Medievia Mudslinger

A Typical Day at the Office - By Excrucior

The steady scritch scritch scritch of quill on vellum that invaded the silence of the Mudslinger offices was broken by a loud banging from the main door. Excrucior frowned at this and put his quill back into its pot - didn't these heroes know how to treat a door these days? After a moment he sighed and looked across to where his supernatural servitors, a gaggle of Imps, were working on re-indexing his scrolls.

"Lads?" he called, "Who's on door duty today?" He restrained a wince as the banging started again. One of the Imps scampered across the floor and saluted, his face split by a massive, toothy grin. "Well, we don't want to keep them waiting. Answer it, hmmm?"

"Chitter," replied the Imp, scuttling off towards the outer entrance to the public offices. Excrucior sighed again, Mank was a good-natured Imp at heart but it was never wise to trust him fully with members of the public. After a few seconds Mank raced back into the room, panting wildly and gesticulating at the door through which he'd raced.

"I beg your pardon?" inquired Excrucior. It took a lot to rattle an Imp and this interested him. Mank scurried up a miniature ladder and onto the desk top where he stood, gibbering and jumping up and down in agitation.

"Chitter!" he finally managed to say.

"Really? My word, was he breathing fire or anything?" Mank thought about this for a moment and shook his head slowly. "Then ask him to wait a moment while I get the place ready."

"Chitter!" said Mank in alarm, looking back at the door with overlarge eyes.

"Shoo!" commanded Excrucior, prodding the Imp with the business end of a quill. With no great haste Mank made his way back down the ladder and slowly walked across to the door, giving many a backwards glance. Excrucior was oblivious. "Think cavern," he thought to himself, eyes closed in concentration, "Think wide. Think wide openings. Think fireproof doors on bookcases." He opened his eyes and looked around with satisfaction at the newly enlargened office.

"That ought to be enough for now," he murmered to himself. "Bring him in please, Mank," he called aloud. After a moment's pause the newly formed double doors opened slowly and Mank walked in trembling violently, leading the visitor into the room. "Think big chair, no - bigger than that..." thought Excrucior as he re-assessed the scales involved.

"How accomodating," said his guest, sitting down carefully.

"I try," replied Excrucior, waving a hand dismissively. "It's not often I get a guest of your size but I like to be amenable. So, what did you want to see me about?"


"Yes Mank, you can go," replied Excrucior absently, his attention on his visitor. Mank gave a nervous giggle and scrambled down the ladder and to the far end of the office, raising a trail of dust behind him.

"An interesting... chap. He seemed a trifle nervous?"

"Your reputation precedes you, Zeksagmak. Again I ask, what did you want to see me about?"

"Well, it's all these stories in your paper," the dragon replied, shifting his scales till he was comfortable.

"I see. I know there's a lot of them but you seem to fascinate people. I used to get a lot of submissions about dragons in general, but you seem to generate more articles than any other single topic." Excrucior gestured towards a teetering pile of papers. "That's all you in there," he explained.

"I see. It's precisely that which I wished to speak with you about." Excrucior frowned, a sudden recollection sparking ugly thoughts in his mind.

"I remember Roirdan's piece some months ago," he said slowly. "The concept of royalties isn't something you're intimating, hmm?" Although he managed to maintain an outwards appearance of calm, he felt an unpleasant dampness form at the base of his back as nervous sweat broke through. Thinking of all those other beasts who were in tales as well he considered what would happen if this news got out.

"Oh heavens no," said Zeksagmak, watching with interest as Excrucior started breathing again. "No, no, no, no, no." Excrucior smiled happily. "I've written my own version, you see." Excrucior stared.

"I beg your pardon? You're submitting to Mudslinger?"

"Well, why not? I've read the submission guidelines and I've read all those tales about me. Only I know the real truth about myself, and as you said people are fascinated by me." He stopped talking and sat back, smiling expectantly. Excrucior looked at the bared teeth on show and blinked a couple of times, his mind racing.

"You mean like an autobiography?" he eventually hazarded.

"Oh yes, the early years as a hatchling, having to fight for the last scrap of a trading hero, mortal combats against other dragons that no-one has ever heard of, my first lair. People just don't know the real me, you see, they don't know how hard it was in the old days. I had it tough, but it made me what I am today."

"An evil killing machine with no remorse and a reputation that has eclipsed everything else?"

"Yes!" exclaimed Zeksagmak, nodding happily as he soaked up the praise.

"I see. And how long do you think it would take to write this little opus?"

