chapter 1 of 40 Days in an Elvish Prison
by Anta Baku
In a hole in the ground there lived a carroll. Well, “lived” might be going a bit far. Button Gwinnett didn’t own this particular hole in the ground. Nor was he there with the permission of the people who did. He’d ended up there entirely by mischance, or misfortune, or mistake. And he was afraid the mistake was his own.
Button did, of course, own a hole in the ground all of his own. It was much smaller than this one, but nicer, or at least much more suited to him. It was the home of one of the most respectable carrolls in all of Carrollton, which didn’t do him a lot of good now that he was a thousand miles east of Merryland in a cave beneath a wild forest trying to keep out of the way of a whole kingdom of suspicious, sniffing elves.
Or queendom, he supposed. He’d figured out that much already. These elves didn’t see very well, identified each other by smell, and all of their leaders were female. Why they couldn’t see him, he knew: at half their height and less than a third their volume, he could hide in any number of places, and between the natural stealth that was a carroll’s birthright and the elves’ weak vision, they hadn’t a chance of ever seeing him.
Why they couldn’t smell him was a mystery. He certainly hadn’t had the chance to bathe in weeks, not since he and the dwarves and the wizard had stayed over with a much more respectable set of elves on the west side of the mountains. Not since before he had been waylaid, escaped, misplaced, escaped again, recovered, pursued, trapped, rescued, transported like a sack of grain, frightened by bears, tied to a horse, herded through the wildwood, and, eventually, abandoned.
And that was only the most recent part of the journey. He had wanted an adventure, and he’d received far too many of them for anyone’s liking, even though it looked like he was never going to reach the original destination. Or ever get home again, for how was a single lonely carroll to cross half a continent, even if he found his way out of the elven halls?
It would be more accurate to describe them as dismal tunnels. There were no well-lit dance floors here, no walls hung with beautiful tapestries, no windows opening onto stunning forested vistas. These elves couldn’t see well enough to appreciate such things. There were signs, from time to time, that the cave system itself might have been beautiful at some point in the past: colored stalactites on the edges of corridors, shimmering flowstone formations in the dimmest corners of rooms. But the elves didn’t highlight them in the way any other race would have. They were merely obstacles.
At least there was some light, for even the elves couldn’t purely smell their way to not walking into things. There was electricity being generated somewhere in this underground maze, though Button had been given to understand that it was a completely lost technology east of the mountains. Its main use seemed to be to keep the caverns in a depressing, uniform dimness, just enough to keep the elves safe from injury, and to keep Button from developing screaming fits in the dark.
They didn’t even use it in the great kitchen, which Button was trying to sneak into just at the moment. That was the riskiest part of his existence, acquiring food. But he’d quickly learned to come here twice a day, and not try to stock up. The elves might not be able to get a whiff of carroll, but hoarded food where it wasn’t supposed to be drew far too much attention. Fortunately they didn’t think he ate enough for a person, and had blamed it on rats, or raccoons.
After all, the front door had been left open. Any sort of wild animal could have come inside. They were still working on the broken mechanism. From what Button had been able to overhear, they hadn’t yet figured out that it had been broken on purpose. Or at least intentionally modified. He hadn’t meant to break the thing completely, just to open it long enough for himself to get inside, where there might be food and water and a warm, dry place to sleep.
There was food and water, at least. A moment’s inattention on the part of the elven cooks gave Button a chance to dart into the kitchen, grab a couple of hand pies, and scamper out again without anyone noticing. Unless they had counted the pies, anyway, but so far no one had raised an alarm. He found an especially dark corner and wolfed them down, because wherever their inability to smell him might be coming from, it didn’t necessarily cover things he was carrying. And two beef-and-cabbage hand pies walking by themselves down a corridor was surely an unusual happening.
With his hunger abated for a while, and a hiding place that seemed as safe as any other, Button leaned back against the cold cave wall and indulged what had become his main pastime over the last two days: reflecting on the events that had led him into this terrible situation.
It was Pendleton who started the whole thing, of course, though Button wasn’t aware of that until the wizard showed up at the end of the evening. It was all quite unfair, wizards who one fell in love with in childhood coming back and using that influence to turn one’s adult life into chaos. And it hadn’t only been Button to hang on the fireworks and gaiety in those days. Why couldn’t the wizard have chosen one of his childhood playmates to send on this adventure instead? Preferably Betsy Brearley.
