Friday, January 30, 2015

When Sorry Isn't Good Enough

“I’m sorry!”  Kai was on his knees in front of her throne, his hands clasped together pitifully.  “I am so sorry!”

The queen could smell his fear even from up on the dais.   She quirked one of her perfect eyebrows upwards. “You burned down a whole quarter of the city and all you can say is ‘you’re sorry?’”

Kai paled.  “I knew the damage was extensive...”

“That’s putting it mildly.”  The queen threw a glare at the mage who accompanied Kai.  “I was assured your mages were no threat to my city.”

“We are not, my queen.”  The mage stood a little straighter.  “Kai passed his test.”

“And yet his magic caused the fire.”  She tapped her long, immaculate fingernails on her throne.  “Magic he was not supposed to have.  Nor was he licensed to use.”

“He was not.  Which is why we brought the matter to you.” She folded her arms into her robe.  “But should we deem your punishment too lenient-”

“Too lenient?”  The queen laughed with genuine mirth.  “I assure you, my judgement will be fair.”  She turned her attention back to Kai. 

“I am so sorry.”

“I know you are.  But you levelled a large part of my city.  Words alone will not repair all of the damage.”

The queen caught a spark of hope in his stormy eyes.  “I am not poor, my queen.”

“Of course not,” she purred.  “All of your gold will go a long way towards repairing the quarter.” 

Kai let out the breath he’d been unconsciously holding.  Humans were so adorable.

“Unfortunately gold can only cover the physical damages.” She paused, stifling a laugh as he froze.  “What about all of the lives lost in the blaze?  The human lives in particular?”

He puffed out his chest at that.  “While this was surely a setback, you have nothing to worry about, my queen.  We humans reproduce easily.  Our numbers will recover.”

“In that you are mistaken, Kai.” 

He paled.  “ queen?”

“The human population has been declining for some time.  While troubling, my advisors assured me it wasn’t a big deal so long as everyone was careful.”  She examined her manicured hand.  “But now your fire has wiped out a significant number.”

His eyes widened in shock.  “I had no idea.  My queen, I’m so-”

 “Never mind that,” she said, waving off another apology.  “Have you any way to encourage your people to reproduce?” 

“ potions?”

“That’s been tried.  In fact, all of the obvious solutions have.  And they all failed.”  She took a moment to really consider the man cowering before her.  “Perhaps you could find out why your people are in decline?”

“I...I...I am scholar, my queen.  I could perhaps do a study?”

“No.”  She sighed.  “There are other, wiser people looking into this matter.”  The queen stood, taking a moment to survey her court before focussing once again on Kai.  Slowly she descended from the dais towards him, stroking his hair when she was in reach; he shrank back from her touch.  “As you cannot fix what you have done, then here is my decree: I will give you immortal life.”  He stilled.  That was not the sentence he had expected.

Her hand roved down to his face, caressing it before she yanked his chin up, forcing him to look her in the eye.  “Do not mistake this for a blessing.  For you shall not be allowed even one drop of human blood, though you will beg and curse me for it to the end of your days.”  She looked up, meeting the gaze of the mage.  “He will lose the magic that runs through his veins.  Is this sufficient for the council?”

The mage nodded.  The queen smiled back down at her prey and barred her fangs.  “So shall it be.”

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It would take him 4 seconds to fix a boiler, and half that to 'fix' you.

Thursday January 30th, 3:00pm

"Alright, it's done. The memo has been sent. This weekend our middle management will all be under the impression that their weekend plans have been extended considerably." The director proclaimed. The board looked around at each other.

The room spoke. "But they won't be, right?"

"What do you think? Wait, let me rephrase that to telling you what they'll think. They'll think they've all been performing so well that they deserve a two week vacation and a discounted company flight package to Cancun. Well at least those that lack perspective will." continued the director, letting out a casual chuckle. "That should keep the majority of them out of the way while we call for a vote."

Concern still lingered in the air, to a degree. "And those who don't lack common perception? Or those who simply don't want to go away for 2 weeks?"

Another board member spoke up. "We'll tell them that they passed a test, of sorts. We'll just offer them some phony bologna stock options in a subsidiary that we'll have dissolved by Monday and send them on a weekend getaway at a spa or something."

"Sure, but what about those who can tell what's going on?" murmured the board table.

"Well, they're probably not new to the business. We'll offer them an incentive in the form of a handsome severance on the condition that they sign a non-disclosure agreement and leave quietly. I don't foresee any issues with this, but if they get violent make sure security is present in HR."

The board lifted. All loose ends, it seemed, were tied.

Then, it struck them, at once and almost instantly.

"Oh crap, what about Richard Thompson?" The name Richard Thompson was whispered nervously around the table.

Richard Thompson, the name itself adds one thousand pounds of pressure to any room it's muttered in. The lights grow dim. The air grows thick and chokes around you. You can see your breath as you exhale. So dark... so cold...

The tension couldn't even be cut with a knife now. "Well? Do we have a Thompson plan?!" "Um, uhh" the director nervously shuffled through papers on the table, attempting to look like there was a plan in there the whole time. What an oversight!

"Um... okay, we have a big contingency. Let's pay Thompson off with an offer of four hundred thousand. That should take care of that."

The room hissed and shuddered. Money was of little concern to Thompson, everyone knew that. Some of the members were shutting off their laptops and packing up to head towards the door.

