Three

by V Rose Dahrke

“I told your husband.”

She froze, deciding in the moment it was better than dropping the tray. “You what?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry, sir, but that wasn’t part of the deal.” She set the tray in front of him. “Sugar?”

“No. Oh, get off; let me do it. It wasn’t not part of the deal, either. For me it was probably seventy percent of the point of the deal. What, did you think I had any actual attraction to you?” He laughed into his teacup.

“No, sir. The act itself made that quite clear. What was the other thirty?”

Her captor shrugged. “About twenty percent was the joy of getting even regardless of if he knew it, and ten was the fact that you can never really have too many concubines.”

“I see. And how did he react to this, sir?”

“He jumped. Into the pit. Oh, did I not mention? Today was supposed to be his execution. Sorry, I’ve always been terrible at stories.”

“He what?”

“Let me start again: I didn’t cancel the execution.”

“But…”

“No ‘but’,” he interrupted. “It wasn’t part of the deal that I do so. Our trade was for a pardon, and I thought it would be more fun to pardon him at the edge of the pit.”

“Why?”

“Oh, picture it, Elsa. You’ve been to executions. In winter, with this black sky streaked red, that pit five miles across and just hurling smoke and fire up toward the stars. Your husband there at the edge, in chains, so small. Just…” He held up two fingers in front of his left eye. “Small. Dirty and small. What a picture, Elsa. How could I pass that up?”

“You couldn’t. You’re insane”

The elf wagged one slender finger at her. “Watch your mouth, Elsa. So I had decided to let him sweat for a bit and then tell him he was pardoned at the very last minute. So I did. He asked why, like I knew he would. See, I wasn’t going to tell him about our little deal if he didn’t ask. Ungrateful. It’s that sort of curiosity is the reason humans ended up in this mess, you know. You can’t just…”

“So you told him. And he jumped.”

“Oh yeah. Flying leap, then straight down into the fire. Boop.”

“You’re lying.”

“Am I? Look at me. I’m giddy. Have you ever seen me giddy? What would give me this much childlike joy other than sending your pain-in-the-ass husband to hell? I’m stuck on this awful rock with the mass of filth that calls itself the human race. No victories, no promotions, just squashing the occasional insurrection and stealing the wife of every man who participated. It’s boring, Elsa. Just so boring. The only thing I ever have to look forward to is  one of you grubs dying spectacularly. The more I hate the individual in question, the better it feels, and considering the six months he put me through I’d say I’m entitled to be dizzy with excitement.”

“And are you, sir?”

“You bet I am.”

“Are you sure, sir?”

“Of course I’m sure. And his face! I wish I could show you. Should’ve had a photographer out there. I’ll have to do that next time. Write me a note and leave it on my desk. ‘Photographer next time’. Go on, then, I can manage my own tea.” Elsa folded her hands under the rough canvas of her apron and stared at him. “What are you…oh, I’m sorry. I did kill your husband, didn’t I? Do you need a minute?”

“It’s not that, but yes.”

He sighed. “Sit down then. I don’t want you fainting all over my office. Humans still do that, right?”

“I never have. Thank you, though.” She sat in the chair opposite him, still staring. “You didn’t kill him. I did.”

“Well, you were trying to help, but you are only human. Not the first time I’ve seen something like this happen. Pride like that is common among males of your species. You’d think you’d have figured that out by now, but no, not humans. If ever…”

“I’m sorry, sir, but if it wouldn’t be too much to ask might I have a cup of tea as well?”

“You’re becoming a little familiar for my liking, Elsa,” he said coldly. “I don’t….” He froze, his eyes darting from her to the teapot and back again. “How many people did you kill today, Elsa?”

“Well, if you let me have a cup that’ll make three.”

“Why am I not surprised? Goddamn humans.” He finished his cup and handed it to her. “Goddamnit. Pour it yourself.”

“Yes, sir.”

 

A note: Originally started as an entry to a writing challenge, but my internet went out and I missed the deadline. I wouldn’t mention it at all, but the prompt was the setting “in a penal colony built by elvish astronauts” and I feel like that might be necessary information. If this were properly executed (ha!) it wouldn’t be, but here we are.

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