It was late morning, on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Not that you could tell, of course, for the sky was thunderously black and brimming with thoughts of imminent thunderstorms. The thunderstorms themselves materialised on occasion, but today they, like just about everything else within a fifty mile radius, seemed to be doing their best to appear inconspicuous.
It was late morning, on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, and at one minute past three o'clock a large raven was sent from a high tower with an order for a new obsidian table attached to its leg.
Sitting in the remnants of said table, a small minion was beginning to have serious regrets about its career choices.
"Your Evilness . . . if I may ask . . . what seems to be . . . the matter?"
The stammering was not deliberate on the minion's part - not that that would have been an issue, what with the strenuous 'equal opportunities' policy applied by its employer - but rather because it was frequently interrupted by the need to dart out of the way of the titanic black-headed mace as it continued its path of desecration around the room. By the looks of it, the minion thought, the antique fireplace was not going to last half as long as the table had.
In fact, just at that moment, the mace crashed through the aforementioned's mantlepiece and lodged fast in the thick stone beyond. A few sharp tugs and snarls later, and the minion finally plucked up enough courage to approach its fuming, but thankfully noodle-armed, wielder.
"My Dear Dread Lady," the minion said, tugging at the edges of its silky black cloak nervously, "what troubles you?"
The tugging on the mace ceased, and a pair of surprisingly non-threatening blue eyes whipped around the room before spotting the minion, who sighed. For all it was convenient being scarce knee-height to their employer (it certainly made it easier to avoid her occasional attempts to behead them), it did make it rather inconvenient when you wanted to get her attention.
The minion waited in half apprehensive silence as the eyes lingered on him. He kept his swallow as infinitessimal as he could when she pulled off her helmet - a very impressive thing, even Sauron had sent several very envious emails upon seeing a picture of it on Evil Overlords Anonymous - and set it on the remains of the desecrated mantlepiece.
"Three weeks," she said at long last, to nothing in particular, "three weeks."
The minion sighed and held out his hands apologetically. "Three weeks, two days and forty six hours, Oh Great and Terrible Mistress. We are keeping a close watch."
"But three weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeks."
The minion braced himself for a swift and painful death as his overlord (she insisted the title was gender neutral) threw her hands skyward and drove her steel-toed boots into the floor so hard that he heard the stone screech in protest. However, in a sudden swirl of cloak and armour, she stormed past him and flopped into her throne with such utter despondency that he began to wonder if he should call for an Emergency Chocolate Cake.
It had, indeed, been three weeks, two days and forty six hours since any heroes had assailed the fortress. In fact, it had been that long since anyone, heroic or otherwise, had come anywhere near the place. At first no-one had been overmuch worried - especially given the horror that was bound to spread through the land at the news of the terrible Death By Sausage that had befallen the last champion to brave the citadel's walls. A week had passed unremarkably, and the overlord had amused herself with extended games of charades with the denizens of her dungeon (those she liked, anyway) and teaching her kraken to 'play dead'.
By week two, she'd begun to get restless and had organised some minor Pillaging With Intent to Annoy across the borders of one of her tetchiest neighbouring principalities. As it turned out, its king was absent, fighting giants in the north, so instead she'd sent him a letter requesting an army to squish upon his return. Meanwhile, she'd caught wind of a champion coming from the west with a sword of fire, swearing upon the blood of his slaughtered family to bring down every stone of her fortress. She had giddily awaited his arrival for a full three hours before news reached her that he'd been eaten by rabid squirrels somewhere in the Insidious Forest. Though the news had caused widespread hysterical laughter, it hadn't solved the problem.
And this week . . . the minion shuddered. Three princesses kidnapped, twelve priceless artifacts stolen, ninety six false messages aiming at inciting civil war, two hundred and six towns and smaller cities burnt to the ground and six dragons down with flu after attempting to start a plague.
But still, not so much as a traveller with a faulty Sat-Nav had wandered by the castle. As the derth of entertainment persisted, Her Evilness' mood had steadily worsened until she had taken to attacking the furniture about six hours ago. When they dared to creep back into sight after a particularly nasty spree of catapult-related mishaps, minions had done their best to cheer her up, even volunteering for a paintball match (which, to anyone who knew anything about them, featured a large crossbow and several barrels of jelly). Yet still, with no Ye Anciente Prophecies scheduled to come to fruition within the next two years (give or take a planetary alignment), it seemed that nothing short of a disastrous miracle would save them all from an eternity of broken furniture and defenestrated lackeys.
"Your Malignancy . . ." the minion crept up to the puddle of furry-cloaked apathy puddled in the middle of the throne, "We are trying everything . . . It can't be much longer, we're sure . . ."
The overlord merely shook her head and burrowed deeper into the crook of her elbows. She looked very small, thought the minion, sitting down in front of the throne in the midst of a terrible guilt trip, especially for a being of immeasurable malice and delight in terrorising the well-intentioned. She looked very sad, too, and to the minion's mind, that was terrible. Black-hearted and frequently violent as she was, he was very fond of his employer. Hadn't she taken great pains to ensure practicality and comfort in their uniform, and turned the cook into a petunia after he failed to account for dietary requriements in the lunch menu? Heck, she'd even given him a holiday once, for a whole half a minute.
Then, suddenly, the air was split by the ring of a horn. It was a great ring, high and pure and resounding with such a power that it set the tips of the minion's ears trembling. Out of the window, a great wind arose, and carried with it the sound of a sword singing as it was removed from its scabbard. The minion leapt to his feet.
"The Long-Lost Horn of the Third King!" he cried. "And the Singing Sword! Why, it's said only the mightiest arm and stoutest heart may lift them, and that their combined power is all in the entire world that can rival the might of the Dark One! Well," he bit his lip, "other than those fifty two other swords . . . and that magic spear . . . and possibly the Spork of Wrath, but only in conjunction with the Wellies of Determ-"
The minion was flat on his face before he could even think of the rest of the word. An avalanche of plaster crashed to the floor as the mace was wrenched from the wall, and he barely managed to scrabbled out of the way before being knocked to back to the floor as the Dark Lady of Doom bounced in fits of squeaking excitement down the corridor, calling for her dragon, her sword, her absolute wittiest hero-demoralising monologue.
And hard on her heels came the minion, trying to make himself heard beween the answering screeches and howls of delight coming from every crevice of the castle.
"Dreadful Lady!" he cried. "Defiler of Light! Bane of the Righteous! You forgot your helmet!"
~ Charley R