Perrigore was a wizard. Not one of those hedge-wizards, who spend all their time chatting to birds. He wasn’t a common warlock, peddling charms at the local market, or a conjuror who did tricks, or a sorcerer who held muttered conversations with demons in dimly lit, fume laden rooms whilst under the influence of psychotropic substances.
He was a proper wizard. A 98th degree Mage to be precise, which is about as wizardly as you can get. The next rung on the career ladder confers the status of ‘demi-god’, and there aren’t too many of those around these days. He could terraform just by the force of his mind and if he’d wanted to, he could have smashed a whole world in the blink of an eye, so it’s probably just as well that he never wanted to. In fact there were any number of things he could have done if he’d wanted to, but he never did.
All Perrigore actually wanted was to work in a bookshop.
The reasons were many and varied. Let’s face it, it wasn’t as though he needed the money. If he wanted money all he needed to do was manipulate some elemental particles by the might of his mind and he’d be rolling in the stuff. But doing something like that would probably have wrecked the economy. Perrigore was far too sensible to have carelessly endangered the stability of the world markets for personal gain. Oh no, he was quite happy to leave that activity to Prime Ministers, and Chancellors of the Exchequer. Anyway, he didn’t need to, he was already fabulously wealthy.
So why did he just want to work in a bookshop?
Perhaps a naturally self-effacing personality had some bearing on his preference for anonymity, or then again, it might well have been something to do with the fact that the wielding of near infinite power tends to draw attention to the wielder. After all, He wasn’t the only 98th degree Mage in the universe and people who achieve that kind of status in their chosen professions tend to be of a fairly competitive nature. One also has to consider that beneath each 98th degree Mage there are several 97th degree Mages looking to move up. Perrigore had trodden on his share of toes to get where he was and the prospect of being held to account by the bereaved relatives of his colleagues was not an attractive one. But he was a 98th degree Mage, so, although he wasn’t completely invulnerable, he was probably more than capable of dealing with that kind of threat.
There was another possibility though. All magic distorts the universe, for magic equals power, power equals energy and energy equals mass. The bigger the magic, the greater the mass, and excessive mass punches holes in the fabric of reality.
What? You don’t believe me? Where do you think black holes come from? Black holes are the graves of wizards who tried too hard.
So maybe we can see why Perrigore would not want to draw attention to himself by wielding the ultimate potentialities of creation. But why hide in a bookshop? He didn’t even want to own a bookshop, just to work in one.
Well, Perrigore had a sense of irony. He liked hugging the knowledge of his superiority tightly to himself as he sold Terry Pratchett’s novels to punters. He would smile quietly to himself, standing behind the counter in Waterstones, as he serviced the escapist dreams of fantasy fans whilst wearing the unprepossessing aspect of a spotty, vacant-looking youth. He was a thousand years old but didn’t look a day over nineteen and three eighths. But that wasn’t the only reason.
Perrigore loved books.
He loved the way a new book creaked as you open it. He loved the smell of the ink and he loved the feel of the crisp, new pages, crackling with promise before giving up their secrets to the eye. Yes. Books were, in themselves, intrinsically magical. The constant supply of new books in a bookshop kept him feeling, well, young I suppose. He fed off their magic. It’s why he didn’t work in a library. The books in a library were old, tired, and abused. The last vestiges of their magic were barely holding them together. But in a bookshop he could feast on the magic of new books for eight hours a day.
Anyone who paid close attention to Perrigore, as he left for home after work, would have been reminded of the film, ‘The Usual Suspects’, provided that they’d seen it of course. Just as Verbal Kint metamorphosed into Kayser Sose, Perry the shop assistant would become Perrigore, 98th degree Mage of the order of RastroKhan.
As he walked down the street, his gangling, teenage awkwardness would be transformed into the contained, confident stride of a leader in his prime. The vacuous lolling of his lips would harden into an amused, knowing smile and the vacant, bewildered eyes would become piercing and perceptive. Even the spots would disappear. He would be met on the corner by a plush, black limousine, driven by someone who looked suspiciously like Pete Postlethwaite, and then he would climb in and be driven away to his castle, deep in the English countryside.
On arriving home he would be greeted on the front steps by the family hunchback and ceremoniously ushered through the imposing portal. Once inside the marble hall he would be relieved of his tracksuit jacket and the baseball cap residing sideways on his head before heading to his private bathroom to be cleansed of the day’s soil. Here he would wallow contentedly for an hour or so in the solid gold, sunken bath, while Achilles, his rubber duck, swam through the foamy bubbles and made a full report on the household’s activities during the day.
On completing his evening ablutions he would proceed to the robing room where he would be dressed in the regalia appropriate to his rank and calling. Naturally, the splendid clothes would have been freshly brushed, pressed and laid out for him by one of his slaves. It was then time to deal with any little problems in discipline which might have cropped up while he was at work and which had been faithfully reported to him by Achilles.
