Chapter 12 of 40 Days in an Elvish Prison (read chapter 1)

by Anta Baku


The dwarves took a few hours to rest in their new room. After all, they had to let Quentin’s stench die down before they could release him from the cell which had formerly held Guantanamo. The young dwarf, who everyone just called Mo, was delighted to see his friends Newgate and Bastille, and the three of them immediately merged into one unit of bawdy jocularity. Robben took the twins on a scouting mission, and when they didn’t find any elves nearby, allowed the others to lower their guards for a while. Most of them were more interested in resting than talking, but not the trio of youngsters. They were finally back together, and they wanted to make the most of it.

Mo being the second deputy-at-arms, Bastille gave up his longsword to his friend. “Is this one of those swords that glows blue in the presence of evil?” Mo asked.

“It’s not evil that my sword glows blue in the presence of, if you know what I mean,” said Newgate. 

Mo looked closely at Newgate’s sword. “What does it glow blue for, then?” he asked.

“He’s not talking about his actual sword,” said Bastille. 

“Oh,” said Mo. 

“You’re just jealous,” Newgate said to Bastille, “because yours doesn’t glow blue in the presence of hot chicks.”

“It doesn’t need to glow blue when it’s the size of a mountain,” said Bastille.

“Which mountain is that?” asked Mo.

“I think it’s the Lonely Mountain,” said Newgate. “You should name it that, Bas. It might be big but it’s always by itself.”

“Like yours is well-attended?” said Bastille. “I think you’re confused. It’s not your sword that’s blue.” 

“What is it then?” said Mo. Bastille just rolled his eyes at him. 

“You’re right,” said Newgate. “We need to get more action.” 

“Oh, it’s his balls,” said Mo. “I get it.” 

“Here?” said Bastille, ignoring Mo’s comment. “What are you going to find here?”

“Button knows where there’s an elf-girl,” said Newgate. “We could go see her.”

“You and your elf-girls,” said Bastille. “And she’s not even a girl yet, if I understand correctly.”

“Close enough,” said Newgate.

“You’re disgusting,” said Bastille. 

“Tell me you don’t want to go see for yourself,” said Newgate. 

“Well, there’s nothing else to do,” said Bastille. 

“Yeah, act reluctant,” said Newgate. “You’re so cool. You want her as much as I do.” 

“We haven’t even seen her yet,” said Bastille. 

“Well, we should go do that, then,” said Newgate. 

Fortunately, Robben managed to corral them before it was time for Button to go eavesdrop on Branyeso and Massei again. He redirected their attention to sparring with Mo and getting him used to the new sword. Mo had obviously been exercising in his cell the last weeks, with nothing else to do, but he was still a step behind his friends and Robben was intent on getting that edge back before they had to go into combat. Button wouldn’t have taken the young dwarves with him in any case, but he was glad not to be the one who had to tell them no. 

He had to go back through Quentin’s isolation chamber and the scent room in order to find his way back to where he had seen Massei and Branyeso two days before. It wasn’t as bad as he had feared it would be. The smells on Quentin himself had worn off enough that the other dwarves were willing to let him out of his isolation; in fact they seemed more enthusiastic about it than he did. The scent chamber was still dreadful, but Button hurried through it and things weren’t so bad on the other side.

At least they weren’t for a carroll. It was the first thing Branyeso brought up when he and Massei arrived to meet each other, in full view of Button’s carefully-chosen hiding place. 

“What’s that horrible stench?” he said. “It’s all over the place on the way here. I thought this place was abandoned.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” said Massei. “We can’t meet here again anyway.” 

“Your transition is progressing well,” he said. “Soon you won’t be able to hide it anymore.” Button still couldn’t tell the difference, but he wasn’t an elf. Maybe she was starting to smell like a woman somehow. 

“That’s why we need to make a plan,” said Massei. 

“You were right about one thing,” said Branyeso. “Your friend didn’t kill Vendiku. Even the Queen says so now. Those dwarves that they caught while we were together at the feast did it.” 

“And you believe that?” said Massei. 

“They got out of their cells,” said Branyeso. “They’re responsible for all of this chaos. They killed Vendiku and started the revolution.” 

“And you believe that because it’s what the Queen told you,” said Massei.

“Shouldn’t I?” he asked. “I thought you wanted me to believe it wasn’t Amarac.” 

“I know it wasn’t Amarac,” she said. “But now the Queen has a new story, and conveniently it’s one that lets her blame everything on outsiders.” 

