Chapter 11 of 40 Days in an Elvish Prison (read chapter 1)
by Anta Baku
Attica may have just been released from a prison cell, but he decided the most important thing for him to do first was give his companions a rousing speech. He called everyone together on the catwalks, and they gathered around him for lack of anything else to do. Even Chino’s team gave up dropping heavy objects on the elves below, who had gotten good enough at dodging that there wasn’t much point to it anymore. Button found himself sitting between Chino and Dannemora for the speech. Or the sermon, perhaps.
“Friends,” he began. “Dwarves, and that other fellow.” He indicated Button, who supposed he couldn’t expect Attica to remember his name at this point. “You may feel in dire straits! Here we are, precariously on these catwalks, with an army of elves beneath. Our leaders are still lost, our futures uncertain. But I have been through worse, and come through to tell the tale!”
“Oh, not again,” said Chino aside to Button. “He always tells this story when he wants to be inspirational.”
“When I was a young dwarf, growing up in the west, I fell in love,” said Attica. “Not with a girl! I was far too young for that! I fell in love with a story. It was the story of two giant dams built by dwarves on the other side of the continent, far to the east. One, the greatest, had been lost. The other, nearly as great, was still the center of a thriving dwarven culture. These dams were far larger, more complex, and more powerful than any we had in the west, and I was fascinated by them. I had visions of traveling to the east and seeing them for myself. More than that, I had childhood dreams of learning the secrets of such dams, and making them my life’s work. Then, when I was only twelve, the second dam was also taken by the forces of evil. I was devastated.”
“He was devastated,” said Dannemora dryly, but too soft for Attica to hear.
“But I wasn’t defeated!” said Attica. “I felt defeated. I mourned the loss of the great dams, and didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. But at twelve, not knowing what you want to do with yourself is not so bad. There are plenty of your peers who don’t know what they want to do with themselves, either. Nothing excited me the way the idea of the big dams had, but that didn’t make me unusual. It just made me twelve.
“And then the men who had survived the lost dam came to live in my city. I was still fascinated by them, and by their history. As a child I could not approach them, but I collected rumors and theories about them. Kids have their own little gossip society, and most of it is imaginary, but I learned that they were trying to put together a mission to return to their dam, and I dreamed of being a part of it. In reality they wouldn’t have taken a teenager. In reality they weren’t making progress at convincing western adults to help them. But for the kids, this was an exciting and realistic possibility.
“It was enough to make me continue studying the engineering of the great dams. To keep me engaged in learning things that might allow me to journey to the dams in the east if they were retaken. I regretted being too young for the mission, but surely they would need workers again after it was complete.
“The year I entered engineering school, the westerners changed their proposal. Instead of trying to retake their own dam, they aspired to retake Khatchi-Dami, the masterpiece of dwarven construction, the greatest of all our creations. That did not bring me greater inspiration, but I saw it seize the imaginations of those around me in the way that either great dam had long before taken hold of mine. Suddenly there were more students who were frustrated at being too young to go along. And while we weren’t able to go, we could follow the preparations for the mission and speculate about what would happen after it succeeded. We took for granted that it would succeed. So we were destroyed when it didn’t.”
“They were destroyed,” said Chino. “Some of us were actually on that battlefield.” He looked across at Robben, who was looking at him.
“That was when I truly lost my way,” said Attica. “I thought I had been devastated before, but when the mission to Khatchi-Dami returned in defeat, I felt true hopelessness.”
“He sucked the dragon’s tongue!” Newgate called out.
“I did,” said Attica. “I took the drug, and I learned to love it. You fortunate sons have never tasted the dragon’s tongue, never known the sensation of possessing infinite gold it provides. You were smart enough to listen to your mothers and stay away.”
“Even my mother was right about that one,” yelled Leavenworth.
“I thought I was smarter,” said Attica. “My standing in my class proved it. But there was no longer anything for me to do with my education. I had no interest in operating the tiny dams of the west. If the great dams of the east were lost to me, I would investigate the drug.
“My class standing continued to prove how smart I was: as I experimented with the dragon’s tongue, it plummeted. I was in my final year of school when the news of the disaster at Khatchi-Dami reached me, and by the end of that year I had failed it permanently and completely. Instead of graduating I found the gutter. Instead of running dams, I was running desperately for the drug.