In fact Button had just gotten rid of Betsy on the day that the first two dwarves arrived, sent her down the hill in tears at his disregard for her latest attempt to ingratiate herself to him with a gift. She must have passed them on their way up, for there wasn’t even time for him to get the tea on in between. Or rather, he’d put the kettle on, but hadn’t gotten so far as taking it off again when Quentin and Chino came to his doorstep. Which of course practically obligated him to ask these unexpected strangers in to tea. After all, they certainly thought they had reason to visit, even if Button wasn’t clear on why.
Over the next few hours, he had good reason to reflect on the old saying that a stranger is just a terrible houseguest you haven’t met. Not that Quentin and Chino were that bad, though Chino, the older one, subjected him to a most impertinent questioning over what he had done to “that poor girl,” by which he seemed to mean the loathsome Betsy Brearley. The old dwarf hadn’t dealt with nearly four decades of her unwelcome attentions, and there didn’t seem to be any way for Button to communicate the harrowing nature of the experience.
If it had just been the two of them, staying for tea, it would have been all right, though Button would not have ended the day with any more of an idea why they were there than he started. Quentin even shared much of Button’s taste in teacakes, which was gratifying. And he found that if he thought of Chino as a long-lost crotchety uncle, they could manage to get along just fine.
But there were more dwarves, and more, and more, and with the additions tea somehow transformed into cocktails and then into supper, without Button ever deciding to invite anyone to stay. And while the dwarves professed a certain amount of politeness on arrival, their table manners degenerated as the evening went along, and their conversation went places Button would rather not have thought about.
At first he thought that Betsy Brearley, having encountered the first pair of dwarves, had camped at the bottom of the hill to see if there were any others she could harangue with the slights she imagined he had inflicted upon her. But when the mystified dwarves relayed the complaints they had heard, other names kept cropping up. Lydia Biddle. Rebecca Gorham. Mary Whipple. It seemed like every group of dwarves had encountered a different carroll woman whose expectations Button had disappointed. And worse, every group of dwarves was sympathetic.
These dwarves were guests in his home, and yet they had the gall to upbraid him for not marrying any of these women they only just met. And they wouldn’t hear a word against the carroll girls, though Button had long lists of reasons for his actions. In the case of Betsy Brearley, he had even gone to the trouble of writing down the list of reasons not to marry her and posting it on his mantelpiece, in case he was ever tempted to forget.
The dwarves were so aggressive in their criticism that Button was just about to explode into a tirade about how he certainly couldn’t marry all of them at once, no matter how much some dwarves thought he should, when Pendleton arrived and the conversation mercifully turned.
The wizard had brought a thirteenth dwarf with him, who seemed to be the leader of the whole group, though at the time Button was too upset to get his name. He quite rudely ignored the probably-very-important new arrival, in fact, to pull Pendleton aside and tell the wizard just how cross he was with the whole situation.
“So it’s you who’ve set all of this upon me,” he said.
“Well of course I have,” said Pendleton. “Who else would have?”
“I certainly can’t think of anyone else I know who would have such, such… disreputable friends!” said the carroll.
“Indeed. Indeed,” said Pendleton. “You’ve grown quite stodgy in your young adulthood, Button Gwinnett. That’s why I’m here.”
“I’m not stodgy,” said Button. “Just respectable.”
“Rather the same thing, from my perspective,” said Pendleton. “And from your grandmother’s, I’m sure.”
“I loved my grandmother,” said Button. “But I’m not her.”
“You’re more like her than you know, Button,” said the wizard. “You just need a bit of a push out of your door.”
“And you’re here to provide it? You and these intolerable dwarves?”
“Yes, of course,” said Pendleton. “And don’t call them names. They’re your guests. That’s hardly the behavior of a respectable carroll.”
“Make up your mind!” said Button. “Be respectable, don’t be respectable. What is it you want from me?”
“The dwarves asked me to find them a spokesman,” said Pendleton. “I thought of you. Once upon a time you had a great gift for words, though I begin to doubt it from what I’ve heard here tonight.”
“Maybe I do,” said Button. “And maybe I just don’t know why I would be using it right now.”
“Listen to the dwarves, Button,” said the wizard. “Think about what they have to say. Whether you can help them in their little task.” He almost faded into the wallpaper after that, whether through some magic or just hundreds of years of practice at self-effacement. And while listening to the dwarves was not what Button wanted out of his evening, they were quite permanently installed in his dining room, and he could hardly ignore them.
