Short Story: The Dungeon Competition, by Lynn Alford
I opened the door leading to my domain. The first thing I heard was the scurrying feet of the rats.
Thank the gods, the rats were obviously breeding well. It’s one of the first things that the judges would look for.
That was always one of the problems, starting a new dungeon. It wasn’t too hard to get it to the proper degree of mould and mildew. As long as the dungeon was below ground level, as long as there were cracks in the floors and walls, you’d get the mildew.
Vermin counts were always important for a dungeon. Not only rats, but roaches and spiders had to be plentiful if you wanted to win. I had no problem with getting a good roach population. Like the rats, as long as the guards threw scraps in the corners, the roaches would come.
Spiders though, I’ve been having problems with the spiders. I was hopeful that today’s shipment would make it much less obvious that there was only one spider actually living in my dungeon. That one was a jumping spider so it didn’t produce webs. Damn the gods.
I decided to inspect the equipment next. The rack had been a problem. It was so difficult to make it look well used and old when it had been installed new a mere six months ago. I had finally started making serious progress on ageing the rack by a combination of chicken blood and water. The vermin chewed at the leather bits, the water began damaging the iron.
I was about to start my final inspection of the day when a guard entered the dungeon. “Master Flay? Your delivery is here.” The guard barely got out the words and then fled to the main part of the castle.
I went to get my delivery. It was half a dozen crates. They were very light, but they were meant to be so.
“I need you to sign here,” the delivery man handed me his clipboard.
“You must be joking. I won’t sign until I can inspect the goods and I’m not about to do that out here.” I looked around. Where was my useless assistant? “Boy!” I bellowed. “Come!”
It was a few moments later before I heard the footsteps. Damn. “I wanted Bobby,” I snarled as I turned around. I could tell by the footsteps that my assistant was in the other phase.
“Sorry, Master. It’s Betty today.”
I hope Bobby will be there when the dungeon is judged. Betty goes for curls and bows, she loves pink and frills, not at all the look of a dungeon assistant. Bobby wears slightly ratty, somber black.
Mind you, Betty is far more blood thirsty, if we are doing some business. She likes inflicting pain more than Bobby does.
“Right, Betty, I want you to help me carry the crates inside. We’ll open them up in the main chamber.”
“I’m not supposed to let this shipment go out of my sight,” protested the delivery man.
I grinned at him. “You are welcome to come with them. Betty and I won’t mind a bit.”
The dude backed off a few paces. “You promise to sign if the shipment is satisfactory?”
“I will.” I had to or the supplier may never fill my orders again. It’s so hard to find dungeon supplies these days.
Betty and I carried the crates inside. We opened one to find that the crate was nearly filled with fine webbing. A few of the spiders escaped, but that’s why I wanted to open the boxes inside, not out.
“You start putting the webs in the corners. I’ll go sign for the shipment and help.”
I went back out and signed for the crates. The webs would make the dungeon as close to perfect as I was going to have it this year.
The only other factor that is considered is the prisoners. We still only had two. The scruffy revolutionary, by now impossible to recognise under the tangled matt of hair. Half starved, scarred and he spent his days chattering to himself. The other was the witch. The rags left to her after five months no longer disguised the fact that she was middle aged. She had been in decent shape when she first arrived but now she just cackled madly.
In other words, my prisoners were everything I could hope for. It’s just that there are so few.
I envy Master Drawn. His dungeon is over 100 years old. Every cell has at least three prisoners and all the equipment has been repaired many many times. It’s so hard to compete against that sort of tradition.
Who knows, he has won every year for 10 years. Maybe the judges will look for something new.
At least now I have my spiders.
By Lynn Alford
See Lynn’s story ‘Gladiator‘ in Artgaze Magazine #17 ‘Rebirth’
Author Bio: I have always loved fairy tales, folk stories and fantasy in general. Now I’m trying my hand at writing stories. I’ve been sharing the short stories on my web site but there are five novels in various stages of editing. I hope to get the novels published whether traditional publisher, or Inkshares or self-published. Website.