The Record-keeper of the Eternal Dungeon prided himself on his creativity in obtaining supplies for the guards and torturers. (He was old-fashioned enough that he never referred to the torturers as Seekers.) Carbon paper, black-tail whips, tea cosies . . . Whatever the guards and torturers needed to deal with the prisoners, the Record-keeper could obtain it. He was equally creative – and exceedingly discreet – in obtaining supplies to meet their personal needs.
All in all, he held a satisfactory position, one where his talents were properly appreciated. But the Record-keeper, rubbing his bleary eyes as he began his shift, could not help but wish that the High Seeker had chosen a love-mate who was less loud.
He glanced around the entry hall as he approached his post. Quite a few of the guards were yawning into their fists. Anyone who had lived in the Eternal Dungeon for any length of time knew that, when the High Seeker's day off coincided with his love-mate's day off, it was best to wear ear-plugs to bed.
The Record-keeper, however, had the misfortune to live in the outer-dungeon apartment that was almost directly opposite that of the High Seeker and his love-mate. No one could doubt the discretion of the High Seeker himself; not a peep could be heard from him during such sessions. But for hours, the Record-keeper had endured the sound of the High Seeker's love-mate, Elsdon Taylor, screeching and howling and pleading at the top of his lungs to be released from captivity.
Sighing, the Record-keeper cast a look at Elsdon Taylor, who was chatting with a couple of guards who were his friends. The hood Elsdon Taylor wore as a Seeker disguised his features, but his voice appeared cheerful and bright and relaxed. He always appeared that way, after his days off. It was the rest of the dungeon who suffered from his play-time activities.
The Record-keeper reached his desk in the entry hall, only to discover that the High Seeker was awaiting him. Casting a worried glance at his vest-pocket watch, the Record-keeper said, "I regret that I am late to work, sir."
"Not at all, Mr. Aaron." The High Seeker's voice was as level as always. "I'm sure the extra sleep did you good."
Any sleep at all would have done him good. Gritting his teeth, the Record-keeper asked, "May I help you, sir?"
"Mm?" The High Seeker picked up some papers off the Record-keeper's desk, seemingly at random. "I would like some wax."
"Wax?" The Record-keeper stared at him.
"Yes. High-quality wax, with a low melting point. Can you obtain it for me?"
It was on the tip of the Record-keeper's tongue to ask what the bloody blades the High Seeker needed wax for. The dungeon was about to undergo electrification. Even if the electrical power should fail, all of the inhabitants of the Eternal Dungeon would have easy access to battery-powered lanterns. In any case, the High Seeker was hardly in the habit of crafting candles.
Then the Record-keeper's eye strayed over to Elsdon Taylor. The High Seeker's love-mate was showing off to his friends what appeared to be a bruise on his wrist. The friends were laughing.
"Certainly, sir." He had himself in hand once more. "Do you need this by a particular date, or from a particular manufacturer?"
"Mm? No." The High Seeker did a very good job of pretending to be absorbed in documentwork. "I know that I can depend on your creative talents to find me the right wax, Mr. Aaron."
Procuring the requested supply would have been easier if it had not occurred to the Record-keeper that he could use this opportunity to resolve his own problem.
Directly ordering from a single manufacturer – perhaps disguising his order as one for "sealing wax" – was therefore out of the question. Some extremely discreet enquiries revealed to him that the royal supply cache included items confiscated from businesses that had been shut down by the government. It would be easy enough, it seemed, to transfer the correct supplies, using a little creative documentwork to disguise the fact that the Eternal Dungeon had requested these particular supplies. The Record-keeper had done this in the past when the torturers required unusual equipment by which to break their prisoners. Elsdon Taylor had once asked for a xylophone.
But when the Record-keeper obtained a list of the relevant items, he realized it was unlikely that the High Seeker would be able to make use of any of the items, unless Elsdon Taylor underwent a change in anatomy. It was a shame that the queendom's brothels only sold the services of women.
That left one last avenue open to him.
Two weeks later, he relaxed in his chair, satisfied after having inspected the rather distasteful equipment in the newly delivered box. He had been forced to pay for the equipment and delivery himself – even his talents did not extend to submitting a government request for equipment from a neighboring kingdom's boy brothel – but he was satisfied that the equipment would fit the High Seeker's needs. More to the point, it fit the Record-keeper's needs. He had made sure that the box included no less than three gags.
"Perhaps, sir," he said in a low voice as he handed the High Seeker the box, "you would care to open this in the privacy of your quarters—"
But his words were to no avail; the High Seeker, standing next to the Record-keeper's desk, flipped open the box. For a moment, the High Seeker was still. Then he picked up one of the gags, fingering it. "Mr. Taylor," he said.
"Yes, sir?" Elsdon Taylor looked up from a table nearby, where he was filling out documentwork.
"Would you come here, please? The Record-keeper has obtained some equipment for us that I think you should inspect."
The Record-keeper dearly wished that the High Seeker would show more discretion. All around the entry hall, heads began to turn in the High Seeker's direction as Elsdon Taylor hurried over to the High Seeker's side.
"What in the—?" Elsdon Taylor began rummaging around in the box. "Lavender handcuffs? Bright pink clamps? Mr. Aaron, is this what I think it is?" He held up a stiff piece of leather that was formed in a tight ring. The onlookers, taking their cue from Elsdon Taylor's tone of voice, burst into laughter. One of the guards called out, "Didn't know you were familiar with such devices, Mr. Aaron!"
He could feel his ears burning. Elsdon Taylor, making a manful effort to contain his own laughter – but not quite succeeding – returned the items to the box and handed it to the High Seeker. The High Seeker shooed away several guards who had come forward to inspect the goodies.
"Thank you, Mr. Aaron." The High Seeker's voice was as level as always, but the laughter lines next to his eyes had crinkled. "Your creativity in obtaining supplies is, as always, superb. I will compensate you for these myself. But all that I actually need is sealing wax for official dungeon documents. Do you think you could obtain that for me, and be . . . a little less creative?"
The High Seeker turned away from the desk. But as he did so, the Record-keeper noticed, the High Seeker slipped the gag into his pocket.