Everyone Needs a Hobby. Rated G.
It all started because Xellos needed a place to keep his books. He didn’t exactly subscribe to the notion that knowledge was power, but knew all too well that knowledge was the best way to leverage power. Not only that, but he also knew the location of every five-star ice cream parlor in the entire world. That was something worth bragging about.
He supposed that he could’ve kept them on the astral side but… well… books seem to sort of belong on shelves. And he didn’t like reading on the astral side anyway. The constantly shifting light sources made the prospect rather annoying.
And what is a house but a place to store shelves?
So he’d gotten a space of his own—not to live in, but to keep things in. It worked out well not only for books but for any items that he had to… eh… ‘confiscate’ because they were too dangerous for human hands, but were not to be destroyed. Plus he could read mid-air without arousing any suspicion.
After awhile the place seemed rather empty so he’d started picking up some furniture to fill it—just for the look of the thing. It was good quality stuff too. Many a burning palace had lost its antique chairs and tapestries, though not to the flames. Xellos didn’t like waste.
What he’d built up was, he thought, a fairly well decorated space. Some of it was a little useless—but at least it looked nice. Unfortunately he could, at that moment, see none of his valuable, ill-gotten furniture acquisitions. He was, however, getting a great view of the red plush carpet.
“You may rise,” said a female voice that was all authority.
Xellos leaned on his staff to pull himself from his kneeling position. Lord Beastmaster, another monster who knew the value of cutting out a corner of real-space for oneself—was looking around the room with cool interest.
“So, this is where you’ve been living,” she said.
Xellos shrugged. “Not ‘living’ as such, Lord Beastmaster,” he said. “It’s more for storage and writing reports.”
“Ah,” Zelas said. “So if you’re not living here then you’ve been living with that Filia girl you’ve mentioned with disturbing frequency?”
Xellos winced. When Lord Beastmaster got to asking questions it was like a tickle on an open wound. “No,” he said carefully. “I simply drop by her home when I have no other matters to attend to. Occasionally,” he added quickly.
“Occasionally,” Zelas repeated.
Xellos nodded fervently.
“Xellos?” Lord Beastmaster asked patiently.
“Yes, Lord Beastmaster?”
“There are forty-eight vases in this room alone. Have you noticed?” she asked.
The inconvenient fact sunk into Xellos’s head. “Are there that many, really?” he asked with slathered-on innocence.
“You put them here,” Lord Beastmaster said without rancor but with a deep and dangerous certainty, “you’d know.”
“Well…” Xellos tried. “Well,” he said again and added a little laugh, “is forty-eight vases really that many when you get right down to it?”
“Forty-eight vases in one room is an undeniably fanatical amount,” Lord Beastmaster stated. “Explain.”
Xellos struggled. In his vast repertoire of excuses there was nothing about suspiciously large pottery collections. “I… well, I enjoy art is all.”
“Particularly vases?” Lord Beastmaster asked gesturing to a vase with a kitschy cat pattern painted onto it.
“Oh certainly,” Xellos agreed.
Lord Beastmaster passed a series of small vases on the window sill. One said ‘home’ another said ‘is’ another ‘where’, ‘the’, ‘heart’, and ‘is.’ “How fortunate that you should suddenly discover your latent fondness for vases at the exact moment that the pretty dragon girl you met in your travels with Lina Inverse starts selling them.”
Xellos was not dumb enough to try ‘I hadn’t noticed she was pretty.’ He was, however, dumb enough to say: “That was very lucky for me.”
Lord Beastmaster gave him a look that made him question whether his luck would hold out much longer. “You wouldn’t happen to have a collection of maces somewhere in this house now would you?”
“I’m afraid not,” Xellos said pleasantly, but if he’d been a human sweat would have been pouring down the back of his neck. “Filia won’t sell me any weaponry.”
Zelas raised an eyebrow, a white painted vase with ceramic roses around the neck between her fingers. “Does she think you need them?”
“You’d have to ask her,” Xellos said and instantly regretted it. A confrontation between Lord Beastmaster and Filia did not seem destined to end well.
Zelas nodded. “And… those flowers on the table?” she asked. “The ones in yet another vase?”
Xellos grimaced. “…Snapdragons,” he said, his voice coming from a long way off.
“Yellow snapdragons too, I noticed,” Lord Beastmaster commented.
“They may be, I admit, rather unfortunately named, but they also add a much needed pop of color to the room,” Xellos tried desperately.
“I see,” Lord Beastmaster said, moving on. “And this… pile of rubble right here?”
“Oh, that. That’s a vase that Filia threw at my head,” Xellos answered.
Lord Beastmaster rubbed her temples, her patience rather strained at this point. “Why do you have this?”
“Well,” Xellos struck out, not a hundred percent sure of the answer himself, “I… with the experimental vein running through the art world at the moment I thought it might turn out to be a rather valuable pile of rubble.”
Zelas stared at him.
“It’s an example of deconstruction, you see,” Xellos finished.
Lord Beastmaster dug out her pipe, lit it without the aid of matches, and took a long, long drag before finally saying: “This Filia—the one you’re constantly claiming to dislike, usually when that fact is not relevant in the least to our conversation—you realize you’re making her rich by buying all these, don’t you?”
Xellos mumbled something.
“What was that?” Zelas asked, leaning forward. Her hairspray-is-for-lesser-beings look never once fell out of place.
“I… I have a frequent shopper’s card,” Xellos said, evidently embarrassed. “So I do get a discount.”
In the silence that followed that statement a spark fell from Lord Beastmaster’s pipe and onto the carpet where it sizzled gently, producing a small flame. She stepped on the newborn flame, smothering it, but her expression was strained, as though she’d been debating the action.
She looked up from the suppressed fire and at her only servant. “Is this going to become a problem?” she asked. “Is this already a problem?”
Xellos cast his eyes down. “Everyone needs a hobby, Lord Beastmaster,” he said. There might have been sulk in his voice if it hadn’t been pushed out by fear.
“Very true,” Lord Beastmaster allowed. She’d been cultivating quite a few herself—all of which were strongly discouraged by the Seyruun Surgeon General. “But Xellos,” she said, “this hobby of yours really has nothing to do with collecting vases, does it?”
“…Not at all, Lord Beastmaster,” Xellos was finally forced to admit, his smile a rather mangled, beaten thing at this point. “Not at all.”
Lord Beastmaster tossed the miniature vase she’d been holding in the air. When she caught it she grinned, incisors exposed. “Good,” she said in a satisfied tone. “I thought they were a little frou-frou for your tastes anyway.”
She set the ceramic paperweight down on the table. “Everything’s in order then,” she said with the air of one who’s completed a successful inspection.
“It… is?” Xellos asked weakly.
“At least an acceptable amount of disorder—though if this dragon pursuing hobby of yours gets too much for you, you might want to take up something a little less dangerous… like lightning charming or breaking your own fingers.”