Ch. 41.6 — Janine reached the front hallway just as the front door opened. A single candle flickered from the lantern which hung high above the door, revealing a man dusted in snow. He entered the cave, leading a horse, then shut the door. The horse put his head down, blowing hard.
Prince Eli stamped his feet and brushed off the snow. Then he paused, staring up at the frozen dragon with an expression of horror on his face. “Hello? Is anyone here?”
“Just little old me.” Zelda stepped out of the shadows and approached Eli.
Eli stared at her in alarm. “You!”
Zelda curtsied and then giggled. “Me, your darling bride to be.”
“No!” Janine rushed forward, intending to tackle Zelda.
Zelda whirled and knocked Janine to the ground. “On your knees, minion — and stay there.”
Although pain seared her bruised hands and knees, Janine gritted her teeth and struggled to her feet.
“I said, stay.” Zelda reached into another pouch and flicked something green at Janine. Vines curled around her and trapped her in their coils. Janine fell to the floor, unable to move. She fought against her bonds, but she couldn’t break free.
Janine frantically ran down her mental list of plants that grew in the Tulgey Woods. “Grabberry vines,” she thought and silently groaned.
Eli’s face darkened with anger. “You’ll pay for that, madam.” He raised his sword and stepped towards Zelda.
“I think not.” Zelda opened another pouch and threw a blue powder into Eli’s face. “Be still.”
Janine expected him to turn into salt, but Eli just stood still, blinking in surprise. Then his expression emptied. The sword clattered to the floor.
Janine sniffed the air and groaned. “Dried borogove spit,” she thought. “Fatal in large doses. Eli won’t be able to resist her commands.”
Zelda chuckled. “It pays to know your poisons.” She minced over to Eli and stroked his cheek. “Well, my dear prince, it seems I need you after all.”
Zelda went up on tiptoe and kissed him. “You love me.”
Eli spoke in a monotone, his expression empty. “Yes.”
“We’re going to the castle. You will tell your father that poor Ezra is dead. Your older brothers were turned into pigs, and will soon become a meal for a hungry wolf or Bandersnatch.”
She trailed a long red fingernail down his cheek. “Your mother is dead. Your father needs only a few more doses of poison, and he will follow her. From his deathbed, the king will declare you his successor. After that, we’ll have a royal wedding. Sadly, it will soon be revealed that you have gone mad with grief and must be locked in your room, and I will be crowned queen of Nelsonia.”
“You can’t be queen,” said Janine. “Matthew’s son is the next in line.”
Zelda arched an eyebrow. “Haven’t you heard? A Jubjub bird stole poor little Sam out of his bed. He’s gone. A death sentence has been declared on those nasty Jubjubs.”