The Black Fool

In Fiction on October 15, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Stańczyk during a Ball at the Court of Queen B...

The Black Fool

“I’m the Black Fool now.”

Pietro Barbino was drunk again, and making japes at his master – but this time his master had nothing to say.

“Black Fool, for I’ve stained my motley garb… with this…”

He stared in wonder as he took his hands away. The blood, clotting, pulled into long, sticky tendrils. It seemed black in the half-light. Pietro leaned closer.

“I can’t hear you, Cosimo,” he growled. “Your mouth is open, but I can’t tell: are you laughing? Are you pleased with your fool?”

The two stared at one another – the dwarf searching his master’s lifeless eyes for any last spark of cruelty, Cosimo glaring back, cold, purple, and stubborn as ever.

“Hmph.”

Pietro stood and listened a moment to the night. He’d thought he’d heard footsteps on the marble in the courtyard, but the villa was asleep; the fountain gurgled, the night birds sang and the poplars rustled, but all else was silent. Pietro sighed.

“You killed papa,” a voice said suddenly.

Pietro turned to find a boy standing in the doorway, barefoot and sleepy-eyed. The moon cast an ethereal light upon his face, so bright that he nearly glowed.

“He was not your father, Giovanni,” Pietro said, but the boy paid him no mind; he was staring at the shadowed figure by the wall, slumped in the wide, shiny pool. He trembled.

“Now, Giovanni,” Pietro said, edging slowly closer. “You wouldn’t shout, would you? You wouldn’t like to frighten anyone. Your papa will be alright…”

Pietro knelt before the boy and stroked his cheek, leaving a slick, gory mark.

“Go now, into the garden,” Pietro said calmly, and suddenly the boy saw him again. There was trust there still.

“Fetch some water and we’ll help him together, you and I,” Pietro said. “He’ll be alright, but you must hurry.”

At last the boy turned and padded off toward the fountain. When he’d gone, Pietro took the knife from the floor and followed, a black sadness clutching at his heart.


This is my response to this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge, which was black. As always, the rules are to write a 33 to 333-word story based on the third definition of the week’s word.

Regular readers will recognize Pietro Barbino from my story a few weeks back (my first Trifecta, actually). I decided to bring him back, but obviously things have taken a dark turn for him recently. I guess that’s what happens when Halloween is close by. Here are the rest of the stories in his series:

A Curious Woman // The Root // Pietro Barbino // The Black Fool // Original Sin

I’d love to hear your comments and criticism, so let me know what you think below!

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  1. Unnerving and excellent and dark and grim and and and so cool 😀

  2. nice. interesting dynamic with the various characters. like the little touch of leaving blood n gore on the boys cheek

  3. Oh, man. Nice write.

  4. Glad to see this one back. This feels so solid; the setting and the characters come through as if you’d written a whole novel’s worth of them and are just giving us an excerpt.

  5. Another visceral offering.

    My only possible critique would be this sentence:’He stared in wonder as he took his hands away.’ as it left me unclear as to who this ‘he’ was. I didn’t catch the switch in perspective until the second reading. All in all, though, I was engaged. I even got a bit ill at the long sticky tendrils, and the end deserves an ominous soundtrack!

    • You’re right, that could be cleaned up a bit. I need to find a way to make it clearer, while still letting the fact that the master is dead unfold slowly. Thanks for reading, Kathy!

  6. Oh, jeez, I don’t think I like where he’s going with that knife. Way to leave us on tenterhooks! You did a great job creating tension in this piece. Nicely done!

  7. Blacker than black. Dressed in a metaphorical black? This should have been read in a stormy night, alone, instead of sitting up in bed early in the morning!

  8. masterfully done. you provide a great sense of place and time. your characters are well defined, wonderful pacing and your stories are so engaging. all in under 333 words. great job. I am never disappointed when I stop by. Keep sharing!

    • Thanks – I’ll surely keep sharing if you all keep coming by to read! The comments and feedback I get are the best part of writing in this format (the warm fuzzies, for short)

  9. Dramatic! Very well done. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  10. Wonderful details, but I too had to reread a couple of times to understand who was meant in this line: “He stared in wonder as he took his hands away.” I wasn’t sure at first who the jester was touching, himself or his master.

    Still, you pulled me into the story and I came away wanting to read more.

  11. Long, sticky tendrils of blood – that’s good – great image. I enjoyed the first story of Pietro and Cosimo and this one does not disappoint. He got what he deserved for his cruelty, didn’t he? Nicely done. You covered a lot of ground for 300 words.

  12. “He stared in wonder as he took his hands away. The blood, clotting, pulled into long, sticky tendrils.” this line grabbed me first, then another and another.
    i love your style of writing and use of words. and this pietro character has caught my interest as has his task at hand. kudos!

  13. That is exactly what happens when Halloween approaches. 🙂 I really enjoyed this story. I hope you’ll link up with more.

  14. Oh shit. I love any story with a jester, and I love how the beginning of this one embodies the FULL role – not just the funnyman, but the one who is willing to tell the truth to the king. But then, oh fuck, the truth becomes a bleak necessity of self protection, and there’s no way this kid will get away.

  15. I am not liking the way he looked at the kid…bad things…oh let there be a knight to swoop in to the rescue!

    No? Okay fine, continue with your bleak tale 😉

  16. […] final story featuring Pietro Barbino. To see where he got his start, and how he got himself into this particular mess, click here and […]

  17. […] last one, but I decided it was time for a little something more—something to help explain what he ends up doing to Cosimo later on. This is something of a prequel, then, and goes first in the […]

  18. […] Curious Woman // The Root // Pietro Barbino // The Black Fool // Original […]

  19. […] Curious Woman // The Root // Pietro Barbino // The Black Fool // Original […]

  20. […] Curious Woman // The Root // Pietro Barbino // The Black Fool // Original Sin // Man and […]

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