Poison and Black, Chapter 1

Death of the King

The Osten Castle was a big, beatiful, and corrupt. Checkered hallways and royal drapery made it easy on the eyes but it had only ever held darkness after the Queen had died and left it to the dark King. Shoes clattered frantically. "Make way," a middle-aged woman said, and trailing behind her were two youths. "The Prince has come to see his father."

As requested, the crowd of maids and butlers cleared way for the three. They shuffled in to see the physician by the King's bedside. "I have tried many different medicines and treatments," the doctor said in resignition, lowering his head. "I am afraid that he is being taken."

Once again, the middle-aged woman was the first to speak. "Thank you," she said, unphased. "We are all grateful. That is enough though. The Prince would like some time to bid his father farewell." The physician nodded and left. She gave the man in heavier armor a pointed look, telling him to leave as well, which he did reluctantly. "My lord, your son has come," she said, standing to the side.

In the man's weakened state, he looked twenty years older. Gray hairs had come to his head in a matter of months after being the darkest black for so long. He was hardly recognizable as the once great—albeit corrupt—king that he had once been. His brittle old hand came up, shaking violently as he wheezed for air. "Avniel..." he huffed out.

The silver haired man stepped next to his father's bed, not making an attempt to reach out for the man. His eyes shone dimly, filled with nothing but contempt for the man before him. The King, ignorant to these intense feelings brewing within his son, reached forward and snatched with a giant's strength and yanked him forward, making Avniel lean over on the bed. The fragile man wrapped an arm around the boy's shoulder for what seemed like a hug. "Just remember, Avniel," the old man said with a lopsided grin and a black glint in his eyes. "I did everything I did for you."

Avniel's red eyes narrowed dangerously. He gently put his father's hands back and laid the man down on the bed, but reached over to grab the pillow next to his head. He proceeded to smother the man with the pillow. There was a grunt, and the man thrashed sluggishly beneath the pillow, hitting the silver haired man's arms and then trying to yank the pillow away from his face.

The woman grabbed his shoulders and tugged him softly. "Prince, he will be done soon anyway. Let him live out his last moments," she said softly. He pushed away from the man, who choked on a gasp. "If it is easier for you, Prince, you may wait outside."

Pale-faced, Avniel nodded briefly. He turned and left quickly. The middle-aged woman turned back to the man, who seemed to be having a more difficult time breathing after the smothering. "Sangsara..." the King said, smiling up at her. His eyes were filled with so much emotion: hate, pain, regret, love. "He needs to know. I love him, he is my flesh and blood."

If Sangsara had not been trained in the art of hiding her emotions, she was sure rage would have been very apparent in her features. Instead, only a fraction of it showed in her voice. "How could you say that?" she said.

As if trying to explain himself further, he continued. "To give him strength—"

"You almost drowned him," she said with a tight smile on her face. "You neglected and beat him bloody after his mother died. You had him torture people; you made him the social pariah of the citizens. You call that love?"

"To give him strength," the King repeated, and a toothy smile pulled at his wrinkly face. "Because hatred is the only strength he will ever need."

Sangsara stared at the man a long time, hating every ounce of what he had become. He was not always this way, but his mind had been poisoned by the very black magic he had used to create a foundation for this kingdom, and it had deteriorated his mental state until he was no longer sane; it was because of that poison that she could not completely hate him, or at least not the man he was underneath the darkness. "My Lord, how shall we do this then?" she asked. "Will you wait to wither away, or will you be released now?"

"Now," he said quickly, with the most strength she had heard since she had arrived at his side this day.

She nodded and pulled out a syringe. As she waved her hand around it and flicked it twice, making the clear liquid turned green and musky. Sangsara leaned over him, cupping the man's cheek and placing a delicate kiss on his forehead. "Have no fear, my Lord. It will feel just like you are falling asleep," she said, then pressed the tip of the needle into the vein of his neck and injected the liquid slowly.

It was just like Sangsara said. His labored breathing grew softer and slower; his heart eventually stopped beating. With only a little choked noise, his spirit was sent to the Goddess of Oblivion. His eyes were half-way lidded until Rhiannon pushed them shut. She turned away from the corpse and disposed of the syringe on her way out. It was not exactly the way she wished to greet the prince.

Sangsara wandered the porcelain hallways, up the floors until she eventually landed herself at the Prince's bedroom door. She didn't bother knocking, and instead gently pushed the door open, watching the Prince and his guard standing on the balcony, Avniel's white-haired head resting on the guard's shoulder while they stood and looked out over the city of Ostden. The guard was called Dorian, no last name. He had joined the ranks about six months ago, and had been but a loyal dog at Avniel's side since then.

With her signature thin-lipped smile, Sangsara cleared her throat. "Prince," she said. They broke contact with each other, Avniel more calmly so than Dorian, who looked flustered. "Though I don't mean to interrupt, may I have a moment with you, Avniel?"

"Not interrupting at all," Avniel said with ease, and he meant it.

"Certainly not," Dorian stammered, then rushed out of the room.

