Friday, March 30, 2012

Why I Tried to Conquer the World

“This meeting of the Evil Overlords Guild will now come to order,” Acheros declared in his deepest, most sinister voice.
All around the table, the quiet conversations stilled, and everyone looked at him alertly.
“We will begin by hearing the latest status reports,” Acheros continued.
Qadira jumped to her feet. “First, I just want to know; did you really turn down Yasmina’s application to join us?”
Acheros sighed. “She’s an enchantress, not an evil overlord. She may be as wicked as they come, but she’s simply not in our league.”
“If she’d been male, you would have let her in!” Qadira pounded her fist on the table. “It’s blatant discrimination! I will not stand for this any longer!”
“So sit down!” Demogorgon gave loose to a long burst of cold laughter. “Besides, we wouldn’t be evil if we didn’t keep people from entering.”
“That’s right,” Rhadamanthus agreed. “Rejecting applicants only makes us more evil.”
“And if we let everyone in,” Acheros said sternly, “we’d be flooded with applications, and we’d have to change our name to the Slightly Evil and Sometimes Downright Nice Garden Club!”
“It’s not right,” Qadira sniffed.
“It’s not supposed to be!” Rhadamanthus exclaimed. “Who do you think we are? The Noble Heroes Guild?”
Acheros cleared his throat. “Vegeir, how have things been going for you?”
Vegeir solidified himself into the form of a human. “Very well. I have upped my demands for sacrifices. There has been much blood.” He dissipated again into the smoky black form he preferred.
“And your people? Your priests?”
{The people fear.} Vegeir’s mental voice scratched inside all of their heads. Everyone jumped.
“Don’t do that!” Qadira snapped.
Sulkily, Vegeir reformed into a mostly human shape. “I’m so much less evil this way, though.”
“Yes, well, we all know of your credentials,” Acheros said. “It doesn’t matter. How are your priests dealing with the people?”
“As I have commanded, they take the protesters for my sacrifices.” Vegeir licked his lips. “There has been little unrest lately. I shall have to arrange something to stir it up again.”
“Do so,” Acheros agreed. “Demogorgon? How are things going for you?”
“Taxes have been raised and anyone who fails to pay is placed in my quarries,” Demogorgon announced. “There are protests, but they are quiet about it. The people are in too much fear to properly resist.”
“Good, good. Qadira?”
Qadira sniffed. “No one has any respect for me. It’s a daily battle to keep my subordinates in line. They all seem to presume they have better plans.”
“Get new subordinates,” Rhadamanthus advised. “After a while they’ll get the message and behave.”
“Nobody wants to work for a female Evil Overlord, though!” Qadira sighed. “They all think I’m just a con. I get no respect in this business, none at all! The level of discrimination—”
“Yes, yes, we’re all aware.” Acheros quickly changed the subject. “Rhadamanthus? Has the resistance been stopped yet?”
“No. I’m on the lookout for a Hero; the conditions are perfect. But I plan to be ready for him the instant he shows up. He won’t even know what hit him.”
“Just be sure that isn’t the spark that shoves him on that path,” Qadira said, rather waspishly. “On the other hand, go ahead. Maybe then we can replace you with someone with brains. Someone female.”
“I’ll let you know, I have a long history of perfect service!” Rhadamanthus lunged to his feet.
Qadira clucked. “Perfect? I’m sure that word is never supposed to be applied to us.”
Acheros cleared his throat. “Let’s move on to the next order of the meeting. How can we improve?”
“Yasmina would bring a spark of fresh life to the guild,” Qadira said promptly.
Vegeir pulled himself back into a vaguely human shape. “I’d rather have zombies. Who needs life?” He paused briefly. “Unless I can eat it. Then life is good.”
“Yasmina,” Acheros repeated, “is an enchantress and not an Evil Overlord. She’s simply not the right caliber. Any other suggestions?”
“Fire Qadira,” Rhadamanthus muttered, “and get someone with brains. Someone male.”
“That is the most blatantly sexist insult I have ever heard!” Qadira’s face was turning red. “There should be guild rule about that!”
Demogorgon scoffed. “And what you said earlier wasn’t sexist? As for a rule, who ever heard of an Evil Overlord guild having rules on behavior? We’re evil!”
Qadira shoved back her chair, leaping to her feet. “And that’s another thing I’ve been meaning to bring up! Overlord is an inherently sexist word! Why can’t we be the Evil Overpeople?”
“Because then none of us would get respect!” Rhadamanthus shot back.
“If we can get back on subject?” Acheros glared around the room and was satisfied to see them all settle down. There was, after all, a reason he was guild president.
Demogorgon tapped his fingers on the table. “It occurs to me,” he said almost silkily, “that none of us have tried to take over the world in quite some time. Our reputation is going to suffer if we don’t do something about this soon.”
There was a long moment of quiet. “Taking over the world is the most dangerous thing of all,” Qadira said finally.
“So it should be just what you want to prove yourself superior,” Rhadamanthus said quickly.
Qadira sniffed. “I don’t need to prove it.”
Vegeir solidified. “A conquest would certainly provide excitement and much death.”
“Yes, but it’s terribly dangerous,” Acheros said. “Who would agree to take the job?”
There was a moment of silence as the guild members looked around at each other. Demogorgon was the first to speak. “It seems obvious to me. For such a great undertaking, who else could it be but our leader?”
Acheros froze. Everyone else nodded eagerly.
{It would be fitting.}
For once, no one complained about Vegeir’s use of his mental voice. Acheros was too stunned to get annoyed, and everyone else was more interested in not being nominated as the one to try to take over the world.
“He’s right,” Qadira agreed. “After all, taking over the world is one of the evilest things you can do. The president of the guild is plainly the best candidate, then.”
Rhadamanthus hadn’t stopped nodding. “I can’t think of anyone better qualified.”
“But…” Acheros blinked, trying to work up a defense. He wasn’t given time.
“It’s settled, then!” Demogorgon clapped his hands. “And I move that we end the meeting. I have places to go and people to be cruel to, after all.”
“I second it!” Rhadamanthus and Qadira cried at the same time.
“We have a majority already!” Demogorgon smiled. “Motion carried.” He vanished.
Vegeir dissipated into the air. Qadira hurried out of the room, followed closely by Rhadamanthus.
Acheros was left alone. “But…” he stared around the room helplessly, “But I don’t want to take over the world.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

