* * *
There are very few times in life when it is vital to read the terms and conditions of an employment contract. Of course, everyone knows it's recommended - maybe even important - but even if you didn't it wouldn't be the end of the world.
The minion was beginning to wonder if any of its co-workers were aware that this was not one of those jobs. Though, to be fair, it didn't remember reading anything about the possibility of being run over by a throne.
As the aforementioned throne slowly finished its manic rotation, the minion crept out of its hiding place to proffer a bandage to his unfortunate companion. There would be some magnificent bruises, he thought, and luckily the invalid seemed to already be regarding them as a badge of honour. After all, there were relatively few - even among the senior staff - who could tell stories about the hazards of allowing evil overlords to combine their passions for imposing furniture and spinny office chairs.
The overlord herself, however, was not longer paying attention. Propelling her wheeled behemoth to the window, she hopped onto the windowsill and peered out over her fortress walls to the miles of desolation beyond - exactly two-point-five miles, actually, as specified by requirements of the fortress' status as a World Heritage Site.
The two minions waited apprehensively for any word, and were rewarded with an "ugh".
"Ugh" was the reason that not a single minion missed one of their daily physical fitness sessions. "Ugh" was at the top of the list (in capital letters, underlined) of Words Synonymous With Impending Doom That Are Ninety-Nine Percent Likely To Be Lethal.
"Ugh" was what turned a field of hardened, armoured warriors into an empty space full of discarded weaponry and distant cries of "Mummy!"
"Ugh" meant that Her Fearsomeness had something to do, and she really, really, really didn't want to do it.
Days of "Ugh", as the terrible occasions were known, were rare enough to have once been considered mere legends. There were plenty percolating, such one which claimed that the wellington boot embedded in the doorway above the sixth-storey dining room had been left there by the castle's previous owner (who, in actual fact, was a pretty considerable legend in their own right). Another of its ilk stipulated that Her Evilness' real name was so long that they hadn't invented a piece of paper big enough to hold it - although, technically, this wasn't so much a legend as a mangled truth that nobody had the energy to disentangle.
The last Day of "Ugh" had taken place just over three years ago, when Her Evilness had been confronted with a book of Sudoku puzzles by a rival overlord. Nobody knew what became of the Sudoku book, but as everybody knew what had become of its sender, the matter had never been brought up again.
For that reason, not a single minion went anywhere near the Shadowlady's private apartments for the rest of the week. The Head Henchman made sure everything went on as usual, answering the inevitable awkward questions as best he could and leaving those he couldn't on bright purple Post-It notes stuck to the foreheads of the askers.
It was only when the Bane of Righteousness' favourite dragon went down with colic (and no one could find the medication) that they turned to the eventuality of having to disturb her. There were myriad ways they could have decided this, and some of the bigger minions certainly had some very entertaining ideas about how to choose a nominee. And yet, even the more brutal among them couldn't bring themselves to condemn one of their number to an unfair end - not in the least because it went against the Rules, and anyone who knew anything knew that breaking even the least of the Rules would envy the fate of the one they had condemned by doing so.
So, instead, they turned to the oldest, most illustrious, and, alarmingly, fairest system of decision they knew.
Two thousand six hundred and fifty two fists rapped at the base of the door, and two thousand six hundred and fifty one voices let out squeaks of relief as they ran away to find the deepest darkest hole in the universe, dig deeper, and wait for the screaming to stop.
The screaming, of course, was coming from the one who didn't run away fast enough.
TO BE CONTINUED!