Through the Blood
by Mette Ivie Harrison
The day had been long and loud, with the constant roar of the crowds outside the
palace cheering for Elwell. Now it was dark and the man himself was inside, with
the king he had deposed, carrying a heavy crystal decanter and a white powder in a
"There's not enough powder here to kill you, but enough to make you forget who
you are and how you will end," Elwell offered gently, as if with real compassion.
Haber, no longer King, stood at the window, looking out on his last sunset.
Elwell shrugged. "It's your choice. The end won't come any sooner or slower for
it, but I wanted you to know that I do have some scrap of mercy left for you. We
were once friends, were we not?"
"I was your friend," said Haber. "But I think you've been planning this for a very
long time indeed. Revenge for boyhood slights? You have capitalized on every
misstep, on the queen's death, on the rebellion I put down so bloodily, on the
raised taxes after the drought. I trusted you."
"Trust is a fatal flaw in a king, sadly." Elwell put another log on the fire.
The room was plenty warm. Elwell was making it hot enough that Haber's robes
would become acutely uncomfortable. But to take them off -- no. They were the
last sign of kingship, the last thing he had left that Elwell had not taken, and he
would die with them on.
"What is the price, then?" asked Haber, gesturing to the powder though he had no
intention of taking it.
"Gifting your son with the magic," said Elwell. "Of course. What else do you
have to offer?"
The magic that protected the kingdom from outside attack. It did not extend to
civil war, nor to drought or plague. But so long as the king held the magic and the
king held the throne, the kingdom of Triborn could not be taken by an invading
army from another land.
In his youth, Haber had twice been tempted by his friendship with Elwell to tell
him how the magic passed from one king to the next, but both times had stopped
himself. It was perhaps his only wisdom in all those years. If Elwell knew, how
different this scene would be.
"No," said Haber. "Giving the magic to him would be the same as giving it to
you." Elwell would use Berick worse than he had used Haber.