I assume it’s still eight eighty-eight, I don’t know how long I’ve been down here but I don’t think it’s been six months. Pretty sure. Also I say down here but I don’t really know that I’m “down” anywhere, it’s probably more likely that I’m “up” in a tower or something. I didn’t really get to know the layout Juost Manor that well, I wasn’t really here that long. But they don’t really have a dungeon, I think I would noticed that. Also no one really has a dungeon – those big holes in the bottom floor with the trapdoors? Those are for storing ice. I wonder what lunatic first started spreading the rumor that they keep people in those. Any person that actually had a dungeon in their castle would have to be wildly insane, fabulously wealthy, and a good architect to boot because who the Hells is going to design something that impractical for you? Don’t get me wrong, torture chambers are real, but any chamber is a torture chamber if you torture someone in it. It’s just a place you store your pokers and gougers really.
Where I am is dark, and the floor and walls and stone, so maybe it is a secret dungeon. The ceiling is high enough that I can’t touch it. On the other hand it’s perfectly dry and I’m given to understand that dungeons are damp. Nor is there any moldy straw on the floor or the scuttling of rats which I’m given to understand are necessities for a dungeon. Also there’s no sadistic yet easily tricked guards to tell me that escape is impossible and then get clobbered while I’m escaping the next day. It’s probably just a storeroom they cleared out. Or maybe it was already empty but it seems very much like a storeroom. It’s certainly dark, they nailed that part. There’s something very melancholy about realizing that your eyes have adjusted to the darkness and there’s simply nothing to see. Unless you’re in a cave it’s pretty hard to emulate total darkness but they managed it. Kudos to them on that.
Sadly I don’t even have a great story on how I got here. I didn’t ride into Juost Manor full of righteous indignation, there was no verbal confrontation with the Baron where I told him his mind was overthrown, no cruelly smiling Kostelos witches, no shameful weeping from my betrayer with my cousins begging for my release from the sidelines. What happened is once we got within sight of Alleene we halted for a moment and Martialla took off my shackles. Despite her earlier words when this started she did apologize for stabbing me in the back and explained unhappily that she had to do what was best for her and since I was doomed to failure anyway she made the decision to switch sides. She even claimed that she regretted it now, but there was no turning back. She didn’t ask for understanding or for my forgiveness of her actions, she just wanted to share one last drink with me. She didn’t expect that we’d ever have the chance again, regardless of what happened. She took out a bottle of Oldlaw whiskey and we toasted to friendship as we locked eyes and both understood if we ever met again it would be with knives in hand.
A few minutes later I started to feel groggy. I don’t know how she did it, but she poisoned me, I guess she probably put poison in my cup before she poured. That fucking bitch got me twice. That almost bothers me more than being stuck in this lightless hole. Fool me once, etcetera. People unfamiliar with human nature wonder how known bounders and scoundrels keep conning people – with their reputations how can anyone believe them? As this example shows it’s easier than you think. You come at people sideways, you come at them when they’re at their lowest, you take advantage of the fact that even the most cynical people want to believe deep down inside. And it doesn’t hurt when what you’re doing is complete overkill. She already had me chains, why would I be expecting poison?
I don’t know what she got me with, I was never unconscious I don’t think, but my brain was fuzzy for a good while, I was seeing stuff with my eyes but the image wasn’t making it home you know? I just remember a few flashes of the manor and then by the time I regained my wits I was in here. It’s a smallish room but it’s not nightmarishly small like you might expect – it’s probably fifteen feet by twelve feet. I’ve paced it out several times. I think I’ve been down here for a couple of days. I’m hungry and more than that I’m thirsty but I don’t feel like I’m dying yet. I can’t really go off sleep because my sleep schedule is all messed up before. Normally when it’s this dark sometimes it can be hard to even tell if you’re awake or asleep, but lucky me I always know when I’m asleep on account of the nightmare creatures that attack me every night. That happened three or four times but I wouldn’t assume that means I’ve been here three or four days necessarily. Like I said my sleep routine is all messed up.
