Chapter 13 of 40 Days in an Elvish Prison (read chapter 1)

by Anta Baku


The Patriarch was free from his captivity in the wrought-iron statue of a spider, and ready to lead the group again before he even had been briefed on the situation. Button tried to catch him up, as he had each of the other dwarves, on events within the elven settlement since they had all been captured over a month before. But Alcatraz told him it could wait for later; that the important thing now was properly taking command, and restoring direction and motivation to his subordinates. Which, to Alcatraz, meant a speech. 

The opened iron abdomen of the spider made an excellent speaking platform, Button had to admit. And Alcatraz made a striking figure standing atop it, his bright white beard, or at least mostly-bright-white beard, drawing attention from all over the room. he had been leading all of these dwarves for years, and they were waiting to hear what he had to say. 

“When King York came down from the mountains of the north to found the great dam,” he began, “he was in need of a place of safety for his people. At first he was not thinking of the glory of the dwarves, but only of finding them a place to live undisturbed by the great evils abounding in the north. But on his travels, he and his people faced trials which forged them into a people of abundant greatness, and which showed King York that his dwarves could be counted on to do amazing things. So when he found the valley that would later become the long lake, he did not settle within it. When he found the narrowing-point where a great dam could be constructed, greater than any which had even been built outside of Khatchi-Dami, he did not shy from the task. And when that dam was completed, he said something which has always been meaningful to me, and which offers us guidance in our current situation.”

“‘What we have done here today will always be listed among the greatest accomplishments of the dwarves,’ he said. ‘And while we here have shown the true glory of the dwarves, that does not merely consist of a dam. The true glory of the dwarves is shown in building a place to protect our wives, a place for them to raise our children.’ The King saw that, while a dam itself is important, it’s only in the service it does to the future of dwarvenkind that it can be truly great.”

“In the west, that greatness began to be lost even while, on the other side of the continent, King York was building his dam. Dwarves in the west lost track of the need to protect our wives, the need to build safe and secure places for them to raise our children. This is what dwarves were made for, the heart of dwarven glory. And King York’s dam became a symbol of that glory, the last vestige of the greatness of the dwarven race.”

“When that greatness was threatened, all dwarves everywhere should have stood up to protect it. A vast army of dwarves, as has never been seen before, ought to have formed to take revenge on the Muskellunge and restore the dam to its former glory.”

“But these are degenerate days. The western dwarves are slaves to their wives, when they should have been their protectors. Motherhood, once the most noble calling, has been subordinated to other things. And the western dwarves have allowed this! Even encouraged it!”

“We here can be an example to them. Though we are thirteen where we should have been thousands, we will show the world that dwarven glory is not extinct. That the dream of King York was shattered by the Muskellunge, but not forever destroyed. As the King did nearly a century ago, we will once again establish his dam as a place where our wives can be protected, where they can raise our children in peace and security. We will show the dwarves of the west what can be done, and inspire them in a return to true glory!” 

The other dwarves cheered at this, and Button added a bit of self-conscious clapping. He hadn’t come along for dwarven glory, however the concept was defined. But it did seem to give a new energy to the other dwarves, and he supposed that was a good thing, at least as far as getting out of here was concerned. If they could find one more dwarf, and a way out, maybe they really could still retake King York’s famous dam. The Patriarch had a way of making you believe such things. 

Alcatraz stepped down with the spider and began conferring with Attica. Chino sought out Button and let him know that it wasn’t just one dwarf they had left to find. “Have you seen Quentin?” he asked. 

“Not since the battle,” said Button. “Robben sent him down one of the corridors to scout.” 

“I don’t think he ever came back,” said Chino. 

“No elves ever came through there,” said Button. “Do you think he was captured?” 

“If it had been anyone else, maybe,” said Chino. “But Quentin? I think he just wandered off.” 

“Something caught his attention and he decided it was more important than the battle?” 

“I’m not sure he decides it’s more important,” said Chino. “He just goes.” 

“He always intends to come back, though.” 

“It’s been a long time,” said Chino. “And who knows what the Patriarch is going to decide to do now? He doesn’t have any sympathy for people not following orders.” 

“So you want to go find him,” said Button. 

“I do, but not by myself,” said Chino. “He’d just yell at me again.” 

“All right,” said Button. “The two of us can go.” 

“We have to get the Patriarch’s permission,” said Chino. “He wouldn’t be any happier with us wandering off than with Quentin.” 

