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02/08/2018 / hbrowne4

King of Schadenfreude by Axel James Johnston Kelly

“Shall I elucidate your many, nay indeed, your  manifold mistakes?” Blaggard, Dark Wizard and King of Schadenfreude, gloated nastily over the fallen barbarian swordsman lying on the floor before him.

Maya the Merciless, co-ruler of Schadenfreude – a result of the realm’s extremely stringent equality legislation – produced her pocket watch. She considered swiftly. If this piece of gloating were to continue for more than ten minutes, then she’d be outside her official core hours and into overtime. After her last renegotiation with her boss, that could work out very nicely indeed. “Tell him, boss,” she said cheerfully. “He should know just how stupid he’s been.” Blaggard looked at her with slight puzzlement, then grinned.

“As you say,” he twirled his moustache with a diabolical flourish. He addressed the fallen swordsman. “Your first mistake was opening the package,” he said. “I mean, really? You’ve infiltrated a land ruled by a dark wizard; you manage to intercept a parcel he’s sent to someone else… and, rather than get a wizard to examine it, you decide, ‘I’m going to open it’.”

The swordsman groaned, “Thought it might have gold inside…” he managed.

“If I were sending gold around, you may rest assured that I would not send it second-class post.”

“I’d heard you were famously mean – that you fought your employees for every pay raise.”

Maya did her best not to look embarrassed as Blaggard glared at her.

“Quite the opposite. I don’t think I’ve ever known minions who’re so quick to quote the Dark Plain of Croak Agreements at me. Or equal pay legislation.” He cleared his throat. “You were fortunate indeed that the package merely teleported you into my fortress, rather than exploding. But, to continue. Your second mistake was…”

A sloshing sound from the large pool of carnivorous fish below the audience chamber interrupted his flow. One of the enchanted sharks that called the pool home stuck his head over the side.

“Are you going to be much longer? When’s our pay arriving?”

Blaggard went red with sheerest indignation, “You’ll wait until I’m good and ready, you cartilaginous cretin!”

“We’ve got a contract!” The shark dived down, then came back up with a sadly-disintegrating piece of paper. “So okay, this copy’s a bit on the damp side, but the ink on the copy with our lawyer is still dry! And it’s very clear – we get paid with your shrieking enemies. And we get paid on-time. If you can’t hold to that, maybe it’s time to renegotiate.”

“Silence!” Maya snapped, “Go on, boss. Really lay it on thick.”

“Thank you.” The wizard drew himself up. “Now. Your second mistake was that, rather than attempting to slip through the quieter parts of the castle – my wine-cellar, the old dungeons, and so on and so on – you instead decided to head straight for the living quarters of both myself and my minions.”

The barbarian shrugged, “Thought they might have gold inside.”

Blaggard sighed, “I do use the banks, you know! Now, the third mistake…”

The shark chose this moment to interject again, “For one thing, we’ve been thinking about some variety. Your enemies are all very well, but something different now and again would be nice. Maybe chicken, or steak and eggs?”

“I couldn’t rob the banks, I’m a hero!” The barbarian spoke up again.

Maya blinked. “So, you have a problem with robbing banks, but you don’t mind robbing the personal wealth of the rightful king of Schadenfreude?”

“He’s just a dark wizard who stole the throne!”

Maya shrugged. “Everyone around here recognises him as the rightful king –  and myself as rightful co-ruler.”

“Because they don’t dare to say otherwise!”

“Hey now, free speech is allowed here, if people don’t want to use it then that’s their business. Point is – you’re entirely fine with robbing people you see as evil, even if they’re publicly recognised as the rightful rulers of a large kingdom. But banks, that probably cause far more evil and suffering than anything a dark wizard can…”

“Hey!” Blaggard exclaimed.

“Sorry, boss, but it’s true.”

“I…” He shook his head, “Anyway, your third mistake…

“But banks are supposedly a step too far?” Maya interrupted, as she sneaked a look at her watch. Excellent! She was well into overtime territory now.

“Of course, that’s the same as always with you hero types. You say you’re all about justice and freedom and whatever, but all you do is maintain the status quo. Whereas people who actually try to affect real, lasting change get called villains!”

“Whose monologue is this again?” Blaggard demanded icily.

“Are you people even listening to me?” the shark demanded. “We demand variety! And a larger pool with more coral would be appreciated.”

“I am trying,” Blaggard growled, “to make this person-thing quail appropriately in fear and loss before throwing him to you. You may wait. And all of you,  kindly remember who delivers the monologues around here. So, your third mistake…”

The shark drew himself upright, “In that case, as shop steward of the Union of Aquatic Carnivores, Menacing Fish and Poisonous Rays, I must inform you that you may consider us on strike.”

Several other sharks, along with stingrays and large piranhas, bobbed up around him, holding signs that might have been legible once but were now just covered in running black ink.

“Not another one of your enemies will we devour or sting until such time as you provide us with a more varied range of victuals. Until that time, we shall subsist on the smaller fish you added to the pool for the sake of colour.”

What? I forbid you to consume my goldfish!”

“Too late. The strike starts now.”

The fish began circling, holding their signs up high above the water.

Blaggard turned to Maya. “Do something!”

“Well – settling union disputes is outside my normal duties. And I’ll have to work on top of the usual overtime, which means I’ll be missing college classes.” She considered for a moment, before adding, “I’ll expect time and a half.”

She eyed her watch. Overtime, plus time-and-a-half ­– this was looking really excellent.



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