May 13, 2000
Although things were much more hectic than usual for this poor overworked creature. There was only a skeleton crew of he and his friends working that day... For there were more important matters concerning the imps of Medievia, and many of the other creatures as well. A matter of vital importance, a matter that would shake the foundations of Medievian society and change it forever.
For, on that very day, was the very first meeting of the first ever union of summoned creatures: the Medievian Association For Imp Assistance.
The Netherspace is an extremely unusual place. It is a space between space, in a time without time. When a being is teleported from one place to another, the Netherspace is the in-between space, that area the being goes through in its transport from here to there. This whole region (if it can be called such -it's very nature defies physical space and boundaries) pulsates with powerful magic. This magic is so powerful that it occasionally reaches into other planes and worlds, swallowing items into itself. This magic is so powerful that it spawned the imps that inhabit Medievia, an unusual species gifted with the ability to travel through the Netherspace. Hence, they feel that this plane, no matter how derelict it may be, is something of a home to them, and sometimes a haven from the realms of Medievia that they work in every day. So it was in this place that the Association first met.
A large conference table seemed to hover over nothing, seemingly an invisible floor holding it up. several dozen chairs were crowded all around it, seating forty-seven imps of various shapes and sizes, as well as slightly over a dozen firelizards. All of them complained loudly, a roar of random conversations all mingling together in the air. They whined of the horrible hours, about the adventurers they needed to answer to at every beck and call, and the horrendous conditions in the House of the Telepathic Auction, not to mention the total lack of vacation time and the horrible pay.
At the head of the table, a rather large imp banged three times on the table. "Excuse me!" As the continual murmur continued, he called out again, louder this time. "Excuse me! Can we come to order please? May I have your attention?"
Gradually the roar of speech subsided, as the participants settled down into their seats. A couple of them telepathed a finishing comment to each other as everyone prepared for the meeting. "This meeting has been called in reference to the working conditions we've been suffering for too long."
A small female imp piped up from the left side of the table. "We can't continue to put up with this! These working conditions are awful!"
An old firelizard craned its long, scaly neck upwards before giving his mind. "You'd think, with the amount of money my people bring in to the dragons, that we'd get paid at least a little better than this!"
A tiny red imp, perched on the back of his chair, called out loudly in a high- pitched, slightly nasal voice, "I can't even remember the last time I had a day off! Something needs to be done!"
"Listen," responded a disreputable-looking imp, as he rifled through a large stack of paperwork, "The current contract we have is not binding. In the time that it was signed, the amount of adventurous types in Medievia was much smaller than it is currently. We need to renegotiate."
The large imp, who went by the name of Gertrude, groaned and rubbed his temples. "What exactly do you suggest? We order Vryce to renegotiate?"
Nearly all of the creatures nodded their heads in agreement, calling out words of consent. The old firelizard called out, "Why not? We're the only creatures on Medievia with access to the Netherspace and teleportation. As specialists in our trade, we demand to be treated better!"
"Quiet down people!" Gertrude tried to regain some semblance of order. "All right... we need to think this out."
The tiny red imp fluttered his wings, hovering in the air over his chair now. "This is ridiculous! We deserve better than this! We need to do something drastic, now, before it's too late!"
Another scaly creature called out from the back of the table. "What exactly are we *supposed* to do? Go on strike?"
Instantly, a hush fell upon every creature present as each one digested this new idea. Gertrude scratched his head. All of this noise was giving him an awful headache, but this was an intriguing idea. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe a union vote may be in order."
Wedgar slumped down against the wall, exhausted, sweat pouring down his face. His every muscle heaved with each long, ragged breath. Dennith, standing several feet away, snickered before commenting. "Really, should a warrior of your skills be so tired? It was simply another step in the excavation of Wytherwind." Behind them, on the other side of the gigantic stone wall the fighter was sitting up against, was the interior of the ancient keep of Wytherwind. The soldier growled before answering. "Fighting off all those ghosts and beasts is hard work, all right? Maybe if you did something besides hide behind me and chant that gibberish, you'd be tired too!"
Dennith shook his head slowly, trying to suppress a smile. "That 'gibberish', as you so call it, is the only thing that kept us alive. You underestimate the power of my magic." "Magic? Pshaw! Give me a good sword any day over your pointless hocus-pocus..."
