Minister of Defence

Jota helped him to a chair. The coughs became rampant, each heavier than the last. The poison was slowly doing its work. And it did a lot more than slowly kill the King. It revealed the King’s true feelings.

Minister of Defence

There are two things wrong with the Kingdom of Bellington. First, it has no bells; and second, it is a very sad place. The King is a dictator who lives in a palace thousands of miles from the city's capital. What's worse, in the past 20 years since the King took over from his father after a mysterious death; there are no city developments to speak of. All reserves, profits, and taxes are remitted to the King's coffers, while citizens wallow in sickness and poverty

More frightening is the fact that many of the kingdom's hardworking inhabitants are turning deserters. These poor people walk distant journeys in search of better lands. Unfortunately, Bellington is located in a desert valley, far from outside civilization. Many who make this journey don’t make it, dying in the process. The truth is clear; Bellington is a kingdom waiting to be conquered. We need an uprising, and we need it now.

If I die for this, let this be my last contribution to mankind.

On the 21st day of the year of the King's reign, a man named Jota tucked the memoir into his tattered shirt pocket and deposited it at the only functioning library in the district. It wasn’t funded by the government, and in a few years, the building was due to collapse. The librarian welcomed Jota’s memoir; his visit was expected.

“Are you sure about this?”

Jota nodded.

Later that night, a band of twenty visited Jota in his rundown home at the edge of town. Brave men and women they were. Jota armed them with weapons. They were very crude, with the best ones being blunt axes, wooden pikes, and kitchen knives. These wouldn’t do much in a fight against armored knights, but it could sure assassinate a King. Jota’s band looked out of sorts with this weaponry, but they would do. Their courage was enough momentum to storm a castle.

Without an insider inside the King’s palace, Jota somehow orchestrated the safe entry of all twenty of his mutineers. They all had fear on their faces as they snuck in through the back wall of the palace, dodging guards as they scurried to the armory. This was Jota’s idea; it made perfect sense to rearm the crew. They stood a better chance of survival with sharper weapons. At the armory, they found thirty guards drinking mercilessly. Jota had made the wrong decision leading his crew here.

It was a slaughter.

All died but Jota, who escaped swiftly. It was a crowded room and no one noticed him jump out the two-story window while the slaughter was ongoing. He landed on a straw-filled cart which just happened to be the reason he kept all limbs. The guards gave chase, but it was late at night and no one saw him creep underneath the cart into the main keep of the palace.


Somehow, he found a safe haven within the room of one of the palace maids. She showed compassion on him and hid him in her chambers. The next morning, Jota woke to the sound of a bell—the irony. The maid prepared palace clothes for him so he could blend in with the rest of the guards. Afterward, he joined up with the King's household to watch the heads of 19 traitors hang at the gates.

The King, Jota saw for the first time, was in attendance. His royal highness was as frightening as Jota had imagined; with muscles bulging up to his neck. This was why no one dared attack him. He was a ferocious ruler, with more love for sword fighting than leisurely fornication. After this gruesome ordeal, to which Jota shed unimaginable tears, the King closed the palace ‘until further notice`.

For the rest of the day, he followed the King a few feet behind, watching every move he was allowed to see. A new guard recruit was expected to keep his distance when in the presence of royalty. But he was just close enough to witness the King’s exhausting routine of getting drunk all day and almost impregnating women. It was nasty stuff. The King of Bellington was nothing but a joke; a mad man who enjoyed wealth more than ruling.

But Jota kept his distance. He was still a mutineer, and many times he pondered his loyalty to this royal fool. Was he wrong to kill such a man? A King, but still a man; a man who was so drunk that if anyone tried to assassinate him, he would gladly take the kill, laughing loud in drunken slurs.

Our King is a baby who never grew up.

The King lost both parents to a storm when he was only 9. At this age, it was easy to grow up twisted and misguided. Indeed, this was a story the King loved to tell; a traumatic thing, but that’s all it was. Growing up a bastard doesn’t justify anyone being a tyrant. The maid who saved Jota; Minerva, warned him never to repeat those words in public.