After that third or fourth time though my imperious looking friend was back. Instead of being stripped naked and beaten over the head with a wine bottle by the King himself (who’s dead you know but ‘they’ keep putting him in my dreams, I wonder what that means – I never even met the guy) I dreamed that I was in thein the middle of a massage given by someone who really knows what they’re doing. That was actually kind of a nice transition – from the darkness of the prison room, whatever it is, to the closed eye experience of massage. How can you have your eyes closed in a dream? Fuck if I know. I wondered if I was not dreaming at all, if it was just my mind finally playing a GOOD trick on me, but when I opened my eyes there was light. I was in the salon/lounge/pleasure den/whatever of the authoritative woman.
This time she was dressed in transparent silks and wherefore was showing pretty much everything. I saw that she had tattoos over each breast and across the belly. You know how I feel about that. But she was smoking croff, which I’m sure you know is a mixture of vayav, flayleaf, and roasted beans of caladock. It’s very hard to get the mixture exactly right, which is why croff is so rare and expensive but in the dream is was perfect. I know because after the massage I went over and smoked some with her as well. This time there was no gaggle of noblewomen clustering about, just inconspicuous servants bringing us excellent wine and fresh fruit. After getting nice and relaxed, you know the way I mean, I helped myself to some ripe sensational granee fruit.
“Can you have your dream people bring me something more substantial? Like a nice crispy duck? Not fatty duck you know, but the juicy good stuff. I wear clothes that cover everything up so I don’t have to eat only fruit. You know what’s funny? Even though I’m dreaming I still feel like I have to go to the privy. Weird huh? I suppose if I went to the facilities here I would just be shitting myself in real life huh?”
Her voice was dreamy (pun) like she had been smoking for a while before I got there, you know, before the dream started because that makes sense “Did you do what I asked?”
I finished off a glass of wine and poured myself some more “I did.”
Her eyes flared slightly “I’d know if you did.”
“Then why’d you ask?”
Her eyes started to clear from the drug-fog and harden “Your ingratitude surprises me.”
I laughed briefly “I say the same thing all the time. I’m always saving people from monsters and then they’re jerks about it. I guess I’m a hypocrite huh? Although what exactly did you do for me?”
“I protected you from the dreads presences that feed on your sleeping mind, as I’m doing now.”
“I just thought the night hag had other things going on that night. So what are you then, some kind of sweet dreams faerie? If you’re a dream though what does it matter if I don’t repay your help? I mean you’re not real right? It’s kind of confusing, I know that dreams aren’t real – but they are a real thing that happens? What does it all mean?”
Some women look good even when they’re angry, some look even better – she wasn’t either of them “I explained this all last time. Do I need to go over it again?”
I held my hands up “No, no, not at all, I . . .”
She gestured grandly “Thousands of years ago, I ruled over this land and all the people within it. This was a time of splendor and majesty and I was at the center of it all. For you see . . .”
“Thousands of years ago? Last time you said I it was. . .”
“THOUSANDS of years ago a warlike race of elves from . . .”
Just like that she was off the races again. I tried to pay attention to her this time, I really did, but she went on forever and it was boring. After a few minutes I started pacing around the room and toying with different things she had lying around. I wasn’t sure that I believed this wasn’t a dream-dream and was instead a dream communication of some kind until she droned on for over an hour – no real dream is ever that tedious. She kept saying that she wanted to give me a gift without getting into any details. Nor was it ever made clear what she wanted from me or what I supposed to do. At least as far as I can tell, after the first few minutes I was only halfway listening.
“Well dream princess lady, I tell you, it would be nice to have someone on my side for once. I never thought that I’d think that, but despite the way it ended I really did like having a partner – not you know like a tongue kissing partner but a partner partner. She was always worried about people thinking we were together. I don’t know why, nobody cares about that. Maybe she was secretly into me and it was some kind of overcompensation, I don’t know. She certainly fucked plenty of dudes whenever she had the chance, but I’ve heard that what really matters is who you fall in love with. Like if you’re a guy you can go to town on many another guy, but if you don’t feel anything – you know, inside – then . . .”
