Evil Overlord: The Makening



Chapter Three: Pimple-Faced, Big-Headed, Cack-Handed Piece of Dribble


The enlightened Evil Overlord will always be open to acquiring knowledge, and never fall into the trap of thinking they know all that is worth knowing. A commitment to lifelong learning has been the cornerstone of my own success. But while wisdom can come from unexpected places and should never be spurned because it comes from some humble or downright suspect source, one should never take anything at face value. Have an open mind, in other words, but don’t be credulous.

I learned much from Father Viker, for example, mostly about alcohol and the opposite sex. The vast majority of those lessons I'd have been much better off not absorbing.

What I’m saying here is that I freely admit that where women are concerned, I have made… mistakes.


~ ~ ~


One thing I neglected to bring with me into the cellar was a light source. Another was food. A third was water. I sat in the dark in a corner of the cellar behind a barricade of broken pews and an ancient bed frame and prayed to the Light that I pretended I believed in that I wouldn’t become orc food.

The kirk above me burned – I heard the roar of the flames, felt the heat even through the stones, and choked as quietly as I could on the smoke that found its way in. The only good thing about being in a burning building was that the fire was loud enough to mostly drown out the screams and the waarghs. Eventually, I fell into a broken sleep.

When I woke for good, the sounds of destruction had abated. I heard nothing. No fire, no screams, no waargh. I had no idea how much time had passed. My stomach said forever.

I decided to wait a little longer, just to be safe.

Eventually hunger drove me out of hiding. It took me a long time to get the trap door open, as it was blocked by debris, but I eventually managed it.

The kirk was a charred wooden skeleton, open to the light it had been a place of worship for. The village was cinders.

I resolved to be very careful and specific about what I prayed for in future.

There were no survivors that I saw, nor even any corpses. There was just the occasional limb or digit. I later learned that an orc horde was a hungry beast, and by and large devoured any flesh it came across.

I, too, was ravenous by that point, and spent the remains of the day picking through the ruins for anything edible. I came up with a handful of charred turnips and a miraculously preserved loaf of bread, which I devoured, and filled the rest of my stomach with water from the well. Then I sat down and tried to decide what to do with myself.

The reason I’d taken Breen’s signet ring and stationery was because I’d had some inkling of faking a dismissal from the Light’s service. Being an acolyte really didn’t agree with me anymore. The problem was, there was nothing much else I was suited for. Now, what with the village being a smoking hole in the ground, it all seemed rather a moot point.

There was no one to show my notional forged papers to, which was freedom of a sort, I suppose. There was also no food and no shelter. I thought briefly about going to see if old Sir Pettigrew was still alive up in his manor. He might feed me. Or he might just have me whipped out of his sight. He’d never really been a stable sort.

Then I thought about going to see if the family farm was still standing. But as much as I would’ve liked to see my mother if not the rest of my clan, I emphatically did not want to see what was left of her if the orcs had passed their way.

And then I thought about just leaving. There literally wasn’t anything left to stay for, that I could see.

The question was, where was I to go?

Preferably some place big enough to be safe from orc incursions, was my immediate and understandable thought. And the biggest, safest place I knew was the Capital. I was an acolyte of the Light, if a dismally terrible one. Surely the Grand Temple of the Light would have to take me in if I showed up and explained my situation?

Even at twelve years old, I laughed at that thought. No, I had to make sure that they were obliged to make a place for me.

The kirk had lost its roof, and the stones of it were cracked and blackened for the most part, but the rooms in the back had suffered less than the rest of the place. In Breen’s chamber, most of what little furnishings there were had been more or less spared. The narrow bed was soot-covered but mostly whole, his writing desk the same, though the stool was unusable, and his chest of personal effects was practically untouched. Until I bashed it open with a rock, anyway.

There wasn’t much in there, either. His life savings was a total of six pennies. He had a stack of papers, bound up in twine. Most of them were letters from his mother who, it must be said, may have loved her son, but carried a low opinion of his ability to do much of anything – every letter I bothered to read ended with admonishments to do or not do the simplest of things, such as brush his teeth regularly and ‘avoid diseased harlots who will give you the rot and see your soul in hell.’

In Breen’s personal papers I also found his assignment to Thrudd. I modeled my forgery on it. Father Breen ‘commended’ me, ‘an acolyte shining with faith and promise, to the care of his fellow Brothers in the Light, in the hope that a place could be found closer to grace than the sadly benighted village of Thrudd.’

Then I signed it with a very good facsimile of his illegible scrawl, and sealed it with his signet ring which I subsequently tossed down the well.


* * *


My journey to the Capital took three weeks, and there is little worth recording about it beyond the fact that I learned most farmers were far more generous than my father when it came to feeding strangers. That might have been due to the fact that most farmers were far better at actually growing edibles, but I don’t like to assume. I never had enough to eat despite the fact. Growing boys and such.

When I did finally arrive at the Capital, I was filthy, footsore and questioning whether I’d made the right choice. When I tried to present myself at the Grand Temple, the guards didn’t want to let me in at first, and said hurtful things about my smell. So I bathed in a public fountain and tried again. I presented them with my letter from Breen, and they laughed.

“You think we can read? Piss off, you wet rat.”

“Well who can read, then?”

