.

"Oh, hello," she says to the girl. "How do you feel?"

"Tired, but otherwise okay. Where am I?"

"You are at the Elrod cabin in Roseworth Woods. Do you have any family nearby?"

"I do, but I can’t go back home."

"Then you may live here if you like."

"Thank you, what is your name?" The girl asks.

"Alessia. My younger sister, Allison, is preparing stew. What is yours?"

"Mine?"

"Your name."

"Oh, right, it’s Mabella."

They both get to know each other until Allison calls Alessia to dinner. Alessia assists Mabella in standing up, despite Mabella's protests.

"Why didn't you get me when she woke up?" Allison pours the stew into three bowls instead of the usual two.

"She just woke up, and someone had to watch the stew," Alessia fills three glasses with water and sets the table. "Her name is Mabella."

They all sit at the table and eat their food. Allison spoons some of the stew into a bread roll.

"Is this beef?" Mabella asks before taking a bite of the potatoes.

"Maybe," Allison stabs a piece of meat with her fork.

"What do you mean "maybe?""

Alessia rolls her eyes, "we forgot to label the meat after our last hunt, so this may be beef or venison, possibly bear."

"Oh, alright."

Mabella gathers the used bowls, "I can wash the dishes."

"What? But you are our guest," Alessia attempts to take the dishes from her hands, but Mabella dodges her. "I will clean them."

"Nope!" Mabella runs to the stove so she may use the hot water.

Alessia sighs, "then I guess I will sweep the floor. Allison, clean the table."

"Yes, sister."


"Alessia, having taken the sofa and leaving the bed for Mabella, rolls in her sleep until she eventually falls onto the wooden floor. In standing, she realizes that Mabella is not in the bed, but rather in the kitchen.

"Mabella, what are you doing up?" She sits next to her at the table. Mabella had made herself some tea and is sitting in the dark without a candle. Luckily, the moonlight is just bright enough that she can see what is in front of her.

Mabella sips her tea, "I could not sleep, too many thoughts."

"About how you got here?"

"Yes."

"How did you get here?"

Mabella takes a deep breath. That, how she got here, she had not processed yet. It is still hard to believe. Her own mother had declared her execution, yet she is still alive. "My mother, the queen, attempted my death. She ordered a hunter to do the deed in these very woods."

The fact finally sets in, and Mabella's eyes start to water. It is a good thing it is so dark, or else Alessia would notice.    

"I'm sorry Mabella, or Princess Mabella," Alessia awkwardly chuckles.

"The hunter couldn't go through with it. My own blood wanted me dead but a stranger couldn't," her voice starts to tremble. "I almost wish he did."

Alessia comforts Mabella, holding her in a tight embrace and allowing her to sob all she likes. She strokes her soft, dark hair, "it will be okay, love. We can get back at her eventually."

"No," Mabella sniffles. "I just want to move on."

"If that is what you wish," she kisses Mabella's cheek before pulling away. "We better get to bed, we will be traveling to the market tomorrow. We will need to find you a few fitting outfits."

Mabella nods in response, still a tad teary. Alessia leads her back to the bedroom.

"Why don't you take the bed? I doubt I will be able to sleep either way," Mabella suggests.

"No, you are the guest here-"

"Oh, again with the guest thing?" Mabella sighs dramatically, "we both can take the bed. Good?"

Alessia rolls her eyes, "alright fine. Only for you, your highness."

Mabella giggles at Alessia's great sarcastic tone.


"Allison, I need you to watch the house while we are gone. Got that?" Alessia turns to face her sister, but she is playing with a small white kitten. "Allison, did you hear me?"

"Yes yes, watch the house," she picks up the kitten. "Can we keep her, sister?"

"Alright, feed her some of the milk in the icebox."

"Thank you!"

Alessia waves goodbye to her sister as she turns back around. Mabella takes her arm as they begin walking, smiling at the ground.

"What," Alessia starts and Mabella begins to giggle, "is something funny?"

"You are a good sister, Sia."

"Hardly, but Sia?"

"Yup, that is what I am calling you."

Alessia laughs, "what for?"

"You gave me a nickname, so you get one too," Mabella smiles brightly, ear-to-ear.

Alessia laughs harder, almost cackling, "I called you 'your highness,' it is hardly a nickname," she flicks Mabella on the head. "Bella sounds much better!"

"Mmm, yes, it does," Mabella hums and looks at the sky. "What kind of clothes should we look for?"

"Anything you like."

"That is going to be a slight challenge."

"Hm?"

"I've worn maid clothing nearly my entire life."

"Why? Aren't you the princess?"

"Yes, but my mother never really liked me. Though I never expected her to try to kill me," Mabella rests her head on Alessia's shoulder as they walk. "It only got worse after my father's death."

"Hm. I still can't see why you don't want revenge."

"I don't know, I guess I just don't see the point in vengeance on someone who was too cowardly to kill me herself."

"Ha."





Chapter Two

Rosary Hill Market

"Princess Mabella, welcome to Rosary Hill Market!" Alessia gestures to the marketplace with her free arm, their arms still joined together. "We will need to find you at least two pairs of pants, and the rest can be whatever you desire."

"Pants?"

"Yes."

"I've never worn pants before."

"Well, they are very comfortable."

"Hm," Mabella hums a sweet toon as they walk through and observe the stalls. "Are we really only here for clothes?"

"Well, for the most part," Alessia stops at a stall filled with hunting gear. "These trousers are nice."

"They have so many pockets."

"The more the merrier, Bella," Alessia alerts the clerk. "What are the measurements for these trousers?"

As Alessia discusses sizing and prices with the clerk, Mabella spies Countess Adelaide. A noble lady who knows exactly who Mabella is, "excuse me, do you sell cloaks? Cloaks with hoods."

"Don't you see I am speaking with a young lady already?" The man scolds, causing Mabella to become more panicked.

"She is with me, it is fine," Alessia defends. "Do you sell cloaks with hoods?"

The man passes over a dark, forest green cloak, "that, along with the trousers, will be 10G"

"Thank you, sir," Mabella hurriedly throws on the cloak and hood, hopefully, quick enough that Lady Adelaide did not notice her.

"Are you really putting that on now? It's blazing outside," Alessia takes Mabella's arm again.

"A noble lady is at the stall over there," Mabella glances in Adelaide's direction. "She knows who I am and could easily tell my mother that I am alive."

"Oh," Alessia mutters before pulling Mabella into a tent. She walks up to the woman, "do you have any daggers? I need two dull and two sharp."

"Daggers? What do we need daggers for?"

"Well you need some form of protection," Alessia releases her arm. "Look around, just don't leave the tent."

Mabella nods in response. She spots a stand full of colorful teacups, vivid red, green and yellow. The yellow ones are her favorite, she has always loved the color.

Finally, Alessia is done with the clerk, "I'm sorry I took so long, she had to dull the knives for me. They can still be dangerous, just not as much as the sharp ones."

"It's okay, I was looking at the cups."

"The teacups?"

"Mhm."


With their arms now conjoined again, they migrate towards the food section of the market.

"Are we actually buying food?" Mabella looks at all the food. There are many delicious meals made of chicken, beef, and pork.

"Might as well, or else we'll be starving by the time we get home."

Mabella spots a stand with what appears to be chicken glazed with an orange sauce. "Sia, look," she points at the dish. "Let's check that stall out!"

