Interview with the Dungeon Master
by M. L. Humphrey
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Chapter Nine: But it was just a piece of chocolate.
“WHAT DID YOU JUST GIVE IT?” Sergeant Klugg demanded.
“Just a piece of chocolate,” I replied.
“WHAT?! Oh @#$%” He dug the piece of gum out of his left ear. “What did you just give it?”
“It was just a piece of chocolate,” I repeated. “All girls like chocolate.”
“You idiot!” He grabbed me by the belt again and started dragging me up the stairs.
Through the bars on the door behind us, I could hear a coughing and honking sound followed by what sounded like strings snapping. “What about Sophia?” I asked as we reached the first landing.
Sergeant Klugg stopped and listened to the coughing and hacking sounds coming up from below.
Then a thought occurred to me. “You never told me what caused the roof to collapse into the seventh... Oh no,” I cried out, “this has happened before. Was it chocolate last time?”
“No, it wasn’t chocolate,” Sergeant Klugg hollered back, “and I’m not hanging around to find out how this turns out. Move it! I don’t want to be here when she blows.”
“She blows?” My tired-out brain processed what he was trying to tell me. Move fast or be destroyed. Move fast or be destroyed. Move fast. I felt my body being propelled up the next flight of stairs.
My brain struggled with comprehending the rapidly approaching door at the top of the stairs. Would he stop to open it, or were we going right through it? Neither, I guess; he propped me against the wall while he tried to catch his breath.
As far as I could tell, it was silent down below. Then it came, wafting up through the darkness of the two flights of stairs between us and the door to the dragons den, the tinkling of harp strings being tuned.
“You never told me you didn’t know how to spell,” I hollered at the sergeant. He was digging the gum out of his right ear. “It’s spelled LYRE not LIAR!”
“In this case, it’s both,” he replied, unlocking the door to the fifth level. “Time to go, she’s almost tuned up.”
Just then there came a monstrous yell as her G-string broke. TWANG!
Sergeant Klugg yanked me through the door, and we ran down the passageway, not even glancing at where Lady Gorgan was still casting her spell upon Lieutenant Foulup.
“What about the Lieutenant?” I asked as we sped by.
“He’s still stoned out of his mind.”
I caught up to the sergeant at the next door. When he slammed it closed behind us, there began a slow rumble in the stone floor underneath. The ashen look on the sergeant’s face was enough encouragement to push my leaden-feeling limbs to their extremes, and we climbed the stairs to the fourth level.
Chapter Ten: The fox chased the rabbit around the fox.
Somehow, we made it to the top of the stairs and the fourth level. Just then two of the torches ahead of us went out, and the door to the torture chamber slammed into the floor in front of us.
“Must have blown the torches out when it fell,” the sergeant mused. He leaned against the wall to rest. “We’d better hurry before they get out.” He grabbed the torch from the top of the stairs and thrust it ahead of us. We plowed through the dust and cobwebs hanging from the ceilings.
“Drat!” he sputtered, “I hate cob’s webs.”
“They’re called cobwebs,” I said without thinking.
At the end of the hall we started up the next set of stairs. Above us I could see the flickering glow of the next level’s torches. We were almost to safety. Oh, the stupid folly that was.
“No, you idiot,” Sergeant Klugg called over his shoulder. “The magicians weren’t the only prisoners on level 4.” His voice had that certain edge that gave you the feeling that the world was about to get sucked into a black hole, and there wasn’t a thing you could do about it but find a rubber ducky and jump in the river.
“But my rubber ducky won’t float,” I hollered. Sergeant Klugg gave me a caustic look; I shut up and quickly followed him up the stairs.
Wham. I felt like I had run into a stone wall, and Sergeant Klugg stopped right in front of me. I picked myself up off the floor.
He kept looking this way and that. “I know you’re up here somewhere, Cob,” the sergeant called ahead of us. He also had a strange-looking rod in his hand. It was about as long as my foot and an eye-searing greenish-red color with two prongs on the further end. A purplish haze pulsed between them whenever his finger pressed a black stud on the side. The sergeant searched from side to side. I gulped and kept my mouth shut.