“We’re just going to put him in charge then?” asked Button. “He doesn’t even know what’s going on yet.” 

“He’s my boss,” said Chino. “And we’ve been having problems getting everyone working together. You’ve seen that.”

“I’ve never understood why he was your boss,” said Button. “How can a religious leader know how to be in charge of a carpenter?”

“He’s also the master engineer for the whole project,” said Chino. 

“I’ve heard he isn’t much of an engineer,” said Button.

“Don’t let him find out who told you that,” said Chino. “I could guess, but then, I could guess about six people, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But the King made him master engineer, so he’s master engineer. Which means he’s the boss.” 

“Which means we ask his permission to go find Quentin?” 

“Which means we ask his permission to leave,” said Chino. “I don’t intend to tell him Quentin is missing. It’s better if we just find him and bring him back.” 

“What do we say about why we’re leaving, then?” said Button.

“Good question,” said Chino. “I suppose you and I are going to scout possible escape routes.” 

Alcatraz wasn’t unhappy with that idea. When he quizzed Button about what kind of escape routes they might be looking for, all Button had to tell him was what he remembered of Massei’s plan. And since that implied going to the elven dam, the Patriarch insisted they take some electrical engineers with them. Chino didn’t tell Dannemora and Joliet what they were really doing until the four of them were out of hearing of the main group of dwarves.

“They’re going to go looking for the King, and we have to chase after Quentin?” said Joliet.

“Sorry about that,” said Chino. “I thought Button and I could go by ourselves.” 

“Well, let’s get on with it. Maybe we’ll find him first and beat the others to Robben’s rendezvous point.” 

“We should be looking for escape routes while we’re at it,” said Dannemora. “You never know, we might just find one.” 

“If they find the King quickly, maybe we can use Massei’s plan before she does,” said Chino. “That would be easier than finding another way out on our own.” 

“We could find our way out through the fire caves,” said Dannemora.

“That ought to be the last resort,” said Chino. “You saw that thing the wizard was fighting.”

“There are more of us now,” said Dannemora. “We have swords.” 

“I don’t think there are enough swords in the history of elven craftsmanship to beat that thing,” said Chino. “No, we need another way.” 

“Well, we can go to the dam anyway,” said Joliet. “Unless you have a better method for searching for Quentin.” 

“We don’t know how to get there,” said Button. 

“I can find it,” said Joliet. “Any electrical connection that doesn’t come back here ought inevitably to end up there. We just find some working equipment and follow the lines back to the source.” 

“That’s not a bad guess at what Quentin did,” said Chino. “Except with water instead of electricity. Their dam has to be controlling the water flow through the settlement, as well as providing power. And he’s always trying to get upstream.” 

“So we might find him at the dam after all?” asked Button.

“It’s as good a guess as any,” said Chino. 

They had all lost track of time in the maze underneath the festival field, so were relieved to discover it was night in the inhabited part of the elven settlement. Moving three dwarves around unseen was still challenging, though Button was glad he didn’t have to handle twelve. 

They didn’t find any sign of Quentin, but they did seem to be moving closer to the elven dam. “There are going to be elves awake in there,” said Joliet as they approached. “Even on the night shift.”

“Maybe Button can sneak into the control center while the rest of us try to find this secret exit,” said Dannemora. “Or at least the access to the turbines.” 

Button wasn’t pleased at the idea of letting more dwarves out of his sight, but they promised not to do anything that would attract attention, and that had to be good enough. He certainly couldn’t take three dwarves into the control center with him; it was going to be hard enough to sneak in on his own. But they had to know what they would be up against if they had to try to escape this way. 

It turned out that the elves in the control room were too busy to discover Button spying on them. They already had a prisoner. Quentin had made his way here after all, and was now completely in the control of the elven servants working at the dam, who were arguing about what to do with him. 

“The dwarves killed Vendiku,” said one. “We have to turn him over to the Queen for trial and execution.” 

“Do you really believe that?” said another.

“I suppose you still think Amarac did it,” said a third.

“If Amarac did kill him I’m sure they had a good reason,” said another.

“You should just go join the revolutionaries, then,” said the first. 

“Why not?” said the one who had defended Amarac. “Maybe it’s time we ruled ourselves instead of being servants to the Queen.” 

“Just saying that is treason,” said one who hadn’t spoken yet. 

“Slaves can’t commit treason.”

