You are the official food taster for a tyrant of a king. You just took the first bite and are sure the food you are eating is poisoned. In a split second decision, you decide to hide the fact as long as you can so the king will eat the food too.

I took another bite of the salted pork and cried.

The king was born of a long line, who’s members had no capacity for whatever festered within certain fish and game. My own family line had been bred and kept pure, alongside the kinds own. It was almost a cruel joke. A score of generations ago, my ancestors were found to suffer from the same ailment, the same dietary disagreements. And so we were kept, like a faithful pet.

I wanted for nothing. I ate the finest meals, cooked fresh and served to me on gilded plates. I slept in a chamber, high above the walls of the keep, away from the dirt and decay of the peasantry. And yet I was a prisoner.

My blood and my body condemned me to a life of endless service. As before my father had served, so would my own children when someday the kings counsel decided it was time I sire another.
I ate again. Chewing the pigs meat until my jaw ached. The guards laughed.

The king was like all in power. Which is to say he was not especially wicked, or cruel, or vicious. Simply misguided. A man apart from mortal men, who would put to death a thousand score to defend borders or build statues.

When I’d bitten into the pork, it had tasted like all others. Oh how many pigs I have tasted. There must be fields in the black woods that lie barren now. My jaw had begun aching within moments, just a slight tingle. The slow trickle of numbness creeping through my face. I slowed my mastications, let the juices collect on my tongue and tasted it. It was subtle. Hidden beneath the salt and sweet mead that permeated the meat. Crab, or something close enough that the taste was irrelevant but the effect all the same.

I’d smiled and chewed and nodded and passed the plate back to the girl who had brought it. Sixteen years I had been eating like a king. And I would be dammed if I was going to die like one. I’d spat out the meat onto the tray of dumplings. Rinsed my mouth with fine wine. My hands shook but by now there was no way to know whether it was my body fighting the poison or my mind fighting to escape.

He’d died. Right there at the head of the long table from what I heard. In all my years I’d never eaten in the great hall. I can only imagine it. Plates piled high with salted death. By the times the guards found me in the night my face had broken out into hives. My breathing was laboured and I shook as they took me away. To the cells, I had assumed. But no.

The kings counsel, a wise old man who had only ever spoken about me, never to me, in my presence had other ideas. He looked at my face. Gave me roots to chew to calm my beating heart. No words were exchanged. My guilt was coursing through my veins.

Long ago I had lost the ability to produce saliva and yet still I ate. Tearing into the pig. Chewing and chewing. I stopped, paused and felt the blade return to the back of my head.

“Eat.”

The single command. The only word I’d heard for two nights and this, my third day. I cried and placed another piece of flesh in my maw. I would not get a quick death, like the king. My punishment was to do my job. I would eat. Until my belly burst and my jaw hung slack.

And only then, when I had fulfilled a lifetime’s duty in a waking nightmare, would I be free.


Prompt originally posted by Scorpedo on reddit and received 149 upvotes.

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