The mage grinned. "Never mind that. It was a good haul, we managed to pick up some priceless artifacts..."
Wedgar smirked. "They better have a price! You're acting like we're archeologists or something.."
The mage strolled off a few steps, his robes dragging slightly in the undergrowth behind him. "We sort of are, in a way." He chuckled. "Archeologists have expenses too, y'know." He smiled and held up a glorious ivory chalice they had uncovered earlier and closed his eyes, opening up a mental link with the House of the Telepathic Auction. However, the response he got was not one that he had expected. Instead of the usual listing of items up for bid, or a confirmation of the bidding on his newly-acquired goblet, the only response he received - blaring into his head at full telepathic volume - was, "PPPBBBBBBBTTTTTTTTHHHH!"
Wedgar looked over at the mage with a small bit of concern as the latter flinched visibly. "What happened? No one's bidding?"
The wizard-in-training scratched his head, visibly confused. "I don't know... This is giving me a weird feeling. Let's get out of here."
The mercenary stood up, stretching, feeling the muscles in his back crack as he did so. He closed his eyes and reached out mentally to the nearest firelizard cave. Once again, however, the response was an unusual one. "*click* We are not available to take your call right now, but if you will simply leave a message at the sound of the roar, we will get back to you sometime next week."
Wedgar blinked his eyes several times, then looked up at Dennith. "Just recall back to Medievia City... I'll catch up with you there."
The young mage shrugged and attempted to summon an imp to recall him back. Much to his relief, a small purple imp appeared before him. Dennith closed his eyes momentarily, but when they reopened, instead of seeing the hustle and bustle of Medievia City before him, he simply saw the same location he had just been in, with a rather irritated-looking imp glaring in his general direction.
Dennith was very confused at this point. He blinked twice before speaking, hesitation and uncertainty hovering in his voice. "Um... are you... like... going to bring me back?"
"No," the imp replied simply, "I will not".
Dennith scratched his head. "Er... may I ask why not?"
The imp chuckled. "Because I don't want to. If you have a problem with this, please feel free to kiss my scaly purple butt!" The imp then proceeded to moon the young adventurer before disappearing.
Dennith blinked. Several seconds passed before what had just happened really sank in. "Well... I've never heard an imp say that before!"
Without the cooperation of the firelizards, travel across Medievia slowed to a crawl. The closing of the auction system nearly crippled the realms' trade in weaponry and armor. Simple tasks that many took for granted were suddenly impossible. Entering Castle Medievia became impossible through the dozens of imps that paraded in front of the gate holding up signs and shouting about their discontent. In at least a few of the smaller towns, members of the many clans of Medievia wandered aimlessly, finally confronted with the task of hunting down their guild halls on foot. Things were generally in chaos. Something needed to be done. The people needed someone. Someone who would lead them through these trying times. Someone who would be able to bring all of this confusion to an immediate end. Someone who would do whatever was necessary to bring life back to normal for the citizens of Medievia.
They probably didn't expect that person to be Gorn.
Gorn sighed slightly as he glided through the Netherspace, his cloak billowing out behind him as he flew. He was a bit unsure of how to proceed - labor disputes were not the usual trade of the Gods of Medievia. He visualized many different possible outcomes in his mind, but was unsure of exactly which direction these negotiations might go. After all, intelligent creatures had a way of being completely unpredictable - especially during times of high emotion. He peered through the smoke as he neared his destination, and could just make out the outline of what appeared to be a long conference table. As he grew closer, he could see a half-dozen imps and a pair of firelizards chattering with each other; a few half-full mugs of coffee were scattered about, as well as a nearly empty box of donuts in the center of the table. The chattering ceased as he came into view, and all eyes seemed to turn either towards Gorn, or to the largest of the imps; a silvery, gargoylish creature whose left wing seemed to hang uselessly at his side. Gorn stood at one long side of the table - the creatures were seated on the other. The large imp stood and held his hand out to Gorn, offering a handshake. "Hello, and thank you for your time. The Medivian Association For Imp Assistance welcomes you."
The immortal reached across the table, shaking the scaley creature's hand. "MAFIA, eh? Well, let's see if we can get this settled quickly... Who might you be?"
