Treguard unearths a terrible secret from Merlin after a dungeoneer dies for real. Fanfic by Stephen Reid.
It had been a particularly tough enough season in the dungeon as it was...
Of the three teams who had tread the path already, none had made it past Level 1. But this wasn't a normal season; it was certainly unlike any that Treguard had witnessed in all his years as Master of the Dungeon. From the moment the path re-opened, smells and drafts blew in from the porthole that was the entry to Level 1. However unlike any other year, the smells were unfamiliar to Treguard, and the once gentle breeze that came in all the way from Level 3 was now definitely more of a wind.
Treguard knew right from the start that something was amiss. At the best of times Knightmare Castle was not the most comforting of places to be, but now there was an eerie, sinister feel about the place. The walls seemed darker, the air thicker and murkier. Treguard was very wary of the feeling he had inside him. As Dungeon Master he was usually bold and confident. It couldn't be possible that someone - or something - down there was making him afraid of the dungeon
"Things will lighten up once Majida returns," the large bold man had told himself. "She always brings a sparkle to the place. Speaking of which she should be here by now, it's almost time for our first adventure." Treguard had waited and waited for his little assistant to arrive but his patience was in vain. Finally he had no choice but to start the first quest without her.
That was 4 weeks ago. Three quests had past and there was still no sign of the Majida the Genie. Level one hadn't even been completed yet and the anxiety inside Treguard was getting worse. There was definitely something not quite right with the Dungeon. It suddenly occurred to him that Lord Fear had not yet put in an appearance. That was definitely unlike normal events. He decided that before summoning the next team, he would check on his old nemesis. He walked up to the magic mirror and summoned "Lord Fear?"
"Hmmm" Treguard wondered to himself.
"Spell casting: G-O-T-H"
Suddenly on the mirror before Treguard appeared the image of the tower of Goth, where Lord Fear was last seen. Or at least it was the image of where tower of Goth used to be; now it was nothing more than a ruin. There were bricks and rubble everywhere, and an eerie mist surrounding everything. Was that a dead fright knight lying in one corner?
Suddenly, Treguard saw something long and thin and green move, near the back of the image. "Hello?" he called. "Is someone there?" But whatever it was scuttled away. "Answer me!" he called, getting impatient with the oddity of events.
Finally, the long green creature crawled out from behind a pile of rubble. Treguard was surprised at what it was - a giant lizard. He had seen giant spiders and giant scorpions and even giant... well, giants! But never had he come across a tropical lizard in the coldness of the dungeon! Suddenly, even more unexpectedly, the lizard spoke.
"Hello?" it hissed, its voice familiar. "Isss that a human?"
"Well, not quite," replied Treguard. "I am the Dungeon Master"
The lizard gasped. "I am not sssupposssed to talk to you," it said
"And why not?"
"My Lordness hasss ordered me not to."
"You're Lordness?" Suddenly the penny dropped. "Is that you Lissard? One of Lord Fear's assistants?"
"Yesss. That's meeee" He hissed.
Treguard went silent for a minute. He was very confused and this was disturbing him. As master of the dungeon why did he not have a clue what was going on?
"Well, erm, Lissard, could you possibly tell me what has become of your, erm, Lordness?" He asked
Lissard was silent for quite a while. Finally he replied. "Haven't you heard?"
"Lord Fear is dead."
"Dead? DEAD?" Treguard exclaimed after many minutes of shocked silence. "How can this be?" For a moment, Treguard almost felt a slight emotion of sadness, but he quickly fought it back, as for years he had taught himself that there is no time for compassion in this game.
Snapping himself out of it, he asked the slimy lizard "What on earth has happened? What is going on here?!"
There was a silence. The lizard paused and looked unsure of the answer.
"Well what happened to YOU then?"
Treguard was really speaking down to Lissard. Then again, wouldn't you?
"It turned me into a lizard, Massster"
"I guessed that! WHAT turned you into a lizard?" he boomed.
