A Job Well Done
The etched metal plaque that perched on the very edge of the enormous ebony desk bore the name Mr. J. Ever, centered sharply in a no-nonsense font. To his elf sight, it was a marvel of intricate detail and subtly shifting colors. To lesser races, which is to say all of them, it was bar of stark gray with silver lettering.
The minion before him shifted his weight from one foot to the next, then back again.
Mr. Ever interrupted with an elevated finger and a raised eyebrow to emphasize the point. "You failed me," he said with a mild tone.
"I'm sorry," the pale white goblin wiped sweat from his brow, then used his crutch to leverage himself to the ground to properly kneel and grovel. "It'll never happen again, I swear it."
Doubtful, but Mr. Ever schooled his expression carefully. "You had one job, Brian. Guard the button."
"I know," Brian the goblin blubbered from his position on the floor, "it's just—"
"You failed the client by not being where you were supposed to be when the heroes showed up. You failed the company by making our organization look inept through your failure."
"They didn't tell me which button!" Brian wailed on hands and knees. Well, one knee. The other was outstretched at an awkward angle due to the cast.
"They shouldn't have to." Mr. Ever didn't raise his voice even a touch. "We have put all of our minions through extensive training to avoid exactly this sort of scenario. Training that I paid for, personally, before you were ever trusted to leave our doors and call yourself an evil minion." He then sighed heavily and shook his head. "Thus, you have failed me."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Ever! I'm so sorry! I'll do anything to make this up to you!"
Mr. Ever nodded, then walked to his seat behind his enormous desk and pulled out a slip of paper. "Anything?"
"Anything at all, sir!"
His pen danced across the paper, followed by the inelegant thwack of the stamp. "You get to explain this whole thing to accounting for me. In detail. Be sure to repeat the entire story as many times as they demand it."
"But…but…" Brian went a shade paler than normal. "But sir! Mr. Ever, sir! The accounting department! It's all run by demons!"
Mr. Ever helped Brian to his feet, kindly as a father would for a favored son. "Don't worry. They won't kill you." His grin spread from ear to ear. "In fact, they won't harm a hair on your head."
"Of course not," Mr. Ever said. "They know better than anyone what healthcare costs these days in this dimension. And a resurrection spell would come out of their own pockets since you're not on the job. Which reminds me…" Mr. Ever appended a further expense to the paper he was about to hand to Brian. "Fifty gold for the resurrection, and make sure they charge it to the client. We're not eating that cost."
"Yes, Mr. Ever, sir."
Clearly, Brian was not reassured. Everyone knew the demons in accounting had deep pockets and huge salaries. A resurrection spell, or a month in a hospital, would be a drop in the bucket for any of them to pay. Then again, they were all notorious penny pinchers. It's how they got their jobs in the first place.
There was a good chance Brian would walk out, despite bearing the bad news.
Brian walked from the office like a goblin under a death sentence, hobbling along with his crutch tucked under the wrong arm. He looked pitiful, forlorn.
Mr. Ever smirked as soon as the door was closed. He counted to ten before he picked up the crystal ball and called down to accounting. "I've got a goblin on his way down there after his first failed mission."
"Right, and you want us to do the usual fire and brimstone, pitchforks, disemboweling, the lot?"
"No," Mr. Ever said, drawing out the tiny word and filling it with the meaning of five complete sentences. "He's heard your reputation already. Give him the nice treatment." The chuckle that followed was the stuff of nightmares.
"Nice?" The demon on the other end mulled that one over, skepticism bleeding through the crystal ball.
"Nice, yes." Mr. Ever drew the moment out with sadistic glee. "By the way, I just noticed a completely innocent random fact about your new friend, Brian. His profile shows a distinct fear of public speaking."
"Does it now?"
"It sure would be a shame if some sort of a presentation, or demonstration, was required to refresh the memories of the entire minion force in how to discern which of two equally important buttons they are supposed to be guarding."
"Got it, boss."
Mr. Ever loved his job.