Azalea Tea and Other Poisons


Author: Lilli Gast – Second Place Senior Division 2023

Millicent strolled through the gardens, outwardly seeming calm as could be, though she was anything but. Her status as advisor and informant to the crown was becoming bothersome.

The foreign delegation was due to arrive any moment, though she had just found that they had no good intentions about their visit. Now all she had to do was figure out what they were plotting to do against the royal family.

Easy, she thought sarcastically. She was as excited for their visit as she’d be to commit murder. Millicent now had to hurry to be on time to greet these people, and hopefully to decipher their intentions. She went to her rooms, changed, and very nearly ran to the reception hall.

Serena, a close friend of Millicent’s and advisor to the queen, was already there, and waved her out onto the steps, whisper-shouting at her.

“Milly! You need to stop cutting it so close! They’re nearly here!”

Milly calmly whispered back, “Oh, don’t be such a mother hen! I’m here now, aren’t I?”

“You and I both know you were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago! Now hurry up and get to your place, at least.”

They got to their places in the row of people behind the queen just in time for her to greet the foreigners. The sun was beating down on the stone steps, and the atmosphere was as muggy as the kitchens after a feast had been made.

“Greetings! I hope your journey was pleasant.” Queen Raleigh hailed the oncoming delegates. They were from a foreign kingdom that neighbored them on their west border.

She was standing on the palace steps, adorned in formal garb. The six delegates approached, coming up to the palace steps. None of them were armed, at least not that Milly could detect. Who knew what they were hiding in the trunks still in their carriages. Their leader appeared to be a graying man of average height who seemed to be in his fifties, who approached before the rest.

He bowed in acknowledgement. “Our greatest respects, your highness. I am Sir Emmett, advisor to the King and leader of this humble delegation. We come bearing gifts.”

The Queen replied, “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Sir Emmett. Our greatest thanks and appreciation for the gifts, as well.”

The man, Sir Emmett apparently, brandished a finely wrapped box, as big as a dinner plate. “In addition to our other offerings, we’ve brought you our most prized delicacy, our azalea honey. It adds the most wonderful flavor to tea.”

Milly’s immediate thought was what in the world is azalea? I’ve heard of no such thing.

More suspicious than ever after hearing of their apparent plotting, she wondered why in the world they would give something like food, especially azalea honey of all things. Food was just about the most uncommon gift there was, seeing as jewels and fancy things appealed to people’s greed so much more. She’d have to make a mental note to ask what azalea was later.

Later, the delegation had been shown their rooms and was settling in before they’d have to congregate for teatime once again. Millicent had just briefed her queen on the situation with the suspect delegation. Milly was now preparing for afternoon tea, helping the maids set out the teacups next to the correct placement at the table, as the delegation’s seats had been strategically placed. Once this was done, she went to the washroom to freshen up before going to await everyone at the base of the grand staircase.

They soon made their way down, and as Millicent directed them, went to the dining hall for tea. It was especially important that everyone sat down according to the planned seating arrangement as she and Serena had planned. They were served specialty tea and biscuits and made small talk. Now it was just a matter of time before Milly would find out whether this delegation really had nefarious intentions. She had put that strange honey in half of the delegates’ tea, just to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. Better safe than sorry, she thought.

Sooner or later, she started to notice some of the delegates were moving slowly, and one of them was staring into the distance and drooling rather disgustingly. Apparently, that strange honey was poisonous. Millicent was both repulsed by their underhanded strategy and glad she’d discovered their plot so early on. She subtly signaled to the Queen, who’d earlier approved this plan, what was happening. Raleigh nodded, looking a little green, before asking the table, “How is the tea faring?” One of these poisoned delegates was sitting right across from Milly. He looked to the Queen, “I’m feeling just a bit queasy, I think I’ll head to the washroom.” He quickly scurried off, holding his mouth with his hand.

The Queen smiled demurely, “We did add in that lovely honey you brought to the tea. I do hope you don’t mind.”

The leader, Emmett, stood up, clearly panicked. “My lady, who exactly drank tea with the added honey?”

“I do believe a few men in your delegation did, it seems to be causing some adverse effects.”

He spluttered, “Why…what…how dare you!”

Millicent smiled as she raised her teacup. This was positively a perfect calamity. Now all she had to do was wait for something a little stronger than azalea to come into effect. Suddenly, Queen Raleigh collapsed. At least five people rushed to her side. The situation with the foreigners had been enough to distract the Queen from testing her own tea and biscuits for poison stronger than azalea honey. It did inconvenience Milly that Raleigh had become an issue, but oh well. Out with the old, in with the new. This monarchy had been ridiculous anyway.

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