At first, the doors clicked quietly with the indication that they would be locked in the room from the outside. Then, the lights quickly cut out, but only for a few seconds. They came back on with an orange glow indicating that they are all now facing a real emergency. Thompson was behind the director, crouching on one knee. The director surveyed the room, noting that the rest of the board members were passed out on the table. Richard leaned in closer, whispering in the ear: "Dear director, I sure hope you're not fixing for a hostile takeover.  I really do love this company the way it is." he paused.   "You know, they say I'm the one who put the word hostile in hostile takeover."

The director only let out a hushed scream. Thompson snapped his fingers and the emergency lights cut out. Only 3 seconds later they came back on, with the rest of the board waking up and Richard nowhere to be found.

"Okay, in light of recent circumstances, I'd like to move in quite a different direction. Can we vote on this motion?"

Shaken voices resounded "Aye."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Village Woes

I was playing with branching dialogue on Chat Mapper and used the quote to make a quick dialogue between a hero and a villager. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Good Day

               “Have you ever been set on fire Mr. Transival?” The Dragon asked me the question in the same tone a neighbour might, over a newspaper, ask if one had ever visited the Appalachians in the fall, when the leaves had just come into their colours.

                “I um, can’t say that I have sir.” I replied, truthfully.

                “I’ve never been set on fire myself but I have, on good authority, that it’s a lousy way to die.” The Dragon offered that little tip with raised eyebrows. He was being friendly, doing me a solid offering up that little gem: no extra charge. I could see this here was the generous sort of dragon; looking out for my interests and all that.

                I pursed might lips and only nodded.

                “Don’t fuck with me, Mr. Transival.” Now, transported forward through the space-time continuum all of three seconds, he was staring intently at me with his brilliantly yellow eyes and bushy grey brows that met just above his snout. Now he was that other sort of dragon. The kind that razed country-sides, ate virgins, and rained righteous fire down upon those who defaulted on their debts.

                Funny thing though, The Anguigena Bank’s in-house collections office had some of the highest success rates in the business. They hardly ever had to burn anything anymore: people who took Anguigena debts just didn't default on them.

                Still though they were sensitive to the possibility and The Dragon held my gaze for five, very, very long seconds. And let me tell you, I did not dare look away, or blink, or flinch. Everyone knew the cops wouldn’t lift a finger against a dragon. They wouldn’t dare. Even if the world was on fire they wouldn’t, and they certainly wouldn't be too inquisitive if another pile of ash found its way into AAG’s dumpster.

                That was the sort of place AAG was. Low rates, excellent repayment plans, and very few questions asked. All you had to do was have the audacity to go in, sit down in a cramped office with a dragon and demand money from it. Do that and you could walk out with vast sums of wealth it would take a month to get at a regular bank. Unless, of course, they thought you were aiming to cheat them - or wasting their time, or they just didn't like the look of you - because if that were the case: you just didn’t ever walk out at all.

                Now there’s a few sorts that come to AAG and sit down to ask a dragon to part with his treasure. First is the confident, wealthy individual who just wants some quick liquid assets, but otherwise has no doubt that they can repay the money back: the dragon's preferred client. The second is someone so desperate for cash the risk was either worth it, or perhaps, didn't even register the risk: those people were in peril here.

                I however, represented an extremely uncommon third sort.

                The Dragon’s nostrils flared and its eyes never for a moment released me from their gaze. Now, here it was smugly toying with its prey - looking for any sign of weakness. Savouring the discomfort of those supplicants come to beg for money and relishing the opportunity, instead, to hasten them to an early grave if they showed any sign of weakness.

                My eyes stung, and the smell of sulfur rankled my nose, but I didn’t flinch, I didn’t look away – I had to stare down those yellow eyes, and that pompous, toothy grin. “Do we have a deal?” I asked, feigning disaffected impatience. As the moment was drawn out longer and longer without reply, I began to wonder if it was true what the advertisements said – that dragons could smell lies – and that I had made a terrible mistake in coming here.

To my relief though, the incredulous expression on The Dragon’s face twisted away into something altogether more pleasant, almost saccharine. There was something sinister about a dragon looking pleased with itself. “I believe we may, Mr. Transival. I shall maintain my end of the agreement – you shall have your money - and you will maintain your end of the agreement. And if you do not: I will come.

“I will come for everything you have ever had and everyone you have ever loved. All of your accomplishments, your hopes and your dreams – I will come for them all and all shall be rendered unto ash under the shadow of my vengeance. And after the fire of my righteous rage has run cold with the screams of innocents, and heat of my anger cooled into blackened ash, then – and only then - shall I come for you.

“You shall suffer in fire! Agony shall be your only companion! Your screams of ‘mercy’ shall fall upon deaf ears, for I will have none. Oh, I shall not kill you Mr. Transival. When I am finished with you, you’ll be left to eke out the remainder of your pitiful life in penury begging in the streets; a horrible, twisted and disgusting reminder to all the world about what happens to those who would break faith with a dragon; all those who would break faith with me.”

                And finally. “So let me put the question to you Mr. Transival: do we have a deal?”

                “We do.” I replied.

                As I stood up, I smiled only a little. There was a twinge of fear as I slipped my jacket on before exiting the smoky confines of the dragon’s den. There was a gnawing sense that, somehow, this dragon would track me down once it discovered the truth and I would pay the price for staring it in the eyes with ‘duplicity’ in my heart.

                On the other hand: I was leaving with a suitcase full of money, and that had sounded like Mr. Transival was in for such sweet revenge as could only be served by a dragon.

                Tomorrow might be different but today was a good day.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Quote for the New Year

"Sorry I burned down your village.  Here's some gold." -Reparations