The stillroom was a wreck. Elanne pressed a frustrated hand to her face, and surveyed the damage from between her fingers. The floor glittered with shards of glass, here the remains of a green bottle, there what was left of a clear one, and all of it glistening with the spirits she’d been storing here. A sweet, herbal tang filled the air so thickly she could almost taste it. She didn’t need to wonder what had happened. Her stepdaughter. Of course.
The girl had been such a beautiful child, and her father so kind, Elanne had thought on her wedding day that it would all be fine. And when she’d been little, yes, she’d been trouble, but weren’t children always? But then she’d become a teenager and the extent of the damage that her late and entirely unlamented mother had done became clear.
Running away with that woodsman had been bad enough, but at least he’d seemed honest. Abandoning him in the forest to take up with those seven miners had made the whole thing unutterably worse. The leers the seven of them had given her when her father had finally come to drag her back to the castle had made it clear that they were all better off not asking the girl what she had been up to there.
Putting about that Elanne was a witch — well, that was a laugh, wasn’t it? Elanne would still sometimes come across one of the old queen’s books and marvel that her husband had lived long enough to sire his daughter. But if the girl didn’t listen to the whispers in the marketplace, it was all the better. Her knowing what her mother had been and done wouldn’t have improved the situation.
Elanne picked her way through the outer room, trying not to cut herself. Had the girl left anything? She touched a careful fingertip to one of the slicks and lifted it to her tongue, where it greeted her with a bitter zing. The willowbark tincture for fever. She sighed. She’d have to make more.
As she reached the door to the inner room, the old queen’s stillroom, a sharp scent of apples greeted her. Elanne froze. She had never made that particular formula, but she recognized it. It had been in one of the books, the one she’d burned. The old bitch had made that?
She threw open the half-closed door, and what she saw put a knot in her throat the size of a fist. Her stepdaughter, lying on the floor, skin white as snow, lips red as blood, with an empty bottle a few inches from her hand. Heedless of the glass, Elanne sank to the ground. The girl was alive. Barely. That formula wasn’t meant to kill, but… Dear God.
Elanne buried her face in her hands, and waited for the world to tell her what to do next.
This week’s Write at the Merge prompt at Write On Edge gave us the sense of smell and the word “elixir” for inspiration, so I took another pass at classic fairy tales with this one. Thanks for reading!