“What makes you think I am not going to just feed you to my pets?” the heavy man in the filthy purple robes asked. The alligators were eagerly watching for their master to issue a command. One of the massive creatures was hovering with their scaly snout out of the foul water, its dark green eyes fixating on Taylor.
“I feel you wouldn’t be asking me this question then.” Taylor said, keeping his eyes looked on Swizard, who stood on the other side of the small stream of refuse that slowly flowed by.
Swizard narrowed his eyes, as if trying to see something on Taylor. Then a few seconds later his eyes shot open, revealing the bloodshot whites of them. “You got guts! I love that!”, Swizard said. “I’ll let you tell my why you sought me and then I will decide if you’re going to be a snack for my lovelies.”
He let himself fall down onto his throne. It was an old moldy recliner, decorated with baubles and dew-dads scavenged from all around the vast sewer system that mirrored the narrow streets of the bustling city above. The recliner squeaked and groaned under the weight of Swizard’s massive body.
“Go on then,” he said, twirling his hand high in the air, “entertain me!”
Taylor had to suppress a smile of relief. This was going much better than he had expected. He had imagined himself being dragged down into the septic waters by one of these beasts the moment Swizard would have put eyes on him. Now he saw a chance. A chance to turn the tides. If he played this right.
“The people have sent me to propose an alliance with you,” Taylor said, his high and soft voice reverberating and bouncing around the slimy concrete tunnels.
“The people?” Swizard raised an eyebrow. “What people?”
“The citizens of this city,”
Like a jack-in-the-box, Swizard jumped out of the chair, pointing a pale finger at Taylor’s face and screamed, “Invaders!” The alligators became agitated, shuffling every so slightly towards Taylor. “Disgusting Surface Dwellers! That’s what you are!”
Swizard spat on the floor, his face taking on a deep shade of red. “You are not citizens of anything! Don’t insult me in my domain!”
Taylor stood frozen. It required every bit of self-control of him to not run off where he had come from. He knew he wouldn’t be able to escape. He wanted to kick himself for not choosing his words more carefully, but he was tired and exhausted. His head hurt from the putrid smell all around him, and he wanted nothing more than to take a long shower.
“I humbly beg your forgiveness,” Taylor said, deeply bowing his head. He stared at the ground for what felt an eternity until he heard the Swizard’s moldy throne groan loudly once again.
“I will forgive you your insolence,” Swizard said, “but I will not be as generous the next time your people insult me like this. You can feel lucky, that you don’t look nutritious. I don’t want Bandit here to have an upset stomach.”
Swizard stroked the snout of an enormous beast that had been resting next to the throne. The alligator closed its eyes in contentment. Taylor knew he wouldn’t be much more than a light snack for the scaly giant.
“Thank you, sir.” Taylor quickly bowed again and continued, “My people sent me to offer you an formal alliance between our factions.”
Swizard huffed audibly, but did not interrupt Taylor “We understand that we have caused great harm to your and your domain and while we cannot reverse much of the damage we have caused, we are hoping you would consider an alliance that can be of benefit to all of us. As a token of our true intentions, I have been tasked with bringing you this precious gift.”
Taylor reached for his shoulder bag.
“Ah ah ah!” Swizard called out, holding up his chubby white hand. “Whatever it is you might have, you take it out slowly, or my girl Rubble who’s now right behind you, is going to bite off your legs. Understood?”
Taylor pulled out a small brushed metal box, the size of a cigarette box out of his coat pocket. Swizard eyed it skeptically.
Taylor held out the box in front of him.
“May I?”, he asked.
“Just do it slowly and know that whatever you might have, it will not stop an 800 pound alligator from tearing you to pieces.”
Taylor put his free hand on top of the smooth metal box and, with a careful movement, a mechanism clicked and the small lid opened slowly with a hydraulic hiss. He slowly rotated the open box, so the inside was facing towards Swizard.
Swizard leaned forward and squinted at the seemingly insignificant item that was resting inside a foam cutout inside the box. Then his eyes opened wide with excitement.
“Is that… what I think it is?”
Taylor allowed himself to show a sly grin. “The token to gain full and unrestricted access for the entire SESS. The one and only.”
Swizard suddenly let out a long and guttural laugh, filling the damp tunnels with his deep voice.
“Oh boy,” he wiped away a tear from his face, “You must be in a heap of shit, if you’re giving me this.”
Swizard walked down towards the small bridge that was spanned the putrid stream, barely wide enough to accommodate him. The alligators in his way quickly scurried away, making room for their master.
“Tell me, messenger. Why shouldn’t I just take the token, turn you into alligator food and assume control of the system? I might even be able to squeeze in a nap before the second swell. It sounds much more convenient.”
Taylor turned towards Swizard, who was now on his side of the stream, and met his eyes.
“You have the reputation of ruling the lower domain with an iron fist and have repeatedly proven to be one of the most formidable foes we have fought over the years,” Taylor said in his most pleasing voice. He could see in Swizard’s expression that stroking this man’s ego was having an obvious effect.
“As flattering as your compliments may be, Messenger,” Swizard was now only a few feet away “None of those are convincing me to not take that nap.”
“We also know that you are smart enough to not let your personal feelings affect your strategic decision making.” Taylor said, now standing face to face with Swizard. “And we know for a fact, that without an alliance, the upper and the lower domain will be doomed.”
Swizard looked Taylor over, not saying anything for quite some time. Then he took the metal box out of Taylor’s hand, not taking his eyes off of him. He shut the lid and slid the box into one of the front pockets of his robe and grinned.
A big grin formed on Swizards face. “Alright, let’s talk!”
I wrote this first draft for NaNoWriMo 2021 – 30 First Drafts