This is for the hook line and sinker blogfest, and is something I wrote as a starting point whilst working on my Brian Northington novel. This is all I have, along with the working title Kenneth Maccleston: Lord of Darkness.
All stories have to begin somewhere, and it seems right that ours should begin in that most traditional of ways- with a note on sheds. Almost everywhere in the multiverse, from the fabled ant metropolis of Hive to cities so lost that adventurers pour a quart of gin into their Sat Nav before setting off, certain examples of the male of the species have long felt the need to wander off into small, wooden huts to undertake activities best known to themselves.
The precise nature of these activities is hard to speculate upon, except to say that, if the evidence is to be believed, they seem to involve a tangled length of hosepipe, a couple of rusted bicycles, and some spare parts for a car that the shed’s possessor has never owned. Some commentators have suggested explanations for this phenomenon ranging from strange rites to attempts to produce perpetual motion machines that actually work. Other commentators, generally slightly less drunk, have suggested that the sheds are probably just a convenient space for some time away from the family and a quiet smoke, and that the stuff in them is just… well, stuff.
Lord Vladimir the Perpetually Bad Tempered was currently putting his shed to a slightly different sort of use. But then, it was a slightly different sort of shed. Having heard about the phenomenon, Lord Vladimir realised the impracticalities of it for an evil overlord of all he surveyed even as he decided that he really wanted one. As such, his “shed” was actually a wooden-finished tower of his dark redoubt, proofed against demonic intrusion and that horrible greenish moss you get on old sheds by strange and terrible magics. Wyverns nested under it where hedgehogs normally might have, and rather than old car parts, it was filled with artefacts of power and cursed tomes. Admittedly, in deference to the universal laws, very few of them had worked in years. A single length of jet-black hosepipe lay tangled somewhere towards the back.
Currently, Lord Vladimir was toying with powers from Beyond. Not beyond anything in particular (except possibly the normal rules of capitalisation). Just generally Beyond. This might seem like unusual behaviour for a man in a shed, but as has been noted, the overlord’s shed was far from standard. In any case, as the absolute ruler of a moderately large kingdom of evil, he could smoke where he liked, so he had to find something to do there.
As such, Lord Vladimir sat at a workbench in his wooden tower, his spiked black armour neatly hung on a frame behind him, making mystical passes over a crystal ball whilst his trusted hench-goblin, minion, and general valet Tilesbury looked on with increasing concern.
The concern was because his lordship was drunk.
There are a number of things that it is generally inadvisable to attempt whilst drunk. Driving, for example. A tax return. Juggling chainsaws. Compared to messing with things Beyond, however, all these activities count as so sensible that even the health and safety executive might only shut them down temporarily.
Tilesbury the goblin cleared his throat.
“My lord,” he said in the cut glass accent that had seen him thrown out of minion school twice for insufficient snivelling, “is it entirely wise to be attempting this? After all, you are a rich man. I’m sure you could simply buy access to the ‘barbarian babes in chain mail’ channel if you wished.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Lord Vladimir demanded, sending a flash of magic into the crystal ball. He wagged a rather unsteady finger at the goblin. “Interrupt me again, and I will have you thrown to the Thing.”
“Very good sir,” Tilesbury sighed. “Though if you could give me a little advance notice there? It might take some time to rouse it.”
“Oh, has it been feeling unwell?”
“Exactly, sir. I tried explaining to your guard captain that if he must throw heroes to it, it is generally better to take the armour off first, but he didn’t really listen.”
“Poor Fluffy,” Lord Vladimir said, returning his efforts to the crystal ball. For a moment a picture came into focus. “I think I’m getting it.”
Since this is supposed to be a family friendly affair, this seems like a good moment to discuss that other vital topic- goblins. No, you can’t stay watching over his lordship’s shoulder. Honestly.
Now, to goblins. Since time immemorial, villains of all stripes have felt the need for minions to do the dirty jobs. Like trying to find seven dozen virgins on the night of the full moon when that faint feeling that they’ve forgotten something resolves itself. Or having someone to shout at when they can’t.
They have very often found an answer to their minioning needs in the form of short, green, capering creatures with names like Snot and Grak. As such, a number of traits have become quite deeply ingrained in the goblin make up, from a knack for getting hideous torture devices really clean, to a skull that can survive having things thrown at it every time their employers are annoyed. Which is, almost by definition, constantly. Most relevant here is the deep seated knowledge that, whenever the boss says things like “I think I’m getting it”, it’s probably time to duck.
Despite hardly living up to goblin standards in most other respects, Tilesbury eased himself behind a conveniently large box of battery-less rings of power.
“My Lord, I really feel that I should point out that you did have quite a lot to drink with the ambassador from the snake people.”
“Hardly a drop!”
Tilesbury sighed once more. “Seven pints, sir. Plus that bottle of wine from the elven kingdoms, four glasses of brandy, and what turned out on further inspection to be a measure of Ikthian Klaah poison, deadly in all but the smallest doses.”
“Like I said, hardly anything,” Lord Vladmir insisted. “Now stop distracting me before-”
The explosion wasn’t quite the biggest Tilesbury had seen.