It turned out they were a band of engineers: electrical, structural, hydrological, and other specialities Button didn’t quite catch. Once upon a time, dwarves had operated monumental hydroelectric dams in the eastern parts of the world, true wonders to hear the dwarves describe them. Their passion brought the image of the dams to life even in the comfortable light of Button’s dining room. If they hadn’t been so awkward talking about other things, Button would have wondered why they needed a spokesman at all. But it couldn’t all be dams, he supposed.
While the dwarves had been driven out, and the electricity cut off, the dams themselves, apparently, remained. As a temptation for the surviving dwarves, who had been driven into the west. Or possibly as a public nuisance. Button wasn’t quite sure which.
What was very clear was that these thirteen dwarves thought they could recapture and rehabilitate one of those ancient dams, and were on their way to try. And they wanted Button to go with them. Or at least they felt the need for a spokesman, someone to ease the social interactions that would inevitably become necessary, and Button was the only candidate the wizard was willing to supply.
He was already getting the feeling the dwarves didn’t like him very much, and he hadn’t gotten the best first impression of them, either. Then again, it was certainly a unique possibility, one he would never get a second time. Worth taking seriously. Poor first impressions could always be mended, especially with a long journey ahead of them. And he had to give credit to Pendleton’s opinion that it would do him good.
Button didn’t feel like he was in a permanent rut, but then again, was it something anyone could notice for himself before it was too late? And what was the alternative? Stay here, pursued by Betsy Brearley and her lesser ilk, until one day he gave in to one of them out of sheer fatigue? In that light, a foreign adventure, an all-male adventure at that, did not seem like such a bad idea at all.
They tried to convince him to commit that evening, but there was no way Button would make such a large decision without sleeping on it first.
“I’ll think about it,” said Button.
“Is there anything else we can say to convince you?” said one of the older dwarves.
“I said I’ll think about it,” said Button. “It’s been a long day, and you’ve already done everything but a song-and-dance routine.”
“We’re a group of engineers,” said Chino. “What makes you think we can sing?”
In the end he had agreed to go along, of course. Repairing the relationship with the dwarves established by their first impressions had turned out more difficult than anticipated, and he began to doubt Pendleton’s estimation of his communication abilities. If he couldn’t even relate to his companions, how was he going to represent them to the rest of the world?
The wizard seemed unconcerned, though for most of the journey he was the only one who would speak to Button at all. The dwarves had internal friendships within their groups, which didn’t even relate between one another very well, as far as Button could tell. And half the words they used were jargon, or slang, or just made up to make Button feel like he wasn’t welcome. He wasn’t always sure which.
So he and Pendleton talked, as they made their way into the east, and the dwarves kept to themselves, and Button never got to know any of them very well. Now he might never get the chance, though in truth there wasn’t as much regret in that as there was for losing any hope of a traveling companion to get out of here. Was this to be the form of his remaining life, scavenging food and hiding from elves?
At least they spoke the same language, and if he found a good enough hiding spot he could overhear entire conversations. He learned that they would be done fixing the door soon, and that the common elves were already looking forward to the resumption of their feasts in the woods, like the one the dwarves had interrupted, which had resulted in Button getting lost. Despite their sensory differences, the elves seemed to get as cranky being stuck in these halls as Button expected to be before too long. They were still creatures of the forest, at least a little bit.
He also learned, when he got close to the elf-women who formed the leadership class of this underground world, of a scandal which had developed in the previous feast. They cared less about the interruption itself, it seemed, than about a previously-secret group of elves who had been exposed by it. Servants fraternizing with males, which was apparently a major breach of the rules of elven society, and had led to them being temporarily separated.
There was a lot of discussion, among the leaders, about how the males were to be provided with the necessities of life now that they had been separated from the servants. Button gradually realized that most of the elves he had seen, who he had assumed were the males, were in fact something else entirely. From the conversation of the females, it sounded like the male elves were practically helpless. The ones actually out doing work were servants, and Button wasn’t sure quite what that meant.
Perhaps he would understand once he saw the males, but somehow he was completely unable to find them. It was his first clue that there had to be a lot more of this underground settlement than was immediately apparent.
His second clue was when he heard about the other, much more minor news item from the latest feast. One that not only mattered less than the behavior of the males, but less than the broken front door, and was only mentioned occasionally in passing. The elven leaders, it seemed, weren’t quite sure what to do with a bunch of dwarves they had captured interfering with their frolic. Imprisoning them was fine for the moment, but at some point decisions would have to be made.