“What are you talking about?!”
“Just making conversation.
For a moment her mouth twisted into a weird smirk, although maybe smirk isn’t the right word – it’s the face you make when you see someone who’s been talked up a lot and they’re not that impressive.
“You are a frustrating person to speak to. I’m offering you the partnership you seek if you would be attentive enough to listen.”
I shrugged “It’s just a dream, nothing here matters. I appreciate you keeping the nightmares away. Can you do that every night?” She shook her head “Well then, what’s the point?”
“Your ally has abandoned you. I am offering you a more powerful alliance.”
“Are you though? What can you do for me? You’ve been pretty vague what I get out of this deal”
“I shall place my mark upon you.”
“That doesn’t sound very helpful.”
Her eyes flashed with anger again “You do not understand, I . . .”
“You’re right, I don’t understand. Is this really more than a dream? If so what kind of magic bullshit is going on? I don’t know about any of this kind of stuff. Why would I make a bargain with you? I don’t know who you are or what you want.”
“I’ve told you twice already!”
I snorted “You gave me a bunch of horseshit history lessons. That doesn’t tell me anything. What are you? A dream ghost? A demigod? A demon? What do you want?”
I smiled “Now that I understand.”
“You must give up your meaningless futile quest and do my bidding, my revenge is against powers greater than . . .”
“No. I will never give up on taking revenge on the Duke, never. Not as long as I draw breath – and maybe not even after I stop. If you can help me with that, great, then we have something to talk about. But I’m not going to give up on it to help you out, that makes zero sense.”
“You would be the most favored of my minions, once . . .”
Her face turned grim “As you see my powers over your dreams are even more potent than those of your enemies, if you spurn me . . .”
I grinned “Ah, so now we come down to it. The threats. I guess the foreplay is pretty much over huh? Time to get down to business. You think you can cook up worse nightmares than when I’ve been experiencing? Give it a shot lady. You think you can make my life any worse? You gave up pretty quickly on the ‘let me help you’ tactic, makes me wonder what exactly you could have ever done for me.”
I could tell that her initial reaction was to lash out with anger, but she mastered herself quickly and I found that she was beside me with a reassuring hand on mine – I wanted to pull away but found that I was only able to move as the dream wanted me to. I could feel the dream trying to press comfort from her touch on my mind, but it didn’t take.
She purred in my ear sordidly “I didn’t mean to be cross with you, it’s just I’ve waiting for so long. People like you are very exceptional and special. I want to be your friend and sometimes friends have to tell each other truths they don’t want to hear. You have fought a good fight and you have tried your best to get your revenge, but you have failed. The fight is over. They have you now, if you continue this fight they will break you – your life continues only in my service. There’s nothing odious about being in my command I assure you, quite the opposite. Look around you, this doesn’t have to just be a dream. You will become wealthy and powerful and you will serve only me, all others will be beneath you. The race is run and you have not made the finish line. Now you must do what is best to carry on.”
“No, I’m in a tight spot for sure but I’m not done, not my any means. Lost the fight? I haven’t even started yet.”
“When will you give up?”
“Like I said, as long as I live I will fight.”
“Are you living now? Consider that. You walk the roads and you fight monsters, and what becomes of it? Is that a life worth living? You are poor and powerless and the plaything of anything that comes your way. You have been battered and ruined. The only joy you will ever know again comes through me.”
“You got it all wrong dream queen. I don’t fight monsters, I kill them.”
When I woke up, if indeed that’s what even happened, I could still smell the fruit, incense, and narcotic smoke of the pleasure den. My muscles still felt relaxed and languid from the massage. But most convincingly of all, I was full, and I was no longer thirsty. The food and wine was really in my belly. So it’s not JUST a dream and she probably can hurt me in the dream world, maybe even kill me. Well fuck, that’s a problem.
“I should have taken a shit while I was there.”
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company