“But the dragon’s tongue has more to it than the feeling of infinite riches. You feel like you’ve been given infinite gold for free, but before long the drug exacts its payment. A dwarf’s brain is a powerful thing, and like any powerful machine it is dangerous to recklessly modify. Too much of the drug can haunt you for the rest of your life. Two years later I experienced my first attack, and it was terrifying. I swore off the drug and was desperate for anything to hold onto, anything that wasn’t the dragon’s tongue.
“So I did what I could not do as a child: I sought out the King Under the Watershed. Perhaps a disheveled and discredited drug addict should not go seeking out kings, but the young dwarf who had inherited his title on the killing fields of Khatchi-Dami was now a social outcast himself. Many western dwarves had lost their lives on his grandfather’s mission, and few were willing to support the new King in exile. He retained neither prestige nor patronage, and few sought his company. That left an opening for even a poor dip-slip like me. If I could not seek a life in an eastern dam, I could at least hear what it had been like to be the prince of one.
“We became friends, somehow. He didn’t save me from the drug, but he gave me something to hold onto that was outside of the drug. Something to remember, and come back to, after my inevitable slides back into the world of the dragon’s tongue. He was always there with an ale and a tale when I needed him to be.
“And out of that, eventually, came hope again. Came this mission. We’re once again out to reclaim one of the great dams of our ancestors, and, though we possess no army, I believe that this time we will succeed. So perk up, fellow dwarves! And the other guy. We will come out of this and we will find our rightful glory!”
“He loves telling that story so much,” said Chino. “At some point we’re going to stop letting him.”
“I’m just glad to sit down and not think about anything for a minute,” said Dannemora. “Besides, if he’s giving sermons he’s not giving me orders.”
Chino looked down past the catwalks. “Yeah, well, while we were resting and not thinking about anything, what do you think happened to the elves? I don’t see them anymore.”
The other dwarves confirmed that the elves had, in fact, cleared out of the festival field while no one was paying attention. They weren’t coming up the blocked stairwell, but no one had any idea where else they might be.
The dwarves, of course, wanted Button to go down and find out. He was the sneakiest, and after all he hadn’t been watching where the elves were going either. He bore partial responsibility. The fact that he was the only one who hadn’t heard Attica’s drug sermon before didn’t make any difference to them.
Quentin took him aside for a private conversation before he left. “You still want me to apologize to Chino, don’t you?” he asked.
“It would make things easier,” said Button carefully. “But I can’t make you do it.”
“I’ve been thinking about it,” said Quentin. “And I don’t understand, so I wanted to ask you. Do you think I’m wrong about the way Chino has been after me all the time like I need watching? Like I need extra supervision?”
“No,” said Button. “Not at all. You’re right about that. I see it too.”
“So do you agree with him?” said Quentin. “Do you think he’s right to treat me as a child?”
“Not that either,” said Button. “I can see his perspective, I suppose. But that just means I can see what makes him treat you badly.”
“Then why do you want me to apologize?” said Quentin.
“Because… because sometimes just because you’re right doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apologize.” He held up a hand to stop Quentin from objecting. “An apology is about understanding that you hurt him. About sympathizing with his need to be wrong, even while you think he’s wrong.”
“I don’t understand that at all,” said Quentin.
“It’s about showing you know that what he’s doing isn’t about you,” said Button.
“I think I said that already,” said Quentin.
“Then it’s about saying it differently. In a way that gives him a chance to see it and do better, instead of just being hurt.”
“I think he should be the one to apologize,” said Quentin.
“He doesn’t know how,” said Button. “You might get an apology if you give one first. Lower the barriers between you. He really cares.”
“Too much,” said Quentin.
“Not too much,” said Button. “Just not too well. Can you give him a chance to do better?”
“I don’t know,” said Quentin. “I’ll think about it.”
“It doesn’t need to be fast,” said Button. “We can talk again when I get back from finding the elves.”
Button descended from the catwalks without encountering any elves intent on attacking the dwarves, either on his own route down or any of the other possible ways to the top of the festival complex. They weren’t on the field or in the boxes, either. He supposed their withdrawal was a good thing, but he would have felt better about it if he had known where they withdrew to. They had taken their wounded with them, so leaving must have been an intentional decision.
Was it possible they were simply lost in the utility spaces behind the main part of the feasting grounds? This place had been abandoned for so long that the elves might not have any better idea of its organization than Button and the dwarves did. Less, even, for the dwarves had had a full day to scout. The elves hadn’t found an unblocked way to the catwalks, but that didn’t mean they weren’t still looking for one. He would have to check the maze of service tunnels before he could be sure an army of elves wouldn’t accidentally emerge from them at an inconvenient time.
