To mark the release of a second helping o' Dave, we'll begin the Festival of Reader Fiction tonight. It seems appropriate to kick off with the Prof, since has already proven himself such a worthy addition to the canon of The Dave.
On which topic, allow ME to remind y'all before we begin. Although I might borrow from these stories in the future, none of the pieces we'e about to read can yet be counted as Canon.
THE FAVOURITE - by Professor Boylan
As the Grymm Elder grew closer to the Queen’s private parlor, he felt her thoughts pushing against his skull – probing - like long, boney human fingers - the wall around the Elder’s mind. He felt the Queen’s presence grow as he walked steadily through the grand chamber’s dim red-lit gloom. Her unseen presence beat at him like the waves of an ancient ocean crashing on the rough rocks; like the roll of thunder booming before rain fell from the almost forgotten open sky.
The Elder ignored it all. He saw it as courtly drama, a game: the Queen flattered him, paying him a compliment through her token attempt. Nothing could so easily invade a Grymm’s mind – not even the Low Queen of the UnderRealms.
But age-old tradition dictated what came next: the Grymm Elder entered the Queen’s parlor, dropped to his knees, retracted his fangs and talons and bared his neck for her teeth and claws to ravage, if she so desired.
“Rise and speak,” the Queen commanded, sprawled upon her bedrock throne.
“The Grymm Council is concerned about the human,” the Elder began as he rose from the hard stone floor.
“Which human?” the Queen asked.
“Your new pet.”
“Ah. That human,” the Queen said, shifting her massive bulk to a more comfortable position. “What concerns the Grymm Council?” she asked.
“We gave the human to you as a gift with the expectation that you would eat its flesh and slake your thirst on its blood, and that you would be pleased.”
“The gesture did please me,” the Queen said.
“But you did not kill it,” the Elder continued. “You did not eat it. You did not drink its bloodwine.”
“No. I did not.” The Queen paused, her reptilian face unable to so much as hint at the amusement this meeting provided. “The human is too puny to make a proper meal. A mere morsel. A mere drip of bloodwine. My hunger is not so easily satisfied.“
“Your appetite is legendary, Majesty, and this concerns the Grymm Council,” the Elder said.
“Are you saying you are worried that I am getting fat?” the Queen asked.
“Yes. Overweight. Possessing an inappropriately large physical bearing, resulting in socially rejection,” the Queen explained. “And counterproductive if intent on attracting the amorous attention of others,” she added and waited expectantly.
“I understand and accept the traditional protocols, Your Majesty,” the Elder carefully said,” but I feel the need for honesty.”
“You could always open your mind to me,” the Queen suggested. “I would then know the truth that concerns you without any threat of deception.”
“According to our ancient customs, I respectfully decline your invitation.”
“Then you may speak freely,” the Queen said.
“Your concern that I think you are “fat” is at the heart of the Council’s reason for seeking this audience,” the Elder explained.
“Your questions – and your equally alarming comments – demonstrate that you have changed,” the Elder said.
“No I haven’t.”
“Yes, you have.”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Yes you have. For ages untold you have never asked any Grymm if you look fat.”
“Do I look fat?”
“You see, that is what I am talking about,” the Elder said. “You have never asked that question.”
The Queen said nothing.
“You’ve changed, Your Majesty. We feel the human is responsible.”
“You fear the human’s influence,” the Queen said. “You fear it will corrupt me. You doubt I will dominate the human.”
“No. I have no doubts. But I am told you cannot enter its mind,” the Elder said.
“None of us can,” the Queen observed. “Humans do not share the gift of belonging to a group mind.”
“True, but none of us imagined that you would also lack the ability,” the Elder said.
“You fear my lack of power?”
“No, not at all. We fear that you do not recognize this vile creature for what it is. We fear it weaves words into magick that veils your vision and leads you astray.”
“Magick!” the Queen snorted in derision. “There are no magicks in these humans.”
“There is magick in the Dave,” the Elder stated.
