NaNoWriMo Day 22
posted at: 11/23/2014

Once everyone had abandoned the boats, they made their way into the cavern of the dungeon where Frederick was standing in front of the open door of a cell that had been carved out of the rock. Charles turned back to his mother and her friends, who were standing in a little group between the two large guards. Captain Herman stood behind them, looking grim. Charles addressed the company. "Now, I'm going to put you all in the charge of my good friend, Frederick. You have two days to convince my mother that she would love to help me in my plans. If you aren't able to do even that one little thing, Frederick will execute you all and throw your bodies into the river. Goodbye. I'll see you all when you're ready to help me." After this speech, the Prince swept from the room. His guards remained behind.

Frederick tilted his head towards the waiting cell and opened the door a little wider. The Wiesgarbers, Amaranth, and Matilda filed glumly inside. Frederick locked the door behind them. He turned to the Captain. "You better get out of here, Herman. King Charles is going to be wondering what you're up to."

Captain Herman, who's brow had furrowed slightly at the title 'King Charles,' walked up to the cell. Amaranth had been holding onto the bars and looking out at his father. The Guard Captain put his hands over his son's and whispered. "I'll do everything in my power to get you out of here. Don't be afraid." The boy, who had been trying his best to choke back fearful tears, just nodded. His father turned and left the room. 

The Captain's shadow hadn't left the doorway before the two guards left by the prince walked up to the cage. One of them stuck his spear through the bars and poked at the prisoners so that they were forced to retreat to the rear wall of their enclosure. The other chortled and began casting insults at the group huddled at the back. This harrassment was abruptly cut short by Frederick. The Dungeon Keeper stormed up to the two men and, grabbing them both by the back of the neck, pulled them away from the cage and threw them to the ground. "Enough!"

The two thugs looked up at him in shock. One of them stammered "B...but, they're prisoners!"

Frederick nodded. "They are."

The other of the two men scrambled up, red with anger. With his face only a few inches from Frederick's, he shouted, "You will never treat me like that again! You hear me? Never! Or the King'll have you..."

Frederick, who had been listening impassively, interrupted at this point in a dangerously quiet voice. "The king," he said, "sends people like you to me when he's done with them. The king doesn't care one mite what happens to you. You can be replaced in a second." He shoved the thug away from him and addressed them both. "And while you're in my dungeon, you live by my rules. If you don't, I'll put you on the Rack." The first man, who had gotten up off of the ground, looked at the Dungeon Keeper with wide eyes. The second man just growled and turned away--walking to a small table with chairs that sat near the door. His partner walked over to join him. Frederick turned to give Matilda a look--part pity, part anxiety, part sympathy, and part sorrow--before walking over to join the other two guards.

The cell that had been chosen for the prisoners was roomy enough. The walls were damp and dripping, but the middle of the floor was dry. It was chilly, but ocassionally a warm breeze from the outside world wafted in through the mouth of the cave that opened onto the river. For a long time, the four sat in silence in the center of the cell. Amaranth sometimes wiped tears from his face; Matilda had her head in her hands; Mrs. Weisgarber stared at the wall with her brow furrowed; Pete was looking around at the various barrels in the room and seemed to be calculating how to reach one that was outside of their cell. Finally, Cindy spoke. "Well, you're going to help him, right?"

"Mum!" Pete said.

Mrs. Weisgarber looked at her son. "What? Her helping or not helping won't change his plans. All it will do is save our lives."

Amaranth wiped his nose. "No it won't." In answer to his companion's questioning looks, the boy said, "in stories, the bad king always just kills the people anyway. Even if they do what he wants."

Cindy crossed her arms. "This isn't a story. Maybe he'll do what he said he would. It's our only chance."

Matilda lifted her head out of her hands. "Would you do it, Cindy? Would you help Pete murder Therin or Jo?"

The mother looked uncomfortable with this question. "I. I don't know. But what else can we do?" She asked in desperation.

The Queen Mother's head went back into her hands, "I don't know." She said to the floor. "If only he would just take me and leave all of you out of it."

There was another long silence that must have lasted for several hours because the prisoners were given their evening meal of stale bread and water near the end of it. After eating their scanty provisions, the four began to whisper about ways that they may be able to escape. Pete hadn't been able to think of a way to get to the barrel he wanted, so he thought he'd ask the others if they had any ideas. He pointed to the barrel in a

far corner of the prison and said, "there's a key in that one."

Everyone turned to him. Cindy said, "What was that Petey? I didn't hear you."

Pete said again, a little more loudly, but still in a whisper, "there's a key in that one."

Amaranth jumped up. "There is?"

Pete nodded but Matilda glanced over at the guards and pulled Amaranth back down. "Shh. Shh. If they find that out, they'll take it away."

"How can we get to it?" Cindy asked her son.

Pete shrugged and pointed at the smaller cell next to the barrel. "It's for that cell. That's the one they'll usually put adventureres in." These revelations set off a flurry of whispered conversation that lasted until all of the prisoners fell asleep for the night. They hadn't come up with any viable ideas, but reassured themselves that they would be able to think of something in the morning. 

Soon after the sun rose the next day and a sort of grey twilight invaded the dungeon cave, Captain Herman bustled into the cavern. The two thugs, who had slept in their chairs with their heads on the table, were startled awake and Frederick appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. "What is it?" The Dungeon Keeper asked.

"I have orders to release three of the prisoners."

"Any proof of that?" Frederick asked.

Captain Herman produced a document that bore the prince's signature and the royal seal. Frederick read it, grunted, and pulled out his keys. He walked over to the cell and looked in at the small group who were still huddled in the middle of the floor. "Looks like you're being released into the castle. If you go outside of it without King Charlie's order, you'll meet me again." Amaranth leapt up and jumped up and down a few times. As soon as the door was opened, he ran out and hugged his father then turned to Pete and said "we live in the castle, you guys can stay with us!" Pete grinned and Cindy hugged him, and wept. They walked out of the cell.

Matilda was slower in rising and walking than the others, but as she made to follow them, Frederick closed the door in her face. "Sorry, Your Grace. You haven't been released."

Her three companions, who had clustered around Captain Herman near the door, asking him about the royal order, turned towards the Queen Mother, now alone in her cell. Amaranth ran back. "No! They can't!"

But Frederick growled at him. "A king can do what he wants."  

The boy balked at the large, scar riddled older man and Captain Herman ran over to herd his son towards the door. But Amaranth had regained his courage and shouted "Let her go!"

The Captain turned his son to face him, knelt down to meet his eyes, and whispered. "I'll explain. Not now. You have to trust me, Devon." The boy furrowed his brow, looked over at Matilda, who tried to nod reassuringly to him, then followed his father out of the prison.