Continuing my plan for the end of last year (if a little late) here is another short story. Let’s call it farcical fantasy. It’s dark, and loosely based on a similar encounter in I had in college, though in that case, the lich’s eyes burned purple, not blue.
You can read it in it’s entirety here (also linked below the sample), and view my other short story here. Enjoy.
Erstwhile Thaumatecnic University
By Bishop O’Connell
“What is that smell?” someone in line behind Walter asked.
He didn’t look up or acknowledge it. It might not be him. Sure, he was a shit farmer from a long line of shit farmers, but it could be someone wearing Battle Axe body spray.
“Yeah, something smells like shit,” someone else added.
It could still be Battle Axe.
“Next,” the kobold working the desk said.
Walter hurried forward and held out his class course selection parchment.
“Name,” the kobold said without looking up. A nametag on his tunic read “Marvin.”
“Walter,” he said and lowered his voice. “Dungharvester.”
“Dungha—” Marvin looked up, his yellow eyes going wide. He sniffed the air a couple times and leaned back.
Walter didn’t move, just held the parchment out. He’d prepared himself for this, though apparently washing all his robes and undergarments eight times, taking three showers, and loading up on deodorant didn’t do any good. He made a mental note to pick up some Celtic Spring body wash.
Marvin reached out, took the parchment between two claws as if it might explode and coat the room in a layer of crap. After a careful examination, Marvin reluctantly set the parchment on his table, well away from anything else.
“Student ID,” he said.
“What?” Walter asked.
“Student identification card,” Marvin said, as if to an idiot child. “It’s a little card with your name and picture on it.”
Walter reached into his bag and began fishing through it. “Sorry, I didn’t think I’d need it anymore.”
The kobold just sighed and rolled his eyes, hand still out as Walter removed items from his bag and set them on the table: registration paperwork, quills, ink, comic scrolls, dorm room key, student handbook—
He cleared his throat and gave an apologetic smile. “Sorry, I know it’s in here.” He pulled out the small checkbook—the account contained the princely sum of two copper phalluses, one of which would soon be claimed by the bank as a monthly low balance fee—and found the ID underneath the cover.
He sighed, handed it over, then set to shoving everything back into his bag.
Marvin checked the ID, handed it back, then opened a gigantic tome. He flipped through pages of remarkably small text, ticking marks every now and then.
“You’re lucky,” Marvin said, marking another tick. “‘Hexes, curses, and the unholy art of retributive magics’ is being taught by Dr. Heckel. She’s a great teacher, but watch out for her assistant. Mr. Jyde can be a monumental asshole. I suggest sitting near the back and try not to show any fear.”
“Thanks for the tip,” Walter said and peered at a line of ticks. “Did I get into ‘Necromantic studies in horde building’?”
“Second to last spot,” Marvin said.
“Yes!” Walter did a little happy dance.
Marvin drew in a breath. “However, I’m now required to point out that it’s horde building, with a ‘d’.”
Walter blinked. “I don’t follow. What else could it could—oh dear Gods!”
Marvin nodded. “Yeah, an undead brothel makes one hell of a mess. It’ll be another year before ‘Ratigan the Fleshy’ hall is cleaned up enough for anyone to stay there.”
Walter shuddered. He wasn’t a prude, but he’d never understood not-so-necrophilia.
“You do not want to meet the ghosts that haunt that place,” Marvin said as he resumed marking the tome. “Sorry, ‘Raining fire and destruction 101’ is full.”
Walter knew that’d been a long shot. “What about ‘Intro to outer-planar contracts’ instead?”
“It’s open,” Marvin said and made a mark. “But you’re still missing the required athletics and liberal arts courses.”
“Um, well,” Walter said, adjusting his robes, which reminded him they were secondhand and freshly mended, by his mother no less. “I’m either majoring in Applied Necromantic Arts or Thaumaturgic Annihilative Studies,” he shrugged, “maybe a double major I don’t know, so I—”
“Tough tinkles, Dungharvester,” Marvin said, giving him a flat look. “It’s required that all freshmeats take an athletic, and an arts course in their first two semesters—”
“What?” Walter asked.
“You said freshmeat,” Walter said. “You meant freshmen, right?”
Walter opened his mouth to question further, but decided against it. “What are my options for athletics and arts?”
Marvin flipped to another page. “For athletics we have openings in beginning jousting.” He smiled. “You know the Erstwhile Ents tourney and jousting team made it to the all kingdom finals last year.”
“Yeah, I know,” Walter said, “but, um, jousting isn’t really my thing.”
“You sure?” Marvin asked. “Coach Horzrath, eater of spleens, teaches the class himself. And we only had seven student deaths last year. That’s an all-time low.”
“Yeah, tempting, but I have really bad carpal tunnel syndrome,” Walter said.
Marvin shrugged. “Archery?”
Walter tapped his spectacles. “Far sighted.”
“Anything less, um,” Walter bounced his head from side to side. “Physical?”
“You do understand what the word athletic means, right?” Marvin asked.
Walter opened his mouth.
Walter glanced down then back up. “What about bowling?”
“Oh, I like bowling.”
“Huzzah, I’m sure we’ll have a festival to celebrate,” Marvin said in a flat tone. “For arts class we have—”
“I don’t want to be a bard, why do I—?”
“Because it’s the rules,” Marvin said and pointed across the room. “And the line for people who give two shits is over there. This is the line for people give a single shit, and I’m fresh out.”
“I see why they have you working the table.”
“Yeah, my people skills are the stuff of legend and song,” Marvin said. “You can take a philosophy course in lieu of art. What about ‘Discussions on Current Events’? It’s taught by Sarlakin the baby gnawer—”
“The ogre that invaded the kingdom a last year?” Walter asked. “He wasn’t list in the handbook.”
Marvin shrugged. “Part of the peace treaty granted him tenure. He also teaches ‘Human privilege and non-human studies’ as well as ‘Intro to interpretive dance.’”
“I’m from the Feculence Hills,” Walter said. “I’d rather not take a class taught by the ogre who slaughtered a third of my neighbors.”
“Typical human,” Marvin said. “There’s a spot in ‘Crumbling Towers: The Toxicity of damsel in distress stereotypes’?”
“Probably a lot of girls in that one,” Walter said to himself smiling.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Marvin asked.
“What? No! I didn’t mean, uh, I just—”
“I know what you ‘just,’” Marvin said. “You think the rampant sexism princesses have had to deal with all these years is some kind of joke? You don’t suppose they’d rather armor up and take on that dragon themselves instead of waiting for Sir Bro to rescue them?”
“No!” Walter said. “I mean yes! I’m sorry, I. Um.” Walter cleared his throat. “I guess, um, put me down for non-human studies?”
“Good choice,” Marvin said and marked the book. “I think you’ll find it quite enlightening.”
Walter nodded as the memory of his neighbors being pulled apart like string cheese flashed in his head.
Marvin marked up the parchment and thrust it at Walter. “Your required tome list is in the class catalog next to each course,” he said. “Orientation for freshmeats is in Lord Tautkeister the Frugal auditorium every three bells, starting at noon.” He looked at the line. “Next.”
A human girl dressed in all black, probably a student acolyte of the dark goddess Penelope, stepped around him, and handed her paperwork to Marvin.