For the first time, Button had hope of rejoining his companions. If he could engineer their escape, he would have somewhere to go afterward. He was sure the dwarves would want to go forward, rather than back. They had persisted through many obstacles already, and if they were alive they would doubtless try to persist through this one. But continuing the adventure with companions was far preferable to trying to get home by himself.
If only he could figure out where they were being held. He had a feeling that was going to involve secret passages, which were the last thing he wanted to face again.
As a young carroll, Button had had the usual childhood romanticism regarding secret passages, and was desperately disappointed that there weren’t any in his own family hole. Or, as far as he could tell, anywhere in Carrollton. He pretended they were there, but it wasn’t the same as having a real one would have been, at least in his expectation. As with most children, that interest was eventually replaced with more adult concerns, and if the grown-up Button held a hope of encountering secret passages, which might have encouraged him to set out on this adventure, he wasn’t conscious of it.
When the company finally did encounter one, in their attempt to cross the mountains, there wasn’t time for excitement. Or disappointment, though that came along eventually. Button, Pendleton, and the dwarves had taken shelter in what appeared to be a mountain cave for the night, and while they were sleeping they were ambushed by a small army of little evil creatures. The wizard escaped, and later managed to free them, but in the meantime the rest of the party suffered horribly in their capture. They were marched down to the heart of the mountain, and the horrible damp little men that the dwarves called milfoils were quite clearly ready to kill and eat them all.
Next to that experience, the elves didn’t seem so bad.
But before the milfoils got a chance to whet their appetites, Pendleton had returned, killed an unknown number of them in a surprise explosion, and led the dwarves in headlong flight out of the mountain. But only the dwarves. Button had been left behind, thankfully not in the hands of the milfoils, but being lost by himself under the mountain was bad enough.
In retrospect Button thought himself quite clever to have figured out not only how to escape the mountain on his own, but how to find the dwarves again. And all he’d lost in the process was the buttons from his coat. Some of the dwarves found it hilarious that Button had returned to them without his buttons, and none of them particularly appreciated the skunk-shaped netsuke he had found in the mountain and was using to hold his coat together. But they showed more respect and friendliness for Button after that, though whether it was out of embarrassment at having nearly lost him, or appreciation for his solo escape, he wasn’t quite certain.
If only Pendleton were with them now, Button would be much more confident in their eventual escape. But the wizard had stayed with the company only long enough to help them find a new set of supplies to replace the ones they had lost to the milfoils. He told them he had other things to do, and set them to traverse the wild wood by themselves.
But the new supplies had not been sufficient for the length of the journey. Perhaps the wizard had miscalculated, or perhaps the wood had grown since last he had passed through it. Either way, the dwarves and the carroll found themselves running out of food long before they were running out of forest. They rationed, and they hurried, but in the end it did them no good.
Two days after they were completely out of food, they spotted lights in the forest, the lights of what Button knew now was an elven feast. Like the lights underground, they were cold and dim, not the riveting, inviting torchlight of a nighttime celebration held by any other race. But by then, any possibility of changing their luck was welcome. Even capture was bound to be better than starving to death in the forest.
Button didn’t actually see the capture, just dwarven silhouettes briefly against the dim lights of the elves before the lights were suddenly extinguished and the dwarves’ brief cries of startlement developed into an uncanny silence. Button was sure things were moving about him among the trees, but he couldn’t tell what, or who, or why. And soon even that feeling was gone and he was alone.
After daylight came, there were tracks on the ground, at least. And with no better ideas, Button resolved to follow them. Before long he found a large door in the side of a hill, with no one guarding it, and no one to answer when he finally worked up the will to knock. He sank down next to it in despair, without enough energy to even go looking for food and water.
Inside, of course, there was food, and Button soon had to take time out from his search for the dwarves to acquire another meal. If they were truly here, presumably they were being fed. Maybe he could follow the meals to his lost companions.
The prevailing mood in the kitchen had changed since his last visit. The main goal now was using up the perishables that had been laid in to prepare for the feasts that had been canceled because the door couldn’t be closed. The room was dominated by a giant fish flopped across the center island, which was too big to hold it. Elves were cutting huge chunks of it and dumping them into buckets of brine as fast as they could manage, and even Button was able to smell why. If left alone for another day that fish might have forced the evacuation of the entire cave complex, especially in light of these elves’ heightened sense of smell.
