"Any word yet about the medicine?" Amadeo asked, slowly making his way to the sickroom. He hesitated to regain his balance before walking through the door. The guards who had been helping him walk shifted nervously.
The doctor, who had been worriedly following him, scurried over to the medicine shelves, while Amadeo took a seat in the room. Fidgeting so as to keep from letting the fear of death drive him mad, Amadeo tapped his foot. Twirled his thumbs. Breathed deeply. His nervousness must have been apparent, because the doctor glanced over several times with a downright terrified look on his face.
If Amadeo died...the consequences would be devastating. He had no heir. He had distant relatives, but all the kingdom would be stricken with sorrow. Amadeo was not the only one fit to rule, but he was the most loved, and they all knew it.
"I'm afraid we've got one dose of it left," the doctor said. The urgency of the situation did not allow for any formalities.
"How far does one dose go?"
"One dose is enough to heal one person." The doctor's face was relieved as he poured the medicine vial into a small silver cup. "It'll take...Mmm, probably three days for the healing process to work. But it'll work." His eyes were filled with tears of sweet relief.
For a moment, Amadeo was relieved, as well. There was medicine! Now he and Cassandra...
He and Cassandra would be separated, because one of them would have to die. "And it takes how long to acquire another bottle of medicine?"
"The plants required are rare. That we have this much is nothing short of a miracle. This fever is a type almost unheard of. And it takes ever so long to make - the plant extracts have to age a few years."
"Is there not any medicine already made? Anywhere in the kingdom?" Amadeo's breath fell ragged, and he turned and coughed.
"It would be a week's journey - at least. Very few medicine-makers know how to make it. The nearest place would probably be Althea." The doctor knelt beside Amadeo's chair. "Drink this, now," he said, his face lit up with joy. He thought his beloved king was saved.
No, far from it.
"I can't drink this," Amadeo said, his voice strained. So. This was where love had taken him. He would die for her.
"I can dilute it just slightly, so that it's not so thick. It might be easier to swallow."
"No...that's not what I meant. What I mean is..." Amadeo closed his eyes and tried to still his heart from its merciless pounding. "I want Cassandra to drink it."