The imp sat back down, apparently the leader of this group. "My friends simply call me... Gertrude."
Gorn shrugged, then apparently sat down on nothing, his rear hovering just above knee-height over the nonexistent ground. The imp began speaking again. "So, are you prepared to negotiate with us?"
Gorn nonchalantly picked up one of the coffee mugs and took a sip before answering. "Not really... You see, I've never done this kind of thing before."
Gertrude blinked twice. "Um... then... well... why were you sent here?"
Gorn sighed, then took another sip (while a little-known fact, caffeine makes up nearly 50% of the diet of most Medievian Gods). "The rest of the gods and I drew straws. I lost." The ancient imp groaned inwardly - this was not going to be easy. Still, he went ahead with his speech. Standing up, his hands held behind him, Gertrude began his well-prepared monologue.
"Well, my people and I have come to the conclusion that we are not receiving the compensation we rightly deserve. The population of Medievia has been growing for quite some time, and it has been difficult to meet the workload. Some of us have not had a day off in years. We are demanding, before the work stoppage is brought to a halt, at least a double in pay, as well as two weeks of vacation time per year."
Gorn had been taking another drink, but the last statement caused the supercaffeinated beverage to exit his mouth in a fine mist. Gorn was flabbergasted. "That's ridiculous!"
Gertrude wiped the coffee off of his face before continuing. "As a highly skilled group of specialists, and the only mortal creatures with access to the Netherspace and therefore teleportation capabilities, we demand the treatment our skills deserve. If our price is too high, we might be able to work out some kind of commission system..." His voice trailed off, but one of the firelizards nodded in agreement - with the amount of dragon-riding that went on, the firelizards were very much in favor of a commission-based payment system.
Gorn smirked. "Or I could smite you all and start over with a whole new batch of critters." Simultaneously, every creature's jaw dropped in shock. One of the firelizards tried to silently creep under the table, out of sight.
Gorn laughed and shook his head. "That was a joke." There was a collective sigh of relief on the other side of the table, as each imp and firelizard realized that they were *not* going to be incinerated.
Gertrude stood and placed his silvery claws on the table, leaning against it slightly. "Our terms *are* open to negotiation... Do you have another idea?"
Gorn stroked his chin thoughtfully, pondering the situation. "I'm willing to offer you guys a ten percent pay increase over each of the next three years, and three days apiece vacation time." Gertrude sighed. It was not nearly as much as they had hoped for. "I will need to meet with the rest of the Association before deciding whether or not this is acceptable." Gorn nodded silently as the imp continued, "Look north from the top of Mount Vryce in four hours time - you'll have your response then."
Wedgar and Dennith sat next to the campfire, warming themselves in the cold of the night. Crickets chirped in the background, and the occasional other noises that rang through the night reminded them not to leave their weapons out of arm's reach. They had attempted to wander their way back to Medievia City, but were hopelessly lost thanks to Wedgar's phenomenal navigation skills (or lack thereof). They had set up camp for the night, unsure of what else could be done while the firelizards continued to ignore their pleas for help. Between the two of them was a small grid that had been drawn in the sand, with several flat stones marked with letters scattered across it. Wedgar scratched his head as he looked over the seven stones he held in his hand, rearranging them again and again into several different words.
"What did you say this game was called, Den?"
"Scrabble, I believe... A quest I competed in was based on this."
Wedgar grumbled, mentally cursing the various creatures that had made further progress impossible. 'If it hadn't been for all those Banelars and Sunsprites,' he thought to himself, 'We would be back by now...'
Dennith placed a few stones on the playing grid, spelling out 'LOST'. He grinned. "Sorry, Wedge." Wedgar glared at him. "I know exactly where we are! I just thought it best to stop for the night, what with all the beasts wandering around!"
Dennith smirked, his eyes flickering with mischief. "I'm sure you know exactly where we are. That was simply the only word I could form with the letters I had." The young apprentice tried as hard as he could to stifle a chuckle. "Your turn."
Wedgar looked over the stones in his hand, then carefully regarded the game grid - the game, as stupid as he thought it was, was keeping his mind away from thoughts of the more dangerous creatures of the wilderness, at least. He spelled out a rather colorful seven-letter noun on the grid, one that he thought applied quite nicely to his travelling companion (as well as any one of the temperamental lizards that had gotten them into this mess). He grinned. "Sorry, Den."
