Garthort the Wicked sat and unenthusiastically ate gruel. It was the only thing he knew how to make but it was not his first choice. (That was Elven Toast topped with a berry compote and a dollop of sweetened cream.)
First, the Goblins rebelled. Then his bound Deamons all found legal tricks to release themselves from his bindings. Finally, his human servants all quit, giving no notice. It was extremely inconvenient.
His lack of skill with Gastromancy or any actual cooking acumen left him with this bowl of lukewarm gruel. He was about to take another disappointing spoonful when he felt the tingle of arcane summoning.
“Fu-” he began.
Garthort the Wicked found himself standing in the center of the black and crimson marble chamber known as the Octagon of Shame, in the Pernicious Donjon. The Pernicious Donjon had been built by a cadre of evil warlords, fell wizards, and deamonic priests as a place for them to parley as none of them trusted each other at all.
It was also built over the caldera of the volcano, Mount Perdition because everyone involved thought it was a cool idea. While the idea might be cool, the Pernicious Donjon was hot as, well… you know. As a result, the place stank of pits and feet. Very evil indeed.
And so, Garthort the Wicked stood for judgment holding a spoon and dressed in a robe. Admittedly, he wore robes all the time but this was his “I’m not really up to seeing anyone” robe and not his formal wizard togs. This one was decorated with food stains instead of enchanted embroidery.
“Garthort the Wicked, you stand accused of high crimes against the Cadre of the Nefarious. How do you plead?” intoned Darvinia, Enchantress of the Cursed Forest.
Looking around at the powerful, evil folk gazing at him with undisguised hate, Garthort gripped his spoon and declared, “I have the right to know the charges!”
Darvinia sighed as she dabbed her brow clear of perspiration and said, “Really? Like you don’t know?”
“I’ve done a lot of evil in my lifetime so it could really be anything.”
All those sitting in judgment showed their displeasure with a mixture of groans, moans, and profanity.
“Knock it off!” shouted Darvinia, “We all have cooler places to be so let’s get this over with and sentence him to a long painful death.”
“Excuse me?” snipped Garthort.
“Sounds like someone is getting guiltier.”
Garthort gripped his spoon tightly as Darvinia shuffled through scrolls, “Ah! Here we go. Garthort the Wicked, you are accused of stealing the Goblin and Deamon servants of XoXor of the Abyss, Renomite, Boss of the Blasted Prairie, Sisssmorrr of the Snake-Folk, Marmek, Marquise of Moon-”
“Can we just say lots of people are mad?” asked Punmurr, Warlady of the Blood Keep, who was quite regretting wearing her full plate mail to this affair.
“Does the guilty agree to waive the list of complainants?” asked Darvinia.
“I think you mean the accused.”
“So how do you plead?” asked Darvinia impatiently.
“My plea is this,” said Garthort, “Make no mistake, I-”
“JUST PLEA!” she shouted.
More unhappy sounds issued from those who came for some judgment/blood sport, as well as considerably more profanity.
“What is wrong with you?” asked Mar-Mon, High Priest of the Temple of the Nameless Dread, “We all know you’re guilty! You know you’re guilty! Why drag this out? Show some dignity!”
Everyone agreed with this statement. Except for Garthort.
“Hear me out!” the accused wizard shouted, “I’ve been charged with stealing your Goblin and Deamon servants. Correct?”
Garthort smirked and said, “If I HAD stolen them, that means I have all of them. I do not. Therefore, I am innocent!”
They all glared at him with a mixture of hatred and admiration for his technical argument.
“I say we kill him anyway!” shouted Punmurr who was at this point chaffing quite badly in her heavy armor.
Darvinia sighed and asked rhetorically, “Does anyone want to stick around and do the paperwork?”
“Ugh, fine! Garthort the Wicked, you are hereby cleared of these charges.”
He bowed in what he thought as a magnanimous style but just came off as snotty.
“However,” added Darvinia, “It’s now up to you to fix this mess you have gotten us all into.”
“I don’t think that-” he began
“Thin ice, Garthort, thin ice,” she spat.
“Then I would be overjoyed to spearhead this effort. Maybe we can all go someplace and get a bite to eat and figure this all out?”
As angry as they all were, they also were tired and dehydrated. It was agreed to go to the First Circle, an eatery at the top of the Pernicious Donjon. It was noticeably cooler but sulfurous fumes from the volcano still made it unpleasant.
After ordering drinks and arguing over what appetizers to get, everyone stared at Garthort expectantly. He thought that was unfair given how little time had passed. He sipped his wine and mulled. He was not normally a day drinker, but it had been a very stressful morning. Tapping his spoon on the table, he came up with a series of plans, each less plausible than the last.
Just as things were about to turn from awkward to stabby, the server arrived with the food.
“Deep-fried ladyfingers, Pixie poppers, Dwarf pot pie-vegan, and the house specialty,” pronounced the server (who was an aspiring bard named Meave) “THE TREASURE TROVE!!!”
The Treasure Trove was a platter covered with a variety of fried meats on a bed of crispy bread, that was smothered with melted cheese, with more meats on top, and finally, some chopped herbs for extra flavor but mostly for the visual impact.
It was at this time Garthort had an idea. Not just that he was glad that robes were forgiving on a less than svelte figure, but a way out of the mess.
“Who hates Goblins the most?” he asked his evil dining companions.
“Us,” suggested Armtek the Unmerciful.
“True, but not the answer I was looking for.”
“Other Goblins?” asked Night Cloak the Unknowable, who was filled with self-loathing and assumed everyone else was as well.
“Maybe, but think about it?” asked Garthort.
Of course, that was followed by a lot of less than helpful guesses. Finally, Darvinia shouted, “Just gods damned tell us!”
While that somewhat robbed the moment of the drama that he wanted, Garthort smiled widely and replied, “Adventurers.”
“The same adventurers who try to kill us on an almost daily basis? Those guys? And how would that work? Exactly?” inquired Darvinia.
“We just put a bounty on all Goblins!”
“Again, why would they trust us?”
“One, we’d act through our network of agents and spies, which I KNOW everyone has. Second, not all adventurers are heroic. Most will follow the gold.”
“That might actually work,” mused Spactor Claw Hands while scratching his name into the table.
“Additionally, if some of these adventurers die while doing this, it helps us too in the long term.”
Darvinia asked, “What if they kill all the Goblins, then we’re back to where we all now.”
“That won’t happen. Once the Goblins are being taken out, the survivors will be ready to come back and work for us. Then, we can totally screw them on terms!”
It was agreed that this was an exceedingly evil plan and everyone felt exceedingly pleased about that. Of course, if they knew all the variables, it might have worked. They did not.