Before the Other Black Throne

Flash Fiction Month 2019, Day 29

There was a rattle of chains as a counterweight dropped from the ceiling. Adonis Orcbane found himself suddenly dangling by both ankles, caught in a fiendish snare. His sword slipped from its scabbard and clattered to the ground. Focusing every ounce of his indomitable will, Adonis stretched his arm out as far as he could, trying to reclaim it. His gauntleted fingers just barely brushed the hilt, and…

…a thigh-high boot kicked it deftly out of reach.

“You were a fool to trespass in my domain,” said the villain who had appeared, “for I am Zhargla the Malicious, and tales of my cruelty are told across the land!”

Zhargla paced about the room a bit, partly because it looked really freakin’ cool and partly because her captive was slowly spinning round and it was really awkward trying to have a conversation with someone while they gradually turned farther and farther away from you.

“Those tales,” said Adonis Orcbane, through gritted teeth, “are precisely why I came.”

“Mmmmmmm… Then I shall be sure not to disappoint.”

Zhargla the Malicious stepped over to the low table that held her many diabolical implements.

“Perhaps the Lash of Ghkharkhak can beat some of that hubris out of you. Or maybe a few days on the Rack of Gzhou.”

“I’ll never bow to you, foul despot!” cried the paladin, the effect only somewhat diminished by the fact that he was now facing away from her again.

“I think a few hours dangling in the batviper caves might change your mind.” Zhargla the Malicious punctuated this with a crack of her whip.

“Okay, you know what? Actually I might be persuaded to bow a little. Could you maybe just let me off with a fine, or…”

“Oh, come now.” Zhargla stepped over and turned the paladin to face her (because he appeared to have stopped turning on his own). “It’s no fun when you give up so easily.”

She gently brushed the coils of the Lash of Ghkharkhak against his cheek.


“Oh, geez!” yelped Zhargla the Malicious, taking a sudden step back.

There was an awkward pause while she wasn’t sure what to do and he did something that sure sounded a lot like uncontrollable sobbing.

“Do you have, um, any last words?” she prompted.

“Please don’t hurt me!”

“Yeah, but like, do you have any specific last words?”

“Like what?”

“Like ‘haberdashery,’ maybe?”

Adonis Orcbane blinked in confusion, and also started drifting lazily back towards the other direction. “What?” he said again, after a pause.

“Look,” snapped Zhargla. “Did the goblins in the entrance hall give you the safeword or not?”

“Why would I go in the entrance hall? Who tries to infiltrate a trap-filled dungeon through the front door?”

“By Crom’s bunions!” Zhargla stomped over to the lever that would release the trap. “You know, this wouldn’t happen if people didn’t keep literally breaking in.”

“What?” said Adonis—again—as he dropped to the floor. He stood up quickly. “What sort of dungeon are you running here?”

“What sort of dungeon did you think I was running?”

“The standard sort! You know. You sit in your big black throne with a bunch of treasure, and heroes try and defeat you and take it.”

“That’s not a thing!” yelled Zhargla. “Why does everybody think that’s a thing!”

“I know I’ve heard of one guy doing that.”

“Nobody is doing that! The economics don’t even make sense. I mean, you gather a huge amount of startup capital and literally just sit on it? And then—best case scenario—a bunch of random people try and steal it? How would you ever not end up with less than you started with?”

“I assumed that if you beat the heroes you took their stuff.”

“What stuff? You’re not even wearing a shirt!”

“Lots of heroes don’t,” Adonis huffed. “And I can’t imagine your chainmail bikini offers much protection.”

“No,” said Zhargla. “It’s mostly for show.”

“So this whole place…” He glanced at the array of harnesses and fuzzy handcuffs on the wall. “This is…”

“Yes,” said Zhargla, emphatically.

“That’s disgusting!”

Zhargla rolled her eyes. “Oh, hello. I’m a foul despot, just here not judging you for your sexual preferences. Again, you do realise we’re only having this conversation because you literally broke in here to steal my stuff? Nobody forced you to do any of this.”

“And people actually…like this sort of thing?”

“Some of them like it a lot, yes.”


Adonis Orcbane looked around some more.

“Well,” he said, after a moment or two, “I guess I’ll be on my way.”

He took a few steps towards the door, then triggered a trick floor tile that closed on his ankle, rooting him to the spot.

“Ugh.” Zhargla sighed. “Hang on. There’s a release mechanism behind one of these statues. I’ll just go get it.”

“Well, you know, you don’t have to…” Adonis Orcbane looked at her sheepishly. “I mean, since I’m here…”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

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