OT: Interview With A… Dwelgrorc?

on March 29, 2009 in Other Tales

The year 194, ME.

“Mr. Embries, I want to thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me,” the woman said.

She was of a human-like size and complexion, but Edmund Embries had the eye of a connoisseur when it came to the forms of humanoids, and of human women in particular, and he was not fooled. Her limbs were lithe and muscular, but they bulged inhumanly when she moved. Her jaw line betrayed a hint of orcish ancestry. Her forehead belonged to the helmet-like skull of a dwarf. She had an aura of grace and brutality… brutal grace and graceful brutality, even… about her skin.

He had not inhaled since she entered the outer office, wanting to freshly experience this brazen anomaly who had been corresponding with him for the better part of a year. Her letters had carried a deliberately confusing muddle of scents, all but obliterated by a cheap and tacky perfume.

He took in the tiniest of breaths now, and was not at all surprised to find no trace of that cloying scent. Her own aroma was a mixture: elf, dwarf, ogre, and orc. The combination was surprisingly close to human, but still markedly different.

“Yes, well,” he said. “I’m afraid this meeting is nothing more than a courtesy… you were determined to travel to Prax no matter what I said, so the least I could do was tell you in person what I have told you before: there are no positions for you here.”

“Positions can be opened,” she said.

“It isn’t a matter of availability,” he said. “It’s a matter of qualifications. The resume you’ve sent us contains scant information about your relatively lengthy past, to say the least.”

“I have a lot of practical experience,” she said.

“That might well avail you in establishing yourself as a private instructor, or an assistant at a high school,” Embries said. “But this is a major university, Ms. Callahan. A professor of a field… any field… must not only be an expert in that field, they must be a professor. There are minimum qualifications…”

“This is a major university,” she said. “You could give me the degrees.”

“We don’t give degrees, Ms. Callahan,” he said. “They must be earned.”

“So maybe you total up my experience and you see that it’s enough to earn some,” she said.

“That would require a considerable amount of experience, indeed.”

“Well, I’ve fought in every major human conflict in the past two centuries,” she said.

“That’s an incredible claim,” Mr. Embries said. “In the classic sense. I do not credit it in the slightest, especially as your background check turned up no military records. While that could be understood for some older conflicts, had you actually served in the Chaos Wars…”

“Oh, yeah… that,” she said. “See, I have a bad habit of picking the wrong side to fight for… but it turns out that if you do that often enough, eventually somebody will pardon you for the rest.”

“So you’re saying there are no records of your military service.”

“By imperial fiat,” she said.

“Then we are back to the same basic impasse, regarding your qualifications.”

“There’s always the matter of a practical demonstration of my skills,” Callahan said. “Actions speak louder than words, and all that… and I can be a very persuasive speaker when I get loud enough.”

“Ms. Callahan, if you intend to threaten me, I want it to be known that I will not relish what follows in the slightest,” he said. “As much as I appear to be nothing more than an erudite gentleman scholar…”

“I’m aware of your nature, Mr. Embries,” Callahan said. “And I wouldn’t threaten you. I’m aware that you have me at a huge disadvantage.”

“Naturally,” Embries said. “However, may I just say how refreshing it is to hear someone come out and calmly admit that instead of either running for the hills or putting on a lot of puffed-up posturing.”

“It’s true, though. I couldn’t imagine how many humanoids you must have killed throughout the ages,” Callahan said. “Thousands? Tens of thousands?”

“One loses track,” the vice-chancellor said. He chuckled. “Although I would like it noted that the vast majority of those deaths occurred in earlier, less civilized ages. I’m more… particular… about such things these days.”

“Naturally,” Callahan said. “But the point remains, you’ve brought down innumerable members of my kind, while I’ve only slain seven or so greater dragons.”

“I… did you say seven?”

“Possibly eight,” Callahan said. She smiled, not bothering to conceal the points of her slightly oversized canines. “One loses track.”