She drags Alessia by the arm before she could answer. "Excuse me," she politely says to the man, "what is this dish?"

"Roasted duck with bigarade sauce."

"Bigarade sauce?"

"A bitter orange sauce. Two plates are 4G."

"Mabella turns to Alessia, "does that sound good?"

Alessia smiles and nods before handing the man the money. "I've never had bigarade sauce before, but it sounds delicious." The man passes two, fresh plates of food to the girls.

"Thank you!"


"Oh goddesses, I'm full." Mabella hugs her stomach, "but the duck was tasty."

"It was," Alessia chuckles. "So, do you like teacups or something?"

"Not particularly, but they were more interesting than the weapons."

"Ah."

"I love the color yellow, though."

"Good to know."

"Hm?"

"Oh," Alessia plays with her glove, "Allison and I are going on a trip in two days. Because we didn't know that you would be with us, we only have enough gold for the two of us. Unfortunately, you will have to stay at the house, so I thought about bringing back a souvenir for you."

"Oh, okay," Mabella sips at her water.

"I'm surprised, you're not upset?"

"I enjoy solitude on occasion, so I will be fine. How long will you be away?"

Alessia grabs Mabella's hand, "only a few days, less than a week. Are you sure you will be good all alone?"

Mabella nods with a reassuring smile. She had been alone for most of her life already, surely she can handle herself a little longer, right? I mean, a few days are nothing compared to twelve years.


"Hey, love?" Arm in arm, Alessia nudges Mabella's ribs delicately with her elbow, "Would you be up for training tomorrow?"

"Training? What for?"

"With the daggers, well, the dull ones. It will be more of a test really, just to see what you know."

"Yes, as long as we don't use the sharp ones."

"Of course, we wouldn't want a scar on your flawless complexion," Alessia leans to kiss Mabella on the cheekbone and Mabella's cheeks flush.

"Sia!" Mabella giggles playfully as Alessia continues to kiss her cheek, "stop, what if somebody sees?"

"Let them see, I am doing nothing wrong," Alessia smiles proudly as she retracts from Mabella. "To them, I am just being affectionate towards my close friend."

"Ah, yes, I guess that is how it seems." Mabella eyes Alessia with curiosity. 'To them,' she said, is that not what it was to her? Just affection for a close friend? It is true: they are close friends, even after only a few days, but this doesn't feel like something that "just close friends" would do. However, Mabella pushes the questions into the deepest caves of her mind and attempts to focus on something else. They are almost home anyway.

"So where are you going?"

"Huh?"

"For the trip."

"Oh, Lake Cyanide. Every year the town hosts a great celebration for Queen Carina's birthday. There are many games and shops there. Hopefully, I can take you next year, I think you will like it."

"Why do they still celebrate her birthday? She is long dead. Is it not insulting to the current queen crowned?"

"She was the last queen with a poison eater gift. It was very powerful, she could eat the deadliest poisons. However, as she aged, the gift grew weaker. She drank some hemlock tea and was found dead in her study. Her daughter, only fourteen, had to take the throne. She was the first queen to be born without the gift, and unfortunately, I doubt we will see the last any time soon."

"I wonder why the goddesses took away our gifts."


"Because the Goddess Calysta can see into the future, many believe that she saw Queen Amandine betraying her. As a result, she never gave the gift to her. As a punishment or a precaution, we have no idea."

"Hm," Mabella leans her head onto Alessia's shoulder. "Oh look, we're home."

Alessia laughs, "so enthusiastic, Bella."

Mabella rolls her eyes, almost falling asleep on Alessia, "I'm exhausted."






Chapter Three

Queen’s Castle

"Your Majesty, Countess Adelaide requests an audience with you."

"Yes, she has been waiting for hours. Tell her to go home because I am grieving."

"She says that it is urgent."

Queen Tiana sighs heavily, as she finishes her wine. "Allow her in."

As Countess Adelaide enters the queen's chambers, Queen Tiana gestures to the chair across from her.

"My queen, I apologize for interrupting your grieving, but I believe you have a right to know."

"Know what?"

"Princess Mabella is alive. I saw her in Rosary Hill Market. She was with a girl, Lady Hannah's eldest daughter."

"What? You're lying." Queen Tiana goes to sip at her wine until she realizes her glass is still empty, "maid. Fill my glass, and fill a second one for my guest," The poor maid obeys without question.

"Fortunately not, your majesty. Your daughter is alive."

"Hm," her Majesty gulps half of her now-filled glass. "First Lady Hannah fraternized with and killed my husband, and now Alessia kidnapped my daughter. What’s next, Allison comes for my head? I might as well arrest her too, there is no doubt that she will end up betraying the crown as well."

"The Elrods are an exceptionally offensive family."

"Indeed."

"I followed them, the

"I believe you are right, Duchess Adelaide."


The young maid hurries down the hall of the maid's quarters, searching for her friend's room.

Finally, she finds the room and bursts through the door, "Susan!"

"Clara! I swear, don't do that," Clara had startled Susan, it happens much too often.

Clara quietly apologizes before whispering, "I have wonderful news."

Susan closes the door, "why are you whispering?"

"Princess Mabella is alive," she grabs her friend's hands, "it is a miracle!"

"Didn't the hunter come back with her heart?"

"It must have been from somebody else."

"But how do you know?"

"Adelaide saw her with Lady Hannah's daughter, Alessia, in Rosary Hill Market."

"Oh, goddesses."

A knock on the door rings through the room, "orders from the queen! We are to collect poisons for the Roseworth woods and bring them directly to her Majesty."

"Hm," Susan hums as she and Clara put on their gloves. "What do you think she needs the poisons for?"

"To kill the princess, probably."

"Right. So are we actually going to give her poison?"

Clara rolls her eyes, "what else would we do? She would have our heads."

"Alessia lives in the Roseworth Woods, right? Why don't we find her? Surely she would know where Princess Mabella is."

"I hope so."


As Susan picks some deadly nightshade, Clara is distracted by the thought of finding the princess. She looks all around her every few seconds, hoping for her to appear.

"Relax, Clara," Susan places the many plants in her bag. "She isn't going to come out of nowhere."

Clara sighs, "I know, I know." She places the few berries she picked into her bag, "I just hope she is really here. I can't imagine Queen Tiana ruling for much longer: she is too cruel."

"I bet Princess Mabella is just as cruel as her mother. How can she not be?"

"But her father was kind. If her mother’s cruelty spread to her, wouldn’t her father’s heart?"

Susan rolls her eyes, "you are new, Clara. You have not met her Highness, I have. She never spoke, and when she did, she pushed everybody away. Us maids were nothing but kind to her. She didn't even have a reason."

"She did, though. She is royalty."

"And that gives her an excuse to be rude?"

"No, but she was forced to play a maid when in reality, she is the heir of Roseworth. It must have caused her to build up some anger and resentment. Not to mention, you only became a royal maid three years ago, correct? I’m sure some of the maids tried to gain something out of her. It happens all the time with the head maids, remember?"

"That could be true, but it is still no excuse."

"No, I guess not. Though I would still prefer her over Queen Tiana."

"Would you? She has no experience, no teaching, that is not something I would want in a queen."

"What would you want in a queen?"

"I would want her to be blessed by the goddesses, for her to have the poison eating gift, but I doubt that will happen now. How long has it been now? A few thousand years at least. I do not think poison eating willever be restored at this point."

"At least we still have the elements."

"Sure, but for how much longer?"

