Kiss of the Dragon
The doors swept open in time with the trumpet fanfare. The gathered nobles bowed in unison as the King swept into the room, his fur-trimmed white robe trailing a full ten feet behind him.
“Caravax, Third of his Name, King of Elora, Lord of the Seventeen Seals, Champion of the Tower and the Holy Avatar of Riyala.”
“You forgot ‘Protector of the Silver Fortress’” Caravax stopped and glowered at the herald.
The herald blinked and looked at the man beside him, who stepped away, suddenly interested in anything else. “The Protector of the Silver Fortress!” The herald added with as much pomp and flare as he could.
The king scowled but nodded and turned to take his thrown but then stopped and turned back. “It’s just that why have all these titles if your herald doesn’t say them when you enter the room?”
“Of course, your majesty. Slip of the mind. Won’t – won’t happen again. We could start again if it would please you.”
Caravax sucked on his teeth but shook his head. “No, that’s ok. I’m not a vain man.”
He turned to approach his throne and stood while two attendants fixed the robe to allow him to sit. He took a wine goblet from a pillow and nodded at the herald.
“Captain Ellen Forrester of the order of Paladins and-”
“That’s fine,” Ellen silenced the herald with a quick step. “Majesty, I have discovered something that requires immediate and decisive attention.”
“Were you attacked by a horde of last season’s fashion?” The king cackled, looking around to ensure his nobles were also laughing.
“No… No,” Ellen stepped forward. She was wearing simple leather armor, with the circled x sigil hanging on a chain. “We raided the Seeded Scepter last night.”
“The poor people tavern?”
“We traced the scourge of the Dragon’s Kiss potion there, Majesty.”
The king sat back slightly, “Go on.”
“The Dragon’s Kiss is the potion that fills its consumer with euphoria, and then rage, and then, amazingly, invisibility. It’s wreaking havoc on the lower city.”
“I know what it is; go on.”
“We raided the tavern and found a laboratory in the basement; it was… Majesty in all my years, never have I seen such horror. To make the potion, it seemed they were-”
‘That’s quite alright; I don’t need the details. Thank you for the report and-“
“Majesty, there’s more, if I could.”
“I don’t think that will be-”
“We found evidence that the kingdom of Grell is behind it.”
The king arched an eyebrow over a stubborn frown. “Grell?”
“Grellish marks. Letters from the caption of the serpent guard. The Grellish standard in a lockbox, as if waiting to be unfurled.”
“Well, that is very interesting, Captain, and I appreciate the report, and I will think hard about what you’ve discovered.”
“Majesty, I know they are our allies. But the evidence is clear. Grell means us harm, and we must respond. We must raise the banners and march.”
The king took a breath and let it out with a simple, “No.”
“No, we will not be doing that.”
“Majesty, I don’t understand.”
The king licked his lips and looked away as if affronted by a foul odor.
“Seize the captain, put her in chains, and give her a cell to await execution!”
“What?” Ellen staggered backward.
“A traitor!” The king hissed. “She’s betrayed us! You heard her words! Take her! Take her to the thrice-damned dungeon all ready!”
The two closest guards exchanged a confused look, but at the king’s tirade, they hurried to carry out the order.
Ellen didn’t resist as the guard bound her hands with rope.
“I discovered one more thing,” Ellen said with a smile for the king as they led her out. “The emeralds of the fountain will fade” She bowed as she passed the king of Elora, protector of the realm. “Your majesty.”
The king paled at the words, but no one else seemed to have any idea what she was talking about. After a creeping silence, the king seized his wine goblet and emptied it with a splurging, curling laugh, looking around to encourage the others to laugh also.
King Caravax, third of his name, held out the goblet to be refilled and, once it was, took his seat and said, “Right then, who’s next?”