The messenger paced around the tavern’s dining hall with the nervous energy of quickleaf. He ignored the steaming bowls of partridge stew and fresh bread even though he’d been on the march for seven days and hadn’t eaten in three. He had been too long on the circular path, and now only hungered for more leaf.
No doubt he had been one of the regiment’s finer officers to have been entrusted with the scroll that he’d carried. Now, though, he would need to be tied to a bedframe and doused with soured wine until the leaf-fever left him. After that he would sleep for days, and on waking would be dulled in body and mind. Some never walked again, and some were left drooling imbeciles. A man – an officer – such as this would have known that this fate could lay in store for him. And still he had measured out and brewed himself the dose, knowing the value of his sacrifice.
The prince fed the scroll into the brazier that stood on the table. He gestured at the messenger and said to his captain, “Have him hanged.”
The finely inked letters faded into the blackening parchment before turning to ash.