“I… er, I don’t mean to pick at nits, Ms. Callahan, but to the average mortal humanoid, any true dragon is, perforce, greater,” Embries said. “I doubt very much…”

“Oh, believe, I’ve fought enough great, regular type, and lesser dragons to know the differences,” Callahan said. “Anybody who’s never encountered and fought a greater silver dragon… for example… could mistake a more run-of-the-will wyrm for one, but once you’ve seen one face to face, in all its naked glory… there’s no comparison. There’s nothing in the world quite like it. And when you’ve actually killed one… well, I have to confess, I love killing immortals. It’s like knocking down a tree that extends all the way to the dome of heaven. It’s like wiping my ass on eternity. I could slaughter a whole village of elves, for instance, and it would get me so… well, I digress. The point is, there’s no rush like bringing down a being who isn’t only immortal but remembers the age of primordial creation. If I haven’t killed more greater dragons, it’s mainly because you’re so kosh-darn hard to find. It’s like hunting an endangered species.”

“Ms. Callahan… I don’t know how much of what you’re saying is poorly calculated bravado and how much may approximate the truth,” he said, and he was disconcerted as he spoke to realize it was true… all the little cues he could reflexively see, hear, or smell in a human were muddled and masked in the person of Jill Callahan. “But however many greater dragons you may have slain in well-prepared ambushes, you face me unarmed in my place of personal power… I am well-rested, I am alert, and I am capable. What exactly do you imagine would stop me from squashing you like the insect you are, as you sit there before me?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “What do you imagine would stop you? And would you care to find out? Anyway, my understanding is that you were put in this position to be the university’s ace in the hole in order to prevent the campus from being laid to waste again… I don’t think your employers would be too happy if you went and brought the administration building down around yourself trying to squash an insect like me.”

“This is an interesting intellectual diversion,” Embries said. “But no matter who slays whom, it simply doesn’t change the basic fact that there is no position for you here. You could slay every single member of the combat program…”

“May I say how refreshing it is to hear you come out and calmly admit that?” Callahan said with a grin.

“…and there would still be boatloads of more qualified applicants we would hire to replace them before you.”

“Fine, let’s quit beating around the bush,” Callahan said. “How many people do I have to kill to get this job?”

“Ms. Callahan… Miss Jillian,” Embries said, throwing out the pretense of her humanity. He got to his feet, and was pleased to see a slight twitch in the warrior woman’s face at the effect his standing over her had… she was not completely immune to his aura of majesty, it seemed. “I will say this once and for all: there is no job.”

“I see,” she said. She got to her feet slowly, and just as slowly reached across the table, extending her hand towards him. He regarded it as an adventurer might have regarded an apparently unlocked and unguarded chest in a dragon’s lair: as an item threatening obvious and unimaginable danger. Unable to believe he was being cowed by a mere humanoid, he grasped and shook her hand. “Thank you for your time, Vice-Chancellor… and if I can just ask one small favor?”

“Certainly you may ask,” he said.

“Could I have the name of someone I could contact about a charitable endowment?”

“Miss Jillian, please… if you’re thinking of trying to buy your way into…”

“Oh, nothing like that,” she said. “It’s just… all those dragon hoards. It’s more money than I know what to do with, you know?”

“I… er… I…”

“I’ll be honest,” she said. “Some of them, I just left where they were. I didn’t have any way of transporting the contents, and the lairs were secure enough, hidden as they are. I always meant to go back and clean them out, but you know, I’ve got simple needs and…”

“Er, Miss… Ms. Callahan…”

“Something you want to say, Master Edmund?”

“I… that is enough of that,” he roared, pens and papers flying off his desk in a maelstrom of power. Callahan was pushed back more than a yard by the sheer force of the sound and breath, though she managed to keep her feet. “I do not like games, Ms. Callahan.”

“Fine,” she said, wiping flecks of foam off her face as Embries dabbed at his lips with a silver silk handkerchief. “Let me put it on the line: you hire me as a full professor, you let me create my own courses, and you let me teach with a free hand. I’ll give you the name of a greater blue dragon I slew, the location of her hoard, and instructions on bypassing the wards.”

“Give me the name,” he said.

“If you recognize the name, you might know where the lair is,” she said.

“I’m a noble dragon,” he said. “I won’t go back on my word.”

“Give it, then,” she said. “Swear you recognize my claim to the hoard and will not act to take it until I sign it over.”

“I swear it.”

“The elves called her Zanita,” Callahan said. “Zanita Sappheiros.”

Embries closed his eyes.

“Zanita and her elves,” he said, shaking his head. “She collected them… I suppose you killed them, too?”

“Every last one. Was she a friend of yours?” Callahan asked.

“I hadn’t realized she’d died,” he said. “I loved her fiercely, at intervals.”

“Are we going to have a problem?”