“Yes, but the Dave is unique,” the Queen explained. “The Dave is the only one. There are no others. This human you fear is like all other humans - like spiders so small and so easily crushed.”
“I have undeniable proof that this human has corrupted you,” the Elder said.
“Are you prepared to reveal your evidence?” the Queen asked in deadly promise.
A sense of encroaching doom struck the Elder. But the Grymm Elder came to this moment prepared with a weapon that he hoped he would not be forced to use. He said a word designed as both sword and shield in the battle for his life, cast forth to both disarm the Queen and push his argument forward.
“Bacon,” he said.
“Yes. Bacon. The human assists you to acquire great quantities of bacon,” the Elder said, avoiding any hint of accusation.
“It is widely believed by humans throughout the Above that there is no such thing as too much bacon,” the Queen said.
“It is not the amount of bacon you consume that concerns the Council. It is the undeniable fact that bacon has replaced your desire for human flesh and blood.”
“I have not hid my fondness for bacon,” the Queen said. “It is delicious.”
“Yes. Granted” the Grymm Elder conceded. “I sampled a morsel once. Very tasty. “
“Only a morsel?”
“Only a morsel, Your Majesty. It is a substance that is difficult to procure.”
“And expensive,” the Elder agreed.
“Yum boogie,” the Queen said.
Not understanding the reference, the Elder moved on. “In addition to preferring what you refer to as “pig meat” to human flesh, it is whispered that you forego bloodwine in favor of a liquid called “Zinfandel.”
“I don’t know what “California” is, Majesty.”
“It is a human land of great riches. Did you know that California is the only place Above that has the zinfandel grape because there was a war, and all the seed burned, but immigrants to the Realm of California brought seeds with them and they planted them everywhere and now I can drink of that bounty?”
“I … did not know that.” The Grymm Elder shook his head
“My pet human told me that the existence of Zinfandel combined with my desire for it is proof that even human history serves my interests. If not for my desire, it is possible that war may not have been fought casting those immigrants to a new home to save the varietal,” the Queen said.
“Is that also true for durian?”
“You know of durian?”
“Yes, of course we do. And we know of stinky tofu, Epoisses de Bourgogne and black truffle. We know your pet human has established a network of contacts throughout the Above to provide you with exotic luxuries that do not just tempt you, they change you, coaxing you to reject our ancient ways, our ancient wisdom, in favor of foreign ways and alien values,” the Elder said. Suddenly his dignified reserve crumbled, exposing his fear. “You no longer hunger for human flesh and blood,” the Grymm Elder said. “You prefer bacon and pork chops and wine and chocolate.” Saliva jetted into the Elder’s mouth at the thought of chocolate.
“Oh yes,” the Queen said, taunting the Grymm and ridiculing his chocolate lust. “I have learned it is very nice to nibble on a bit of chocolate between sips of Zinfandel. But only the dark chocolate. The milk and white chocolate varietals are an abomination.”
“You see, Majesty?” the Grymm said. “This human is changing you, shaping you. Influencing you. Humans - not plants and their byproducts – are our prey.”
“There is nothing wrong with a salad every now and then.”
“Did the human tell you that?”
“Most definitely. What is salad? Whatever it is, it is another example of the human influencing you directly, circumventing intermediaries such as the Grymm in their efforts – their duty - to protect your interests and the interests of the Horde. All Grymm desire nothing more than to continue serving and protecting you, to represent your personal will.”
“The Grymm Council fears that this human is replacing the Grymm in my esteem.”
“The human is dangerous,” The Elder repeated. “It adapted to our ways and learned the Olde Tongue far too quickly.”
“Yes, I found that surprising, and it is one of the reasons I did not kill and eat it,” the Queen said. “The human you fear is no threat to us. It is weak and vulnerable – but it is also valuable, if not for the only reason that it teaches us how the Dave thinks and plans. Did you know the human was an advisor to the Dave?” the Queen asked.
