or, "The Running Man" but with Hogwarts' rejects. Sort of. And their weapons are really junky.
"So, boys, it's come to this."
The Magistrate looked down on us from his floating platform.
"I told you that if you were busted doing anything you weren't supposed to be doing, you were likely to be eaten by a grue."
The boy next to me started to tear up. Poor sod was probably eleven years old at the most.
"Well, if only that were true. I hear our old grue Sassy has lost most of her teeth, and the worst you'd probably suffer in her dark quarters is her drool. Which - if I'm still the authority on Painful Ways to Suffer Until You Die, and I am! - is none of those. The drool of a grue, while quite noisome, is harmless."
I wanted to punch the wise old bastard in the nose, but it had already been removed by some force none of us was brave enough to point out as long as we'd been in the Keep. Not to mention he was still hovering far too high up for any of us to jump him.
"But don't worry! There's probably a young feisty grue or two left out there on the Pathways, along with some other bitey things. I think we've also got a few that burn, or scrape your insides out with their eyelashes after they get bored of gnawing on your toes. Oh and of course, there's also the boreworms."
The boy next to me was doing his best not to break down completely, but it sure looked like a fount of tears to come any minute. He was also holding his hands tightly in front of him, gripping each other, although the impenetrable rope that bound them together had plenty of slack. The other boys, of varying ages up to about 17, were looking alternately fearful or downright surly. Some of them were born scrappers and were just itching to really throwdown.They weren't smart enough to know the odds of their survival were pretty near nil.
"As you know, those of you who make their way along the Pathways to an Exit will be free to go, never to return to our lovely domicile here at the Keep. Those who don't won't be returning. We will have no vacancy for you, should you decide to back your little selves up due to -"
"YEAH, WE GET IT Crypt Keeper, can we get on with it?"
This from a boy who looked destined to be some kind of gladiator. I was surprised he hadn't been recruited. His type usually get out of these kinds of punishments so they can be punished instead in the games outside.
The Magistrate looked peeved, but not particularly angry. He waved his hand, and all of our bonds were gone. We stood in a semi-circle facing doors across from each of the seven of us. He twisted his hands around twice, crouched on the platform, and all seven doors slid silently up. Beyond the doorways everything looked to be dimly lit with a grey haze for a bit.
"Yes we can. But before I go, here are some tools that will amuse me more than they will likely help you. Brats. But rules are rules."
The Magistrate flicked his elbow, then turned that hand over. Instantly all of us were holding objects of various types; they looked to be a hindrance more than anything else. But the gladiator kid was screwed. His right hand was encased in some kind of heavy metal block, which caused his arm to fall to his side. Despite his size, it appeared to take him some effort to stand vertically, I guess because of the weight of the thing.
Each of the other boys was holding something different in one of their hands, all looking equally useless.
I appeared to be stuck with a huge roll of duct tape. It was true; I could not remove the roll from my hand, but it seemed I could peel the tape if grabbed the free end with my unstuck hand.
Now, I was born on the streets of the outer cities and held my own, but I was keen enough to know when to back out of an unwinnable situation. The problem here was that we weren't being given a choice. The Magistrate was turning, along with his platform, to go back up into the Keep.
"Excuse me, Magistrate sir," I shouted. "I don't suppose we could choose to back out now? That way we wouldn't have to decide to come back after we go in and all."
"No, Peabody. Pick a hole or in the ground you go."
I was afraid of that.