“Who do you think killed Vendiku, then?” said Branyeso.

“I don’t know,” said Massei. “But the Queen isn’t blaming the dwarves because she thinks they did it. She’s blaming them because she thinks if she catches them and executes them for it, it will stop the revolution.” 

“All right,” said Branyeso. “If you say so.” 

“It shouldn’t be if I say so,” said Massei. “Or if the Queen says so. You have to start thinking for yourself.” 

“How should I know what to think?” said Branyeso. “I’m not a murder investigator. My friend was killed and I have no idea how to find out who did it. You tell me everybody’s lying. I can’t tell you you’re wrong. But if everyone’s lying I don’t know anything true. Except that Vendiku is dead.” 

“All right,” said Massei, putting a hand out to comfort him, the first time they had touched today. For two forbidden lovers, they didn’t seem very physically intimate. “When we met before we said we would make a plan,” she said. “What ideas did you bring?” 

“I don’t have any ideas,” he said.


“I tried!” he said. “We have to leave the settlement, but the Queen’s army has all of the exits guarded. Supposedly it’s to stop the dwarves from escaping, but it will stop us just as effectively. We might have to join the revolutionaries.”

“You brought that up before,” said Massei. “Do you really want to join the revolutionaries?”

“No!” said Branyeso. “I just don’t have any better ideas.”

“Well then listen to my better idea,” she said.

“That’s what I’ve been wanting to do all along.” 

Unlike her lover, Massei had shown up with a real escape plan, and Button made sure to remember all the details. An escape for them might just be an escape for the dwarves as well. 

Massei had once been assigned to the maintenance team on the primitive dam, two-thirds of a century old, that King York had built for the Elvenqueen in the days of peace and that they still used for their limited power needs. She knew of a secret door, or perhaps less a secret door than a forgotten one. The dwarves had used it to install the bulky original generating equipment for the dam, and the elves had never had further need of it, but it was still there. It wasn’t easy to access, and the dam would have to be shut down before they could get to it, but there was no chance it would be guarded. Massei would switch the settlement over to backup power, which would give them a few hours before anyone noticed. Branyeso would open the diversion channel that shut down water flow through the dam. And then the two of them would enter the now-empty turbine chambers and pass through them to the forgotten exit, and their freedom. 

It sounded very complicated to Button, but he knew some people who understood dams. 

“Be careful,” said Branyeso. “There are always servants working in the power station. They could notice you’re not one of them anymore.” 

“Not if they don’t look at me closely,” said Massei. “I still have a little time before I’m entirely obvious. I’ll get in and out without ever attracting attention.” 

Much like the previous day, they embraced awkwardly before parting. Button couldn’t see any affection in it. Was it just the natural coldness of the elves? Perhaps they couldn’t truly express their feelings until Massei was fully female. Or maybe he just didn’t know everything that was going on. But he solidified the memories of their escape plan in his mind, and returned to share it with the dwarves.

Attica was pleased to hear about Massei’s hidden exit, and quickly put together a task force to work on adapting the plan to their own purposes. He took Robben, the twins, and Leavenworth with him, as the experts on tactics and hydroelectric production. Once Button had told them everything he had overheard, Attica didn’t have any interest in the carroll, so Button left them to it. 

Newgate’s crew was on watch and joking around over it. Quentin was sitting in a corner of the room by himself, perhaps napping, perhaps just being alone with his own thoughts. Either way, Button didn’t want to bother him, and he definitely didn’t want to engage with the other youngsters. That left Chino and Angola, who were working on one end of the room, building something Button didn’t recognize. They didn’t seem to mind him joining them. 

“He’s just sitting over there by himself, isn’t he?” said Chino. The old carpenter was sitting with his back to Quentin, so as not to appear to be watching him, but was clearly still paying more attention than Quentin would have appreciated.

“Maybe he just doesn’t want to talk to people,” said Angola.

“You don’t want to talk to people, and you’re still here doing work,” said Chino. 

“Quentin does plenty of work,” said Angola. “I’d still be at the bottom of a pond without him. We’d all still be in cells without him. No offense, Button.” 

“No, you’re right,” said Button. “I’d never even have figured out how to release Chino without him.” 

“And maybe I’m better at not talking than he is,” said Angola. “I’ve had more practice.” 

“I can never tell when he’s going to be reckless and when he’s going to be standoffish,” said Chino.

“He’s young,” said Angola. “They’re all like that. I never know what my nephew is thinking. I’m not sure anyone ever knows what my nephew is thinking.” 

