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Dungeon & Dragon – Part 4

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I came to – once again – with a crashing pain in my head. It was dark, and I could barely see. I was sitting on a hard, cold stone floor, my back against a hard, cold stone wall, with my arms manacled above my head. The air reeked of rot. The only source of light was from a narrow, barred window that was at least fifteen feet above my head.

My vision doubled, then quadrupled. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach and wretched miserably. Then I must have passed out again, because the next thing I knew, the light from the window was almost gone. As I watched, the remaining light diminished and disappeared, then I was alone in the dark, and I was ravenously hungry.

There was clanking in the dark, and I pushed myself back as close to the wall as I could, out of fear. A dim light flared in the distance, and a door crashed open. Orange torchlight approached, and I shrank back even further, unsure and afraid of whatever was coming towards me. I cringed and hid my head in an infantile panic.

There was a wet klop sound, and I looked up to see a rough wooden bowl at my feet, and a dark figure in a shapeless robe shuffling away from me. The light diminished as the person in the robe disappeared into the gloom. A door slammed shut, and I was in total darkness again.

I could smell the contents of the bowl – it smelled like rancid oatmeal. Nonetheless, my stomach began to rumble and saliva shot into my mouth. I literally couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten, and even rancid oatmeal sounded good to me. But how was I supposed to eat with my hands manacled above me?

I felt around with my feet until they hit the bowl. Some of the contents sloshed onto my pant leg, and I sobbed out loud. I managed to maneuver the bowl with my feet until it was between my knees, then squeezed it between my knees and lifted it up high enough where I could bend over and get my mouth down to it. It didn’t smell any better close up, but I didn’t care. I slurped down as much as I could. My stomach hitched, then settled.

I was most of the way through the bowl of gruel when I heard the rattle of a key in the lock, and the sound of the door being thrown open. Another flaming torch appeared, and advanced towards me rapidly. It moved towards me, and again I shrank back in fear. I was pretty sure that this wasn’t the gruel-dispensing peon who had come in earlier.

I was right. When the torch was a few feet away, a face swam into view: the World’s Tallest Accountant. I struggled to remember the name Rocko had told me, but it finally registered: Anlar Ellas.

“Hello, Traveler,” said Ellas.

I grunted. It seemed like the safest response.

“I do not begrudge your lack of enthusiasm,” he said. “I am afraid you have not been very well treated. Well, needs must when the Devil drives, am I right?”

I grunted again.

“If we’re going to have a halfway civilized conversation, we might as well be able to see each other, eh?” He moved to where I was chained and used his torch to light some sconces, then put his torch in a holder on the wall. The sconces threw off more light, but it was still pretty dim. I could see about six feet in any direction. Ellas, still wearing the gray tunic and pants I had seen him in earlier, towered above me.

“That’s better,” said Ellas. Then he nodded at the manacles. “But those won’t do at all, oh no.” He rummaged in his tunic and brought out a key with which he unlocked me. I immediately grabbed the wooden bowl from between my legs and lapped up the remaining gruel. It tasted heavenly.

“Oh, I’m sorry about this … hospitality,” said Ellas. “It must seem terribly thoughtless. There have been a number of, shall we say, mistakes made. I’ll do my best to rectify them.” He reached into his tunic and pulled out a small loaf of dark bread and handed it to me. I laid into it with gusto. Compared to the gruel, it was like a gourmet meal.

Ellas squatted on his heels, watching me eat with a benign smile on his face. His expression was pleasant and open, and since he wasn’t looming over me, he didn’t seem nearly as intimidating. It was like I was having lunch at Panera with my tax preparer. He didn’t say anything until I had finished – which didn’t take long. “So, Traveler,” he said. “Do you have a name?”

“Scott,” I said. “Scott Gray.”

He chuckled. “Scott Gray?” He plucked at his tunic. “Gray is my favorite color. We are well-met, I think. Do you know who I am? And where we are?”

I scanned my lap for any errant crumbs, but couldn’t find any. “Your name is Ellas, I think. Anlar Ellis? And I guess we must be in Fester.” Saying that made my stomach do a lazy barrel-roll. Fester was a town that was best avoided – or even not mentioned – in my where and when. The fact that I was here now made me feel simultaneously homesick and a little scared.

“Right on both counts!” said Ellas. “Very good, Scott Gray, very good indeed. You must be a very perceptive individual if you’ve gleaned that much in the short time you’ve been in our realm.”

I opened my mouth to reply to this, then snapped it shut again. Ellas seemed open and friendly, and he had given me food. But I didn’t trust him. I was, after all, in a dungeon – and he’d definitely had something to do with that.

“What’s the matter, Scott Gray?” he asked. “Golgat got your tongue?” He lowered his head a bit, and suddenly he didn’t look so benign or friendly – he looked sinister. Maybe it was the torchlight.

He continued to stare are me. My sense of unease grew until I felt compelled to say something. “Man, I don’t know what’s going on,” I said. “I am most definitely a stranger in these lands.”

“I know, I know,” said Ellas, nodding sagely. “And I am very interested in knowing where you came from and why you’re here.”

“But I don’t know!” I protested. “I just sort of woke up here. On the side of, whatsit called, Lalia Hill.”

“I know that part already,” said Ellas. “There are more important details that I need you to divulge. Things in Kernia – indeed, in all of Tuckycoppria – have become quite dire. A great Evil is coming to this land, and we must stand against it.”

My mouth must have dropped open at hearing this strange and sinister man talking out against evil.

“Oh, I know you must be a little surprised,” said Ellas. “I know that the Duke’s house does not enjoy the best reputation, especially yours truly.”

“I really wouldn’t know,” I said, worried I might have offended him. “I just got here, you know.”

Ellas raised one eyebrow. “Indeed,” he said. “Well, look: there is regular, everyday evil, that kicks puppies and spreads malicious lies about ex-girlfriends. Then there is capital-E Evil, that kills thousands of innocent people. Well, mostly innocent. And while I may be one of the former, I am certainly not one of the latter. So it is very important that you provide us with the pertinent information. Since it is so very important, I am going to torture you. But that can wait – at least at least until morning. We’ve both had a very long day, eh?”

“What the hell?” I asked, now deeply frightened. “I’ll tell you whatever you want to know, I’ll help. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Oh, it’s nothing personal; just a matter of efficiency,” said Ellas. “Besides, I enjoy it. Remember: I told you I was evil.”

He unfolded himself and stood up, towering over me. “Put your hands up, please,” he said.

“What? Why?”

“Just put your damned hands up!” he snarled. “Before I turn your arms into tentacles! Don’t think I can’t do it!” I shot my hands into the air and Ellas clapped them back into the manacles.

“Very good, my new friend,” he said. “It was quite nice making your acquaintance. We’ll get to know each other much better tomorrow, I think.” He picked his torch from the wall holder and turned to go.

I sat in a panic, my mouth working soundlessly. What could I say to change his mind? What if I made him angrier and he’d want to torture me even worse? My breath whistled in and out in harsh, tight gasps.

He was halfway to the door when he turned and said, “Oh, almost forgot. Silly me.” He gestured at the wall and the two burning sconces were extinguished. “Good night, Scott Gray.” He disappeared through the door, leaving me shivering in the dark.

Part 5