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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #2121062
Comedic. May contain contain orcs.
The smell of blood was in the air. This was because Erirk had gotten a nosebleed due to an altercation with his breakfast cutlery, and it was difficult for him to smell much else.

“This is going to be a disaster,” he mumbled.

“It’ll be fine,” said Erirk’s best friend, Grok. “Just don’t stick another fork in your nose and you’ll be good.”

“You were the one who bumped into my arm.”

Erirk didn’t say it with enough force to escape the rag. After all he was probably the only Orc in all of the kingdoms who could’ve managed to accidentally stab himself at breakfast. He could almost hear the laughter of whatever malevolent god ruled his life.

“Just let me do all the talking, and try to avoid a repeat of the bear thing.” Grok was trying to be reassuring, but his grim face told Erirk how worried he was.

Erirk was, in his own opinion, the worst Orc who had ever lived. He wasn’t strong, he was a bit of a coward, and he had a legendary propensity to screw up just about anything he tried to do. Breakfast being a recent example. The only thing that had kept him from getting himself killed was his friend Grok. Grok was an Orc’s Orc. He was strong, brave, had his share of admirers in the tribe, and he was also, for an Orc, intelligent. The last was the only trait he and Erirk shared. Since they were the only two in the tribe who could use full sentences, and have a conversation more interesting than what they would have for dinner, they became friends despite their differences.

When Erirk had failed his adulthood trial by screaming his head off, falling flat on his face in front of the bear he was supposed to kill, and having the bear lick his self-inflicted wounds out of pity, Grok had gone with him when he was kicked out of the tribe. Apparently, the thought of a life spent trying to discuss history and philosophy with people who thought the meaning of life was to have the biggest collection of severed heads didn't have high appeal.

There wasn’t much work for a tribe-less Orc. The only career paths being to work in a mine or find a job henching for one of the various evil overlords scattered about the kingdoms. Mining was out, he'd probably kill himself the first time he swung a pickaxe. So, they had traveled far into the wilds to sign up with the great and terrible warlord Jenkins.

“This place is dusty,” Erirk said, eyeing the layer of dust on the floor of the torch-lit hallway. “You’d think they’d hire someone to at least sweep.”

“If you think you can manage not accidentally impaling yourself on the broom you could offer them your services,” Grok replied.

They came into a small room with chairs and a potted man eating plant. Some of the chairs were occupied by various monsters. From a Troll eating a lamb, to a Hobgoblin with spectacles reading through the latest issue of Henchmen Quarterly.

Erirk did his best to wipe up the last of the blood from his green face and stuffed the rags into one of the pouches on his tattered, hand-sewn clothes. “So, do we just wait or what?”

“I have no idea,” Grok replied. “Never really done this before.”

“Just wait till your names get called dear,” a reedy voice said from behind them.

Startled, they turned to see a Goblin wearing the Goblin equivalent of work clothes, greasy soiled rags. It was also wearing a red bonnet with a sunflower stitched to the side which managed to somehow clash with the dirty rags so garishly that it was the worst part of the outfit.

“I’m Tiffany, Mr. Bobert’s secretary, please take these documents and review them. If you are illiterate be aware that you are still subject to the stipulations of any contracts you sign. Refusal to sign any documents will lead to your termination,” Tiffany said. He had the sort of manic grin that can only be achieved after having grinned for several hours straight without resting your facial muscles.

“Terminated? You mean we wouldn’t get the job?” Erirk asked.

“No, no don’t be silly. I mean you’ll be terminated, as in killed, probably by fire. Though some get their heads chopped off by the guards. That's always so fun!” Her smile tightened to the point Erirk was concerned her face might start tearing. Or he would anyway if he weren’t busy being concerned about the whole dying thing.

“We best sign our forms them,” Grok said. He grabbed the now pale green Erirk by the shoulder and steered him toward a chair. “Thank you, miss Tiffany.”

“It’s Mister Tiffany. Just make sure you finish the forms before the interview,” the Brightly capped goblin said, and then turned to assist a Barghest.

“We’re going to die,” Erirk said. “We might as well have just jumped off a cliff. It would have been less painful.”

“Calm down and help me go through the forms. It’ll help us live longer.”

Erirk clutched the forms in his hands and did his best to bury himself in the sea of bureaucratic legalese. He found it comforting, in a strange way, how all the rules and stipulations fit together and the challenge of sorting it all out. He even discovered a few interesting loopholes and useful clauses over the next hour.

“Erirk and Grok,” Tiffany called out. “Mr. Bobert is ready to see you now.”

Erirk jerked back into awareness of his surroundings, and unfortunately his situation, prompting sweat to reform over his bald green head.

Grok looked over at him. “Did you understand any of that stuff? I gave up at the first page.”

“Yeah I understood it,” Erirk said. He tried to wipe the sweat from his forehead, but noticed he was using the rags from his nosebleed. All he'd done was add blood to the sweat.

