The ballroom has seen better days. Window dressings hang limply from curtain rods which sag in the middle, drooping with age and weariness. Ancient chandeliers hang down from the ceiling, their lightbulbs flickering occasionally. The audience shifts in their mis-matched chairs, possibly with anticipation of the ceremony about to begin, but more likely from discomfort and a desire to leave this place as soon as possible.
The rickety old boards of the stage creak loudly under my feet as I cross to the microphone.
“Is this thing on?” There is a loud shriek of feedback and the audience cowers, hands clapping over their ears. The sound-guy in the back works the board frantically then waves the “all clear.”
“Sorry about that, folks!” I grin. “Good henchmen are hard to find, after all!” Nervous laughter ripples throughout the room. “I know it’s not the nicest location, but it’s what we have to work with this year. Thank you so much for joining me as we open up the 2018 Silmaril Award Ceremonies!”
Applause fills the room.
“Here to present the award for Least Competent Henchman is the great standard of Least Competent Henchmen himself, the mighty, the ferocious Uruk’hai…. UGLUK!”
Ugluk strides menacingly across the stage and I back away slowly.
The Uruk’hai pushes me out of the way and leans over the mic, his sword held up menacingly in one hand. “Why have I been summoned AGAIN?” He snarls, revealing his sharp teeth. “I thought last year was a one-time thing.”
“Oh… no… this is an annual thing. That means every year.”
Ugluk stares at me. “I have to do this…. a lot? Will there be man-flesh at the snack bar this year, at least?”
“Um… no… and I think Kyle asked you last year not to mention that… remember?”
Ugluk snarls in disgust and rips open the envelope like he’s hoping to find something to eat inside. He stares at the five slips of paper for a long moment. Then glances up at a rotund audience member in the front row and licks his slimy lips.
He snarls. “Five again? Is that some sort of stupid rule? I hate rules.” Without waiting for an answer he continues. “Ridiculous creature named DOBBY. 28 votes.” He tosses the paper on the ground.
Dobby leaps onto his chair and begins dancing about congratulating all of his fans for being the best, most wonderful, most loyal of friends.
“Um, no, you’re supposed to go in order…” I begin, but Ugluk raises his sword and glares at me. “Uh… never mind.”
“SHUT UP!” Ugluk roars at the audience. “Wizard. Wizards are worthy foes. Not this one, though. ANTORELL! 13 votes. Miserable creature.” Ugluk snorts.
Antorell draws himself up and seems to consider casting a spell, but Ugluk’s menacing snarl terrifies him into a semblance of wisdom (perhaps the only time he will ever experience such a thing) and he flees in disgrace.
Ugluk spits on the floor and I wince. “Next, aha! A general! Mighty leader of men! GENERAL KHRAK!” Ugluk pauses. “12 votes. Bah! Puny general.”
The audience gives a half-hearted cheer… unsure if they should clap or not for such an announcement. General Khrak stands up, knocking over his chair, glares around at everyone, and storms from the room.
“Two left.” Ugluk stares at the two cards and then whirls to face me, his face contorted into an impressive grimace of outrage. “A DONKEY! What mockery is this?” he bellows into my face, brandishing his sword with each word. “Bah!” He throws the paper on the floor.
I pick up the paper before it teeters off the edge of the stage. “Yes, Puzzle came in second place with 74 votes,” I say, trying to ignore the angry Uruk’hai next to me, not an easy feat, let me tell you!
Puzzle cowers under his chair, nervously chewing on one of Dobby’s socks and makes no reply.
Ugluk grits his teeth. “FEZZIK WINS!”
Fezzik leaps out of his chair and lumbers up onto the stage. “I AM THE DREAD PIRATE ROBERTS! THERE WILL BE NO SURVIVORS!” he bellows. The effect is slightly lessened by the fact that one of his feet goes right through the stage floor and it takes him a minute to pull it free.
Ugluk stares up at the seven-foot giant, and for the first time, something like respect glints in his eyes.
“At last,” he mutters, “a real henchman. Tell me, how many have you defeated in battle?”
Cattle. Fezzik’s brow furrows. “I don’t think I can count that high,” he says earnestly. “But I specialize in beating up groups and gangs for local charities.”
A wash of confusion glazes Ugluk’s eyes. “Hmmm. What weapon do you use?”
“These are what I usually choose.” Fezzik holds up his hands.
“No weapons?” Now Ugluk is REALLY impressed. “You will serve the Dark Lord!”
Fezzik does not seem to realize he has just been offered a job, for he is still talking. “As God intended. No tricks, no weapons, skill against skill alone.” Fezzik beams. “Sportsmanlike.”
Ugluk’s esteem dims. “Sportsmanlike.” He spits the word in disgust. “Whatever.” He has lost interest in the entire proceeding. With a jerk of his hand, he tosses the Silmaril at Fezzik. “Take it. I must report to my master!”
Fezzik catches the jewel in one hand as Ugluk stomps away. Fezzik stares at the Silmaril in awe.
The audience, released from fear with the absence of the overwhelming presence of the Uruk’hai, leaps to their feet and applauds and cheers for Fezzik. He glances up shyly, and a smile breaks across his face.
I step forward to congratulate him. “I’m sorry the Silmaril is a little cracked… dragon mail is rather unreliable these days, you know. By the way, if you thought working for Vizzini was bad, you REALLY wouldn’t like working for Ugluk’s master.”
Fezzik bends down to shake my hand. “Are they cheering for me?” he whispers.
I nod. “They love you!”
Something glitters in Fezzik’s eye. But it surely couldn’t be a tear. He stands tall and bellows, “I AM THE DREAD PIRATE ROBERTS! THERE WILL BE NO SURVIVORS!”
A hush falls.
Then the cheering and laughing and clapping erupts even louder than ever.
I grin and take the mic. “Thank you all for coming. That went rather well, all things considered. Please feel free to grab some snacks and congratulate our winner of this year’s LEAST COMPETENT HENCHMAN award!”
Don’t forget to stop by the other Award Presentations, which will happen one per weekday 9/17 – 9/28 – I will add to the list until all the ceremonies have been completed!