"The... the..." Lissard stammered.
"SPIT IT OUT!"
Treguard's bad temper scared the already very fragile lizard and before Treguard could say anything else, Lissard scurried away out of sight.
"This is serious", Treguard told himself. Immediately he summoned the only other person who could be of use. "Hordriss?"
Hordriss did not appear before Treguard as usual, though, and instead appeared in the magic mirror. He appeared to be in his chamber, although it also was in ruins, and was huddled up into a corner.
"Hordriss!" yelled Treguard.
Hordriss jumped with fright. "Treguard!" he exclaimed.
"Hordriss what's the matter?" He noticed that the magician was slightly rocking backwards and forwards.
"There is no point in me telling you. It is too strong to resist. You cannot beat it. My dear Sidriss is dead because of it. It is haunting the dungeon as we speak now. Have you not felt its presence?"
"I have felt something odd, yes. What is it? Is Fear up to his old tricks again?"
"No Treguard, this power is one hundred times greater than Lord Fear."
Treguard gasped. "Then it can only be... He has returned from hiding! Mogdread is back!"
There was a long silence.
"No Treguard. Mogdread has never been seen again since his mysterious disappearance all those years ago. Now Treguard there is no time to waste. It is too late for me but you still have time. Get out of Knightmare castle! Get away from the Dungeon! It is coming!"
But suddenly the room Treguard saw in the mirror began to flash. Bright colours ran and streaked through it. Behind the colours, Hordriss gently faded, repeating the phrase "It's coming... It's coming... It's coming..." Within seconds, the room had almost completely vanished into a mist of colours and sounds.
"It can't be reforming already!" Treguard told himself. "Its far too early. The season has only lasted 4 weeks!"
But he was right. The Dungeon was already reforming, and there was no way for Treguard to stop it or understand it. He had mastered the dungeon, but he did not control the fate of it. He could hear the echoes of the rooms collapsing and the winds howling and thunder booming from the dungeon below where he stood. While the dungeon reformed, Treguard was powerless. There was nothing he could do but wait.
One month had passed, during which Treguard had occupied himself by mainly marching back and forth in the main chamber of the castle waiting until the next season. He sat on his large wooden chair, with both his arms resting on the arms of the seat. He remembered the day that Knightmare Castle had been saved from the troll by dungeoneer Barry. He remembered fierceful Gundrada who had helped many a dungeoneer. He remembered the jesters Motley and Folly, and how he had always wished he could tell them the truth that they were separated at birth.
All of a sudden the rumble of the ground beneath him stopped. The echoes of the wind from the reformation of the levels halted. The booming thunder calmed. Could it be that the dungeon was now complete? And if so, could the new season have arrived already? It had only been one month since the last one ended, but by now, nothing was surprising Treguard.
Well, almost nothing...
The porthole to level one of the dungeon at the opposite side of the room now opened. The icy cold feeling that Treguard had got from the previous season remained. And Hordriss' last words still echoed through Treguard's mind. "It's coming..."
Suddenly the room became very cold, and Treguard noticed that the fire had blown out. He tried to re-light it, but as soon as it gained any power, it burned away again. "Odd. Oh well, no time to stand here all day. I need to begin the first quest," Treguard said.
After 5 minutes, the first team was all ready and the dungeoneer was told to walk forward, into the dungeon. The magic mirror lit up and everyone was very surprised as to what they saw. The dungeoneer, Mark, was stood in his first room, but it was unfamiliar as a Level 1 room. In fact he appeared to have entered the dreaded corridor of blades. However it was moving at a remarkably slow speed, and there didn't appear to be any blades in sight.
Treguard told the team not to panic, and that since this was level one, there wasn't likely to be any blades, but if there were, the corridor was certainly moving slowly enough to avoid them on time. Treguard and the team waited patiently to see what was going on. The dungeoneer was becoming anxious.
"Where am I?" he called.
"I wish I knew..." replied Treguard.
