Brittany concocted the nostrum with the finesse of a lover, both in response to Neil’s desperate cri de coeur to save his son’s life, but also for the obscene amount of money he offered. She practiced her witch’s craft with masterful illusion, knowing the potions she created, the billionaire could not find in some pharmacology catalogue.
“So this will shatter the parasitic crystalline growth surrounding his organs and cause them to dissolve into harmless waste?”
Medical science had failed Neil Barrett and he had been forced to turn to the ways of his ancient ancestors, the bruja of the Antillies mountain region on his home planet Slora. Oliver was eight years old and his only child and heir. A mysterious curse had rendered Neil sterile, and if his child died, the Barrett empire would die with him.
“I practice brevity if not empathy, benefactor. The child will live.”
He was at the bruja’s mercy. Though the effectiveness of her elixirs was somewhat questionable, they still offered both he and his son the only hope they had left. There, in her humble cottage at the edge of the Mandarican Woods, she finished heating the brew in the fireplace which would decide life or death.
Neil could not dare reveal even a hint of his visiting this practitioner of the forbidden arts, especially to his wife Cristina due to her tribe’s hate of witchcraft, so he had been forced to travel without his bodyguards to Slora, purchasing a small null-grav vessel at great cost in the Central City, to be able to quickly transport the two of them into this remote region.
“What must I do?”
“Hold your son in your lap, benefactor. Open his mouth. I will pour the liquid down his throat.”
“It must cool first.”
“My creation is the correct temperature, and you have already extracted from me the mortal oath. Should the child die, the curse will take me with him.”
“Then do it. Quickly, he’s hardly breathes.”
Brittany, of an undetermined age by appearance, had lived in this hut since before Neil’s grandfather had been born, and must have taken the oath countless times, yet was still alive.
Neil did as the witch had instructed and she poured the milky-white substance, still steaming from the heated iron pot, slowly into his mouth. Her hands were bare, but not being affected by the miniature cauldron, and the mist from the fluid rose, surrounding both father and son.
The boy gasped as the medicine touched his tongue and gagged, but then swallowed the entire mixture. He heaved in his father’s arms, coughed, and then opened his eyes.
“Oh, Oliver. My wonderful boy. You are awake.”
“I still feel very sleepy, Papa.”
“He needs a great deal of rest. You can put him in the cot in the back of the room.”
“Thank you, Brittany. You will receive great payment for saving him, even beyond what I promised.”
Neil gently set his beloved boy onto the crude bed, and didn’t see the gleam in the bruja’s eyes as she slyly intoned, “I know, benefactor. I know.”
“How long must I wait until…” Those would be Neil’s last words as he clutched his throat and then sank to his knees. He grabbed at his gut in agony, doubled over, and then fell onto his side.
A door on the witch’s left which he hadn’t noticed before, opened, and his eyes wide with astonishment and horror, witnessed Cristina entering the room. His throat had closed and he struggled for air. Then his wife calmly pulled a low wooden stool from next to the fireplace, put it beside the bruja, and sat.
“I told you the truth, benefactor. Your son will live. However, I did not reveal the full price to be paid.”
“You see dearest husband, this was the only way to dispose of you and allow me access to your vast fortune. To you, I was just a child bearer, a trophy wife, an object and not a companion. If you had lived to see our son’s majority, he would have inherited, and you would have discarded me. This way, with you dead, and Oliver a mere child, I will be vizier, administrating the empire until his twenty-first birthday. My son will take care of me for after all, what son doesn’t love his mother, even if it was necessary to poison him so you would bring our child here.”
Cristina turned to Brittany. “You will be well rewarded, and I trust the advance payment was more than satisfactory.”
“I do this for blood, not merely for payment, Crissie. You know that. And I will also arrange for the apparent accident that the public and your son will believe cost the benefactor his life.”
“Oh, you seem surprised, Neil. Yes, my father’s tribe are religious zealots who consider all forms of the occult an abomination, but my father only pretended to share their beliefs. He married a bruja in secret, and she bore him two daughters, but that was long ago. Like my father, I only pretended to abhor witchcraft, so I could move among the aristocracy, eventually marrying into wealth and power.”
Neil could feel his heartbeat slow and his thoughts grew sluggish, but even in his last moments, he rolled onto his back and his eyes darted toward his slumbering child. He was all that mattered.
“I will take very good care of Oliver, Neil. Never fear. I do love my son and he will give my family the wealth and authority we deserve. I, of course, will return the favor and teach him the dark arts. One day, he will be both King and Sorcerer, commanding a realm more vast than even you could possibly imagine.
Neil’s body convulsed and then was still, and Oliver’s mother and aunt vowed on the dead corpse at their feet to take very good care of the boy. The child looked so sweetly innocent as he slept. His innocence, however, was about to end.
I wrote this for Wordle #203 hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. Today, the idea is to use at least ten of the twelve words below in a poem, short story, or other creative work. I used all twelve. The words are:
- Cri De Coeur (n.)) a passionate appeal, complaint, or protest)
- Nostrum ((n) a medicine prepared by an unqualified person, especially one that is not considered effective)
In this case, I started writing without having a clear ending in mind, but a classic tale of ambition and betrayal emerged as I progressed forward.