“Let’s start again,” said the Elven investigator.
Garthort the Fly-Heart, formerly Garthort the Wicked, sighed.
“I’ve told everything I know,” he pointed out.
The investigator, who was called Pitare, pulled out a sheet of parchment from the folio in front of her, and asked, “What can you tell us about Darvinia, Enchantress of the Cursed Forest?”
“We’ve already gone over this,” he protested.
Garthort threw his hands in the air and exclaimed, “Why! Why should I?”
“If you are unhappy with your current arrangement, I can end matters,” she replied with an arched eyebrow. No one can arch an eyebrow like an Elf.
“I’m… Satisfied with this arraignment,” he relented.
“Delighted to hear that,” she said with a lack of any actual delight, “Please, tell me what you know about Darvinia, Enchantress of the Cursed Forest?”
“She’s a botanicamancer.”
“Not a druid?”
“No. Once I saw her eviscerate someone who called her that.”
“And how did she accomplish that?”
“Well, she grew a bouquet of Serrated Orchids in his intestines.”
“I see. Strange, most spellcasters whose specialty is growing things aren’t so evil.”
“Darvinia specializes in poisonous, sharp, and carnivorous plants.”
Pitare made some notes and then asked, “Have you ever visited her estate in the Cursed Forrest?”
“A couple of times, she used to have some real ragers,” Garthort said with a smile.
“Ragers, the berserk Semi-Ogre species?”
“No! A rager is a party. A very wild party!”
More notes were made.
“You’ve never been to a rager? They are a lot of fun!”
“My social life is of no concern of yours, Fly-Heart.”
Garthort smiled, she had clearly had never been to one. For that moment, he felt as if he had the upper hand, till he looked around the windowless, cold, stone room he was imprisoned in.
“Let us move on to Armtek the Unmerciful. His war-fortress is not far from the Steel Mountains, the main hold of the Dwarves. Describe his readiness and troop strength.”
“I’ve already told you all of this! I don’t know anymore!”
“Perhaps there are details you have neglected to mention? Your information is… light on specifics.”
Garthort rubbed his eyes and sighed.
“You know why that is?” he asked.
“Because people like me don’t trust anyone. We don’t share our secrets. That’s why they are secrets.”
“I see. A sound strategy for a group of ambitious, self-interested, power-hungry, sociopaths to take. The fear of the unknown keeps you all safe. No one is willing to chance open warfare if they cannot predict what the others will do in response.”
While he resented being characterized as a sociopath, it was hard to argue with the other points.
“Let us move on then,” stated Pitare as she opened a different folio, “Now that Goblins are no longer enslaved to dark forces. What are the alternatives?”
“What do you mean?”
“How will the Dark Fellowship of Wizardry, the Deamonological Association, the Knights of Malfeasance, the Brotherhood of the Free-Booters, and other evil organizations replace Goblin troops?”
Garthort paused. He hadn’t thought about this, his plate had been, not just full, but overflowing of late.
“That is a very good question.”
“Which is why I asked it,” she responded with the air of someone waiting for a good answer.
“I don’t know.”
Pitare stared at him for a moment, then continued, “I’m going to read to you the list we came up with. You can tell me the likelihood of each. Kobolds?”
“They all have very short-term memories. A Kobold will forget what they were told to do very quickly.”
“Can’t trust them.”
“Do you have any understanding of Orcish politics?”
“I must confess, I do not,” the Elf admitted.
“No one does! Not even the Orcs do. There are so many rivalries and long-standing grudges that two tribes can start a battle on the same side and then suddenly, they’re fighting each other AND whoever they were attacking, to begin with!”
She made a note and then continued, “Ogres?”
“Do you know how much an Ogre eats in one day? It’s not a sustainable model.”
“Let me stop you right there. Do you know why we used Goblins for our troops?”
“A lack of moral fiber.”
“Okay, that’s not, not true. But real reasons were that they bred incredibly fast, worked for almost nothing, and until recently, did exactly as they were told.”
“So, you and your ilk can no longer afford to field troops.”
It sounded like a question but it was clearly more of a statement.
“Ummm. Uh. Yeah,” he conceded.
Checking her papers, Pitare made a little ‘mmm’ sound.
“What?” inquired Garthort.
“There is one other option. The undead.”
“No. No, no, no.”
“And why not?”
“First, it’s gross.”
“Given what your former compatriots do, that seems counter-intuitive.”
“Maybe, but even evil has its limits.”
“That cannot be the only reason.”
“No,” he admitted, “As you said before, no one trusts each other. I can’t think of any warlord or fell wizard who would entrust their safety to a necromancer.”
“Because the necromancer would have complete control of an army of the undead.”
“Also, real skill at necromancy is rare, and even if you’re good at it, there are limits to how many dead you can raise and control.”
Pitare made some more notes, then gathered her pile of folios.
“That will be all for today.”
“Will you put in a good word for me?”
“I will report my findings to the Council,” she stated as exited his cell.
Garthort reclined on his cot. Not comfortable but at least clean. While this was certainly not how he pictured his life, at least he was alive. At least, he thought, the rest of his former cohorts were kinda screwed. That was something. He took out his spoon and thought, ‘You know, maybe everything will work out.’