I poisoned the King’s dinner. Got the dish put down right in front of him. The taster Dostori came over, took a healthy spoonful and went back to his corner. I struck up a song. They were just about ready to eat when a choking came from the corner and everyone looked to see Dostori vomiting up a chunk of his stomach. His face contorted with pain and his eyes — frantic — bulged as if they would burst. Many around the table stood up in horror to see. Dostori lunged around the hall grasping at the backs of chairs and looking helplessly into faces. His mouth opened and closed like a fish’s. He bent over and retched again and a long trickle of blood danced like a worm from his mouth to the floor.
Nobody would touch him as he sprawled around the room. He died on the floor in what must have been terrible agony. The King motioned a couple of guards over who removed the dish and then Dostori’s limp body. A foul slug trail of blood marked the path they took. The room was sealed and an inquiry undertaken. A foreign diplomat said, “Do you seriously think the assassin would be here with us now?” He was led away to a cell. Later when the sheriff was satisfied that the present company was innocent he made a declaration that he would find the culprit and have his head on a spike within the week. When I crept up behind and tugged at his sleeve he spun around and turned his gaze down to me. I said, “Excuse me, sheriff, I think you overlooked me!” Laughter erupted, tension subsided. There was a cheer to the King’s health. I struck up his favourite song.
Last night at the feast the sheriff rolled up to me drunk on wine and with laughing red lips slapped me hard on the back saying, “Well, dwarf, it looks like you won’t get your money from Dostori after all!” I replicated his laughter then sang for all to hear.
It’s true, Dostori gave me a whack
When last I asked for my money back.
But, Sheriff, don’t you think it’s funny:
Some things go beyond money!
I threw a bag of coins in the air and in the flurry of scrambling servants I saw the sheriff’s expression change. If he weren’t such a mutant I’d almost believe a thought flickered between his eyes. But he could spend ten lifetimes working on this mystery and never deduce the truth. I became giddy with secrets. I even threw myself onto the King’s lap and shouted, “It was I who poisoned your plate, Your Majesty, because you haven’t been paying attention to me lately!” Then I kissed him all over his face and as he pushed me to the ground everybody laughed and laughed. I spun cartwheels across the floor.
The man who sold me the phial of poison told me it was an old witch’s recipe but I suspect it was actually ground-up glass. I’ve heard the tiny shards do terrible things to the stomach. And once they enter the blood they begin to shred every part of the body from the inside. Imagine Dostori having a million knives slicing away inside his veins; how he must have felt as the glass pulsed through his brain and ripped at his eyes until he was blind — a vicious army of ants marching through his every fibre!
This morning I looked out of my little window. A soft mist lapped gently at the hills and as the day began to bloom the sun glanced off a windowpane and infused the low haze with a pink light. I made a decision to keep this little codex diary to remind myself of the flush of life I felt seeing Dostori as a corpse on the floor. His undoing has infused my whole being like that sunbeam through the mist. This journal will help to keep fresh in my mind the image of his body slumped dead, the electric hush that fell promptly on the room. I want it to feel new each time I think on how sour his skin turned, how knotted his face became in those last seconds, and that magic instant when I saw his eyes turn blank and knew in my core he was gone. The joys of vengeance have no place here; this is a much more rewarding pleasure, a little ball of juddering excitement that shakes with rude energy inside my ribcage. Sometimes I feel so powerful that I think I might just explode with a gleeful yelp.
Even if they were to find these little scribbles, what would they see? I could have the sheriff and all his men here in my room right now flicking through my papers, looking at every last page. They would look at my confessions and see only the amusingly obscene drawings of a silly little dwarf jester. An elegantly simple but utterly unbreakable code.
The coroner reported back today it was a potent corrosive killed Dostori, not ground glass as I imagined. No matter, I’ve not felt so good in years. But in spite of these ripples of joy that rebound through my frame my murderous mind continues to wander. If the cook saw me that night in the kitchen he’d doubtless squeal on me. I think I remember him calling me a filthy midget once and spitting in my food. Yes, I’m certain of it.
Tonight the sheriff has requested my attendance at a private ceremony in remembrance of Dostori. I will make them weep tears for the dead taster by singing the saddest songs I know. I will have their hearts all join mine in an exquisite sorrow. Then in the fading notes of my last strum I will break the most enormous wind and have everyone crumble into laughter. In this way they will happily forget that there ever was a Dostori.
Jamie McKittrick is a writer based in London, UK. He has a website and a Twitter feed @jamiemckittrick.
Patreon keeps us going. You can be part of that.