It Had to Be Done

The cathedral erupted in cheers and applause. I shouted and clapped along with everyone else, but my heart wasn’t in it.
It had to be done, Conrad.”
My father had never looked so regal before, standing on the steps to the altar, the purple robe and heavy crown resting on his shoulders and head as if he’d been born to them. Smiling, he lifted one hand as if in benediction, and the cheering doubled in volume. It only began to die down when the trumpeters began to play a triumphant fanfare.
Still smiling, my father started down the stairs. He paused at the first pew, and I joined him, making sure a smile was pasted on my face. We paced down the long aisle together. The cheers began again, accompanied by flowers.
He was destroying the nation. If things continued as they were, there would have been rebellions and famines everywhere in only five or ten years.”
The doors to the cathedral were wide open. Guards were working to push back the crowd outside the door, making a pathway through the city to the palace. We stopped in the doorway for a brief second. I blinked in the sunlight, my ears filled with the loud roar of the crowd. More flowers were thrown on the street.
Hail the king!” Someone in the crowd started the shout, and it spread quickly. “Hail the king! Hail the king!”
My father started forward again, his warm smile firmly in place. I followed a half-step behind.
Hail the king! Hail!”
I tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. I had to do something.”
We made only one detour on the way to the palace: a brief stop in the royal graveyard to leave flowers on the fresh graves of my uncle and his son, killed together in an accident so horrific their bodies had been nearly impossible to identify. My aunt hadn’t yet come out of her rooms where she had locked herself in to grieve. I wondered if she knew the truth.
Believe me, son, I wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t necessary.”
That necessary tradition fulfilled, we resumed our walk to the palace. I kept my head up, looking forward. I didn’t want to see the flowers my feet were crushing into the paving stones. Innocents bleeding and dying.
The cheers and cries of “Hail!” didn’t end until we reached the throne room. My father ascended the stairs to the throne and sat down in perfect silence. There was one final cheer, and then I was stepping forward and kneeling in front of the throne.
How could you do it? How could you how could you how could you...
We name thee, Conrad, our heir and prince, and bestow upon thee the dukedom of Harasall. Swear now thine oath, and take up thine office!”
How could I?
I pledge my life and honor to thee, my lord and king, and...” The words I’d memorized only last night fell easily from my lips, the age-old oath of fealty and service, binding me to my father and king.
We accept thine oath, and pledge unto thee our protection and love in return for thy loyalty. Rise now, and take thy place beside our throne.”
It had to be done, Conrad. It had to be done.”
I stood, bowed deeply, and went to stand beside my father—my father, a usurper and murderer.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012



