One evening when food was being served there was a cry of “Thief!” from Ando, who was guarding the food. Arnol and some of the others left their food that they had received and hurried over to him. “I just saw the thief take something,” he said. “He slipped away before I could catch him or see who he was, and ran over there into those trees. I am not built to run, so I will stay here and watch the food, if some of you will try to catch him.” He had hardly finished speaking before Archean the fast runner spurted off in search of him.

They searched for a while, but when they found no traces of the thief they returned to their food. Arnol ate thoughtfully, wondering if they would ever catch the crook. In the back of his mind, he thought there seemed to be a strange bitter flavor in the food, but he didn’t mind it. Before long he began to feel hot and queasy, and sharp pangs stabbed at his stomach. His skin grew clammy as his head started to feel dizzy. Anson asked him if he was alright, but his voice sounded faint and muffled. Arnol tried to respond, but then a sudden blackness engulfed him and he lost consciousness.

Eveli was soon at his side looking him over. Her face was grave as she checked his temperature and his breathing. “It looks like he has eaten some Bitterweed. Elma, bring me some of the medicinal plants and water.”

When Elma had brought what she requested, Eveli noticed that her hands were stained red. She took hold of one and looked closely at it. “Elma, have you been handling Bitterweed? It stains the skin red, the same color as your hands!”

The accused woman seemed flustered, trying to offer several excuses that couldn’t quite find their way out of her mouth. Several voices rose in shock and accusation around them until Lord Andor silenced them. “Are you saying that Elma has poisoned Arnol?” he asked Eveli.

She realized the seriousness of her accusation, but she was fairly sure that Elma was to blame. Everyone knew how much she hated Arnol, though no one would have thought she was capable of murder. “I’m not certain,” Eveli said, “but it looks that way. Bitterweed is the only plant I know that could cause a reaction this severe, and someone must have put it in his food. We should check everyone’s hands to see it any others are stained red. But first I must try to save Arnol’s life.”


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