Layke woke up to blackness. At first he panicked, thinking that his captors had somehow gotten his eyes with the sharp glinting knife that he remembered from the day before, then realised that he could still see faint shapes.
As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, it slowly dawned on him that he was in a cell. Layke went up to the bars and shook them, knowing deep down that he wouldn’t get out. There was still some hope in his heart, though, and he shook them even harder when they refused to budge.
“It’s no use, you know,” a voice said from behind him. Layke started, not realising he had company. “Didn’t notice me, did you?”
“Sorry, no,” Layke said, turning around and trying to identify the speaker.
“Hardly anyone notices me. Even the prison guards sometimes don’t notice me when they patrol the cells giving out the weekly rations.”
“Weekly rations? What does that mean?” Layke had a foreboding feeling in his stomach. Surely that didn’t mean they only got meals...?
“We only get rations once a week, matey,” the voice said, confirming Layke’s fears.
“They don’t feed us properly here?”
“Well, what did you expect? It is a dungeon after all.” The person chuckled. “You thought it was like a holiday destination, didn’t you?”
“I don’t know what I was expecting,” Layke admitted. “I’ve never even thought about what it would be like inside a dungeon before.”
“Well there you go,” the voice said. “No-one in the outside world thinks of us folks inside dungeons.”
“Sorry,” Layke said, feeling ashamed of himself.
“Don’t worry,” the person said lightly. “It isn’t like it’s in everyday conversation, is it?”
“No,” Layke agreed, moving closer to the voice to try and get a better view of the speaker.
“Oh, I almost forgot! What bad manners.” A hand extended out of the darkness, and Layke clutched it, willing himself not to flinch at the griminess of it. “I don’t believe we’ve met,” the voice said. “I’m Linda.”
“Hello Linda,” Layke said unsurely, wiggling the hand in some sort of shake. “I’m Layke?”
“Layke. Such a nice name. Pity no-one will own it after a few weeks here.”
“What do you mean?” Layke asked.
“You’ll be dead,” the woman said bluntly. Layke dropped her hand, recoiling from her.
“What do you mean, I’ll be dead?”
“Exactly what it sounds like. You’ll be dead. You won’t survive here for more than a few weeks, months at the most. If you do survive, they’d drag you out and kill you anyway.”
“Who’s ‘they’, and how long have you been in here?” Layke asked.
“The people to own this place, of course. It’s the government who employs these bandits, actually. They want to eliminate all possible spies in this land, and that means being very ruthless in who they kill.” Linda sighed. “As for how long I’ve been here? Longer than a few months, that’s for sure.”
“How come you aren’t dead, then?" Layke asked.
“Because I’m hardly ever noticed. They leave open the door of my cell most times and even when they patrol the cells they fail to notice that the cell is still occupied. That’s why they put you in here.” Linda chuckled at that. “The only time I make myself noticed is when I’m hungry, which isn’t very often, being as thin as I am. The guards lock the door at those times, checking to see whether their boss has seen them being so careless. They don’t tell the boss, though, so it never gets noted down that my cell is still occupied. After a few days the guards come across my locked door and unlock it again, thinking some other silly guard has left it locked for no reason.”
Layke’s eyes widened. “You mean they leave you in here with the door unlocked?”
“Why don’t you ever escape, then, if it’s so easy?”
Linda shrugged. “There’s nothing to live for, really, but there’s nothing to kill myself with here. Besides, I get free food and accommodation. What’s there not to like?”
“Well, firstly, it’s a prison cell. Secondly, you don’t get food that often. And thirdly, if you escaped there’d be more of a life out there. You could get more food than you are currently getting, good clothes, and a shelter, too.”
“Yes, well, if I ever did want to escape, I’d have to make it past the guards, first, and there’s no way I can do that in my fragile condition.” Linda laughed bitterly. “So either way, I’m stuck.”
“You’re stuck, but others may not be.”
“They are. They are all so skinny and weak after spending many days in the dungeon that the guards all know that they wouldn’t be able to escape.”
“So the guards don’t really expect anyone to escape?” Layke asked, a plan starting to form in his mind.