They continued to wait and watch as Mark the dungeoneer travelled along the corridor. Treguard was beginning to wonder if this really was the old corridor of blades at all. There appeared to be no slots in the walls where the blades usually travelled along. In fact the walls were completely flat and smooth. Also the corridor was traveling painfully slowly- much slower than walking pace. It certainly didn't seem as sophisticated as the 'blades. In fact it was a rather unsteady platform indeed. Treguard had an idea.
"Mark?" he called. "Could u describe to us what this corridor smells like?"
Mark took a deep breath in through his nose.
"It's a strong smell - of wood - and plastic."
"Hmmm. Any metal?"
Mark wasn't sure what Treguard meant by the smell of metal but he was positive he couldn't smell any. "No metal."
Treguard thought to himself. The corridor of blades had been running for years. It had been there even before Treguard had mastered the dungeon. It was so powerful that it always survived reformation. It was bound to smell of heavily of metal, or even rust, by this day in age.
"Mark?" Treguard repeated. "This smell of wood and plastic: does the wood smell fresh? And does the plastic smell strong?"
After another deep sniff, Mark replied "Yes," as he continued to move slowly along this apparently endless corridor.
"Hmmm." Treguard wondered out loud. "It seems this place you are in is new. Brand new. This is very odd. Although the dungeon has newly reformed, reforming only includes the re-cycling of material already in the dungeon to create something new. It does not involve bringing in NEW material - such as plastic."
There was a pause, before one of the three advisors turned to Treguard. "Maybe Mark isn't in the dungeon at all..."
"Of course he is!" Treguard replied sharply. "We all saw him enter the dungeon through that porthole!"
Treguard was getting to the end of his tether. All the confusion of recent events was getting to him. The team watched as he sat, his hands firmly grasping the ends of the arms of his large wooden chair, his knuckles pure white. They decided to be quiet in fear of what he might do if he lost his temper.
Almost two hours passed, and Mark was still moving slowly along this platform without having come across or anything or anyone. He was quite casual now, and in fact was sitting on the floor, with his legs crossed. The advisors were talking amongst themselves, occasionally glancing up at the mirror to see if anything changed. It didn't. Silently in his chair, Treguard was becoming increasingly impatient. Suddenly he yelled, "Right!"
The startled team jumped and turned to listen to their dungeon master.
"There is something dreadfully amiss here. This corridor is getting us nowhere, and time is ticking away. Mark's life force is at red. We must get out of this corridor."
The team waited to hear something which had never dared been said in the dungeon before.
"Team," Treguard continued. "We shall have to do the strictly forbidden. Mark, stand up! I'm afraid you will have to turn back!"
The Unwelcome - Part 2
The advisors were silent. They gave each other confused glances. How could Treguard say this? It is the one prominent rule of the dungeon that had never changed in its infinitive history, and one that Treguard himself had always stuck to under all occasions. Perhaps Treguard wasn't thinking straight. All the confusion of recent events had really disturbed him. Even so, he stood boldly without any look of hesitation and repeated to Mark that he was to stand.
Mark stood and waited for further instruction. Treguard told the team that Mark had to turn and walk back, as this was the only option open to them. The main advisor told Mark to turn 180 degrees and walk forward.
The team waited, as did Treguard. None of them knew what to expect. Even Treguard did know what the consequences of turning back would be. He only knew that it had been forbidden by the most powerful sorcerer of the dark ages, long before the dungeon became open to the other side.
Slowly and cautiously, the dungeoneer walked back in the direction he came from. He walked by the view of the magic mirror, but the view in the mirror did not turn to follow behind Mark - as it had been designed by magic only to look ahead, not back.
Nobody could see Mark. One of the advisors shouted out to him. But there was no reply.
"Mark! Can you hear me?" Treguard then yelled. But a loud bell chime suddenly interrupted him, closely followed by a second. Treguard's heart sank, as he knew what these chimes meant. He had heard them countless times. Mark had not survived the dungeon. The quest had failed.
