Stephen woke with a start! He saw that the sun had risen and worried that he didn’t wake up in time to catch Emily before she left for parliament. He looked at his cellphone and saw it was still five minutes before Emily’s alarm would go off, and he breathed a sigh of relief. He dashed out of his bed, and as he quickly changed out of his pajamas, he admonished himself for picking last night out of all nights to pass out! He supposed that his lack of sleep over the last few days coupled with the alcohol he drank really made him knock out, but he had really hoped to wake up earlier. He wanted plenty of time to freshen up and carve out what he would tell her before he saw her, but he figured now he would have to just wing it. As soon as he was dressed, he rushed to his bathroom, ran his comb through his hair, gargled some mouthwash, and sprayed on some cologne. He didn’t think he looked his absolute best, but he settled on it since he was running out of time. He just hoped that Emily didn’t decide to get up early as he grabbed his cellphone and zipped out of his door.
As he stood in front of Emily’s bedroom, he heard her alarm clock go off. He felt relieved that she probably hadn’t gotten up yet, and he took a moment to collect himself before he entered. He knew Emily probably wouldn’t totally enjoy talking about his feelings as soon as she woke up, but he couldn’t help it! He felt like he was going to burst if he didn’t tell her immediately! He took a deep breath, but before he knocked on her door, he noticed that her alarm hadn’t been silenced yet. He found that strange; in the other agents who guarded her’s reports, they noted that she wasn’t a sound sleeper and would wake up from the slightest noise. He hoped that she, like him, got a good snooze out of the whiskey and wasn’t sick from it. Now he felt it was his duty not only to check on her but to wake her up in time to do her job. With that in mind, he swiftly opened her door.
He came into an empty room, and shivers suddenly went down his spine. He tried not to jump to any conclusions, but this did not bode well in his mind. His logic talked him out of his panic, and he began to search for clues to her whereabouts. He turned off the alarm on her cellphone, and he hoped that since he found this on her nightstand that she hadn’t gone far. He observed that her bathroom door was shut, so he went over and knocked on it. “Emily?” No answer, which he found really odd! If Emily had been in there, she would have replied back to him! He opened the bathroom door, and to his dismay, he didn’t see her in there! He saw that she had the clothes she intended to wear sitting on the sink by her shower, so he didn’t think she had left the area, or at least, he hoped that she hadn’t!
He wondered if her anxiety of passing that bill, or maybe the gossip about their near romantic moment, caused her to run into her grandmother’s room. He tapped on her door, and Amelia groggily responded, “Yes?”
“Is Emily in there with you?” Stephen inquired.
“No. Why would she…?” He heard Amelia bolt out of her bed, and she hurried over to the door. “She’s not in her room?”
Amelia’s concern over the matter made Stephen worry even more. Clearly, this behavior didn’t coincide with her normal habits, so he felt sure something had happened! He just inwardly prayed that her disappearance would amount to a trivial incident, and he refused to believe the worst case scenario! “Her cellphone is there, but she isn’t!”
Amelia grabbed her robe and told him, “I’ll go check downstairs in the dining room. Maybe she isn’t feeling well and went to settle her stomach.”
“Good idea! I’ll check the rooms up here in case she wandered into one of them because… I don’t know!” He hastily began opening doors as Amelia sped towards the dining hall.
Each time he opened a door and didn’t see her, his fear just heightened more and more! He didn’t think he could handle it if they didn’t find her! He burst open the last door in the hall, and he had almost forgotten that King Patrick resided there! No one had gone in that room since the day he died, and it sort of felt eerie for Stephen to wander inside of it now, but he couldn’t help himself. He remembered King Patrick gave his final words just after he and Emily had arrived, and he had Stephen lean in so no one else could hear him say, “Promise me you’ll always love her, even when she makes it difficult to do so!” His stomach churned as he wondered if his final request to him had anything to do with her sudden disappearance. He lamented the fact that King Patrick didn’t have more time to explain why he had said that! He yearned to know what King Patrick had foreseen, and he sincerely wished that he could be here right now to give him advice on how to solve this problem!
All of a sudden, he heard Yvette’s voice ring out through the castle, “Attention, Queen Emily! Please report to the parliament room immediately! Thank you!” Stephen realized that they couldn’t find her downstairs, and he ran out of the room in hopes that Emily would comply with that request.
