GRUNT THE UNDERLING • by Thomas Ecclestone

The castle was cold, barren, and the single fire that was lit barely reached the chair. The Dark Lord looked depressed. He had to admit, his plans had not gone to schedule. First, it was the damned Farm Boy. He’d told his underlings to kill them all, but that hadn’t helped. Then he’d killed all his underlings.

Cretins, all.

That was the reason the Dark Lord was sitting beside a cold fire, drinking a cool glass of whisky, and looking through his photo album. The other people at the Evil Overlord Academy had all made something of their life… he was now 32, and all he had was a castle.

And plans, of course. He’d put the advert in the News of the Night, but no one had turned up. The Dark Lord took another sip, and stood up to put a log on the fire.

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” the Dark Lord growled. The mahogany door opened slowly, making a creaking sound. The Dark Lord looked up, and almost fell down in surprise.

She was beautiful, with long blonde hair, and a face that could have come out of a fairy tale. But what really amazed him was the sword.

“We’re not hiring for cooks today,” he said.

“I’m not a cook,” she said, smiling sweetly, “I am Grunt. I came about the advert.”

The Evil Overlord looked up and down her body. She didn’t look like a Evil Henchman. For one thing, she didn’t seem to be evil. Or a man.

“But you are a woman!” he said. “A henchman…”

She pulled out the Equality Act, 2010. “It’s illegal to advertise a job as only available for a man, you know.”

The Dark Lord sighed. Bloody political correctness, he thought. “We’re a criminal organisation…” he said, speaking slowly.

“The law doesn’t exclude criminal organisations,” she said, her voice clear, “You’ve got to give me a chance. Otherwise, I’ll sue.”

He sighed.

“In that case… I’ll give you a trial. Bring… The Farmboy… to me!”

The Dark Lord waited for the dramatic thunder. It didn’t happen. The damned weather was sunny, a heat wave. Nothing ever worked  around here.

“Err… Which Farm Boy?”

“The one Fate’d” — he wondered about that apostrophe, but apparently it was traditional — “to overthrow me.”

“Oh,” she said. “I thought it was a girl.”


“I thought a girl had been hired to feed you a poisoned apple.”

The Dark Lord pulled out his copy of the script and checked it through. “No, certainly a Farm Boy.”

Grunt looked at him, and saluted. “Right away, sire! You can trust me!”

The Dark lord watched her walking away. She opened the door with a flourish, and stepped through. Leaving him all alone, to gulp down the rest of the whisky in one single movement.


Grunt walked out of the castle, her backpack on her back. She’d been tasked with finding the Farm Boy, and so she strode towards the country, her map in one hand, and a stick in another.

She didn’t notice the wagon that passed her as she walked.

It was an ordinary wagon, covered in hay. On the top there was an old man with a long white beard. He raised his hat to her, and then drove the wagon through the castle gate.

As Grunt walked down the path, something was percolating through her mind. Why did that wagon have hay on it? She thought. There weren’t any horses in the castle. In fact, the Dark Lord was all on his own.

She continued walking for a little while, then gave a yelp of realisation, and turned round. She ran back towards the castle.


The Dark Lord was well into his next bottle of whiskey when he noticed the door creep open. It must be Grunt, back from the mission. Then a Farm Boy walked through the door. He was carrying a script.

“And Lo!” He said, “We meet at last, Oh Dark Lord!”

The Dark Lord shook his head. It wasn’t as if he’d not had enough. All he wanted to do was get plastered silently on his own.

“Look, son, can’t you come back later?” he asked.

This stumped the Farm Boy. He’d been told it would be simple. Kill the Dark Lord, get the girl, become fabulously wealthy. Job done.

“Uh… I’m supposed to kill you now.”

“Why?” The Dark Lord asked.

“They just told me to,” he explained, sounding unconvincing even to himself.

“I’ve never done anything to you, I suppose?”

The Farm Boy shifted from foot to foot, looking embarrassed about the whole thing. The Dark Lord picked up his glass, poured a single measure of whiskey.

“Do you want a drink?” he said. “Maybe we could work this out?”

Just that moment, the door opened wide, and Grunt ran through. She was carrying a sword, stolen from the castle armoury. It swivelled through the air, making a strange humming sound, and cut the head off the Farm Boy.

“I’m not sure you’re actually supposed to kill him,” the Dark Lord said, “I think it’s against the rules.”

“I’m sorry,” said Grunt, “No one told me.”

The Dark Lords stomach growled, he knew he was hungry, too much drink and not enough food. If this woman wasn’t a very good henchman, she was probably a good cook.

“Could you make my meal, then? A nice pork joint, all the trimmings.”

Grunt looked up at him, her smile looking false on her face. She nodded, and walked to the kitchen. She put the pork in the oven, made dinner, and pulled the special apple from her pocket.

It was red, juicy, and on special offer from a wicked witch of the north east.

“Here’s your dinner, Sire,” she said, watching him eating every last delicious scrap. She waited for a little while, then stepped over the body, and sat down: the new undisputed Evil Overlady.

Thomas Ecclestone is a computer programmer from Kent. In between writing, and work, he also loves to look after a flock of Hebridean Sheep.

Don’t forget to read today’s chapter of Lifting Up Veronica by K.C. Ball — if you missed the first two chapters, you can still start from the beginning and catch up (they’re short chapters).

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