185. The Good Dungeon Guide

I can’t claim to be an expert. I’ve only been held captive in a three or four underground cells. They may well have been untypical as far as dungeons go. But I will say that my room under Requbar was not unpleasant.

It may not have had all the facilities of one of those swanky dungeons with the en suite iron maiden and chains conveniently hanging from the ceilings, but you could do a lot worse.

The bed was a flat piece of wood on four legs. No mattress, no blankets. Not exactly luxurious, but excellent for correcting the posture of a slouch like me. 

Meals were served twice a day. Bread, cheese and water. Simple and nutritious. A tray was passed through a slot in the bottom of the door by my jailer who I never saw. The same slot was used to swap my bucket every morning. If you think having a bucket to do your business in is uncivilised, I would disagree. Not only were my slops removed every day but the empty bucket I got back had a fresh bouquet of flowers in it.

Normally, I would consider fresh flowers in a vase to be pointless. Ripping up plants so you can put them inside your house to look colourful and smell nice for a few hours before they wilt and rot isn’t my idea of high culture. If you really derive pleasure from flowers, stick your head out of a window, you pretentious fuck. 

However, I will admit that having a fragrant bouquet in a small room where there’s a bucket of shit in the corner is an excellent idea. And the large leaves adorning the long stalks also came in handy. 

Whoever the warden of this prison was, she was doing a bang up job. And I’m not assuming the warden was a woman because there were flowers in my cell and women stereotypically like flowers. I’m assuming it because Requbar seemed to be a matriarchy with women running everything, so why not the dungeons?

For two days I was left to my own devices. It was a little boring, but I didn’t mind that. At least nobody was trying to kill me. The first night I did feel a little nervous after all the talk of a rat infestation. If they were going to turn up anywhere, you would think a deep, dank dungeon would be near the top of the list. I fully expected to wake up to find a big fat rat sitting on my chest. Consequently I found it hard to get much sleep.

There were no rats. There was no dripping water and no slimy mould on the walls. It was a three star dungeon by anyone’s standards, and from now on it would definitely be the standard against which I would measure all future penal institutions. Also, the lack of anal rape was a a very welcome feature I hoped all prisons would adopt.

All in all, it was a very progressive and nicely maintained facility.  Certainly the best I had encountered. 5/7, would happily be incarcerated again.

After my first restless night ( I assumed night, although it was hard to tell with no windows) I got some good, solid rest. I measured time passing by the changing of the bucket and kept myself busy doing a little exercise (managed ten push ups on my first go!) and some light meditation. The meditation was very relaxing even if I had no idea what I was doing, and the push ups left me very sore on the inside of my elbows, but I think if I had been left there for long enough I could have really improved myself.

With a clear mind and no responsibilities, I was able to practise some magic and try out some new variations on the flaming hands that had so far proved fairly ineffectual. If I could get the flames I produced to be actually hot while not setting myself on fire, there might even be some useful application for it. I was approaching a breakthrough (I’m pretty sure) when I was interrupted by a knock on my door.

I’m not sure what the knock was for, I could hardly say, “Come in!” but some sort of reply was expected.

“I think you’ve got the wrong door,” I shouted from my very comfortable position on the bed. “The leather club’s two block’s down.”

There was a pause and then a small, contrite voice said, “Colin? It’s me.”

“Is it important, Laney? I’m very busy at the moment.” Whatever it was she wanted, I couldn’t imagine it would be to my benefit. I was already confined to a cell deep underground so things were unlikely to get worse, you might think, but that’s where you would be wrong. They could be oh so much worse.

“The things is…” Her voice was quite low and the six inch thick oak door didn’t help with acoustics, so it was hard to hear what she was mumbling. “I… I wanted to say I’m sorry.”

“Okay, then,” I shouted back. “Thanks for coming.”

“Will you listen?” Her voice was a little louder now. “I didn’t have a choice. They were going to lock you up anyway. At least if I helped them, one of us would get something out of it.”

Her logic was unassailable. As long as she benefitted, what was there to be upset about?

“Good point, Laney. All the best, then. I have to go, now. I’m going to spend the rest of the day inventing yoga and then teaching it to myself.”

“Stop being so unreasonable! I said I was sorry, didn’t I? That’s why I’m here. I’m going to help you escape, you understand? I’m going to get you out of there.”

There was a pause. I waited. 

“And then, to pay me back, you can help me retake Fengarad.”

There it was. No surprise at all.

“She turned you down again, didn’t she? You went to all the trouble of betraying me, and you didn’t even get rewarded for it. What a gyp.” I got off the bed and walked to the door. “And now you expect me to be grateful to you for helping me out of the cell you put me in. Somehow in your mind that would mean I owe you a favour.” I was right up against the door now, pointing my finger at it like the door was the one I was arguing with. “Owe you? You getting me out of here wouldn’t even make us even. When you stab someone in the back, pulling the knife out doesn’t make you quits, you horrible little child. I don’t want your help, thank you very much, and I certainly don’t want to be part of any army led by you. Go round up some six year olds, maybe they’ll be impressed by your nonsense.”