“Yes, I know you’re in here somewhere, Cob.” The sergeant searched the ceiling ahead. “I traced your sticky trail up the stairs. Do you see what I have in my hand? Yes, it’s your old friend Jolt, and he longs to touch you.” All the while he was looking over the empty hallway before us.
I kept my mouth shut. If he was being cautious, then I should be scared stiff. And I was. My legs didn’t want to move, and my right eyelid wouldn’t open at all. I think my left one was doing semaphores. I seem to recall three blinks followed by three slow openings, then three blinks
“There you are,” Sergeant Klugg gloated, his eyes fixed on something up above.
I looked closer and saw a darker spot with some whitish fronds hanging from it.
“You see him up there?” the sergeant called over his shoulder to me. “See Cob’s webs hanging in the torchlight?”
“Cob’s webs?” My mouth went dry as I realized that Cob was a huge spider clinging to the roof of the hallway that led to the stairs that went up to the next level, where we might be safer than down here with two magicians and a dragon behind us.
I was just about to bolt for the stairs when a rabbit bounded between my legs. It was followed by three foxes and five more rabbits followed by seven foxes, followed by... Oh, just thinking about it made my head hurt.
I gave up counting; we were being forced forward by the sheer number of them coming up the stairs behind us. However, as the first rabbit fled from the three foxes, they had to pass underneath Cob.
As the unwary rabbit approached, Cob’s bulbous eyes popped open and an immense sound of hunger, along with a little drool, caused the rabbit to stop and look up.
I would almost swear, if I had only had my eyes open, that the rabbit’s eyes also bulged. Just as the three foxes pounced, so did Cob, gathering all four of them up in one sweep of its big hairy mandibles and swallowing them whole.
When I finally opened my eyes, Sergeant Klugg had kicked the big spider, now completely wrapped in its own web into one of the open cell doors. “How did you do that?” I asked, shocked that I’d missed it.
“That’s what Jolt here is for,” as he held the greenish red object up for me to look at. Then it vanished into his coat.
Chapter Eleven: What light through yonder window breaks?
We made it up to Level Two and slammed the door on the foxes and rabbits. There were too many to count, and they were still coming. Just then there was another rumbling from deep below.
“That caps it,” the sergeant hollered.
“Sergeant?” I gasped, “Sergeant Klugg?” This time I hollered.
He turned around with an annoyed look. “What? Can’t you see that things are bad here?”
“What if Lady Gorgan gets out?” I stammered. This time his face went pure white, then he said a few words I’m sure only the older guards knew about or thought they understood.
“What time is it?” Sergeant Klugg commanded.
The chime of five bells was loud enough to hear over the bustle of the foxes and rabbits.
“Five bells?” The sergeant looked glum. “We’ve got to hold out until six bells.”
Sergeant Klugg looked very agitated when three rabbits scurried between his feet. He quickly stepped aside as seven more foxes passed by.
“This calls for drastic action.” He grabbed my arm, and we headed to the top of the next flight of stairs.
All I could think of was: “How are the foxes getting through the closed doors?” Then it hit me.
“The magicians are loose!” I hollered while dragging the sergeant up the stairs. It wasn’t hard, he was already two steps ahead of me.
Chapter Twelve: Six bells and all is well?
I beat on the locked door as hard as I could, but to no avail. And I still have the slivers to prove it. I had slivers, and the door stayed firmly locked.
Sergeant Klugg reached above the door casing, feeling for the spare key. “It used to be right about here somewhere.” That’s when he found it and dropped it on the floor.
That wouldn’t have been a problem, but the floor was about a foot deep in spent rabbit fur. The foxes weren’t so hungry now, but they were still a nuisance; they kept circling around the outside of the same chamber I woke up in last night.
Not only was there fur floating in the air but chaff from the dirty hay. I got down on my knees and felt around for the key. Then I saw it!
Just as I reached for it, a lone rabbit grabbed it in its mouth and made to hop away. Ah, but I was faster and caught it around the neck, plucking the bright silver key from its mouth.