"Well team, I am truly sorry. I did what I thought was best, and I'm sure you agree," Treguard said sincerely. One of the advisors nodded in agreement. "Well team, all I can say now is farewell!"
The team vanished. It had been a while since Treguard had used this technique to see off the advisors, his magic staff was not with him. Majida had taken it with her to look after when she was last seen.
"Treguard!! Treguard!!" came a call from the magic mirror. Treguard rushed over to it and was surprised to see the three advisors standing on the path home but without Mark. "What's going on team? I dismissed you! Why have you called me?"
"We have called you because our dungeoneer Mark has not returned to join us. We do not think he has survived."
"Do not talk nonsense!" Treguard replied. "Mark may have been killed in the dungeon, but he survived in your reality. There must be an explanation for his disappearance."
Suddenly the magic mirror cleared away the view of the advisors and revealed the image of Mark. He appeared motionless and still, but was falling through a heavy mist of blackness and grey.
"Mark! Mark wake up! Can you hear me?" Treguard called, but there was no sign of a reply, or even that Mark had heard him at all. Treguard noticed that Mark was still wearing the helmet of justice. This was extremely odd as usually when a dungeoneer did not succeed in the dungeon, he returned home and the helmet was immediately removed by magic and returned to Treguard in Knightmare Castle. It suddenly struck Treguard that the team was right. Mark had not survived, either in the dungeon or in his own reality.
The bad feeling, which had been in the pit of Treguard's stomach for a long time now, came to the surface. He realised he finally had to accept it. Since the dungeon did not have any interest in killing the dungeoneer, there must be an outside source at work. A source which had made itself at home in the dungeon. A source that had brought in new obstacles to the dungeon. A source that had brought in that terrible endless corridor, tricking dungeoneers into turning back. A source which seemed to want for dungeoneers to die in the real world, but keeping them in the dungeon. Treguard knew one thing for sure - this intruder of the dungeon did not belong, and most of all, was unwelcome.
Treguard continued to watch the image of Mark until finally he had completely faded into the mist. What had happened to him? Where had he gone when he turned back?
There was only one person who could possibly even hint at what was happening - Hordriss. And he had gone stark raving mad when Treguard last saw him.
Treguard paced back and forth in his chamber wracking his brains as to what to do next. The quest had failed and his was his duty to bring in the next team and start all over again. But how could he could he do this knowing full well that the team was headed straight for either certain death by low life force on the conveyor belt, or by turning back?
Despite all the horrors Treguard had seen down in the depths of the dungeon, Treguard had never faced such a dilemma. There was a time when the task was simple. A team would travel through the dungeon in an effort to complete a task. There was no opposition. There were no devious plots. Of course that was in the past. Back in the days before Pickle or Majida. Back in the days of Merlin the wizard.
"Hang on!" Treguard yelled out loud. "I still have one chance. Hordriss the Confuser may have dropped into the depths of insanity, but Merlin is still somewhere in the depths of the dungeon."
"Malefact! Malefact! Malefact!"
In a puff of smoke, and with a loud bang, an old twisted man with long white hair appeared in the chamber before Treguard, wearing what appeared to be pajamas.
"What on earth..." said the man. "What in the name of goodness is going on? One minute I was lying in my bed... Oh no, don't tell me I've fallen into one of my own dreams again! Oh no... now what did I do last time this happened...?"
Treguard watched with a slight smirk on his face as the man struggled to work out what was going on.
"Umm... where's my wand?"
The man turned round and found himself looking right at Treguard. There was a long pause as the two gentlemen studied each other.
"Is that... Treguard?? Treguard! Oh my goodness! It's me - Merlin," came the reply.
The two men shook hands, and then hugged each other as old friends do.
"Why I haven't seen you since... since..." stammered Merlin.
"Since 1990, Merlin. It's been a long time."
"1990?" replied the old wizard. "I thought this WAS 1990!"