Jota took her advice; it worked wonders. Soon, Jota rose up the ranks, becoming a platoon captain—a fancy word for a royal guard with four military servants. Jota had privileges now. He could make money and give to the poor. And after a full year in royal service, he fully integrated himself into the King's household, becoming the Minister of Defence’

His gift of speech and inspiring people finally gave merit.

The King became enthused by Jota’s presence and kept him around. He followed the old man everywhere. Jota kept up smart discussions. He had access to books now; he could read. More importantly, he could appoint a new librarian. Only one candidate came to his mind.

The librarian in possession of his memoir.

Jota recovered his treasonous memoir and burned it to the dismay of the librarian, whose life he changed and was entitled to. I will kill you, were enough words to keep a person in check. Now, no one but Minerva could spread the tale of his treason.

He trusted Minerva; she was a good, kind soul. They hardly slept in the same room; as guards had different quarters, but she was his woman. That much was clear among the residents of the royal palace. Minerva was also the top maid in the palace; a sweet and nice person, a real role model for the poor of the Kingdom. Every day, she would send out baskets of leftovers to be distributed among the locals. It didn’t change much, but it kept certain people fed.

A month after Jota’s new appointment, Minerva got fired. The King almost choked on a chicken bone. Minerva was in charge of breakfast that morning; the King stated.

But we all know the real reason.

She refused the King.

You never refuse the King, Jota said to her one evening after moving her into a little castle he built on a piece of land he owned within the suburbs; walking distance from the palace—well, an hour.

She hit him hard across the face, and after that, he’s never returned. His loyalty to the King was a thing of position now. He was no longer the misguided mutineer he was three years ago. The librarian hardly spoke to him these days, but the eyes of that greying man were soul-piercing. The message was clear; strike now.

Killing the King now would be cowardice. Jota would be branded a traitor, paraded around the streets and stoned; soaked in hot oil, before being hung in sunlight for his flaky skin to bleed dry. Certainly, such a fate was not befitting of the Minister of Defence.

The minister of defence was responsible for the King’s safety. It was that simple until…

A thousand protestors marched to the Palace gates.

“Today is the day Sir,” the librarian said to Jota when they met at the balcony of the lowest tower in the palace. The King was on his way soon. He would not like this. Jota knew better than to give in to the librarian’s wordplay. But it did seem like judgment day for those in power. Uprisings were not only a part of politics; they were the nemesis of government. And today, it felt like the thousand protestors at the gates would indeed get their justice. But it was not to be…

The King never showed up. In fact, he disappeared for two days.

On the third day, they found him hiding in the tombs. His royal highness had been drunk for forty-eight hours, unaware of a siege on the palace.

“Amazing,” the librarian said as they watched five guards haul the King on a stretcher to his bedchamber.

“Don’t mock me,” said Jota. But he and the librarian dined together that night, in his private room at the extreme tower of the palace—the room no one knew about.

Jota’s spies outside the walls had sent word. A thousand protestors, the report confided, were now three thousand overnight; and a further two thousand were a march away—all men. The calculations behind the protestors’ numbers and the palace’s measly thousand and few guards were irreconcilable.

“It’s a revolution,” the librarian confirmed. “It has been coming. Some of the guards are already scaling the fence, joining the siege. They want the King’s head—”

“Do you?”

The librarian blushed. They were alone at the table. The nearest guards were scaling the fence, joining the revolution. For the first time in a decade, the halls of Bellington’s great palace echoed, loudly. This truly was the end of a dynasty.

The librarian spoke after a long pause. “It’s not about what you want or what I desire; it’s the people’s choice now.”

Jota understood but, “Surely, there is mercy for all who yield.”

The librarian stood suddenly. Jota did the same. Something rattled them both.

“Can you hear that; the sound of thousands pushing at the gates. It won’t hold long; and when that happens, they will kill all in sight. It is not even a question, Jota. The people have come for justice. They are at our doors, displaced, poor, and starving. They hold the power now. We must give them what they want, what they request; and most importantly, what they need!”

