I’m getting good at this…
Bigby mused as he continued mentoring his weekly guild management team meeting. Frednik, the accounting troll, was just wrapping up his quarterly report on guild funds, baubles, trinkets, and takings, when Bigby brought up his final agenda item: Management Training.
Sitting at the head of the table in the makeshift conference room, Bigby ducked unexpectedly under the table. The twenty underlings around the table were afraid this was another game of “Manager Attack” that Bigby played from time to time, but then Bigby arose. In his giant paw was an enormous glass beer stein, one of Bigby’s favorites from his personal collection that could readily hold a generous four gallons of beer. Easily heaving this stein onto the table in front of his management team, Bigby proceeded to unfurl one of his Thrice-cocks, then filled the stein half-way with a steaming torrent of bugbear piss. Bigby then bellowed, “GLASS HALF-EMPTY OR HALF FULL?”
Of the staff in the room, all twenty of which were underlings originally hired by Justinius, only Balseph the midget stable boy had the wherewithal, given what they had just witnessed, to offer a meek, “…half-full?” in response.
“WRONG! BUT YOU SHOW COURAGE. YOU NEW GUILD CFO NOW,” bellowed Bigby. "OPTIMIST SAY GLASS HALF FULL. PESSIMIST SAY GLASS HALF EMPTY. GNOME JEW BARD WONDER WHY GLASS HALF FULL…IS IT A TRICK….POISON PERHAPS? THIS MANAGEMENT!"
Proudly, Bigby watched as the appreciation of the significance of this lesson showed from his audience’s faces… at least Bigby thought it was appreciation. "THAT ALL FOR THIS WEEK. YOU COME BACK NEXT WEEK. BRING MORE BEER."
As his management team shuffled from the room, Bigby pondered his recent progress. It hadn’t always been so easy, and in many ways it was still just as hard to train these non-bugbears in the art of managing a criminal empire. Early on, the gnome was desperate to grow the guild, which Bigby understood as a necessity. However, Bigby had great frustration over the gnome’s choices: bookworms, priests, and magii. The gnome even wanted to sell magical baubles and trinkets.
After returning from his hugely successful night-picnic, Bigby’s drunken response when hearing of Justinius’ plan for such a store was, “PISS ON YOU BARD!” Even in his drunken haze, Bigby could tell the gnome didn’t take kindly to Bigby’s reaction, so Bigby decided he had to work extra hard to teach the gnome how to properly manage the guild.
The first week in the new office with Justinius, Bigby sat mostly in silence, marvelling at all of the glittering horse decorations, rainbow-silver encrusted walls, wood-paneling, and books. It felt awkward sitting across the room from the gnome, as Bigby knew his “PISS ON YOU BARD” remark still hung uncomfortably in the air between them. In an attempt to make things better, Bigby presented Justinius with the heads of both a local juggler and a flaming sword swallower who were rumored to be even more popular than Justinius in Nameless. When Justinius just wrinkled his nose at the freshly decaying heads on his desk, Bigby picked them up, lit them on fire, and juggled them. Bigby was disappointed to see the gnome was still unimpressed, and the only thing Bigby succeeded in doing was burning a hole in the bard’s horse rug.
Soon, Bigby had given up on the gnome, fearing him hopeless at management anyway, as Justinius had just distributed what he called his Guild Manifesto, a paper the bard had hand-written entitled Impossible is Nothing with a Horse. Even worse, one night at the local tavern Bigby was attempting to bed three drunken wenches when he decided to brag on his new job as President of Guild Operations.
One wench raised her eyebrow and asked, “The new guild that everybody’s talking about?”
Bigby, encouraged by this one’s awareness of the guild, boasted, “INDEED!”
The second wench giggled to the third, shrugged her shoulders, leaned back in her chair, and said, “Funny. I heard that guild was run by a horse-fucker.”
HORSEFUCKER?!? DAMNIT TO HELL BARD!
After this drunken revelation, Bigby gave up all pretense of teaching the bard how to manage the guild, as the bugbear was convinced a guild thought to be captained by a known horse-fucker would never succeed.
Determined to attack the problem directly, as any barbarian would, Bigby approached the bard the next day, sharing with him that rumors were going around regarding the gnome being a horse-fucker, and that as a result the guild was rumored to be downsizing. The gnome proclaimed he had heard this rumor, and in truth it was somebody claiming to be him, which the bugbear readily agreed to placate the clearly agitated bard. Bigby then suggested that they form a Super Secret Alliance, and that they should covertly rendezvous in the stable to discuss suspicious employee behavior.
This, Bigby figured, would allow him to keep an eye on the bard, as well as see how Justinius behaved near the creatures he was rumored to lust for. Bigby was surprised, however, when Justinius proposed that he would place hollow boxes all over the guild stronghold, so the gnome could seal himself inside them to spy on the guild employees.
Managing with the gnome did not improve from there. Weeks later, Justinius placed himself in charge of selecting a new cost-efficient health insurance plan, but ran into some difficulties: How many insurance companies provide coverage for those suffering with hot-dog fingers? Bigby had his vet report that he had contracted nearly every infectious disease of man and beast, and some not yet discovered, according to the forms Bigby submitted along with every other employee to Justinius. The gnome learned via Lancel, Head of Human Resources (Bigby had promoted Lancel the week before) that according to his paperwork, Bigby’s teeth sometimes turned to liquid and dripped down the back of his throat. A note penned by the vet proclaimed Bigby as suffering from Spontaneous Dental Hydroplosion. He was also reported to have the symptoms of Pretendinitis, with warning signs such as desk-related narcolepsy.
