Short Story – Delicate Negotiations
This week, my story started with the opening line. I mean, it always starts with the opening line. In this case, though, it was the entire genesis of the idea. I just started with a President in the oval office needing to go to do something important.
From there, I just thought about what might make for a very unusual day in the life of the President of the United States. And then I asked myself what it would be like if it wasn’t that unusual at all.
The end result is a slightly silly story about what happens when two different worlds intersect.
As always, I’d love to hear any feedback you might have. Thanks for reading!
“Madame President, it’s time to go.”
“Yes, Stacy, I know. Are you sure we have to do this?”
President Humpt was used to the unusual requirements of the job. Much as she didn’t enjoy security briefings, they, at least, were easy.
Ever since the great awakening, however, Presidents had been engaged in negotiations with the sovereign nations of all manner of supernatural creatures. As far as she was concerned, her country had failed the native american population two centuries prior and she hoped to avoid similar mistakes this time.
Besides, the mountain dwarves had magic hammers and the tree elves could make wood explode. She was not at all certain that America’s vast military would be effective against such resistance.
Today she was meeting with a leader of the Wyoming giants about land rights. Due to the comparatively small size of the White House receiving rooms, she had agreed to meet him at their tribal lodge just outside Jackson.
“Have you eaten anything, ma’am?”
“No, Stacy, I haven’t.”
“Good, let’s begin.”
Stacy, the President’s Chief of Staff as well as a mage from the Sedona region, had been busily creating a circle on the oval office carpet with raspberries and flaxseed.
Before working for the President, she had spent almost ten years selling crystals, books of spells, and tarot cards to tourists with absolutely no magical gifts. Fortunately, what she was selling them had no magical properties.
The awakening had suddenly created numerous roles for those with her particular skills to serve openly in the public sector.
After helping then-candidate Humpt craft a meaningful message to the newly discovered supernatural population in the United States, Stacy was now chief advisor and strategist to the most powerful woman in the world.
When it came to discreet and secret negotiations, she was also the President’s travel agent. Of sorts.
Both women stepped into the circle and Stacy began a brief incantation. She threw some lime Jell-o into the President’s face and then smeared a little on her own.
“Ugh,” the President grunted, “why do you always have to use lime Jell-O?”
Stacy continued her spell. She had tried to explain to the president that lime Jell-O had been single greatest discovery in the history of magic, but it was really impossible for someone lacking any attunement with the magical world to understand. She simply handed the President a towel.
When the spell was finished, a brief noise not unlike a ghostly Frank Sinatra shrieking “Mac the Knife” in high pitched tones rattled the oval office and the two women were gone.
As instructed, the white house cleaning staff immediately entered the room and began cleaning up the raspberries, flaxseed, and lime Jell-O.
In Wyoming, two women materialized outside the giant encampment. President Humpt fell to her knees and proceeded to vomit the limited contents of her stomach. It was why Stacy insisted she eat as little as possible before teleporting.
Stacy handed her another towel.
“Thank you,” Humpt said while wiping her face, ”I hate teleporting. I really prefer to fly”
Most people got used to teleportation after two or three times. Not the President. No matter how many times Stacy teleported Humpt, the physical response was the same.
“Come on,” the President guided Stacy, “let’s get this done.”
The lodge of the giants was a single story structure about eighty feet high. The door alone was over thirty and some of the taller giants had to stoop just to enter.
It was plenty high enough for Chief Blurt and he seemed to have little concern for members of his tribe who smacked their heads when entering. In fact, he thought it was hilarious.
“Ma’am, Chief Blurt is known to get violent if negotiations don’t go his way. I wish you’d allowed me to bring along a secret service detail.”
“You know that was against the terms of our agreement, Stacy. If I could handle negotiations with the Ozark vampires, I can handle this big talker.”
The President laughed at her own joke and walked up to the guard stationed by the main door.
“Tell your chief President Humpt is here to engage in negotiation for lands annexed during the long slumber.”
Humpt was tall for a human. The guard was fully three times her height. He looked at her with what could only be regarded as contempt and knocked on the door.
From inside the hall, a voice roared “IS THAT THE PRESIDENT? TELL HER I’VE CHANGED MY MIND AND I’LL SEE HER NEXT WEEK!”
The guard dutifully began speaking “He’s changed his…”
“Yes, thank you,” Humpt calmly dismissed him with a wave of her hand, “I think I’ll just yell at him myself if you don’t mind.”
Stacy put her hand on the President’s shoulder “ma’am, I don’t think you should…”
“Stacy, I’m good at this. You need to trust me.”
She was good at this, Stacy knew that. But she’d never negotiated with a giant before. Stacy had dealt with giants a few times and it was never pleasant.
“BLURT,” Humpt shouted,”I AGREED TO MEET WITH YOU NOW! YOU CAN MEET WITH ME NOW OR THERE WILL BE NO NEGOTIATIONS!”
“THEN THE GIANTS WILL TAKE OVER STEWARDSHIP OF THE GRAND TETONS EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY” came a shout from the other side of the door.
“YOU WON’T AND LET ME TELL YOU WHY. MY TEAM HAS BEEN RESEARCHING THE CLAIM YOU HAVE ON THE TETON REGION AND IT WOULD SEEM YOUR CLAIM HAS ABSOLUTELY NO LEGAL GROUNDING. IT WAS LEGALLY PASSED TO THE HUMAN POPULATION ALMOST SIX THOUSAND YEARS AGO BY THE WATER FAIRIES, WHO HELD ALL RIGHTS TO THE LAND PRIOR TO THAT TIME! NOW, SHALL WE KEEP YELLING THROUGH THE DOOR OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO LET ME IN SO I CAN TELL YOU WHAT I CAN DO FOR YOU?”
