Evil With A Conscience.
Copyright 2013, 2018 by Raymond Johnson. Third edition.
Cover photo provided by PhotoGraphyKM. (www.iStockphoto.com).

Dedicated to all my test readers at the Lulu forums, thank you for the invaluable feedback.

"The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man." - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

An evil king with the power over life and death captures a group of enemy soldiers leading them into a trap known as Eadgar's Labyrinth where he intends to keep them for the rest of their lives. However while using a magic talisman to overhear their conversations he soon realises he's enjoying their attempts to break out of their prison and develops a fondness for them.

While light-hearted in content this story contains references to sword fighting and other violence.

 

 

Chapter 1 - A Secure Prison

The so-called defenders of the realm were nothing more than yellow bellied cowards as they ran from my might. Who did the king of Aval think he was for sending such a puny group of amateurs to do battle with me? I was engaging war with his decrepit kingdom and all he had to defend himself were these untrained, unintelligent and totally outclassed gang of rouges who actually believed they stood a chance. Just me, all alone, without my army behind me was no match for all six of them as they ran like headless chickens straight into the trap I had set for them, straight into their prison where I intended for them to remain for the rest of their short sorry lives.

The moment they entered what they believed to be the secret entrance to my castle the reinforced portcullis slammed down, while I calmly walked over casually closing the thick oak door in front locking it securely. They had no chance of escape.

I laughed internally before letting out the booming laugh of a stereotypical bad guy who had gotten rid of his enemies. I hoped they overheard me through the secure wooden door, although it was very likely due to their stupidity that they had yet to realise they were defeated.

They had also been deceived in another way of which I was certain they still had yet to notice. While they ransacked my stolen treasure one of them had taken a golden necklace placing it directly into his pocket, no doubt to present to their king in return for a handsome reward in the form of money or honour. But what he failed to realise was the pendent contained more than just a diamond, it also held a talisman that allowed me to overhear everything they spoke, like a tiny little bug whispering to me all their sordid secrets. I intended to listen in and see if I could gain some foreknowledge of their king's plans.

I calmly entered my castle and walked through the huge hall while my fully armed guards stood proud guarding each of the many doorways. I continued walking ahead, not even acknowledging my men as I headed up the magnificent stone stairway, lined with red carpet, towards the throne room at the top. The two guards either side parted their spears allowing me to enter as I continued ahead and stood in front of the throne.

I may have been a king but I never sat upon the throne for if I did I would grow fat and lazy. I was a solider at heart and considered myself as a king in name only, not like the old, decrepit, lazy, cowardly king of Aval who I was very soon to defeat. I could have simply waited and let old age remove him from his rule of Aval Kingdom allowing me to take over, but I was an impatient man at heart and preferred to take his life with my own hands.

My kingdom was far smaller than Aval but every single one of my subjects were trained soldiers not puny farmers, by right I should have been the king of both kingdoms and I intended to claim that right very soon.

However I had more pressing needs and I wondered how my prisoners were doing in their self imposed trap. They had entered the doorway to an old distant relic of the kingdom, known as Eadgar's Labyrinth, with only one entrance and one exit both of which were securely locked. I wondered how long it would take for them to figure out they were not in my castle at all and whether they'd attempt to navigate their way out. Some parts of the labyrinth were pitch dark with water traps, spike traps and bottomless pits which would cause difficulty even for experienced soldiers let alone those cowardly amateurs. I was going to enjoy listening in and hearing their screams.

I walked over to the far side of the throne room over to a table where I placed my magical trinkets including a very large crystal ball that I stole from a wizard who died from being impaled with my sword. The sunlight from the window reflected against the shiny globe surface before I waved my hand in front of it activating the link between the crystal ball and the talisman hidden in one of the prisoner's pockets. Alas I could see nothing within the mist formed within the crystal, but I could overhear every word my prisoners spoke.

"When I get my hands on that fake King Redwald I'm gonna strangle him before plunging my sword within his belly," a voice said.

"Well I'm sure his chamber must be around here somewhere," said another.

I laughed out loud and only wished the communication worked both ways. They still had no idea they were prisoners.

"Why are there so few guards?" Said another voice, "We were chased through the gate then they suddenly vanished."

There was a slight pause before anyone responded.

"They surely ran off with fear once they set their eyes upon us," someone replied.

I continued to chuckle with uncontrolled laughter. Was their no end to their stupidity?

 

Chapter 2 - A Sudden Realisation

Night was already drawing in as I continued to listen to my prisoners' conversations. It was most enjoyable and a good way to pass the time. They had already activated one of the water traps soaking some of them with freezing water and I wondered how long it would be before they activated a far more dangerous trap. I couldn't wait to hear they cries of agony.

I calmly walked around the throne room to stretch my legs while sipping some apricot wine.

"Stop, stop!" One of the prisoner's voices yelled.

I quickly turned to face the crystal ball listening intensely wondering what was about to be said.

"The guards never followed because we're in a trap, this entire place is a maze, we're not in Redwald's castle," they said with a tone of panic.

It had only taken them three hours to figure it out. I was impressed, they weren't as stupid as I had first thought.