Grok sighed and pulled out his own rag. “Is it safe to sign these?” He asked wiping down Erirk’s forehead.

“Not really but it’s still safer than not signing them.”

Grok nodded with a strained look on his face. “No turning back now, I guess.”

The secretary led them down a short hallway that branched off from the waiting room. They came to a plain wooden door embedded in the rock. Tiffany hesitated when he grabbed the knob. “Good luck boys.”

Bobert was dressed in Goblin kinds highest fashion, rags so filthy that it was everything Erirk could do to not lose his hard-won breakfast.

Bobert was seated at a little desk, parchment papers and quills strewn randomly on it’s surface. Bobert's face, best described as a stretched out mold covered prune, lacked even the hint that a smile had ever graced the region below his long pointed nose. Erirk did his best to avoid looking at the Goblin in front of him.

“Sir, Mr. Grok and Mr. Erirk are here for their interview,” said Tiffany.

“I sent you to get them, I know who they are. Sit down you two.” Bobert’s voice gurgled like irritable swamp bubbles.

Erirk felt a new cascade of sweat form as he and Grok sat down. “Good evening mister Bobert it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Erirk stammered before Grok shut him up with a sidelong look. Right, let Grok do the talking.

“Humph,” Bobert said with a disdainful glance. “So, you too are interested in becoming henchmen for the great and terrible warlord Jenkins. What skills would you bring to this position? Any experience with maiming villagers or defending castles and dungeons?”

“We have experience invading small towns and excel at locating hidden people and loot within the ruins,” Grok said this with his most professional menacing glare. Erirk tried to copy this but, considering the looks he got from both Bobert and Grok, he quickly decided not to try it again.

“I see, and do you have a reference from your tribe?”

It was the question Erirk was dreading, but Grok had assured him that he could get them through.

“We were in the Orlock tribe but I left to find better.” Grok's excuse was short, not unheard of, and carefully worded to be technically true. Most didn’t credit Orcs with the ability to do anything as cunning as carefully wording things, so they hoped to not be questioned further.

Unfortunately it seemed that Bobert’s nose could smell more than just the immense stink his body and clothes emanated. It had a keen sense of bullshit detection.

“Really,” he said looking between them. “And what about you mister Erirk? Did you leave the tribe to find better?” He sneered as he said it.

“Ah ah, um, well…” Erirk was sure that he could mop out the dungeon with the amount of sweat he was producing.

“Well?” Erirk had never heard a more ominous rendition of the word well in his life. Visions of working in a mine, or worse having someone called in to kill them on the spot, went through his head.

“I...I was...kicked out.” Erirk slumped.

Grok covered his face with a palm. “You could’ve lied you know.”

“I see,” said Bobert. “Well then I obviously am not hiring someone who couldn’t even make it in their own tribe, and I certainly can't let someone who can’t even lie leave with our location.”

Grok braced himself to jump across the table and Bobert sneered and manifested a fireball in his hand.

Erirk braced for death. It was, after all, just about what any failure of an orc could expect. A portion of his life flashed as the world slowed down. It figured that the only part that would flash before his eyes where the stupid pointless contracts, full of rules and regulations, they had signed. Then he saw something in his mind’s eye.

“Article 3, subsection C2,” he said.

Everyone stopped and stared.

He cleared his throat nervously. “Ah, it, um, says…” He stammered.

“If applicant admits to extreme cowardice to the point that they are going to piss themselves in the face of death, then, applicant may leave with wet pants in full view of staff to provide an example of what a total idiot looks like,” Tiffany said, reading from the relevant form. He leaned over to have a look at Erirk. “Well, he certainly qualifies.”

Erirk blushed, as much as an Orc could, as Grok put his head into his hands.

Bobert laughed, long and hard, wheezing like it would kill him.

“Fine, go on you two, get out,” he said when he calmed down enough to speak. “Best thing that’s happened all week.”

So they left, walked straight out of the dungeon, the halls filled with the laughter of a dozen different species of monsters. Erirk wished he hadn’t said a thing and had just accepted his death.

Well, at least Grok’s hand on his shoulder let him know they were still friends, and they could find a nice mine somewhere far away where no one would ever recognize him.

“Mister Grok! Mister Erirk!” They turned to see Tiffany running towards them. He stopped in front of them to catch his breath.

When he recovered he straightened and handed them both a single page. “Good news, the great and terrible warlord was watching via a scrying orb, he likes to watch the less promising applicants on his leisure time you see. You’re both hired!”

Erirk looked at the paper. “Erirk,” he read. “I was impressed with your ability to remember those bullshit rules I wrote. Better I haven’t had that good a laugh in a long time. So I’m hiring you as an HR manager working directly for Bobert. Congratulations! P.S. this hiring isn’t optional.”

Erirk wondered if it was too late to get burned to death.

Word count: 1985
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