Interview with the Dungeon Master
by M. L. Humphrey
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Chapter Five: Magicians’ Gambit
“Level four is where we keep the difficult prisoners.” He motioned for me to look inside the barred door halfway down the hall. “You’ll notice the table and chair in the center of the chamber.”
I looked at the gruesome scene inside the chamber. Then he pointed to some weird-looking utensils hanging on a rack beside the chair.
“Mostly a reminder,” Sergeant Klugg whispered. “I don’t think anybody’s been tortured in decades; at least not since I was a private.”
I could sense the melancholic wishful thinking on his part.
“There are only two prisoners in here, one on each side, and both magicians,” the sergeant intoned as he warily opened the door so I could get a better look inside.
“What did they do?” I asked.
“They were dueling in public. That’s against the King’s commands. The public has to pay for that caliber of entertainment.” He sniffed again; I got the feeling there was more to it than that. But instead I asked, “Why on opposite sides?”
“Ah,” he brightened. “Just watch, the show should start any time now.” He checked his watch.
I stared into the round chamber, and a rabbit magically appeared outside one of the cell doors on the left. The little bunny was quite cute. I bent down to get a better look.
“Don’t interfere,” the sergeant sternly warned me. “Just watch.”
I sat on the floor. My feet and legs were beginning to get tired. I was usually in bed by now. For nearly a minute the rabbit hopped around the chamber sniffing at this and that.
I blinked, almost missing it when it happened. Just as magically, from the other side of the chamber, a fox appeared. From where I sat I didn’t think the fox could see or smell the rabbit; at least not yet.
Then the fox caught the scent of the rabbit and ran clockwise around the further side of the table and chair. Catching sight of the fox, the rabbit sprinted to the outside edge of the chamber and started circling, the fox in close pursuit.
Slowly I climbed to my feet as the two seemed to gain speed. “What hap—”
“Ssssh!” Sergeant Klugg told me. “Just watch, and don’t interfere.”
The fox was closing in on the rabbit, and they were both moving faster than I thought was possible.
“Here it comes, watch the left side.”
Sure enough, if I hadn’t been watching, I would have missed it. The rabbit led the fox past the door on the left side, just as a second rabbit appeared. It sat there until the first rabbit sped by with the fox in hot pursuit. The second rabbit spied the fox at the same time as the fox realized there was a second rabbit and began running counter-clockwise away from the fox, which had just passed him by. Both rabbits met behind the chair, and the fox now ran counter-clockwise, trying to catch the second rabbit.
This can’t last, I thought, as the fox met the first rabbit while attempting to catch the second one. I couldn’t imagine what was going through the fox’s mind at this point. I watched in fascination as his head turned to follow the first rabbit while his feet and body still followed the second one.
The sergeant chuckled as he watched. “It gets better.”
“What could make this any better? I wondered. “Fool,” I chided myself as a second fox appeared just as the first rabbit sped by. Twenty minutes later, six rabbits running in two groups of three were being pursued by two groups of three foxes; each group running in opposite directions.
“Whoa,” Sergeant Klugg hollered. “That’s the most they’ve ever done. These are some powerful magicians we’ve got in here.”
“If they’re so powerful, then why are they still in here?”
Sergeant Klugg slammed the door to the chamber in a huff.
What did I say?
Chapter Six: Stoned Out of His Mind
The whole episode with the magicians lasted over an hour. I got the feeling this was the highlight of Sergeant Klugg’s nightly watch. So far, I had not met the Master of the King’s dungeons, only the duty sergeant. Master Sergeant Tern Klugg considered himself the master down here.
Come to think of it, I thought, just how many officers would deign to spend time in the dungeons? But then again, I pondered, I didn’t know any officers. Just thinking about it hurt my head. I tossed the thought aside, and the door closed behind us on the fourth level. We were now descending to the fifth level.
Once below the fourth level, the stairs became damper with moss growing on some places on the walls. I could hear water dripping in the darkness, and the torches were sputtering. Somehow I could feel a breeze blowing, and the air contained a fetid smell mixed with something burning.
“And this is the fifth level,” Sergeant Klugg announced. He swung open a large iron door. It let out a squeal as it swung open. Flakes of rust and moss dropped onto the dirt floor underneath. “This is where we keep the most dangerous prisoners.”