"Susan, the elements were a gift from the goddesses for giving us insufficient land, they will not leave us. Poison eating is a blessing."

"Maybe it will, if we disrespect the goddesses enough."

Clara laughs, but when she thinks about her friend’s words, she wonders if that is why the blessing was taken away. What if Queen Carina, or even Queen Amandine, disrespected the goddesses? Though she may never know, she can not help but wonder. Susan continues to pick poisons, this time she picks buttercups.

"Will you tell the queen that I am unwell?" Clara starts to assist Susan’s buttercup picking.

"What for? I am not lying to the queen for no good reason, she would have our heads for even considering lying to her."

"I want to find Princess Mabella. I can’t do it if I am in the castle working for her Majesty."

"Fine, but you owe me."

Clara nods as thanks, "I will come back to the castle with you, but only to find out what she plans to do. She is always foolish enough to write her plans in a notebook without locking it away."


Clara knocks before entering Queen Tiana’s chamber, "Queen Tiana, your Majesty, I present the poisons picked today by my fellow maids and I. We have brought back heaps of deadly nightshade, buttercups, water hemlock, white snakeroot, and elderberry."

Queen Tiana sits on her sofa, drinking yet another bottle of wine while writing in her journal. White this time, in a large glass while in her black nightdress. Countess Adelaide drank too much wine that morning and spilt the deep red wine onto her Majesty’s white, silk gown.

"Place them on the table." The queen swallows the last of her glass, "fetch me another bottle, girl. Red, and clean this room when you get back."

Clara nods before grabbing a bottle from the kitchen. However, when she returned, the queen was fast asleep, with her journal beside her. So, she does what any sensible person would do: read the queen’s diary. As expected, she wrote out her entire plan, sort of. Queen Tiana’s writing is just a load of drunk babbling and scribbles, she could only read the words "poisoned apple" and a few insults directed at an unknown person. Clara sets the book just as it was before and begins to clean. She just needs to get through the rest of today without anyone suspecting her.


The next day, Clara was already long gone. She might have already found the princess, or she might still be searching for her in the humid woods. Susan and another maid walk to the queen’s chamber. The other maid had seen Clara running out of the castle, so Susan was forced to fill her in. They are about to inform her majesty of Clara’s "illness."

"Isabel and I must speak with her Majesty immediately," Susan says to the queen’s guard, "it is regarding her maid, Clara."

The guard announces their visit to Queen Tiana, and she allows them in. "What about Clara?"

Susan clears her throat before speaking, "the poor girl has fallen ill. She was the one to gather the most poison, it must have seeped through her gloves."

"Hm," the queen, drinking some ginger tea, raises her eyebrows. "Such a shame, she was truly my favorite maid."

"Forgive my interruption, my Queen, but she is not dead just yet. She is only ill, I’m sure it is early enough to save her," Isabel pipes up.

"That may be true, fine then, go. Fetch one of the royal physicians, see to it that she receives the best care."

Both the girls start to head out, but Queen Tiana stops Susan, "you, what is your name?"

"Susan, your Majesty."

"Alright Susan, after you show the physician to Clara’s bedchamber you will serve in her place."

"Of course, my Queen."


"What was that? "I’m sure it is early enough to save her." Are you trying to make our job harder?" Susan whispers as she scolds Isabel.

"I’m sorry! It was just so wrong that she didn’t even want to know if it was too late, I’m sorry!"

"Whatever, let us hope we can get the doctor to lie as well."

Isabel nods.

"You go grab the physician, I will wait outside Clara’s bedchamber."


The physician approaches Susan, "is this her room?"

"Mhm, but I warn you, it is bad."

"I expect it to be."

Susan follows him into the room and locks the door behind them.

"Well this is

She awkwardly laughs, "yes, about that. She is actually out looking for the princess."

He looks at her like she is crazy, "Princess Mabella? She is dead."

"No, she isn’t. She was seen by Countess-

"Okay, if she isn’t here, what should I tell the queen?"

"Tell her that Clara will need daily checkups by you, and you only."

"Why? What’s in it for me?"

Susan sighs, "I cannot promise anything, that would be up to Mabella, but if Clara finds the princess we will return her to the castle. Not as a princess, but as queen, and will need a medic on our team."

"Fine, I will do anything to get this bitter woman off the throne."






Chapter Four

Cottonmouth Plains

Mabella dodges Alessia’s attack, swiftly and cleanly.

"You know more than you let on, your Highness."

"I can dodge, but I don’t know how to attack."

Alessia laughs, "not yet, but you will."

Alessia taps Mabella’s chest with a dull blade, as if she were stabbing her.

"Ah, well I’m dead."

"Ha," Alessia sips from the cantine then hands it to Mabella. "I know I have asked you nearly a million times now, but are you sure you will be fine on your own?"

"Yes, I will be okay. I can handle myself for a few days."

"I don’t doubt that, I am just worried that you will be lonely."

"I will have Allison’s kitten to keep me company, I will be fine."

Mabella sits on the ground in the tall grass. As Alessia puts the dull daggers away in her bag she warns Mabella to be careful, there are cottonmouth snakes all around, it’s called the Cottonmouth Plains

"Are you ready to go?"

"Mhm," Mabella stands up, but Alessia hears something in the woods, "what is it?"

"Hush," she says as she pulls out the sharp dagger.

A short and slim girl wearing royal maid attire exits the woods and tries to approach the two before she hesitates because of Alessia’s knife.

"Woah, hey- I’m not here to hurt anyone."

Alessia doesn’t move, waiting for the girl to dare to get closer so she may strike her, "you are wearing royal maid attire, how do I know you aren’t here on Queen Tiana’s behalf."

"You don’t, and you won’t, because I cannot prove that I mean no harm."

Mabella walks past Alessia and up to the girl, "what is your name, and what do you want?"

"My name is Clara, and I want you to take your rightful place on the throne."


Clara cleans the pots and bowls that were used for their porridge breakfasts. She had slept in the guest bedroom that Alessia and her sister were preparing for Mabella, though Mabella didn't mind. She said she prefers to sleep with Alessia anyway. Alessia still doesn't trust her, mostly because she is from the castle. She wanted to force her to leave, but Mabella convinced her otherwise.

"I hid your daggers under the bed, there is also some gold," Alessia whispers to Mabella. "Just in case."

Mabella nods, taking Alessia’s hands, "do not be worried about me, I will be fine." She kisses Alessia’s head, "now go and enjoy your trip."

"I wish you were coming along instead of staying home with someone untrustworthy."

Mabella drags Alessia into the hall so Clara will not see.

"Sia, I will be okay, there is nothing to worry about," she pulls Alessia close. "Have fun on your trip, and don’t forget to bring me a souvenir."

She gives Alessia a soft and sweet kiss on her lips.

"Bella," Alessia hugs Mabella and holds her in a loving embrace for a few moments before pulling away. "You’re right. I will see you again soon, please be safe."

She kisses Mabella one more time before leaving with her younger sister.

Mabella returns to the kitchen to sweep the floors, but Clara tries to stop her.

"You shouldn’t sweep, your Highness. You are supposed to be crowned soon."

"I do not want to be crowned, and even if I were to be, I am not yet."

Clara sighs, "fine, but please leave the heavy duties to me."

Mabella nods and finishes sweeping.


Mabella lays on the sofa with the small white kitten in her lap while Clara bathes upstairs. The cat runs when there is a feeble knock on the house door. She opens it to see an old lady carrying a basket with a single candy apple.

