Sir Daelin nodded once more. “Precisely. Arianna, these attacks on the King have intensified. He is not safe, and neither, apparently, are you. I wish I could delay this test, but it is long and difficult to prepare, and you are needed now more than ever before. I am sorry, but this is what you must do.”
Feeling pale but determined, I nodded.
“Yes. I must.”
And they won’t kill me, I silently added. It’s my life; they can’t take it away from me. And this was a game of hide and seek, murder and lies and hidden identities. But the players would soon become apparent.
I’d win them all.
Chapter 19 – Test
Sir Daelin escorted me to the very doors of the Hall where my Poison Test was supposed to take place. It was not, I discovered, in my usual classroom, because I would need good lighting and open windows to be able to see some of the more subtle poisons. If I saw them.
“Ready?” Sir Daelin asked me grimly, taking away his arm from mine.
I took a deep breath, feeling unusually solid and strong, after the trembling in my body had finally passed. Resolutely, I pushed away the memories and the leftover terror of my experience at the top of the Observatory tower a mere half hour ago, trying my best to focus on the ordeal ahead of me.
I smoothed back my hair, thankful that most of it was still in its knotted twist at the top of my head, and I straightened my posture, bringing my hands together in front of my waist. I tried to smile at Sir Daelin.
“Ready,” I said, not believing myself at all.
He nodded once, and motioned to the guards on either side of the doors to open them. They did so, and the massive carved doors swung inwards before me to reveal a cavernous, light hall. Enormous windows brightened the stone room so that it felt the same as though I’d been standing outside in a garden. At the far end of the hall stood a long banquet table, laid with the most magnificent feast I’d ever seen.
“I expect to see you in an hour,” Sir Daelin informed me briskly. Reaching for my hand, he shocked me by leaning over and kissing it lightly, like he would with any true Lady. Then he nodded to Sir Ernest, who was hovering by the table, turned formally, and left the hall. The guards swung the doors closed.
Slowly, I turned towards the feast and began to walk towards my Poisons Master. But inside, I was still marvelling at Sir Daelin’s tribute of respect.
He thinks I can do it, I thought to myself, smiling all of a sudden. He believes in my innocence – he respects me, and he thinks I can live through this.
A sudden, fierce gratitude for Sir Daelin leaped up inside me, and I promised myself that, if I lived through the next hour, I would do better to please Sir Daelin in the future and try not to argue with his every decision. Even if he decided to make me spend my every waking minute with the King. I grimaced at the thought of that.
“Come, Arianna,” Sir Ernest’s quavering, dreamy voice called to me. “Some of these poisons are fussy, and won’t tolerate being made to wait. We must proceed straightaway.”
I made a face as I approached my teacher; I would never be able to understand his twisted love and reverence for poisons. He even spoke of them like they were his precious infants, and not deadly substances that could kill with a single drop.
“Now,” Sir Ernest announced, peering sternly at me over the edge of his spectacles. “The apprentice’s Poison Test is a very simple one: you will taste each dish and drink on this table, and tell me at the end of the hour which platter and which goblet is free of poison.”
|Natalie Portman||as Arianna|
|Sean O'pry||as Prince Dominic|
|Scarlett Johansson||as Cordelia|
|Jonathan Rhys Meyers||as Prince Francis|
|Clive Owen||as King Wilhelm|
|Matt Bomer||as Julian|
|Tom Felton||as Jude|
|Ian McKellen||as Lord Deverell|
|George Clooney||as Sir Daelin|
|Angelina Jolie||as Viola|