Schwarztogrube sat atop the Isle of Winds, situated almost exactly in the center of the channel between Brechalon and Freedonia. Its massive stone walls rising high above jagged cliffs were not broken by a single door. The few windows visible were all far too small for anything approaching the size of a human being to pass through. The only entrance was through a secret passage at the water’s edge: gated, guarded, and locked. The towers rising up into the sky were topped with pointed minarets allowing no entrance from the air. The waters around the tiny island were constantly patrolled by Brech warships. Inside, Schwarztogrube was the harshest, ugliest, and most formidable prison in the world, yet few even knew of its existence.
Nils Chaplin had been a guard at Schwarztogrube for almost a whole week before he saw a prisoner. That wasn’t so surprising, considering the guards outnumbered them at least ten to one. An entire wing was devoted to incarcerating only about two dozen men. The prisoners carried out their lives, such as they were, never leaving their cells, but supplied with food and a few simple comforts such as a pillow, a blanket, or a book. None of them looked particularly dangerous, and they weren’t. At least they weren’t while they were here. Schwarztogrube was a magic prison. A prison set aside for wizards and sorcerers—the only place in the world where magic would not work.
It was his third week and Chapman was looking forward to a week off back in Brechalon, spending his paycheck, eating fish and chips, and enjoying life outside of massive stone bocks, when another guard, Karl Drury, at last led him to the north wing. Chapman didn’t like Drury. He told disgusting jokes to the other guards; viciously beat the prisoners, and when he could get away with it, he buggered the boys working in the kitchen or at the dock. He also stank. But as Chapman followed Drury though the deathly cold stone walls, he wasn’t thinking about the other guard’s shortcomings. He was wondering at the empty cells that they passed. Finally they came to the one door that was locked shut.
“Here we be,” said Drury. “That there’s the only one in the entire wing.”
“Take a butchers.”
Chapman pressed his face against the small barred window. Most of the room beyond was dark, illuminated only by a square of light carried in from a four by four inch window high up on the far wall. The room had no pillows or blankets as did the rooms in the south wing. There was no bed. The only thing in the cell approaching furniture was a piss pot. Curled up in a fetal position against the far wall was a human being. The dirty ragged clothing and matted hair of unknown color gave no hint to the identity of the figure.
“Who is he?” wondered Chapman.
“That’s not a he. That’s a she. And that’s the most dangerous creature in the world, that.”
“That’s what they say. So dangerous, we’re not even ‘sposed to be here. Ain’t that right, eighty-nine?” he called to the prisoner. She didn’t stir. “Lucky for us the warden’s gone to the mainland, eh?” Drury pulled out a large key and placed it in the massive lock on the door.
“Maybe we shouldn’t ought to do this,” said Chapman.
Drury paid no attention. He opened the door and swaggered into the cell. The woman curled up against the wall didn’t move. When Drury had crossed the room to her, he nudged her with the toe of his boot.
“Get up, eighty-nine.” She remained still.
The sadistic guard grabbed a handful of the prisoner’s dirty, matted hair and dragged her to her feet. Chapman could finally make out that she was a woman. She was thin. She looked half starved, but he could still tell that she had once had quite a figure. Drury held her up by her hair, presenting her for view as if she were a freshly caught trout.
Suddenly the woman came to life, kicking the guard in the shins. Drury let go of her hair and knocked her to the ground with a back-hand slap. She looked up at him and even across the poorly-lit cell, Chapman could see the hatred in her cold grey eyes. She pointed her hand and spat words that might have been a curse in some ancient, unknown language.
“Uastium premba uuthanum tachthna paj tortestos—duuth.”
Even here in Schwarztogrube, where no magic in the world would work, Chapman could have sworn that he felt a tingle in the air. Nothing else happened though. Drury kicked her in the face, knocking her onto her back. He kicked her again and again. And again. Finally he grabbed her once more by the hair and lifted her to her feet. With his other hand, he began unfastening his trousers. Chapman turned and left. He didn’t need to see this.