"Can I help you, miss?" Mabella asks.

The old lady nods, "yes, you can. Take this apple, it is my last one!"

"Oh, no, thank you. I do not-"

"Please, young lady. They are free."

"No, no thank you," Mabella attempts to shut the door, but the old lady pushes the door back open.

"Take the apple, girl. Take it!"

Mabella sighs angrily. "Fine. Give it here." She takes the apple from the basket, planning to just throw it away when the lady leaves.

"Take a bite."

"What?"

"Take a bite, watching the joy spread on your face is my favorite part of the experience."

Mabella stares at the lady, wanting to slam the door in her face but also not wanting to hurt her. She takes a deep breath and a hesitating bite.

The apple itself tastes fine, but the "candy" coating tastes awful. It is sour, bitter and spicy with an odd sweetness. She tries not to gag at the taste.

Mabella awkwardly nods before giving an insincere "thank you," and slowly closing the door. She could swear that she saw the old woman give a sinister smile before disappearing behind the door.

She turns around to see Clara walking into the living room.

"Did you have a good bath?"

"I did, the water was nice and warm- What is that?" She points to the apple.

"Just a candy apple from an old woman, it tastes horrible."

"Oh Goddesses, you actually took a bite?"

"She wouldn’t leave-"


"Mabella, it is poison."

Mabella stares with confusion, "but I don’t even have a stomach ache, and how would you know about that?"

"I don’t know why you are not sick, maybe you have the poison eating gift, but the queen found out that you were alive. She wrote that she would make you a poisoned apple-"

"And why didn’t you tell Alessia? Why didn’t you tell anyone?"

"I forgot, I’m sorry."

Mabella takes a deep breath and sighs, "fine, but I want to make sure I actually have the gift."

"How would you?"

"By eating poison, obviously. I’m probably going to rub some poison ivy on my hand before that, though. I can live with a rash for a few weeks but not the effects of ingesting a variety of poisons."

"I have quite a bit of hemlock and belladonna berries. The queen had tasked the maids with collecting poisons for the apple. Also- I want to see if I have the gift as well."

"What, why?"

"If you have the gift, then wouldn’t others? Not to mention, when I was a kid I used to play by the edge of the woods. There was poison ivy there, so my mother would always have to pull me away. Even though she said it was dangerous, I still touched the leaves and I was never injured."

"Okay, but let me test it first. If I don’t have it then you definitely won’t."

Clara nods.


It is barely night when the girls finish preparing their deadly feast. They cooked death cap mushroom soup, baked belladonna tarts, and steeped hemlock tea.

"Wasn’t poison hemlock tea Queen Carina’s favorite drink?" Clara asks as she pours the tea into cups for the both of them, "have you tested the poison ivy yet?"

Mabella nods, "I did, though I got no reaction."

"Neither did I."

They sit at opposite ends of the table, neither one of them wanting to be the first. Slowly and nervously Mabella picks up her cup.

She stirs in a bit of honey while shaking. After taking a deep breath, she sips at the tainted tea.

"So?"

"Well, it’s good?"

"I mean how do you feel?"

"I don’t know, it’s not going to kick in right away, but I don’t feel sick just yet."

Clara then downs her entire glass of tea.

"What was that for?"

She shrugs before she grabs a bowl of soup. Mabella is barely able to get a word in before she shovels the soup into her mouth, "Clara, why did you do that?"

"Just eat your food, your Highness."

Mabella does just that, she gulps her soup and devours her tart. She even drinks a few more glasses of the tea.

"I didn’t mean for you to eat like a hungry wolf."

"At least now we will know for sure if we have the gift by morning."

"Or we will both be dead."

"Yes, or that. I wrote a letter to Alessia in case I die, I’m going to put it on her desk."

"Mhm, but first, if we do survive, what are we going to do?"

"I do not know, I haven’t thought about it. Give me some time and I will let you know.

"Of course, I will clean the dishes."

"Are you sure you do not want help?"

"I am sure, now go sleep your Highness."

"Thank you."


"If we do survive, what are we going to do?"


Mabella truly hadn’t thought about it. Does she want a peaceful life or the crown? Or does she want something else? Not even three days ago she was swearing she would never take the crown, but now she is unsure.

Her mind wanders to earlier that day, back to when she kissed Alessia. She half regrets eating the poison, because if she were to die, she would be leaving Alessia behind. That would make it more of a "goodbye forever" kiss instead of a "see you later."

Soon enough, her thoughts drift to nothingness and her mind goes blank.






Chapter Five

Queen’s Castle

Mabella woke up in the dark room only lit by the bright white moon. She wonders if she is dead and if this is the afterlife.

Still half asleep, she makes her way to the kitchen. Clara never dumped the last of the tea from their deadly meal. Though that might have been dangerous considering its contents, even with how little is left.

She pours herself a glass, it really did taste good yesterday. Surprisingly, it still does.

She decides that if the sun rises and Clara descends from the stairs she will believe that she is alive. For now, however, she will enjoy her tea and the silence of what she believes to be the afterlife.


Clara, ecstatic to be alive without even an illness, hastily runs down the stairs.

"Mabella!" She calls out, "oh! You’re awake already."

Mabella nods with a blank expression, finishing the last cup of the hemlock tea.

"You don’t seem too happy about it, what’s wrong?"

"…I want my crown."


Two days later, Clara and Mabella leave for the castle after they had eaten their breakfast: toast with belladonna berry jam.

As Mabella hides in the trees next to the back entrance, Clara sneaks into the maids quarters and she bumps into Isabel, a maid only slightly younger than herself.

After a gasp, Isabel pulls them both into Clara’s room that, luckily enough, is right next to the door to the outside.

"Are you crazy, Clara? The others could have seen you!"

"What? What are you talking about?"

"I know about Mabella, Susan told me, I saw you leaving so she had no choice. Anyway, the physician will be here soon, he also knows. He is on our side."

Clara sighs relieved, "good, because we’re about to get a new queen."


Clara, Isabel, Susan and the physician meet up in Clara’s room under the guise of a checkup, and before she reveals everything, she asks Isabel for a favor: "Oh Isabel, can you please retrieve a bottle of tainted wine and two glasses from the wine cellar?"

"What for?"

"You’ll see."

Susan leaves to get the wine, and Clara has a task for Susan, "Queen Mabella is hiding outside in the trees, go and get her for me?"

"Queen Mabella?"

Clara nods. "She is ready to take the throne, her birthright, so we might as well call her by her rightful title."

"Okay, got it."

The physician speaks up, "what should I do?"

"You? Tell me your name, I’ve never met you."

"Valentino Martinez, or Dr. Martinez."

"Hm, I’m Clara," she and Valentino shake hands.

"So you actually found her?"

"Obviously."

Mabella enters the room wearing her forest green cloak, "do they know yet?"

"No, I haven’t told them yet," she says as she shakes her head.

"Told us what?"

Susan enters before Isabel with the wine and glasses. Clara sighs and opens the bottle, pouring some for her and the future queen.

Mabella picks up the glass and attempts to take a sip, but Valentino yells, "stop! Are you crazy? It’s tainted!"

Mabella rolls her eyes with a sigh and takes a sip, so does Clara, but she is giggling at Valentino.

Eventually, Clara bursts into fits of laughter, "she’s blessed by the goddesses, you moron! I am as well."