Over the following month, Bigby paid off various underlings to call Justinius “Horse Master”, replaced Justinius’ pens with crayons, then put a bloody glove in Justinius’ desk and tried to convince the gnome he was a murderous sleepwalker. Bigby also allegedly tampered with Justinius’ horsehair brush. Every morning Justinius would pick up the brush and use it to stroke his hair 100 times. Bigby hollowed out the brush, and over time incrementally increased the weight of Justinius’ brush by putting in a small copper piece every day. After several months of this, one night Bigby snuck in and abruptly removed all of the pieces of copper. The next morning when Justinius attempted to pick up the brush, the bard nailed himself in the face with his brush. Bigby’s guffaws gave him away on that one, but he felt it worth the effort.
Bigby then dictated a series of letters to his vet, who penned each letter for Bigby. Bigby would then, randomly over the following weeks, hide the letter son Justinius’ desk. One such letter read:
From: Future Justinius
RE: Office coffee
Justinius: At 8 a.m. today, someone poisons the coffee. Do not drink the coffee. More instructions will follow. Cordially, Future Justinius
Justinius was wary of the coffee all week.
But most displeasing to the gnome was how one of the biggest non-criminal profit makers for the guild was an idea of Bigby’s. Bigby, on his own initiative, had the guild create a subsidiary company, which then took out an advertisement claiming to be able to supply imported hard core pornographic material detailing the adventures of Cora’s Girls. As the prices seemed reasonable (Bigby had outright made them up), people placed orders and mailed in their payments, which were deposited in an interest-earning savings account.
After several weeks, Bigby would have the underlings, in the guise of the Company, write back to each client explaining that under the present laws of Nameless they were unable to supply the materials and would return their customers’ money in the form of a Company IOU that could be presented to the hold repository where the savings account was held. However, due to the name of the company, few people would present these IOUs to the gold repository, as the name of the company on the IOU was “The Anal Sex and Horse Fetish Perversion Company.”
The fact that Bigby was making a killing off of nothing but the pure shame of the people of Nameless irked Justinius to no end, even if he did admire the monetary result.
Bigby eventually returned to his office. As his office visits had been few and far between lately, he was quick to notice that some of the shiny rainbow pieces of silver that had once been on the walls were missing. It was not likely that the gnome was selling these decorations, so his suspicion arose. Was some guild member stealing his shiny baubles that Justinius bought? Intolerable.
Bigby decided to stake out the room to catch this thief of thieves. With several bottles of whiskey to keep him company, he tried to hide in the well-worn hollowed out box next to Justinius’ desk, but his legs stuck out. So he punched a hole through Justinius’ desk, stood in the hole, then put the box over his head. To an observer from the other side of the desk it merely appeared as a giant box sitting on the gnomes’ desk.
Night soon fell. Time passed slowly. By midnight Bigby was more than slightly inebriated, with nothing to show for it but a few empty bottles. The bugbear was now out of whiskey, and his patience would last only a few moments longer with no alcohol to keep him company.
Then there was a noise… someone was slinking around the room in the darkness. Bigby peered through the eye holes in the box. Curiously, it appeared to be Justinius. The gnome was hunched over near a wall, attempting to pry a piece of silver from the wall.
While he might have stealthily approached Justinius, Bigby ignored the thought. The bugbear burst out of the box and through the desk with a mighty roar. Startled and blind in the darkness, Justinius screamed. Bigby pounced, lifting the gnome bodily and pinning him to the wall. Squirming and casting about blindly, Justinius begged, “Please! Please let me go!”
Bigby stood perplexed. He could see just fine in the darkness.
This wasn’t Justinius.
“YOU NOT JUSTINIUS,” Bigby growled.
“Is he here? Do you know him?! Oh my gods, I’m his biggest fan!” squealed the Not-Justinius.
Bigby snarled questioningly, “WHO ARE YOU?”. It was clear the barbarian would not ask twice.
Not-Justinius quickly responded, “There is no me. Not anymore. Not for any of us. You’ve been near him for gods sake! Isn’t he wonderful? Once I saw him perform I knew I needed him. I needed him in me. I needed to be in him. I needed to be him. Don’t you see?”
Bigby’s snarl made it apparent he did not concur.
“Well I don’t see how you could think Justinius isn’t just the best thing ever?! I’m not alone, you know! There are many of us. More than you know! We are the Justinii, and we are the future! Soon the world will be filled with dragon ranger bards! Once I cast away the trappings of my former life, gave all my worldly possessions to the First Gnomist Church of the Rangelic Bardicon, I was on the path of the Justinii. I’m a fourth level Rangel, with but this sliver of silver I can make fifth level! Now unhand me! I need this! Someday I’ll reach a high enough level to truly become Justinius! I’ll get to fuck a horse!”
Utterly disbelieving, Bigby eased his grip on the Rangel’s neck. “YOU’VE SHIT FOR BRAIN.”
“To a heathen non–believer such as yourself I’m sure you think so, but the true Justinius is a god in mortal form! He walks amongst us! You should rejoice! But instead you do nothing, when he’s in such danger even now!”
Hearing nothing in the darkness except Bigby’s slow growl, the Rangel pressed on. “The one true Justinius must be protected! We must all become gnomic ranger bards as fast as possible! Only an army can stop the coming dwarven apocalypse!”
At this, Bigby perked his ears. “MOON DWARVES?!?!”
The Rangel, still staring blindly into the darkness, appeared perplexed. “What?”
Disappointed, Bigby figured he shouldn’t beat answers out of this afflicted creature… yet. If he wanted to learn more he knew a proper interrogation was required.
Jaw firmly set, Bigby lifted the Justinii of the First Gnomic Church of the Rangelic Bardicon, threw him over his shoulder, and carried him directly out the door.
The Little Whore and the Priest will hear of this.