A long silence followed from the other side of the door.
“I think that worked,” Humpt whispered to Stacy, “but in case it didn’t, you will want to be prepared to run very fast.”
“Run?” Stacy repeated.
“Very fast,” the President clarified, “that’s the most important part. Giants have a much bigger stride than humans so you’ll definitely need to run very fast.”
From inside the door, the sound of a huge bar being lifted indicated they would soon be meeting Blurt in the flesh. It remained to be seen what would happen next.
Blurt opened the door and looked down at the President and her Chief of Staff. He was about twenty five feet tall and looked disturbingly like Dick Cheny crossed with avocado dip. He held a large club in his hand and for a moment Humpt was unsure if he was holding it just to look threatening or if he planned to use it.
“Come in,” he said ungraciously.
The two women entered. Blurt locked the door and then walked in front of them to slouch on a massive throne built out of elk horns. Stacy recalled that giants were rumored to have nearly impenetrable skin so he probably didn’t care there were dozens of horns digging into him every time he sat down. He seemed to enjoy it.
“I do not recognize the fairy claim to these mountains,” Blurt told them while casually picking up a side of beef and biting off the rib cage, “my people were born in these mountains for generations.”
Every action he made, Stacy assumed, was to show disrespect for the President. The President seemed completely unaffected by his behavior.
“Your traditional birthing grounds have been ceded in good faith,” Humpt reminded him, “and they do not lie within the National Park boundaries. It is clearly your ancestral land and the current policy of the United States Government is that you should have a right to control that land.”
Blurt spat some meat in the President’s direction. She deftly sidestepped it.
“The entire park is our land,” he growled, “and we will administer it.”
“It is demonstrably NOT your land,” the President replied with infinite calm.
“And how will you keep us off the land? Your weaponry can’t penetrate our skin. You must know that.”
“So how will you convince me?”
“I’m going to ask you very nicely.”
Blurt laughed and picked up a barrel of wine. He drank it down in a single gulp and said “we will take the land we want. As we always have. Your country should understand our philosophy.”
Humpt nodded. “We are trying to learn from our mistakes. And have gladly ceded you the land that rightfully belongs to your tribe. In addition, the good people of Jackson have offered to provide land where you can build a school that will accommodate children your size as well as land for you to build a golf course for giants, or use it for other recreational purposes. I understand your kind are exceptional volleyball players. I will cede no more. So I ask you to avoid making this conversation unpleasant and accept my terms.”
Blurt laughed again. “You have no chips with which to bargain! You are tall for your kind but hardly a match for even one my smaller warriors.”
The President spoke quietly to Stacy.
“Stacy, would you mind checking to ensure the door is tightly locked?”
“I should very much like to make sure that it is only the three of us in here.”
Stacy looked at the door and noted the latch was still in place. She also noted it was far too high and too heavy for her or the President to move.
“It definitely appears to be locked, ma’am.”
“Good.” She raised her voice “You are mistaken, Blurt.”
“In what way.”
“I’m not tall for my kind. In fact, I’m fairly small.”
As she spoke, her skin began to shimmer and turn a metallic, scaly green. Her head began to grow and stretch away from her body. Wings sprouted from her back and her nails grew to be long, sharp talons.
Stacy remembered that dragons were known to be prodigious shape shifters and were made violently ill by teleportation. Now why hadn’t that occurred to her earlier?
Soon, President Humpt towered over Blurt by at least twenty feet. Blurt’s entire demeanor had changed as he’d watched the President’s metamorphosis into her true form. His confidence was gone and he fell to the floor in supplication. If there was one creature that scared a giant, it was a dragon.
“Please,” he cried, “I didn’t know! Forgive me! Don’t harm my people.”
“Oh pish,” boomed Humpt, “I have no desire to harm your people! I’m simply not going to allow you to have land that isn’t yours. So I’m going to ask you very nicely – will you please cede your spurious claim to the Grand Tetons?”
“YES!” screamed Blurt, “You can keep it. We have no claim to it. We’ll never have a claim to it. I promise!”
“Good,” Humpt smiled, morphing back into the form of a human again, “I’m glad that’s settled. Now pour me some wine and I believe Stacy has some papers for you to read.”
A short while later, Stacy and the President walked away from the encampment with a signed agreement in hand.
“Fairly small,” Stacy asked.
The President laughed, “for my kind, yes.”
“You never cease to surprise me, ma’am.”
“Thank you, Stacy. You know what you saw in there must remain between the two of us.”
“You mean the three of us.”
“O Blurt won’t tell anyone. He’ll find a way to make himself look good to his people. It won’t be hard. The deal we offered him was completely fair. Even generous.”
“One thing, though, ma’am.”
“I read that Dragons weren’t interested in the human world.”
“Not most of us, no. I can’t help it, though. I love the human world. I’ve been living in it for over a thousand years. I’ve always been a bit unusual. I’m afraid my parents are terribly disappointed in me. Ever since I got that tattoo.”
“Are you ready to teleport back to the White House, ma’am?”
“Oh Stacy, do you think you could whip up an invisibility spell instead? You know I prefer to fly.”