“And you think you’re a slave?” said the first. “You’ve got a good job here at the dam. You could be cleaning toilets in the males’ quarters.”

“And you’ll end up there if you don’t keep your mouth shut,” said another. “Or worse.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” said the first. “I’ve called a supervisor. She’ll handle the dwarf. The rest of you should get back to work.” 

“You’re not in charge of us,” said several elves at once.

“Are you really not tired of knuckling under to the females?” said the elf who was sympathetic to the revolution.

“Maybe I’ll be a female one day, and then you’ll see,” said the first.

“We could all be females if the Queen wasn’t stopping us,” said the revolutionary. Button felt comfortable thinking of them that way now.

“A whole society of females?” said one of the others. “That’s like a city of bosses. Who would do the real work?” 

“That doesn’t matter,” said the revolutionary. “We could all have the choice to become female. Nature gave us that choice. The Queen took it away. What gives her the right?”

While they were arguing, Button was trying to make use of the distraction to catch Quentin’s attention without being seen himself. The young dwarf finally noticed him, and his eyes widened. Button tried to signal to him to be patient, that Button would go get the rest of the dwarves and come back. That wasn’t easy with just facial expressions. He hoped he had done the job well enough, and backed out of the control center. 

Dannemora and Joliet were easy enough to find; they were out on the top of the dam itself trying to find access hatches to the turbine chambers. Button wasn’t sure if they had guessed, somehow, that all of the elves in the control room were too occupied to notice them, or if they just hadn’t cared.

Despite all the talk, this was the first real hydroelectric dam Button had ever seen, and he wasn’t impressed. It was low and squat, barely the height of two dwarves stacked on top of each other, and about as far from monumental as he could imagine. He reminded himself that this was a small and limited example of the form, but he still couldn’t help wondering what all the fuss was about. It wasn’t much more than a wall that happened to be holding back water. 

He got the twins down from it, and the three of them went looking for Chino, who had felt the need to be more careful. He was on the far side of the dam from the control room, poking around various mechanical areas which were completely mysterious to Button, but he was happy to give it up when he learned that the carroll had located Quentin. Though he was less excited to find out that they would have to fight off seven control room elves in order to rescue him.

Or maybe it would be eight. By the time they got to the control room, the arguing had stopped and a new elf was there in charge of the situation. Button expected her to be the expected supervisor, but was surprised when he got a glimpse of her face and recognized Massei. She looked more female even to him now, and she definitely looked female to the elves within, who were showing her the deference due a superior, even the revolutionary one. They had been expecting a supervisor, and so they saw a supervisor, even though it wasn’t their familiar boss.

But Massei had no idea what to do about Quentin. She must have been there to fulfill her part of her escape plan. But she couldn’t do anything surreptitiously now. The elves of the control room assumed she was rightfully in charge, and she had to deal with an unfamiliar role as well as an unexpected dwarf.

Revealed, she was trying to bluff her way into getting what she had come here for secretly. “One dwarf is not important right now,” she said. “The important thing is that we switch the settlement over to auxiliary power.” 

“We haven’t had an order for that,” said one of the servants.

“You’re getting one now.” 

“We usually get maintenance orders three days in advance.” 

“This isn’t maintenance, it’s security,” said Massei. “You’ve done a good job capturing this one dwarf, but there are a dozen more of them out there, and the Queen is afraid they will try to sabotage the dam.” 

“This one could be a scout,” said a different servant. 

“Exactly,” said Massei. “So we need to run on auxiliary power until the dwarves are caught, to remove the temptation.” 

“That’s not how this works,” said the first servant. “We can run on batteries for a few hours, while we do maintenance. Even that’s been getting harder, recently. Even the newest batteries are thirty years old now, and most of them haven’t been replaced since original construction. We can’t run the whole settlement on them indefinitely. We worry about them failing while we’re changing the gearbox oil.” 

“We’ll have to find the dwarves quickly, then,” said Massei. “It’s a good thing you’ve captured one already. Perhaps he will tell us where to find the others.” 

“Are you going to torture him?” asked one of the servants far too eagerly.

Button could see Massei wince at that question, and he was sure the elves could too, but she chose to persist in her bluff. “If he forces me to,” she said. “If he knows what’s best for him, he’ll tell me what I want to know before it comes to that.”

Even Quentin looked skeptical at that threat. Massei hadn’t sold it well, but the control room servants were perceiving her as female, and they were in the habit of obeying the females. They weren’t quick to obey, but they obeyed. They had gotten as far as getting out their procedure manuals for switching to battery power when the real supervisor arrived. 

