Jinnaari sat in his chair, watching the ceremony unfold to formally acknowledge Thia’s place within the family. She was quiet, as always, and unused to the attention. Then again, the last time any of her family tried to get to know her, they were down in the Underdark.
And she ended up gutting her mother before presenting the woman’s heart to Lolth.
He grasped his goblet and took a drink. The wine was perfect. “You’ve got a skilled vintner, Lord Randy,” he commented to the man to his right.
“Thank you, though it’s not something we’ve brewed here. One of my brothers tried, and failed rather spectacularly, to brew several different beverages.” He chuckled, “Let’s just say it took the keep about a month to collectively recover from his efforts. One of the best parts of my position,” he took a drink from his own goblet, “is to sample wares from Waterdeep and other cities and make sure we stay supplied with the good stuff during the winter months.”
“You’re in charge of the merchants, then?”
“Yes. Pan will take over, eventually. But Elizabeth wants him to mature some, get some of his foolish nature under control. He’s a bit, how do I put this delicately, impulsive.”
“I’ve spent several months around him,” Jinnaari replied. “Impulsive is better than some things I might say.” He chuckled. “He’s been protective of Thia since they figured out the relationship. And he’s far more subdued here than I’m used to him being.”
“He wasn’t exactly thrilled when I was elevated over him, but his mother had her reasons. If you remain a few more days, you may see the Pan you know come back. It’s not often he can keep himself restrained. Or sober.”
The ceremony ended, and everyone began to move back to their places at the high table. The Baroness sat between him and Thia. Rising as they approached, he looked at Thia and bowed. The glare she sent him was ice cold. Something wasn’t right. Then again, it could be residual of the drugs Lolth had given her. Give it a few days, he reasoned, she’ll either say what’s bothering her or be herself again.
“As you all know,” his host spoke as she stood, “my niece’s homecoming is not the only thing we celebrate tonight. We are deeply honored by the presence of Queen Agrana’s heir, His Royal Highness, Prince Jinnaari. Protector of the realm and heir to the throne.” She reached behind her and took a large chalice from an attendant. “Long have the Beckenburg family held this Barony for the Kingdom. May we continue to have a strong alliance, built of trust, friendship, and loyalty.” She raised the chalice to her lips and took a sip. Elizabeth turned, handing the cup out to him, and said, “So shall it always be.”
Jinnaari grasped it, “So shall it always be,” he replied and raised it to his lips. The wine was excellent, but he didn’t drink much. Turning toward his right, he handed it to Randy. “So shall it always be.”
The man smiled and repeated the phrase as he took the cup and drank. Within seconds, a white froth formed at the corner of his mouth. The chalice fell from his hands as his body crashed onto the table.
Jinnaari reached out, trying to heal the man, but it was too late. Helix rushed over, casting a resurrection spell as he moved, but it didn’t help. He was dead.
Helix looked up at Jinnaari, “What happened?”
“The Prince poisoned him!” a voice screamed from the back of the hallway.
Turning, he tried to see his accuser. “Never,” he said, his voice calm. “I drank from the same chalice. This is not my doing.”
The Baroness’s face was cold. “Your Highness, I ask that you return to your room. I will post a guard, for your own safety, outside. Please do not leave until we learn more of what happened.” She paused, “I also need to write Her Majesty, and hear her council. It is only your position, Sir, that keeps you from the dungeon. Don’t make me regret that courtesy.”
Jinnaari nodded curtly. Glancing past her as he followed his escort, he caught Thia’s face. Instead of shock and concern, her face was as hard as his hostess. Did she actually believe he could commit a cold-blooded murder?