"Oh my God!" Shouted another voice causing the crystal ball to vibrate as it carried the sound.

There was then silence. I walked closer to the crystal ball resting upon the table making sure its link with the talisman was still active. To my relief it was.

"If we are where I think we are then, well, God only knows what'll happen to us," one of the prisoners said.

"What to you mean?" Asked another.

"If we're in Eadgar's Labyrinth then not only have we got to navigate the near impossible maze we've also got to avoid lethal traps, and I don't think that..." said the first prisoner only to not complete his sentence out of fear.

"But we can't see anything in this darkness so how can we possibly avoid any traps?" Cried out a female voice.

I leant closer to the crystal ball, concentrating at its mist within, previously having no idea any of my prisoners were female. It was the first time she had spoken and with only six prisoners in total it was a surprise to suddenly hear a feminine voice. It may have been my imagination, it could have been a male with a higher toned voice. Either way I continued to listen.

"Well I can barely see my hand in front of my face," someone said, "We're just going to have to be extra careful Lora and take one step at a time. Just watch where you tread."

I was right she was female. I was intrigued at the thought of a female solider sent to kill me and I wondered what my own reaction would have been if she had come at me with a sword.

"Everyone just stop moving for a moment we need to think," one of the prisoners said, "Now there's an exit somewhere, this maze is near impossible but not totally impossible, remember that. There is a way out of this we just need to figure it out."

I was impressed that they were trying, however I was still impatient to hear their screams of agony, so I left the throne room monetarily to refill my wine.

 

Chapter 3 - A Prisoner's Story

After taking a moment to refresh myself and to fetch a new bottle of wine I hurried back to the throne room eager to overhear my prisoners discussing their predicament. They appeared to be quiet apart from the occasional sound of metal hitting stone as one of them must have been trying to smash through the wall using his sword. He must have known it was futile.

"Tell us more about this labyrinth," said one of the prisoners.

"It's called Eadgar's Labyrinth," replied another, "I've only heard about it within drunken discussions at the local inn. I thought it to be a legend but all legends have some basis of truth about them."

The blazing fire in my fireplace gave the throne room a cosy feeling and I could only imagine how my prisoners felt within the chilling cold of their stone prison. I sipped my wine then leant on the table next to the crystal ball and continued to listen.

"It's been said that after navigating through the maze and avoiding the traps there are a series of riddles to solve and only after that the exit will be revealed," the man continued to speak, "Where it's been said that only a virgin maiden pure of heart can open the door."

"Well it's fortunate for us we have Lora here," another man added.

"It's all nonsense anyway," said the first man, "As I said it's legend. I'm sure as long as we reach the exit we can open it, just as long as we make it there alive without falling into one of those blasted traps. And as for the riddles, well let's hope that's legend too."

It was a legend I had never heard before. I knew all about Eadgar's Labyrinth and the traps it held but it was the first time I heard that a virgin was needed to open the exit. It was clearly all made up. There was no way a physical wooden door could know if the person pushing it was a virgin or not.

"Well at least we still have that option just in case," said another prisoner.

"Stop talking about me in such a manner," the female voice said softly.

It was only the second time I had heard her speak. She was clearly someone who spoke very little.

"We don't have that option anyway," she continued, "I'm no longer a virgin and I'm certainly not pure of heart. I wish I still were but alas I'm not."

There was a slight pause of silence.

"But you're not married," said one of the prisoners, "Are you a widow?"

"No," she said bluntly.

"But I thought..." said another prisoner, "Um."

There was another pause of silence. It was clear within their community, run by their old fashioned king, that sex outside marriage was an outrage. I personally had no qualms on the matter and anyone under my rule could basically do what they liked, so long as I had their complete loyalty. It was clear all the male prisoners were shocked by Lora's revelation.

"It's not what you think," she said.

"As I already mentioned before," said another prisoner more forcefully, "This is all legend, we don't really need a virgin to open the blasted door. It's a myth. We'll hammer it down if we have to."

"Please don't misjudge me," Lora said, "Do you remember when we did battle with the Nolin Pirates and they kept me prisoner for three days?"

"All too well," said another of the prisoners, "That's when we lost Wilfrid when they cut him from ear to ear."

There was a deep grumble from the prisoners as they remembered the incident.

"I know we all miss Wilfred and what they did to him was ghastly," Lola continued, "But I wasn't left unscathed either. During those three days I was, um, humiliated."

"Humiliated?" Said another prisoner.

Lola cleared her throat.

"Yes," she said, "Do you understand?"

"No," said one of the prisoners, "What's that have to do with you not being a virgin?"

I laughed out loud before taking another swig of wine. I was sure to be tipsy before the morrow. The prisoners clearly were imbeciles and couldn't read between the lines as to what Lola was explaining to them.

"They took my virginity from me!" She blurted out.

"Oh," replied another prisoner.

"It was the one thing I held precious that I was intending to give to my future husband but they stole it from me!" She yelled.

"Calm down," said one of the men, "The pirates were all hanged anyway, and it's not like your future husband will ever know."

"Well that's hardly the point," she said.