On counters at the sides of the room an elf was turning goats’ milk into yogurt, and two more were working together to whip eggs and oil into mayonnaise. But the head chef and the assistant were in the pantry, debating what to do with superfluous cauliflower.
In his younger days Button had once neglected a cauliflower and let it go bad in his home. Since then he had been very assiduous at using it up early in its lifetime. The elves must have had two hundred heads in their pantry, already wrapped in foil and ready to roast over an epic bonfire.
“Toss them into the river,” said the assistant. “At least we’ll be rid of them.”
“I’m not wasting food if I don’t have to,” said the head chef.
“They’ll float downstream,” said the assistant. “Somebody else can have them.”
“We are not bombarding the neighborhood with rotting cauliflower,” said the head chef. “Take the foil off, cut them up. We’ll drown them in mustard, add some dill, they’ll be fine.”
“And who’s going to eat them that way?”
“You do the chopping, ” said the head chef. “I suppose figuring out who to feed them to is my job.”
That sounded promising, and it didn’t actually take too long for the assistant to start generating dishes of mustard-dill cauliflower, once they were started. By the time Button had stolen his own dinner, elves were packing up plates of heavily-dressed brassicas and hauling them out into the caves.
Following kitchen staff whose main concern was not dropping their cauliflower wasn’t too much trouble for Button. He just had to make sure there wasn’t another one coming up behind him. His hopes were raised when the trail led down a corridor he hadn’t noticed before, into an area he hadn’t been. But they kept getting closer to what sounded like singing, and that surely wasn’t the dwarves. Even if they had been able to sing, they would have had much deeper voices than the ones Button was hearing now.
Eventually he followed the cauliflower-servers into a room that might have been a hall, or a gymnasium, if it had higher ceilings. There was a choir of elf-children in it who were making do as well as they could, though the acoustics had much to answer for. Maybe it was a rehearsal space, for performances in a more-appropriate venue. There were a few adults there, mostly from the servant class, who might have been a threadbare audience, or might have just been supervision.
No one seemed to be expecting cauliflower. The kitchen staff were placing their dishes on obviously-hastily-erected tables in a corner, like they had just unilaterally decided this event might as well be catered. Button was curious what the children would think of it, but it wasn’t a good idea to get distracted by that just now. The stream of kitchen staff was flowing in both directions now, which made it hard for Button to make his way back, but eventually he managed.
The tuna had almost been completely pulled apart by the time he got there, and gloved elves were pulling chunks out of the first batch of brine buckets. The strong brine had pulled the color almost entirely out of the meat, so when it was combined with the mayonnaise Button had seen being made earlier it made an unappetizing off-white goo. Like the cauliflower it had dill added to it as a finishing touch, but that didn’t make it look any better. They must have had a lot of leftover dill as well.
Still, disgusting fish goo might not be such a problem to these elves who could barely see and probably didn’t care very much about presentation. Between the brining and the mayonnaise and the dill, they had managed to cover up the fishy smell reasonably well. At least it wasn’t a threat to escape the kitchen and run rampant through the corridors, assaulting every nose it met. They could probably even carry it elsewhere, in sealed containers, without clearing the tunnels ahead of themselves.
Before long that was just what they did, and Button followed them silently in a new direction, hoping that meant they weren’t planning on serving this stuff to their children. If it wasn’t fit for elven consumption, that made it more likely they were carrying it to their prisoners. Who, from an elvish perspective, might as well not have had a sense of smell at all. Button wasn’t worried about the dwarves; they’d eaten far worse after escaping the caverns of the milfoil and before acquiring a new set of supplies.
Actually, some of the things the dwarves ate on purpose were less appealing than the current fish glop. Enough so that Button regretted remembering the first weeks of their journey, when dwarven delicacies were still very much part of the supply.
He was so distracted he almost followed one of the servants into what appeared to be a dead-end wall. He hid and waited, but no more came along, and the one who had passed through ahead of him did not return.
Eventually it grew late enough he wasn’t worried about any more kitchen servants coming along, and he crept out to examine the wall. He couldn’t see any mechanism to open it, but there was a rectangular hole, halfway up or so, about at his own eye level. It was just about big enough to put both of his hands in, but when he touched it he couldn’t feel any mechanical parts. It extended down into the wall a bit, only a few inches, but the sides and bottom of this lower part of the hole were just as smooth as the part he could see.
Surely there was some way to figure this out. He had figured out how to get into the elven settlement in the first place, after all.