“I didn’t know you had a nephew,” said Chino.

“Well, like you said, I don’t talk much,” said Angola. “And he doesn’t know, so I don’t mention it much. Don’t tell him.” 

“Don’t tell who?” said Button. 

“Guantanamo,” said Angola. “His mother is my sister. Was my sister? I suppose she’s still my sister somehow, though we’ve been estranged for decades. My family threw her out over her politics. So she married an eastern refugee and had a kid nobody can communicate with.” 

“He’s not a bad builder,” said Chino. “Follows orders, if they’re simple enough.” 

“Yeah, following orders is the one thing he can do,” said Angola. “That’s why he splits time between being your stooge and Robben’s stooge. But he’s still a stooge, you know?” 

“Is that why you stayed with us?” said Chino. “To keep an eye on your nephew?” 

“It was just a coincidence,” said Angola. “I suppose maybe it was part of why I stuck around. I didn’t want him to end up like me. But I’m not sure he’s smart enough to end up anywhere at all.” 

“That’s not a problem with Quentin,” said Chino. “He’s too smart for his own good.” 

“So what, you want to make him dumber?” said Angola.

“More careful, at least,” said Chino. “But he won’t listen to me anymore.” 

“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, Chino,” said Angola. “But he might not be wrong about that.” 

“That’s the thing,” said Chino. “I’m worried he has a pretty good point. Once he managed to communicate it. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying to keep him in check all the time. Maybe the fact that I’m the only one who can see he needs a keeper doesn’t make me the right one to do it.” 

Everyone can see he needs a keeper, Chino,” said Angola. “It’s just nobody else wants it to be them.” 

“So why do I want so much for it to be me?” said Chino.

“You need a therapist for that, not a structural engineer,” said Angola. “I’ve already said more than I should. Ask Button, that’s more his sort of thing.” 

“You brought me along for communications, not for telling you about yourselves.”

“This is communications,” said Chino. “Miscommunications, anyway. That’s the only kind I seem to have lately.” 

“Just give it time,” said Button. “He showed up when we were mourning Waban. And it wasn’t because he cared about Waban.”

“It’s because you asked him to,” said Chino. 

“I don’t think that was the only reason,” said Button. 

At that point the young dwarves came hurriedly back into the room, without the jocularity they had been showing when they were on watch. “The elves have found us,” said Bastille. “The army is coming.” 

“Tell Robben,” said Chino. 

“They did,” said Robben, coming back into the room from behind Newgate. “Come on. We have to retreat.” 

“We’re not done here,” said Chino. 

“You’ll have to leave it, then,” said Robben. “There’s no time.” 

Chino and Angola reluctantly abandoned their project, and Button got up with them. On the other side of the room Quentin had been awake after all, and he was the first to be ready to leave. Robben wouldn’t let him go in front by himself because he didn’t know where to go, but grouped him with the twins and Bastille in the vanguard. They knew Robben’s prepared escape route, and Dannemora still had his short sword. 

Button joined Chino, Angola, Attica and Leavenworth in a middle group set to follow them, while Robben held the rear along with the longswords of Newgate and Guantanamo. They moved quickly, and though they could hear the elven army coming behind them, the rear-guard wasn’t required to engage. 

As they went, the surroundings got more metallic and less familiar. Button had gotten used to elven design standards, and this was something different. 

“It’s dwarf construction,” Chino confirmed when he asked. “See all of these conduits? They’re leading back to the place where the power used to come in from our dam.” 

“The substation,” said Attica. “Moving electricity over long distances uses different methods than within a settlement. So there has to be a facility to change it and split it up before it can be used.” 

“Did you work on this when it was built?” Button asked Chino.

“I was a teenager,” he said. “When I was part of some similar projects, later, I didn’t do the electrical work. I built towers for the long-distance lines.” 

Conduits kept getting thicker on the walls of the tunnel as they went, and soon the dwarves had to go in single file. At least that meant the elven army would have to as well. And they might have even more trouble, as this area had been built by dwarves for dwarves to access, and the ceilings weren’t as high as they were elsewhere.

Button wondered how narrow it could get, and if they would all end up in a tunnel with Newgate at the back end trying to hold off the elves by himself. But before the conduits got too thick to pass, the tunnel opened out into a chamber that was full of metal. It had higher ceilings, but there were thick wires running everywhere overhead, and strange metal support structures for them. In the chamber itself were large, oddly-shaped collections of metal boxes with fences around them and writing that was obviously meant in warning, even to someone who couldn’t read dwarvish. 