She clearly knew more about dams than Massei did, and wasn’t ready to even think about shutting this one down. “If the Queen had ordered us to go to emergency power I would know about it,” she said. “Besides that, who are you? I don’t know you.” She grabbed Massei by the chin and turned her face to the light. “I’ve seen you before,” she said, and she sniffed. “And I’ve smelled you before, but not like this.” Massei didn’t resist, and that was the last clue the supervisor needed. “You’re a servant!” she said. “Why are you here, pretending to be a woman, trying to have the dam shut down? Arrest her!”

Massei backed into a corner of the room, and the control room servants followed her, abandoning their guard on Quentin. He was still restrained, but Button saw an opportunity. If the four of them rushed into the room they could free Quentin and be out the opposite exit before anyone could stop them. It was just a question of what to do when the elves inevitably pursued. They would have Massei captured in moments, even if she chose to try to fight them off. 

But not all of the control room servants had the same idea. The one who had expressed support for the revolution broke formation, bowled over two of the others, and joined Massei in her corner, looking for a fight. 

They would never get a better opportunity than this, so Button, with Chino and the twins, charged into the room with the advantage of surprise. Dannemora’s war cry broke the elven standoff into chaos, and before any of the elves could react, they were loosing Quentin from his bonds and getting away. Button took one last glance of his shoulder as they left the room and saw that Massei and her unexpected ally were seizing the opportunity. Massei had tackled the real supervisor and was trying to hold her down, while the revolutionary was holding off the half-hearted attacks of the six other servants. 

There wasn’t time to watch how it all came out. They had to get back to the others. 

Their route to the rendezvous led back through the botanical garden, and they were surprised to find the other dwarves camped out behind the hill in the carroll section. Not only hadn’t they found the King, they had had an unpleasant experience with the revolutionaries. Not actually a fight, it seemed, though it sounded like Newgate had done his best to provoke one. But enough of a confrontation that the dwarves had retreated here to rest and recover. The rebels, meanwhile, had camped out next to the pond in the human garden, and the dwarves didn’t have a guess as to what their plan was for the future. 

The twins mixed back in with the other dwarves, but Quentin drew Button and Chino aside. “Thank you for rescuing me,” he said.

“I’m glad you see it that way,” said Chino. “I thought you might tell me I shouldn’t have been following you and you had it all under control.”

“I didn’t, this time,” said Quentin. “The elves would have executed me if you hadn’t come after me.” 

“Well, I’m just glad to be of help, for once,” said Chino. 

“I think,” said Quentin slowly, “maybe it’s not unreasonable for you to be watching out for me. It’s annoying. But maybe it’s not unreasonable.” 

“It wasn’t unreasonable this time,” said Chino. “But that doesn’t mean you were wrong about it before.” 

“I think I need to get better about choosing when I go off on my own,” said Quentin. 

“And I need to get better at telling the difference between when looking for you is reasonable, and when it’s just annoying.” 

“That sounds like a good compromise,” said Button. “Especially if you will each try to give the other one credit for acting in good faith when you’re not perfect.” 

“I’m always not perfect,” said Chino. 

“Just like the rest of us,” said Quentin. “But at least you know it.” 

“Speaking of the Patriarch,” said Chino, “it looks like he wants us all to gather around.” 

When they got there, Dannemora was already giving Alcatraz a short version of what he had seen at the dam. “We didn’t have very much time to look around before the rescue,” he said. “We couldn’t confirm the existence of this secret exit the elf-woman talked about. But it’s plausible.”

“Chino, do you agree with that assessment?” asked Alcatraz.

“The elves have built up things around the dam in the last decades,” said Chino. “But the original is dwarven work, and I don’t see how they could have installed the turbines from above. There must have been an access door at some time, but like Dannemora said, we didn’t have time to locate it.” 

“You’ve learned a lot about elven devices in the last month,” said Alcatraz. “Are you confident you will be able to get to the exits once you find them?”

“We’ve been able to figure everything out so far,” said Chino. “The mechanical devices are all water-based, and there’s plenty of water at the dam. Anything the dwarves installed might be electrical instead, and that’s Dannemora’s department.” 

“You mean that’s my department,” said Attica. 

“Of course,” said Chino. “But within your department, it’s Dannemora and Joliet who have been working on the electrical devices.” 

