Book IV Snippet “The Dungeon’s Keeper”
Mierna crouched next to Troy. The vacant stone walkway above provided the perfect location to peer down at a tall figure bending over a worktable. Four arms, two of which with an extended reach, allowed him to better grab a pair of scissors across a second table while continuing to work on a clearly deceased specimen. Both Mierna and Troy crinkled their noses in disgust. Not the most pleasant of places to be in, the smell was soon replaced with a hint of rose petals. A few were sprinkled into a liquid after a rat-like creature was submerged in a tub of lavender goo. Whatever it was for, rose scent was a welcome change.
The room was cluttered with work benches and cold looking tables, their surfaces metallic and smooth for clean experimentation. Colorful trays contained a series of condensing liquids, all flowing through multiple tubes until they ended in a single drip within separate containers. Newly polished – and quite sharp looking – surgical tools had been meticulously arranged next to the main workbench in a fan formation. Finally, the tall figure lifted a dark hand. Smoke-like fingers curled in a motion someone to enter.
“Fancy dental joint.” Troy grit his teeth. “Or else a meat packaging plant. The heck they do here?”
Mierna could feel her palms sweating at the very thought.
“We’ve another, Sir,” someone said from the doorway.
“The norm, I presume?” the Keeper cleared his station as if expecting something large.
“A púca. Attacked his Dreamer.”
“Really?” There was intrigue in that smooth voice. “Bring him in, please.”
Mierna nearly cried when two Keepers dressed in their usual white attire carried in a large bundle. A thin netting had been wrapped securely around the púca , keeping his struggles under control. They disappeared beneath the arched walkway, then reappeared on the other side. The closer they came to the worktable, the more he struggled.
“Well, well Vlanders. I see you’ve gone and knotted your fur. What memories have you bottled up inside, I wonder? I always did say those horns would hang on the queen’s wall one day. What say you now, hmmm?”
The púca’s response was a garbled mash of tongues to Mierna, though his vicious attempts to break free continued. The Keeper, however, seemed to understand it fully.
“Pride has stained you, Púca. No matter. Let’s get you calmed down.” The Keeper briefly consulted his helper a moment before one of his long arms reached for a glass syringe. “Lucky you. The queen
denied your immediate death, but the matter still remains. Dried flecks weep for your sins. I pity you.”
The two Keepers held the ends of the netting firmly against the table. At the sight of the long needle filling with amber liquid, Vlanders cringed in terror. His whimpers filled Mierna with worry, but Troy stopped her from getting up too quickly.
“Wait!” he warned. “He’s little more than a frightened animal. He’ll tear us both to shreds to get out at this point. Wait for them to calm him first, then we’ll make a move.”
Reluctantly, Mierna nodded. “Okay.”
“Like he said, they’re not going to kill him. That means we’ve got time.”
A sharp gasp suggested Vlanders had been pricked. Mierna averted her gaze, but Troy put an arm around her for comfort until the syringe was removed. He could see those blue-green eyes roll back as the liquid took effect almost immediately. For a moment, they seemed to focus on the two above before closing completely. The struggles ceased, and his chest rose and fell in the rhythm of sleep.
“Now then.” The Keeper waited until the netting was removed, allowing him to handle his subject without restraints. Gloved hands gently lifted each hoof to brush out any grime caught between the cloven points. He inspected the claws, which he dipped into a liquid to clear away remnants of blood – Mierna’s blood.
Still watching from above, Mierna felt lost until a tap to her shoulder turned her attention to Troy motioning for her to move across the archway. Carefully, the two crept over to a winding stairwell that connected down to the main level.