There was a long pause, so long I thought she’d stormed off. I turned around to go back to my sitting lotus. Someone had invented yoga from scratch, no reason why I couldn’t, too.

“That’s not fair,” said Laney, very quietly. “I’m not a child. The day I escaped from Fengarad, I vowed—”

“Boring!” I shouted at the door.

“Colin, please I’m trying to explain.”

“Does your story have dragons in it?”


“Huge worms that burst out of the ground and eat people whole?”

“No. There was an army of lizardmen, I set their whole camp—”

“Boooring. I’ve fought lizardmen flying on giant wasps. Have you?”

There was a pause. “No. No giant wasps.”

“Do you really think people are going to write ballads about your dull adventures? Nobody wants to sing a song about a princess who went for a ride on her pony. Come back when you have better stories to tell.”

“The day I left Fengarad,” she was talking fast so I wouldn’t have a chance to interrupt, “I swore I would go back and reclaim my city, and I will.” There was a thump against the door. A small but determined fist. “I’ll do what I have to and I won’t apologise for it. And when I ride into the city at the front of my army, no one will call me a child, or I’ll put them in a catapult and fire them over the wall!”

She was a mental case. Normal rules of decency, responsibility or sanity just didn’t apply.

“Well, you better have a lot of catapults because a lot of people will need sending over the wall, you fu-uh-cking child. Now go away and don’t come back,” I shouted at the door. “And if you do come back, at least bring chocolates. Or some grapes. Toilet paper will also be acceptable.”

There was another pause. “Colin…” she said in a sly whisper. I didn’t like the sudden shift in tone. “Colin, Colin, Colin. The real question is, do you want to get out of there? Do you, Colin? Because I’m the only one who can help you.”

She may well have been right. It was highly doubtful the rest of my party knew where I was or had the ability to aid me even if they did. Laney was my only hope.

I preferred to remain hopeless.

“Actually, I quite like it here. First time in ages I’ve had some peace and quiet. My only complaint is the lack of washing facilities. Can you let them know if they let me have a shower I’ll bump up their rating by half a star. No promises." 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you suffering some kind of breakdown?”

She was calling me nuts. Her! Calling me! Unbelievable.

“Just go plan your little war and leave me alone. I don’t want to help you, I don’t want to follow you. No one does.”

“It’s because I’m a woman, isnt it?”

“No, Laney it isn’t. It’s because you’re a child. A child! A child! A child!” I was banging on the door as I screamed it over and over. Perhaps I was losing it, but I didn’t care. When you’re faced with solitary confinement for the rest of your life, perhaps embracing insanity is the smart play.

I waited for her reply but none came. After about ten minutes I returned to the bed and sat down cross legged. If I got really good at meditating maybe I would learn to levitate. Back home I would have found the idea ridiculous, but here it might be possible. I had plenty of time to find out.

I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. It was the only thing I knew about meditation—in through the nose, out through the mouth.

There was a scraping sound. I opened one eye. Everything looked the same. There was another scrape. A stone in the opposite wall moved. It wiggled from side to side and drew back into the wall until it disappeared, leaving a fist sized hole.

“Ho there, fellow prisoner. How you doing?” said a jovial male voice.

“Not bad,” I said. “How are you?” There seemed no harm in being polite.

“Oh, can’t complain.” An eye appeared through the hole. “So… couldn’t help overhearing. Seems like you and the missus had a bit of a bust up.”

“She isn’t my missus, she’s just the idiot who got me locked up in here.”

“Sounds about right. My missus did the same for me. Ho hum, so it goes. Me and my mate—say hello Marv.” There was a muffled grunt in response. “That’s Marv. Doesn’t say much but he’s a good lad. Anyway, we were planning on breaking out of here. We’re the rebellion, you see, fighting the good fight. You wanna come? Room for one more.”

Judging from what he said, the rebellion was made up of two guys.

“I’m okay, thanks. I’m just going to hang out here.”

“Fair enough. Have a good one.” The stone began sliding back into the hole.

I didn’t know anything about these guys, so I’m hardly qualified to judge, but they certainly knew how to take no for an answer. Not sure that’s a desirable quality in a rebel. 

The stone was almost back to its original placement when it was suddenly pulled out again. 

“Oh, one quick thing. I don’t know what you’re in for, but at some point they’re probably going to offer you the option of getting out of here if you volunteer for the army. Bit of friendly advice, don’t volunteer. It may sound like a good deal, but take my word for it, you’ll be giving up more than you think. Not saying I know what’s best or anything, I’m in here just like you, after all, all I’m saying is don’t sign anything without reading the fine print. That’s just good advice all around. Okay then, be seeing you.”

“Hey, thanks,” I called out. It was such a relief hearing someone give good advice and talk plain common sense for once. I’d had quite enough of talking to crazy people.

The stone popped out one more time. “No problem. Anyway, got to get on. We’re destroying the city tomorrow and I don’t want to be late. Sorry to disturb, enjoy your rest.”


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