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Cover for 'Torture'

When the High Seeker of the Eternal Dungeon visits a foreign prison, he discovers that his dark reputation has preceded him. So has the dark reputation of his dungeon. The host is eager to show him that matters are run very differently in Mercy Life Prison.

The High Seeker has his own suspicions about what he will find in that prison, but even so, he is not prepared for what the prison has to teach him about man's nature . . . and his own nature.

This alternate-universe short story of a meeting that never happened brings together major characters from two of Dusk Peterson's historical fantasy series about Victorian prisons: Life Prison, about an unlikely alliance that forms against the prisoners' captors, and The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning series set in a land where the psychologists wield whips.

This is a reissue of an older story.


"We have no need of racks or death sentences to control our prisoners," said the young man who represented the Magisterial Republic of Mip in the United Order of Prisons. The criticism of the Queendom of Yclau's Eternal Dungeon was implicit. "By lifting all threat of torture in the life prisons, we are able to appeal to the better nature of our prisoners."

"Indeed?" responded Layle Smith politely. He wondered whether he himself had ever been that naive. It seemed unlikely.

"Of course," added the young man in an evident effort to match his guest's politeness, "we have learned a great deal from the Eternal Dungeon's Code of Seeking. Your Code was carefully consulted at the time that our republic founded, seventeen years ago, and its best elements were incorporated into our plans for the life prisons . . . with a few improvements. These doors, for example—"

"Yes, I see." No privacy for the prisoners. None whatsoever. The barred doors in this life prison allowed any casual passerby to see what the prisoners were doing at any time of the day. The prisoners' urination and defecation must be public events.

"—are simply a wider extension of the principle you established, in your revision of the Code, that guards must keep watch over the prisoners at all times."

He managed to keep from wincing. "We use watch-holes in the cell doors in the Eternal Dungeon."

"Yes, we thought we could improve on that." The young man smiled at him. "Is there anything else you would like to see while we are here?"

Layle turned slowly, taking in the view before him. A fire-pit in the center of the circular level appeared to be the only source of heating – heaven only knew how cold it became for the prisoners in the winter. The cells held no pitchers of water and no chamber-pots. As for the bedding. . .

Exactly the same as the hard bed-ledges in the Eternal Dungeon.

Available as online fiction and as an e-book (HTML, PDF, Kindle, ePub) with an online sample: Torture.

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