“I learned that, and it concerns me,” the Grymm Elder admitted. “We should kill it and then - according to our eldritch traditions - we should present its skull to the Dave, so that, although the Dave will hate us, he will respect us - and know that his friend is dead. If not, the Dave will mount a rescue attempt as honor requires, and he will attack at a time when we are most vulnerable, as is the human way.”
“There will be no rescue attempt,” the Queen said. “The Dave and his ‘Scooby Gang’ of warriors believe this human is dead.”
“I still fear this human, Your Majesty. My heart and soul tell me that we should kill it.”
“And I may, but not until I’ve learned all it knows.”
“I know you interrogate it,” the Elder said. “But so far the only information we’ve obtained is stories of the Dave’s unsuccessful coupling with a female human and the Dave’s hatred for a malevolent being called Vietch.”
“I am gaining the human’s confidence, securing his loyalty to me and to our cause,” the Queen explained.
“Perhaps some torture would increase the likelihood of a successful interrogation,” the Elder suggested.
“Torture is so inelegant,” the Queen retorted, derisively waiving her talons and flicking her tongues.
“’Inelegant?’ What does that mean?”
“Kill the human, my Queen! I beg you to kill it.”
“It is no threat. It is weak.”
“No longer. I am told that you have assigned him Minion and Thresh as attendants and a squad of Fangr to command.”
“There have been three attempts on the human’s life. I seek to protect a valuable asset.”
“You have allowed the human to arm his retainers with human weapons and to have them trained in their use by something referred to in whispers as ‘the Rhino.’” The Elder watched for the Queen’s reaction, to see if she, too, had heard these same terrified whispers.
“I am interested in human weapons,” the Queen said without betraying any of her internal thought process or emotions. “Human weapons have been effective against every class of daemon that serve me, every clan, every sect.”
“We can prevail against the humans without changing who we are, Majesty,” the Elder said. “The Grymm fear that, by allowing the human so much freedom to travel between here and the Above, by allowing him to arm his retainers, you make the human far too strong.”
“I smell jealousy,” the Queen said, soft laughter rumbling in her throat. One of her tongues flicked out of her mouth. “I taste fear,” she said. “You fear that the human is replacing the Grymm in the hierarchy of my court.”
“A hierarchy that has existed since the beginning,” the Elder said.
“Change may be necessary to conquer the Above and to retake our rightful place beneath the open sky.” The Queen paused. The Grymm Elder felt her thoughts probing his, pushing – not with any hope of breaking through – but for the simple pleasure that came from squeezing his mind like she would squeeze a fresh, still beating heart to lick its juices.
“Leave me now,” the Queen suddenly commanded.
The Grymm Elder turned and left the Queen’s parlor. In the cave corridor the Elder’s adjutant joined him as the Elder walked back to Grymm controlled territory.
“You heard?” The Elder asked.
“Yes. I heard,” the Elder’s adjutant whispered back.
“And your thoughts?”
“The Queen is lost to us.”
“We must kill the human at once,” the Elder insisted.
“I fear that can no longer be done.”
“Then what do you advise?” the Elder demanded.
“We should stop all attempts to assassinate the human,” the adjutant said.
“What? And let it continue to poison the Queen against the Grymm?”
“It is clear that has already happened,” the adjutant said. “Further unsuccessful attempts to kill the human will only reinforce the Queen’s attachment to her dangerous pet.”
“Then what can be done to rid us of this troublesome beast?” the Elder hissed between clenched fangs.
“Seek out the human,” the adjutant advised. “Form a false alliance. He is weak and greedy. We will promise him more than he receives from the Queen if he betrays the Queen.”
“And then?” the Elder asked.
“Approach the Sliveen and Hunn Council Elders and form a true alliance with each.”
“And the Scolari?”
“The Scolari will remain loyal to the Queen,” the adjutant predicted.
“Most likely, yes,” the Elder agreed. “But we don’t need the Scolari.”
“No, we do not. We will need the Sliveen and Hunn when the time comes,” the adjutant again advised. “When we are ready, we use the human and his Fangr and Thresh ‘strike force’ to overthrow the Queen. For her own good.”
