The Dungeon Book

This is actually a story based on the prompt from last week’s Muse on Monday. The prompts were:

  1. Conflict: looking for a book to read
  2. Other elements: a ring, a brick, something disgusting

This is a creepy story and some people might find it a bit scary, just so you know.

The Dungeon Book

Brandon closed the book and put it on his nightstand. It was a book about a kitten and a duck. It was a little kid’s book, but it was funny and it was his favorite. Still, with an hour before his bedtime, he felt the sudden urge for something wilder. Something new. He had read everything in the library; after all, there was not much else to do in the castle where he lived with his three blind aunts and their elderly pet dragon.

Then he remembered the other library, the one far down below the castle in the deepest dungeon. The one he had discovered from poking around looking for adventure.

Slipping out of bed, he took a lantern and tiptoed down the hall. The sky outside the castle was dark. It was always dark except for the times when it flickered with green fire and he heard moans and screams from far away. Then his aunts made him stay away from the windows and stay warm.

Brandon passed the entryway where the dragon Aconitine was snoring. The door to the dungeons was behind a tapestry on the wall that showed six-eyed winged creatures building the castle long ago. Brandon slipped behind it, stepping carefully on the sweating stone.

Three levels down, he stopped in front of a blank wall. Counting off the bricks, he pulled out the seventh brick from the left at eye level. Behind it was a hole in the stone. He put his ring with his mother’s crest into the hole and pushed.

The stone made a pop and a door opened in the wall. Brandon stepped into a hexagonal chamber with a table in the middle. The walls on all six sides were filled with bookshelves right up to the ceiling. Brandon set the lantern on the table and pulled a book at random off the shelf. It came out with a puff of sharp-smelling dust.

Brandon had only been thinking about reading something new before bed, but now the thrill of discovery filled him up all the way to the tips of his short blue hair. That was why he was never bored in this huge empty castle with three old women and an ancient dragon: there was always more to discover.

He opened the book. The words swam around the page in front of his eyes but he willed them to stand still and finally they gave up and marched into place, lining up to form words and sentences.

The old man sat in front of the fire. “What do you want?” he asked.

“I want to know,” the boy said.

“Know what?”

“Everything.”

Brandon read faster, flipping the page without noticing. In the book, the old man reached his hand into the fire but instead of burning, the skin clarified into something like glass until even the bones and muscles and blood vessels were shining like threads of gems. Nothing was hidden but it did not stop there. The fire became a mass of flaming crystal and soon the whole land around them was clear. They could look down into the center of the planet and then up, up into the sky.

Brandon stopped reading. The book was slowly turned transparent. He could still see the words, but now he was reading a book of glass. It was spreading out from the book. He looked up to see the walls of the dungeon go clear and like fire spreading through a pile of paper, the transparency raced through the castle. He saw Aconitine’s bulk filling the front hall and his three aunts sleeping soundly on their beds of velvet in the highest three towers. Something slimy with many arms wormed and wiggled in a secret chamber just off the kitchen.

Then Brandon looked further, through the castle and out into the dark sky. The darkness cleared and for the first time, Brandon caught sight of the many, many things beyond the dark layer that separated his little world from . . . from . . .

Brandon slammed the book shut. Instantly, he could see nothing but the gloomy dungeon library lit by the single lantern on the table. He tried to keep his hands from shaking as he pushed the book back onto the shelf, not paying attention to where he put it.

He tried not to look behind him as he climbed up the stairs. He tried not to listen for little noises right at the edge of hearing that might not have been there at all, really.

Maybe he would read the book about the kitten and the duck again.

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