Button wasn’t sure he could avoid getting lost in them himself, but the dwarves certainly wouldn’t accept a report that the elves were gone if he didn’t check everywhere they could possibly be. So he made sure to concentrate on his path as he entered the service tunnels, keeping the ability to retrace his steps always in his mind.
So he explored them slowly and thoroughly, and by the time he was done, well, he wouldn’t be able to honestly tell the dwarves he hadn’t found any elves down there. But the elves he found were very much not the ones he had gone in looking for. There were only two of them, and they were as far from fighters as elves could get. Button had seen them before, but not together.
Branyeso the male and Massei the… almost female? Whatever she was at the moment, she and her lover were meeting in secret beneath the festival field. As far as Button could tell, they were unaware of the conflict that had recently been taking place over their heads. He was able to sneak close enough to them to see as well as overhear. If he had been more of an expert on elven biology, he might have been able to see how far along Massei was in her transformation. He supposed he ought to be cataloging her physical assets for Newgate’s benefit, but he found it hard to tell. She still looked basically like a servant to him, and he was more interested in their conversation anyway.
They were standing close to each other, awkwardly, not touching. “Every time we meet now is dangerous,” said Massei. “I don’t know who might be watching me. Noticing that I’m missing.”
“You don’t want to see me?” said Branyeso.
“Of course I want to see you,” said Massei. “I love you. But we can see each other for the rest of our lives if we don’t get caught over the next few days.” She still didn’t move to touch him.
“How are we going to spend the rest of our lives together?” said Branyeso. “The Queen will never forgive us for this now.”
“We’ll have to escape,” said Massei.
“And how do you want to do that?” asked Branyeso.
“How do you want to do that?” said Massei. “You’re allowed to have ideas. I need you to have ideas. I’m spending all my energy just covering my transition, now that everyone’s watching every servant for anything suspicious.”
“You would have had an easier time if your friend hadn’t killed Vendiku,” said Branyeso.
“They didn’t,” said Massei.
“Everyone says they did,” said Branyeso. “Even the Queen announced it.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Massei.
“You think Amarac wouldn’t have killed someone?”
“I think Amarac wouldn’t have killed someone for no reason,” said Massei. “Killed someone to start the revolution, maybe. But just at random?”
“It seems to have done a good job of starting the revolution,” said Branyeso.
“But could you have predicted that? The murder didn’t start the revolution, the Queen blaming Amarac for it did. So now Amarac isn’t here to lead the troops, they’re in hiding. They wouldn’t have planned that.”
“All right,” said Branyeso. “If you say Amarac didn’t do it I believe you. But it doesn’t make things any less hard for us in the aftermath.”
“So what do you want to do about it?” Massei asked.
“I don’t know. I thought you would have a plan.”
“I don’t have a plan,” said Massei. “I just keep pretending to be a good servant, and covering up my transition, and I won’t be able to do that for very much longer.”
“We could join the revolutionaries.”
“Do you think they would be any happier about us than the Queen?”
“I don’t think we should bet on maybe,” said Massei. “We need to get out of here.”
“Like Amarac did? Do you know where Amarac went?”
“They didn’t have time to tell me,” said Massei. “Or maybe they chose not to tell me. Either way we can’t follow them. We need our own way to escape.”
“So you need to come up with a plan.”
“We need to come up with a plan,” she said. “You need to do your part.”
“I’m willing to do my part, but I’m a man. My part isn’t coming up with the plan, it’s doing what you say.”
“I thought you wanted more than that.”
“I do,” said Branyeso. “I’m sorry. I really do.”
“Then you need to think about it,” said Massei. “We can meet back here. In two days? I should be able to keep covering my transition for two more days. We can both think about how to escape and share our ideas in two days.”
“All right, I’ll do what you say.”
“What? You made the plan to make a plan and I’m going to follow it.”
“If any of this is going to work you need to do better than following.”
“You’re right,” said Branyeso. “I can tell you you’re right if you’re actually right, can’t I?”
“I suppose so,” said Massei.
The two elves embraced, awkwardly, and left by an exit that didn’t pass Button’s hiding place. If they were really deeply in love, they sure didn’t act very much like it. Maybe it was the stress, or maybe it was just being elves. Either way, Button made a mental note to be back hiding in this room in two days, just to find out what was going on with them. Maybe if they devised a way to escape, it would be a method he and the dwarves could use as well.
When Button reported back, Robben decided they should move out of the catwalks. The elves might have disappeared for the moment, but the dwarves shouldn’t still be in the last place they were known to be if the army came back. Dannemora worried that it might be a trap, the elves trying to lure them into leaving their safe space, but Robben said it was worth the risk, and in the end it was Robben’s decision.
