The Dark Lord’s Handbook
In the eternal war between Good and Evil, things were not going so well for Team Evil. While Death walked unseen by mortal eyes among the dead that lay on the sunburned field of battle, Evil mooched around as Death went about his work gathering souls. Death waited patiently for some to die as men and orcs bled out slowly, voicing their pains and thirst. If they were lucky, the scavengers would help them on their way as they looted the dead and dying.
Evil made his way to where it had all ended. A neat ring of corpses lay around the blasted ground where the Dark Lord had fallen. Evil sighed. He’d had high hopes for this one. The early signs had been good, with notable successes, but then this? How had the Dark Lord managed to get it so wrong? It wasn’t that hard. All he had to do was read the fucking—
“Loser,” said a voice from behind him, interrupting his thoughts.
He didn’t have to turn to know who had come to gloat. “I wondered when you’d turn up.”
“Loooooooooser,” repeated Good.
Evil turned to face his old adversary. “Is that necessary?”
Good shrugged. “You had me worried there. For a while. Attacking from the east at dawn. That’s my trick.”
“Nothing in the rules says I can’t,” said Evil. It was one of a number of small things that had all come together to give him real hope he would win this time. “The burnished shields were a nice touch.”
“Thanks,” said Good. “I had them up all night polishing. It was close.”
“Not close enough. And I honestly thought this one was different. He seemed to be doing so well.”
“They always make a mistake.”
Evil sighed. “I even wrote it all down, in easy-to-read chapters.”
They had come to stand where the Dark Lord had met his end, stabbed in the back by the Hero he had mistakenly thought defeated. Evil scoured the ground. It had to be around here somewhere, he could feel it.
“Looking for something?” asked Good.
“Nothing.” Now where was it? It was close.
There it was, half hidden under a corpse, the edge sticking out. He had to work quickly now. He could see Good trying to nonchalantly kick dirt over it, but Evil wasn’t going to let his opus get buried and lost. Over here, he called to a weasel of an orc trying to hack a finger off a nearby dead knight. OVER HERE. The orc looked up and sniffed. HERE, YOU STUPID CREATURE. The orc scrambled over the dead, arrowing in on where the book lay.
“What have we here?” said the orc to no one in particular as it tugged at the book. With a final tug, the book came loose and the orc fell backwards. When the creature saw what he had, he squealed and let it drop. A skeletal hand still clutched the book; a hand that had been severed at the wrist.
Take it and go, instructed Evil. Quickly.
The orc looked up. A troop of knights was riding across the battlefield, scattering the scavengers, and adding to the dead as their lances caught those who would dishonour the fallen. The orc grabbed his prize and fled.
“No matter,” said Good. “You could wait a millennium before another one is born, still longer before one who can read as well.”
“I’m very patient.”
“Until next time?”
“You can be certain of it,” said Evil. There would always be a next time.