"Are you sure the wine was tainted?" Susan watches the two girls as she holds her chest, as if she expects them to drop dead any minute.

"Well I don’t taste poison, but the bottle says that it is tainted with arsenic." Mabella pours herself another glass.

"Just like her mother," Susan thinks. An alcoholic. One who will drink glass after glass of wine and never stop. Susan can’t even count the amount of times she ran to the wine cellar for the queen in these past few days.

Clara gestures to everybody, "I forgot to mention, the girl with the black braid is Susan, Blonde bun is Isabel, and the physician is Valentino."

"It is lovely to meet you," Isabel curtsies to Mabella, and Mabella nods awkwardly.

"So, do you have a plan?" Mabella asks hopefully.

"You declared that you want the throne, yet you don’t have a plan?" Susan half scolds Mabella.

"Not yet, no, but we will make one when Alessia arrives home."

"Alessia?"

"Lady Hanna’s eldest daughter," Clara informs Susan.

"What help would she be?"

"She is skilled in archery and martial arts. She is teaching me how to fight with daggers."

Susan sighs. "Alright, fine."


Eventually Mabella had to leave, so Clara is back to work.

"Welcome back, Clara. I trust the physician was good to you?"

"He was, your Majesty. Dr. Martinez took extra good care."

The queen nods. "Why do you wear gloves?"

"The poisons caused my hands to be scarred, my queen."

"Hm, but they are still able to work?"

Clara smiles and nods. "Of course."

"Good. I am hosting a ball to lift the people’s spirits in just less than a month, the ballroom will need cleaning and my gown will be intricate."

"What would you like the color scheme to be?"

"Burgundy and cream."

Clara nods in agreement. "Beautiful choice."






Chapter Six

Roseworth Woods

"Mabella!" Alessia runs into the house while carrying her luggage, "Mabella, are you here?"

Mabella emerges from the bedroom. "Sorry, sorry, I just woke up."

"It’s noon, isn’t it?"

"Mhm."

Alessia laughs as she sets her bags down before hugging Mabella.

She hugs back and kisses Alessia’s cheek. "So, did you have fun?"

"We did. We watched a play about star crossed lovers, ate good food, and bought a few souvenirs."

"Hm."

Allison walks in. "Ew, get a room. This isn’t what I meant when I told you to make a move."

Mabella bursts into laughter and Alessia’s face flushes. "Oh just go to your room, Allison. Mabella and I are going to make lunch."

"Yeah, okay."


As Mabella stirs the pot of porridge Alessia emerges from the washroom and wraps her arms around her waist. "So what did you do while we were gone? And where is that maid?"

"I sent her back to the castle, I’ll let you know why when we have a bit more privacy."

"Hm," Alessia hums. "Okay, love."

She lets go of Mabella and turns to chop apples.

Finally, when the porridge is done, Mabella scoops each of them a bowl.

"Allison! Come eat lunch!"


Mabella lies on the bed and Alessia reaches under the bed for her brandy stash, but instead finds a bottle of belladonna wine.

"Mabella, what’s this?"

"Huh?"

Alessia holds up the bottle. "Belladonna wine? You know that it’s poison, right?"

"Oh, yes, that. I was planning on telling you tonight-"

"Well I found it, so tell me now."

Mabella nods. "Queen Tiana, attempted to poison me with a candy apple."

"And?"

"We, Clara and I, found out we have the poison eating gift."

"Both of you?"

Mabella stands and pours herself some wine into her water glass after dumping the water.

She takes a sip and offers it to Alessia, "do you want to test it? Either with this or touching poison ivy."

"Touching poison ivy won’t work, both my sister and I are not sensitive to it."

"Then take a sip. Don’t worry, I have elixirs that cure most poisons from Clara."

"Most?"

"Relax, belladonna is included in that list."

"Alright, fine, but I’m blaming you if I die."

Mabella giggles. "Fair enough."

Alessia takes a sip and Mabella grabs the elixirs, "I don’t feel anything."

"Well it will take a minute."

"Hm," Alessia sips again. "It tastes pretty good."

"Yeah," Mabella takes the glass and drinks the last bit, "and it doesn’t seem to be affecting you. With that and your tolerance to poison ivy, you seem to be a poison eater."

"Yes, it does seem that way. Let’s hope the reaction isn’t delayed."

"Ha, yeah."


Mabella tackles Alessia onto the bed, laying on top of her and wrapping her arms around her. All day the both of them have been talking and cleaning and cooking. Mabella also informed her that she plans to take the throne because of the queen's attempts on her life.

She then kisses Alessia before lying her head on her chest. "Sia, what are we?"

"What do you mean, love?" Alessia strokes Mabella’s head.

"Our relationship, what is it? I don’t believe that we are just friends, I don’t know if I want us to be just friends."

"I think we are lovers."

"Even after such a short time?"

"I’ve seen it happen."

"Then, if you wish as well, we are lovers."

"I do, Bella."

She sweetly kisses Mabella again.

"Hm, this reminds me," Alessia gently pushes Mabella off of her and walks to her bag. "I bought you something."

"Oh?"

She pulls out a black velvet bag and hands it to Mabella. When she opens it, she finds a bejeweled silver dagger with yellow gems and a matching scabbard.

"What kind of gems are these? They’re gorgeous."

"Yellow sapphires, it was the only yellow thing I could find that wasn’t hideous."

Mabella laughs and kisses Alessia’s cheek. "Thank you, my love. I will treasure it." She then wraps her arms around Alessia, pulling her back into bed.







Chapter Seven

Amanita City

"Clara, what are we doing in Amanita City?"

"Shopping. Her Majesty is hosting a ball in less than a month and we need to order her dress, and Mabella’s."

"Mabella’s?"

"Yes. She will be attending the ball. It is a masquerade ball, so she will be fine."

"She will be recognized, for goddesses’ sake."

"She will not Susan, nobody has seen her in years."

"Duchess Adelaide did, she recognized her immediately."

"Well the queen won’t, and Adelaide only recognized her because she wasn’t hiding too well. This time she will be careful."

"Does she know about this?"

Clara sighs, "she will soon, but not today. Alessia will be home today and I do not want to interrupt them."

"Oh my."

They walk into a boutique and find a young brunette girl with a tight bun. "Excuse me, my name is Clara. I work for Queen Tiana and would like to order a custom gown for her majesty."

"Oh? What for? Didn’t the princess just die?"

"Yes, but she is going to be holding a ball soon in honor of her and to lift the people’s spirits."

"Hm, alright. Is that all?"

"No, but we would need some privacy."

The seamstress looks curiously at Clara before showing her to the back room. It is dark, for it has no windows, so the seamstress lights some candles after telling the others to sit.

"So what else does the queen want?"

Clara clears her throat, "it’s not for her, it is for the princess."

"Princess Mabella? She wants me to make a dress to bury her in?"

Clara laughs, "no, no, Princess Mabella is alive, but the queen does not know. She can’t know. She is the one that ordered her death."

The seamstress leans forward in her chair. "Is this a joke?"

"Fortunately not, Madame Laurine, our princess is still breathing, and she wants her crown. She will be appearing at the ball," Susan speaks up.

"How could she be alive? Her heart-"

"An animal’s heart."

"Ah. But that still does not explain why I should betray her majesty, even if she attempted to kill her own daughter."

