Two Pitches for Dungeon Magazine, Andrew Evans
The prison was a hulking fortress, towering over the slums. The warden had called on us two days earlier with an irresistible offer, backed in coin. The lock-up was near empty, his men were bored, and he wanted us to test the prison’s vaunted defenses.
The warden’s lieutenant was boastful, jocular. We’d never best his guards, he crowed. With his men gathered, he stripped off his armor, donned a prisoner’s rags, and, with a wink, told his guards to lock him up in solitary. We sealed the deal with a handshake and a bet: the lieutenant’s fat platinum ring, tied around his neck — ours, if we got that far, he said.
We’d go in with practice swords and blunted shafts: a night of bruises to be sure, but no bloodshed.
We surveyed the building for two days, and climbed the nearby tenements at nightfall. An arrow through the night, a grappling hook, and we were on the ramparts. The first guards were cocksure but slow. They bent under our blows, grunted, and yielded.
Our thief crept into the heart of the complex, then returned minutes later, tense and pale. The guards below were dead, he said, gutted where they’d stood. We swept into the fetid halls below, sprinting past a gauntlet of wild-eyed, hooting prisoners. The commandant was in the basement cells, bloodied, in chains.
The craven fool sobbed his story. He’d made a deal with the devil — in the form of the city’s sinister mafioso: an escape for the prison’s most prized criminal. Now we heard the distant clangor of gates shutting floors above and then, faintly at first, the guttural rumble of tunneling.
The game, it seemed, had just begun.
6,000 words, for player characters levels 4-7.
Two weeks in the city resting and recuperating before we were met by messenger from the elven underground. Tales had trickled in of an enormous diamond mine secreted hundreds of miles across the mountains, where overlords worked a host of enslaved elves and their captive prince. Their proposal: we were to infiltrate the mine, fix its coordinates for an eventual assault, and rescue their prince.
The mine was apparently awash in uncut gems but lean of supplies and hard currency. The city’s criminal gangs contracted with the miners for the requisite shipments. We tracked a resupply out of the city, and ambushed them at nightfall. Their map led us through the tangled foothills for three days until, in the thinning air, the mine’s scouts sighted us. They took us the remaining miles blindfolded.
The mine was a wicked, accursed place. The elves, pale and sickly, worked vast, open-air pits, torn away from the forests that sustained them. The miners kept foul creatures chained up, harvested their acid excretions, and sluiced the mountain’s depths with those foul solutions.
The head of the mine was a sadist and sybarite. We flattered him, and promised more shipments. The first night, our searches turned up nothing. The complex held no secret passages, no hidden cells. The second night we reached the elves in their vile cages. As for the prince, he had been separated from them upon their capture. They hadn’t seen him since and feared him dead.
The third day we heard a new re-supply was on its way. Our time was running out.
8,000 words, for player characters levels 6-8.