“Then we kill the human,” the Elder said. The adjutant was silent, and the two continued to walk in silence.
“Have you heard of ‘durian?’” the Elder suddenly asked, breaking the silence between them.
“Yes,” the adjutant admitted. “It is said the scent of the durian is a perfumed aroma that rivals the delicious odors of the finest, oldest blood pots.”
“I have heard the same,” the Elder admitted.
“Perhaps,” the Elder suggested “perhaps we should not kill the human immediately.”
“I agree,” the adjutant quickly said. “The human must die, of course, but not until after we have assumed control over his trading network. Especially the one that provides bacon.”
“And chocolate,” the Elder said, fantasizing about plundering the Queen’s private larder, imagining durian, bacon and chocolate devoured together with abandon.
The Queen watched the Grymm Elder leave her throne chamber. She watched as the Elder’s adjutant slithered up to whisper in the Elder’s ear. She watched them both walk into the darkness beyond.
A small human stepped out of the shadows behind the Queen’s throne rock.
“Did you hear?” the Low Queen asked.
“And your thoughts?”
“The Grymm plan rebellion,” the human stated.
“It is likely the Grymm Elder will seek a meeting with me in an attempt to persuade me to assist the Grymm to overthrow you,” the human began. “I will, of course, appear to cooperate, to accept their bribe, but only to learn all of what the Grymm plan so I can best advise you, my Queen.”
“Good,” the Queen said. “I approve. Is there more?”
“Continue to expand your trade connections with the Above,” the human advised. “Continue your efforts to establish diplomatic contact with competing human national factions. Continue your plan to modernize. You cannot retake the Above without modernizing. And continue to train and arm the thresh - who will be loyal only to you.”
“I will do as you advise,” the Queen said.
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” the human said. “The Grymm will bow to your authority and adapt to the New World you engender. If not, they prove they are weak and are fit only as meat for the blood pots.”
The Low Queen was silent for a few moments, apparently deep in thought. Then she asked:
“Does this rock I am sitting on make my butt look big?”
“Absolutely not, Majesty. You are truly a vision of loveliness. Can I get you any more bacon? Perhaps some prosciutto crudo,” the human suggested.
“No, not now. Do you have any Ghirardelli chocolate? The kind with the gooey caramel centers. And some of that Zinfandel I drank yesterday.”
“The 2010 Ridge East Bench?” the Boylan asked.
“Yes, that is the one. Blood red, lots of spice, finely balanced. To die for.”
“I’m afraid we are out of that one, my Queen,” the human said and bowed his head. “The 2010 Ridge East Bench zin is popular Above and it is difficult for our agents to locate and purchase.”
“I remember that happening to the Brunello di Montalcino.” The Queen writhed in frustration. “It was soooo good. But you let it slip away forever. No amount of precious metals, gemstones or rare earths will procure more – because there isn’t any. And now I am deprived of the 2010 Ridge East Bench as well because you didn’t have the simple foresight to order enough.”
“I expect to receive more very soon, and my Thresh apprentices have just installed an electric cooler so that we can cellar as much as two cases at a time,” the human said.
“I am deeply disappointed,” the Queen rumbled. “I should eat you and be done with you. It would make everyone happy.”
“I have failed you, my Queen,” the human said, going down on one knee and baring his neck for the killing stroke.
“Don’t do that. Just don’t. I hate it when you do that. Everything’s fine.”
The human looked up at the Queen. “Everything’s fine?” he asked.
“Yes. Just fine,” the Queen said. “Look, I value your judgment in such things. Is there anything else available in sufficient quantity to satisfy my thirst?” the Queen asked.
“I have a lovely French Margaux I strongly recommend,” the Boylan suggested.
“Very well,” the Low Queen sighed. “I suppose I can make due.” She shifted her massive weight on her rock throne. “And maybe a little Virginia country ham. Nothing fancy; just a nosh.”