Every sunrise was embraced graciously by the King of Aedis. As was every sunset. King Carlyle would admire the budding light at dawn and the receding warmth at dusk from his courtroom balcony everyday, greeting the immortal sun with open arms and a pleasant grin. But that was not the case on this very day. As the golden sun sank into the horizon, extending a faint redness across the evening sky, the king did not stand in his balcony to bid farewell to the retreating sun. Instead, he knelt by his moribund wife’s side as she lay sputtering and gagging on the cellar floor. Her hand rested motionlessly on her stomach, clasping a freshly emptied glass vial.
Perplexed, the King pried the vial out of his wife’s hand and gazed at her. The sight of her foaming mouth and the pulsing vein on her forehead pained him. Her eyes were strained wide enough for him to count the bulging red nerves within them. He couldn’t comprehend the scene before him.
“Elvira,” he wailed. “What have you done?”
Elvira sucked in a tiny breath and suddenly stopped. She stopped sputtering. She stopped gagging. She stopped struggling for air. She went completely still. Carlyle’s throat tightened and he went bleak watching the light fade out of his wife’s eyes. At that moment, the thousand emotions of confusion, fury, betrayal, despair, panic, pain and whatever else was welling up within him were nothing compared to the growing void of emptiness that was gnawing at his insides. Elvira would never again walk the halls of the castle. Her mellifluous voice would never again echo within the chamber walls. Her heavenly smile would never again mesmerise Carlyle except to haunt him in his sleep. She was gone.
“Elvira! What happened? What did you do to my daughter?” Agatha cried as she ran to Elvira’s side and held her pale, limp hand.
Carlyle looked up, suddenly speechless. He heaved a breath. “She- she-”
“She what? Speak!” she growled.
“She drank it.”
“Drank what, Carlyle? What did she drink?” Agatha asked, exasperated. She had her head down, staring at her daughter’s body sprawled across the cellar floor. Carlyle’s eyes stung as the tears threatened to fall.
“She drank the Elixir, didn’t she, Your Majesty?” Carlyle turned and saw the alchemist hunched by the doorway. His slender body leaned against the wooden cellar door as he looked humbly at the king.
“What elixir? What is that man talking about, Carlyle?” Agatha asked, still not taking her eyes off Elvira.
“The Immortality Elixir. The one I offered to His Majesty just a couple days ago. Drinking the Elixir will grant you not only eternal life, but immortality. You will never die, but more importantly, you can never be killed.” The alchemist explained.
“Eternal life,” Agatha scoffed, finally lifting her head to face the alchemist, “Does this look like eternal life to you? She is dead! My daughter is dead! Your bloody elixir killed her!”
“This was never supposed to happen.”
Carlyle slowly shook his head. His gaze wandered to the vial he had pulled out of Elvira’s grasp. It lay a few feet away with the drops of what remained of its contents decorating the vessel’s glass walls.
“Tudor,” He blinked, letting a tear roll down his cheek.
“Hush, King Carlyle. I beg you not to worry. Your Mistress hasn’t passed. I am always cautious with my work, Your Majesty. I always have an antidote up my sleeve for all my concoctions.” The alchemist assured.
Carlyle shook his head yet again. It didn’t matter about the Elixir or the antidote. None of it mattered. But he couldn’t find the words to explain it to them.
“Where is it? Go get it, you devious crook! What are you still doing here?” Agatha howled at Tudor.
The alchemist stumbled backward. “But I cannot. It isn’t an antidote that she needs. It-it is something else. ” he stammered, hesitant to explain.
“No.” Carlyle breathed. Finally mustering up the courage, he spoke a little louder. “Whatever it is, it won’t be necessary.”
He felt Agatha’s agitated stare fall upon him, but he continued. “When Tudor offered me the Elixir two days ago, I was tempted to drink it. Eternal life, eternal power, eternal reign - how promising it seemed. But then I saw that the Elixir was nothing but a way to cheat life. And I am not one to cheat. We are born on this land with a guarantee to leave it one day. Eternal life would not only break nature’s cycle of life and death, but it would plunge you into eternal misery. If I drank the elixir, I’d have no choice but to sit by and watch everybody I ever loved, everyone I ever cared about die. I’d live on and on without reason or purpose until eventually I’d stop. I would just merely exist. A meaningless being with no end. But the elixir would still attract the attention of greedy people.”
“Nobody asked for a lecture from the noble king, Carlyle. Tudor, go fetch the antidote! Bring my daughter back to life!” Agatha bellowed.
“But she didn’t drink the Elixir at all. When I realised that there would be numerous people aching to get their hands on the Elixir once word got out that such a thing existed, I hid it in the cellar. But this was the first place one would look when searching for the Elixir. It was such an obvious hiding spot. So I replaced it with a fake vial and hid the original elsewhere.” Carlyle picked up the vial from which Elvira had drank. “To ensure that I caught any thief who came looking for it, I had filled this vial with poison.”
Agatha’s face turned to stone. Tudor dropped to his knees. Suddenly, there seemed to be a cold, dismal aura spreading through the cellar. Carlyle had never been on the best terms with his mother-in-law. He had been hated and blamed for many things. But now he sensed he was about to get blamed for the death of her daughter - the death of his own wife.
“You did this to her! You killed my daughter!” Agatha’s roared her anticipated accusation at Carlyle.
As much as he wanted to deny it, every word of what she spoke was true. Whether intentionally or not, he was, indeed, responsible for Elvira’s death. Carlyle had certainly never expected his own wife to go behind his back for the wretched elixir. Especially not after he had clearly explained to her his reasons for not taking it himself. Nevertheless, if it hadn’t been for his surreptitious exchange of the elixir for poison, his beloved wife would have still been alive. If anyone was to blame, it was him. Carlyle hung his head, ashamed and guilt-ridden at what his actions had brought upon him.
Agatha slowly got to her feet and walked closer to Carlyle until her face was hovering not a foot away from his own. With a deep breath, he looked up and met her intimidating gaze, accepting that he deserved whatever she was about to say to him.
“You killed her. I lost her because of you. And be assured, you will pay the price.” She spoke like she was taking an enormous weight off her shoulder with each word that fell from her lips.
“I lost her just as much as you did. She is - She was my wife.” Carlyle said.
“And now she is dead.” Agatha paused. Her eyes narrowed, daggering Carlyle with a murderous look. “And so will your daughter. There will come a day when you lose your precious little girl to the actions of her beloved, even if I have to ensure of it myself. And trust me, it will hurt twice as much, Your Majesty.”