KEY WORKERS
by Rick Danforth

Juno shifted from armoured foot to armoured foot of her sparkling new guard amour, and announced, “I don’t like it.”

“We don’t have to like it,” said Oscar, her fellow guard. A large fleshy man in the same shiny armour. “It’s what they’re paying us for.”

They both risked a nervous look at what they were guarding. A large wooden door with a brass knob, halfway down a black stone corridor. It would be almost innocent if not for the sign saying, ‘Do Not Open’, in large red letters. 

“I don’t even know what’s behind it,” confessed Juno. “It’s my first day.”

“My first day too.” Oscar sighed. “I have no idea what’s inside.”

“Could be anything in there. Treasure, gold, a magic lamp.” Juno peered both ways down the corridor to be sure, the torches at either end flickering as if they knew something she didn’t. “Anything.”

“Could be nothing.”

Juno scoffed. “Why the hell would they have us guard nothing?”

“I don’t know, and I don’t need to know. It’s what they pay us for,” snapped Oscar, before chewing his lip thoughtfully. “I think.”

After a long pause, Juno added, “It’s a bit ominous in here, too.”

“It’s the Dread Fort of the Dark Lord Alberich. It’s meant to be bloody ominous. Otherwise, what’s the bloody point of building a tower over a volcano?”

“Well, I accept ominous,” said Juno with a begrudging nod. “But it doesn’t have to be black, surely?”

“If you have any ideas that are more ominous than black,” Oscar slapped the seamless black granite, and winced, “then be my guest.”

“Well, now I’m even less comfortable with this door.” Juno shot the door a fearful glance, edging away from it.

“Pardon?”

“Well, now you’ve pointed out how ominous it is, there could be a monster.” Juno shuddered, her armour clanking with her. “Or a dread portal.”

“That… seems possible.” Oscar’s eyes strayed to the ‘Do Not Enter’ sign. His hand twitched towards it, as if the knowledge of impending doom tempted him more than riches ever could. 

“You know you want to.”

“Well, even if I did,” allowed Oscar, licking his lips and unable to tear his eyes away from the door, “I couldn’t anyway. I’m sure we’re being watched.”

“Are we?” Juno looked both ways down the corridor, seeing nothing but the stone reflecting the twinkling torchlight. Not even a mouse. “Nobody’s watching the watchmen?”

“We watch each other.”

“And I say it’s alright,” said Juno, with a welcoming smile.

“But what if it’s a test and you report me after?” asked Oscar, using the same logic younger siblings are forced to learn at an early age.

“Well, why don’t I just go to the other end of the corridor? As long as the door is closed before I get back, who knows what happened.”

“Enjoy your walk,” said Oscar, already edging closer to the door.

Juno managed ten paces before hearing a scream. She turned to see a bolt of pure red power arcing from the door to roast Oscar where he stood, leaving little behind but a bad smell and a pair of smoking boots. Even the sturdy armour was reduced to a pitiful puddle of slag.

Walking back down the hallway, Juno casually blew the smoke from the door and closed it. Then she took out a supervisory form from a pocket in her armour, and filled out a large red ‘F’. It was such a shame.

They were losing a lot of henchmen like that, which was proving expensive. The recruitment fees added up, and the armourers were getting very stroppy with her. Perhaps, Juno wondered, their hiring policy was too strict? It was the third recruit she’d lost this week. 

Juno made a note to maybe try three guards together next time to see if that helped, then left for lunch. Something had put her in the mood for barbeque.

 
 

 

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