"Um. Not quite, Merlin." The two old friends continued to talk, and spent a moment catching up on old times, until matters turned more serious.
"Dungeon Master," Merlin said. "Why have you summoned me here?"
There was an awkward silence while Treguard decided what to say.
"Old man, I'm afraid things have changed somewhat in the dungeon since you retired home."
Merlin's face became serious. "In what way?"
"Well, I'm not sure exactly. There's a... a presence. And it's influencing the fate of the dungeon."
"A presence you say? Hmmm, very curious."
"Yes my thoughts exactly. But there's more. We're right in the middle of the quest season. I need to call in the next dungeoneer soon and..."
"And I know he isn't going to come back out. I'm afraid our last dungeoneer perished."
"Oh Treguard!" Merlin laughed. "Surely you know that's the risk of going ahead with a quest!"
"No Merlin. That's not what I mean. I do not mean he did not survive the dungeon. I mean he did not survive... at all."
"Great Goblins Treguard!! That is not supposed to happen. The dungeon has no interest in killing human beings."
"That's what I mean when I say there is a presence at work."
"I fear you may be right, Treguard. An evil presence by the sounds of it. And if word gets out to the other side, no one will dare tackle the dungeon! You did right to call me, Treguard. For this is all dreadfully familiar to me."
Treguard became worried. Merlin had a very concerned look on his face, and told Treguard he needed to sit down before he fell down. Treguard took Merlin's arm and directed him to his chair by the fire.
"Treguard there is something I need to tell you," Merlin began. "Something I have kept to myself for many, many years."
"Treguard, many centuries ago, when I was young and healthy..."
Treguard waited in silence.
Merlin went on. "I was standing here in this room. In fact I was sitting right here in this chair. You see Treguard, I used to be Dungeon Master."
There was a long, long silence. At first Treguard did not know what to say. He had always believed that he alone had mastered the dungeon. There had been Dungeon Guards before him, who merely watched over the castle, the chamber, and the entry to the dungeon. But they had not actually travelled through, and certainly not actually mastered the dungeon all the way to level 3. Treguard had been the only one to actually retrieve all four quest items, defeat both Mogdred and Lord Fear and hold power over all things good in the dungeon.
And now all this had changed. Why had Merlin, a life long friend of Treguard never told him that he was once dungeon master?
"Because I did something I'm ashamed of," Merlin said, as if reading Treguard's thoughts. "I felt I had to resign from my post as Dungeon Master."
"What did you do?"
"Well, it's a long story. And this business at the moment of this so-called 'outside presence' in the dungeon has taken me right back to when it happened. I fear history may be repeating itself."
Treguard waited for Merlin to continue. The old man began to stammer and confuse his words. Treguard offered him a drink and went out of the room to see what he could do. Merlin sat shaking his head muttering 'Oh dear, oh dear...'
Meanwhile, down below the castle, somewhere in the deepest depths of the dungeon, was a gate. A large iron gate with vertical bars covering the entrance to a small cave where someone had once been kept prisoner. The cave was dark and damp with no signs of life apart from spiders and insects scurrying around. Where a guard had once stood at the entrance was now nothing more than a rotten skeleton. The door of the cage had been burst open; the bars had been bent. There were what appeared to be blood stains on the walls and it looked as though there had been some sort of struggle.
Someone had escaped.
Merlin went on. "I was standing here in this room. In fact I was sitting right here in this chair. You see Treguard, I used to be Dungeon Master."
Treguard was still startled by Merlin's shock revelation. He couldn't believe that Merlin had once sat in his large wooden chair and commanded the goings on in the levels below them. He decided to leave Merlin to go and make a drink and think over what had just been said.