Gorn yawned loudly, glad that this whole mess would soon be over. He had assured Vryce that things had gone well, and now stood on top of Mount Vryce, looking to the north. A slight breeze blew through his hair, as he tapped his foot on the ground impatiently. It was just a few minutes shy of the four hour mark when he saw nearly two dozen imps appear on one of the foothills to the north. They were clearly visible, but a good distance away - they apparently wished to show their confirmation of his offer with a visual signal. He crossed his arms and smiled inwardly; now he could finally get back to more important matters. That was when he realized that each and every one of the imps was facing away from Mount Vryce. He looked closer, a bit more attentive now, when all of the imps moved simultaneously. Gorn's jaw dropped open. When what had just happened sank in, he ground his teeth sharply, his face flushing a deep shade of red.
Vryce strolled up beside him, chuckling slightly. "Well, that's not something I expected to see happen. Do imps always accept business deals by mooning the other party?"
Gorn slammed his hands down on the conference table, his frustration quite evident. "What the hell was that?" It had taken him a record time of four seconds to make his way back into the Netherspace and to the negotiating table.
Gertrude smiled slightly. "That was our rejection of your offer. I was hoping you might be more reasonable this time around."
Gorn groaned and rubbed his temples, then sighed. "Did you even BOTHER meeting with the rest of the union?"
"First of all, we prefer to be called an Association. Second of all, we did meet. To be honest, the response most of them suggested was a slight bit more colorful than the response we ended up giving, but I thought better of it."
The god closed his eyes, silently hoping the imps would all be gone and back to work when he opened them. When he opened his eyes, however, they were all still there. "All right, all right, I get the point..." He smiled slightly, realizing how humorous he'd find the situation if someone else were in his place. "So now what are you going to do?"
The old imp rocked back in his chair slightly, quite confident in the leverage his Association seemed to have now. "I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse."
The immortal blinked twice, wondering what the creature before him had in mind. "And what, pray tell, might that be?"
Gorn lay back in the rickety lawn chair, enjoying the feel of the sun cascading down on him. The sand felt hot under his bare feet, but he could simply go for another swim if it got too irritating. He had to admit, Crystal Lake *was* quite beautiful this time of year. Besides, it had been far too long since his last vacation. He looked over his left shoulder before speaking. "You're right, this was a good idea."
To his left, Gertrude was taking in the sun from his own lawn chair, all decked out in shorts, sunglasses, and a tropical-printed shirt. He smiled before taking a sip of his Daiquiri. "I had an idea you wouldn't mind too much. 'Services rendered at the arbitrator's request' seemed to be an equal trade-off for the pay and benefits we were looking for. I'm kind of enjoying this whole 'vacation time' thing."
Gorn snapped his fingers, and a small red imp immediately appeared at his right side, handing him a drink. He took a sip and looked out across the lake. "Y'know, I always was a big fan of the beach... And it'll be nice to have my own private yacht..." Further down the beach, about a dozen imps were hard at work, constructing a gigantic, glorious boat for the god. "After this is done, I need to talk to your boys about some changes I've been asked to make in the architecture at Lyryanoth..." Gorn trailed off in mid-sentence, cocking his head to the side.
Gertrude looked over at the immortal, his eyebrow raised in curiosity. "Something wrong?"
One of the dragons growled, fed up with the whole situation. "With all the ruckus those firelizards and imps caused, business is at an all-time low! What's worse, during the time of that whole ridiculous situation, we could've been making money!"
Another of the twenty or so giant lizards in the room complained loudly. "We should be making much more gold off of all this taxi work!"
"We're not getting nearly as much respect as we should be!"
There was a general roar of agreement, each dragon interjecting their own opinions and complaints. An ancient silver dragon, sitting at the side of the giant conference table, could be heard over the entire din. "This is ridiculous! We deserve better than this! We need to do something drastic, now, before it's too late!"
Another scaly creature called out from the back of the table. "What exactly are we *supposed* to do? Go on strike?"
Instantly, a hush fell upon every creature present as each one digested this new idea.
There was a puff of smoke, and suddenly a rather tanned-looking Gorn was there. "Don't even think about it."
And then he was gone.