Finishing his report, Bran glanced around the small camp while Carey thought about the news. His eyes fell on Shari, cradling Ryan in her arms. From this distance, it was impossible to see anything of the baby.
Carey noticed the look. “You haven’t had a chance to meet my son yet, have you?” He grinned. “Come on.”
A bit reluctantly, Bran followed him. He’d avoided Shari and her baby as unobtrusively as he could; naturally, Carey had noticed it anyway.
Shari looked up on their approach and smiled. It was a smile that encompassed both of them, and Bran started to relax. Apparently, Shari was growing more comfortable with his presence. Either that or she figured that having Carey around made it safe.
Carey slipped his infant son from his wife’s arms, giving her a quick kiss on the forehead. He straightened and turned to Bran. “Meet Ryan.”
Bran looked down at the tiny bundle. Wisps of red hair covered a small, round head. Every bit of the sleeping baby’s chubby features was tiny, from the ears to the mouth to the nose. One hand had slipped out of the blanket wrapping him, the miniscule fingers clenched in a tight fist.
With his nearly flawless memory, Bran could barely remember the last time he’d seen an infant. He thought he remembered some of his siblings as babies, but that was long ago. He started to reach forward to touch the tiny hand, but pulled back.
Carey saw it, of course, and a slightly wicked grin crossed his face. “Here, Bran. Why don’t you hold him for a bit?”
Me?” Bran took a half step backward. His eyes darted over to Shari, hoping that she’d protest and take her son back. To his dismay, she didn’t look disturbed at all. Instead, she looked…amused. There would be no help from that quarter. “I’d probably drop him,” he argued instead.
Carey gave a hoot of laughter. “You? I’ve never seen you come even close to dropping something you didn’t want to.”
Most things he carried didn’t matter so much if he dropped them. Unfortunately, he couldn’t think of any other excuses, good or bad.
Carey didn’t give him time to think, either. He stepped forward and calmly deposited his son in Bran’s reluctant arms.
A vague memory of holding one of his little siblings came back to him. He’d probably been no more than eight. It made him feel more confident, though, and he gently touched Ryan’s little fist with one finger, marveling at how small and soft it was.
Ryan yawned, and then his eyes flickered open, revealing them to be a soft blue. The baby regarded Bran’s face for a bit, and then smiled. It was a giant, toothless smile, and it was hopelessly contagious. Bran didn’t even realize he’d smiled in return.
Another yawn split Ryan’s face, and he closed his eyes, wriggling slightly, before dropping off to sleep again. Bran handed him gently back to Carey. “If you don’t need me for anything else, there are a few things I’d like to go do.”
Go right ahead,” Carey said, his tone slightly odd. “Try to be back in time for supper, though.”
The corner of Bran’s mouth quirked slightly. “Of course.” He bowed slightly to both Carey and Shari, and then turned and left.

Shari looked up at Carey, putting the question in both of their minds into words. “Was it only my imagination, or did I just see Bran Emlyk smile?”


So, Bran doesn't smile much, obviously. He's essentially trained himself to show no emotion, ever. There are reasons behind that; Bran possibly has the most tragic and horrifying past of all my characters. No guarantee, though. ;)
This scene might be cheesy, but it makes me happy. On the other hand, Bran and Carey make me happy...
Anyway, mostly posting this because I want to post something. I ought to work on something new to go here, too...