As Treguard left the chamber, Merlin looked around the old room. It had changed slightly from when he once stood there decades before, but the basic layout was the same. Just then, he remembered something. His facial expression changed to one of curiosity, and hope. He looked around the room as if trying to work out where he was. He slowly made his way over to the fireplace, and felt along the brick paneling along the top. Nothing. Slowly, as he bent down onto his knees, some joint or other in his old twisted skeleton giving a loud crack. Merlin moaned as he got down on the floor, and felt along the tiling around the fireplace. Nothing.
Merlin sighed. Slowly he got back up onto his feet, huffing and puffing. Leaning against the mantelpiece he pulled himself up and straightened up. Just then, under Merlin's weight, a piece of the mantelpiece crumbled and fell to the floor. Merlin jumped out the way to avoid the brick landing on his bare feet. As he did so, Treguard came back in and seeing the commotion asked Merlin what on earth he was doing. Merlin simply replied that it was an accident - not his fault.
Treguard walked over to the door, and rubbed his forehead, closing his eyes.
"Merlin," he said, "I think it's time you left."
"But Treguard... I still haven't told you what you summoned me here to tell you!"
"I've taken in about as much as I can today. I don't think I could handle any more."
"So I shall let you get back to bed. Sorry for disturbing you."
"But Treguard, it is vitally important that I tell you what I know. If you are to have any hope of restoring the dungeon back to normal then you must listen to me. This is not a small obstacle that you need to overcome. I know you have long thought that you are a great and powerful dungeon master, but you are not. You are but a man. And you must be prepared for what is going to take place over the next few days."
Treguard was taken aback by Merlin's abruptness.
"Treguard, this is serious. The dungeon is in great danger, and as dungeon master it is your responsibility. You must listen to me, Treguard. I am your only hope!
"Treguard, what I am about to tell you is a long story. We may be up all night. Are you ready?"
Treguard gave a sarcastic laugh. "After today's performance already I don't think I'll be shocked all to easily any more."
Of course, he was wrong!
"I'll just go and make us both some hot chocolate first, I get the feeling we're both going to need it."
Treguard left the room again and went down the long cold spiral staircase, towards the kitchens, the echo of his footsteps bouncing off the gray, stone walls. When he went through the arch at the bottom of the stairs, into the corridor towards the kitchen, something caught his eye. A dark shadow slid silently across the wall in front of him. Treguard spun round on the spot but there was nothing there. He looked back and there was no sign of any shadow anymore. He went slowly along the dark corridor, watching where he tread on the cracked stone floor. A gust of wind blew in from the staircase behind him, causing him to shiver, and prompting him to hurry towards the kitchen door.
As he made his way along the corridor, holding with one hand onto the wall, he heard a faint murmur under the floor beneath him. He could hear voices and footsteps. They were surprisingly loud. Treguard bent over slightly, tilting his head to one side so that he could listen with one ear. It occurred to him that he was on the lowest floor in the castle, and that the only place underneath was in fact level one of the infamous dungeon. Occasionally he had heard faint noises from down there before, on his way to and from the kitchen, or the library, which was also along this corridor. Once, he had even heard Sidriss singing along to a lullaby when she was still a child! But this time it was different. The voices were yelling. Suddenly there was the sound of something breaking, and a scream. What on earth was going on down there in the dungeon? Treguard couldn't begin to imagine.
When he realized he was making himself feel even more scared, he stopped listening and continued along to the kitchens.
What was that?
Treguard stopped dead on his feet.
"Treguard... Help me... Please!"
The voice was coming from the kitchens. Treguard ran faster than he had run in many years and burst open the 2 swing doors into the old, metallic room. He instantly saw the person who had been calling him, standing at the far wall, with her arms outstretched.
"Majida!" he called.
He ran around the center workbench of the kitchen to where she was standing. Where had she been all this time? But just before he got to her, he stopped. Majida seemed different. Like she wasn't really looking at him, but was gazing into the distance.
Treguard realized that this wasn't Majida at all, but an image of her, cast over the wall. The genie was using what little power she had to contact her dungeon master.
"Majida! Where are you?" called Treguard.
But it was too late - Majida's image faded into the stones behind her.