Clara sighs, "Queen Tiana fed her poison when she found out she lived, and she did not die even then. Princess Mabella is blessed by the goddesses, and I fear what may happen if we do not get her to the throne."

"I will make the dresses, but I want proof of her gift."

Clara nods, "eventually you will get it, but not today. A friend of hers will be returning from a trip today."

"As long as I get it, now what colors?"

"The queen will wear burgundy and cream, but Mabella will wear black with silver and yellow sapphire accessories."

"Very well."

"I have just enough gold to pay for both gowns, it will be delivered to you by tomorrow."

"Only pay me for one, surely the queen will be suspicious of such a high price."

"I suppose so. I will visit twice a week to view the dresses’ progress. I will bring Queen Mabella soon enough."

Madame Laurine nods in agreement, "pleasure doing business with you, ladies."


Susan and Clara view the shops, they all contain black cloth, jewels, ribbons and flowers, and nothing of what they are looking for.

"There’s not a single shop selling anything yellow?"

"No, they are all trying to show respect to Queen Mabella. If only they knew."

A young lady looks at Clara in shock. "Did you just say Queen Mabella?"

Clara looks to Susan for help, but Susan only sighs. She nods hesitantly. "I did."

The young lady drops her broom and pulls the two into the flower shop next to them.

"Mama! We have to close the shop!"

Duchess Adelaide enters from the back. "Whatever for?" She notices Clara and Susan. "Oh."

After closing the shop, Duchess Adelaide sits the girls down and prepares some tea. "So what brings you two here?"

"Mama, I actually heard them talking about Princess Mabella- Well they called her Queen Mabella."

"Oh you poor things, you are still in denial."

Clara frowns, "what?"

"Princess Mabella is dead, dear. The queen poisoned her."

Clara raises her voice angrily. "You knew? You knew and you didn’t stop the queen?"

"What could I do? I’m not a goddess."

Susan rolls her eyes. "Whatever, that doesn’t matter now."

"Susan-"

"Clara, shut up for a moment. Duchess Adelaide, and Lady Edith I presume? If Mabella was blessed by the goddesses, would you support her in taking her birthright? Or at the very least, not work against her?"

"Of course, but only you have some form of proof."

Clara sighs, "do you have any angel’s trumpet, oleander, maybe some buttercups or daffodils?"

"I have oleander and buttercups, which one would you like?"

"How much are buttercups?"

Duchess Adelaide places the vase of buttercups on the table and Clara gives her the gold, "let’s hope this is enough proof for you." Clara grabs a handful of blossoms and pops them into her mouth.

"Clara!" The Duchess stands up in alarm. "Why would you-"

She swallows the flowers and wipes her mouth with her handkerchief. "I’m fine, Duchess. I have the gift as well, which means Queen Mabella must have it. I cannot have it if she doesn’t have it."

"Oh my goddesses, don’t do that again."

Susan giggles and Lady Edith sighs in relief.




Chapter Eight

Roseworth Woods (One Week Later)

Allison stacks cases of her belongings onto the carriage. Today she, Alessia and Mabella will move into Elrod Castle, a fitting place to hold the sacred queen. It is a small castle, nothing like the Queen’s Castle. It is only a third of its size, but it will do.

After stepping back onto the dirt road, Allison spots a castle maid, Isabel, walking in from the forest.

"Isabel!" The young girls run to hug each other. They have grown quite close.

"Hey Alli, is Mabella here?"

"She’s probably sleeping with my sister."

"Well I shall wake them, then."

"No, Isa, that is not what I meant."

"…Oh." Isabel’s face drops at the realization.

Allison bursts into a fit of laughter. "I’m sorry Isa, but that was too funny. You should’ve seen your face!"

"So you are not serious?"

"Oh, I’m serious. I wouldn’t disturb them."

"Ah."


Alessia pins Mabella to the bed so she cannot leave.

"We should really go, dear."

"But I don’t want to."

"Sia, love."

"Not just yet," she whispers.

"Fine, but only a moment more."

Mabella rubs Alessia’s back, humming the same tune from the Rosary Hill Market.

"What song are you humming?"

"A lullaby, one my father would sing to me."

"Do you know the words?"

She shakes her head, "there were no words, just humming."

"Hm."

Alessia stands and throws on her navy dress, but not before Mabella catches a glance at the marks from last night on her tan skin.

"Do we have to move today?" Mabella asks, half regretting convincing Alessia to wake up.

"Yes, or else we won’t be able to attend the queen’s ball."

"But that’s still a week away."

"Yes, but the road to Amanita City is long. It is better to get there early than late."

"Alright, could you hand me my emerald dress? The one that matches my cloak."

"Of course, love."

She places the dress on the bed, "I’m going to see if Allison is awake."

"Okay darling," Mabella gives Alessia one last kiss before she leaves the room.


Allison and Isabel sit on the edge of the carriage, discussing the ball until Alessia walks outside.

"Done with your mistress, dear sister?"

Alessia rolls her eyes, "did you load your stuff into the carriage already?"

"Mhm."


"Why is the ride taking so long?"

"You knew this would take a long time, Allison, and it has only been a few hours."

Allison rolls her eyes, "I’m still bored."

"Alright, then. How do you want to decorate your chamber?"

"Oh, um, I’m not sure. Maybe I can finally have a reading corner in my chamber?"

"Why not? I remember the bed chambers being quite large, but I was young. We left barely even a year after you were born."

"Ah."

"I know I would love a place for darts. What about you, Mabella?"

"Oh, maybe a table dedicated to practicing medicine? I’ve always loved reading up on how different herbs and plants can heal a person. Did you know that hemlock is not only poisonous, but also used for treating breathing issues?"

"Yeah, it makes you stop breathing," Allison jokes.

Mabella snorts. "Yes, I suppose that is one way."

Alessia picks at her nails awkwardly. "So, what are your plans for the ball? Other than just attending." she said.

"I plan on dancing with the queen with poison ivy oils on my hands and dress."

"Wouldn’t that give you a rash?"

"Oh no, Allison, I have the same resistance to poison ivy as you and your sister."

"Oh, okay."

"I don’t remember poison ivy growing at the castle, how do you expect to harvest it?"

"Did you forget that we have the elements? I can blossom any plant, raise an ocean, bend fire at will, and form tornadoes that can destroy entire kingdoms."

"Right, I did forget."

"How could you be that powerful? I thought the elements were only to make up for barren land?"

"It was, but when the poison eating gift was taken away by Calysta, her wise older sister, Raina, strengthened the elements for all of Roseworth. Especially for the queens."

Mabella opens the window and creates a slight breeze, "oh look, we are leaving the woods!"






Chapter Nine

Elrod Castle

Two days until the ball.

Mabella is dragged by Clara into the dressing room, "Queen Mabella, the dressmaker is here with your attire."

"Oh quit it with that title, I am not queen yet."

"No, but soon."

"I am not killing my mother at the ball, Clara. I am only inconveniencing her with a horrible rash."

Madame Laurine has placed the future queen’s gown on a mannequin near the very large window that is covered in sheer yellow curtains.

"Hello, Madame Laurine, is that right?"

Madame Laurine curtsies, "you are correct, Queen Mabella. I have your gown ready for you to try on. Please, let me assist you."

"I would rather have Clara help me, I have been using a poison ivy lotion I made for the past few days."

"I see, thank you for telling me."

The dress fits like a glove. The black silk is tied at her waist with yellow ribbon, falling and flaring at her hips. She spins and the skirt twirls and glitters in the sun.