"Everyone just settle down," said another prisoner.

There was silence for a few moments before another man spoke.

"Virginity cannot be stolen it can only be given," he said.

"I don't think it works like that," said another.

Lola cursed loudly causing all the prisoners to immediately stop talking while I laughed from my throne room.

 

Chapter 4 - A Tipsy Drunkard

Staggering around the throne room I found myself with no choice but to sit on the throne in case I fell like a drunkard onto the stone floor. It wasn't like me to get so tipsy on wine but I had stayed awake for most of the night listening to the pathetic prisoners trying to make their escape.

I let out a loud yawn and stretched my arms up into the air as I stood myself up, then casually walked over to the table containing the crystal ball. I waved my hand in front of it re-establishing the link with the talisman hidden within one of the prisoner's pockets then continued to listen.

"Well that was easy," said one of the prisoners, "I expected the spike to shoot out."

"It looks as though the mechanism's rusted up. The spike's rotten through, see," said another.

I could understand some of the traps deteriorating over the many years since the labyrinth was built, but I didn't understand how the prisoners were able to see the damage. I wondered if they had managed to light a flaming torch.

"If that wall wasn't so damned high we could climb through the damaged roof," one of them said.

"I saw some wood back there we could use," Lola said.

"Never mind that," said another, "If the rest of the traps are in this condition we'll soon reach the exit."

I laughed loudly to myself. The prisoners possessed more luck that skill but either way they were soon to come to a dead end, for the exit was securely locked just as with the entrance albeit without a portcullis.

"Remain calm everyone," one of the voices said, "It's possible some traps may still be effective so let's take this last one slowly and not be too hasty."

My eyes lit up. Why had he stated the last one? Was it just a slip of the tongue? How could he possibly have known how many traps there were? None of it mattered anyway for the wooden locking plank holding the exit closed was firmly in place, or so I thought. I then started to have self doubts. Was it possible that the wooden plank could have rotted in the same way as the traps? It wasn't as though it was protected from the elements. The exit of the labyrinth led directly into the nearby forest fully exposed to the weather.

I needed to make sure. I quickly left the throne room and headed straight down the stone steps of my castle taking care not to fall on my wobbly legs. I didn't dare to ask my guards for help for I would have been a laughing stock if they discovered my prisoners were about to escape.

 

Chapter 5 - A Good Deed

The moment I left the castle gates I headed straight towards the outskirts of the forest and hoped my tipsy brain would remember where the labyrinth exit was to be found. Two of my guards instinctively followed me but I quickly waved them away. The cold chill in the air ate through my palace robes but I pressed ahead rushing as fast as I could into the forest.

Once under the trees I traversed the muddy path to where I expected the exit to be. It was then that I realised I had no weapon at hand and if by some chance the prisoners had escaped they could have easily struck me down for they were still fully armed. But I then remembered their innate cowardice so wasn't so worried.

The muddy path twisted into separate lanes and I headed towards the path on my left leading to the labyrinth outer walls. I let out a sigh of relief as I discovered its thick oak door and sturdy wooden locking plank still in place. The prisoners had no chance of escape. I turned then calmly proceeded to walk away.

"It's over here!" I head a muffled voice yell, "I can see daylight!"

I quickly turned my head back toward the exit door as I heard the prisoners on the other side rushing around inside.

"Give it a push!" One of them shouted.

"Wait!" Said another, "Test it for traps."

I quickly rushed over and stood beside the door totally intrigued and absorbed in their discussion. I was tempted to speak back at them through the gap in the doorway just to taunt but I decided it would be more enjoyable to listen to them trying to figure a way out.

"I don't think it's a trap," one of them said.

"Okay well you first," another said, "Push it open."

The door rattled in its frame as one of the prisoners tried with all his might to get it open but to no avail.

"Let's all just heave it as hard as we can," said another.

There was a slight pause before the wooden door wobbled again. The men were straining themselves but they were no match for the thick oak door and its locking plank held securely within its iron hinges.

"Stop, stop!" Shouted one of the men before cursing.

There was then the sound of a sword repeatedly striking at the door as one of the prisoners hit it with frustration.

"We've come too far to give up now!" He yelled.

My grin was wide and I had to bite my sleeve to prevent myself from laughing out loud. This was the kind of thing that could keep me entertained for days on end, they reminded me of a group of jesters.

"Maybe you should have a go," said one of the men.

"If you lot can't get it open then what little chance do I have?" Replied the timid female voice of Lora.

"You know," the man continued, "A virgin maiden with a pure heart. Maybe it'll work."

"I explained that already," Lola replied, "I can't."

"Have a try anyway," said another of the prisoners.

I stared at the door wondering what their reaction would be if she did manage it then grinned widely as an idea swiftly entered my mind. I raised the heavy locking plank as quietly as possible then dropped it to the ground before quickly hiding myself out of the way but making sure the door was still within my sight. I wasn't sure why I did it. It may have been simply as a prank to fool them or because it was a nice thing to do, either way I felt happy by my actions.

Lola cried with happiness as the door opened with very little effort, her virginity and pureness of heart restored.

THE END.

 

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