Master of the Drops

Submitted into Contest #166 in response to: Set your story at a retirement or leaving party. ... view prompt

17 comments

Crime Historical Fiction Thriller

The Master will be celebrated at nine. An hour later, the King will be dead. 

The cause will be natural. An attack of the heart. Tragic thing. Although kings do die young. It’s a known fact. The stress of it all ages them prematurely. The hair grays. The lips chap. They find themselves urinating far too frequently despite not drinking enough water. The King will take to his bed with something of a headache. He will be found the next morning. By then, the Master will be retired to his country house where he plans to spend the remainder of his days. He will do some reading. He will tend to hens. He will never write a confession. There are secrets in this world that shall stay secrets.

That is all in the times to come. For now, there is a party. A costume party. It is all in honor of the Master. A great counselor to so many kings. Twelve, in fact. The Master, with the birth name of Simon, has overseen more reigns than any Chief Counselor in the history of the land. That sort of legacy deserves an occasion when it reaches its culmination, does it not?

And so, a party.

The King has always been good to Master Simon, but that matters not. A man does as he is destined to do. When Simon was just a boy, his father sat him down near the stumbling patch by their cottage and explained to him their function in life. They were the Keepers of the Dark Lung. The Proprietors of the Clutched Breast. Simon’s father was the Master of the Drops and he was ready to pass the title to Simon after ingesting a bit of his own concoction. Simon did not show any sadness as he watched his father die. Rather, he did as he was instructed, and began to study. Enough food had been kept in the pantry to sustain him until he was ready to march into the castle and declare himself an orphan. He would be seized and put to work. That was the plan. That was always the plan.

His father knew the paths to chaos were well-paved.

Simon became the youngest counselor in history after those above him began falling ill. Plagues were rampant at the time. It was only lucky the sickness had not touched the royal family. At the bright age of seventeen, he was already advising his first King. This was not a kind monarch. Simon only waited a year before disposing of him. Two drops in his wine at his wedding to a Danish princess. His father had told him that a year was the shortest amount of time he was to wait, but never to wait longer than five years. Simon could not envision himself ever waiting the full five years now that he was basking in his own power. He could topple a king--and who would think to suspect him?

Bad kings came to bad ends, did they not?

His father’s potions were infallible. They left no trace and nothing to suspect. Why was this a chosen life for a man? And why would that man pass it on to his son? Who was to say? His father and his father’s father and beyond that had all decided that building was not in their blood. They were the ones who saw cracks in a facade and chiseled away at them while nobody was watching. They were the crumblers. The collapsars. There would be no apologizing for their actions. When one is skilled at something, one does it. Why does a seamstress sew or a haberdasher make hats? Time will melt as you ponder such things. Simon had the ability to take a man imbued with God’s favor and bring him to the Lord’s door instead.

Here you are, Father, I have delivered him unto you.

In this way, Simon was something of a god himself, was he not?

People made their way over to him at the party. Well wishes and fond memories poured forth into his cup along with splashes of wine. Simon looked across the room at the King and made a note to pour his drop with a kind word. This King had always treated him well. It was too bad that tonight was their fifth anniversary. Otherwise, Simon could have let him live. He had no children of his own, and so while he respected the gift his father had bequeathed to him, there was nobody else to pass it along to. Such was the nature of everything--Beginnings do end. Inheritances dwindle. Simon was not concerned with who would poison kings once he was gone. His father had never poisoned a king. Oh no, he only poisoned bishops. He set Simon on kings, because he knew his boy could achieve a previously unimaginable greatness. Why, Simon’s grandfather poisoned only farmers. Do you believe that? Farmers! And here was his grandson, snuffing out monarchs as though it were nothing and never getting--

“Master Simon!”

The King was summoning him over. Most likely to clap him on the back and remind him of the time they were nearly invaded by the Visigoths. Perhaps Simon would drop the toxin and be done with it. At his age, the slyness did not come as adroitly as it once did. His hand shook. He required the tools of distraction to complete his task. With so many people around, he would need to be especially clever. This King was not as facile as his predecessors. That was one of the things Simon admired about him. It would be a shame to see him meet his end.

Simon made his way through the throng of guests to the King’s side. He was met with a warm embrace and a fresh glass of what he knew would be the finest port. It was nearing nine, and that would be when a toast was raised to Simon’s years as the Wisest of the Realm. Cheers would ring out far and wide. Simon would blush as he had taught himself to do. Inside, he felt nothing. He had not for most of his life. Not since his father took his last breath and his isolated tutelage began with nothing more than a book of writings handed down from the men in his family. He had burned the book before the party along with all his drops.

All but the ones he carried in a vial in his pocket. The one he--

“Simon, come close.”

The King was drunk. Oh, he would die drunk. How sad. How ill-befitting. Simon would truly regret this action. His last activity before retirement would be a--

“I’m afraid it’s you this time, old friend.”

The wine. It had tasted peculiar. Simon had thought so, but then--

“You are not the only one with an interest in chemistry.”