"It’s very pretty, Madame Laurine."

"Thank you, your Majesty. The puffy sleeves and squared collar were a reference to the outfit you wore in your last portrait. I hope that was alright."

"Oh my, I didn’t even realize. That is perfectly fine."

Madame Laurine sighs in relief, "good, good."


Allison huffs and rests her head into her hand, "sister, tell me why can’t we go with Mabella to the ball? Wouldn’t she be safer with us, or at least you, there?"

"We are not going because Queen Tiana is hateful towards our family. She claims mother betrayed her, and there is no doubt in my mind that she claims I have betrayed her as well."

"I suppose she would be right. We are plotting to steal the throne, after all."

"That is true."

Allison sips her drink as her sister makes sandwiches. "So what are we doing while she is at the castle?"

"I thought we could go shopping, just the two of us. I need to pick a custom order from the jewelers for Mabella, then we can look around. Maybe we can go to that book shop you have always wanted to see."

"Oh! Yes, please, They have the final book in the Skeleton Key Series."

Alessia smiles and packs the sandwiches into the wicker basket.

"Today we are having a relaxing picnic with Mabella. We are all understandably stressed about the ball."

Allison nods. Alessia has been arranging the dress, the payments, the castle, all while hiding Mabella’s existence. Not to mention how worried she is for Mabella, so many things may happen at the ball. And Mabella, she has been busy poisoning herself so she may give her mother a rash.

"Where are we going to have the picnic?"

"Where do you want?"

"Don’t we have a garden filled with yellow angel trumpets like the painting that was above our fireplace?"

"We do."

"Let’s eat there!"


Alessia throws the table cloth they are using as a picnic mat onto the floor. Mabella enters the bright garden from the door framed in branches.

"The yellow flowers are beautiful, Alessia. Did you grow them for me?" Mabella sits on the cloth on her knees.

Alessia chuckles. "No, but I wish I could say that I did. My element is water with a touch of air. The castle’s gardener grew them, it is only a coincidence that they are yellow."

"Hm, okay."

Allison takes the sandwiches out of the wicker basket then places them on a plate. "Mabella, is yellow your favorite color?

Mabella nods and pours them all a cup of tea. She then pours syrup made of belladonna berries into her and Alessia’s cups.

"What is that?" Allison tries to grab the bottle after Mabella puts it down, but Mabella slaps her hand away.

"Poisonous syrup, you don’t want to drink it."

"Then why are you putting it in your tea?"


Mabella looks at Alessia. "You never told her?"

"No, I suppose I forgot to." Alessia sips her tea. "Mabella and I are poison eaters, Alli."

"Oh, alright."

"That’s it? You’re not shocked or angry?"

"No, not really. Mabella is royal blooded and you are her lover. I believe the goddesses must have given you the gift so you are not separated because of it."

"Possibly."

"Actually," Mabella clears her throat. "Your ancestry is full of powerful poison eaters. They were the highest of nobles. I read it in the library."

Allison furrows her brows. "But I haven’t seen any book about our family, and I’ve searched every shelf."

"Oh, right, it was in the secret library."

"Secret library?"

"More of an office, really. There was a desk with ink and parchment, and there were shelves full of handwritten books and journals. Most were signed by Elizabeth Elrod, one of your ancestors."

"You’ve got to show us soon. After you are home from the ball, of course."

"I will show you tonight, we do not know if I will make it back."

Alessia smiles solemnly. "I hope you make it back."

"If you don’t, we’ll torture you in the afterlife," Allison jokes.

Mabella laughs then she drinks her tea. "I never said I would die, just that I wouldn’t make it back."

"Then we will torture you after we rescue you."

Alessia shakes her head. "So what else did you see in the secret library? Anything interesting?"

Mabella shakes her head. "I only found books Elizabeth Elrod wrote. However, in those books, I read that she was Queen Carina’s advisor."

"Oh, that means we can possibly find out more about her reign."

"Possibly. We can read her books together if you wish."

Allison smiles and nods. "I would love to."


Mabella leads Allison and Alessia to the back of the library. As she searches the shelf she says, "look for a thick, green book titled History of Mathematics. Behind it should be a button."

"You do not remember where it is?"

"No, I wasn’t really paying attention."

"Found it!" Allison shouts. She removes the book and presses the button. There is a click and the shelves open like a double door, revealing a dark and echoey abyss.

They all walk down the dim hall with Mabella leading the way. Mabella lights the torches as she takes each step.

Allison grasps her older sister’s hand. "Why do you think Elizabeth chose to hide the button with a math history book?"

"Because math’s history is boring, nobody would want to read it," Alessia says.

"I would!"

"Only you, baby sister."

Allison rolls her eyes.

Mabella pauses, causing Allison and Alessia to nearly tumble onto her, she then lights the final torches and slowly turns to them. "We’re here," she says before finally opening the door.






Chapter Ten

The Day of the Queen’s Ball

Mabella, in her fancy, poison soaked gown, walks around the ballroom. Everyone is dancing and drinking, and the musicians are fiddling away on their violins and cellos… The maids are walking around with drinks on trays, but Mabella does not see Clara, Susan, nor Isabel.

"Pardon me, madam, I would like to reach that drink that is behind you."

Mabella steps aside. "My apologies, sir." When Mabella raises her head she sees that it is Dr. Martinez. "Valentine?"

"Pardon?" He looks at Mabella, knowing he recognizes her voice, but not able to pin it on one person.

"I’m Mabella?"

"Oh! Right, I knew I recognized your voice." He attempts to hug Mabella, but she backs away.

"Are you stupid? I’m covered in poison!"

"Right, sorry."

"Have you seen my mother? She hasn’t shown herself once today."

"Maybe she’s pretending to mourn."

Mabella giggles before drinking half of her champagne. "Does she really do that?"

Valentino nods.

Finally, Queen Tiana enters through the large, golden doors. "My deepest apologies, everybody. I had a bit of a setback, but I am here now!" Clara is behind the queen on her left-hand side, she seems to not want to be seen.

Mabella snorts. "A bit? It’s been over an hour."

Queen Tiana walks down the tall staircase. Her eyes zip around the room, looking for her next victim.

"Your Majesty, may I have this dance?" A man asks as he bows to her and offers her his hand.

She accepts it gracefully, and they glide into the center of the room. The people that were dancing now form a circle around them, and they watch the pair in awe. The violins and cellos now slow and synchronize with the dancers. Nobody is brave enough to join them.

Soon enough the dance is at its end and the two separate from each other. The queen takes dance partner after dance partner, she dances with nearly everybody in the room. But then she stops, and nobody offers her their hand. Everybody is still, waiting for somebody else to make the first move, until the queen sighs and struts to the table to take a glass of champagne.

Mabella steps forward and curtsies. "Greetings, Queen Tiana."

"Who are you?"

Mabella places her hand on her chest. "A lady who wishes to give her condolences. I am sorry for your loss, your Majesty." She bows her head while saying the last sentence.

"Did you know my daughter?"

"Unfortunately, I cannot say I was graced with such a blessing."

Duchess Adelaide speaks, "a shame, really. She was a sweet girl." Mabella hadn’t noticed her before, she is not really sure how though. The duchess is hard to miss, she is usually always talking.

"I say she was a fiery little sprite. Her favorite element had always been fire. She used to throw fireballs outside with her father."

"She sounds quite lively."

