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Gnart Moves up in Hell

by Michael C. Hansen

Gnart spat on his hand and worked the saliva through the small, round tuft of black hair on his otherwise bald and oblong head. Then, using his sharp claws, he created fresh scratches on his face, arms and chest. Today was important, and it was vital that he look his absolute worst. Overlord Bloodfeast was known to kill and eat undesirable applicants, and, though such a death would be a great honor, Gnart felt it best not to take any chances on his first impression. He decided not to don his necklace of tongues and fingers. It was a bit too flashy for a professional job interview.

The entrance to OL Bloodfeast’s office spoke volumes about the demon within. The door was solid bone. “Overlord D’kahal Argus Bloodfeast: Head Defiler, 9th Level” was ornately inlaid using teeth and bits of flesh.

“Excellent craftsmanship,” Gnart noted as he pressed the button on the intercom to announce his arrival. “Hello, Gnart Throatbiter here to see OL Bloodfeast. I have an appointment.” There was a buzzing sound and the door opened slightly allowing him to enter.

The waiting room was surprisingly plain. Aside from the receptionist’s desk and a stone bench, the room was practically devoid of furniture. Gnart noticed a few specks of blood on the floor and chuckled. The previous applicant had gone a little overboard on his self-mutilation. He probably came off looking desperate, and was most likely eaten.

“The Overlord is on a conference seance. He’ll be with you shortly,” the receptionist, Jezebel (as her name placard read), informed him. Gnart sat on the bench and flipped idly through the provided issue of Torment Today. Despite his calm exterior, his hearts were racing. Very few Throatbiters had ever even dreamed of working on the 9th. But if any of them had the potential, it was Gnart. By far the most ruthless and cunning of all his father’s spawn, Gnart showed at a very young age a knack for inflicting pain and misery. His father, Torgo, recognized this and sacrificed almost everything to put him through the academy, including most of Gnart’s siblings and the family hellhound. A lot was riding on the next half hour.

“All right... Gnart, was it? The Overlord will see you now.” Jezebel motioned toward the door and went back to filing her teeth. Gnart tapped lightly on the door.

“Get in here!” came the booming reply.

He took a deep breath, and went inside. It was now obvious why the waiting room was so sparse. Bloodfeast was the kind of demon who spared no expense, surrounding himself with the nicer things in the afterlife. The stone walls were all but covered with certificates, awards and signed photos of famous demons. Each one encased in expensive dragon-scale frames. The floor was carpeted with furs of some unknown beast, and the high ceilings echoed the burbling sounds from the lava pool in the far corner of the room. Two large candelabra provided light and cast a warm glow upon one of the largest and most imposing demons Gnart had ever laid his eye upon. OL Bloodfeast eyed him apathetically from behind his exquisite marble desk (that is to say, two of his eyes were on Gnart, while the other two read over Gnart’s résumé).

“Well, are you just going to stand there, staring or are you going to have a seat?”

Blast! Gnart hadn’t realized he was staring; not the best first impression. One could hardly blame him for doing so. Bloodfeast was easily three times his size. He had four impressive sets of horns and fangs longer than the average demon’s arm. It was his dark complexion, however, that had Gnart so occupied. It was an impossibly deep shade of red, almost black. Gnart mentally chided himself as he crossed the floor and sat opposite the stately Overlord.

“My Overlord Bloodfeast” he said, bowing slightly, “it is an honor to sit in your presence.” “Don’t try to butter me up, young imp. Adulation isn’t going to help you here. Drop the act and let’s get real. The only reason I haven’t bitten your head off is because you’re the most qualified applicant I’ve seen all day. So let’s get straight to the point. Why, exactly, do you want to work on the 9th?”

“Well, my Overlord, it has always been my greatest ambition to defile and inflict on the 9th. I have devoted most of my afterlife to it.”

Bloodfest grunted, unimpressed. “It says here you attended Magog Academy.”

“Yes, that is correct, I studied under necromancer Vlad. His recommendation is included with my résumé.” At the mention of Vlad’s name, Bloodfeast’s ears perked up. Not all of them, but enough to show or at least feign mild interest.

“Really? That old bat is still teaching there, eh? I thought he’d be dean of the place by now.”

“Well, he is head master over the School of Mischief, and chairman of the Board of Malarkey.”

“It sounds like he made quite an impression on you. I, too, studied under Vlad. He’s a good demon. Go on.”

“I graduated magma cum laude, top of my class, with a Mastery scroll in the arts of woe and endless torment. For a few decades I held a position in Torment Development. Two of my original concepts are still being used today. Since then I have been working at the Black Portal in the receiving and processing department. Truthfully, I feel my talents are being wasted there.”

“So it would seem. I spoke with your supervisor earlier, he says you’re exceptionally cruel to the new arrivals and seem to have a genuine distaste for all that is decent.”

“He is indeed a master of flattery,” Gnart replied. But it was true. He always made it a point to make the newly condemned souls as miserable as possible, from the moment they walked through the portal. Even his coworkers feared him. His extra efforts were paying off.

Bloodfeast stood up and walked over the photo-laden wall. He seemed to reflect as he stared at one picture in particular.

“You know, I was just three hundred years old when this was taken.” He removed the frame from the wall and handed it to Gnart.

“Is that really...?” Gnart trailed off in awe. Bloodfeast smiled, a horrifying sight.

“Yup. That’s the Devil himself. He came to congratulate me when I first took over this job twelve centuries ago. Of course, things were different then. We weren’t at half our current occupancy, and he had time to stop in every once in a while. Very polite, the Devil. It is quite impressive how vicious one can be using politeness. After all, he is the father of the lie. And quite astute. I learned more in one hour with him than I have in all my centuries as an Overlord.” Gnart handed back the photo and Bloodfeast replaced it on the wall, taking great care to hang it crooked.

Bloodfeast couldn’t quite put his claw on it, but there was something about this imp that he liked. He could tell that Gnart was ruthless and shrewd, he had a nose for such qualities. His other nose could smell potential and the boy stank of it. In some ways, he saw a younger version of himself in the young imp.

He sat back down at his desk and fixed Gnart with a hard stare. “Listen, the 9th is no Black Portal. This is the big leagues. Here we dish out the worst forms of pain and torture the mind can devise. It is the home of the worst scum that ever walked the earth, and we do not relent, not for a second. Do you understand?”

Gnart nodded soberly.

“All right kid, you got the job. Congratulations. You’ll be assigned to the chamber of eternal flaying.”

“When do I start?” Gnart asked enthusiastically.

“First thing tomorrow morning. See Jezebel on your way out; she’ll give you the details.” Bloodfeast’s hand engulfed Gnart’s arm in the closest semblance to a handshake their vast difference in size would allow.

“Thank you My Overlord, thank you! I won’t let you down.”

“Oh I know you won’t. Otherwise I’ll kill and eat you.” Neither of them laughed. He wasn’t joking.

Copyright © 2004 by Michael C. Hansen

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