“Has not this been a wondrous day?” said the old man, grinning broadly as he sat on the bed.
Doctor Aemilius Praetorious stared ruefully at his patient. “Indeed, sire. Most… wondrous. Filled with wonders of all kind.” With that statement, Praetorious went back to mixing the various vile-smelling liquids before him into something that smelled even worse. “Now, Your Highness, if you would kindly allow me to finish making… your medicine?” He leaned forward. “I fear it must be a very potent dose, this time. You have been… a bit disruptive today.”
Pelleas nodded absently. “Yes, yes, of course, of course.” He glanced away bashfully. “Doctor Praetorious… I… My bowels must be voided…”
The doctor winced. “I suppose you wish me to get your chamber pot?”
Pelleas managed a shy nod. “It would be most kind.”
With a frustrated growl, Praetorious stood up and walked to where the ornate pot lay waiting. This was not a task he enjoyed. Even with regular cleanings, the chamber pot always smelled rather off--and part of Praetorious’ duties was the analysis of the king’s… voidings. Unpleasant, but the only way to make sure that he was successfully drugging the king without killing him. Not that Praetorious enjoyed that part of this job either. Or any of the job, for that matter. After quite a few years of this, he was waiting for the Prince to finally announce that the time of King Pelleas’ lengthy illness was at its end, so that he could finish things and get on with his life. Praetorious had been enjoying living off a rather sizable fortune before Prince Amfortas had ‘recruited’ him, and he wanted to go back to that. Ideally, supplemented by the payments he’d received from the Prince-Regent, though that part could be abandoned if it turned out Amfortas was planning to simplify things by eliminating him once it was all over.
But all this pleasant speculation was for the future. For now--he had vital matters to attend to. Praetorious began to set the pot before King Pelleas. “Here you go. Now, let us try to make this…” began the doctor. At which point, Pelleas’ foot lashed out, striking the chamber pot with such force that it collided with Praetorious’ head.
Doctor Praetorious gave a shout in pain, and tried to steady himself, only for the King’s knee to strike him precisely in the stomach. As he toppled forward, Praetorious watched the pot fall from his grasp and dash to pieces on the ground. The thought of landing on its remnants filled him with such horror, he managed to yank himself backwards. While this did spare him from landing on what remained of the chamber pot, it also allowed Praeotorious to give him a very potent shove, followed by a vicious slap to the face.
The doctor fell to the ground, groaning weakly. As he watched, King Pelleas walked over to the vial of medicine he’d been brewing, and picked it up. Praetorious saw the anger flash in the King’s eyes, and then he knew. “I never… got you, did I?” he said weakly. “All those long years, and you’ve been sitting there, letting me think I had you broken, and hating me.”
“If it makes you feel better,” said the King softly, as he approached the fallen doctor, “until recently, you were far closer than you now imagine. Though never quite as close as you thought.” He learned forward, and grabbed Praetorious’ face. “Now, Doctor, it is time for you to take your medicine.” And then he began to pour the doctor’s concoction down his throat.
Praetorious gagged as the vile stuff filled his mouth, and found himself wishing he’d mixed for flavor instead of potency. Pelleas watched him swallow, then gave a satisfied nod. The King rose, and started away, his footsteps surprisingly light and certain on the floor. The doctor waited until they faded from his hearing, and then tried to rise. But the beating and the drug were both robbing him of mobility, and he succeeded only in flopping about uselessly on the floor. After almost a minute of this, he gave it up--he couldn’t waste his time this way. While he doubted the King knew it, the drugs he’d mixed were generally fatal when taken in the quantity he’d just choked down. And in his present situation, with no one coming to assist him, that meant he had one option.
Doctor Aemilius Praetorious opened his mouth wide, and forced two fingers down his throat. As he did so, he remembered to tilt his head to the side. The thought of saving himself from poisoning by choking on his own vomit failed to amuse him.