Saturday, 4 February 2017
Snippets: Sleeping Draught
“At least he’s a skinny little thing,” giggled one of the twins. “Remember that big fat one last month, the one who needed two cakes before the sleeping draught kicked in.”
The other twin giggled too and they both puffed out their cheeks in imitation.
The youngest sister reached into the tin for one of the drugged cakes with the tongs. Not that that it was so strong as to send one to sleep by mere touch, but the couple of times she’d forgotten and used her fingers, she must have licked then unconsciously, as she’d found herself drifting off to sleep when the boat carried her across the lake to the island and had tired of dancing long before the others.
She filled a goblet with wine, and, since the rest of her sisters were busy very quietly getting themselves ready for the night, she opened the door with her elbow and stepped out into the hallway.
“Let me get that for you!” The little soldier leaped to his feet as she clumsily pulled the door to behind her, jerking the goblet so that a little of the wine slopped down the side.
It was an awkward moment, as he stood, arms out as if to relieve her of what she was carrying but constrained by the fact that she was clearly bringing him a gift and he could hardly snatch it from her hands.
“Er … I brought you a snack.” The princess held out the plate and the cup. Somehow she couldn’t remember the words that had rolled off her tongue every other night. “I wish you luck.” She dropped a curtsey and stepped backwards towards the door, feeling for the handle behind her.
“Princess?” said the soldier.
She stood, one hand on the door handle and looked at his bright eyes and smiling face.
“Thank you very much. It’s very thoughtful of you,” he said. “I daresay I will be glad of it as I sit here through the small hours of the night.”
This was the part when she was supposed to persuade him to eat it right now. ‘Do try a bite,’ she would insist. ‘I made it myself.’ The moment she went back into their chamber, her eldest sister would demand to know if whoever it was who was guarding them each night was asleep yet and would send her back out if they weren’t. It was all very well for her, the youngest princess thought. She seemed to be able to ignore the fact that they were sending a man to his death each night.
She smiled at the little soldier. Was it just that she couldn’t bear to responsible for ending another life? Or was there something in particular about this one.
“You’re very welcome. And, of course, you may feel far too full after dinner to be eating more food.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “You don’t want it to make you sleepy, do you?”