“Only because they were released earlier,” said Attica. 

“Are you confident we can operate any electrical devices we need to escape?” Alcatraz asked him.

“Of course,” said Attica. “It’s a very simple, primitive dam design. It won’t be a problem.” Both Dannemora and Chino looked like they wanted to object, but Alcatraz accepted Attica’s assessment and moved on without asking anything else of them. 

“What about the military situation?” he said. “Robben?”

“This place isn’t very defensible,” Robben said. “I still don’t think we should have stopped here. Right now it appears that both sides of the elven conflict are unlikely to be able to pursue offensive actions against us, but we don’t know when or how that could change. The Queen may have had more soldiers in reserve. Or the rebels might decide that we’re worth wiping out after all.” 

“What do you advise?” said Alcatraz. 

“We have two options, neither one particularly good. We could return to the substation and fortify it. We could hold out there for quite some time, even with our limited weapons, but in the end it would give the elves time to resolve their conflict and eventually starve us out. We could escape quickly through the dam, and if all of us were here that would be worth trying while the elves are still recovering from their battle.”

“But that’s only an option if we find the King in time,” said Alcatraz.

“Exactly,” said Robben. “The third option is one that Attica already rejected, but you might want to reconsider: ally with the revolutionaries.” 

“You trust them not to imprison us again after they win?” Alcatraz asked.

“Not at all,” said Robben. “But we might find an opportunity of some sort before then.” 

“Attica?” said Alcatraz. “Why did you reject this proposal before?”

“Subordinate ourselves to a woman?” said Attica. “And an elf? It’s unthinkable. She would lead us into destruction.” 

“That’s my natural reaction as well, of course,” said Alcatraz. “But both sides of this conflict are led by women. It ought to make either of them easy to defeat.” 

“They’re still more powerful than we are,” said Robben. “And better-equipped. An advantage in command ability and fighting spirit can only accomplish so much.” 

“You don’t believe we could defeat the Elvenqueen?” said Alcatraz.

“We might,” said Robben. “Like I said, we don’t know what forces she has in reserve. But if we defeat the Queen, we would then have to face the rebels. And there are still plenty of them.” 

“We will stay away from these elves and their women as much as possible,” said Alcatraz. “For now. Once we’ve retaken the great dam and drawn more dwarves to us, we can return and destroy the feeble armies of whoever wins this current conflict. But we should avoid getting drawn into it now.”

“So what do you want us to do?” said Robben.

“Find the King,” said Alcatraz. “Then we go to the dam, open the secret exit, and leave these elves behind us.” 

“We have to shut down the dam first,” said Attica.


“We have to shut down the dam first. If you want to get out through the turbine chambers, we have to shut down the dam first.” 

“What do you mean?” said Alcatraz.

“Unless you want to be drowned and chopped up into little pieces, we have to shut down the dam first.” 


“Because there will be water running through the turbine chambers,” said Attica.

“Oh,” said Alcatraz. “Well of course we have to shut down the dam first. I just didn’t mention that because I thought it was so obvious.” 

“Yes, sir,” said Attica. 

“But first we have to find the King,” said Alcatraz. “Everyone, find the King.” 

“How do you want us to do that?” said Chino.

“How did you do it before?” said Alcatraz. “You found all the rest of us, now it’s time to find the King.” He ended the meeting with that, and he and Attica went off to confer privately. 

“Oh, sure, just find the King,” said Chino. “If it was that easy don’t you think we would have already done it?” 

“It’s too bad we didn’t find the King first,” said Robben. “He might have been willing to leave before we found the Patriarch.” 

“Don’t say that where the others can hear,” said Chino.

“Which others?” said Robben. “The engineers all hate him because he’s their boss and knows less about electricity than I do.” 

“Some of them really believe, though,” said Chino. 

“I’m not sure if it’s belief or just desperation,” said Robben. “Offer them money and power and women and they’ll follow even if it’s stupid, because even a stupid promise is better than no chance of anything in reality.” 

“Either way he’s here, and we have to do what he says.”

“So do you have any idea how to find the King?” 

“I’ve been thinking,” said Chino. “Since we’re here. We found a dwarf in every other part of the botanical garden, but not here in the carroll fields.” 

“Maybe they’re too small,” said Robben. 

“Or maybe we missed something,” said Chino. “It’s worth finding out.” 

“I don’t see any obvious places to hide a dwarf.” 

