We dance round in a ring and suppose
But the secret sits in the middle and knows
Word limit is 450.
Secrets are tedious, fickle creatures. They entice us. We want to believe that we are the only ones who know, but inevitably we feel pressure to share our special knowledge with others. Sometimes the game is harmless. Sometimes, the secrets we tell sink ships.
I offer the following in response: A Game of Secrets
“Someone in this room is a traitor.” The words tripped softly from the king’s lips but triggered a tsunami of silence across his dinner guests. Horror descended next when he added, “And the traitor was poisoned during supper.”
A cold sweat forming on my neck, I shot the king a look. He smiled back.
A servant replaced the centerpiece with a golden chalice. “There is the antidote,” the king announced.
Bromley gave a nervous chuckle, “Surely, your Majesty jests-“
“We are disappointed, Lord Bromley. Our father thought you an intelligent man, and yet you call us a jester. We are your king!”
I tried to remember the flavors of the meal. His Majesty ruffled feathers with his rise to power. There were whisperings among the courtiers that the king was mad. His temper tantrum last week left a prostitute broken and bloodied. It was hushed of course, but his majesty was growing paranoid and unpredictable of late. And I had a secret he wouldn’t like to hear.
Elisse met my gaze with worry in her ice-blue eyes, the only blemish in her calm exterior. “Your Majesty, my husband, I am sure Lord Bromley meant no disrespect.” Her voice was steady, unlike my churning stomach. Surely our affair had not been discovered. We were so discreet.
Like the others, I shifted my gaze from the chalice in the center of the table, to the sea of surprised and disturbed faces at the table. My vision began to blur and played to my fear that I had been the one poisoned.
The king sat back in his chair, a smug smile plastered above his chin. “Time is running out. If the traitor doesn’t drink the entire contents of that chalice before the effects of the poison takes root, he will die.”
Lord Bromley dabbed a handkerchief across his brow. “Your Majesty, I can’t believe that any of us, your Majesty’s trusted advisors, would commit treason.”
The king answered with a silent glare. My lungs were iron and refused to breathe. Panicked accusations were hurled around the table, none of which I could hear above the ringing in my ears. I prayed, ready to reach for the chalice.
Movement caught the corner of my eye. Stunned, I watched Lord Percival lean forward with a shaky hand. “Majesty, forgive me.”
We watched him drink the contents of the chalice and then fall over dead. Shocked, we turned to the king for explanation.
“The poison was in the chalice,” he stated simply. “We really didn’t think any of you were traitors.”
Breath returned to my lungs as a new secret grew in my gut. I was going to kill the king.