The Vizier sat down on the ottoman heavily and pulled off his pointy shoes. Dropping them each in turn, he sank his bare, aching toes into the thick carpet. Eyes closed, he put out a hand and as always Carlisle placed a fluted femur in his hand. The Evil Emperor in whose mighty Black Spire he now resided had sumptuously fitted out his own chambers with thick rugs, canopied bed, and bones. Lots and lots of bones. Taking a sip, he wrinkled his nose. It was always the same vinegary draft.
“What is this swill again, Carlisle?”
“Orc’sh Blood, my lord.”
“Yesh, my lord.”
“Where do we get it again?”
“From the Darkwoodsh, my lord. The orcsh make it.”
“Do they by any chance bathe in it?”
The homunculus stood silently blinking his enormous eyes for a long moment. “I can’t rightly shay my, lord.”
“Not, with your lisp, no.”
Unperturbed, Carlisle continued. “Would you like a bath, my lord?”
“No. This swineherd will be along any moment now and I really would rather die with my boots on. My pants also.”
“Ash you wish, my lord. Would my lord, like shome shupper?”
“I’m not hungry.” There was another silence. “Carlisle?”
“Yesh, my lord?”
“How long have you been here?”
“Oh, I can’t rightly shay. Three, four hundred yearsh, maybe?”
“You ever feel like leaving?”
“What doesh the master mean?”
“You know, collect your earthly goods in a hankie, put it on a stick and make a run for it. Down the side of the volcano and past the Darkwoods and the Evil Caves and the Troll Bridges and the Dragon Lairs and the Beast Pits and the Haunted Mines and through the Fanged Pass and over the Black Fire River to the Greenlands?”
“I don’t think they would like me very much in the Greenlandsh, my lord. Only nishe and pretty folksh in the Greenlandsh. Carlisle is not a nishe and pretty folksh, my lord.”
“What if I went with you?”
“Who would be the villain, my lord? Shomebody hash to do great evil upon the land.”
There was a horrendous wrenching noise in the hall. The Vizier stood with a sigh as the door was flung open. Without looking over his shoulder, he moved to the window and stared out over the glowing volcanic landscape. It was time for the monologue.
“We all want it my young friend. That great elixir, that lustrous potency which alone can quench our thirst…”
“My lord?” The homunculus sounded worried.
“Not now, Carlisle. The monologue. Very important. Must explain how I can justify all the evil I’ve perpetrated. Makes me much more human and relatable.” The man at the window cleared his throat. “To stand atop this spire and…”
“Whaaa…” This was not Carlisle.
The Vizier hazarded a look over one shoulder. The swineherd was careening across the enormous room toward him, both arms outstretched, his head slightly askew. There was saliva dripping from his slack jaw. The wound across his abdomen was still gaping. Caroming off a bed post, he spun, fell over the ottoman and lay struggling like an upturned turtle.
“Mashter?”Carlisle was standing next to the fireplace. He was holding a fire poker in both hands like a great sword.
There was a flash of white light and the room was flooded with the smell of hyacinth. A willowy, dark-haired teenager in a flowing white gown and winged helm was suddenly hovering above the floor. Somewhere in the distance ethereal voices were chanting. The girl blushed violently.
“I’m really, really sorry! He ran off before I finished. I didn’t even get to give him the speech I practiced.”
“Me neither.” The Vizier said dryly, folding his hands behind his back. “Could you please do something about the drool, I really do like this rug.”
The girl wrung her perfect hands. “Could you possibly kill him over again and I could try one more time?”