“No,” said Chino. “But there might be a non-obvious one. This place is pretty natural.” 

“Natural?” said Button. “I promise you, carrolls don’t usually grow our vegetables underground.” He had a bad feeling he knew where Chino was headed with this. 

“Artificially natural, then,” said Chino. “Your design sense should still be able to tell the difference.” 

Button wasn’t pleased with the idea of bringing his design sense back into things at all, but he resigned himself to the necessity. Chino called Newgate over to do the dirty work of holding Button’s hand through the process, but surprisingly, Newgate would now have nothing to do with it. 

“Of course I’m not going to hold hands with him,” said the young dwarf. “That’s disgusting.” 

“You didn’t have a problem with it before,” said Chino.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Newgate. “I don’t hold hands with anybody. Unless she’s at least a nine, anyway.” 

“Someone needs to hold hands with him so he can use his sense,” said Chino.

“Yeah, well, not me,” said Newgate. “You’re not my boss.” 

“But I am,” said Robben.

“So?” said Newgate. “You want me to stab him, I’ll stab him. But don’t tell me holding hands is part of the job of a master-at-arms.”

The argument had drawn the attention of all the other dwarves. “Sure it is,” said Bastille. “And so is dancing around in a circle.” 

“When you’re done you can have a tea party,” said Mo.

“We need you to do this,” said Chino.

“Why don’t you do it, if you don’t think it’s disgusting?” said Newgate.

“I didn’t say I didn’t think it was disgusting,” said Chino.

“Well, then,” said Newgate. “I don’t see why you should try to make me do it.” 

“Who else did it before?” said Angola. “Quentin? Quentin can do it.” 

“Quentin isn’t even here,” said Joliet. They all looked around, but the young hydrologist was missing again. 

“He’s playing around with the waterfall,” said Dannemora. “Someone else will have to do it.” 

“Why don’t you do it, then?” said  Bastille.

“I’m not going to do it,” said Dannemora.

“Leavenworth can do it,” said Joliet.

“Me?” said Leavenworth. “How do I come into this? I haven’t even said anything.”

“You’re a medic, aren’t you?” said Joliet. “You trained to do disgusting things.” 

“Not that kind of disgusting,” said Leavenworth. “Just the kind where there’s blood everywhere.”

“We could make that happen if it makes you more comfortable,” said Newgate.

“But you have to touch people,” said Joliet. “Sometimes in places where the rest of us wouldn’t. You’re the obvious choice.” 

“Besides, we already know you don’t like girls,” said Mo. 

“That doesn’t mean anything,” said Leavenworth. “I don’t like anybody. Especially you right now.” 

But all the other dwarves agreed with Joliet that Leavenworth was the obvious choice. Or at least they said so to get out of doing it themselves. Button wasn’t sure why holding his hand was such an awful experience for all of them. Personally, he didn’t even care who did it. He just wanted to get it over with. 

Once Leavenworth had resigned himself to being pressured into it, he felt the same way. He took Button’s hand gingerly from as far away as he could manage, and Button started to activate his sense when there came a great crash, and a great splash, from the direction of the waterfall.

“Quentin!” said Chino. “What has he gotten into now?” 

Leavenworth’s hand was already out of Button’s. “I had better go check on that,” he said. “Quentin might be hurt.” He dashed off, and Button followed more slowly on his smaller legs. Behind them the others were still arguing over how terrible it would be to hold Button’s hand.

The waterfall here wasn’t a single cascade but a long sequence of smaller drops over boulders and outcrops in the river. Quentin was lying in the pool at the bottom where the water finally stilled. He was dazed but still aware enough to keep his head above water, something that must have been a primal reflex for the young hydrologist. Leavenworth tried to haul him out of the pool, but needed the assistance of the twins, who had followed behind Button, before he could drag him all the way to shore. 

Leavenworth did a cursory examination of Quentin’s body without finding anything particularly out of order. “I don’t think he’s seriously hurt, unless he hit his head,” said the medic. “Did anyone see him fall?”

No one there had seen the actual moment. “I saw him come over here,” said Dannemora. “He was wading around up there, in the middle of the falls. He must have slipped.” 

“Quentin, slipped?” said Joliet. “I’d believe that of anybody else, not that anybody else would have been up there in the first place. But Quentin might as well be a seal.” 

“That’s true,” said Dannemora. “Something else must have happened. I wonder what?”

