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The Apples

It takes the servants several days to make their way to the storerooms. They blame it on the tragedy (not that the servants regard it as entirely a tragedy, but they know better than to say that out loud) and the resulting chaos: after all, they cannot enter the storerooms without authorization, and who can authorize that entrance, now that the queen is dead, and her successor unknown?
The truth is, they are terrified of the contents of those storerooms.
The first crack of the door confirms their worst fears.
Not just an apple. Barrels of apples, shining as if freshly picked, almost glowing in the torchlight.
The servants exchange uneasy glances.
Everyone, of course, knows what the queen, well, was. Even those who do not believe in magic and other impossible things. And everyone, of course, knows the tales: the king, dying shortly after eating an apple. The princess, disappearing shortly afterwards, and then dying--or mostly dying--shortly after eating an apple, returning to life after the last piece flew from her mouth. The ministers, dying one by one.
The cook, refusing to allow a single apple to enter her kitchen, found dead a day later.
But even those who do believe in magic and other impossible things know that all of this could have happened for other reasons. The king, for instance, had been sickly for years--ever since the death of his first wife--and had eaten apples from the queen's hand before this, without ill effect. The princess--well, the seven little men she had been living with were not precisely the educated sort, were they? Miners of some sort. And quite possibly conspiring with her to create some sort of story to hide the scandal. Quite possibly the girl had never been sick at all. Certainly she seemed well enough now, by all accounts. The ministers had all been old men.
The cook--
Many people had hated the cook.
And many people had access to arsenic.
So perhaps--perhaps--these apples are exactly what they seem: fresh, sweet, tempting. A delightful treat for a cool spring day.
On the other hand, the servants know full well that the last apples were picked six months ago.
They close the door. They consider, consult. They send their young members to collect cloths and gloves.
And they prepare to serve slices of the fruit to certain nobles, certain ministers, certain princes. Only the deserving, they agree: and they will all have to agree before anyone receives a single slice. After all, they have all seen enough of things black as ebony, red as blood.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 4th, 2022

Author Comments

I always wonder about the side characters in fairy tales, and what might happen if you live with an evil queen for just a little too long.

- Mari Ness
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