Starburst Magazine’s Bookworm Podcast.
Can We Watch It Again podcast.
Emma Thompson’s Donor’s Choose project.
A Well-Lit Dungeon
by Mark Mills
Lord Hanvord of Proustof was for a very short time one of the richest men in the world. A load of gold of monumental proportions was discovered in the southern part of his kingdom which increased his treasury a thousand-fold.
Lord Hanvord’s first act after hearing the news was to arrest the owner of the land for treason and confiscate the mine. There was much grumbling of the eight remaining noblemen in Proustof and Lord Hanvord began to have doubts over condemning the man to die.
The night before the beheading, he visited the condemned man in the dungeons. At this point, the castle itself was a disheveled mess, with moss growing in the royal bedroom and three families of foxes who dwelled between the cloak room and kitchen. The dungeon, as one might expect, was the pits.
Beneath the stables, built of mud and filth, prisoners were chained to a large rock, and left in the medium-sized hole that was the dungeon. A large board covered the hole and visitors were required to be lowered down in a basket and rope. The king was appalled.
“How can we conduct business in such surroundings?” he shouted to the head guard. “Let us be off.”
After the beheading and as the grumbling increased, Hanvord’s thoughts drew back to the dungeon.
“How much would it cost to construct a proper dungeon out of stone?” he asked the royal treasurer.
“Oh,” the little man answered. “Not much I expect.”
A team of expert dungeon designers was hired and in a few months built a lavish 150-man dungeon, with manacles, iron bars, and a very small rack.
“Delightful!” exclaimed Lord Hanvord. “Arrest the first dwarf you can find.”
Hanvord spend most of his free time in the new dungeon, stretching dwarves to normal size on the rack. When he was forced to come to the surface world, he would blink and rub his eyes.
“Must the dungeon be so dark?” he asked the treasurer.
“I’ll install a new system of torches this very night,” the little man answered.
So many torches were installed in fact that they exhausted the air in the room, suffocating the entire cache of prisoners. With a little innovation, the treasurer devised a ventilation system, using 80 recent conscripts to fan fresh air.
“Our royal eyes will no longer want for light,” the king cried as he enjoyed the well-lit dungeon. But with the light brought new problems.
“Never did we realize just how filthy these prisoners are,” the king said. “Must they so offend the eye?”
“Right,” said the treasurer. “A new sanitation system and laundry service.”
It wasn’t until the prisoners were bathed, groomed, manicured, and dressed that the king smiled again.
“Just look at them: model prisoners if ever there were any.”
Yet model prisoners in a mediocre prison seemed unnatural. “Must this dungeon be so damp. Must all be made gray and black. Why not some colors?”
“As you wish,” the treasurer conceded.
The finest artists were brought to bedazzle the eye.
“I’m not sure if a cell made of feathers would actually hold a prisoner,” the treasurer once objected.
“Of course it wouldn’t,” sniffed the artist.
“Brilliant!” cried Lord Hanvord.
After the artists came the orchestra pit, which was followed by a fountain of champagne but before the first drop was sprayed, one of Lord Hanvord’s neighbors, the Baron of Sihh, attacked, destroying the dungeon and capturing all the remaining citizens of Proustov.
Most were slaughtered but the more valuable ones like Lord Hanvord were spared and placed in the Baron’s dungeons. They were dark and cold and not once did the Baron ever come to visit.
About the Author
A Cincinnati resident, Mark Mills received his M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Cincinnati. He teaches English composition and literature at Northern Kentucky University, the University of Cincinnati, and Miami-Jacobs Career College. He has published work in Licking River Review, The Blue Writer, Clifton Magazine, Re:Visions, A Cincinnati Conspiracy and worked on and appeared in several low budget movies, including Evil Ambitions, Live Nude Shakespeare, Chickboxin’ Underground, Zombie Cult Massacre, No Second Chances, and April’s Fool. From 1997 to 2002, he recorded the video documentation of the Performance and Time Arts Series. He currently has a large number of children, animals, and unpublished stories.
About the Narrator
Adam has narrated two pieces for us before, the poem Empires of the Red Dawn in Episode 93, our second Little Wonders collection. As well as Episode 88, Dragon Art. Adam is also the voice of the golem Loam in our Parsec-award nominated serialized novella Camp Myth: Phoenix Watching by Chris Lewis Carter.
Adam is a recovering neuroscience student, although he’s working hard to relapse. He enjoys reading, bicycling, and shouting into microphones, the last of which he sometimes records. He still doesn’t have a public web presence, which makes me sad.
About the Artist
Barry is a game developer based in Bournemouth, England making freemium games for clients such LEGO and the BBC. His latest game is breaking all records on iOS, not surprising with a title like L”. It’s for younger kids, but if you fancy blasting alien brains check out LEGO Hero Factory Brain Attack.
All this game developing has meant that Barry hasn’t been as active in the podcasting and fiction world as he used to be. He still does the occasional narration for other shows, such as The Drabblecast, and appears on Cast of Wonders from time to time.