Jota nodded; then frowned. The librarian was right. All he said was true, but the real message lay hidden in all that was left unsaid. “But why must I carry this burden?” He asked.

“Because,” the librarian passed him a wine jar. It reeked badly. Only one person in the palace would be drunk enough to drink that without question. That person now slept in his royal chambers.

“Because,” the librarian said again, gripping Jota tightly on one shoulder. “This is a better death than being beaten, mutilated and ripped to shreds. No King deserves such brutal demise.”

Moments later, Jota took a slow and steady walk, amidst the uproar of a thousand protestors at the gate, to the King’s chamber. He finally got the chance to finish a mission he started three years ago. This time, there were no guards to stop him. He didn’t even need a defence; he had the perfect weapon in a wine jar; poison.

People will hate me.

Only for a while, the librarian had said. Somehow, the book minister believed Jota was the next person in power. It was very logical; as Minister of Defence, he would be sworn in as interim till one of the King’s heirs was old enough to rule. Only time could tell his fate now, he imagined, as he pushed open the unguarded door to the King’s chamber.

The revolution was on the brink of happening. The gates were bulging with pressure, and only a few hundred guards held the barricade.

He found the King watching the chaos from his balcony.

“Give me that wine!” was the first thing the King said.

Jota shook his head while the King gulped half the jar. Wow!

“What now?” the King asked Jota impatiently. “These monsters will surely send my gatecrashing. Shall we unleash the dogs?”

“The dogs sire?” Jota knew of no palace dogs, except the buffalos that sometimes grazed the palace backyards.

“No,” said the King, drunk to his wits. He had been drinking for days on end. “Hold on—I’m not drunk, you know?” He always said that when he was recollecting his thoughts. Jota played along, nodding.

“They want my head,” said the King, “But they should know; whoever strikes the first blow will get his head ripped off. I have never lost a spar, and I don’t intend to do so now. Arm yourself, Jota. You must kill a hundred while I slay a thousand!”

Jota looked at the unorganized columns of protestors scale the fence successfully. An invasion was only a matter of time now. The King’s words meant nothing.

The King coughed.

God forgive me!

Jota helped him to a chair. The coughs became rampant, each heavier than the last. The poison was slowly doing its work. And it did a lot more than slowly kill the King. It revealed the King’s true feelings.

“Tell me, Jota, what’s worse than a Drunk King?”

“I don’t know, sire,” said Jota steadying the King’s drunken head into his hands. His breath slowed. The coughs worsened.

“A King who surrenders his throne…” were his last words.

Silence ensued, then a sharp inhale, cough, and silence once again. The King immediately became a corpse in the hands of Jota.

“Now throw him off the balcony.”

The librarian was suddenly at the door, staring amusingly at the King’s dead body.


“You ask too many questions Jota.” And then he seized the King’s legs, gesturing for Jota to grab the torso. Jota did what he was told. He was too deep into this treason—he had no choice but to see it through.

They flung the King’s corpse off the balcony, and it landed with a thud, a pinprick within the deafening roar of the multitude at the gates. No one had seen them kill the King; the crashing of the Palace gates was enough confusion. They had enough time to escape. It would only be a moment before someone discovered the King’s splattered body.

“What do we say?” Jota said before they parted ways at the hallways.

“He took his life. He’s not the first King to commit suicide.”

Jota’s eyes went wide. The librarian was a smart man; Jota respected him. He sealed their treasonous pact with these last words.

“And he won’t be the last.”

It was a happy ending for the revolution but a calamitous one for the King’s conspirators. Thousands of citizens justly fought for their rights and won. The King’s body was found in the aftermath of the invasion, splattered and bled out. He was, but a flock of chicken, the only casualty. The next day, the King’s body was fed to the crows, his head paraded around the city like a trophy. The day after that, Jota was elected interim ruler.

But very soon, Jota’s sins overwhelmed him. After the librarian’s strange disappearance on the fifth day anniversary of the King’s death, Jota escaped the palace and jumped off a hill. He stayed true to his words in the memoir after all…

If I die for this, let this be my last contribution to mankind.

And it was.



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