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Elixir of Life, by Cassandra Morgan

A shaft of light fell across Queen Juliana’s face, kissing her cheek with the gentle touch of warmth that only the season of Awakening could bring. She forced her eyes open, glancing out the tower window. The boughs of the trees hung with icy fingers, now beginning a delicate drip in the thaw.

She threw off her bed covers with as much as her strength allowed. Spring may have arrived, but she felt the life slipping from her moment by moment. The looking glass above her vanity revealed the dark circles beneath her eyes, and her skin looked ashen and gray.

In the corner hung the Queen’s Spring raiment, the guise of her work laid ready before she set to slumber. It seemed to taunt her as she felt the ache in her bones, like a last touch of Winter’s breath still lingered in her joints. If she was to carry out her task, if she was to help usher in the Spring for her kingdom, she needed to feel life within her again. The alchemist would know what to do.

Ignoring the uniform of her profession, Juliana threw open the door to her bed chamber. The hall outside was empty. The doors to her children’s rooms disclosed the quiet slumber they still kept within. With sluggish steps, Juliana crept past, making her way down the spiraling stair.

The light of Spring streamed through the windows, welcoming and beckoning her into its arms.

“Not yet,” she croaked to herself. “For I am not yet whole and young again.” She raised a hand to her cheek, wondering if she looked as dead as she felt.

She smelled her beloved and loyal alchemist’s work before she saw him. He stood over the heat, poking and prodding his various concoctions.

“Good morning, my Queen.” He turned from his work and lifted her hand to his lips.

“It should be a good morning, dearest one, but I feel my very essence drained from me as I slept. I require the Elixir before I can beset myself to my task.”

The alchemist smiled and, kissing her hand once more, turned back to his work.

Juliana knew not his secret for making the Elixir of Life. She had tried it herself, but it never seemed as good. He measured the little seeds so carefully, crushing them into a fine powder. He used only the purest water from the fountain in the corner, and she wondered if he did not bless it on his way back to his cauldron.

As the Elixir brewed, the alchemist led Juliana to the table by the window and wrapped her in a blanket pulled fresh from the launders.

“You need more than just the Elixir, my love. You cannot go to work without sustenance.”

Before she could speak her surrender, a plate of eggs, toast, and fruit appeared before her. She lifted a withered hand to his cheek, her soul proclaiming her appreciation as their eyes held each other.

A gentle trickle of water called the alchemist back, and the Queen watched him work, adding just a few more ingredients and stirring the Elixir as he crossed the room toward her. She reached out, and the alchemist set the steaming concoction into her hands. The warmth radiated through the cup, like the kiss of Spring on her cheek she had felt as she awoke. She lifted the Elixir to her lips and felt the steaming hot potion coat her tongue in splendid, bold flavors, felt the brew trickle down her throat, its effects spreading throughout her body, feeding life into her soul again.

Queen Juliana’s eyes remained closed for many more glorious sips, feeling the potion’s effect fill every inch of her body, feeling life flood into her again. When she opened her eyes, she smiled at the coy grin her alchemist held upon his face.

“Better, my Queen?” Juliana’s husband asked as he leaned against the counter.

“Oh, yes,” she said, setting the cup upon the kitchen table.

“Good.” He emptied the coffee grounds into the little bowl they used for their compost. “I know you wanted to tackle pruning the south garden today.”

Juliana took another deep drink, and rose from the kitchen chair, leaving the dryer-warm blanket behind. She kissed her husband. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

A door opened upstairs, and she heard the patter of tiny feet running down the hall to the bathroom.

“That’s my cue,” he said, pulling out a fresh skillet and readjusting the apron around his waist.

Juliana lifted the coffee cup between her hands, heading for the stairs. She paused, one foot set upon the first step as she turned, looking at her husband as he worked the stove, making the kids Saturday morning breakfast.

“I still don’t know how you do it.”

He paused from whisking his eggs, just long enough to glance at her. “What’s that, my Queen?”

“How do you get this to taste so good?”

That coy grin spread across his lips again. He winked and said, “Magic.”