The Root

In Fiction on April 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm

victorian bedroom pietro barbino

The Root

“Come, Pietro,” Cosimo said. “I have fodder for your jests.”

Pietro cast aside his wineskin and eyed his master with as much contempt as he thought wise.

“Oh, don’t pout, Pietro,” Cosimo said softly. “It was all in fun. Isn’t that what I pay you for?”

“You humiliated me.”

“Are you to tell me that’s the first time a woman has laughed at your deformity? Seen that stub between your stunted legs?”

“Lady Eleanora didn’t laugh,” Pietro replied meekly. Cosimo bristled his black mustache.

“No, quite right,” he said. “But as it turned out she wasn’t very particular, was she? She’d mount just about anyone…”

Pietro sputtered.

“I never—“

“Of course you didn’t,” Cosimo spat. “You’re far too cowardly. Now follow. I am not asking.”

Cosimo turned and strode from Pietro’s chamber, and Pietro—though he hesitated just long enough to consider how cowardly he truly was—followed close behind.

The house was eerily silent, though the sun was still hours from setting; it streamed through the windows in the hall, carrying the bloody hue of the dust from the fields and the green-gold silhouettes of diaphanous leaves.

“I have sent the servants home…” Cosimo muttered as he began plodding up the stairs. He hummed, off-tune and off-time, as they made their ascent.

By the time they stopped outside Cosimo’s chamber, Pietro already knew what he would find through the door. Heartsick, he hesitated.

“In,” Cosimo commanded, and Pietro obeyed.

In the chamber, in the corrupted light that struggled through the velvet curtains, Lady Eleanor lay on her back, naked, with her eyes half open and her mouth gaping. Her legs were spread.

“Does her body arouse you now?” Cosimo asked.

Pietro shut his eyes, determined not to see the lady’s nakedness. But he felt something turn within him, then, a twisted darkness—as if by some wicked alchemy his heart had suddenly calcified, like a dead root in an icy stream.

“Yes,” he admitted, and his hatred was everything.


This, my response to the Trifecta Writing Challenge (Alchemy), is arguably the darkest in my Pietro Barbino series—which is a pretty dark series as it is. (Photo credit, fittingly enough, goes to “The Dark Thing” on Flickr).

To protect myself from the darkness (and to make sure I come up with some new ideas for these prompts) I think this will be the last Pietro story I do for a while, but here’s the whole thing if you’ve got a few minutes to read on!

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

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  1. It was dark but well written. I was fearful of it being too graphic but read through to the end. Dark sounds like a good genre for you.

    • Thanks, Maggie! I try not to get too graphic, mostly because really gory writing is sometimes just used as a substitute for actual suspense, and things are generally scarier when you leave them up to the imagination anyway

  2. Cosimo and Pietro are back! I’m always happy to see them. The world you create is mesmerizing. I like dark – it’s always interesting – the motivations, and the reasons behind them. Nice writing!

    • Thanks Steph – I really like writing these two, so I’m glad you like reading their stories! I’m sure Pietro will be back someday, I just think I need to give him a rest so I don’t rely on him every week when I’m stumped on a prompt haha

  3. Excellent dialogue and pacing. Your characters are intriguing.

  4. I have read one of the other Pietro stories and it’s nice to have a familiar tone to settle in to.
    This I adored – The house was eerily silent, though the sun was still hours from setting; it streamed through the windows in the hall, carrying the bloody hue of the dust from the fields and the green-gold silhouettes of diaphanous leaves. The imagery you cast is amazing.

  5. I really enjoy your Pietro stories – this is another great one with well-drawn pictures and emotions. A seamless use of the prompt

  6. You write so effortlessly and convincingly about other times and places. Your characters are multidimensional and your dialogue is always believable. Yours is some of the best flash fiction I have read.

    • Too kind, Andy! That’s why I like turning flashes into series though, because I struggle a bit more with bigger, structural/plot issues than with sentence-to-sentence writing. Thanks

  7. It’s definitely one of your darkest, but it’s still very good.

  8. Dark and carnal. Poor Pietro–the guy can’t catch a break.

    Thanks for linking up!

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

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

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

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

  13. Such good writing, and such a nice, dark story for a rainy afternoon. Glad I found this through Trifecta!

  14. Brilliant finale. like a dead root in an icy stream. Spot on.

  15. […] Friday Fictioneers challenge (the photo above, by Sandra Crook). I’m just balancing out the darkness, you […]

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

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