“This place looks dangerous,” said Button. The whole room must have gleamed in silver when it was built, but now there was rust everywhere. 

“If the power was on, you wouldn’t want to touch anything,” said Attica. 

“But it hasn’t been in many years,” said Chino. “Now just make sure you don’t hurt yourself on anything rusty and sharp.” 

Robben, Newgate, Mo, and the twins took up positions ready to attack any elves who came through the narrow tunnel after them, while the others took cover behind the metal fixtures of the substation. Button wasn’t sure what they were supposed to do if the front line was overtaken, beyond perhaps fighting desperately. But Robben had done a good job choosing a place of retreat, and the elves would have a difficult time getting through if they had to attack one at a time. Perhaps it would be all right. 

If the elves attacked at all. They hadn’t been so far behind Newgate in the tunnel that there should have been much of a wait, but the dwarves were ready, and no elves appeared. 

“They might not come at all if they’re smart,” said Chino. “The first ones through that entrance don’t have a chance.” 

“Do they know that?” asked Leavenworth. “It doesn’t look like anyone’s been here in years.” 

“They know they’re in a little tunnel,” said Angola. “That can’t be comfortable.” 

“They know we’re here,” said Attica. “They have to attack us somehow.” 

There were other entrances to the substation, but they were equally narrow tunnels and didn’t seem to be better approaches for attack. Robben sent Bastille and Quentin to scout a short distance down them just to make sure they weren’t surprised. But he continued to expect an attack from the direction they had come. 

What came from that direction was only sounds. Sounds that started off confusing but quickly turned horrifying. Battle cries and clashes of armor turned into screams crashing down the tunnel, and then slowly to whimpers. They were followed by the smell of blood and fear and bowels emptied in the throes of death. To the credit of the Queen’s army, not one of them fled into the waiting swords of Guantanamo and Newgate. To an elf they stood against whatever was attacking them from behind, and to an elf they fell. 

The dwarves braced for whatever new threat this presaged. They had been prepared for an army of elves, but not an unknown force which had defeated that army. Vanquished them with ease, it seemed, though certainly the army had been in an untenable position, stuck in a narrow tunnel with enemies both before and behind. 

When something finally came out of the tunnel, they were relieved that it was merely more elves, in armor but not in uniform. The army’s destroyers were the elven rebels. A servant entered the substation chamber slowly, laying down their weapons when confronted by Newgate and Mo ready to attack them, and a second followed, doing the same. They might have been here to attack elves, but their intentions toward the dwarves were, if not peaceful, at least wary. 

The third elf through was a female, and she kept her sword, though it was sheathed, and she extended her empty hands toward the dwarves arrayed against her. 

Newgate hooted at her, which was not what she was expecting. Button didn’t think she was particularly attractive, but apparently Newgate felt otherwise. She was clearly taken aback, but gathered herself to say what she had intended before the interruption. 

“We’ve defeated the Queen’s army,” she said. “I’m here to speak for the revolutionaries. My name is–”

“We don’t need to know your name, honey,” said Newgate. “Come over here and we’ll show you how we negotiate.”

“Yeah!” said Mo. “I want to negotiate you!” 

The elf shook her head and started again. “We need your help against the Elvenqueen,” she said. “Even without an army she has great powers, and dwarves are known to be strong against mental manipulation.”

“That’s not the only thing I’m strong against,” said Newgate. 

“And I’m more interested in physical manipulation,” said Mo. 

“Do you have someone responsible I can talk to?” said the elf. Newgate raised his sword and she backed up a step into the tunnel. 

“Don’t we look responsible?” said Newgate.

“Of course we are,” said Mo. “I was even held to be responsible by a real judge once. I’m certified!” 

“Enough of that,” said Attica, coming out from behind his metal hiding place. “We don’t want an alliance with elves. Or with women.”

“Depends on what kind of alliance you mean,” said Newgate. 

“Shut up,” said Attica. He turned back to the elf. “If you’re going to attack us, get on with it. But we don’t want to be a part of your civil war.” 

“The Queen sent her army after you so she could execute you,” said the elf.

“And we’d have sent them right back if you hadn’t interfered,” said Attica. “We’re not paying you off for defeating them. You didn’t do us a favor. You just spoiled our fun.” 

“I don’t want a payoff,” said the elf, sounding disgusted by the very idea. “You need to defeat the Queen as much as we do.” 

“No we don’t,” said Attica. “We just need to find the rest of our friends and get out of here. You can fight the Queen by yourselves.” 

