Saturday, February 17, 2018

Korm's Master (Part One)


When Grand Master Belmok decided that the new postulate had stewed long enough, he swept abstractedly into his book-lined office, a dripping pork sandwich clutched in one clawed hand, and sat himself down at his cluttered desk without a glance at the young Morg fidgeting nervously in the chair opposite him. He took a huge bite and cast a cursory and careless eye over the fellow's records as he chewed, juice dribbling down his thin pewter beard. He looked up, and swallowed in indignation.

"What is that...thing on your skull?" he asked waspishly.

The prospective student fidgeted, adjusting the hairy cone that sat on his head.

"It's my new hat, sir," he said. "It cost me twenty-five gold. I bought it before I left the City. It's all the rage there," he explained lamely.

The older Morg snorted.

"Whenever I hear that, I know that it will soon be hopelessly old-fashioned. By the time you get twenty-five gold's worth of wear out of that, people will be able to date exactly when you joined our academy, Master..." He put a pork-stained finger on the document before him and squinted his one good eye behind its ocular. "...Korm."

The younger Morg stiffened to anxious attention at his name, then under the guise of straightening his dark green tunic ran a comforting hand over his medals of achievement. He adjusted the cap, which he had bought partly because it echoed the dark brown length of his Third Beard. The hat still smelled a little of goat. He tried to read who the Grand Master of the Tronduhon Library School was, and what he expected of him.

At almost six feet tall, Belmok was certainly an intimidating height for a Morg, and as fat as he was, the fat hung in a sack of skin that showed he had once been fatter still. In the dark gold robes of Grand Mastery, cinched with the red sash of History, he looked like a withered winter apple. His bald, spotted forehead certainly helped that appearance. The long pewter spike of his beard hung over a hairy roll of neck fat that gave the illusion of another beard underneath. One lone tooth in his upper jaw gnawed his pendulous underlip as if it wanted to eat it.

But it was the eyes that were putting the young scholar off his balance. The right eye stared out shrewdly behind its gold-rimmed ocular, held on by folds of fat. The left eye was as white and dead as a day-old fish's, and slashed across from forehead to cheek by an old, ragged scar. As much as he knew he should be watching the right eye, Korm was drawn to the dead orb by an uncanny fascination that he knew must be insulting to the old teacher, but which he felt powerless to control.

He was snapped back to attention by Belmok putting the butt of his sandwich down on his papers and dismissively pushing the certificates and letters of recommendation across the desk, mostly unread it seemed. Belmok leaned back in his cushioned chair.

"So," the old Morg said. "You got your first mastery at the New Royal School in Morg City. I understand that though they are modern, they are quite adequate. Why do you want to pursue further degrees of study here in Tronduhon?"

"Need you ask, sir?" Korm said, and to his inner horror he heard himself tittering nervously as he answered. "The Royal School, big as it is, does not have the...the prestige, the history that you have here. Any scholar worth his salt aspires to attend the Tronduhon Library School." His muzzle kinked itself into an uncontrolled, ingratiating smirk.

"And you think yourself worth your salt, do you?" the Grand Master retorted. His tone were cutting, but the young Morg read something in his body language that seemed to indicate that he was secretly pleased. Korm bowed his head. The bow could have either meant that yes, he did, or that he was humbling himself before the judgement of his elder. Belmok put his hands on his desk and heaved himself up.

"Come, let's do a few revolutions through the halls and discuss your proposed thesis for earning your Great Mastery. I need some exercise." He nodded to the fireplace. "No one ever earned their Scholar's Sword by sitting on their ass."

Korm glanced over, expecting to see the coveted award hanging over the hearth, and was disconcerted to see the short blade pinning a sheaf of tattered documents to the mantelpiece. Belmok hooked an ebony walking staff from a stand next to the door and started out, Korm scuttling to catch up to his side as he hastily pulled a few scrappy parchment notes from his pocket.

(To Be Continued...)

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