Ch. 7.1 — Eli followed the guards down into the dark dungeon, which was lit only by smoky torches. The smell was terrible, and his feet slipped a few times where water trickled down the passage. From behind the closed doors on both sides came the sounds of moaning and weeping, sometimes even screaming. Eli’s hair stood up, and his heart pounded, but still he kept going.
Eli ducked from one shadow to the next and watched as Josiah was thrown into a cell. The door slammed shut with an ominous boom, and the keys jangled as the guard locked him in. When the guards had tramped back upstairs, taking their torches with them, Eli was left in the dark.
Eli pulled a small lantern from his pocket – a magic lamp gifted to him by the Gnome Prince on his name day.
“Light,” he whispered.
The tiny light began to glow. Eli held it high and continued down the passageway. The king often commented on how useless some of the name day gifts were, but tonight, Eli found this gift quite helpful.
He knelt at the cell’s door, opened up the little door at the bottom, which was used to slide the food trays in, and peered inside. He felt sorry for the postman, who sat on the floor of his cell, moaning and muttering.
“Excuse me, sir, is there anything I can do for you?”
Josiah shrieked and jumped to his feet, staring wildly around the cell until he saw Eli’s face in the food door opening. “Who are you?”
“I’m Eli, one of the princes. I’m really sorry about what’s happened.”
Josiah groaned. “You and me both.”
“What did your grandfather mean when he talked about that big wind?”
Josiah came over to the door and sat down on a stool nearby. “I don’t know what it was, but the wind came up very suddenly. What Gramps and I didn’t tell the king was that it took three weeks to find all the mail scattered in the bush. But if he says he delivered the invitation to the dragon, he means it. Gramps is very dedicated.”
Josiah sighed. “There is something you can do for me. Go talk to my wife, Betty. We live at 120 First Street – it’s a green house. Tell her not to let Gramps do the Eastern Mountain route. He’ll mess it up just as badly as last time.”
“I will.” Eli thought for a moment. “Where does Cudgel, the Arms Master, live?”
“He’s in the blue house on Second Street. Number 67. Why?”
Eli thought it was a good time to change the subject. “I’ll talk to my father and see if he’ll let you out early.”
Josiah reached through the food door and took Eli’s hand. “Thank you, Prince Eli. You’ve given me hope. I don’t know how, but someday I’ll repay you for your kindness.”
Eli said goodbye and continued down the passageway.