“Maybe we’ll fight you first to get you out of the way.” 

“Come on,” said Attica. “You saw what being trapped in that tunnel can do. You want to come at us one at a time, go ahead. I’m sure Newgate here will enjoy it.” 

“Two at a time would be even better,” said Newgate. 

“I could take five elf-women if you’ve got ’em,” said Mo.

“Watch yourselves,” said the elf. “You might yet meet us sometime when you don’t have such an advantage.” 

“Oh, honey, I will always have an advantage,” said Newgate, flexing. 

The elf turned around with a deliberate show of disgust and headed back down the tunnel. Her two servants picked up their weapons and followed her. 

“Maybe we’re getting out of this after all,” said Chino. 

“Only as long as we stay here,” said Angola. 

“Then we can stay here for a while.” 

Robben agreed. The longer they stayed in the substation, the more time they would give the revolutionaries to turn their attention elsewhere. And once they weren’t thinking about the dwarves, it would be safe, or at least worth the risk, to venture back out in search of the two dwarves who were still missing. The two leaders. 

The dwarves stood down from their defensive positions and split into little groups again. Button just wandered around looking at the devices of the substation until he came across Bastille, Newgate, and Mo talking over the recent confrontation.

“What would you do with five elf-women anyway?” Bastille asked Mo.

“Is five too many?” asked Mo. 

“I think even one is too many,” said Bastille.

“No you don’t,” said Newgate. “If Mo had five you’d condemn him and then try to sneak one of them away in secret.” 

“I’d give you one if you wanted,” said Mo. “I’m not selfish.” 

“Give her to Newgate instead,” said Bastille.

“You know if Mo had five I’d have ten,” said Newgate. “But you can’t have any, cause you’re so self-righteous.” 

“It’s all right,” said Mo. “You can still have one of mine. You’re right, five is too many. I’ll even give one to my uncle, he’s so sad all the time.” 

“Your uncle?” said Button. The three young dwarves jumped. 

“I didn’t even realize you were there,” said Bastille. 

“We can’t let him know about Mo’s uncle,” said Newgate. 

“Of course we can’t,” said Bastille. “It’s supposed to be a secret.” 

“You know I can hear you, right?” said Button. 

“They’re not used to anyone listening,” said Mo. “The old dwarves just tune us out or tell us to shut up.” 

“Besides,” said Button, “I already know about your uncle.” 

Mo, it seemed, had known about Angola all along. His mother might have been estranged from her family for many years, but she could still recognize her brother. She’d told her son who he was, but Mo had never let on, at first because he was angry at Angola for abandoning his sister, and later because he just didn’t have much respect for him.

“He’s a sad-sack,” said Mo. “If he knew I knew I was his nephew he’d sad-sack all over me. So we pretend he’s keeping the secret so he stays by himself.” 

“Don’t tell him we know,” said Bastille. 

“I won’t,” said Button. “But maybe if you acknowledged him he wouldn’t be such a sad sack.” 

“No way,” said Bastille. “He’s stuck like that. It’s permanent.” 

“He has to find another way out of it,” said Mo. “Become proud of himself somehow and then make a dramatic reveal. The best I can do is pretend I didn’t know all along if that ever happens.” 

“All right,” said Button. “I guess you’ve thought about this a lot.”

“It’s been years,” said Mo. “That’s the only reason he hangs around. It might be the only reason he hangs around anywhere.”

“Did he make things up with your mom?” 

“Sort of? I don’t know, I think it’s been too long, they both have the disasters of their lives to deal with. They can’t take them back. So they just try not to hate each other. They can’t do more.” 

“I’m sorry,” said Button.

“It’s all right,” said Mo. “That’s just what it’s like.” 

The young dwarves stopped talking about Angola as one of their elders approached, and Button followed their lead. Attica wanted to borrow the fit youngsters to investigate something unusual he had found deep in the substation. To Button, trailing along, it looked exactly like all the other collections of metal boxes there, but Attica thought it was different, and he thought he could get the young dwarves to move it for him. Button stayed out of the way with Joliet, who had seen them moving and followed out of curiosity. 

“I’m convinced it moves,” said Attica.

“Well, I can’t move it from here,” came Newgate’s voice from behind the metal structure. 

“It’s on tracks,” said Attica. “It has to move.” 

“Substations don’t have moving parts,” said Joliet. “Not even from this era.” 

“That’s why I’m interested,” said Attica. 