Sangsara followed him with her gaze up until the door shut. She then returned her eyes to Avniel. "Well, now that your father has passed, shall I call you 'Sire'? Or perhaps, 'My liege'..." she teased, for lack of better conversation topic to pursue so shortly after the timely demise of his father.

When Avniel did no respond, Sangsara walked over and took Dorian's place on the balcony beside him. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" Avniel commented on the sunset that just overlooked the mountains and bore rays into the town. Sangsara nodded her head, and Avniel said, "Is it wrong for me to feel relieved that my father is dead?"

Her smile drooped slightly. It was a difficult question to answer, because there were so many different views on this topic. "Yes, and no. Your father was not the man he was in these last few years. I think the poison worked down to his heart and turned it to coal."

"Around the time of Mother's death," Avniel said. "That's why she always cautioned me against using black magic. It is nothing more than a curse that it is the only type of magic I can use."

Sangsara nodded again. "Much unfortunate indeed," she said, then decided to switch things to a much lighter tone. "So, my liege. How is your relationship with Dorian progressing?"

Avniel scrunched his nose. "I thought you were joking about the name-calling," Avniel said; Sangsara only grinned. "The same as always. What is your obsession with him and I anyway?"

Anyone who had not served personally under Prince Avniel would never know this, but the man was a child at heart, with the exact same innocence of the world, and his only perception of love was confused by his mother's kind hand and his father's brutal one. Unfortunately, he had more memory of his father's version of 'love', which had been transformed by the deterioration of his mental health.

"Well..." Sangsara began. "You seem much calmer around him is all."

"Isn't that was it expected?" Avniel said with his eyebrows raised. "If you can't feel comfortable around the one who is dedicated to protecting you, you can't really feel comfortable around anyone."

Her eyebrow rose at the clipped tone. Was he really as calm as he seemed? Sangsara gave a soft laugh to ease the silence. Though Avniel may not think of Dorian as any more than a lapdog, she thought that maybe Dorian might not see things so innocently. "Of course, my liege."

There was no reply for a long time, but Sangsara could sense that as soon as she said the two words, something had gone ajar. "I don't want to pursue the throne," Avniel said. Sangsara's smile slipped for a second time as she watched him. "I always thought that after he died, I would be free from everything, but I'm in the same cage I was always in before... Now I'm just the head bird."

She breathed and then smiled sympathetically. "Well, if it is any consolation, you will always be a Prince to me, Avniel," she said. Avniel rolled his eyes. "You should rest my Prince. You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow, since it is your duty to inherit the throne and help your kingdom in whatever way possible."

"I never signed up for this..." Avniel said bitterly. "My father sure decided to leave off at a fine spot. We're in negotions to prevent a war. How can I do that by myself?"

"You are not by yourself," she said. "At the very least, you have me. Haven't I always succeeded in protecting you?"

Avniel glanced at her from the corner of his eyes. "Yes, I suppose," he said. "I am... I am going to rest now."

Sangsara inclined her head. "Call me if you should need anything, my Prince." She smiled slightly and corrected herself. "My liege."

Avniel frowned. Sangsara left his room, shutting the door quietly on her way out.

Ostden Castle was usually always calm at night, except as of recently. Sangsara had expressed certain concerns to the King, reporting that castle barriers had been breeched a few times in the overlapping months, about once biweekly, sometimes twice. He had only said to strengthen defenses but did nothing about it in his power-craving state, so that left Sangsara to track it by herself. It hadn't done anything harmful as of yet, but with war approaching, a noble castle-maid could never be careful enough. After all, it was their duty to protect the heir of the household, in which case was Avniel.

She could feel it thrumming from outside the borders this night. It had been getting stronger and stronger; tonight was no exception. She sped her heels towards the powerful force, though she already had an idea of who it might be. As soon as she had left the castle grounds, the energy disappeared just as fast as it had appeared. Panting softly, Sangsara stopped and glanced about. There was no way she could track the essence of a lifeforce, that was far too complicated. She would have to be faster. She spun on her heels and dashed quickly back to the castle in hopes of catching the culprit in their return; sweat dripped from her forehead. She was really getting too old for this.

Back in the castle now, she ran to the door she knew the culprit would be heading to, then slowed into a walk and wiped the sweat from her face. Footsteps intercepted her own. "Mr. Dorian, what keeps you up and about so late?" Sangsara said, smiling more at her perfect deduction than at him.

He remained stoic and smiled at her. "Just out for a stroll. I've gotten restless," he said. "You still haven't told Avniel about the disturbances, so I keep circling his room to make sure everything is okay. I trust you can take care of that though?"

Now her grin grew at the challenge. "Of course. Rest well," she said.

There were many reasons she hadn't confronted him yet. For one, she was unsure of what Dorian was plotting; he was a good actor at that, which made him hard to read. Secondly, she was hoping perhaps he could lead her to the real enemy, but for that to work, she couldn't have him running away from this carefully plotted game.

A/N: Updates every... What day is it? Tuesday? Updates every Tuesday. :)