"Oh, I have it ready now. It's taken me several years, between hero invasions, to get this ready." He lifted his right wing. "It's in that satchel there, you'll have to get it off for me." Excrucior paused a moment before using telekenesis to undo the satchel's strap and float it across to his desk. He waved a hand in front of his face at the stench of dragon sweat.

"Sorry," apologised Zeksagmak, "It's been a long flight." Excrucior concentrated and the satchel opened to reveal a thick sheaf of what seemed to be paper. He gingerly pulled one out and examined the material closely, frowning slightly. "Hero skin," explained Zeksagmak, noting his interest.

"I've got loads." Excrucior shrugged and began to scan the work, suppressing a groan.

"i wozz borrn one daye ine a eg wich woz dark. i hached fromm it an i et all the othere egs cos dey wud have dun the same tu mi iv i had lett them." Excrucior paused and looked up at the dragon who was nodding encouragingly.

"Well, obviously I'll have to peruse this in closer detail, but it's certainly... interesting."

"Jolly good, that's only to be expected of course," said Zeksagmak, wings flapping slightly in excitement. "I would presume an article that would be... so popular with the readers would go up pretty soon?" he added meaningfully.

"Well, we'd have to see about that but I should be able to squeeze you in somewhere," Excrucior said, thinking hard. "So, how was the flight?" he asked, changing the subject.

"Not bad. A little turbulence but nothing I couldn't handle."

"You'd be wanting something to refresh yourself with, then?" asked Excrucior, tinkling a tiny bell. A squad of Imps dashed forth with a silver bowl full of fruit, dropped it on the desk and ran back as fast as their taloned feet would carry them. Zeksagmak stared at it intently.

"You know, that's inspirational, that is. A sequel - Zeksagmak's One Hundred Best Vegetarian Recipes!"

"You can cook vegetarian food?" asked Excrucior, his mouth agape. The dragon sneered.

"Show me a herbivore and I'll show you a tasty snack," he replied meaningfully.

"Fair enough. How about some wine instead?" Excrucior asked, an idea forming in his head.

"Any Firebreather?" Zeksagmak asked hopefully.

"Mank? Bring out your special reserve for our guest." As the Imp fearfully brought out a bottle three times his own height, Excrucior opened a desk drawer and brought out a mahogany box. "Of course, it's only polite to offer you some snuff."

"Snuff? What's that?"

"A human thing. It's made from specially dried and powdered tobacco, scented and blended. Just inhale a little into each nostril for the effect." He proffered the box to the dragon who stared at it with curiosity. Mank cautiously poured a tumbler full of clear liquid from his bottle, then scampered away at high speed, hoping the dragon was distracted enough to ignore him. Excrucior opened the box lid and held it at arms length towards his visitor.

"Well, when in the City of Medievia, do as the Medievians do, eh?" said Zeksagmak, his massive nostrils dipping towards the box. Inhaling deeply he emptied the contents in seconds, then he sat back in his chair. "I say, that's rather an interesting sensation. How did they ever come up with that idea?" His faced changed as he sat back in his chair, eyes crossing violently.

"I'll just have another look at these papers before you go," Excrucior said, counting under his breath. He opened the satchel once more and pulled out the entirity of the contents, laying them on his desk in a neat stack. He picked up the first one and began to scan it, quill in hand, as he listened to Zeksagmak's strained breathing.

"WAAAAACHOOOOOO!" Zeksagmak remarked, sending a huge ball of flame shooting from his nostrils.

When Excrucior opened his eyes again he found his desk had vanished, replaced by a mound of smouldering embers, as had his chair and his clothes. Happily, he noted that the same fate had been shared by the article and satchel.

"Oh dear," he exclaimed. "I hope that wasn't your only copy?" Zeksagmak looked down disconsolately, having regained control of his sinuses.

"That's all I had," he replied, nearly on the verge of tears.

"Oh no," wailed Excrucior, laying on the emphasis dramatically. "I'm afraid I didn't have time to log it either! I guess you'll just have to try and write it out from memory again." He wiped the soot from his face as he tinkered with his description, attempting to regain some sense of decency.

"It took me centuries!" moaned Zeksagmak, his face a picture of misery.

"All the more reason to make a quick start on it, old chap," said Excrucior, ushering his guest to the door. "Don't be a stranger," he called as the dragon flew away, causing much consternation on the immortal channel. Shaking his head sadly he wandered back into the destroyed office.

"Mank?" A steaming Imp ran across the floor, beating out flames on his body. "There's a carpenter in the Mage's Quarter. Get me a price on a new desk while I fix the room description, hmmm?"