He had Button lead them beneath the festival field, into the most-confusing part of the utility tunnels. He agreed with Button’s guess that the elves knew even less about that place than they did, and thought it would be advantageous to remain in the festival complex. With luck the elves would find them missing from the catwalks and think they had gone somewhere else entirely. Even if they didn’t, the service catacombs would require an extensive search. In the meantime, the dwarves could get some sleep.
Being farther underground usually improved dwarves’ moods, and sleep will improve anyone’s, but neither of them seemed to make much of an impact on Angola. Whether it was the move, or the sleep, or the stress of the whole situation, something had changed him from quiet and gloomy to talkative and gloomy, and nobody else was enjoying it.
“We’re never going to get out of here,” he said. “Moving from one place to another doesn’t help. Now that the elves know that we’re here they’re going to capture us eventually. We can retreat and defend, but three swords are never going to do the job against an entire city.”
“What else do you want us to do?” asked Robben. “Surrender?”
“It’s too late to surrender,” said Angola. “Now they want to execute us for that elf you killed. We’re worse off now than we were in our cells.”
“We’ve found ten dwarves,” said Chino. “We’ll find the last three. And once we have the King and the Patriarch, we can find a way out of these tunnels and back to freedom in the world.”
“We shouldn’t even be looking for the King and the Patriarch,” said Angola. “They’re lucky to have been in their cells the whole time. When the elves catch us and kill us they’ll be spared.”
“What makes you think the elves won’t kill them too?” asked Leavenworth. “We haven’t just doomed ourselves, we’ve doomed our leaders without even finding them.”
“Enough of this!” said Attica. “The odds may be against us, but the odds have always been against us. I didn’t bring us all together so that we would end in despair in the abandoned tunnels of the elves. You, Leavenworth! I could have been just another patient to you, but after you treated me I got you talking and learned that you needed help getting away from your aunts. And Angola! When Chino brought you in, I was the one who convinced the Patriarch and the King that it was time to start adding skills to our little group. I didn’t do that so you could die in the clutches of wood-elves.”
“We’re going to, anyway,” said Angola. “Whether you meant it or not.”
“I’m the one who brought the Patriarch and the King together in the first place,” said Attica. “When I met him the Patriarch was just a destitute preacher, trying to pass off his philosophy to drug addicts because no one else was willing to listen to him. I brought him to the new King Under the Watershed. I saw that his vision of a new dwarven society, one closer to eastern traditions, could revive the dwarves of the last great dam after the disaster at Khatchi-Dami. Did I do all that so that it could end in an elven catacomb, a poor imitation of the underground constructions of the dwarves? No!”
“You did it because you were backsliding to your addict friends,” said Newgate.
“I did it because we need to retake the great dam,” said Attica. “Everyone here needs it, but dwarves as a whole also need it. We’re the last chance to revitalize the great edifices of our race. You here, you nine dwarves, and the other one–”
“Button,” said Button.
“Yes, yes,” said Attica. “You ten, and the three we haven’t yet found, and me, we’re the last hope to stop the decline of dwarven culture, to direct us back to our historic heights.”
“Depths,” said Quentin.
“Either direction,” said Attica. “It doesn’t matter. The fourteen of us set out to restore the glories of dwarven civilization, and you want to give up because of a few elves who want to execute us? We’re not dead yet, and we’re not going to be. We’re going to find the Patriarch and the King, and escape from here, and retake the dam, because it’s our destiny, and I am not about to let you abandon our destiny!”
Attica’s speech didn’t exactly reignite passion in the other dwarves, but it did get Angola and Leavenworth to stop prophesying doom, even if it was only to avoid provoking another sermon from him. Robben managed to get them all back to work preparing their new redoubt for possible attacks by the elf army.
While they were working on it, Quentin approached Button for assistance. He was ready to talk to Chino, but he didn’t want to do it by himself. So Button went with him, for support, and for making it easier to start a conversation at all. The old carpenter was working on a barrier across one of the entrances to their hideaway, but was willing to take a break to talk to Button and Quentin.
“Quentin wants to talk,” said Button.
“All right,” said Chino. “Talk.” He folded his arms and waited. Quentin seemed like he was trying to speak but couldn’t get anything out. Eventually he squeezed his eyes shut in frustration.
“I can’t do this part for you,” said Button. “You can get through it.”