As he marched down the hallway, he got on the phone with Alastair. Before Alastair could say anything, Stephen reported, “We have a situation at the castle! Bring the whole team!” Before Alastair could ask any follow up questions, Stephen hung up in order to investigate downstairs.
Stephen found Yvette and Amelia with utterly distraught expressions on their faces. Stephen asked them, “No sign of her?”
“No!” Yvette answered. “I see members of parliament coming in, but I haven’t seen Emily since yesterday!”
“Oh Stephen! What if something happened to her?” Amelia fretted. “I lost her parents already, if I lose Emily, I’ll just…”
Stephen asserted, “You won’t lose her! We’re gonna find her, I guarantee it!” As he said that, he watched the parliament members trickling in, and it became more and more apparent that something horrible happened to Emily! He knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Emily wouldn’t miss this meeting unless something drastic prevented her from it! His insides began to twist in knots as he wondered if he would be able to keep his promise to Amelia.
Alastair and a dozen other agents walked determinedly into the castle, and Alastair questioned Stephen, “Stephen! What’s going on?”
A lump formed in his throat in anticipation of what Stephen had to tell him. He could hardly bear to think it let alone say it out loud! Still, he had a duty to relay this information to him, so he forced himself to turn around and confess, “Emily may be missing!”
Allison and the other Amouraqian agents all gasped, and Alastair’s face contorted in a manner much like someone would if they were forcibly slapped. He stammered, “She’s… Emily is… are you sure?”
Stephen couldn’t stand to say it again, so Amelia told him, “We checked everywhere in the castle and can’t find her anywhere!” Yvette nodded in agreement.
Upon this confirmation, Alastair addressed his team, “We’ve got a possible missing person! You know what to do!” The team sprang into action performing various spells and making phone calls. Alastair turned back to Stephen and probed, “When was the last time you saw her?”
“Last night before we went to sleep,” Stephen replied. “We said goodnight and went into our separate bedrooms. I didn’t hear a thing coming from her room after that!” Stephen bit his bottom lip in guilt. He felt as though he should have heard something, and now he berated himself for not paying more attention.
“Yeah, it was super quiet last night,” Amelia agreed. That made Stephen feel a little better. He felt reassured that he didn’t miss something huge, but that didn’t stop him from the growing shame he had over the incident. He got hired to protect her, and she got into trouble, so now he thought his failure made him totally unequipped to do his job.
Alastair went on, “What about her behavior? Did she say or do anything out of the ordinary last night?”
Stephen recalled, “No, she behaved normally…” All of a sudden, he remembered something crucial. “The tea!” He turned to Yvette and urgently asked her, “Did you clean up our drinks from last night?”
“Somebody cleared the table to prepare for breakfast,” Yvette recounted, “but since we’re short staffed, I don’t think anyone has had time to wash the leftover dishes.”
Stephen barreled into the kitchen and hoped that no one had touched it yet. Alastair closely followed him and queried, “What about the tea?”
Stephen explained, “Last night, she made a weird face and said her tea tasted funny. I didn’t think anything of it ’cause she acted normally after that, but…” He found the tea cup and, to his relief, it hadn’t gotten completely emptied!
He handed the cup to Alastair, who stared at apprehensively. Stephen couldn’t blame him! It scared him to death to think that someone might have slipped something in Emily’s drink! He knew that the ideal outcome would have been to find nothing unusual inside of her drink, but a part of him hoped that they would get a major clue on Emily’s whereabouts! He inwardly prayed that if something was inside of the cup that it wouldn’t show anything too nefarious! Alastair held a shaky finger above the tea cup and chanted, “Ostracium venepotia!” Alastair and Stephen watched the liquid inside swirl around as Yvette and Amelia waited nearby on pins and needles. All of a sudden, a shape started to form from inside the cup. When it became clear that it depicted a snake’s head, Alastair dropped the cup in pure astonishment. “No!”
Stephen knew that his reaction meant that he found a horrifying potion, but he still didn’t want to believe that Emily was in any kind of mortal peril! “What? What does that mean? What did you find?”
Alastair’s breath grew short, and he had to take a big gulp of air before he revealed his findings. “Emily has been infected by the Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue!”