Of dungeons and demons

Of dungeons and demons

Dungeons have never been places I like to spend time. Even as a magician’s apprentice they made shivers run along my backbone. My Master removed undesirable spirits, devils, and remnants from many while we toiled together. I ignored most of the instructions he gave during those visits. I wish I had listened more because being imprisoned in one proved worse than I had imagined, and it looked as if dealing with undesirable spirits was the only way out.

Time no longer had meaning. The days and nights flowed together in interminable darkness broken once a day by the delivery of the slop they called food. I tried to count those deliveries at first, but I stopped at one-hundred. When my self-pity wore off, I vowed to escape.

The undesirable spirits arrive a long time after the daily meal. The sounds they make precede them to the cell door. Their wispy movements are hard to make out, but the clicking and gnashing of their teeth gives them away. When my Master and I performed our dungeon cleanups—I am reluctant to call them purifications, they never worked that well—my job involved keeping the spirits away. I had been using that spell on these spirits, but they can build up immunity, so I had to find something else to use. Unfortunately, the only other item in my cell was the skeleton of a former guest.

For the longest time, I refused to associate with my skeletal cellmate, but desperation can lead to bravado. We are now on speaking terms. I am sad about having to sacrifice him, but I explained the plan to him, and he didn’t say no. Perhaps he will like looking alive once more.

I have been saving a bit of gruel each day. It being the only resource I have to bring the rats close enough. Now with twenty-five dead rats I have enough to create my illusion. If making my cellmate look fleshed was all I wanted, a glamour spell was my other choice, but those spells only work on sight. The deception would be obvious at the first touch. I needed something that resembled flesh enough to make the spirit break the chains and the door. The glamour spell I reserved for use on my body. To make me look like my friend the skeleton.

I crawled as far away from my cellmate as the chain that bound us both to the wall allowed. A clicking and gnashing sound drew closer. I closed my eyes and pulled up my wizard’s vision. A glamour spell cannot hide the doorways to the soul, so I kept my eyes closed. Skeletons should not have eyes. It ruins the illusion.

With my wizard’s sight I saw the spirit through the door. Without my protection spell to stop it the thing sent tendrils into the cell. When my cellmate failed to react to the first tentative tendril touch, the spirit wasted no time. It pulled the body towards the door until the chain grew taut. I steeled my body for what was coming; unsure if my leg and my illusion were strong enough to hold up. With a suddenness that startled me, the spirit shattered the door and wrenched my cellmate away. The rat’s body I had used to reinforce the ankle ripped apart. A thin tendril snaked out and captured the errant foot. The body parts disappeared through the open doorway.

The door’s destruction proved noisy, as I hoped it would. As the clicking teeth sound vanished down the corridor, the sound of the guards reacting reached me. They appeared at the doorway after a time. My wizard’s vision showed them sticking their torches into the cell.

“Spirit got him.” Eventuality coloured his tone. “How long did he last?”

“I stopped checking last week when my number passed. I had one-fifty-eight, so adding five to that gives—?”

“One-sixty-three,” the other guard answered. “That makes Ruke the winner. I’ll go tell the Sarge that the prisoner is dead and then tell Ruke he won the raffle.”