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from Ralph and the Prince by Jo Hawk

Copyright © 2019 Jo Hawk

Fortezza del Calamaio

Ralph fought to roll to his side, but his stiff, sore muscles screamed at him to stop. He struggled, floating somewhere between waking and sleeping. His body begged him to lie still while his mind flashed images he wanted to forget. The prince, vomiting his stomach’s vile-smelling contents into a porcelain bowl, wreathing, bent in half and moaning in agony. D’ArtAnna pouring entire potion vials past his dry parched mouth, coaxing him to swallow. She laid flawless alabaster stones on his naked torso and waited until they turned dark and began oozing green-gray pus. Then, using metal tongs, she removed them, placing them in the searing fireplace to burn.

They worked without stopping, refusing to give up hope. Ralph spent countless hours turning the prince’s head, directing the expulsion of the poison, into the basin. They took turns cleaning every droplet from his skin, avoiding all contact, they burned everything it touched. He bathed his prince with towels soaked in a fresh-smelling liquid D’ArtAnna mixed.

The room was sweltering hot, but D’ArtAnna instructed Uzair to stoke the already roaring fire. Their aim, she said, was to sweat the toxin out of the prince’s body. Running in and out of the infirmary, Uzair fetched wood, bedding, linen rags, buckets of cold well water, and whatever else D’ArtAnna requested until at last, the prince slept.

She placed her hand on his forehead, examined his pupils, and timed his pulse.

“We have done everything we can. He must do the rest,” D’ArtAnna proclaimed.

Ralph perched on a low stool, watching the slow, small rise and fall of their patient’s chest, willing him to live. Sunlight faded, darkness fell, Uzair brought candles and their vigil continued. He d...






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