zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
[personal profile] zeborah
So I'm trying to poison a character with something left inside his cup which, when mixed with the wine that fills said cup, will kill him. I need something that might, after the wine has settled a while, leave a bit of an oily film, and my subconscious said, for no reason I'm aware of, "Alkaloids!" Then I spent some time ruling out various New World alkaloid poisons because this is early 16th century Denmark, and various alkaloid poisons that smell like mouse-droppings.

I don't quite get the point of a poison that smells like mouse-droppings. If it smelt like rabbit droppings it might work, but only if you were trying to kill a rabbit. Anyone else is going to say "This shit smells like crap" and refuse to drink it.

So I ended up with belladonna, and then I was discussing with Irina whether it'd leave the requisite oily film. One of us remembered that nutmeg was an alkaloid and, as I have a lot more nutmeg in the pantry than belladonna, I decided I'd run an experiment with that. Then I forgot because I was actually getting writing done. (Yeah! I know!) But tonight I remembered.

One wine glass was filled with pure (albeit extremely cheap) red wine as a control in case I hadn't washed the glasses properly.

Into a second glass 1/8 tsp nutmeg was placed. Next red wine was added.

At this point it was realised that 1/8 tsp nutmeg was in excess of the amount that would give best results. Therefore a third glass was dusted with minute amounts of nutmeg and red wine was added.

Nothing unexpected was observed on the surface of the contents in the control glass, thus vindicating my housekeeping skills.

However on the surface of the second and third glasses, a thin layer of nutmeg powder was immediately observed.

It was recalled that, whereas nutmeg comes in powder form, belladonna comes in an oleous solution. It is likely that these two substances have different properties as a result. Recalling this before beginning the experiment would have saved on red wine and, more importantly considering how cheap said wine is, on time spent doing dishes.

[My sisters will recall that I have a history of designing scientific experiments that turn out to be, at best, tangential to my auctorial needs. There was the time I burnt a match in order to taste the burnt wood only to realise that a) burnt wood tastes like burnt anything and b) what my story actually wanted was a description of what burnt wood smelled like.]

Further research is required with olive oil.

Date: 2009-02-02 07:42 am (UTC)
kiya: (writing)
From: [personal profile] kiya
I killed a minor character with nutmeg, actually.

Well, nutmeg and a few other things:

- nutmeg, a hallucinogen with a tendency to cause major bad trips
- something that increased his blood clotting, I think (this is in my notes somewhere, it was either that or blood pressure)
- a previous severe head injury

Guy was in a cell in a monastery (effectively) getting medical treatment in the hope that he might recover enough to remember who hired him for the gig where he got his head bashed in.

Another member of his organisation slips him some nice candy with the above in it.

Horrible, horrible nightmares -> blood pressure spike -> head injury -> apparent death by stroke. No obvious poison or additional trauma (the medical personnel are quite competent to sort that much out), faint smell of spice, nightmares detected by local telepaths; conclusion: inconvenient natural causes, probably complications from the head trauma.

I really need to inclue that better in the revision, just so it's possible for someone to figure out how they offed him at least in theory. The nutmeg in particular is probably a bit of a stretch, but hey, I know it's nutmeg.

Date: 2009-02-02 07:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pariyal.livejournal.com
I need very little nutmeg to become queasy, and an amount of nutmeg that's normal in a normal portion of food does actually make me hallucinate. Fortunately it's the only food-related thing I have to avoid, and it's much easier to avoid in restaurants than in the nineteen-seventies when nutmeg was grated onto any vegetable by default. I once sent a dish of beans back twice, because the first time they'd only scooped off the top layer and filled up with new beans, thinking I was only making trouble.
(I would have made trouhle if they'd forced me to eat the beans with nutmeg!)

Date: 2009-02-02 01:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] green-knight.livejournal.com
This is completely new to me. I like nutmeg, I use it with brassicas, and I've never heard of the hallocinogenic or deadly properties.

Date: 2009-02-02 08:29 pm (UTC)
kiya: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kiya
(It was only deadly in combination with other things in the story.)

Normally, one needs to ingest a rather large quantity to get the hallucinogenic effects. Erowid has an overview, of course.

Date: 2009-02-02 05:46 pm (UTC)
kiya: (salvia)
From: [personal profile] kiya
I learned about the nutmeg-as-hallucinogen when a friend tried it as a hallucinogen, overdosed, and spent a couple of days Extremely Unhappy. Any amount of nutmeg in her food after that sent her into flashbacks.

Date: 2009-02-02 09:12 am (UTC)
ext_12726: Me at the computer (Default)
From: [identity profile] heleninwales.livejournal.com
Unable to help re a suitable poison, sorry. Though looking at my goat keeping book indicates that there are a bunch of nasty plants that grow in northern climes. It doesn't say what the active ingredient is, apart from laurel, which contains cyanide. Possibilities are: wild clematis, laburnum seeds, yew (can't see how you'd make an effective poison for humans out of yew leaves, but the seeds of the berry are poisonous (but not the flesh)), box and privet.

I remember once going to great trouble to get a piece of flint (via my brother, because the nearest flint is in the South of England). I wanted to try making a fire with flint and steel so I could get the decription right. The scene ended up being cut, which is probably just as well because whatever I did, I couldn't make a convincing spark let alone set something on fire with it.

Date: 2009-02-02 10:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sciamanna.livejournal.com
Olive oil does float on red wine. So does (cheaper) vegetable oil. Either (but most likely the second, which is flavourless) is a traditional way of "sealing" wine when bottled at home in Italy: fill bottle, add about 2 cm oil, cork.

(When opening the bottle there's a procedure for removing the oil, which relies precisely on the fact that it's neatly floating at the top. It requires a syphon, a paper towel, and SIKRIT ANCESTRAL NOLIGG.)


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