“Anyone I might know?” I foolishly asked.
The sergeant gave me a curious look and beckoned me down a passageway with several hallways branching off into the gloom. When we passed by the first one, I could make out an eerie glow coming from one of the barred doors about halfway down.
“What’s that eerie glow down this passageway?” I asked.
“Pay no attention to the eerie glow, it is of no consequence.” He hadn’t even broken stride.
“Wait, there’s someone standing in front of the door!” I hollered to Sergeant Klugg, who had kept on walking.
“Tch!” he replied, “there’s no one else down here but us.”
He seemed content to keep on walking, but I was sure there was someone standing in front of the door with the light.
“It’s best you stay away from that one,” he called from three corridors down, “she’s nothing but trouble.”
“Who’s trouble?” Stupid question.
“That there is the Lady Gorgan’s cell. Lieutenant Foulup sent her down here after he caught her trying to stone the King.”
“He put her all the way down here for throwing rocks at the King? Why does that make her so dangerous?”
Sergeant Klugg turned around and gave me a big smile, big enough I could see he was missing his right front tooth.
“Where you from?” he asked, walking back toward me.
“But,” I complained, “you said we were the only ones down here?”
“There are lots of people down here,” he replied dryly.
“Yeah,” I said, pointing down the hallway to where a shadowy figure was peering into the cell supposedly occupied by the Lady Gorgan. “Then who is that?”
I couldn’t see the person’s face, just his back. The sergeant peered into the gloom and raised his truncheon. “Just stay here,” he told me, and he crept down the hall.
The sergeant placed his hand on the person’s shoulder. Then he tried shaking him before giving up and walking back to me. I could see the sadness in his eyes.
“What is it?” I asked. “Do you know who that is?”
“Aye, I do.” The sergeant stared back down at the shadow outlined by the eerie glow from the cell. “It’s Lieutenant Foulup.”
I’m saved, I thought. Now I can get my interview!
“So, can I meet with Lieutenant Foulup now?”
“Ah, the lieutenant is unavailable at the moment.”
“What do you mean unavailable?” I replied. “He’s standing right there.”
“Yes he is,” the sergeant replied with a sigh, “and stoned out of his mind.”
Now I might not be the sharpest drawer in the kitchen, but something about that sounded ominous.
“How can he be stoned if he’s standing up?”
I got that condescending look again. Yes, I know what “condescending” means; I’ve seen it enough times.
Fed up with everything, I stomped down the passageway. Taking hold of the lieutenant’s arm I tried to get his attention. His arm felt like a slab of granite, and the ashen look of his face made me think the lighting down here must be terrible. The lieutenant looked like a statue made of granite.
I turned toward the glow from within the cell. “Just what is he looking at?”
The next thing I remember is being dragged back down the hallway. The sergeant was mumbling something about stupid idiots and standing in front of cannons until he let go of my leg and leaned against the other wall, giving me a disgusted look.
“You have a death wish or something?” he asked. Then he explained about the Lady Gorgan and her power over men. “Turns them to stone when she casts her smile upon them,” he told me. “You were almost a goner there.”
“Uh, thanks, I guess.” I’d heard of a woman’s smile turning a man to jelly, but to stone?
“No problem,” he muttered, marching up to the next door that led down to the next level. “Just one more level to go.” He swung the door wide open and beckoned me to follow.
Chapter Seven: Dragon’s Liar
I tried to prop open my left eye. That was when I realized that my right one was already closed tight. I stumbled on a slippery step and realized that the stairs seemed much longer than the others; we should be at level six by now.
“Wait a minute,” I hollered, “what happened to level six?”
“Merged with level seven when the roof collapsed,” he replied in the flickering gloom of the sputtering torches on the wall from further down the stairway.
At the bottom of the stairs was another iron-barred door. I didn’t recognize the wood it was, but it appeared blackened and scorched. The sergeant motioned for me to look through the opening.
I peered through the grillwork into a pleasant-looking, grotto-like setting. It must have been the back door to the dungeons and on the backside of the hill where the castle stood. A bright light shone down on a grassy field with trees in the distance. A pastoral setting if I’d ever seen one before. I made more notes in my little book of notes.