The King was in and out of focus. The room shifted left and right. A servant was called to bring the old man to his room. He was celebrated at nine. An hour later, he had stopped breathing. They found him in the morning. The Master, himself--dead from what he must have seen coming down the road at him. A life without purpose. Without usefulness. No more counseling the King. No more doling out sage advice.

As Simon had always known, this King was clever. He took an interest in what his counselors were up to. He studied history. He watched people. He liked their hands. He noticed where they wanted you to look and he learned to split his focus. He had his own tutelage. He remembered the way his father’s breath smelled when he was found dead in the courtyard. Like something sour. Something unnatural. He began to watch Simon. By his estimation, he had five years. He estimated correctly. He could not have planned it better if he was Simon’s own son. In many respects, he fancied himself the heir to the old man.

So much so, in fact, that he wondered who could be next. Who else could find themselves retiring to bed only to never wake up?

A bishop, perhaps?

Yes, thought the King, as he listened to the homily at Simon’s funeral mass a few days following his demise, there are far too many bishops.

Don’t you think?

October 01, 2022 00:52

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17 comments

Charlie Murphy
00:09 Oct 09, 2022

Great story I'm not sure why, but it reminded me of The Greatest Salesman in the World.

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Kevin Broccoli
01:38 Oct 09, 2022

Thank you, Charlie

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Charlie Murphy
02:31 Oct 09, 2022

You're welcome. Can you read my story?

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Rama Shaar
10:20 Oct 08, 2022

This was a great story! I really like Simon. He carries his father's legacy and surpasses him by being resolute and unemotional. He has empathy though and feels sad about "having" to kill the good king, but he's also flawed because he follows his father's rules too rigidly, without realising that keeping this good king alive for a bit longer might've been for the greater good. I also like how instead of the killing/cleansing ending there, the king steals the baton and runs with it (in the right direction). Great stuff!

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Kevin Broccoli
01:39 Oct 09, 2022

Thank you, Rama!

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Lily Finch
16:38 Oct 01, 2022

Kevin, the end was savoury of a sort. I enjoyed the learning of roles in this one. I thought you had an excellent story here. The plot and inciting incident were beautifully intertwined. It reminded me of Lather, Thal's All - somehow a bit. Thanks for the great read, Kevin. LF6

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Kevin Broccoli
03:04 Oct 02, 2022

Thank you so much, Lily. It was a joy to write.

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Anne Marie Miles
15:12 Oct 01, 2022

A unique and entertaining approach to this prompt! Loved the amounts of detail of the Master's unusual family business, if you will, and your word choices were refreshing and delightful. (Always love when the word "bequeathed" is utilized, and this seemed a perfect story for it to be included). The twist should have been expected, but I can honestly say it was not, though it was eerily satisfying. Thanks for an enjoyable read!

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Kevin Broccoli
03:05 Oct 02, 2022

I didn't really know where it was going at first either, but the idea of there being an unexpected heir was a wonderful surprise.

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Anne Marie Miles
14:42 Oct 03, 2022

I love when stories surprise you like that. One of the joys of being a writer.

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Sophia Gardenia
13:42 Oct 28, 2022

I love the twist of fate in this story! Simon was subjected to the same death he killed others with. Karma for sure (also ironic that both Simon and his father died from poison). Simon is so arrogant as well. The fact that he's killed so many kings has given him a god complex. He believes he's infallible and that leads to his downfall. Simon had a lot of power when he was the "master of the drops" but the king strips him of his power/title. Perhaps the king will meet the same fate as Simon, now that he is the "master of the drops"... My fav...

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Kevin Broccoli
16:43 Oct 28, 2022

Thank you so much, Sophia.

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Sophia Gardenia
17:26 Oct 28, 2022

No problem! If you have time, would you mind reading my story, "2352 Elizabeth Avenue"?

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Kevin Broccoli
18:51 Oct 28, 2022

Absolutely!

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Mary James
06:46 Oct 26, 2022

Mighty DR. Akereco!! You have done it again, you have shown me your powers which I have been hearing from different people, but now am talking out of the experience, Dr. Akereco you are the greatest spell caster that I believed that is existing cause you brought back my lover who left me since January within 24 hours, Sir you are the greatest, thanks for your great work in my life, and I will live to remember you cause you put a smile on my face by making my dream to come to past, thank you once again, sir. My friends out there who need help...

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Aeris Walker
09:11 Oct 05, 2022

This whole story reads with a kind of “bounce” to it. I like the short sentence structure and lighthearted tone that contrasts the serious subject matter. These were some of my favorite lines: “He will do some reading. He will tend to hens. He will never write a confession.”—you so simply and effectively summarize this man’s potential future. And ‘tend to hens’ just made chuckle. “Time will melt as you ponder such things. Simon had the ability to take a man imbued with God’s favor and bring him to the Lord’s door instead.”—wow, fantastic. ...

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Kevin Broccoli
16:14 Oct 05, 2022

Thank you so much, Aeris!

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