Sitting in front of the door in the forest, the lonely carroll could only despair for so long before thirst drove him to action. There was a tiny trickle of water coming out of the side of the hill not far from the door. There wasn’t even enough of it to reach the ground, much less to drink from, but Button thought if he traced it back to its source he might be able to expand it somehow. That was how wells worked, right? You just dug down farther and they gave you more water.
He reflected that a real adventurer would have a better idea of how wells worked. But he was what he was, and right now what he was was thirsty. So without any better ideas, he followed the trickle to where it came out of the hill, and started digging.
He had only his hands to work with, but the digging wasn’t as difficult as he had expected. The earth here had been dug up before, and replaced. He wondered at that, until he got a few inches under the surface and discovered a copper pipe. The trickle of water was leaking from a junction in the pipe, where there was a wheel-driven valve.
Button was the sort of homeowner who always turns a valve the wrong way the first time, and elven construction was no different from carroll-work in this regard. He spun it and the trickle of water stopped. And of course, he had turned it too far and too tightly, so he had to find a better angle to open the valve again. Eventually he got it open, and turned it as far as he could the other way, but when the leak started up again it wasn’t any larger than it had been to begin with. Button banged his hand against the wheel in frustration and it fell off. Then he tried to pull apart the pipe junction at the seam, but that was not so fragile and he accomplished nothing.
There was a large rumbling sound not far away, and after a moment Button realized it could only be the door opening. Surely elves would be coming out to investigate his sabotage. If he had been thinking straight he might have reasoned that capture was likely to lead to food and water, even if it was unpleasant. He might have surrendered. But Button was exhausted, and depleted, and just then not capable of much beyond a fight-or-flight response. Carrolls in general prefer flight, and Button’s tendencies were even stronger in that direction than average for his race.
Anyone but a carroll would not have found a place to hide in sight of the door, but Button was excellent at curling up quietly in small places, and he was able to find a spot in the roots of a tree where he could see without being seen. The door was open, as he expected, but there were no elven warriors spilling out of it to investigate who was fiddling with their water supply. There weren’t any elves there at all. The door was just standing, open and empty, and eventually it occurred to the frightened carroll that he might be able to just walk inside.
He approached cautiously, ready to sprint back to his hiding place, but there were no elves immediately inside the entrance, either. Behind the door was a shambles of mechanical parts and spraying water. Button took a chance and a long drink before moving stealthily inside, looking for a new place to hide.
If the mechanism of the front door worked via water, perhaps the mechanism of the secret door would as well. Button considered the lower part of the hole in the wall as a basin. It wouldn’t hold too much water, but then again anyone using the door would have to be able to easily carry it. He’d seen elves around the halls with leather canteens, but he had assumed they were for drinking. What if they were for opening doors? He was fairly sure the elf he had been following had had one tied to a belt.
Stealing a canteen and finding water to fill it was only a few minutes’ work. Button had gotten to know the caverns well enough by now that it almost came naturally, and he felt no risk of getting caught. He was much more worried about opening a secret door with no idea what was on the other side. There was no easy hiding place at the end of the corridor. Running might be futile, against the long-legged elves, but he prepared to try it just in case.
When he poured water into the hole in the wall, it drained slowly through a small hole in a back corner he hadn’t even noticed. There was a slight slope down to that point, which made Button think he must be on the right track. He emptied the skin into the hole until the water was overflowing, then waited for it to drain away. He listened closely, and was rewarded by a small click when the water was almost completely gone.
Nothing else happened, so he tried leaning against the wall, and slowly it moved. Button didn’t have the weight of an elf, so it didn’t open quickly. But it was a door, and it opened for him. He just hoped he wasn’t opening it onto a room full of elven guards.
But it was a small room, even darker than the rest of the tunnels, and for a moment Button thought it was empty. Then he saw a figure huddled in the corner away from the door, smaller than an elf, though of course still larger than Button. He could make out a dark-colored beard, something common to about half of his dwarven companions. The dwarf was either sleeping or dazed; either way Button went over to shake him awake, and find out just which dwarf he had stumbled upon.
It was Quentin, the brightest of the younger dwarves, or the youngest of the brighter dwarves. He was also the most friendly and had been the least-likely to make trouble amongst the party. Button was relieved that Quentin was the first dwarf he found; with his help the first dwarf should be the hardest. He imagined that the two of them together could quickly find the other twelve, and work out an escape.
Chapter 2 of 40 Days in an Elvish Prison is Quentin.
For news and new story notifications sign up for my newsletter