“Try the Scriptorium. Them scribblers know words.”

“And where’s that?”

One of the guards pointed vaguely across the grand plaza to a place that looked like a prison. Not that I knew what a prison looked like, then.

I went, stomach rumbling and feet aching, to where I had been directed, and knocked on the little door in the big, grim, gray wall. It opened after a time, and a very elderly man in a brown cassock stood before me.

“The hell do you want?” he asked, frowning at me.

Mutely I held out the letter of recommendation. He took it, broke the seal and read the contents. Then he checked the seal and stared at me.

“The hells you want me to do with you?”

“I don’t know, father. They told me to come here,” I said.

“Who’s they?”

I gestured vaguely at the Grand Temple on the other side of the Grand Plaza.

“Great burning boils. Come in, then,” he said, opening the door wider and letting me through. “Can you read and write, at least?”

“I can, father.”

“Dung brain. I’m a monk, not a priest. You call me brother, Brother Maugrim. We’re all brothers here at the Scriptorium.”

“Sorry, brother.”

“You’ll be sorry once I stick my sandal up your ass. Why do you smell like days-dead rabbit?”

“That was the last thing I had to eat, brother.”

“Light blind me, you’re pathetic.”

And that was how I became a brother-scribe in the Scriptorium of the Light. For the next eight years, at least.


* * *


The reader will undoubtedly thank me for moving at speed through the next few years to get to the more salient bits. No one wants to read about going through puberty in a monastery; this is a memoir after all, not a horror story.

The Scriptorium was, in many ways, a prison. We all slept in tiny stone cells. We were not allowed women, or wine, and while song was not expressly forbidden, there was fuck-all to be singing about unless you happened to be passionate about sitting at a desk all day every day for years copying manuscripts as your spine slowly curved and your hand continually cramped. Or if you were especially fond of the smell of many old men in close quarters; old men who had little incentive to maintain even basic personal hygiene.

I was not.

I learned after a time that the Scriptorium was where you got sent if nobody liked you and you had no power. It was ecclesiastic exile. Essentially, I’d unknowingly imprisoned myself with some of the biggest assholes the Faith of the Light had to offer.

I didn’t appreciate it while was an inmate of the Scriptorium, but there are worse ways to learn how to be an evil overlord than being shut up with a couple dozen irredeemable old bastards for years on end. At the very least, they did not varnish any truth that made its way across their wrinkled lips, and they elevated pettiness to a high art.

We were not allowed outside the compound, which as I mentioned boasted a very high wall, except for quite specific reasons such as going to the market.

The marketing duty was jealously prized, and went to the senior-most copyist. Not the most sensible way to go about things, since they were a gaggle of old, nearly blind copyists in the Scriptorium who could barely find their way to the shitter, much less the market, much less carry purchases back, but there you have it. Tradition is a powerful force. All would-be Overlords should be mindful of the fact. Brother Jaby was the marketing brother when I arrived at the Scriptorium at twelve years of age, and he held the position until his death. I had just turned twenty by then.

The morning of his death went exactly like all the others before it, until it didn’t. He’d finished his daily breakfast of gruel, stood, and picked up the basket he used to carry his purchases (he always kept it in front of him on the table in the morning, just to remind everyone who was who). He took two steps toward the door, then clutched at his chest and muttered “ah, shit balls.” Then he fell down dead as a post on the refectory floor.

There was absolute silence for a moment. Then Brother Maugrim broke it by slamming his cup down on the table and shouting “Finally!”

The day Brother Jaby died, Brother Maugrim became senior-most, and thus, after nearly forty years of waiting, gained the mantle of marketer. Unfortunately for Brother Maugrim, by that time he was more than half blind, and on most days virtually bedridden to boot. He couldn’t walk unassisted anymore, even on his best day. But he refused to pass the marketing responsibility on to Brother Farendt, the next senior-most, because Brother Farendt had been stealing Brother Maugrim's quills and brushes for years. No amount of wheedling or threats would move him.

I can still hear him shouting in the refectory, “You can all lick my withered bunghole! I’m in charge of marketing now, and I’ll discharge the duty as I see fit! And I see fit that that pimple-faced, big-headed, cack-handed piece of dribble Brother Gar does it! His copying skills are for shit anyway.”

Spite, it must be said, is as powerful a force as tradition in its own way, and as long as you aren’t at the pointy end of it there’s at least a chance it might benefit you.

Ah, Brother Maugrim. I actually regret that he died in the fire. I'd have made him an adviser. He'd have been a breath of fresh air compared to the toadying lickspittles I later found myself saddled with.

“Brother Gar,” said Maugrim, “Pick up that basket, get the coin from Jaby’s pocket, and go buy us our provender.”

I looked around at the other brothers, who all seemed to wish me harm, especially Farendt. But none of them said or did anything to stop me as I went and looted Jaby’s corpse on Maugrim’s order.

I’d go on to loot many more corpses eventually, of course, but that first time proved to be as life-altering as it was embarrassingly uncomfortable.


About the author


Bio: Here, I'm Notogodot. In other places around the internet I'm Michael McClung, a writer and a general grump. I'm best known for the Amra Thetys fantasy series. I was born and raised in Texas, but have lived in Southeast Asia for almost two decades.

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