Quentin kept his eyes shut. “I’m sorry I lashed out at you in the fire caves,” he said all in one breath. Then he opened his eyes wide and backed away slightly, like he was afraid of being attacked.
“You’re sorry you lashed out,” said Chino.
There was a world of expression in Chino’s “Hm.” Button could see it, and he was pretty sure Quentin could see it as well. Skepticism of the apology. Uncertainty about how to respond. A willingness to let Quentin say more, if Quentin wanted to. Or perhaps an indication that he had nothing more to say himself just yet, and if Quentin wanted to continue this, he would have to go on.
“I didn’t mean to–I don’t know,” said Quentin. “I didn’t think through what I wanted to say here very well.”
“Why are you doing this?” asked Chino. “Because Button asked you to?”
“Yes. I mean–” Quentin’s sentences had just fallen apart. “No, that’s right, yes. I can’t claim that I would have thought of this on my own. But when he talked to me, I thought it made sense.”
“And you don’t anymore?”
“I still do,” said Quentin. “I just can’t figure out how to say it.”
“Button?” Chino asked.
“I don’t know,” said Button. “I say a lot of things. I can’t tell you which ones were meaningful to Quentin. He has to do this.”
“Or we could just leave it be,” said Chino.
“No,” said Quentin. “I can’t start this and then not finish it. If I was going to leave it be I should have just left it be. Now if I stop it’s another failure.”
“You started to say you didn’t mean to,” said Chino. “What didn’t you mean to?”
“Hurt you?” said Quentin in a small voice.
“Hm,” said Chino again.
“What is it you want me to say?” Quentin asked.
“I don’t want you to say anything,” said Chino. “This isn’t a test.”
“No, it’s an apology,” said Quentin.
“I can see that I’m doing it wrong,” said Quentin. “But I can’t see why it’s wrong. I don’t know what the right thing to say is.”
“That’s the thing about apologies,” said Chino. “If someone tells you what to say, it’s no longer meaningful when you say it.”
“I was wrong to hurt you,” said Quentin. “But I can’t say I was wrong about what you were doing, or how I feel about it, if that’s what you want.”
“No,” said Chino. “You’re sorry for hurting me, but what you said wouldn’t have hurt if it hadn’t been true. It would just have been rude, and I can’t be hurt by rudeness, or I’d have taken Newgate’s sword away and cut his head off by now.”
“So what is it you want from me?” Quentin asked.
“I don’t know,” said Chino. “Maybe there’s not a way to do this right. You want it to be a test, but I don’t know the answer either. Maybe I should ask what you want from me.”
“That’s not an easy question,” said Quentin.
“It’s not when you ask it, either.”
“That’s a reasonable point. I don’t know. I want to not feel like I have to hide from you.”
“You don’t have to hide from me,” said Chino.
“But I want to feel like I don’t have to hide from you,” said Quentin. “Like, I don’t know, like there’s not this simmering conflict between us that’s going to boil over whenever we talk to each other. And make me feel like I do now.”
“You know me well enough to know I’d rather get the work done,” said Chino.
“Maybe we could focus on that,” said Quentin. “But it still doesn’t make me feel better.”
“And you don’t know what would make you feel better.”
“No, I don’t.”
This “Hm” was less accusatory and more contemplative. It wasn’t a “Hm” that demanded, but one which asked for time for thoughtfulness and reflection. Button and Quentin waited for Chino to work over whatever he had to say.
“You say you want me to mind my own business,” said Chino. “But you still need guidance.”
“Maybe I do,” said Quentin. “But that doesn’t mean you get to provide it whenever you want without even asking.”
“It might be easier to wait until I was asked if I thought you would ever ask,” said Chino. “Not just me. Anybody.”
“Hm,” said Quentin.
There was skepticism in Quentin’s “Hm,” as there had been in Chino’s, but Quentin’s wasn’t the sort that was looking for an answer. It was the sort that asked to think about that idea, for a day or a week. That acknowledged a truly new thought had entered the conversation, and sought space to think it through. Button made small social noises to get them out of the conversation, and both Chino and Quentin seemed grateful for that. He wasn’t sure anything had been resolved, but at least his friends were talking.
When they moved apart, he found that Leavenworth had been waiting for him, just far enough away to lend the other dwarves privacy. Leavenworth wanted to go looking for the second half of the festival scent system, which he was convinced should be down here somewhere. “If the neutral scents come down from above, the positive scents must come up from below,” he said.
“They come from above on the stalactites,” said Button.