The three young dwarves and Attica manipulated the metal structure in many different ways, but they couldn’t convince it to move. “It might just be too heavy,” said Attica.

“Nothing’s too heavy for me,” said Newgate.

“You know that’s not literally true,” said Attica. “Besides, maybe it wasn’t meant to be moved by dwarf-power in the first place.”

“That’s right,” said Newgate. “If any dwarf could move it, I could.” 

“If it doesn’t move by dwarf-power it would have to move by electricity,” said Bastille. “No fancy water-powered machines in here. They’d explode when the power was on.” 

“Go get your brother,” Attica said to Joliet. “We’ll try the generator.” 

“I still don’t think substations have moving parts,” said Joliet. 

“Do it anyway,” said Attica. 

“You’re the boss,” said Joliet, and left without showing much urgency in his walk. But he came back with Dannemora and the hand-cranked generator. “Where do you want us to put it?” Attica indicated an access point he had found.

“I don’t know if this will even do anything,” said Dannemora. “There was once a lot of power running through here. Our generator can only produce a fraction as much.”

“It’s still worth a try,” said Attica. So Joliet cranked as hard as he could, and Dannemora kept the connection steady, and slowly the metal structure started to move down its tracks. Bastille jumped out of its way, pulling Mo with him. It wasn’t moving very fast but it looked very large and very heavy. 

It was also very loud. Button could see the wheels now, but everyone in the room could hear them screeching slowly along the track. He hoped Attica was accomplishing something with this discovery, because the sound was horrible. If the elves ever came back they could drive them away without any fighting, if they thought they could survive it again themselves. The other dwarves, unable to concentrate on what they were doing before, gathered around to see what Attica had found. 

Behind the metal structure the wheels kept going, supporting a flat surface with an amazing wrought-iron statue on it. It represented a giant spider like none Button had ever seen before. The statue was huge, surely larger than any real spider could ever be, so big the long, spindly legs were wider around than Newgate’s arms. The abdomen was elongated as well, thin by the proportions of a spider, but big enough to make a large tank if it were hollow. It had to be hollow; a solid amount of iron that large would never be movable, even on wheels. 

But the spider’s most notable features were its giant eye-stalks and two swollen protuberances from the front of its body. The sculptor had concentrated his detail work on those two points, clearly the most important. 

“What is it?” said Button incredulously. The dwarves around him didn’t seem to know, but Chino recognized it.

“I haven’t seen one of those in many years,” said the old carpenter. “It’s an old fertility symbol we used to make in the east. The male spiders of this species were particularly fierce and aggressive, and they had these giant eyestalks which set them apart.” 

“What about the other bits?” asked Joliet.

“Yes, those as well,” said Chino. “So we made them into statues, and put the statues in our constructions for good luck. I don’t remember ever seeing one this big, though.” 

“The real spiders aren’t that big, are they?” said Bastille.

“Not at all,” said Chino. “They’re about the size of a fingertip. It’s the symbology of the statue that’s important.” 

“I think there’s more than that about this one,” said Angola, who had been looking closely at the abdomen. “It looks like it’s built to open.” 

“What would you keep inside a spider?” asked Joliet.

“We’ll have to crack it open to find out,” said Leavenworth.

“How?” said Bastille. “That thing’s incredibly heavy. We can’t pull the statue apart.”

“If it was meant to open, the sculptor would have engineered a way,” said Chino. “They were clever in those days, in the east. Not like the cheap work of western dwarves today.” 

Angola felt around the abdomen and found several iron catches, cleverly disguised, that he thought would serve as wedges to open the statue. He had the three young dwarves come up to help him trigger all four of the mechanisms at once. 

They all jumped out of the way as the iron started to move. Anyone getting trapped underneath the spider would never get out again. But the work of the forgotten sculptor was still as precise as it had ever been, and the top pieces of the abdomen slid apart on geared tracks to reveal the hollow inside of the spider’s body. 

Somehow, what lay within was another dwarf. How the elves had gotten him there Button couldn’t guess, but he recognized the shape of what had always been the largest beard he had ever seen, grown shaggier, even tumescent, from over a month in captivity. The Patriarch’s beard had always been pure white, as befit a venerated visionary, and the outside of it still was. But the new growth around his chin had come in medium brown. 

Alcatraz was not going to be embarrassed by this, however. He rose out of the abdomen of the iron spider with as much dignity as he could muster, looked down upon his followers, and saw that they were good.

Chapter 13 of 40 Days in an Elvish Prison is Alcatraz.

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