“She stole a tureen from me, from one of my favorite dinner service sets,” he said. “I still have the rest. Fine Athanasian silver, exquisite elven crafting… but… it’s incomplete. I can’t stand to look at it. We took quite a bit from each other over the ages, actually, but that was particularly galling.”

“It could be yours again,” she said.

He sighed.

“We really are an endangered kind,” he said. “Dwindling.”

“Do we have a deal?” Callahan asked.

“Did Zanita still have her vase collection?”

“I didn’t do an inventory,” she said. “I don’t kill dragons for the treasure.”

“Fine,” Embries said, opening his eyes. “It’s done. We have a deal. Though I’m perplexed that you did not think to explore this option to begin with.”

“What, I should have thought to bribe you as a matter of course?”

Bribe?” Embries sputtered.

“We can call it ‘exploiting a racial weakness’ if that’s somehow less distasteful,” Callahan said. “But it is what it is. You’re doing something you don’t want to do, something that’s against the letter and the spirit of university’s rules, because I’m paying you to. If it’s any consolation, you’re doing the right thing.”

“I’m doing it for the memory of dear Zanita,” Embries said. “Better that her collections should be curated by…”

“Yeah, whatever,” Callahan said. She started to head for the door. “I’ll start writing down the directions… I’ll put them in your hand when I have the job. Even if you do run the joint, I’m sure there’s more to it than you saying so, after all.”

“Quite,” Embries said. “But I will manage.”

“I’m sure you will,” Callahan said, and she left.

The tureen. His favorite set, his pride and joy, was going to be complete again. As frankly embarrassing as it was to think that he’d allowed himself to be manipulated over something so comparatively small and trivial, he supposed that once he had it back that would make him effectively immune to further such manipulations.

And as important as it was to him personally, the tureen would be the smallest part of the bounty. Zanita had been a peer of his in a very real sense… he would be effectively doubling his already considerable wealth. Perhaps he would finally have a sufficiency of riches that the hunger for more would be sated… though probably not.

On the subject of hunger… Embries had enjoyed a large lunch, but he was feeling a rumbling down below. Was it too early to be thinking of dinner? Perhaps a celebration was in order, he thought… and in any event, dealing with an avowed hunter of his kind had left a bad taste in his mouth. He needed something to cleanse the palate, emotionally.

He activated an orb on the corner of his desk.

“Helen,” he said, “would you be a dear and come see me before you leave for the day?”

“Yes, Mr. Embries,” she said.

He tried not to overindulge, but this was a special occasion… he would give in just this once, and then not again, at least not for however long the university and his employment with it lasted. He was effectively a guest in the midst of the humans, and feasting on them would be singularly ungracious, as well as indiscreet.

Just this once, though… and maybe once more afterwards, when the deal was done and he could celebrate properly.

When I have the tureen again, perhaps I’ll actually put the set to use for once, he told himself. This is a more civilized age, after all.

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9 Responses to “OT: Interview With A… Dwelgrorc?”

  1. Bernie says:

    He’s creepy, but something about Embries is just so…badass. Love it.

    Current score: 2
  2. Erm says:

    Holy FUCK. I thought this chapter was just funny before, but now that we’ve learned just how terrifyingly badass Embries actually is, seeing the way Jillian manages to survive treating him is awesome.

    “Master Edmund”, indeed.

    Current score: 1
    • BMeph says:

      Not to mention, it shows us a little of how terrifyingly badass Jill is.

      Current score: 7
    • zeel says:

      I love that line. Turning the linguistic belittlement back on him.

      Current score: 2
  3. Kavoir says:

    I am starting to get the feeling the giants victory was based in no small part on Shiney Things.

    Current score: 1
  4. pedestrian says:

    The “Vice”-Chancellor has the genteel appetites of Dr. Lector.

    But at least no one will have to suffer with symphonic mediocrity.

    Current score: 0
    • Moridain says:

      I wonder if he eats his aids with fava beans and a fine chianti…

      Current score: 0
  5. Sher says:

    I love Callahan! You should write a whole story about her. How she became who she is! I wish Mack showed her the respect she deserves. She could learn so much.

    Current score: 1
  6. Aran says:

    “But the point remains, you’ve brought down innumerable members of my kind, while I’ve only slain seven or so greater dragons.”

    Still love this line.

    Like walking up to a god and saying: “Yeah, you’ve killed, like, millions of humans. And I’ve only killed one god.”

    Current score: 7