“But there are no stalactites here,” said Leavenworth. “And there is electricity. With extra power I think the elves would have used heat to distribute scents upward. We just have to find out how.”
Button wasn’t sure why he was necessary for this process, but that soon became clear. Leavenworth wanted him to use his ability to find built things to investigate the area around them. The area under the festival field was less completely artificial than the main floor or the catwalks. Button still wasn’t sure he would be able to tell one bit of infrastructure from another, but he was willing to try. So they summoned Newgate to hold his hand.
Bastille tagged along, and would not let up on his young friend. Newgate’s willingness to hold hands with Button seemed to be the funniest thing Bastille had ever seen, and he relentlessly mocked Newgate over it. The character of his insults quite offended Button, and he held on tight to Newgate’s hand because he was worried Newgate might try to strangle Bastille if he let it go free. Eventually Newgate pulled away from Button, but rather than attack Bastille he just stormed off by himself. None of this had allowed Button to find anything.
He still did his best to help Leavenworth, even without access to his ability, and the two of them eventually found the scent-distribution system. At least they thought that was what it must be, water pipes leading to heating coils which extended through the ceiling of their little room, presumably up to the festival field above. They traced it back to a place where electricity could be supplied, and Leavenworth went to get the twins and their generator box.
Dannemora directed the electricity, and Joliet turned his crank furiously. Leavenworth stood near one of the heating coils in anticipation, but almost immediately shied away from it. “Turn it off, turn it off,” he cried. “Turn it off now!” Dannemora broke the connection, and Leavenworth ran toward the opposite side of the room, holding his hands to his nose. But he seemed to find no relief there, either, and started dodging back and forth like he was looking for safety from an invisible enemy.
A few moments later those with less-sensitive noses began to understand why. The heating coils were indeed a scent-distribution system, but the scent they were distributing was incredibly foul. Perhaps it had once been pleasant and festive, but years left alone in the bowels of the feast field had done it no good at all. Surely it could not be intentional; Button had dealt with the elves’ punishment scent, and this was far, far worse. It had to be a result of the abandonment of the system.
Turning off the electricity didn’t seem to help. Leavenworth was clearly in utter misery, and the others were beginning to feel the same, wondering if he was a glimpse of their near future. Had they fortified this place just to stink themselves out of it? Those dwarves who were least affected started tracing the system trying to figure out where the smell was coming from, hoping to find a way to stop it.
One of those was Quentin, who found the reservoir, and then unaccountably prevented the other dwarves with him from opening its drain. With the mass of putrescent scented liquid open to the room, things were getting much worse. But Quentin had seen something, and wouldn’t let them get rid of the smell until he had investigated.
“There are two paths here for the water to flow out through, and I think it’s supposed to alternate between them,” he said. “See, there’s a broken valve here that swings back and forth when a certain amount of water has passed.”
“Just get it out,” said Dannemora. “We don’t care where it goes.”
“I want to know why it did that,” said Quentin. “And everything else we’ve investigated has been worthwhile.”
“You want me to build you a new valve?” Chino asked incredulously. “In this stench? No way.”
“I suppose I could just stand in the outflow and move it manually,” said Quentin.
“Eugh,” said Bastille. “Better you than me.”
“You’re going to get this all over yourself,” said Chino. “None of us will be able to stand being near you.”
“I don’t mind that so much,” said Quentin. So he stood over the valve and let them release the reservoir. Chino was right: operating the valve got malodorous fluid all over Quentin’s hands and body. But Quentin was also right that he seemed to mind it much less than Button could understand. The fluid alternated into the two exit channels, and before it was all drained out of the room, a wall panel on the opposite side opened. One which let in a draft of desperately-needed fresh air.
Leavenworth dashed through it, and the other dwarves followed into a large room, startling its sleepy occupant. “What are you all doing here?” said a young dwarf, the last of his generation to be released: Guantanamo.
“Close the door, close the door!” shouted Leavenworth, and several dwarves moved to do just that before Robben stopped them.
“This is a cell, don’t close that door until we’re sure we can get out somehow!”
There was still a draft coming into the room, and following it led them to another door on its opposite side. This one opened simply with power from Joliet and Dannemora’s generator, and the dwarves slammed shut the door to the revolting scent chamber. Once they’d made sure the new door opened the same way from the other side, the other ten dwarves and Button passed through it and locked Quentin in Guantanamo’s cell. Perhaps spending a day in there would lessen his stench, or perhaps they would find some way to get him a bath.
Chapter 12 of 40 Days in an Elvish Prison is Guantanamo.
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