The bejeweled scepter struck again with a crack. “Attention!” the Master’s booming voice echoed throughout tile room. “Let us bring the twenty-eighth annual meeting of the World Enders’ Guild to order.”
“We heard ya the first time, ya swollen oaf,” a nasally voice cried out.
Raucous laughter erupted from the two dozen attendees, an impressive range from chirping squeaks to bovine snorts to thunderous belly laughs. A toady man near the back was stabbing his hand maniacally with a pencil, all the while cackling with glee.
The Master grumbled with disapproval. He motioned with ebony hands for silence. “As you may be aware, this year we will be surveying ideas regarding the downfall of the Kingdom of Cheese near the border of Falmurth.”
“Cheese?!” they roared.
One lanky warlock in magenta robes stood out of turn and cried, “How fortunate! My army of mice may yet see action! Cheesians beware!”
“Please, the Kingdom of Cheese represents a serious nuisance to our regional branch office. I have hundreds of reports of altruism, charity, and other such despicable practices within their borders,” the Master said, attempting to curb the hubbub. “And yes, many eastern provinces are known and named for specialized goods. It is not uncommon.”
Two seats down, a dusky woman donning a leathery scaled vest proclaimed, “Brilliant, my beloved! And after your mice have scoured the Cheese Kingdom, my feline legions will gorge upon murine flesh and guzzle their remnant dairy reserves, thus sealing the Cheesese fate!”
A wizened man with an unfortunate skin condition joined the fray. “Why not simply unleash Daribold Drell upon the poor Cheesites?” he suggested, pointing at the rotund ball of flesh to his rear.
Daribold Drell responded with a throaty belch, sending a stream of insects spiraling forth from his gullet. “I do fancy the cheese of a goat,” he mused.
“Enough of this nonsense!” the Master bellowed. “Are we not villains? Warlocks and witches who inspire cold dread in humanity’s bowels? How far we have fallen! I myself was openly mocked not a fortnight past. Such indignity!”
“Outrage!” the toady stabber declared. “Death to the Cheesish! Had I a knife, I would choose to cut the Cheese.”
Daribold Drell broke wind. “Humanity’s bowels indeed!” the eczematous man moaned.
The room shook with laughter.
The Master brought down his scepter in a shower of metallic sparks. “Enough of this child’s play! I am not a nanny! What are we to do about the Kingdom of Cheese? If no serious strategies are presented, I will be forced to deal with the situation myself.”
“For the fifth year running,” he added under his breath.
“Fear not, fearless fear-monger,” a redhead with dragon tattoos assured. “For fear the folk will feel following the flames I facilitate and force unto them!”
Her eyes blazed as tendrils of smoke seeped from her nose. Waving her arms overhead, she muttered a seemingly profound incantation. “Consider carts and cellars of cheese cooked so callously — consumption cannot commence!”
Flailing wildly, those frantic gestures culminated in an infernal eruption from her upturned palms. The other villains stared incredulously as she awaited a nonexistent applause. She frowned at her open hands, revealing a pair of half-melted candles which she quickly snuffed. With a look of shame, she resumed her seat.
“Melted cheese tastes better anyways, you dolt. That will get us nowhere,” the cat queen observed.
“You are still missing the point,” the Master chided.
“What about the Doom Swarm?” an emaciated figure piped in, nestled between the masters of cat and mouse. His gaunt brow rose with excitement at the notion.
“And what, pray tell, is the Doom Swarm?” the Master asked, head buried in his fingers.
“Why, a Swarm of Doom, obviously!”
“Yes, but what in the ten hells is that?!”
“And what does it have to do with ruining their delicious cheese?” the toady man gasped.
The skeletal man seemed bewildered, as if anyone possessing an ounce of common sense should know of the Doom Swarm.
On his left the magenta warlock rolled his eyes with disdain. “Not this again! I swear by the unholy gods, every year he suggests this ludicrous fantasy. Perhaps this year you would do us the service of actually demonstrating your Doom Swarm?”
Yet the man was oblivious to the warlock’s condescending sarcasm. “Gods no, you demented fool! A mere glimpse of the Swarm can drive one to madness!”
“Come now; how are we to assess the option of a Doom Swarm if we are not privy to its destructive power? Surely the greatest evil minds can handle a miniscule taste of your talents,” the warlock goaded.
Others joined in the heckling, and soon a mocking chant of “DOOM SWARM! DOOM SWARM!” began in the crowd.
“I am taking a recess,” the Master announced, exasperated. “Have this… hooliganism sorted out when I return.”
The chanting followed the Master back into his waiting room. After a cold cup of tea, he returned to find the gathering pleasantly subdued, although not entirely settled. Confusion and worry plastered many members’ faces.
Striking his studded scepter, the Master proceeded. “Well, I see we have restored some semblance of civility. Now, if we may proceed to — ”
He was cut off by the toady man. “I formally move to vote on implementation of the Doom Swarm concerning the Kingdom of Cheese.”
Taken aback, the Master glowered skeptically. “And does anyone second this proposition?”
A flood of hands shot up in unison amidst cries of support.
“So be it; all in favor?” Not a single hand lowered.
“Twenty-two. And all opposed?” Not a single hand rose.
Odd, there were still two votes missing. Searching the room, the Master’s eyes fell upon the bony peddler of the Doom Swarm. The man grinned sheepishly.
To either side of him sat two charred corpses, the warlock and his lady, still steaming in the feeble glow of the ceiling lamps.
The Master sighed; good riddance. “The Doom Swarm it is.”
Patrick Tiffany is an Indiana native and speculative fiction enthusiast. He is currently working as an ESL instructor in Japan.