“Gotcha,” I hollered, holding the key up for the sergeant to see. He was behind me so I swiveled around and came face to face with a hungry fox snarling at me. I gulped.
“Oh mister fox,” the sergeant called gaily, “Meet my friend Master Jolt!” as he stabbed the tail end of the fox with Mr. Jolt, his finger mashed upon the black button.
This time my eyes were wide open. That was one surprised fox. His fur stood out straight, his eyes bugged out almost as far as his tongue. He came up off the floor, feet splayed like a stubborn donkey, and I’ll swear there was smoke coming from his ears.
Time stood still. I stood up and took in the whole room at once. There must have been thirty or forty foxes in here, all bug-eyed the same way. Just like the two guys standing over by the doorway to the lower level.
“Ahh! They’re the magicians!” I screamed just as Sergeant Klugg, with a satisfied look on his face, pulled back Jolt.
I had the key in my hand, and Sergeant Klugg had Jolt. We were the only two left standing except maybe for the rabbit I still had by the neck; and he, or she as the case might be, didn’t look so good.
“Quick! Unlock the door,” the sergeant hollered, “Jolt will only hold them for about thirty seconds.”
He strode through the fur and foxes while I fit the key in the lock and opened the door. Yes, it was that anticlimactic. I just love that word and this is the first time I’ve ever used it.
I couldn’t believe how calm I felt as I swung the door closed behind us and turned the key, locking everything else inside. Just then I felt my foot slip on something slimy and everything went dark.
Chapter Thirteen: Back in the real world?
I woke up trying to swim in the river and there was a roaring in the distance. The water smelled awful and tasted worse. The roaring kept getting louder. I was just getting the hang of staying afloat because I didn’t care for the alternative.
Wait! That roaring! The dragon must have escaped and been chasing me. I could just imagine Sophia’s golden face and golden hair with her golden wings and backwards arms plucking the harp strings behind her. How did she know what she was playing?
Then my mind slipped a cog as I got another mouthful of imaginary water. I remembered that Sophia was a dark-haired girl that worked in the mailroom at work. I wondered if she liked chocolate. Whoops, slipped another cog.
Oh! Right! It was the golden dragon with the black tongue and the grating voice. I don’t think he liked chocolate; not at all. In fact, he was the one that caused the earthquake.
And we ran up the stairs where the rabbits and foxes got loose. Yes, I remember that part. Then we ran up the next stairs and I got some of Cob’s webs in my face. Then we saw Cob hanging from the ceiling, dripping webs all over the place. And the roaring was getting louder, a constant thunderous noise, rattling around in my aching head.
Then we found the key to the door, and I slipped on something slimy. Now I feel like I’m swimming in the river. Wait a minute, I know how to swim? I missed a stroke when I saw a boat go by in the misty gloom. Maybe I do know how to swim? Then what’s that roaring?
I missed another stroke and gulped a bunch of water, which I blew out my nose. What am I now, a fish? I turned toward the roaring noise which was very, very, loud now. Yup, that there’s a real nice waterfall up ahead!
It was so close I could almost reach out and touch the edge when I happened to remember that I really didn’t know how to swim, and I’m not a fish, and if I don’t do something soon...
“OW!” as I landed on something hard. Boy, did my head ever hurt. At least I didn’t land on my head. Beneath me I felt a chair covered in dirty hay instead of a cold stone floor, or going over the edge of a waterfall.
I tried to move my arm up to my face; it felt like something was crawling on it. Somehow I brushed off a few cobwebs. Where did I get into cobwebs? And how come my clothes are soaking wet? And I smelled really bad, like I’d been swimming in the river down by the falls. Man, am I ever in for it, I’ll never get this article written for the paper by morning. That’s when I remembered to open my eyes.
“Heeey Morleeeey, Yoooou OKaaaay?”
Yes, it was my buddy Corporal Smedly Geez again. And his head was still bobbing and weaving around like he was in a boat in rough seas. “Yooou stiiiilll waanta gooo tooo the dungeon?”
Copyright © 2014 by M. L. Humphrey