“We can ask him when he comes to,” said Leavenworth. “He’s breathing all right, and there aren’t any big dents in his head. He’s bound to come back before too long.” 

“And do you think he’ll be able to explain it to us comprehensibly?” said Dannemora. 

“We won’t know the extent of the head injury until he can talk,” said Leavenworth. “I suppose there might be confusion or memory loss.” 

“I didn’t mean the head injury,” said Dannemora. “I just meant Quentin.”

“Oh, in that case you’re right,” said Leavenworth. “You never know with head injuries, but it’s not likely to make him more understandable than he already was.” 

“So we’ll have to investigate it ourselves,” said Dannemora. “Come on, Joliet.” 

“We’re going up there?” said his brother. “Something hurt Quentin in the water and now you want us to go poking around in the same place?” 

“We’ll be more careful than he was,” said Dannemora. 

“That’s not hard,” said Chino. 

Joliet clearly didn’t want to go, but his brother insisted, and he eventually followed along. Button stayed with the others and watched, alternately worried about whether Quentin would be all right when he woke up and whether the twins would face a similar fate. They were more awkward in the water than Quentin was, but he could tell that they were also considerably more cautious. 

Quentin opened his eyes, and mumbled something, but Leavenworth kept him from trying to get up. He clearly wasn’t ready to answer questions yet. Leavenworth was more interested in checking his pupils and his physical responsiveness. The medic didn’t seem especially concerned about any of his results, which was a relief to Button. He was even more relieved when the twins worked their way out of the waterfall and came back to join them.

“There’s definitely a device of some sort up there,” said Joliet. “Quentin must have triggered part of it and been knocked off-balance.” 

“Do you have any idea what it does?” Chino asked.

“You can come look at it if you want,” said Dannemora. “There are parts of it all over the waterfall. But whatever it is, it’s a water-driven device, and we should probably wait for him.”

“I can murbugurh,” said Quentin.  

“Give yourself a minute,” said Dannemora. “We can wait for that weird brain of yours to start itself up again.” 

“I don’t think you’re in any danger,” said Leavenworth. “But you’re going to be fuzzy-headed for a while.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” mumbled Quentin just distinctly enough for Button to make out. “Jus modzhe all the dayce.” 

“Anybody get that?” asked Chino.

“‘Close all the gates?'” Joliet guessed. “There are a bunch of wooden gates in the water up there.” Quentin pointed at him enthusiastically. 

“I’m hesitant to go messing with a water feature that hurt Quentin,” said Chino. “But he’s clearly in no condition to go himself.” 

“I can go,” said Quentin, trying to sit up, but Leavenworth held him down again. 

“You’re not going,” said the medic. “The others can do it for you.” 

“I’m getting better,” said Quentin, and the sentence was understandable enough to reinforce itself.

“And if you want to keep getting better you need to not hit your head again,” said Leavenworth. “Let the others do it.” 

Chino might not have liked the idea very much, but he liked letting Quentin go back into the waterfall even less. The twins had demonstrated that they could be careful enough up there, and even Joliet was reassuring about it. So the three of them went off to close Quentin’s gates and see what happened. 

Button wasn’t sure what to do. “Should I stay here?” he asked Leavenworth. 

“Go with them if you want to,” said the medic. “Quentin shouldn’t be talking too much right now anyway. He needs to rest.” 

So Button followed Chino and the twins, but he didn’t venture into the waterfall, just watched them from the shore. There were, indeed, wooden gates scattered across the run of the falls, and each time the dwarves closed one it redirected the water to expose another section of rock. 

“They have pipes in them,” Chino called out to him. “I’m not sure what keeping water out of the pipes is going to do, but that’s clearly what the gates are for.” He and the twins worked their way carefully down the waterfall, closing gates, exposing pipes, until at the bottom they finally closed the last gate and waited for something to happen.

In the center of the waterfall, midway up, a boulder started to rise, and as it did the top of it slid back to reveal a hidden chamber. Inside was standing a dwarf, strong, dynamic, long-bearded, wearing armor that was both expensive and effective. It was Folsom, son of Waban, son of York, Tankhammer, King Under the Watershed. The vision of him was very impressive for about a second, and then the water surged over the top of the opened cell and soaked him from head to toe. 

Somehow he managed to stay standing, and Chino and the twins scrambled back up the waterfall to help him out. Now all the dwarves were together, and all that remained was escape.

Chapter 14 of 40 Days in an Elvish Prison is Folsom.

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