"Majida! Come back!" Treguard called desperately. "Majida!"
It was no good. She had vanished. Forgetting all about the hot chocolate he was there to make, Treguard turned round and ran back out the room, along the corridor where the voices in the dungeon below could still be heard, and up the stairs.
As he charged into his chamber, he yelled "Merlin! I've got to talk to you now! This is going too far! I need your help." But Treguard's voice faded as he looked around the room to find that Merlin wasn't there.
"Merlin? Where have you gone?" he yelled? "Merlin please!"
He looked around the room, it was colder and darker than he had ever seen, the fire was still not lighting, and the rubble from the piece of mantelpiece that had fallen was still lying on the floor.
"Merlin," Treguard said sadly. "I need you..."
And with that Treguard put his hands over his face and kneeled down on the floor, quietly sobbing to himself.
It was the following morning; Treguard was asleep in the chamber where he had lay sobbing the previous night. A hand gently rubbing his shoulder waked him. He opened his eyes to see Merlin standing there smiling.
"Merlin!" "That's my name, old man! As far as I can remember anyway" Merlin chuckled.
"I thought you..." Treguard stumbled to his feet. "Where did you go?"
"Last night. I came back and you had left."
"Left? Treguard I only went to the men's room, and when I got back you were fast asleep there on the floor! I figured you must have tired yourself right out with all the excitement yesterday so I left you alone."
Treguard straightened himself up, and told Merlin he was ready to hear what Merlin had been waiting to tell him.
"Treguard, I was dungeon master here for a good part of 20 years. However, my name was deleted from all records and all information of me ever being in charge at Knightmare Castle was burned. I watched over many an adventure, I saw many people come and go; I saw wars begin and I saw peace treaties made. I was here long before the dungeon settled to the peaceful place it is now."
"Peaceful?" yelled Treguard in disbelief! "I fear you have been away from the dungeon for too long, Merlin. The dungeon is never a peaceful place. Only last year I saw the return of Malice to level 3, quickly ending any quest that crossed her path. Luckily a short feud with Lord Fear saw her being banished into a book!"
"Yes, yes, Treguard," interrupted Merlin. "Such petty arguments are nothing compared to what went on while I was in charge. Violent battles between good and evil, and even between different evils took place on a regular occurrence. I myself had to often intervene with individuals in the dungeon who were not abiding by rules. When was the last time you had direct consultation with someone down in the levels?"
"Well, I haven't for years now. Most people are particularly well behaved. Well, as well behaved as they can be!"
"Exactly. When I was in charge the dungeon was a busy old place. There would be organized crime, muggings, even murderers roamed free in the lower levels. And when I say lower levels, I mean lowest. The dungeon consisted of 5 levels when I was in charge. If you think level 3 is bad, Treguard, think yourself lucky you didn't have to witness what went on down in level 5. Even level 4 was horrendous. Come to mention it, it was rumored at the time that through an old derelict cave in level 4 was where they came from..." Merlin drifted into a deep thought.
"Who?" asked Treguard, deeply intrigued.
"They have no real name, as they are not real people. They are neither creature, nor legend. They are a power. A strong power and they call themselves..."
Suddenly there was a loud crash. Merlin and Treguard both jumped up immediately and wondered what on earth had happened. They looked over at the other side of the chamber to discover that the door had been kicked down, and in the doorway stood too extremely large beings. A man and a woman shadowed over Treguard and Merlin and glared down long and hard at them, without blinking. They did not say a word, but merely stared at the two rather small and old looking men as if to make them more uneasy.
Finally, Treguard said, "What is the meaning of this!"
The large man at the door raised his hand and boomed "SILENCE, foolish one! Do NOT speak to me, as you have nothing I wish to hear."
The woman then continued "HOWEVER, what we have to say, I'm sure you'll find MOST interesting."
"Allow us to introduce ourselves," the man said gently, but not at all kindly. "My name is Olgore, and this is Magda. You may as well leave now, as the dungeon is now ours."
