Skip to main content

By: Brylee Boman

I pull on my nice black dress, leaving my tattered old one sprawled on the floor. I walk out of my bed chamber and down the hall to the apothecary shop that was my home. A piece of folded parchment rests on the front table next to a small silver coin. I walk to the table and place both the parchment and the coin into my dress pocket. I slip on my shoes that rest by the front door and walk out of my home. 
I walk down the busy street where people are bustling from one place to another. The sky is cloudy and a cool breeze sends chills down my body. I feel the weight of the coin and the stiffness of the parchment in my pocket. I memorized every word on the parchment, every word, down to the last shaky quill stroke.

Maybelle Janzi,
You are hereby summoned to the court of the king in two days time, when the sun is at noon high. Failure to meet this summons will result in a punishment in which the king sees fit. 
Haitch Marnico 
Advisor to the king

I picked up my pace, not wanting to be late; the king was known for his harsh punishments, especially towards his slaves. For example, if any mistake was made by a slave, they would have one of their five senses removed. First, the tongue would be cut out, then the nose, followed by an ear, then a finger one by one by one. Finally, both eyes were prodded out with a sharp stick designed to make the procedure especially painful, and they were then left to die in the street. Even though his punishments were harsh, the king was loved and adored by the upperclassmen, but among the peasants and the slaves, he was hated. 
I passed into the center of town, where a gallows stood among the fountains and shops. I force my eyes away from it. It had only been a week since my father had been torn from our home by two palace guards and brought here. He was placed at the top of the gallows with hands bound behind him. I remembered how the king's voice echoed off the buildings and into my ears as he shouted. “This man, Alaric Janzi, will be hanged for the crime of not paying full tax.”
“No!” my father yelled, “I paid! I did! I paid! Please!” The noose was placed around my father’s neck and tightened.
“Are you accusing the king of lying?” Haitch asked from beside the king.
“No! Please count again! I paid!”
“I do not tolerate liars,” the king said to the crowd that was gathering to see the spectacle. “I do not tolerate people who try to cheat me. This man will hang!”
“No!” I scream “Father!” My father’s eyes searched for me in the crowd. Once he found me, his lips formed my name. Maybelle. 
It all happened in an instant, my father’s final plea, the creak of wood and rusty hinges, and his body hanging limp from the rope. 
I shake those memories from my head, my eyes welling up with hot tears threatening to spill over my eyelids and run down my cheeks. I squeeze my eyes shut, willing the tears not to escape. I have cried for too long. I did not want to cry any longer.

The guards at the palace gate let me enter when I showed them my summons. I walked along the path that led to the palace's front door. The front gardens were a wonderful sight. Fairies flew lazily from different, brightly colored blossoms. On the other side of the gardens, dryads shook the trees in a mesmerizing dance. I had to look away. I couldn't afford to be distracted. 
Another palace guard escorted me to the royal courtroom, where I was placed in front of the king and his advisor. I offered a low curtsy showing my respect to the king, who hardly pays me any attention. 
“Maybelle Janzi,” Haitch announces, “due to recent events, you are hereby evicted from your property by order of his Majesty and stripped of your title of Apothecary.”
“Wh-what?” I ask, the statement taking me aback. 
“You will lose the property at dawn tomorrow.” he continued, not giving any notice that I spoke. 
My mind races. “Is this about the tax?” I asked. “I brought the money.” I pulled the coin out of my pocket and held it out to him.
“Are you trying to bribe the king?” Haitch asks in an accusing tone. 
“N-no I-I—” I have no words. 
“You will be evicted at dawn,” Haitch repeats. “I suggest you pack your things.”
Strong hands grab my arms and lead me out of the courtroom. I don’t fight—I'm too shocked to care.

Wooden crates full of potions, elixirs, and medicines clutter my apothecary shop. A small crate is dedicated to what belongings I possessed. A storm rages outside in the dark. It had been nine hours since my audience with the king. I had gone home and cried until my eyes were red and my cheeks were stiff with salt. 
A figure appears in the front window of the shop. I froze, startled. The front door opened and a tall man dressed in a dark cloak entered the shop. I grab the knife I use for cutting ingredients. I don’t receive trouble often, but I don’t want to take the chance. The man walks to the table I stand at. 
“I need a poison,” he says, his voice smoother than I expected. 
I study the man whose clothes are worn and not made of any fine fabric. I walk over to the cabinet that holds the poisons I had yet to pack. “Pesky weed in the field?” I ask, taking the man as a farmer. 
“No, something a little bigger.”
“An animal then?” My fingers skim the vials of liquids and powders. 
“Some might refer to them as an animal,” he responds
“Magic or mortal?” I question him, my fingers working on the higher shelves.
“Male or female?” 
I select a vial about the size of my smallest finger and as wide as my thumb. The vial holds a thick, dark orange liquid at the bottom and a clear film at the top. I shake the poison, recombining the ingredients until I'm left with a deep, blood red color. 
“It is protocol,” I say walking back to the man, “that I ask who will be the recipient of the poison. I also ask that the poison will not be traced back to this shop.” I recite the lines that I  have only had to say a few times. 
“I am poisoning the king.” the man says, lowering his head so it is concealed by his dark hood. 
I stifle a small gasp. The king.
“I know who you are, Maybelle,” the man says, resting his forearms on the table. “I know what happened to your father and what is to become of this shop. I know you have more than one reason to hate the king. We could use another person's help. Would you like to join us?” 
I'm stunned by his offer. I know what I should say. I should say no. If the man’s plan went wrong, I would be punished for helping, and the king had worse punishments than the ones he gave the slaves. But the king took my shop, my future, my home, my father… I know what I should say, but I also knew what I was going to say. 
I was going to kill the King.