Title: Poison Master
By: Smartkitty314
Synopsis: Poison Study, written from 3rd Person Limited (Valek's) Point of View. The book's events from a different perspective.
Rating: Pg-13. Nothing more mature than anything found in the book itself.
Disclaimer: This exists solely for the purpose of me enjoying myself and practicing my writing, not me making any money.

Chapter 3:

Valek snapped the folder closed, striding towards the door. This Yelena was no longer a prisoner, so no longer a need for her to drag around those chains. He could feel her eyes boring into his back as he instructed the guards waiting outside to remove the manacles. He could see the panic in her eyes as they approached her—again, it amused him to wonder what she expected—then the surprise as she realized her freedom. Her skin was rubbed raw from the grating metal, but the true release remained mental. She sat down, appearing somewhat faint.

All in all, she'd reacted rather well—he had seen some go insane, some still feel the phantom weight, some collapse or throw up. Still, he took advantage of her distraction to slip a bit of orange-white powder into a cup, then pour some mead over it. The powder instantly dissolved.

"While we're waiting for Margg, I thought maybe you could use a drink." He handed her the goblet, then toasting her with his own cup, said, "To Yelena, our newest food taster. May you last longer than your predecessor."

Although she couldn't have possibly noticed anything wrong, she stopped just short of taking a sip.

"Relax," he reassured her. Perhaps the wording was somewhat upsetting? "It's a standard toast."

She took a long swig. From the look on her face, the fact that the drink was alcoholic masked any other subtleties she may have tasted. "Another sip," he commanded. "Identify the ingredients."

This time, she took a smaller portion, and held it in her mouth for a moment. "Peaches sweetened with honey."

"Good. Now take another sip. This time roll the liquid around your tongue before swallowing."

She cautiously complied, making a slight face when she noticed it. "Orange?"

She was a fast learner. He suppressed a grin. "That's right. Now gargle it."

"Gargle?" The suspicious-surprised expression. He nodded. She swished and bubbled it in her mouth, disbelief and disgust flashing across her face. "Rotten oranges!" she accused.

This time, Valek couldn't withhold his laughter. Her disgruntled glare reminded him so much of his own crash-course in food tasting. "Try again, now with my drink."

She cautiously took a sip, then gargled. The surprise as she braced herself for the rotten flavor that never came was almost as funny as her first face.

"Better?" Valek asked, as he took back the empty cup.

"Yes." She still looked suspicious, as if waiting for the catch. Smart girl. Valek returned to his desk and noted the various personality traits he had observed. "You just had your first lesson in food tasting. Your drink was laced with a poison called Butterfly's Dust. Mine wasn't. The only way to detect Butterfly's Dust in a liquid is to gargle it. That rotten-orange flavor you tasted was the poison."

This was his favorite part, telling them they were poisoned. A very good judge of character. Needless to say, she didn't disappoint. 1 part surprised, 2 parts worried, and 1 part indignant, he noted.

"Is it lethal?"

"A big enough dose will kill you in two days. The symptoms don't arrive until the second day, but by then it's too late."

"Did I have a lethal dose?" She held her breath warily.

"Of course. Anything less and you wouldn't have tasted the poison."

Then came the surprise again, and the nausea. The last thing he wanted was vomit on his desk.

"I warned you the training would be dangerous. But I would hardly give you a poison your body had to fight while you suffered from malnutrition. There is an antidote to Butterfly's Dust." He opened his palm, revealing a small vial containing a white liquid.

She looked a lot more relieved. Valek may have been in danger of laughing if he hadn't perfected controlling his emotions years prior.

"In answer to the question you didn't ask but should have, this—" Valek raised the small vial and shook it "—is how we keep the Commander's food taster from escaping."

She just looked confused. Not stupid, though. Innocent, then? Naïve?

"Yelena, you confessed to murder. We would be fools to let you serve the Commander without some guarantees. Guards watch the Commander at all times and it is doubtful you would be able to reach him with a weapon. For other forms of retaliation, we use Butterfly's Dust." Valek picked up the vial of antidote, and twirled it in the sunlight. "You need a daily dose of this to stay alive. The antidote keeps the poison from killing you. As long as you show up each morning in my office, I will give you the antidote. Miss one morning and you'll be dead by the next. Commit a crime or an act of treason and you'll be sent back to the dungeon until the poison takes you. I would avoid that fate, if I were you. The poison causes severe stomach cramps and uncontrollable vomiting."

Margg arrived behind her, ready to remove her so Valek could get back to work. It had been interesting, but he still had a lot of paperwork to fill out, and interesting didn't get it done.

He dismissed her, saying, "Come to my office tomorrow morning. Margg will direct you."

He would keep a close eye on this one, inquire with the servants about her. She was the clue to a lot of puzzles, but she raised more questions than she answered.