Queen Tiana nods. "I know I threw this ball in honor of Princess Mabella, but all this talk of death is making me depressed."

Mabella smiles and offers her hand to the queen. "Then may I have this dance?"


Susan and Isabel sweep and scrub at the dusty stone floors of the maids’ quarters. They purposely got themselves punished so that they may not be at the ball. Susan misplaced the queen’s favorite bracelet and Isabel tripped and broke a bottle of red wine that was meant for the queen.

"Was Clara sent elsewhere?" Isabel props the broom against the wall and stretches.

"No, she was not punished. Queen Tiana claims that she is needed at the party." Susan drops the cleaning brush and sits up. She sighs.

"These halls are so gloomy, I cannot wait to be out of here."

"That’s if Mabella decides you are good enough to be promoted."

Isabel rolls her eyes. "Quit being a pessimist, Susan. I am fine with being a maid, but having us live in such disgusting conditions is cruel."

"If we cleaned this place more often it wouldn’t be so disgusting."

Susan and Isabel spend the next few minutes cleaning. Clara walks into the hall in a hurry. "Everyone get in your rooms! The queen has been poisoned!"

The other maids that were left panic and run into their rooms. Susan and Isabel stand.

"Was it Mabella?"

"Actually, no. I don’t think so."

Isabel folds her arms. "What do you mean?"

"Mabella said she only used poison ivy on her dress and gloves, but Queen Tiana had violent convulsions. Thankfully she was taken out of the room before she began to vomit."

"Oh, goddesses."


Mabella and her mother dance in the center of the room. She can feel everybody’s eyes watching and criticizing every move. Her steps are not as fluid as she would like, if Alessia was here to see her she would have a fit. Queen Tiana doesn’t seem to notice, though.

"You have icy blue eyes, just like Mabella. They are beautiful."

"Thank you, your Majesty."

Queen Tiana actually seems like she is going to cry. She seems to be in pain.

"Your Majesty, is something wrong?" Mabella puts on a concerned face, though she really didn’t need to. Queen Tiana’s vision is blurry, and her mind is too absent to pay attention. Her limbs are weak and her cheeks are flushed.

"I feel ill-" She is cut off with violent convulsions and gagging. Mabella steps back in shock. The guests scream in horror as Clara runs to the queen’s side and pulls her away into another room.

Valentino pulls Mabella’s hand and drags her out of the castle. "Leave, or you may be killed."

Mabella turns to him frantically and desperately. "I did not do that, Valentino. I didn’t."

"I know you didn’t, but they may blame you anyway, so go."

"What about your hand?"

"I’m a physician, I will be fine."

Mabella nods and runs into the woods. Valentino heads back to the party.


"Dr. Martinez, where have you been? Our queen is sick," Clara says as she confronts Valentino.

Valentino pulls out his medical supplies. "My apologies, Clara. I am able to treat her now."

Clara steps back and sighs. "Do you know what poison it was?"

"I’m not sure, I’m going to give her an elixir from Zaragon, they are known to cure any toxin."

Clara nods. The queen is unconscious on the bed. "How did you get her to sleep?"

"She fainted after a few minutes."

"Ah."


Mabella runs into the gates of Elrod Castle, and Alessia waits by the front entrance.

Mabella calls for Alessia while she runs to her lover.

Alessia quickly stands. "Bella? What’s wrong?"

"She- Queen Tiana, was poisoned."

"Yes, I thought we planned that." Alessia hugs Mabella in a comforting manner.

"No, she wasn’t poisoned by me. Somebody else did it!"

Alessia backs up and holds Mabella’s hands. "What? Who?"

Mabella shakes her head, signaling that she doesn’t know. She doesn’t have a clue. "Take me to my chamber, and please, don’t leave my side."

Alessia nods and hugs the panicked Mabella, taking her inside and to their bed chamber. She draws her a hot bath. They sit and discuss the events that took place at Queen Tiana’s ball.






Chapter Eleven

Elrod Castle

"My name is Elizabeth Elrod, today is the day after my twenty-third birthday. I start my journals the day after every birthday and I finish them on my birthday. I make them myself so I can make sure they have 366 pages, one page for every day. The extra page is for a title. I have been doing this since my thirteenth birthday. I believe it is good to have this introduction in the beginning of every book, just in case somebody comes across them. Queen Carina told me it was odd and unnecessary, as if the person who reads one of them will magically have all of them."

Alessia stops reading and flips through the pages.

Mabella, who was searching for the other books while listening, asks if something is wrong. Alessia closes the book. "No, but she mentioned Queen Carina. The journal from her twenty-second birthday didn’t mention her at all."

Mabella shrugs. "Maybe she didn’t want to mix her work life and personal life." She moves to stand behind her lover.

"Maybe." Alessia skips to the middle of the book and continues to flip pages.

"Wait, turn back a page." Mabella points to the previous page. "She wrote about a prince."

"The queen delivered a prince today, just this morning. She is displeased, possibly even furious. ‘Why would the goddesses curse me with this prince?’ I do not understand how she could be so upset. Her husband, King George, named the boy Anthony. Prince Anthony. It is a beautiful name, and it suits him. The goddesses are pleased. Queen Carina claims the boy will be weak. I honestly cannot wait to see her face at his trial."

"What trial?" Mabella interrupts Alessia.

"Before the gift was taken away, princesses and princes would be out through a trial to test their gift at age five."

"Alright."

Alessia searches for another mention of Prince Anthony, but all she found were mentions of his first word. Elizabeth really loved this child as if he were her own.

Mabella lifts Alessia from the desk chair by her hand. "Shall we eat dinner and relax with a hot bath?"

Alessia smiles and nods before wrapping her arm around Mabella. They exit the secret library while joking and laughing gleefully.

Meanwhile, Allison is making friends with the hidden halls and their doorways. She previously found one beside the door to the bathhouse. A bathhouse hidden under a bathhouse! It is white marble adorned with gold and emeralds. It is simply hidden behind a false wall in a storage closet. Of course, Allison couldn’t do much in a bathhouse. The bath wasn’t even filled, for goddesses’ sake. There were no books to read, no knowledge to learn, so she continued on her search upstairs.

Allison found a very few more. She found stairs under the stairs, which led to a ballroom, a drawing room under the drawing room, and a great hall under the great hall. Each hidden room was more elaborate than its unhidden variant.

She is now pulling every torch in the hall in hopes it will open a doorway like in her fantasy books, but she is not in her fantasy books. No doorways open on either side of the hall. She sighs disappointedly, despite being exhausted. She loves to explore, that is why she loved living in the Roseworth Woods and why she was excited to hear that Mabella found a secret library. Though, she secretly wishes she found it first. She also wishes she could’ve been at the queen’s ball, but she understands why she couldn’t. Allison wonders if she has the poison eating gift, but she knows better than to test it. She doesn’t understand why Alessia was willing to test it so easily. She never explained it to her. She said she didn’t know how to. It is natural to be curious about such a power, just as it is natural to be afraid of not having it. That is why Allison will not test her luck, despite her immunity to poison ivy. That may be all it is.

She may be willing to test the gift another day, but for now she is exhausted. She curses the designer of the castle for making every room so far apart from each other as she makes her way back to her bed chamber.






Chapter Twelve

Belladonna Forest

The next thing Allison knows is a sharp and lasting pain in her abdomen and everything fading to black.







Chapter Thirteen

Devotee Caverns