Thursday, January 24, 2008

Moving Up in the Ranks

Arklebar, Dark Lord of Berenir, King of Uburia, and Conqueror of Kordrun drummed his fingers on the armrest. Before him lay the royal map room, where several very nervous men in uniforms stood staring at their feet.

“So,” began Arklebar, “you’re telling me that we lost?”

“Yes, Sire,” said the man with the biggest array of medals. “As you can see from the map, enemy forces surprised us at Sandwich Pass and your entire Western Army was annihilated.” He hesitantly pointed at the large, minutely detailed map of the continent that filled two-thirds of the room. A number of carved wooden figures were set at various points, painted in the colors of various nations.

“We’re the red ones?” asked Arklebar.

“Yes, Lord,” said the same man. “The half-dozen blue figures clustered around the knocked over red figures represents the battle.”

“How come none of the blue figures are knocked over?”

“We, ummm, didn’t inflict enough casualties.”

“Really? Three thousand heavily armed psychopaths didn’t kill enough people to knock over even one blue guy?”

“Well, Sire,” began the man. “It was hobby night. They were busy making macaroni ducks when they were surprised.”

“Macaroni ducks?”

“Yes, we find it keeps morale up.”

Arklebar considered this for a moment. “Huh.” He leaned forward, the giant spikes on his shoulder plates casting ominous shadows. “You know what else keeps morale up?”

The man swallowed, as the other men quietly stepped away. “No, Lord.”

“Executions.” Arklebar signaled and a guard efficiently lopped the man’s head off. There was a fountain of blood and two thuds. The first was from a head with a very surprised expression as it hit the table and the second came a moment later as the rest of the body hit the floor.

“Well,” said Arklebar, after a moment of silence. “Who’s next in line to be General?”

No one answered.

“Come on, somebody speak up.” Arklebar raised his hand and the guard stepped forward again.

“Ummm,” said a young man, who was liberally splashed with blood. “I don’t think there’s anyone else.”

“What? I command over 50,000 men. Who’s the next senior officer?”

“I don’t think you have any left.”

Arklebar raised a finger and the guard stepped forward, but then lowered it after a moment. “Explain.”

“Well, you’ve executed every senior and junior officer you have. General Errew there,” he said gesturing at the corpse. “Was just a lieutenant 9 months ago. Your officers are actively refusing promotions now. Many have busted themselves down to sergeants. Captain Bower had himself court-martialed all the way down to Corporeal.”

“And who are you?”

“Private Kren, Lord.” He gestured at the map. “I move the figures and . . . err . . . clean up.”

“Hmmm, I like you, Private. How’d you like to be General?”

“No thank you, Sire.”

“Come on! You get all sorts of perks. There’re fancy uniforms, good pay, and lots of medals.” Arklebar leaned forward. “The ladies love the medals, if you get my drift.”

“I will, but I have some conditions.”

“Really? Such as?”

“Not being executed would be pretty much it.” He thought for a second. “And no sneaky ‘toss him down a well when no one’s looking’ either.”

Arklebar rolled his eyes. “Fine.”

“I’d like that in writing.”


“In front of witnesses.”

“Oh come on!”

“And notarized.”

“You’re killing me here,” said Arklebar. “Really.”


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