"Certainly not!" replied Treguard. "I don't know who you think you are, but I am the rightful master of the dungeon, and resident of this castle."
"SILENCE! I WILL NOT TELL YOU AGAIN!" yelled Olgore.
"If you do not keep your pathetic mouth shut, I will make sure that you have no choice but to keep it shut," added Magda, with a little smile, before continuing.
"You may think you are the rightful master of the dungeon, but Treguard, the dungeon is no longer the dungeon over which you once ruled. We have changed the dungeon back into the way it was in its glory days. We have set all prisoners free and allowed our old "acquaintances" back into their homes. If you want to be master of your dungeon then that is no problem to us. But the dungeon below your feet is no longer your dungeon, Treguard. It is OURS. And you have no business here any more."
Treguard was shocked to silence. He didn't quite know what to say. He wasn't afraid, but he was stunned.
"ALSO" echoed Olgore "You can put a stop to your pathetic little quests now. They are pointless and a waste of OUR dungeon space. Besides, there is not a chance that a so-called dungeoneer would last a moment in our new dungeon. In our new dungeon there is no room for sympathy. As I think you already found out, at the expense of little Mark's life. If you are foolish enough to allow another human into level one, I will see to it personally that the same fate awaits him!"
"We are leaving now!" Magda went on. "When we return, we shall be here to stay. But first we have a few finishing touches to make to level 3. And soon, we shall be re-developing levels 4 and 5 again! Won't that be fun? When we return we do not wish to be greeted by your presence. I think I have made myself clear!"
And with that, they vanished in a glorious flash of light. "Good grief!" Yelled Treguard. Well actually he yelled words which were a little stronger than that! "What on earth can we do?"
"I was right," said Merlin. "It IS them. They must have escaped from prison. They've been hiding in the dungeon all this time subtly making their little changes and developing it into their own. That explains the cold, eerie feeling that has been drifting up to the castle all this time. This is an exact repeat of what happened before! Treguard, these two powers are the most evil presence you are ever likely to find. I dread to think what they have done to the dungeon. They will have completely reformed it into a place reflecting their own evilness."
"Well what can we do?" demanded Treguard. "What did you do last time?"
"I can't remember Treguard! All I can remember was that it was something magnificent. However all records of it have been destroyed..."
"That reminds me Merlin." Treguard paused for a moment. "Exactly why were all records of you being dungeon master destroyed?"
There was a long silence.
"Well..." said Merlin. "I did something terrible. I went against my better judgement and I let a dungeoneer break the most important rule of all. I let him turn back, and as a consequence, he died. I mean he really died, in real life as well as in the illusion of the dungeon."
A lump formed in Treguard's throat. He couldn't believe what he had just heard. Merlin had been banished from the castle, and all records of him were burned, because he had been responsible for a dungeoneer's death? But that is exactly what Treguard had just gone through. He too had told Mark to turn back, and Mark had died. Does this mean Treguard will also be banned from the castle? Will all records of this once brave and glorious Knight be burned in the fire? Will Treguard be forced to become disgraced and leave the castle forever?
"Absolutely not!" announced Treguard, as though answering his own thoughts. He walked over to the portal and told Merlin it was time he did his duty.
"This is my dungeon, Merlin. I mastered it, and it is up to me to look after it. There's only one thing I can do."
"And what's that?" said Merlin, yawning.
"I have to go in, and fight for it. I have to fight for the dungeon, and everyone in it."
This shocked Merlin, and his eyes widened to the size of marbles. "Treguard..." he stammered, "You don't know what's down there anymore. There's no saying what Olgore and Magda have done to the dungeon - especially level 3! They may even have started work on reviving level 4 by now."
"This is no time for What Ifs or Maybes," interrupted Treguard. "I have to do this. I have to go down there."
"And most importantly, I have to rescue Majida..."
Stephen Reid | June 2001