“Can we go outside?” I asked.
“That’s not a good idea,” the sergeant replied.
At this point I still hadn’t realized that it was only two bells past the deep of night; since the sun rose at six bells, the night was only half over.
I looked at the door. It had no lock, which also puzzled me.
“The door is only to keep what’s in there from getting out,” the sergeant mused.
“Morley? Is that you?” a faint voice called.
“Don’t be thinking about going through that door,” Sergeant Klugg warned me. “Once you cross that threshold I can’t bring you back. You must beware of the Dragon’s Liar! Do you understand me?”
“Yes,” I replied absently. The faint voice called once more. It sounded familiar. Could it be Sophia?
For those of you who don’t know who Sophia is, she’s the cute little dark-haired girl that works in the mailroom. Every time she walks by, I long to hear her voice and see her smile. Problem was, she never smiled when she pushed her cart by my desk. For that matter, she didn’t even look at me, or leave any mail. But that’s good, I suppose; I don’t have to worry about getting a pink or purple slip.
My mother’s voice rang through my head, “Parker Morley!” she scolded. “You’re being childish. Sophia doesn’t exist; she’s only a manufactured persona.”
I shook my head and quashed the thought. “There’s no way my mother is down here.” My thoughts returned to Sophia. I wondered what her voice sounded like.
“Morley? Can you hear me? Please come and get me,” she pleaded. “I’m tied to this stake, and I need your help.” And all the while I could hear the twinkle and trilling of harp music.
“You hear any harp music?” I asked the sergeant.
“Humph, what?” He lifted his helmet and pulled a wad of gum from his ear. The sergeant was bald? “You said what?”
“You hear any harp music?”
“I hope not,” as he stuffed the gum back into his ear and put his helmet back on. “Beware the dragon’s liar!” he repeated.
What did he know about Sophia? I must rescue her. “Can we open the door so I can get a better view? I can make this a good part of my article,” I replied brightly and put my hand on the door latch.
“Beware the dragon’s liar!” His words rattled around in my skull. He couldn’t hear himself unless he shouted.
“Hey fool!” a crass voice called from overhead. “Get on with it!” I could hear the ugly voice clearing its throat. It sounded more like a child’s rattle banging around in a washing machine. Strange, I hadn’t noticed the burning smell before, either.
“Mor-ley?” Going from a bass voice and sliding up to Sophia’s voice. “Are you coming for me? I’ve waited so long, remember the time we were in the boat? Oh, that was so much fun.”
Chapter Eight: Oh, I remember it well, I think.
Oh, I remembered it well. We’d snuck a lunch out of the King’s pantry and stolen a rowboat. I rowed up to the falls above the castle where we found this nice sandy beach and this grassy spot and... What boat? I thought. I can’t swim and I stay away from open water!
“Beware the dragon’s liar!” His words came again. I couldn’t see the sergeant with my head stuck out the door as far as it would go.
I could hear the harp music again, and Sophia’s voice called. Her golden-throated voice, her golden hair, her golden feet, her golden body, her... golden harp?
I looked again. It sure looked like a harp growing out of her back, and there were two arms stretched out behind her, deftly plucking the strings. Oh, did I mention the golden wings?
She beckoned with outstretched arms. Something was still plucking the strings. She must have two sets! Then she gave me the most radiant golden smile, “Oh Morley, give me a token of your love.”
As she puckered her lips, I furiously searched through my pockets for a token of affection she so justly craved. And then I found it! I drew out a small foil-wrapped lump which I must take to her.
It was then I realized that my feet weren’t touching the floor. Sergeant Klugg had hold of the back of my pants, holding me in mid-air. I looked at him and he opened his mouth to speak. “I KNOW,” I hollered back at him, “BEWARE THE DRAGON’S LIAR.”
He grinned at me, and I swung back around and pitched the little foil-wrapped token of my affection at the golden visage of Sophia. My aim wasn’t that good. With just a flicker of movement Sophia moved to the right and caught my token in her mouth.
Oh my. I shivered. She has a black tongue and green teeth! I saw the golden face melt into a hideous caricature of a spike-toothed monkey. No, I’ve never heard of one either. Sergeant Klugg hauled me back in and slammed the door.
Copyright © 2014 by M. L. Humphrey