Offenders (who were almost invariably Goblins) would be summoned into his presence where their misdemeanours would be detailed. Then, depending on the severity of their crime, they would receive an appropriate punishment which might be anything from summary obliteration to spending a couple of decades in the dungeon. The dungeon option was rarely exercised though, Perrigore preferred to turn mildly errant servants into pieces of furniture.
Furniture didn’t need feeding.
It should be remembered that Perrigore was fabulously wealthy. People may become wealthy by many means, the ones who stay wealthy though, do so because they are extremely good at not spending money.
The majority of the house servants were Elves, although there were some human slaves. Perrigore had learned long ago that Goblins made very poor house servants. You certainly didn’t want them anywhere near food, which ruled out the kitchen and waiting at table. Their personal habits were, to put it mildly, unpleasant, which also made them undesirable as body servants. They hawked, they spat and they blew their pointy noses indiscriminately in anything, whether it was a dish of sweetmeats, the curtains hanging in the dining hall or the clothes you were wearing. All soon lost their appeal when dripping with green, foul-smelling, Goblin mucus. Trying to train them to behave in a slightly less repulsive manner was futile. Even the threat of summary disintegration failed to curb their incontinent repulsiveness. It was in their natures to be as they were. Consequently, Perrigore only employed them as dunnykin divers and compost processors - a purpose they were admirably suited for.
If they were required inside the house they had to be encased in hermetically sealed glass cages and as they only ever came into the house to be brought before Perrigore for punishment, they tended to gibber hysterically and bounce off the walls of their temporary prisons. They didn’t do so for long though. They didn’t make good furniture as they came out all spiky and misshapen, with pointy bits which would snag your clothes and rip them. You didn’t want them down in the dungeons as the noise of their constant screaming was just too disturbing and the smell would permeate the entire castle. As a result they were invariably disintegrated. Fortunately for the sewers, which required constant maintenance, and the compost heaps, which were extensive, the Goblins bred like flies, which meant there was never any danger of a shortage of the little blighters.
Today though, there was only one offender to be dealt with. Grzlecthz, a Goblin dunnykin diver (3rd class) had been caught trying to get into the kitchen to steal food. This was clearly in violation of Perrigore’s house rules. It wasn’t as if the Goblins were starved, they were provided with ample supplies of cockroaches to eat. The kitchen of a castle this old was bound to have a few but Perrigore had an arrangement with Burt from the village, who was an exterminator with Rent-o-Kill. It was an arrangement which easily compensated for the occasional shortfall.
Whilst the casual reader may find this shocking it should be noted that Goblins love cockroaches. They love crunching them with their pointy teeth and the little explosions of flavour as they burst in the mouth. As compact little protein packets they are also very nourishing and give a Goblin all the vitamins and things that a growing Goblin needs. The dietary requirements of Goblins are covered in some detail in the Keeper’s Handbook, a must for all those who employ supernatural entities to perform those tiresomely essential little jobs around the house.
But Goblins are all, quintessentially, greedy little sods and Grzlecthz was greedier than most. Caught red-clawed, half-way through a window into the pantry, he had no defence. Gibbering, screaming and vainly scrabbling at the walls of his glass prison, He was carried by a pair of Elves, into the presence of his master.
Perrigore, imposing in his ceremonial robes, wearing the terrifying aspect of judge, jury and executioner, loomed over the hapless creature and unrolled the scroll which detailed its crimes.
“Grzlecthz, Goblin dunnikin diver (3rd Class),” began Perrigore, “You have been apprehended, in flagrante delicto, attempting to enter the forbidden area of the pantry. You are obviously guilty, so before execution of the mandatory sentence of disintegration, do you have anything you wish to say in mitigation of your crime?”
Grzlecthz screamed, whined and muttered obscenities before spitting a gobbet of phlegm, which would have landed squarely in the middle of Perrigore’s face had the wall of his glass cage not intercepted its trajectory.
Perrigore sighed resignedly and casually waved his fingers in the general direction of the accused, whose screaming and gibbering increased in intensity before terminating abruptly in a dull, wet, splat.
The glass cage, now opaque with the remains of disintegrated goblin, was taken away to be cleaned.
It should be noted that Grzlecthz had been a married Goblin. His wife, Protghlia, fully aware of (but indifferent to) her husband’s fate, at the time of his trial and execution was enthusiastically engaged in an act of sexual congress with two of Grzlecthz’s brothers and her own father. In case the reader should be ill advisedly suffering from any pangs of sympathy for the fate of any Goblin, it is hoped that this information might provide proof, if any were needed, of the fundamentally unpleasant nature of the Goblin race. Quite frankly, disintegration is too lenient for them.
It had been a long day and Perrigore now looked forward to his frugal evening banquet of roast boar, washed down with a couple of bottles of his favourite claret, before retiring to his observatory, where, after a little gentle scrying, he would observe the movement of the stars and cast his horoscope. It had been cloudy for the last couple of days so he had been unable to indulge his habit of divination. This was a pity, because it meant that he had absolutely no idea that he was going to receive a visitor that evening that would change the course of his life.
To be continued….