Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 16
“Thank you…erm…very much for coming here.” The Dungeon Lord wasn’t accustomed to being polite. “I realise this place is…some would say it’s a little out of the way.”
“Well,” said the interior designer, “I suppose it helps to keep undesirables out.”
“Ah.” The Dungeon Lord raised a begauntleted finger. “Funny you should mention that. You see, while obviously any normal person would consider the rusty iron spikes, booby traps, whips, shackles and torture devices to be a deterrent, I’ve recently had a slew of visitors who mistook my little setup here for something…” he leaned down and cupped a hand to the interior designer’s ear, “…erotic.”
“Oh.” The designer raised his eyebrows. “I see.”
“Now, I don’t want to do anything too drastic. I don’t want to get rid of all these lovely cages with the skeletons in them. But clearly this place isn’t presenting quite the image I want.”
“Hmm.” The interior designer tapped his pencil against the spine of his notebook. “Do you mind if I be brutally honest?”
“I suppose it wouldn’t do much good if you weren’t.”
“I think you probably will have to do something drastic. The whips, the chains…not to put too fine a point on it, but I can see why some might get the wrong impression.”
The Dungeon Lord snorted. “I think you might be reading a little too much into…”
“That skeleton’s wearing a ball gag.”
“The screaming was getting really annoying.”
“Be that as it may, it still sends a message. And personal fashion isn’t really my area of expertise, but your…attire…”
“I’m a tyrannical despot in a crumbling wilderness lair! Spikes and black leather are practically the uniform!”
“Well, on its own you could probably get away with it. But along with all the torture paraphernalia right here in the throne room people might think you were mixing work with pleasure, if you catch my meaning.”
The Dungeon Lord sighed, slumping down in his terrible black throne. “All I wanted was to have uncountable riches and limitless power and an army of goblin slaves. The dungeon was just the easiest way to organise it all, you know? Heroes come in, they get caught in some trap or other, you come in and enjoy a little leisurely gloating. Only now I’ve got it all set up, everyone who comes here is some kind of weirdo expecting a dirty thrill.” He put his head in his hands.
The interior designer raised a hand, moved to pat the Dungeon Lord on the back, then found that there wasn’t anywhere to pat that wasn’t covered in spikes or chains and lowered it again. “This renovation wouldn’t have to change what you do. It would simply present an image that’s more in keeping with who you are as a malevolent ruler.”
The Dungeon Lord sniffed. “You mean…it could still be built around me?”
“Exactly!” The designer smiled. “What kind of tyrant would you be if it wasn’t?”
The Dungeon Lord looked around. He hadn’t really done much to this place beyond just order the goblins to redecorate. With the help of a real professional, he could turn it into something really great. After all, you got what you paid for, and since it had all been slave labour so far anything else was bound to be a step up. “Okay,” he said, sniffing again, “what did you have in mind?”
“Barbarians,” said the designer, significantly.
The designer nodded. “Barbarians.”
The word hung in the air.
“When you told me you had this place way out in the middle of nowhere, that was the first thing that sprang to mind. Seeing it for myself, I’m convinced it’s the way to go: furs lining the walls, big sturdy tables with horns of mead, maybe some ox skulls here and there… It’ll look fantastic!”
“I have to admit, that does sound good.”
“And a few roaring fires would do wonders to brighten the place up.”
“Ah.” That was the deal-breaker. “I should probably mention that if the room is well lit, it makes it way too obvious to spot all the traps.”
“I would really recommend getting rid of the ones in the throne room anyway. You’re the big bad here: corridors and side rooms are one thing, but once heroes get this far it should be all about you.”
“That’s the thing. As a rule I don’t actually…you know…fight anybody directly. My role is mostly administrative.”
“That’s the beauty of the whole barbarian theme! You just hire a bunch of big shirtless guys to take care of that for you.”
“That could work.” The Dungeon Lord nodded. “And the skeletons in cages wouldn’t look out of place. That’s a bonus.”
The designer grimaced. “I would very much recommend losing the skeletons.”
“Okay. I will lose the skeletons.”
There was an awkward pause.
“Definitely hang onto the cages, though. You can put more big shirtless guys in those.”
“This sounds like it’s going to cost me a fortune in wages. How will the guys in cages even fight off intruders?”
“They wouldn’t fight, per se, but they would perform a very impressive war dance.”
The Dungeon Lord stared. “Are you…are you suggesting go-go barbarians?”
“Well when you say it like that it just sounds silly. Caged barbarian dancers are an integral part of the look we’re going for, and when properly oiled up I can assure you they’re quite striking.”
“I really don’t like where this is going.”
“You’re right. This was a terrible idea and I should be punished for it. Since I’ve already got the barbarians waiting outside, perhaps you’d like them to help?”
“Goblin-slave!” called the Dungeon Lord. “Escort this interior designer from the premises.”
The goblin slave appeared and began to drag him away.
“Wait!” shouted the designer. “I’ll settle for a light whipping and…” the hall doors slammed shut.
The Dungeon Lord roared to the heavens: “Am I the only sane person in this derivative fantasy universe!?”